Summer 2022

I distinctly remember saying we wouldn’t pad this blog out with unnecessary content just to remain relative. I didn’t think the posts would be so sporadic though!!!

Ok, here we go….. We spent the winter in the Port of Poole marina & what a great bunch of people the staff are from the dock masters all the way to the marina manager Kerrie who is an absolute pleasure to deal with. Winter on the south coast of the UK isn’t great though and I recall saying we wouldn’t spend another winter in the UK when we left in 2018, oh well never say never I guess.

The replacement of the teak deck caulking became quite the chore as autumn arrived making it difficult to crack on meaning it took months. It is now done but there are patches which require attention as the caulking is lifting in some areas where the old small screws were. These screws are how Beneteau hold the deck in place at the construction stage. They then caulk over the screws which after years become exposed. Not their best idea in my opinion.

We have now finished the electronics upgrade including a Raymarine Axiom 7 repeater in the nav area and a new Quantum wireless radar in doing so we have now brought Silhouette up to 2022 ! Without doubt the biggest job I’ve undertaken is to swap out our Eberspacher airtronic heater for a Hydronic system. More on that shortly.

So where are we and how’s the plans coming along. We left Poole at the end of May and sailed west, first stop being the very lovely Dartmouth. The river is deep with quite a strong current running through it due to the big tides. We took a mid stream pontoon which means you either use your dinghy to go ashore or the harbour taxi service. Our cousins Lee & Julie sailed from the Solent to see us which was a great few days together. It was the longest sail they’d done in their yacht Thursdays Child including an overnight passage across Lyme Bay. We were very proud of them as we remember the first time we sailed overnight many years ago & the sense of achievement it brought. In the end we stayed for 2 weeks before moving on.

We’re in Salcombe Devon on a visitor mooring, we were going to stay for 3 days but it is stunning here with some great walks and a lovely town. The local pub has in my opinion the best Lager I’ve had called Offshore. I can’t quite believe how good it is so keep going back to make sure 🙂

So 6 weeks later and we’re still here.

This year is all about making sure Silhouette is back up to the level we feel she should be before heading off again next year. Our plans are starting to take shape, not so easy as back in 2018 we knew we needed to be in the Canaries at a certain time to prepare for the Atlantic crossing etc. This time with the UK no longer in the European union, timing is more difficult as we can only stay in the Schengen zone for 90 days then must leave for 90 days. The problem is France, Spain, Portugal, Italy & Greece are all part of the zone meaning leisurely sailing across the Mediterranean needs planning. Currently it look like we’ll winter 2023/24 in Cyprus but that’s a way away yet.

We’ve booked the marina in Poole again for this winter and will head off south in May/June next year.

When we came back to the UK in 2020 we fitted a new Eberspacher D5 airtronic heating system which is diesel powered hot air ducted throughout Silhouette. Historically when we’ve been at anchor the only way to create hot water is by either running the engine or turning on the Honda petrol generator to run the immersion heater. Both methods involve noise and a little inconvenience to neighbours nearby so the decision was taken to do what we should have in 2020 & put the Hydronic system in. This is much like domestic central heating with a small powerful diesel heater which very quickly heats water in hoses. These hoses run around the boat with matrix heaters (like car heaters) in each cabin along with running through the calorifier (hot water cylinder). The new system provides 40 litres of very hot water in about 30 minutes which is amazing & so quiet too. A big shout out goes to Stuart at www.melloronline.co.uk who not only supplied the Eberspacher system but their technical assistance was second to none👏

However the existing calorifier was only a single coil which the engine uses to heat the water & the system needed a 2 coil calorifier. This meant removing the old one behind the engine. I am sure Beneteau placed the calorifier in the hull then built the rest of the boat around it. After much swearing, bloody hands, removal of cabin floor frames & 6 HOURS, I managed to get the old one out with literally 3 mm gap! The new one of the same size but cylindrical instead of square took an hour to fit. The installation has taken me about 5 days with 1 more to wire in the heaters, the main dealer said it would take 2 engineers 4 days minimum…. & they are supposed to know what they’re doing! There is no doubt this system is far superior and making hot water in 30 minutes is a game changer at anchor, so everyone is very happy.

