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No sleeps til crane-in

April 20, 2015

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Although at some points during the depths of winter it felt as though the day would never come, the countdown to the new season finally ended on Saturday. All of our pre-season checks and processes went smoothly, including running the engine on the hard-standing, checking the seacocks, antifouling the hull etc …and before long our Macwester Malin was ready to get her hull wet.

Re-installing the mooring tackle is always an energy-sapping task which I always leave until the very last minute, as the longer the strops are submerged in the mud, the grubbier they become. This year’s installation was made easier by a mild spring day. With favourable weather just at the right time we also managed to get the sails, anchor, and cockpit tent fitted without any problems.

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As the big day approached, we were rather childishly counting the sleeps until the start of the new season. The weather forecast was exceptionally good, and we had sunshine with very little wind forecast for the day our Macwester Malin was lifted back in. With over sixty yachts to lift, crane-in takes place over two days; our slot was just after lunch on the first day, and we were lifted straight into the water, unlike earlier yachts that were craned-in before the tide came in.

Macwester Malin crane-in

Thankfully there were no problems with the lift and we were soon in the water and on our way to our mooring. We noticed straight away that our temperamental depth and speed log wasn’t working properly. This is an issue that has been a real pain. We’ve replaced the depth log, and had the elderly display unit back to the manufacturer for repair two or three times over the last two or three seasons, so I decided there and then that it was time to replace the display unit.

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Unfortunately we had to sail around in circles for about twenty minutes on reaching our destination, as the stern of the yacht that’s moored next to us was (for some unknown reason) parked precisely where we were headed. Eventually, the coast was clear and we headed in to pick up our mooring. This proved problematic as the link line that runs from our front strop to the rear strops was wrapped around our Hippo buoy. We subsequently were told that the yacht next to us had unintentionally picked up our mooring, so this could have been the cause.

Macwester Malin ketch

Fortunately a couple of friends were close to hand in a dinghy and they helped us rectify the issue without too much of a drama. Once our Macwester Malin was securely moored, we performed all of our usual checks and then set off back to the club to help craning-in the rest of the yachts.

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A couple of days later we nipped over to our yacht on two wonderful spring nights for dinner and an hour or two organising things on board. We unfurled our brand new red ensign which we decided should replace the Dutch flag we’ve flown ever since we bought our yacht over in the Netherlands in 2011. For more info see here.

To sign off this post, I want to share the panoramic wide shot that I took (our Macwester Malin looking aft on the left and bow on the right) below in an attempt to capture the latent promise of the coming season. Click for a closer look.

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Season 2015 cometh …ready or not

March 20, 2015

Cloudy solar eclipse

This year has been very busy in-shore so far, and with less than a month to go until crane-in I needed some sort of sign to kick-start my preparations for the new season. If the spring equinox, a solar eclipse, and a super moon all in the one day hadn’t done the job, then crane-in would surely have come and gone without me blinking an eye.

I did notice, and now I’m making plans to get our Macwester Malin into ship-shape for the new season. Truth be told, this is easily the least prepared I’ve been for crane-in ever, but sometimes life gets in the way of what you want to do. This year’s wish-list is going to have to be shelved, and I’ll be focussing on my must-do list.

To be honest, right at the moment I’m feeling a bit low about not achieving the things that I wanted to achieve, as this will mean that we’re not going to make it over to the west coast this year …but deep down I know that I’ll still have a big grin on my face come crane-in. What’s more the crew’s smile will be even bigger than mine.

Better get my waders on and drag our mooring tackle back out into the putty.

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Winterisation & off-season meandering

December 18, 2014

Macwester Malin hard standing

It’s been over two months since crane-out and it’s hard to believe that there’s another four months before the new season, as crane-in 2015 is scheduled for the 18th of April.

As always, one of the first jobs we do is to pressure wash our Macwester Malin’s bottom. You can see a before and after patch in the inset above. This year we got the engine winterised quickly and after removing the sails and cockpit tent amongst other chores we turned our attention to our dinghy.

Dinghy fendering

My attitude to our dinghy is to make sure that it’s serviceable, but I see no reason to spend huge amounts of time, effort and cash on it, as that only increases it’s appeal to thieves. This year however, we splashed out on some fendering.

Dinghy fender 2

The justification for spending the money was not related to the dinghy; we wanted to stop the dunts that the dinghy delivers to our Malin’s hull when we’re on the mooring and the weather’s a bit on the lively side. Hopefully the new rubber will do a better job than the original wooden strake was doing.

