Ravensdale on the Solway Firth by Jan Fialkowski
Turning off a boat’s engines at sea may not seem like a big deal to seasoned sailors - or landlubbers - but we’ve been reluctant to do it just in case they didn’t start again.
So, we must have been feeling particularly brave this week as we switched off both of Ravensdale’s 300hp Volvo Penta engines while at anchor in the Solway Firth, near Maryport, Cumbria, UK.
We’ve previously only switched one off and kept the other one running while fishing, just in case…
Thankfully they both started again first time, which will give us the confidence to turn them off when we drop the anchor in the future.
We aim to take Ravensdale out to sea at least once every couple of weeks to give her engines a run and to keep her hull relatively clear of growth.
Phil checking the antifreeze/water mixture with a hydrometer
And this time we took a friend along with us – our first passenger since we bought our Neptunus 133 and moved onboard in November 2016.
Before our latest outing, Phil replaced the water in Ravensdale’s port engine with a mixture of water and antifreeze.I must admit it seemed a bit strange adding antifreeze on a warm, sunny day, but I do know there’s more to antifreeze than stopping the water in the engines freezing up in cold weather 😊
Fishing in the Solway Firth
We’d offered to take Mic Horton, a member of the marina staff who’s become a good friend, fishing with us on Monday morning.
The gate was due to open around 9am and we were all ready for the off, but it didn’t open until nearer 9.30am as they have to wait until the water levels on both sides of the gate are even. We left the marina soon afterwards, returning before the gate shut again at around 2pm.
Ravensdale leaving Maryport and heading for our fishing spot
We definitely broke our single figure rule where the wind was concerned this time as it was around 11mph when we left the marina and blew up to about 14mph while we were at sea.
After I posted photos taken during our last, not particularly successful, fishing trip, a local fisherman told us we would’ve had more luck if we’d been about 100m closer to the shore so that’s where we went this time.
And Phil and Mic definitely got more bites than we had on our previous outing.
Mic seemed to enjoy his fishing trip. In fact, he caught more fish than Phil did 😊
Phil (right) and Mic preparing to start fishing
Mic landing a very small skate
Phil with one of his dogfish
Mic caught five dogfish and two small skate and Phil pulled in two dogfish and two small skate. All were returned to the sea.
Phil also caught what looked like a small bull huss, but sadly it came off his hook before he could reel it in. At least I saw it before he lost it, so I know he’s telling the truth about the one that got away this time 😊
It was lovely and peaceful on this fishing trip as we turned off both engines for the first time.
We’d decided to do so before we went out and Phil ran the generator up before we left to make sure it would get us started if for any reason our batteries let us down.
The sea got pretty choppy while we were out in the firth, so much so that I now know we need to get some sort of rail around the stove as I ended up having to hold the kettle in place until it boiled, which is probably not the safest thing I've ever done.
And the teapot and mugs were trying to slide all over the bench, so I put them in the washing up bowl in the sink, which seemed to solve that problem.
Tea making on a lumpy sea
Phil started up the engines well before we needed to head for home, so we had plenty of time to sort any problems that might arise, but they started first time, so we will feel a lot more confident about turning them off again.
The boat was still rolling well when Phil brought the anchor in and we set off home.
We'd travelled at around 9.5 knots on the way out and did 7.5 knots on the return journey, but the revs were higher on the way back as we were heading into the waves. We also needed our windscreen wipers on for the first time purely due to the spray.
Ravensdale returning to Maryport
We had wall-to-wall sunshine the whole time we were out. I wasn’t at all cold in shorts and a vest top despite the wind and I caught the sun a bit, which I probably shouldn’t have done, but I didn’t really get burnt.
Phil let Mic, who is a powerboat instructor, take the wheel on the way back to Maryport, which he seemed to enjoy quite a lot too 😊
Mic at Ravensdale's helm
Then Phil took control again before we entered Maryport basin and he brought Ravensdale back into the marina.
The wind speed was higher than on previous occasions and it caught Ravensdale a bit on the way in, but Phil backed her up and tried again and we had a nice smooth return to the pontoon.
I got a break from running around to throw the ropes this time as Mic kindly offered to do it for me and Andy, another member of the marina staff, was waiting to catch them when we reached the pontoon.
Andy sitting on our steps waiting to catch our ropes
A photographer friend, Jan Fialkowski, previously offered to take some photos of Ravensdale at sea for us so I let him know when we were returning to the marina and he got some lovely shots of us bringing her back in and mooring up.