Big boxes containing the water heating system

We also installed a Victron Energy 3000w inverter charger kindly given to us by Steve & Helen on Allegrini as they’d fitted a 5000w version. Great piece of kit but after having had to remove it to get the old calorifier out I think I’ve blown something up on the board when refitting as it now doesn’t work. Entirely my fault and a repair will be carried out when we stop for the winter. Fortunately I hadn’t removed the old 1500w inverter so everything still works on board…. Phew the big TV still works 😂

We need to be in Falmouth Cornwall in a couple of weeks as my mother is staying there so an ideal chance to spend time together.

Final jobs for this winter will be increasing the solar panels on the arch and taking the mainsail back to the sail makers and getting them to recut it “again” as the 2nd batten still hits the backstay #nothappy !

The good, the bad, the ugly!

Yes we’re still here, so here’s a long overdue update with good stuff and bad stuff!

COVID-19 has left and continues to leave its mark throughout the world, just as we think its getting better another variant rears its UGLY head. On the positive side the UK has now vaccinated nearly 90% of the adult population with the first jab and 75% with both. We all owe a huge debt to the scientists who developed the vaccine and our wonderful NHS for getting it out to the population. The world as a whole has so much more to do and this pandemic will be with us for a long time to come we fear. With this in mind we’ve decided to wait until 2023 before setting off again. Discussions are taking place about where though, the Mediterranean or……… ???

Once the 2021 UK lockdown ended it was a bit of a rush to get Silhouette ready to go out to her summer mooring. This involved the usual lift out with antifoul and polish made extremely difficult due to the yard placing boat trailers under the hull. There just wasn’t enough room to work, I think we were a bit big really & if we go there again a conversation will take place in advance on location.

Unfortunately Kemp sails (sadly) let us down quite badly with the mainsail packaway system and when we raised the new mainsail even that was wrong! We are now on version 4 of the packaway which still isn’t right but I will restitch myself as I can’t be bothered to call them in again. The biggest issue was with the material chafing through within days of fitting, the blame being placed on faulty canvas. When the mainsail was fully raised we noticed immediately that the batten boxes at the leech (outer edge) were hitting the backstays. This was so BAD, when we headed downwind in light airs the only way we could gybe was by lowering the mainsail as the sail was stuck to the backstays. On calling Kemps we were told it was perfectly normal for this to happen…. I don’t think so as the old one didn’t and the sail specs from Beneteau certainly show clearance. Kemps ended up recutting the sail and have assured us all is well. I still maintain they are a good company but they’ve had serious tape measure issues 🤷🏻‍♂️

The only way to know if all is well is to go sailing, what can possibly go wrong? We first noticed something wasn’t right when after running the engine there was no hot water being created for the domestic system. Initially we thought the problem might be a split in the calorifier (hot water tank) coil as water was also overfilling the expansion bottle on the cooling system. To cut a very long story short, after lots of conversations with friends and removing bits for checking it was looking serious. Marine engineers are extremely busy and actually getting them to turn up proved to be quite the battle. A couple of friends suggested we call Mike Wills marine in Poole which we did. He was totally transparent and said he couldn’t get to look for 3 weeks but would definitely be onboard. True to his word an engineer arrived, tested the coolant system and immediately said it looked like head gasket failure to him. So after checking the turbo & exhaust manifold which were both fine, the head came off which showed the gasket had blown. With few parts available including the head gasket set which had to be ordered from Japan, we knew we were in for a wait. Luckily for us Kerry and her team at the Port of Poole marina have been brilliant and found us a berth for the duration.

