Ravensdale at sea in the Solway Firth
Tomorrow (Saturday) we will have been full-time liveaboards for a year and, it’s true, time really does fly when you’re having fun.
It certainly hasn’t been plain sailing and there have been some pretty choppy times along the way, but we’re still both very happy we decided to take the plunge – not literally of course J
I called my very first blog post, soon after we moved on board, “Mad or What?” and said I wasn’t sure if it was the most exciting of craziest thing we’d ever done – the answer is that it's both.
I resigned from my job as a journalist on a regional daily paper and we sold our house in the Scottish Highlands in October of last year.
We took ownership of our 43ft seagoing cruiser Ravensdale – then called Candlelight - on October 20 and moved onboard on November 4.
It was something we’d both wanted to do for some time. In fact, we sold our house and moved out to Spain in 2004 and almost ended up living on a boat on the Med, but the timing wasn’t right for us and we moved back to the UK.
We’ve never been very good at staying in one place for very long and had moved house many times, frequently joking that our next house should have an engine.
And now it has – two 300hp Volvo Penta engines that will take us anywhere we want to go, diesel fund permitting J
Our first anniversary seemed like a good time to take stock of the biggest move of our lives so I’ve been taking a look back over some of the highlights (and lowlights) of the past 12 months.
Ravensdale goes back in the water ready for us to move onboard
Ravensdale had been on the hard standing since we had a survey carried out prior to purchase.
We had a holding tank fitted before she went back in the water at the start of this month and we moved onboard on November 4.
The move was both exciting and a little bit scary and living in a home that was rarely totally still and sometimes rocked quite violently felt a little weird at first.
We soon settled in, but encountered a few problems, including the wifi, which was practically nonexistent, and we had to take our laptops to the marina’s customer lounge to get online.
We also discovered that the new holding tank we’d had fitted before we moved in didn’t take long to fill up if the heads were used as you would use a toilet in a house. The solution was to use the marina facilities most of the time and only use the heads for night times and emergencies.
The other big issue was the lack of storage. We’d got rid of a lot of our belongings when we sold our house, but still found we had way too much stuff to store on a boat. We got rid of even more gear, but have yet to really feel we have solved this problem.
The temperature started to drop and the pontoons were icy some mornings, but the marina staff kindly gritted a route from the boat to the marina facilities, and our diesel heater kept the boat lovely and warm.December 2016
Ravensdale decked out with Christmas lights
We bought ourselves an early Christmas present of a thick custom-made mattress and a new electric blanket. These, together with a dehumidifier and Dry-Mat, which prevents condensation forming under the mattress, ensured that we always got into a nice warm, dry bed.
The marina also put in a new wifi system, which meant we were able to get wifi, although it was less good at low tide when the boat dropped down behind the harbour wall.
Ravensdale got an early Christmas present when, after months of waiting, an engineer turned up just three days before Christmas to service her two 300hp engines.
We considered going away for the festive season, but decided to spend our first Christmas onboard. We put up a small Christmas tree and a few other decorations inside and strung 800 colourful fairy lights around the guard rails and across the aft deck. We also managed to cook a full turkey dinner in our tiny gas oven.
Phil removing the old Eberspacher 7 heater after it broke down
We also decided to spend our first New Year on board. It was a very quiet, but enjoyable way to start the year as we pondered on what 2017 would hold for us. And it wasn’t long before we found out – our super efficient Eberspacher 7 diesel heating system packed up on January 5.
Midwinter must be the worst time for a heating system to break down, especially as we still had no heat at the end of the month after attempts to get our existing heater repaired proved unsuccessful and the first replacement heater we ordered from Germany was lost in transit.
We got by with small electric heaters and our two dehumidifiers, but ended up spending around £50 a week on electricity, which was more than twice the usual figure. We also turned on the gas oven and left the door open to raise the temperature at times.
The coldest temperature we recorded inside the boat was 7C, but we survived.
Meanwhile, the cable on the marina gate snapped and much of the water drained out of the marina. Thankfully we remained afloat – just – but the smell from the stinking mud was awful until it was fixed and normal service was resumed the following day.
We also changed all the lights on the boat for LED bulbs and started studying for our RYA Day Skipper and Yachtmaster Offshore theory qualifications this month.
Phil tearing his hair out while we attempt to find homes for all our stuff
Our RYA Yachtmaster Offshore certificates
More than a month after our heating system packed up, the new Webasto 5 heater arrived and was installed restoring some sort of normality to our home. It was so good to be warm again.
I was convinced the heating system packing up for a month in the middle of winter was a test of our commitment to our new liveaboard lifestyle and I reckon we passed with flying colours J
We also successfully completed our RYA Day Skipper and Yachtmaster Offshore courses and were presented with the certificates to prove it.
