Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Lights and a tender - things are moving on...

Phil inflating our dinghy on Ravensdale's aft deck.

We’re still waiting for a date for our new heating system to be installed.

It’s now nearly three weeks since it broke down and it’s beginning to take its toll.

Phil, Dex and I are keeping warm enough, thanks to relatively mild weather, our gas cooker, small electric heaters and thermal underwear (the last bit applies to Phil and I – not Dex J)

However, Ravensdale is beginning to suffer as it’s getting more and more difficult to tackle the damp.

The gas stove doubles as our main heater

We know leaving the door of the gas stove open to heat the boat isn’t helping the condensation problem, but it makes a big difference to the temperature on board.

We’re still using our dehumidifiers, which are helping a lot, but we’re finding damp in places where there was previously no problem, but I’m sure it will all sort itself out once the new Webasto heating system is installed.

Meanwhile, the marina quickly repaired the gate that controls the water level in the marina after the cable snapped so we didn’t have to put up with the stinking mud at low tide for too long.

Despite the heating problems, we remain upbeat.

We’re getting on well with our yachtmaster course with Keith Morgans at Whitehaven Marina.

We also met Paul Crooks, who sells LED lights for boats, while he was visiting a friend who is a berth holder at Maryport Marina.

Paul, of JMG LED Lighting, brought along a couple of boxes of bulbs and found suitable LED lights for all the fittings on Ravensdale, which was not easy as just about every light has a different fitting.

How many men does it take to change a lightbulb? Phil and Paul try out different wattage bulbs

This week, we also checked out the tender that was on board when we bought the boat to discover it was in good condition, which is great.
So that’s one less thing we need to buy before we can set off on our travels. But we still need to get an outboard motor for it or we will have to row ashore if we decide to tie up to a swinging mooring.

A bracing walk in the wind on Maryport Beach

And the highlight of the week for me was Phil actually managing to get a video of Dex singing along to the Coronation Street theme tune. I’ve been trying to capture him doing that for so long, but without success.

I love that video, it’s so funny! Just wish I could work out how to post it on here, but I can’t so anyone wanting to see it should be able to see it on YouTube here
I'm still enjoying taking Dex out for walks, whatever the weather, but he doesn't always enjoy walks with me if Phil isn't with us as I sometimes tie him up so I can take photos like the image below of Maryport.

One of the many photos I've taken of Maryport while out walking Dex

Still loving the place, but really looking forward to getting out to sea on Ravensdale.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Our heater is dead... and the marina has problems of its own

Dex snuggled up under his blanket

More than 10 days after the heater broke down on our boat, we are still without a proper heating system.

And we have no real idea when normal service will be resumed.

Our powerful Eberspacher heater, which kept us so warm for the first couple of months living onboard Ravensdale, packed up on Thursday January 5 and we took it to the agent in Carlisle for a service the following day.

On Wednesday of last week, we got a call from the agent to tell us our heater could not be repaired as it was obsolete so the parts were no longer available – not what we wanted to hear L

Dex claims the seat nearest the heater

This left us with no choice but to buy a new heating system, which would cost us thousands of pounds that we had not reckoned on spending. However, we have since decided that it was probably the best thing that could have happened as, once our new Webasto heater is installed (hopefully sometime in the next couple of weeks), we will have a new, more efficient system that should last us for many years to come.

We have been very fortunate that the weather has been relatively mild for the time of year, but we have had a couple of nights when we have been cooler than was really comfortable and we ended up watching TV wrapped in blankets to keep warm.

While we wait for our new heating system, we were using two portable electric heaters and the heat supplied by dehumidifiers, which we worked out cost us about £30 for the first week.

The cooker doubles as our main heat source while we wait for our new heating system

We are now leaving the gas cooker on and door open when we are cold and it has definitely reduced the electricity consumption, but will obviously mean we will have to buy more gas sooner than would otherwise have been the case.

Dex seems to be happy enough, despite the cooler temperatures on board as long as we wrap him up in a cosy blanket when we put him to bed at night.

Just hoping we will get a delivery date for our new heater soon, preferably before temperatures start to fall again.

Sunset at Whitehaven Marina

Plotting a passage for homework

Meanwhile, we are spending three hours a day, three days a week on Keith Morgans’ much warmer boat in Whitehaven Marina for our yachtmaster course.

