Returning to Maryport Marina on Ravensdale on a sunny day in October. Photo by Ronnie Bell.
We celebrated our second liveaboard anniversary last weekend.
We moved onto our 43ft motor cruiser, Ravensdale, on November 4, 2016 and I’ve loved every minute of it - OK, maybe that should be almost every minute of it, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
So far, we’ve taken our Neptunus 133 out onto the water 36 times, including our trip to Kirkcudbright in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, in September, the journey back to our home marina at Maryport in Cumbria, England, and three full-days out fishing on the Solway Firth.
Ravensdale out on the Solway Firth during Maryport Trawler Race. Photo by Ronnie Bell
To date, we’ve spent more than 140 hours out of a marina, either cruising, fishing or just sitting at anchor.
We’re planning to continue going out on Ravensdale whenever the weather permits throughout the winter.
And next year we’re hoping to venture a bit further afield.
Our second year on Ravensdale
This time last year, I looked back over the highlights (and lowlights) of the previous 12 months so I thought it would be interesting to do so again.
Maryport Marina started to look really empty as more boats were lifted out onto the hard standing for the winter.
We bought Ravensdale an early Christmas present – two new 180 ampere starter batteries - after discovering that the existing batteries were finished.
Ravensdale's new batteries
And, towards the end of the month, we left our floating home for a two-week holiday on dry land in the Scottish Highlands.
It was lovely to be back in the part of the UK we’d lived in before selling our house and buying a boat.
However, it didn’t make me regret our move, even when we spent the first week staying with a friend in the house next door to a property we previously owned in Ross-shire. The second week we stayed in a holiday cottage in the Fort William and Glencoe area.
One of my many holiday snaps - snow on Ben Nevis in the Scottish Highlands
I also started posting links to my blog on Facebook this month and page views shot up dramatically.
I’ve always believed Christmas decorations shouldn't go up until a fortnight before Christmas – at the earliest.
However, boat life must have mellowed me a bit as we decorated Ravensdale with fairy lights on December 8.
Ravensdale's Christmas lights
Phil and I also erected and decorated the marina’s Christmas tree in the customer lounge.
And, on December 11, the water in the marina iced over for first time since we moved on board making it feel a lot more like Christmas.
A passing boat cut a channel through the ice on the water in the marina
We also received a lovely surprise when we returned home from a shopping trip to find a surprise gift of a home-baked Christmas cake sitting on our aft deck waiting for us. Initially, we had no idea where it had come from but later found out and were able to thank the kind couple responsible.
The weather was very wet and windy for our second Christmas on board, but it was still very enjoyable and Mic, who was the only member of marina staff working on Christmas Day, joined us for Christmas dinner.
Christmas dinner on Ravensdale
We were fairly sure we were the only people in the marina that day as the other liveaboards had gone to stay with family or friends ashore and we didn’t see anyone else visit their boats.
We had a very dramatic start to the New Year with Storm Dylan battering the area on New Year’s Eve into New Year’s Day and Storm Eleanor arriving the following day.
Storm Eleanor was the most severe storm we'd experienced since moving on board and we ended up sleeping fully clothed just in case we needed to go outside in a hurry for any reason.
Me photographing waves breaking on Maryport's promenade during Storm Eleanor
And a former trawler with a couple living on board just outside the marina gates broke a stern line at high tide in the middle of the night and was riding up over the harbour wall.
I went down with a flu-type bug soon after New Year and was very unwell for several weeks.
Two further storms hit this area during January - Storm Fionn on January 16 and Storm Georgina on January 24.
Norman, a local man who keeps his family’s fishing boats running, agreed to take a look at Ravensdale’s starboard engine, which had been overheating.
Ravensdale's troublesome heat exchanger is lifted out onto the saloon floor
For a while, we thought it was beyond repair, which would’ve been a total nightmare.
Thankfully, it ran perfectly after he removed, cleaned and refitted the heat exchanger and intercooler.
Once both Ravensdale’s engines were running properly, we were able to take out on the water again after being stuck in the marina for more than three months.
