Easter 2017

windward_sailOur plan a was to sail over to Cherbourg for a few days, but the forecast promised very little wind for the first couple of days, so we decided to sail “slowly” on Thursday up to the Hamble river. This really was a win win as the berthing was free due to us visiting another MDL marina which offer complimentary berthing for vessels from sister marinas AND we were about 5 minutes from Steve & Helen from Allegrini who berth at Swanwick. They have been a great source of information in our preparation and meeting up again for the afternoon and a fantastic evening in the Navigators pub and restaurant in Swanwick turned out to be every bit as alcoholic as I’d hoped/feared, we certainly didn’t feel the cold in the dinghy back to our marina! We’ve always felt the cruising life would be very sociable, we are not wrong!

The forecast showed strong winds coming in on easter Sunday so we decided to return to Poole on Saturday, however the forcasters got it slightly wrong and we had 22-32kts on the nose all the way back. With a double reefed main and genoa we absolutely flew back at an average 7.5 kts plus 2-3 kts of tide catching some rogue waves which reached the cockpit… much to the amusement of Caroline! The riggers who fitted the new standing rigging said there may need to be some tuning, judging by the leeward flex in the wire they weren’t wrong so we’ll need to get them down to tighten everything up as it was slightly worrying seeing the rig so loose. We also decided to test out the RiB mounted on the davits to see how much movement there was, the sail back being a good test. We were really pleased, we just need to use some ratchet straps to make it quicker to tie down.RiB

The entrance to Poole harbour is narrow and can be tricky, certainly when wind and tide are against you. As we motored towards the entrance we were flagged down by a yacht trying to sail in. It turned out their engine had overheated, so we managed to get a tow line to them and took them up to the entrance to Parkstone yacht club inside the harbour. We radiod the Sandbanks chain ferry who waited at the southern side until we’d passed even though it has the right of way, and thanked them once we’d cleared.  The next day we received a lovely email from Nick & Janine who must have googled us as we’d not exchanged names at all, to thank us and tell us about their lovely Contessa 34. We would like to think anyone able to would help us if we needed it and there wasn’t a moments hesitation from us to offer assistance. The only annoying bit during the tow was a motor boat which went past well in excess of the speed limit creating  waves which put unnecessary strain on the cleats…. upset was an understatement!

We’re also going to investigate the cost of a replacement bimini to incorporate full drop down sides with windows, this will give us extra covered space for when we winter up in cooler areas, it does very much depend on price though….


Less than a year !


So we’re now at under 12 months until both Caroline & I take early retirement and fulfil years of dreaming about sailing off into the sunset. We first spoke about it over 20 years ago…. where has the time gone? , We now pinch ourselves to make sure we’re still not dreaming!

Charlotte had an email from Neilsons asking her to fly out to Greece early so we take her to Gatwick on the 8th for a 7 month job, thank goodness for technology as we can skype/facetime regularly. The temperature is already in the low 20’s and we’re quite envious as here on the south coast of England it’s considerably cooler!

We also need to decide whether to put our home on the market and invest the money or keep it and rent it out. Pros and cons to both options, at the very least we’re having a big tidy up!



Long range comms

A much debated topic of conversation has been just what we were going to do about long range communication including emails for receiving weather updates and position reports whilst on long passages. I attended the WCC ocean cruising seminar at last years Southampton boat show and “obviously” the panel were split between SSB HF radio and Satphone. Both have the ability to send and receive email although satphone is really expensive when used. SSB is free to use but setup costs can be 3 times more. Satphones give global pole to pole voice communication providing the “view” to the satellite is good enough, whereas SSB can send a signal many hundreds/thousand miles regardless of cloud etc etc. You can only speak to one person/station at a time with a satphone whereas you can have a conversation with many simultaneously on SSB which is great on rallies. In an ideal world “buy both” they said at the seminar which means around £6000……. I don’t think so !
Much googling and emails to Steve on Allegrini (sorry Steve), we decided on a bit of a compromise whilst still buying both systems. Icom have just discontinued their IC-718 model which although strictly a shorebased ham radio, it easily opens up to the marine band. Sailcom marine sold it until recently which is a shame as they are the specialists in long range marine comms. New models are still available and we found Andy at Radioworld in Wigan to be both knowledgeable and very helpful. We picked up the Icom IC-718 transceiver opened up to include all marine frequencies, Icom AH-4 ATU (tuner), fittings and extra long cables for £950 including delivery. We will buy the pactor modem which is a standalone box to enable the send/receive of emails and data, from Sailcom marine which is about another £1000.00 leaving us with arguably one of the most important jobs left of aerial and earthing. Having taken advice from (yes Allegrini), we have bought some DX wire from Germany, this is a very thin wire coated in something similar to teflon which will go from the ATU which we’ve mounted on the rear arch to the top of the mast. The earth is taken from the ATU straight to the arch itself which is more than enough to provide a stable platform. This cost £50 delivered so the entire SSB system has been done for just under £2000.00
We will keep an eye out during the next few months and buy an Iridium 9555 ex rental which will be around £500 and buy airtime minutes when we need them, the least currently being about £200 for 200 minutes which is more than enough for emergency phone calls which we hope never to make.
This means we will have both systems onboard for £2500 which keeps us and the savings happier, so a result there 🙂
Charlotte received a 3rd offer of employment, this one from Nielsons which she quickly accepted, as a watersports instructor in Messini Greece. She leaves on the 22nd April for 7 months and there is an option to do an internal transfer to the winter ski season too so we are delighted for her.
Caroline has had another operation on her finger (see April 2016 entry) to remove scar tissue and give more flexibility, although only done a week ago it looks much better which is very promising. It’s better to get this done now as once we leave it’ll not be so easy.