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We made great progress on all maintenance jobs and we were finished well ahead of schedule due mainly to the great autumn and early winter weather.

Promenade Bat

When we weren’t at the yacht club, we were typically out and about for walks and day trips up and down the Firth of Forth. The above shot shows one of the bats that were zipping up and down the edge of the promenade just along from our mooring.

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In early December we popped up to the East Neuk by car and after a good lunch by the open fire in the Dreel Tavern, we meandered down the coast from Anstruther to Elie. To the bottom right of the image above you can spot one of the seals in the harbour at dusk in Pittenweem. We watched two or three seals compete with the gulls for the scraps from the fishing trawlers.

The recent “weather bomb” that hit Scotland looked phenomenal up the north-west coast of Scotland, but thankfully didn’t have the same impact on the east. The weather has become more unsettled though and that’s likely to slow down the good progress we’ve been making.

Mustn’t grumble; we’ve been very lucky so far.

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Scottish Boat Show 2014

October 13, 2014

McLaren650Sengine

As usual we made the trip over to the west coast of Scotland to Inverkip for the Scottish Boat Show. The event seems to be growing, and that obviously translates into congestion in one form or another.

We made our way through various sports cars including a gaudy green McLaren 650S. I like McLarens, and I’ve even been to the deeply impressive McLaren Technology Centre, but to my eyes you might as well have stapled together a thousand wart-covered toad skins, and hastily sellotaped those to the McLaren’s bodywork.

It was just too …green.

Flyboarding

We looked at a couple of yachts, but there was nothing that stood out on the list of boats available to view at this year’s show. When I say nothing, obviously there were plenty of £250,000+ dream boats, but we’re typically interested in looking at yachts around the 30-35ft with a five-figure price ticket. After a bite to eat and a couple of minutes watching the flyboarding, we popped on board Old Pulteney (see below). It was interesting to see the cramped and spartan conditions below the decks, and with a brief glance at each other we unanimously agreed that racing a 70ft Clipper around the world wasn’t for us.

Old Pulteney clipper 70

A couple of hours after arriving at the show we decided that we had endured enough of the crowds and we nipped over to James Watt Dock Marina, where we looked at a couple of yachts for sale including a nice centre cockpit Moody 35. It was good to see a proper aft cabin like the one in our Macwester Malin, rather than a padded storage hidey-hole under the cockpit.

Later we met up with old friends and had dinner in Glasgow’s west end.

sun setting in west from dinghy

The following day we headed to our club to start the post-season chores. We got our mooring tackle up from the mud, power-washed it, and put it into storage. Next we took the sails off, checking for damage. There’s a small tear about the size of a five pence coin on the genoa, so that’s something we’re going to have to get fixed. Finally, as the sun was beating a retreat over to the west, we brought our tender round from our mooring and lifted her out for winter storage. We were in no hurry whatsoever, as it was warm and the river was calm (see above & below).

Dinghy nears destination

Of the two days we achieved more on day two, and although we were tired after completing our chores, I reckon that we both had a better time on the Sunday too.

While the boat show offers an alternative day out for the masses, I’m not convinced that the crowds, the helicopter rides, and the burger stalls actually equate to an enhanced boat-focussed experience.

So that begs the question; will we go next year?

A …probably.

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Crane-Out 2014

October 6, 2014

Approaching harbour from south

The weather was set to deteriorate as Sunday unfolded, so we were keen to get our Macwester Malin alongside sooner rather than later. We arranged to park our 32ft ketch on the club’s north pontoon ready to be manoeuvred into position on demand.

Plan B: As we were in the process of entering the harbour, we were told not to head for the pontoon as another yacht was unexpectedly ensconced there. Instead we were to raft alongside our chum’s Westerly Konsort, which was sitting at the south end of the harbour (just at the entrance, to the left of the chap with the yellow jacket in the shot above). We got a stern line over to the Konsort, and I used the thruster to help get our Macwester Malin’s bow round, (a bow thruster is a fantastic asset for that moment when Plan A slips through your fingers). However half way through executing Plan B, we heard a voice from the pier informing us that we couldn’t raft up to the Konsort after all. Instead we had to revert to Plan A, as the yacht on the north pontoon was in the process of leaving.

