Friday, 8 September 2017

Taking Ravensdale’s mini me out for a test drive

Photo of mini Ravensdale's first dip in the marina

Mini Ravensdale's first dip in the marina

We bought our new dinghy a few months ago but had never got around to putting it in the water.

The outboard we bought while down in Wales visiting the family at the start of this year had also never been used so we decided it was time to take them for a sea trial – or at least a pootle around the marina.

We blew the three-man Excel Volante 235 dinghy up when it arrived in July and left it up for a few days to check it didn’t have any leaks so we were hopeful that would still be the case...and thankfully it was.

Phil pumped it up on the aft deck and I was so pleased we had chosen the dark blue version rather than pale grey as it’s a perfect match for Ravensdale’s blue stripes and canvas dodgers and covers. It really looks as though it belongs on this boat.

We then lifted Ravensdale’s mini me over the side of the aft deck onto the pontoon as, although we now have winches on our davits, we’ve yet to buy the straps needed to hold the dinghy and two mounting rings need fixing to its transom.

We positioned the dinghy on the pontoon with its stern hanging over the edge and Phil fitted the outboard.

Photo of our dinghy balanced on the pontoon

Our dinghy balanced on the pontoon with its new outboard motor fitted

We then carefully lifted it into the water, tied its mooring rope to a cleat on the pontoon and Phil climbed in.

Sadly the outboard refused to start so the planned trial had to be aborted.

Luckily for us a friend, who’s a marine engineer, was visiting the marina on his boat at the time and he offered to take a look at the outboard motor for us.

Stewart discovered that it had oil in the cylinder. He cleaned it out and the motor started first time.

Photo of Stewart working on our outboard motor

Stewart working on our outboard motor

We decided it was better to try it with just one of us in it initially in case there were any problems so Phil climbed in, I untied the rope and off he went.

It worked fine and the little 2.5hp Suzuki engine provided plenty of power for what we wanted it to do. It will only be used to transport us to and from the shore if we ever end up mooring anywhere other than in a marina.

Photo of Phil taking the dinghy for a test drive

Phil taking the dinghy for a test drive

Phil brought the dinghy back alongside the pontoon and I joined him in it, thankfully without falling into the water in the process J

We then spent a fun-filled half an hour or so whizzing around the marina visiting everyone who was on their boat that day.

The weather was lovely – sunny with very little wind - but the marina gate was closed for much of the day due to the high tides being early in the morning and in the evening. The gate is only open for around two hours either side of the high tide.

There was no way we could’ve taken Ravensdale out to make the most of the conditions and decided playing in the dinghy was the next best thing.

The aim of the exercise was simply to check the dinghy and outboard were in good working order and to practice manoeuvring the little boat as reversing involves turning the whole motor around.

At first, every time Phil tried to reverse the whole dinghy turned around so we ended up travelling in the same direction in reverse as we had done while travelling forward, which wasn’t very helpful, but caused a lot of hilarity.

However, he soon got the hang of it and was able to reverse in the intended direction.

Then we just had fun until we decided we’d had enough and moored up on the pontoon next to Ravensdale.

Sadly there are no photos of the pair of us in the dinghy as I didn't think to ask anyone else to take one and couldn't take a selfie as I left my mobile phone on the boat in case it fell in the water.

But it was definitely a great way to spend a sunny afternoon – a lot more fun than being stuck in an office :-)

The forecast for the following day was also sunny and calm and the gate was due to open about an hour later so we decided to get up early and take Ravensdale out to play in the Solway Firth.

We already had fishing bait in the freezer and Phil saved some of the shrimps that we’d caught in our crab net.

I went through my usual routine of packing away anything breakable that could move while at sea while Phil sorted our mooring ropes ready for the off.

We left at around 8.45am and stayed out longer than on previous occasions, returning at about 11.30am. We knew we needed to be back by around 12 noon because of the gate and didn’t want to cut it too fine.