Ravensdale coming back into Maryport Marina by Jan Fialkowski
Sadly, most of the photographs I took while we were at sea were considerably less clear than I would’ve liked. I’m blaming it on the fact the boat was rocking more violently than on previous outings.
A taste of Scotland
Soon after we got back from our fishing trip, we heard the sound of bagpipes drifting across the marina. We’d also heard it the previous day but hadn’t managed to work out where it was coming from.
This time, it was louder and we traced the piper to one of the camper vans staying at the marina’s campsite. We could just see the pipes sticking out from behind the van, so I went up there to say hello - and to take a few photos, of course 😊
The piper practicing next to his camper van
The skirl of the pipes took me back to when we lived in Scotland before we sold our house and bought a boat.
And, by sheer coincidence, we’d already bought a haggis for that night’s dinner, so the day took on a distinctly Scottish flavour 😊
Replacing the antifreeze in the sunshine
Last Saturday was a lovely calm sunny day and, if we hadn’t taken Ravensdale out fishing on Bank Holiday Monday, we would definitely have done so that day.
However, Phil wanted to replace the water in her port engine with a mixture of water and antifreeze before her next outing.
Phil draining the water out of the port engine
He put off replacing the antifreeze until he was happy the engine was running properly after the heat exchanger and intercooler were cleaned and refitted. He refilled it with water first in case it needed to be drained again.
As we discovered it was fine when we took Ravensdale out to sea on Bank Holiday Monday, we went to a motor parts shop on Saturday morning to buy antifreeze, which seemed a little bizarre when the sun was shining and I was wearing shorts 😊
Antifreeze sitting on Ravensdale's aft deck in the sunshine
That said, I do know antifreeze performs a number of other functions.
When mixed with water, it acts as a coolant and lubricant for the internal parts of the engine.
It also contains chemicals which help to protect the engine from corrosion.
Or at least that’s my understanding of it. I’m sure someone will let me know if I’ve got it wrong 😊
Saturday afternoon. Phil went down into the engine room to drain the water from the port engine and replaced it with the antifreeze and water. He then started the engine to circulate the mixture.
Phil pouring the antifreeze and water mixture into Ravensdale's port engine
Phil removed, cleaned and replaced the heat exchanger and intercooler on the port engine earlier this year after the same work on the starboard engine cured an overheating problem.
Phil sets about gutting and filleting the skate
We had a lovely surprise on Saturday evening when one of the fisherman with a small boat in the marina delivered a good-sized thornback ray, aka skate, to our boat.
We were sat in the dinette watching TV when we were aware of someone on our aft deck.
I jumped up to see what was happening and found the fisherman leaving our boat and the large skate, laying on top of Phil’s fishing tackle box.
I called out after him to thank him for his kindness.
Return of the mullet
There were lots of grey mullet in the marina last summer and we’d been wondering when they would return this year.
And we saw them for the first time last Saturday.
A shoal of grey mullet swimming past Ravensdale
There may have been a few around before Saturday, but that was the first day we saw large shoals of them swimming around the marina.
This set me wondering where mullet go in winter, so I asked Google.
According to the British Sea Fishing website, mullet is a fish which lives in calm, still water. They are therefore often found in harbours, marinas, estuaries and sheltered natural coves and bays.
When the sea is still, they can often be seen slowly swimming just below the surface of the water in small groups.
Spawning takes place in the middle of winter and continues into spring, with the small immature mullet spending the early part of their lives living in inshore waters.
Mature mullet are seen as a summer species as they only spend the warmer months in shallow water and retreat to deeper water in winter.
So now we know why we only see them in the marina during the summer.
Heron's fishing demonstration
The heron that we’ve frequently seen around the marina was obviously pleased to see more fish around too.
And he showed us how catching them is supposed to be done (not that I have any plans to try his method of fishing 😊)
The heron waits patiently at the bottom of the marina slipway
I spotted him waiting in the shadows at the bottom of the marina slipway, which is one of his favourite hunting spots, on Sunday afternoon so I grabbed my camera and went around onto the next pontoon to get closer to him.
The heron with his catch
Thankfully, I didn’t spook him and was able to get a few half decent shots, given that I don’t have a particularly long lens.
I was really patient and watched him creep forward, stalking his prey until he dived in and came back up with a fish.
