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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Cormorants build their nests on this 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.
Heading back towards Maryport
Ravensdale approaches the marina gate
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.
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.
The new Workington lifeboat at Maryport Marina
The £2.1 million all-weather Shannon class Dorothy May White is an impressive vessel.
The navigator's desk on the new lifeboat
The new vessel's pristine engine room
The accommodation provided for survivors
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.