Our first trip out onto the Solway Firth in 2018 was on February 4 and we went out again the following day. Both were very short outings, but Phil was delighted to catch his first cod from Ravensdale.
Phil's first cod on Ravensdale
The second fishing trip was followed by a sleepless night due to a leaking stern gland causing the bilges to fill up with water.
We had a bilge pump in the engine room, but it had to be operated manually by switching it on at the console, so we set the alarm for two-hourly intervals throughout the night until we could get Norman to come and sort it out for us the following morning. He also showed us how to deal with it ourselves in the future.
The stern gland on Ravensdale's port prop shaft that developed a leak
Immediately after this experience, Phil fitted a new automatic bilge pump.
Our coldest period since we moved on board was February 26 to 28 when a cold wave, dubbed the Beast from the East, arrived bringing snow, strong winds and temperatures down to -6C (21F) but Ravensdale's Webasto diesel heater kept us lovely and warm on board.
The Beast from the East continued until March 4 and overnight March 3/4 we experienced the highest tide since we moved on board with a high tide of 9.2m (30ft 2ins), going down to just 0.3m (just under 1ft) at low tide.
Maryport Marina during a snow storm caused by the Beast from the East
We took Ravensdale out fishing in calm conditions on March 5 and Phil caught another cod, but it was just too small to keep so it was put back in the water.
The devastation of Holyhead marina in north Wales by a storm encouraged us to safeguard our important documents by uploading them to the cloud.
We also bought a new generator for Ravensdale after discovering that the one we had was no longer working.
And Phil removed the port engine heat exchanger and intercooler for cleaning so that both Ravensdale’s 300hp Volvo Penta engines had been done.
Phil removing the intercooler from Ravensdale's port engine
Sadly, Phil Lee, the Swan Man who used to feed the swans that visit the marina died so I took over feeding them.
Me feeding the swans
The heat exchanger and intercooler on Ravensdale’s port engine came back after being cleaned and Phil refitted them making her seaworthy again.
Me cutting new gaskets for Ravensdale's newly cleaned heat exchanger
However, we didn’t get a chance to take her out on the Solway Firth this month partly due to the weather and partly because we spent a fortnight on holiday in Scotland.
We stayed in two separate cottages, one in Argyll and the other in the Glencoe area of the Highlands.
Phil and I on top of a mountain in Glencoe, Scotland
The weather wasn’t great, but we managed to get out in the mountains for some good walks and visited Tarbert Marina in Argyll.
The weather took a dramatic turn for the better in early May with the start of a period of warm, dry weather that lasted for much of the summer.
We took Ravensdale out on the water four times starting on May 7, which was the first time she'd left the marina for more than two months.
We also took her out fishing on May 14, 21 and 31 and turned her engines off at sea for the first time.
Ravensdale returning to Maryport after a trip out on the Solway Firth. Photo by Jan Fialkowski
We had previously kept one engine running while at anchor just in case they didn’t restart if we turned them off. We had no reason to think that would happen and as soon as we started switching them off, it seemed strange that we hadn’t been doing it all along.
On one of these trips, Phil almost caught a huge smooth-hound, which managed to get away just before he could get it on board.
The big smooth-hound that got away
This sparked a number of trips out in search of “the one that got away”, but sadly we never managed to catch a really big one.
My blog passed an important milestone when it clocked up more than 100,000 page views.
We took Ravensdale out on the water on eight days this month.
These included our first full days at sea on June 9 and June 26 when we went out on the morning tide and came home on the evening tide.
June 26 was also our first sunset at sea, which was a fantastic experience.
Ravensdale returning to Maryport just after sunset. Photo by Jan Fialkowski
Our other outings, which were mainly fishing trips, were on June 3, 10, 11, 24, 28 and 30.
And I caught my first fish from the boat – a smooth-hound followed by a small tope on the same outing.
Me with the smooth-hound that was my first catch on Ravensdale
Storm Hector arrived on June 13 and 14 with high winds and torrential rain. Overnight we had average wind speeds of up to 38mph, gusting 55mph, but we somehow slept through it.
It was still very windy the following day and the waves were pretty dramatic especially at high tide.
