Friday, 11 August 2017

Ravensdale’s maiden voyage in our ownership and with her new name

Photo of me at the helm of Ravensdale in the Solway Firth

Me at the helm of Ravensdale in the Solway Firth

At long last our Neptunus 133 motor cruiser has made her maiden voyage as Ravensdale.

Yesterday (Thursday August 10) she made her first trip out of Maryport Marina in Cumbria and into the Solway Firth since we bought her more than nine months ago.

And the long-awaited excursion proved well worth the wait. It was everything we’d hoped it would be – and more.

When we decided to sell our house to move onto a boat, we never expected we would have to wait so long to take her out to sea.

She was called Candlelight when we bought her, but we were not fond of the name and replaced it with “Ravensdale” – the name of the road in Corpach, Fort William, where we were living when we made the momentous decision to sell up and for me to take early retirement.

Since then, unforeseen problems (as well as a few we’d known about before making the purchase) delayed the outing for weeks, then months. So much so that I was beginning to think it could be a year or more before we’d actually get her out of the marina.

However, yesterday the weather was perfect – dry and sunny with very little wind – and high tide was at 14.01, which meant the marina gate would be open from around 11.30am to 4.30pm.

Although we’d decided to put off going to sea due to instrument problems, we’d still been checking the weather and tide times and agreed that yesterday would probably be the day to do it if the instruments were sorted.

We’d bought new navigation software for our laptops and tablets as back up for Ravensdale’s plotters, but the new depth sounder/log that we fitted in the spring was still away with the manufacturer after it suddenly stopped working.

There was still a gaping hole in Ravensdale’s instrument panel where it should be, but we decided it was too good an opportunity to miss and, anyway, we weren’t planning on going far or to be out for very long.

It was also quite a high spring tide at 8.2m and we’d checked the depth of this area of the Solway Firth before we went.

Photo of straps around the microwave and freezer

Straps were fastened around the microwave and freezer

When Phil announced that we were going, I was both excited and a little bit nervous. We’d done a lot of work on Ravensdale since we bought her and were really hoping the first outing would go well.

Phil removed the cover from the fly bridge and started removing some of the ropes while I packed away our ornaments, plants and other loose items that could be thrown around inside. We also strapped up the freezer and microwave to make sure they couldn’t move.
Phil started up Ravensdale’s twin 300hp Volvo Penta engines, which both appeared to be working fine, but we discovered the rev counter on the port engine wasn’t registering the revs.

We made a mental note that this needed fixing, but did not feel it affected our decision to go.

Photo of Ravensdale leaving the marina

Ravensdale leaving the marina

A friend offered to come along if we thought an extra pair of hands would help, but this was going to be a very special experience and we really wanted it to be just us. Thankfully, he understood.

We then called up the marina on the VHF radio to check we were clear to leave. We were asked if we needed any help from marina staff but said we’d be OK to do it on our own.

Now came the scary bit – leaving our berth and heading out between the pontoons and then towards the gate that opens out into the outer harbour.

But there was very little wind and Phil was easily able to control our progress towards the open sea.

I tidied away the mooring ropes and pulled the fenders in as we headed out past the pier and into the firth, trying to take a few photos at the same time.

Photo of leaving the harbour and heading out into the Solway Firth

Leaving the harbour and heading out into the Solway Firth

Then the real fun began. Once we were well clear of the pier and lighthouse, Phil opened up the throttles to see what she would do.

I was stood on the aft deck with my camera taking photographs of Ravensdale’s wake. Phil warned me to hang on before increasing her speed and the power surge was very obvious as her bow lifted and she accelerated forward, churning up the water astern.

Photo of Ravensdale's wake as she speeded up

Ravensdale's wake as she speeded up

This was purely an experiment to see how she behaves at speed and definitely not the way we plan to travel around in the future – not least because of the amount of diesel it would use J

Photo of Phil at the wheel

Phil keeps an eye out ahead while turning the wheel

We then pottered around for an hour or so, turning her around to see how she reacted to the tide and discovered that, despite it being a fairly calm day, she still rolled around a good bit with a beam sea. Again, this was just an experiment, whenever possible we’ll avoid crossing the tide, except when necessary.

Phil slowed her down considerably so I could go forward onto the fore deck to get some photos from a different perspective.

Photo of me at the helm

Yes, I know I should've been looking where I was going :-)

I also took a turn at the helm and was surprised at how long it took for the boat to change direction after I’d turned the wheel and that I needed to stop turning and to steer the other way before she had completed a turn.
I wasn’t really expecting her to handle like a car, but think it could take me a while to really get the hang of it.

Photo of cormorants nests on a navigational buoy

Cormorants build their nests on this navigational buoy

Photo of cormorants on a navigational buoy

Most of the cormorants flew away as we approached

We also went to take a look at the navigational buoy where I’d photographed nesting cormorants when we went out on a friend’s yacht in June.

The babies had obviously flown their nests, but there were still a number of cormorants perched on the top as we approached.

Unfortunately, even at a slow speed, we made considerably more noise than a yacht and most flew away before we got close enough for me to take photos and those I did take were not great as the boat was rolling around quite a lot, which made it difficult to focus properly.