Photo taken while heading out past Maryport Lighthouse

Heading out past Maryport Lighthouse on our way to the Solway Firth

Photo of tea time on Ravensdale's fore deck

Time for tea on Ravensdale's fore deck

Our little cruise around the firth was very enjoyable, especially when we put the engine in neutral and let the boat drift while Phil attempted to fish. I made us a cup of tea, which we drank on the foredeck in the sunshine.

For some reason, it suddenly struck me just how exciting it was to be bobbing around on the waves in our house. It seemed totally bizarre - in a very good way - after years of living in a static house on the land :-)

Another delight was seeing all the jellyfish swimming around our boat. We couldn’t see them while travelling due to Ravensdale’s wake and wash.

But, when we stopped, we could see that there were literally dozens of barrel jellyfish varying in size from about 6ins to 18ins in diameter all around us. The little ones reminded me of the Space Invaders computer game. 

I tried to photograph and video them, but it was not very successful due mainly to the reflections of the sun on the rippling water.
Photo of one of the larger jellyfish close to the boat

One of the larger jellyfish close to the boat

Photo of some of the dozens of smaller jellyfish

Some of the dozens of smaller jellyfish

They were swimming very close to Phil’s fishing line and I was amazed that none of them got caught up in it.

Unfortunately nothing else got caught that day either, but we had fun trying.

Photo of Phil checking one of his fishing rods

Phil checking one of his fishing rods

Photo of some of the shrimps we caught being used as bait

Some of the shrimps we caught were used as bait

Whatever fish were down there, if indeed there were any fish there at all, didn’t seem to be interested in our shrimps or the frozen squid Phil was using as bait.

Another interesting aspect of this outing was that it was the first time we’d been to sea since Phil fitted the in-hull transducer and it worked.

We felt a lot safer knowing how much water there was beneath Ravensdale’s keel – not that we went anywhere that was going to be too shallow.

It was just interesting to see what depths were beneath us in different areas of the firth.

Photo of the depth sounder/log working

The depth sounder/log registering the depth but no speed while we were drifting to fish

Photo of Phil at the helm

Phil at the helm

All went well until we decided to head home and, when we were about a mile out from the harbour entrance, the alarm on the starboard engine went off.

It was really loud and very scary, especially as we had no idea why it was going off.

Ravensdale had been doing about 15 knots when the alarm started sounding. Phil immediately eased off, the alarm stopped shortly afterwards and we returned to the marina without any difficulties.

The only problem now being that we have no idea what caused it.

Having spoken to our marine engineer friend about it, he suggested it might be worth getting the fuel injectors cleaned and reset so that’s something we plan to do fairly soon. However, he said it would be fine to carry on using the engine in the meantime.

Since then, Phil has spent some time in the engine room changing the perspex lid on the port engine water filter and the gasket on the starboard engine’s water filter.

He also thoroughly cleaned both filters and checked all four pairs of drive belts on the two engines, tightening up one that had become slack.

We had another interesting catch in the crab pot this week when a tiny Pollock found its way into the net along with the usual collection of little crabs and shrimps.

Photo of the tiny pollock that turned up in our crab net

The tiny Pollock that turned up in the crab net

Photo of Ravensdale returning home from our latest outing

Ravensdale returning home from our latest outing

And a couple of days after our last trip out into the Solway Firth this photo was posted on a local Facebook group called Maryport Past and Present. The woman who took it has kindly allowed me to use it on Facebook and in my blog.

It was a lovely surprise to discover that someone had actually taken a photo of Ravensdale at sea.

I was sat out on the fore deck taking photos of Maryport and the marina gate on our way back in and caught the photographer in one of my images.

She's only very small in this image and the quality is not great as it was taken into the sun but it struck me as funny that she was photographing us while I was photographing her.

Photo of the photographer photographing Ravensdale

The photographer is just visible to the right of the base of the lighthouse

Photo of heading back towards the gate to Maryport Marina

Heading back towards the gate to Maryport Marina

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