Two marine events were held locally in June - the marina open day, which was held on June 16, the only wet day in weeks of sunshine, and the trawler race on June 30, which we went out on Ravensdale to watch from the water.
The swans returned to the marina with three cygnets after staying away for several months.
The swans bring their cygnets to Ravensdale in search of food
The totally untypical hot and sunny weather we’d enjoyed almost every day since early May came to an end in dramatic style with a torrential and prolonged downpour of rain.
And it brought with it a nasty surprise.
Ravensdale hadn’t leaked since the day we bought her, but two windows and the door started leaking and we decided the sealant around the windows must have shrunk during the warm weather.
A bowl collecting water under the leaking door to Ravensdale's aft deck
We took Ravensdale out on the water twice this month – on July 4 and 26.
We also fitted a high water alarm in the bilges in the engine room.
This was something we’d been meaning to do since we had a sleepless night due to a leaking stern gland earlier in the year.
This month marked two years since we took one of the most important decisions of our lives.
We had a buyer for our house near Fort William in Scotland and the house we were buying fell through, so we decided to do something we’d been thinking about for a long time – to sell our house and buy a boat.
The house near Fort William in Scotland that we sold to buy our boat
We gave ourselves a week to find one and found Ravensdale right at the end of the week so decided to take the plunge and have had no regrets.
Phil celebrated his 70th birthday this month and we took Ravensdale out on the water four times – on August 5, 11, 13 and 30.
Ravensdale returning from a fishing trip on the Solway Firth. Photo by Ronnie Bell
And, on our return from one of our fishing trips, we managed to cause a power cut that affected all the pontoons at our marina. We think it was caused by water getting into our power socket during heavy rain.
We took Ravensdale away for a short holiday for the first time in September – or maybe it would be more accurate to say she took us away on holiday 😊
We set off for Kirkcudbright in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, on October 4 and spent the day anchored off Little Ross Island waiting to head up the river to Kirkcudbright at high tide that evening.
Me with Ravensdale in Kirkcudbright
Heading home from Kirkcudbright on Ravensdale
And we made the 26-nautical mile return journey to Maryport on October 6.
We had intended to stay a day or so longer, but the weather forecast took a turn for the worse, so we decided to head home early. It turned out to be a good decision as the weather was too windy for us to have made the trip for more than a fortnight.
Later in the month, we had three big storms in one week – Storms Ali and Bronagh and the tail end of Hurricane Helene.
And, at the end of the month we started making preparations to have Ravensdale lifted out of the water for antifouling.
The highlights of this month were Ravensdale’s lift-out followed by lots of fishing trips 😊
Ravensdale on her way up the slipway on the boat hoist
This meant we had to get the work done faster as we couldn’t stay in the cradle for too long, but it saved us the risk of damage to the exhaust covers and made the bottom of the boat much easier to get to.
Me taping Ravensdale's hull ready for painting
We did the antifouling and changed the anodes ourselves but paid the boat yard to repack her stern glands.
Phil applying antifoul paint to Ravensdale's hull
She was lifted out late afternoon on Monday October 1 and put back in the water early on Friday October 5.
And the following day we took her out on the first of seven fishing trips during the month.
Phil caught his first cod of the season on October 10 and we spent a full day out on the water in beautiful calm and sunny conditions on October 18 when he hooked the first spurdog he had ever caught.
Phil holding the first spurdog he'd ever caught
Our other trips out on Ravensdale were on October 14, 15, 29 and 30.
And the last of our window leaks that developed after the long spell of good weather in the summer was eventually cured thanks to Capt. Tolley’s penetrating sealant.
The past week
We drank a toast to Ravensdale on Sunday evening to mark our second anniversary as liveaboards and celebrated with pizza and chips – so much for my diet 😊
Toasting Ravensdale on our second liveaboard anniversary
I wondered if we should’ve bought her a present to thank her for two happy years aboard but decided she’d had quite enough money spent on her lately, especially as we’d just received and paid the bill for her recent lift out and associated work.
And I’m pretty sure it won’t be long before she’s demanding something else from us.