Eventually we both decided that we’d spent long enough out for our first trip, especially as we had no idea what speed we were doing without our depth sounder/log. We later realised that we could’ve set up a GPS for this purpose.
Photo of heading back towards Maryport

Heading back towards Maryport

Photo of Ravensdale approaching the marina gate

Ravensdale approaches the marina gate

Photo of me on the boat on the way back

A selfie taken on the way back to the marina

Our return to the marina went smoothly and it was great to see Maryport and then the marina gate from the seaward side for a change.

And Phil managed to reverse her into the mooring very smoothly while I threw the mooring ropes ashore for Mic, who is a member of the marina staff, to tie up to the cleats on the pontoons.

All in all, Ravensdale’s maiden voyage since we bought and renamed her, went very well and, unsurprisingly, we had a few glasses of wine to celebrate last night :-)

We have a few things to do before her next outing, such as fixing the rev counter and hopefully fitting the depth sounder/log when we get it back, but we won’t think twice about going out again and next time we’ll probably plot a route and follow it rather than just pootling around.

Meanwhile, it’s been an eventful week in Maryport - and not in a good way.

Photo of the road closure on Senhouse Street, Maryport

The road closure on Senhouse Street, Maryport

When I walked up to town for a hair appointment on Tuesday, I discovered a section of the main street was closed with police officers at either end. It later emerged that a local man had been seriously assaulted during the night.

A man was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder as the victim was critically ill in hospital, but he later died so police are now treating it as a murder inquiry.

On a happier note, last Sunday, the new RNLI lifeboat from nearby Workington visited the marina to give locals a chance to see what their fundraising efforts had helped to purchase and we took the opportunity to take a look on board.

Photo of the new Workington lifeboat at Maryport Marina

The new Workington lifeboat at Maryport Marina

The £2.1 million all-weather Shannon class Dorothy May White is an impressive vessel.

Photo of the navigator's desk on the new lifeboat

The navigator's desk on the new lifeboat

Photo of the new vessel's pristine engine room

The new vessel's pristine engine room

Photo of the accommodation provided for survivors

The accommodation provided for survivors

Photo of me admiring the equipment on the Dorothy May White

Admiring the equipment on the Dorothy May White

We really enjoyed viewing the interior, including her state of the art electronic equipment, the engine room and the survivor accommodation.

And that is the only way I ever want to see the inside of a lifeboat.

That said, anyone would be very pleased to see it coming to their assistance if they were in difficulty at sea.

The Dorothy May White – named after a woman who left a substantial sum of money towards the new vessel in her will – has everything you could want to see on a rescue boat.
Photo of the new lifeboat leaving Maryport Marina

The new lifeboat leaving Maryport Marina

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Instrument failures taint our nine-month liveaboard anniversary

Photo of gaping holes in Ravensdale's instrument panel

Gaping holes in Ravensdale's instrument panel where the depth sounder and plotter should be

I think of Ravensdale as our baby, which makes this week’s anniversary even more poignant.

Tomorrow (Friday August 4), it will be nine months since we moved onboard after selling our house in Corpach, Fort William, in the Highlands of Scotland, to buy our 43ft Neptunus 133 motor cruiser.

We’re still thoroughly enjoying our liveaboard lifestyle and I’m very happy that the move enabled me to give up work early and join Phil in retirement.

But the anniversary is tinged with a touch of sadness.

As the saying goes, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is...

I almost couldn’t believe it when we thought we’d got to the end of the myriad of jobs that needed doing to ensure Ravensdale was seaworthy.

And I was so excited last week when I thought we were just waiting for a tide and weather window to take her out to sea.

Photo of Ravensdale waiting to set off on her travels

Ravensdale waiting to set off on her travels

I was checking the tide times daily and scouring the weather forecast as far ahead as I could in the hope that the wind would drop at a time when the Maryport Marina gate would be open as it’s only open for a couple of hours either side of high tide.

There were a couple of days that looked possible, so we sat back in happy anticipation of our first voyage (OK, wee trip out into the Solway Firth J) and waited for them to arrive.

Then it happened – AGAIN!

Ravensdale came up with another excuse not to leave the marina.

The new Nasa Clipper duet combined speed/distance log and echo sounder that we bought and fitted in April stopped working.

Photo of the new depth sounder/log soon after it was fitted

The new depth sounder/log soon after it was fitted

The screen that’s supposed to display the depth of water under the boat simply showed the word “out”.

We were so disappointed. I could’ve cried.

We can sort of understand things that have been on the boat for years packing up due to their age, lack of maintenance or even because they’re suddenly getting used frequently after years of laying idle for most of the time, but not a new piece of kit.

Phil read the manual again and checked out the fault online, but could find no obvious answer so he called Force 4 - the chandlery we bought it from – and they said to send it back.

We’ve since heard that they’ve sent it back to the manufacturer and we’re waiting to see what happens next.

Photo of the depth sounder/log being removed from the panel

The depth sounder/log is removed from the panel

Hopefully it will either be fixed or replaced and returned to us very soon.