So not being able to move we decided to start the upgrades…. it’s only money you know!!! We now have the latest Raymarine evolution 400 autopilot and an Axiom plus MFD at the helm. Axiom plotters are quite amazing and allow you to control the boat from an ipad, very cool indeed. Our teak decks are now 16 years old and looking quite tired with some screws starting to be visible. To remedy this is a very very big job involving removing the black caulking & all the screws which are put in at the build to hold the deck down to allow the glue to set, sand and re-caulk followed by another light sand. The starboard side is now done which has taken me 3 weeks of a few hours a day weather permitting. It look great although my knee has rebelled meaning all stop for now. It’ll be all done before the winter begins and will last for years again.

The GOOD news is 7 weeks later and our engine is working again…. cheers all round! We were going to have a 10 week cruise to the south west of the UK but this will now be about 2 weeks. I wonder what the mainsail looks like???

Now what’s happened to summer? I blinked and think I missed it!

2021 !

I say this a little tongue in cheek but “Happy new year”. Looking back 12 months and we were in Antigua hot, tanned and in warm waters with the news starting to talk about some kind of virus which the World Health Organisation were concerned about. What a 12 months it’s been since then, but so far we are the lucky ones, we’re back in the UK and haven’t been infected… so far.

We started this blog so we might share with others what we have done, good and bad, right and wrong. That said when there’s nothing to share there’s little point padding a blog with irrelevant material. All of us will have been effected in some way by global events & restrictions wondering when it will end. With a vaccine now on roll out there is light at the end of the tunnel which is great news.

For us, it’s a quiet few months hibernating onboard tinkering. Kemp sails got the job of making our new mainsail which was fitted 2 days before Christmas. We chose a Vectran fully battened version which when raised looked stunning. Unfortunately the new Stackpack has a number of issues meaning it needs to be remade, I trust Kemps and know they’ll sort this out as soon as they can, it is a shame though as other than buying Silhouette it’s the largest purchase we’ve made.

Posts will continue to remain sporadic for now, nobody wants to know what we had for dinner or what’s on tv !!!

Stay safe

Laundry!

3 years ago we bought a twin tub washing machine for £100 and it lives in the shower stall in the forward heads (toilet). It’s been really good and has saved us a fortune in onshore launderette fees on our journeys to date. There’s still nothing wrong with it but social media is to blame for our latest acquisition! Friends Peter & Simone from La Boheme posted a photo on Facebook of a “wall mounted” automatic washing machine and Caroline said “I want one”!!! She doesn’t ask for much so off to google it was to find one. Most come from South Korea but “Caroline” found one in Holland. I was a little sceptical about delivery but we were amazed to have it in our hands 3 days later!!!

Originally we were going to site it in the forward heads by the medicine cabinet but there were no solid fixing points so plan B was to fit it inside the starboard aft cabin hanging locker. Other than losing the locker for clothes I actually think it’s better there as the doors still close to hide it!

It looks like Daiwoo are the only company making a wall mounted washing machine and although not built for the marine market, it certainly is a unique space saving design at only 30cm deep!

Installation was straightforward by making a very solid false wall for the machine to be bolted to, water supply was taken off the cold feed to the galley tap and the waste ran out the side with its own seacock.

The “boss” is now very happy so all is well on board !!!

 

The jobs begin

Our time in the marina was extended to 6 weeks unfortunately due to a delay with services. Our D8 eberspacher heating system had to be replaced, wow we never thought we’d need to think about using boat heating again when we left the U.K. This had to be ordered in and it seems the popular excuse for any delay in getting anything is Covid-19 🤷🏻‍♂️ That said, a new airtronic d5 unit was fitted with an updated 7 day timer which is very good and very quiet too. New foam and upholstery was due to be finished before we left the marina but yes you’ve guessed it, there’s a delay in manufacture of the material in Italy. We’ve been informed the job should be completed shortly… we’ll see.

It is great to be out of the marina and the weathers been pretty good too!