The acronym BOAT – Break Out Another Thousand – is definitely an accurate description of boat ownership but I still love her to bits 😊
Monday’s fishing trip
Monday was the first day we’ve had a forecast of calm weather when the marina gate was open so far this month, so we jumped at the chance to take Ravensdale out onto the Solway Firth.
When we set off, we thought it might be a good day to be out over two tides as the wind speed was expected to be low until well after the marina gate was due to open again at around 7.30pm.
Leaving Maryport on Ravensdale soon after sunrise
We left the marina soon after 8am and initially anchored in the spot just off Maryport pier where Phil had caught his biggest cod of the season.
Although there was next to no wind, we found the boat was rolling around a lot at anchor.
We decided this was partly due to the swell caused by a few days of windy weather and partly due to the fact we were sitting just out from the point where the River Ellen flows out into the firth.
Whatever the cause, it was a lot bumpier than we’d been expecting but we decided to stay there and fish it for a while before moving on.
The water looked calm but there was a good swell
Phil set up two rods on the aft deck while I prepared our breakfast as we hadn’t got around to eating before leaving the marina.
Before he'd even finished setting up the second rod, he caught a dogfish on the first one and that set the pattern for the rest of the time we were there.
Some people seem to think catching dogfish is better than nothing at all, but I know Phil doesn’t agree with that. They’re just a nuisance. They steal the bait and, while he’s dealing with the dogfish, the line isn’t out there to catch anything more interesting.
Phil waiting for a fish to bite
Me enjoying a mug of tea on Ravensdale's aft deck
We were close to the marker that the cormorants nest on and I was watching the cormorants flying low across the water to and from their perch.
We also saw a large seal pop up a couple of times, which probably didn’t help much with the fishing but was still nice to see.
Around high tide, we decided to move on to see if Phil would have any more luck fishing somewhere else.
We still hadn’t decided whether to stay out until the next tide so stayed local to Maryport in case we decided to go home before the gate closed.
The thinking being that, if we stayed out, we would have plenty of time to head off a bit further afield.
We moved up to Allonby Bay where a smaller fishing boat from our marina was fishing after he said they had caught a cod.
The other fishing boat from the marina that was out on the Solway Firth on Monday
We dropped anchor a bit further along the coast about the same distance from the shore as them and Phil set up his rods again.
Phil spinning from Ravensdale's foredeck
He also tried spinning with feathers to see if that would be more successful, which it wasn't, and all he caught were more dogfish and a whiting that was too small to keep.
Phil with the small whiting he caught
Soon after they left, it turned up in the water around us.
My biggest disappointment is that, when it came up really close to us, I had the wrong lens on my camera and, by the time I’d changed it, it had moved too far away to get a photo of it.
However, it was probably still close enough to affect our fishing.
I pointed out that the seal had more right to fish there than we did as we could always go to Asda or Lidl to buy food whereas the seal was reliant on catching his dinner, but I’m not sure that Phil agreed with me on that one 😊
I always set an alarm to go off around an hour before the marina gate is due to close, which is always around two and half hours after high water. I obviously give us more warning if we’re further out.
My alarm went off and Phil carried on fishing. As we were fairly close to home, I said nothing for about 10 minutes then asked if he was planning on staying out until the next tide.
He decided that the fishing was so poor that it really wasn’t worth staying out, so we returned just in time to catch the gate before it closed.
Ravensdale returning home to Maryport
We were back just before midday after three hours 45 minutes out of the marina during which time we did 4.9 nautical miles.
The marina Wi-Fi seems to be working fairly well again after months of ridiculously slow connections and frequently no signal at all.
This would be great news, if we hadn’t recently signed up for a 12-month contract with Vodafone ☹
Our Vodafone Wi-Fi box
But at least it means we’re not using anywhere near the 50MB of Wi-Fi we get with Vodafone.
We use the marina Wi-Fi most of the time and only switch to our mobile Wi-Fi if it’s painfully slow or fails altogether.
And, when we do use our Vodafone Wi-Fi, we find it’s really good.
But I have a feeling 50MB wouldn’t be enough if we had to rely on it all the time, especially as we like to watch Netflix.