Meanwhile, we discovered that the battery had run out on the Simrad plotter, which takes pride of place in Ravensdale’s instrument panel.

Again Phil consulted YouTube, which has become our oracle since we moved onboard in November of last year.

And he found out that although the battery has an expected life of about three years, the only way to remove and replace it is to dismantle the plotter as it’s soldered onto the circuit board. I have to admit that struck as more than a little crazy.

Anyway, he took it to bits, working on the theory that it didn’t work at the moment so he couldn’t actually make it any worse, and removed the CR2032 battery with three metal terminals attached.

Photo of the plotter dismantled on the coffee table

The plotter dismantled on the coffee table

We then ordered a new one, which arrived the following day, and, although it’s only around the size of a pound coin, it turned up in a shoe box sized package.

Phil carefully soldered the battery in place, reassembled the plotter and was delighted to see that it actually worked again.

However, after all his efforts, he decided that it was too slow and the display was not good enough for our purposes so he’s been checking out the alternatives – more expense! L

In the meantime, we were lucky to get the opportunity to view another boat in the marina that’s currently for sale.

Photo of a survey vessel that would make a great liveaboard

A survey vessel that would make a great liveaboard

It’s a Halmatic 20 metre (65.5ft) motor vessel, called Fleur De Lys, and would make a fabulous liveaboard.

The former Admiralty motor vessel, more recently operated as a survey boat, has a large saloon, with patio doors onto the aft deck, a generously sized galley and sleeps 10.

The engine room was also very spacious, with plenty of room to walk around her twin Detroit diesel engines, but I was really envious of the buttons on the control panel marked “torpedo” and “exocet” – how cool is that?

I don’t think the buttons actually do anything (at least I’m hoping they don’t live up to their names), but were included for use while she was used as an Admiralty training vessel.  

Photo of the torpedo and exocet buttons on Fleur De Lys instrument panel

The super cool torpedo and exocet buttons on Fleur De Lys instrument panel

We won’t be buying her (to be honest we were just being nosey) as we’re happy with the boat we’ve got once we finally get her sorted, but Fleurs De Lys would make a great family home.
I've borrowed an image of the buttons from yacht brokers' website as I didn't get a chance to take one myself. Hoping the company won't mind me doing this if I include a link to the sales particulars here.

I’ve also spent quite a lot of time over the past week taking photos – mainly of Maryport Blues Festival, which was held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of last week.

The main tent was only about 100 yards from the marina so we were expecting to be able to hear the music from the comfort of our boat, but, rather surprisingly it wasn’t very loud when we were on board, even with all the windows open.

Photo of Ravensdale (left) with the main tent on the grass above

Ravensdale (left) with the main tent on the grass above

The music was even quieter at low tide when we were down behind the harbour wall and we could hardly hear it at all.

Fortunately, during the day on Friday, we met a guy called Dean who was staying in his camper van in the marina car park while doing some work on a friend’s boat and he kindly allowed us to join him in his van to listen to the music.

Photo of Chris and his unusual van at Maryport Blues Festival

Chris and his unusual van at Maryport Blues Festival

One of the other vans that turned up for the festival caught my eye. It was a box van converted to look like a cross between a gypsy caravan and a shed.

I’d snapped it while taking photos of the tents in the festival camp site, but couldn’t resist going back for a closer look when I saw a man I presumed to be its owner sitting outside.

He told me he was called Chris and described himself as “a free spirit” who travels around festivals across England and Wales.

He was happy for me to photograph him sitting outside the vehicle on his own little piece of artificial grass and invited me in for a chat so I was able to get a sneaky peak at the inside of his van as well.

And as I left, the black crow model to the right of the door started squawking and flapping its wings. I was in fits of laughter J

Maryport Blues Festival is a major event with the main stage at the harbour and a popular blues trail at venues across the town.

Photo of Shipping Brow in Maryport during the blues festival

Shipping Brow in Maryport during the blues festival

The publicity material stated that there were more than 150 acts performing over the three-day festival period.

There were lots of people out and about, following the trail and enjoying the craic in and around the pubs and various food outlets and on the streets when the weather permitted.

The town looked pretty busy to me, but locals tell me it was much less well attended than in previous years. 

There were even fears that the lack of support could result in it not being held in the future, which would be a real shame.
Photos of festivalgoers at South Quay, Maryport

Festivalgoers at South Quay, Maryport

Photo of a busker playing blues music on a street corner

A busker playing blues music on a street corner

Photo of the Captain Nelson Tavern in Maryport

The Captain Nelson Tavern in Maryport

Photo of Maryport Navy Club

Maryport Navy Club

Photo of The Lifeboat Inn, Maryport

The Lifeboat Inn, Maryport

Photo of Chilli Koko Cuisine...a taste of the Seychelles

Chilli Koko Cuisine...a taste of the Seychelles

Photo of Maryport's Shipping Brow during the blues festival

Maryport's Shipping Brow during the blues festival

Photo of Maryport Marina's new caravan site that was full for the festival

Maryport Marina's new caravan site was full for the festival

Photo of boats in Maryport harbour with festival tents in the background

Boats in Maryport harbour with festival tents in the background