The teak decks and cockpit were in need of cleaning and resealing again which kept being put off as it’s a big job. I finally got fed up saying it needs doing so got on with it, a bit back braking but well worth the effort.

Back in January we bought a Balmar alternator and smart regulator which I took back to Antigua with the intention of fitting it before leaving for the trans Atlantic. This obviously never happened and it’s been in a box now for 6 months. This was sold as a direct replacement for the old alternator which just couldn’t cope with the demand for power from the lithium batteries, so what could possibly go wrong 🤔 well for starters there’s a lot more cables and 2 of them had to link to the instrument panel for the tachometer and charge light to work. Yeah right… so with the help of fellow cruiser Jeremy from Right Turn AND the required technical calls to Steve on Allegrini, we got the job done.Switching the engine on and at 1400rpm the display showed 71 amps which is great. Our old alternator would’ve showed about 25 amps, and within 40 minutes gone into overheat mode switching itself off !!!

That’s it for the simple jobs… now things will get expensive !

 

Unpaid crew!

This is nothing to do with me, but while I was on my own in Antigua, the girls had made plans of their own. I have yet to decide if she is going to be a valuable member of the crew or a regular walker of the plank!

That said she is lovely but shhhhh don’t tell anyone I said so !!!

 

Welcome on board Nala, “Charlottes” Cockapoo…… please note I said Charlotte’s !!!

Back to the UK

Our transport ship AAL Melbourne sailed back to the UK in great weather pretty much in a straight line, arriving in Southampton in 12 days. We were tracking it all the way with winds of less than 15kts most of the journey and calm seas…. until the last 24 hours as she reached the English Channel. With winds around 30 kts+ the shipping company decided to delay offload by 24 hours when conditions were due to be more favourable. We could see from images and video sent by the skipper in Antigua that the ship was big but when we arrived in the port alongside, damn she was big!!

With personal protective equipment along with hard hats, we boarded to find Silhouette. 2 years ago we left the UK with Allegrini, 2 years later and our yachts were next to each other on the Melbourne. Inseparable at the start and end of this part of our adventures!

 

Steve & Helen set their cameras up on Allegrini which shows us being moved around the ship and then theirs all the way in to the water… that’s UK water you understand, green and cold 😦

 

Here’s the link from their website http://www.allegrini.co.uk

 

Safely in the water we spent the night in Southampton town quay marina and enjoyed a safe socially distanced drink or 3 on the pontoon along with 3 other yacht owners!

Having put the sails back on and bimini plus ensuring Silhouette was good to sail, we said goodbye again to Steve & Helen who were heading off to Plymouth making that their base in the UK & headed off to Poole and Cobbs Quay marina which ironically was where we left from in 2018. We had to motor out to the Needles then had a glorious sail to Poole harbour, we couldn’t have asked for better conditions… well perhaps the air temperature could’ve been 15 degrees higher!

We’ve sailed approximately 8,000 miles in 2 years. We are now on pause but will head off to explore the coasts of France, Spain & Portugal again when the World calms down. Then new adventures into the Mediterranean which we are excited about.

Stay safe everyone 🙂

 

 

Farewell Caribbean

So it’s a sad farewell to the Caribbean, certainly not the way we thought we’d be leaving either! Arranging everything quickly and from afar was not without without stress, starting with getting the storage yard at Jolly Harbour marina to confirm they would be prepared to move yachts out of the way to get to Silhouette. I must say the entire team at the marina were very helpful and even recommended a skipper to prepare Silhouette, take her from the travel hoist to a marina berth and then motor her to the transport ship in St John’s. We had paid for 6 months storage in advance and said we didn’t want a refund as we were messing them about since January… first we were leaving then staying then leaving etc etc! Jo Lucas the general manager however said that’s not how they operated and was happy to pay for all the costs relating to getting Silhouette to the ship out of the credit on file & return the remainder. Once everything had been paid there was a credit of around £17oo so we agreed to take half and asked the office to donate the other half to an Antiguan charity of their choice. Jo suggested a specific food bank which directly helped locals in the hotel trade who had lost their jobs overnight due to the COVID-19 virus. These hotels had shut down and laid off all their staff leaving them with nothing. This was the least we could do.