And our storage wars continued as we pulled everything out of the lockers to sort it – again – and tried to get rid of even more stuff.
When we moved onboard, we rented a 75sqft shore-based storage unit. After much effort, we downsized to a 50sqft unit and then a 25sqft unit. The plan was to get rid of this altogether asap (this has still not been achieved).
One of the marina staff pressure washing Ravensdale's hull
We took our first break from our liveaboard lifestyle with a two-week shore-based holiday visiting family in Wales and the south of England. The first night sleeping in a bed that wasn’t being rocked by the waves felt really strange.
We returned to Ravensdale to discover the electricity had gone off just after we left and the freezer was full of stinking rotten meat. We never managed to get rid of the smell in the freezer and ended up having to buy a new one.
Soon after we returned from our holiday, we both successfully completed a day-long VHF Radio Course and passed the VHF Short Range Certificate exam.
And, at the end of the month, we had Ravensdale lifted out of the water onto the hard standing so we could antifoul her hull, check her anodes and give her a good clean up.
We continued to live onboard our boat, which felt rather like living in a weirdly-shaped caravan on stilts, with a spectacular view over the marina.
I set to work on preparing the underwater section of the hull for the antifoul paint and Phil on sanding the gelcoat above the waterline. Our lives became one long round of scrubbing, scraping and sanding.
Our intention was to be out of the water for two to three weeks, but things didn’t quite go to plan...
Me sanding the old antifoul paint on Ravensdale's hull
The new logo and Phil painting stripes
Ravensdale’s beauty treatment continued, with even more, sanding, scraping and polishing, and the removal of her vinyl tape stripes, which were painted back on.
The antifoul paint was applied below the waterline and the prop shafts, propellers and rudders were striped back to the bare metal so the propellers and rudders could be antifouled.
Phil carried out some gelcoat repairs and I chiselled off the raised caulking between the timbers on the aft deck giving us a nice level surface.
We also ordered and applied a new Neptunus trident logo on the bow because the old one was looking very much the worse for wear.
Ravensdale on stilts on the hard standing with an impressive set of scaffolding steps
We celebrated our six-month anniversary with Ravensdale still on stilts on the hard standing.
Phil polished the hull until it was shining and I sanded and varnished the coffee table and stools in the saloon.
We also fitted a new depth/sounder log, which involved cutting four holes through the hull – a pretty scary moment J
Meanwhile, Phil was trying to get Ravensdale’s trim tabs working having discovered that they didn’t move at all. We eventually discovered the motor wasn’t working and had to install a new system and new hydraulic rams.
A boating friend taught me to whip ropes and I whipped a new set of ropes for our fenders.
We also made our first trip out of the marina gate into the Solway Firth, but sadly not on Ravensdale. A friend took us out on his yacht to watch Maryport’s annual Trawler Race.
And we took a day off to attend the first day of Windermere Boat Show at Ferry Nab Jetties at Bowness on Windermere.
Relaunching Ravensdale after 11 weeks ashore
After various delays, Ravensdale went back in the water on Friday June 9 – about 11 weeks after she was lifted out for two to three weeks J
It was so good to see her back where she belonged and to get rocked to sleep at nights again.
The work continued once we were back in the water, including replacing the domestic water pump after the old one packed up leaving us without an onboard water supply for a couple of days.
Giant jellyfish in Maryport Marina
Ravensdale still wasn’t ready to take out to sea, but another friend offered us a trip out into the Solway Firth on his yacht and we jumped at the opportunity.
A huge jellyfish turned up in the marina – a Rhizostoma pulmo, commonly known as the barrel jellyfish, the dustbin-lid jellyfish or the frilly-mouthed jellyfish.
It was pale pink, with a black lacy looking rim, and measured about 18ins in diameter and around 2ft 6ins in length.
We had some beautiful sunny weather in June and enjoyed soaking up the sun on top of our house J
We also had another trip out to sea on someone else’s yacht and attended the Northern Boat Show in Liverpool.
Phil adjusting Ravensdale's drive belts during the diesel engine course
Our RYA Diesel Engine Course certificates
Me checking the oil during the course
We decided Ravensdale was now seaworthy but decided to wait until after we’d taken the RYA Diesel Engine Course to make sure her engines were in order.
And we were so glad we did because, when the instructor came to our boat to do the course with us, we discovered several problems that could have caused trouble at sea.
These included slack water pump drive belts on the starboard engine, one of which needed replacing, and the fuel return hose on the same engine was perished and could have burst at any time.