As mentioned in the last post, we launched with charging issues. The engine start battery was dead so we replaced it on launch day when the engine didn’t start! The new Rutland 1200 hybrid controller was faulty and there had been no charging of the deep cycle batteries either in the 3 months out of the water. I decided last weekend to turn on the Dolphin marine charging system to slowly recharge the service batteries and leave them to trickle. The next day in the afternoon our daughter went to visit Silhouette to see the new sprayhood and phoned me to say there was a horrible rotten egg smell in the cockpit. She immediately pulled the shore power plug as it was pretty obvious a battery was “cooking”.

3 hours later I went on board to find one of the 180ah batteries still so hot I couldn’t touch it….. this was the closest we had come to a fire in all our years. It turns out the battery had a dead cell and wouldn’t show a voltage of above 12.1 so we’re guessing the charger just kept throwing full charge at it, but will now have to check that for a fault too.

We now have 3 new service batteries, 1 new engine battery and a repaired mppt controller, so hopefully the charging issues are sorted…. hmmm !

Big launch…ish

 You can’t knock the staff at Cobbs Quay, when they said lift at 9am they meant it! Hearing the lifting strops creak as they take the weight is a sound I don’t like. Cobbs have a new 40 ton travel hoist coming this year so it will open a lot wider too ……. phew.

Looking stunning as she took to the water, I boarded to check for water tightness and to start the engine. No  leaks AND no engine start, the engine start battery died so rather than motor out of the crane bay we had to be walked to the fuel berth. Not a great start but the staff had a jump pack available which saved any more embarrassment. So we motored off to our berth just as the wind started to build, and build and build, blowing 30 knots with one sustained gust of 43 knots which made backing in a bit lively in the cross wind, but done safely.

Our new Rutland 1200 doesn’t work as the mppt controller isn’t charging the batteries. Marlec want the unit back to test so hopefully it’ll be up and running next weekend and to make it worse i’ve noticed the smart charger connected to the main engine alternator isn’t charging the start battery but is the service batteries. So we’ve launched with a few charging issues to look at.

After nearly 4 months of trying to get hold of the specific petrol generator which has been out of stock everywhere, we finally managed to find it. We now have on board the Hyundai 3000sei 2.8Kw which punches a lot more power than any other same sized unit. It fits easily in the cockpit locker and we now have an excellent backup power supply.

Happy new year

The new year begins and for us only 15 months until the “off”. Silhouette is now ready for relaunch on 13th January and looks beautiful.

All the jobs we wanted to do have been done and in addition we’ve added a microwave oven in the galley. Daewoo make the smallest model which just fits inside the middle locker in the galley whilst still allowing the door to close hiding it away when not needed. Although it means losing a locker for storage, Caroline found a great space saving saucepan set by Tefal with removable handles so they stack inside each other.

The new sprayhood ordered with Kemp sails hopefully will be with us shortly and our mainsail has been checked over and stitched up anywhere that looked weak. At the same time Kemps have taken detailed measurements of the mainsail and are keeping it on file in case we need to order one in the future.

We are now at the stage of Silhouette being ready to take us away. We feel a boat is never 100% ready, if you waited until it was you’d never leave the mooring, what we do have is a great yacht well prepared ……. the rest is just maintenance as and when.

My “phase out” from work begins in April when I reduce down to a 3 day week to ensure a smooth transition for the business, but the biggest news is that our daughter Charlotte has received 2 job offers as a sailing instructor starting in April, one in Greece and the other in France …….. all she has to do is make a decision !!!