This week, we have mostly been learning about navigation and plotting a passage using marine charts. It certainly seems strange being set homework again after all these years :-) 

Very low water at Maryport Marina on Monday morning

The most dramatic occurrence this week was waking yesterday morning to discover the water level in the marina was considerably lower than usual.
The lower section of the harbour wall that would normally have been underwater was covered in stinking mud and the access ramp from the marina facilities to the pontoons was extremely steep.

The steep climb up out of the marina

We soon discovered the reason for this – a cable in the gate that controls the water level in the marina had snapped so the water drained out down to the level of the sill between the marina and the outer harbour.

Thankfully there was still enough water in the marina for Ravensdale to remain afloat and amazingly we still have a TV signal even at low tide, despite being much lower down behind the wall than usual. We have no idea how this is even possible, but we're not complaining :-)

The swans attempt to find their way into the marina

Yesterday morning, two swans that spend a lot of time in the marina appeared to be confused by the situation and were sitting on the outer side of the sill trying to work out how to get in.

One swan solves the puzzle

After swimming up and down their side of the sill several times, one discovered that, with a few flaps of its wings, it could get up onto the sill and off the other side. The other then followed suit. Presumably they left again when the tide came in sufficiently to cover the sill again.

Work to repair the cable began yesterday and was continuing as we set off for Whitehaven for our course today.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Midwinter - the very worst time for a liveaboard boat’s heating system to pack up!

When is a heater not a heater? – when it packs up and refuses to work despite being given a good slap J

And that is exactly what happened less than an hour after I posted my last blog on Thursday evening saying that the “slap treatment” was still working. I  obviously spoke too soon...

After a few attempts at persuading it to restart, we had to accept that there was no point in waiting until Monday to take the heater out and take it to the agent in Carlisle, as planned. It might as well come out straight away.

Phil disconnects the heater to take it for servicing

First thing yesterday, we lifted the carpet in the main cabin and the panel of flooring covering the engine room and Phil went down to attempt disconnecting the heater himself to save us having to pay an engineer to do it.

Dex was fascinated by all the activity and offered his assistance, but was told that he was not needed on this occasion, nor was I so I took him for a walk to get him out of the way.

On our return, we found the heater out of the engine room with Phil sitting proudly beside it. Apparently, although he had been working in a very tight space, he had managed to undo all the leads and pipes and was feeling very pleased with himself.

We immediately drove it to the Eberspacher agents at Carlisle so they could get on with the service asap on Monday.

The heater removed and ready to go

They promised to make it a priority as we live on board and would be without heat in the middle of winter. We were told they would make a start on it on Monday and it would take “a few days” unless they needed to order any parts – no time estimate could be put on this scenario so we are keeping everything crossed that they will have any parts that are required.

Happy that we had done all we could, we stopped for lunch before setting off home from Carlisle. However, while eating we received a phone call asking if we had left the control unit for the heater in the car.

The answer was that it was still fitted in the engine room on the boat, which was 28 miles away in Maryport. So much for saving time by taking the heater to Carlisle yesterday and saving money by doing it ourselves. We can only presume that an engineer would have realised that the agent would need the control unit to run the diagnostic tests.

On returning to Maryport, we took the floor up again and Phil unclipped the control unit. We set off to Carlisle with it again this morning.

The company doesn’t open at weekends, but one of the employees kindly agreed to meet us to take the unit so they would have it ready for an early start on Monday.

The only problem now is that we have no proper heating on board. Except that it doesn’t seem to be proving much of a problem.

So far, we’ve been lucky that the weather has been particularly mild for the time of year. Since Thursday morning when there was ice on the surface of the water in the marina. It thawed quite rapidly during the day and has since stayed at around 6-9C so not too cold at all. 

Water pouring through the marina gate pushing the thin ice into a pile on Thursday morning

We had a small convector heater that we have had for years and never used. We almost got rid of it before we moved onto the boat, but fortunately brought it with us “just in case” and a friend lent us an oil-filled electric radiator.

Phil helps a friend run up a sail

We had both on very low heat settings overnight last night.

Since we got back from Carlisle today, the convector heater has not been used and the oil-filled radiator is on low. The temperature on the boat at the moment is 20C so it doesn’t look as though we are going to freeze just yet.