Our skipper “Daniel” was amazing with WhatsApp videos updating us on what was going on and full video of the lift onto the simply huge ship AAL Melbourne. Unfortunately as Silhouette was being lifted the wind picked up and a gust took control which caught the stern making the bow hit the side of the ship….. 5 times 😦 Luckily Daniel’s filming showed the hits, the deck crew struggling to hold Silhouette steady & the load masters shouting, so no denying contact. Peters & May have taken lots of photos which don’t show visible damage, but they and us will take a good look with a surveyor if required in Southampton. It does look like the anchor took the hits so fingers crossed.

Next stop Southampton UK

 

 

 

Covid-19

Coronavirus Disease 2019 Rotator Graphic for af.mil.There can be no doubt the last 4 months has affected most of the world, it’s a time we will all remember for very personal reasons. I had been drafting an update over the last few weeks but in the end decided to do a shortened version.

After a wonderful new year celebrating with great friends Christoph & Angela from Ithaka we spent a couple of days in Barbuda before returning to Jolly Harbour where Silhouette was due to come out of the water for 3 months then sailing back to the Mediterranean. Shutting down for an extended period was certainly a challenge and hot work too! Plenty of beer breaks required 🙂

Caroline & Charlotte flew back to the UK 2 weeks earlier, when I landed at Gatwick the morning temperature was -1 degrees…. Brrrrrr, haven’t felt the cold for 2 years & I didn’t like it.

So, this is when things started to go wrong. The pandemic looked like it was going global and fast, so it was decided I should get back to Silhouette in case plans changed. I managed to get a flight back with British Airways on an almost empty aircraft, and spent the next 3 days cleaning and antifouling ready to launch Silhouette. The thought process was to get her back in the water so if necessary I could sail to another island to pick up my crew if Antigua closed. We quickly realised this was a big mistake as restrictions everywhere were closing most of the islands and Airlines were shutting down with no idea when flights would resume. Even the boatyard thought I was crazy putting Silhouette back in the water with nowhere to go and an approaching hurricane season, that coupled with not being happy leaving the girls alone in the UK, the new plan was to spend the next 4 days shutting Silhouette down for the rest of the year. This was a mammoth task on my own, but Jeremy kindly helped getting the sails down and bagged up along with moving our dinghy.  As the world began closing its borders and curfews brought in, crews around me were talking of how they were going to get their “homes” to safety. Jeremy on Right Turn & James and Bex on Hepzibah were looking to ship their yachts back to the UK, we were trying to organise insurance cover during the hurricane season as ours wasn’t interested. The extremely full flight back to the UK was very sad but the right thing to do in the circumstances. I managed to get on the second from last flight back to the UK and I was furious to hear some passengers complaining to the cabin crew there wasn’t any hot food available. The crew were working without personal protection equipment and at risk to themselves bringing citizens back home. Just what’s wrong with people?76ef354e-5685-4dfe-9fff-6ec996ac7c12

Arriving back at Gatwick just over a week after leaving and the difference was incredible. There was hardly anybody around and the roads back to Dorset were almost empty. Within days the UK went into lockdown as with most of the world which gave us time to think about the bigger picture and what cruising might be like in the next year or two with possible international restrictions in place. The new insurance company who had quoted to insure us during the forthcoming hurricane season couldn’t be reached, presumably due to the lockdown on Antigua which meant there was a chance of no insurance from June in the event of a claim if we couldn’t get in touch with them. Yet again we decided to change plans and got in touch with yacht shippers Peters & May. We have now booked Silhouette on the Ship to bring her back to the UK next month meaning we will be sailing locally for the next year or until whatever the new “normal” is. We have so much money tied up in Silhouette we felt bringing her back to the UK was safest BUT very expensive too 😦

We hope to see Silhouette in about 4 weeks safely back on the water where we will sail her back home to Poole, this will mean our adventure is put on hold for now. It will be strange sailing in the English Channel again….. but it could be so much worse.