The new dinghy we’d ordered at the Northern Boat Show arrived giving us a serviceable tender. The one that was on the boat when we bought it turned out to be suitable for use on inland waterways only – not coastal waters.
We also bought a prawn pot to see what was lurking in the waters beneath our home and started catching small shrimps and crabs, along with the occasional eel, flat fish, young Pollock and even a couple of dogfish.
July brought more sunshine and more sunbathing – who says it always rains in Maryport? All I can say is they have obviously never lived in Fort William J
That said, we were back in Scotland for a week staying in a lovely holiday cottage on the shores of Loch Awe in Argyll and, although we’d planned a break from boats, ended up visiting friends on their boats in Tarbert and hiring a small boat to fish the loch.
The night we got back from our holiday the waste water pump for the basin in the aft heads and shower broke down so we were unable to use them for several days. We immediately ordered a new one, which Phil fitted.
Ravensdale heading out into the Solway Firth for the first time
We carried out the work identified during the diesel engine course and, almost nine months after moving on board, Ravensdale was finally seaworthy, but she came up with yet another excuse not to leave the marina.
While we were waiting for suitable weather to coincide with the tides for our first trip out to sea, the new Nasa Clipper duet combined speed/distance log and echo sounder we fitted while out of the water stopped working.
Phil tried to fix it, but without success so the unit had to be sent back to the manufacturer.
We were going to wait until the depth sounder/log was fixed before taking Ravensdale out to sea for the first time, but decided we could do without it if we only went out for a short time around high tide when we could be sure of having plenty of depth beneath us.
And, on August 10 – more than nine months after we bought her – we took her out for her maiden voyage in our ownership and it felt amazing.
Her second outing was on August 22, which was a lovely, calm, sunny day. I still couldn’t quite believe we were floating around on the waves in our house J
Phil later fitted a new in-hull transducer, which gave us a functioning depth sounder again.
Phil test driving our new dinghy
Me enjoying a cup of tea at sea
Phil tried fishing off the boat for the first time, but had no luck on this occasion.
We also took our new three-man Excel Volante 235 dinghy with a 2.5hp Suzuki outboard motor for a test drive in the marina as we realised we hadn’t used either since we bought them.
I underwent day surgery to have my gallbladder removed this month after discovering the stomach pain I had been suffering was caused by gallstones.
I was a bit concerned about recuperating on a rocking boat, but it was no problem at all. I wasn’t allowed to do any heavy lifting for a fortnight, by which time I was totally back to normal.
We decided not to take Ravensdale out to sea during this period as throwing ropes could have put too much strain on my stomach.
Storm clouds gathering over Maryport Marina before ex-hurricane Ophelia
Calm after the storm
Weather forecasters also warned that Maryport was due to be hit by two big storms - ex-hurricane Ophelia and Storm Brian.
The first was pretty dramatic and a former trawler, now used as a liveaboard, which is moored on the harbour wall outside the marina gate, broke her stern line at night. She was tossed around by massive waves while emergency services battled to bring her under control.
However, Storm Brian was no worse than any other period of high winds.
We took Ravensdale out to play in the Solway Firth twice – on October 8 and October 27 – and a friend who was out in their boat at the same time kindly took some lovely photos of her at sea.
Ravensdale out in the Solway Firth on October 8
The wall plaques say it all
And tomorrow (Saturday) is the big anniversary – a whole year of living on board!
The past week
After Ravensdale’s last trip out to sea we filled her up with diesel – the tank was still almost half full, but she still took 700 litres!
We also moved house – or rather moved our house to a different berth in Maryport Marina.
Ravensdale in our new mooring at Maryport Marina
We were previously moored up alongside the harbour wall on the same side of the marina as the marina office and facilities, which was fine at high tide. However, at low tide, the view from our port side was a seaweed-covered stone wall, which blocked out the light, wifi and mobile signal and adversely affected our TV reception.
This wasn’t so bad in the summer, but as the days get shorter and the sun gets lower in the sky, it means boats along that pontoon are in shadow for much of the day.
We could see it starting to happen and asked if there was any possibility of moving to the other side of the marina.
We are now on a hammerhead, where we have sun for more of the day (when it’s out, of course), more light, a much better view and better reception for wifi, mobile phones and TV.
I’m claiming that we’ve gone on holiday for a bit of winter sun J
Ravensdale's new location on the other side of the marina
On a less happy note, we discovered we need to buy two new batteries after the engines failed to start again when we filled up with diesel following our last trip out to sea.
Phil used the generator to start the engines and, after carrying out some tests, he confirmed the batteries were finished so our next big purchase will be two new ones.
I think Ravensdale will have to consider them an early Christmas present J