We are however expecting to use a bit more electricity until we get our diesel heater back. Just hoping the temperature doesn’t drop too much in the meantime or it could get expensive...

On Thursday afternoon, before we discovered our heating disaster, Phil helped a friend run up one of the sails on his yacht and I have a feeling he is now suffering from sail envy J

Thursday, 5 January 2017

The New Year brings new challenges for our liveaboard lifestyle

The start of a New Year always makes me wonder where we will be and what we will be doing this time next year.

When I asked myself that question at the start of 2016, I certainly didn’t expect to have left work and be living on a boat in Cumbria before the end of the year.

And I have no idea what this year holds or where we will be next New Year.

My guess is that we will be back in Maryport Marina next winter, but nothing is set in stone...

We definitely didn’t make any New Year resolutions this year as neither of us believes in them.

However, since my last blog post, we have been catching up on a few jobs that needed doing and there are a number of things we are planning to do asap in 2017.

The day after Boxing Day, one of the Johns, who carried out the engine service, turned up with a screw he had made to replace the one that was broken during the service. This enabled us to use the engine while waiting for a Volvo replacement to arrive.

The new anchor sits comfortably on Ravensdale's bow

The old anchor, which will be used as a kedge

Phil fitted a new anchor as the survey carried out before we bought Ravensdale showed the existing one to be too light for the boat at just 10kg so we purchased and fitted a 20kg Delta, which looks as though she was made for the bow of our boat.

We have also installed new bathroom fittings in the ensuite head (note the nautical term J) in the master cabin in an attempt to update it a bit. Phil also moved the overhead light that was too low after the floor was raised to make the new toilet a more usable height.

When he removed the fitting from the ceiling, he discovered two dead wires that had been cut off and taped up and one of the live wires to the light was so badly charred that the plastic coating had burnt off in one place. On either side of this it had become rigid and had to be cut back to good wire before the light could be relocated.

The badly burnt cable attached to the bathroom light

It looks as though we were very lucky this one didn’t catch fire and it has made us realise that all the other light fittings need checking as a matter of urgency – they will probably be converted to LED at the same time.

We took down the Christmas decorations on January 3. Removing all the cable ties holding the lights around the outside of the boat was quite a task, but taking down the decorations inside took much less time than usual – mainly because we didn’t have room for many decorations on board.

Initially, Ravensdale looked a bit sad without them, but things quickly returned to normal (whatever that is J) and they have all been put into storage for next year.

Phil laying down on the job

On a visit to Whitehaven Marina at the end of last year, we happened to mention that although the Dry-Mat under the mattress had stopped the mattress getting wet, the boarding under the mattress, and therefore the underside of the Dry-Mat, was still getting wet.

Phil said he was considering putting slats on top of the boarding to see if that would help and a very kind man, we met in the chandlery there (also called Phil), said he had some going begging.

He gave them to us for our bed and Phil (my husband) has now fitted them.

They seem to have totally cured the damp problem caused by the cold water tank being sited directly under the bed so we are very grateful to the other Phil for his donation.

We are still trying to make sure we have got everything we need for setting off on our travels when the weather improves in the spring/summer and the next item on our shopping list was a life raft.

A chance conversation with someone in Maryport Marina revealed that they had a six-man life raft that had never been used sitting in storage. We agreed on a very reasonable price and it has now gone off to be serviced.

Refuelling Ravensdale in Maryport Marina

Earlier this week, we took Ravensdale around to the pump out facility to empty the holding tank and topped her up with diesel as we had been warned that allowing the tank to get too low during cold weather could cause condensation to form.

So we now have plenty of diesel for the Eberspacher heating system that keeps us lovely and warm on board, however the heater has started playing up again L

From time to time, it cuts out and refuses to go again until Phil goes down into the engine room and gives it a good slap, which seems to do the trick.

This has happened more than half a dozen times now, so we’ve decided that, rather than waiting until the spring to get it serviced as we had hoped, we’re going to have to do it asap (not what we had wanted in the middle of winter, but I’m sure we’ll survive).

Meanwhile, we’re both looking forward to starting our course with Keith Morgans at Whitehaven Marina next week.

And Dex has been making the most of any winter sunshine to top up his tan, which is coming along nicely J