All the time, I was snapping away, convinced that at least one photo of the magnificent bird with a fish in its long, pointed beak would be clear, but sadly it was not to be. I guess my shutter speed was too slow.
Oh well, I’ll just have to learn from my mistakes and hope I can do better next time.
Photography and the death of my camera
Sadly, my camera packed up altogether while I was taking photos of the amazing sunset over the marina on Tuesday evening.
Colourful sunset over Maryport Marina (Ravensdale is at the far end of the pontoon on the right)
The same sunset looking from Ravensdale towards the marina buildings
Thankfully, I’d already taken plenty of photos of the sunset, but I was so sad that my camera appeared to have died.
Phil had a good look at it when I returned to the boat and, after much searching online, he discovered it was likely to cost almost as much to repair it as to replace it, so we ordered a replacement, which arrived today (Friday).
Meanwhile, I took photos with my phone, which is nowhere near as good as my camera was (better than it is now, of course 😊), or borrowed Phil’s camera.
Looking across Maryport Marina towards the town
Maryport pier with the Scottish hills in the distance
Looking in the opposite direction along Maryport beach
Yesterday (Thursday) was a busy day in the channel alongside Ravensdale with a number of boats coming and going.
Barrule undergoing work at the MPM boat yard
Barrule, the Isle of Man Fisheries boat that arrived for work at the MPM boat yard as we were leaving the marina on Monday, left yesterday (Thursday) afternoon.
Barrule heading out of the marina
And a wind farm boat, called Solway Spirit, came in immediately after Barrule left. She was moored up on the harbour wall opposite Ravensdale overnight and was lifted out of the water today (Friday).
Solway Spirit arrives at Maryport Marina
But before these boat movements could take place, Lodestone, a project boat that's permanently berthed in the marina, had to be towed off the slipway, where the owners have been carrying out work at low tide for the last few days.
Lodestone is towed along the marina wall
Hot off the press
A billboard advertising Lauren's story
Our newish harbourmaster Lauren Bambury made the front page of our local paper last week.
Lauren, 26, is Maryport’s first female harbourmaster and she believes herself to be one of the youngest in the UK.
I was really pleased she was getting the recognition she deserved but couldn’t help thinking the newspaper was a bit behind the times given that Lauren has been in post for months now.
Anyway, she’s really nice and we’re very glad she’s based here in the marina.
Lauren on the front page of the Times and Star
Spring has sprung – at long last 😊
The weather over the past week has been amazing and I’ve been comfortable wearing shorts and a T-shirt the whole time.
In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if we really are still in the north of England or if the boat mysteriously drifted to warmer climes one night while we were sleeping 😊
We’ve had sunshine every single day since I posted my blog last Friday afternoon. OK, so it rained that day and overnight, but the sun was out again on Saturday morning and it remained calm and sunny all day.
Maryport Marina from Ravensdale's aft deck on Saturday
I was enjoying the weather so much that I forgot to check the top temperature or the wind speed 😊
There was a bit more wind on Sunday when we had a top average wind speed of 10mph and the highest temperature recorded locally was 12.5C (54.5F).
Maryport Marina basking in the sunshine on Sunday
Monday was another beautiful sunny day from the very start and fairly calm first thing. The temperature went up to 12C (54F), with southerly, then south-south-easterly winds averaging up to 14mph.
Tuesday started a bit overcast, but the cloud soon burned off to give another lovely sunny day. The top temperature was 14.7C (58.5F) and it was very calm for most of the day with wind speeds starting at 1mph and increasing to 8mph.
It clouded over later in the afternoon and rained for a while before brightening up again during the evening.
This was followed by a pretty windy night of north-north-westerly winds averaging 16mph and gusting to 30mph - we certainly got rocked to sleep that night 😊
Wednesday - another sunny day at Maryport Marina
Wednesday started overcast, but the sun soon came out again. It was warm out of the wind, but most of the time the north-easterly wind averaging up to 17mph made it feel much cooler than the top temperature of 14.6C (58.5F).
Great drying weather on Wednesday
The day started fairly calm but got a little windier early afternoon when we had a north-westerly wind averaging 10mph.
And, so far, today (Friday) we've had blue skies with sunshine, a few wispy clouds and a slight wind.
The top temperature so far has been 12.8C (55F) with the average wind speed reaching 11mph.
The top temperature so far has been 12.8C (55F) with the average wind speed reaching 11mph.