 

Stay safe everyone.

 

Another Caribbean Christmas

 

The ARC+ & ARC is all over for another year, amazing to think it was us arriving 12 months ago. This year as previously mentioned we were one of the finish line boats, something we’ll remember for a long time, such a great experience to be part of. We were first out on the line to give a very special welcome to the first arrival, and ended up staying out for 72 hours straight!!! One of the other yachts which had agreed to take part on the line failed to turn up so we stepped in. It was a long time out in the bay remembering yachts arrive day or night but sleep just wasn’t a problem due to the excitement of talking to them on the radio and blowing the air horn as they crossed the line. Some yachts must have forgotten how to sail upwind as they made a bit of a mess trying to get in, all commented with laughter on the radio how funny it must’ve looked having sailed across the Atlantic only to mess up the last mile ! What stood out for us was listening to the huge cheers from boat crews with arms in the air to watching the first yacht over the line in the ARC. We found out later this was a family crew of 4 on a French catamaran, they approached us in the dark at 14 knots and we saw somebody at the bow shouting down the seconds to hitting our stern, at the last second they tacked (turned) to cross the line hardly slowing down which was an incredible sight. What made this so special too was they were in ahead of some serious Volvo Ocean racing yachts.

And then there was the tale of the British yacht in the racing division who missed the line…. I should explain naming no names of course. When yachts approach the line they are told to call the finish line yacht 2 miles away for instructions. Of the approximately 80 yachts we timed across the line only 3 didn’t. Although electronic navigation is excellent, the finish line isn’t always in the exact spot due to for example some local placing a load of fishing pots in the way or a cruise ship deciding to anchor in the way. The finish line yacht radios the exact position and what to look for…. so back to this British racing yacht, who arriving after dark, for their own reasons decided not to make contact even after we saw them coming and called to offer information. We watched as they screamed past us the wrong side of the line being chased by the official photographer. He was duly advised that in order to receive a finish he needed to turn around and do it again… I’d like to think a conversation took place about correct communication, perhaps their radio wasn’t working though 😉

This photo is of the first ARC+ yacht over the line with Silhouette in the background. We ended up doing 6 24 hour shifts on the line and would thoroughly recommend it to anybody to get involved, it was nearly as exciting as when we crossed the line ourselves.

We also were there to welcome Tony & Sue “Mirabella” and James & Bex (Hepzibah) who were on the ARC+. The added surprise was they were not expecting Caroline or Charlotte to be able to fly out to greet… boy were they surprised. James & Bex must’ve picked up an eye infection as they both had very watery eyes!  

As part of the ARC team, we were offered a free marina berth when not on the line which was lovely and unexpected (well done and thank you WCC), which is in the commercial dock area. When we tried to return to it a local fishing boat was in it so the dock master said  it was no problem as he had no right at all to be there… and subsequently moved it to the middle of the lagoon and dropped its anchor. You should’ve seen the guy when he came back to see his boat but not able to get to it!!!

 

After the prize giving it was time to say goodbye to everyone and we headed off away from St Lucia’s Marigot Bay for one last time, up to Martinique in “sporty” conditions. From there the next day it was straight up to Portsmouth in Dominica and the next day up to Pigeon Island in Guadeloupe for Christmas day in the marine park.

We left Guadeloupe at midnight on Christmas day for an overnight sail north to Antigua where we will spend celebrating New Year with friends.

So this is our last island in the Caribbean before heading east to Europe in May, as Islands go this is rather nice !!!

Our hatch covers which we bought just before leaving the UK have now completely fallen to bits, the UV here in the tropics is relentless, so I had some spare sunbrella fabric and made some new ones by hand… the result looking pretty good too 🙂

 

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