Cleaning Ravensdale’s teak aft deck
After our latest fishing trip, Phil was about to hose the aft deck down to get rid of the bait residue and other fishing-related mess.
Phil cleaning Ravensdale's aft deck
However, he decided it was time to give it a deep clean so washed it with Teak Wonder cleaner, then used the corresponding brightening product planning to finish it off with the dressing and sealant once it was dry.
Unfortunately, the deck didn’t dry in time to do this the same day and it has rained every day since so he’s now waiting for the first dry day to finish the job.
These are no use to us at the moment as we used them to fish for smooth-hounds, which have finished for this year.
The bullhead we caught in our prawn pot
We checked again this week and were told that they only need very small crabs – no more than about 1in in diameter – and most of the crabs we trap are too large.
We didn’t get any bait this week, but we did find two small fish in the pot on one occasion – a pollock and something I hadn’t seen before.
I showed the photo above to a friend who is more knowledgeable on these things and was told it was a bullhead also known as a sea scorpion.
Setting off for our fishing trip on the Solway Firth soon after sunrise on Monday provided the opportunity for some different photos of Maryport.
Misty Maryport sunrise
Maryport basin soon after sunrise
I’ve also taken my camera out for short walks around the harbour, the shore and the marina.
Reflections at Maryport Marina
More boat reflections as Maryport Marina
A fishing boat in Maryport Harbour
Maryport beach at low tide
Sadly, I missed what turned out to be a beautiful sunset on Wednesday evening. The weather had been awful all afternoon, so I had no reason to suspect there would be a good sunset.
By the time, I saw just how colourful the sky had become, it was too late to go anywhere other than just grabbing a few shots across the marina and, even then, the best of the colour had gone ☹
Sunset at Maryport Marina
Another view of the sunset at Maryport Marina
It’s been a pretty wet and windy week here in Maryport apart from the lovely calm weather we had later on Sunday and throughout the day on Monday.
Overnight Friday/Saturday was a particularly wet and windy night with heavy rain and average winds speeds of up to 30mph, gusting up to 41mph.
It was even windier first thing on Saturday morning with an average wind speed of 34mph, gusting 47mph, at 8am. The strong wind and rain continued throughout the day with torrential rain for most of the time.
Downpour Saturday at Maryport Marina
The top average temperature was 11.8C (53F) with a top average wind speed of 34mph, gusting 48mph.
Sunday’s weather couldn’t have been more different to the previous day.
Sunshine at Maryport Marina on Sunday
We awoke to sunshine and light cloud and the wind had dropped considerably. It clouded over during the afternoon and the wind decreased still further.
The highest temperature recorded locally was 11.1C (52F) and the top average wind speed was 18mph at 8am.
Monday morning’s weather was a mixture of sunshine and cloud. It was very calm first thing and stayed that way throughout the day.
It became a bit misty while we were out on the water and sunrise seemed to last forever.
Calm conditions at Maryport Marina on Monday
The top temperature recorded at St Bees Head, which is our nearest weather station, was 10.9C (52F) and the top average wind speed was 17mph, but it was definitely much lower than that here.
Heavy sky before the rain on Wednesday afternoon
It rained throughout the night but eased off to give a dry, bright morning on Wednesday with lots of heavy cloud warning of the rain to come.
It arrived just after lunch and kept it up for the rest of the day.
The temperature reached 13C (55F) and the top average wind speed was 34mph, gusting 48mph.
Yesterday (Thursday) started cloudy, fairly bright and dry but it didn’t stay dry or bright for long. The cloud increased during the morning and the rain arrived early afternoon.
The top temperature was 9.1C (48F). The average wind speed reached 25mph, gusting 33mph.
Last night (Thursday/Friday) was very windy with average wind speeds up to 36mph, gusting 52mph.
The top temperature was 9.1C (48F). The average wind speed reached 25mph, gusting 33mph.
Last night (Thursday/Friday) was very windy with average wind speeds up to 36mph, gusting 52mph.
Heavy grey cloud over Maryport Marina this afternoon (Friday)
And, so far, today (Friday) the weather has been dry, overcast and still pretty windy, with much stronger wind and heavy rain to come…