Alongside north pontoon

We slowly motored north and soon we spotted that the pontoon had not in fact been vacated …so we slowed down even more. As we continued, we were rapidly running out of water and had nowhere to go other than the pier wall (where all the craning-out was taking place). With just moments to spare, the maverick yacht cleared the pontoon and we got alongside as planned …that’s as planned in Plan A. Before long, the crew and I both got back to helping with crane-out, leaving our yacht quietly waiting for lift off.

About three-quarters of an hour later the weather had deteriorated and our Macwester Malin was straining at her leash, almost as though she was as unhappy as we were about being craned-out. One or two of the fenders were riding up, and it became evident that she needed some immediate attention. We had plenty of help, and one of our friends retrieved and fitted a large round buoy to help protect against her truculent bucking. Amidst all of this we were informed we were next up for lifting. That was easier than I feared as we had at least two club members on each warp, and I motored backwards into position. It was really good to have so many hands on and off deck.

Macwester Malin crane-out 1

I popped the washboards back in, and within seconds the strops were in place and I jumped over on to the pier. The first few feet are always particularly stressful, but all was looking good. We had three lines on our yacht; two at the bow and one on the stern, however the wind dropped while she was lifted.

Macwester Malin crane-out 3

Above: edging slowly to our twin-keel Macwester Malin’s place on the hard standing. Below: As usual we took a bit of time at the end to make sure that the blocks were all in the right place before the crane driver dropped the full load and the strops slackened off.

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The lift itself went smoothly and within a couple of minutes our bilge-keel Macwester Malin was firmly planted on the hard, where she will sit out the next six months. The contrast between her straining at the leash and being completely motionless was not lost on us later, as we left her rooted to the spot and headed back home.

Portpatrick aerial

The following day I found myself flying over the Scottish coastline and spotted the pretty coastal village of Portpatrick far below. That’s the very spot that we decided to take up sailing back in the autumn of 2010, and sparked our search for a yacht. A search that reached all corners of the Scottish coast before ending up in the Netherlands, and a North Sea passage.

Spotting Portpatrick and reminiscing about searching for our first yacht helped me see the bigger picture. Sure, we’re incredibly melancholy about the season being over, but wearing my big rose-tinted optimistic pants for a moment …we’re now one full day closer to crane-in 2015!

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Closing Cruise 2014

October 1, 2014

River Forth heading east

With the weather turning a noticeably colder but still better than could be expected for late September, we squeezed in one last overnight before crane-out. Not knowing precisely where we would end up, we set sail down river thinking that we might reach Aberdour. The wind was gusting over 25 miles an hour from the west, so we kept our Macwester Malin’s main and mizzen under wraps and were easily making 4 knots on a well-reefed genoa. The crew wasn’t feeling too great so we brought in the head sail and motored the rest of the way to the bridges. We also changed our destination from Aberdour to South Queensferry.

Unsurprisingly we bumped into some chums not long after arriving, and were told that the forecast was for a force 8 overnight. That wasn’t in line with the forecast I had checked, but nonetheless I increased the number of warps and put out additional fenders. Fortunately the high winds didn’t turn up and we had a comfortable night.

Peatdraught Bay and Forth bridges

The following morning we set off for a long walk to Peatdraught Bay while the tide was out (see view to the west above). It was interesting to see what lies beneath the surface especially the rocks; I’ll have a better idea of what to avoid next time we anchor there (looking north to Hound Point below).

Peatdraught Bay rocks and Hound Point

By the time we made it back to our Macwester Malin the tide was well on the way back in, and we reluctantly set course back to our mooring (see below).

Macwester Malin mooring

If you have noticed that this post is a little flat, that reflects how we felt all weekend. It was a bit like eating the last mouthful of a yummy hot chocolate pudding; impossible to relish because your mind is relentlessly gravitating towards the imminent disappointment of being left with nothing but memories, calories, and sticky fingers.

Next stop crane-out and six months of endless darkness.

Baaa-humbug!

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Forth Bridges Festival Part 2

September 15, 2014

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There were lots of yachts from our club at Port Edgar marina for the finale of the Forth Bridges Festival. We had arrived back a couple of days earlier, and along with sailing around the vicinity of the bridges, we spent time in South Queensferry as the excitement was building.

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By the time that the fireworks started (after 10pm on Saturday the 13th), there was a party atmosphere on the marina pontoons. On reflection it’s amazing that nobody ended up taking a bath, especially given that we had been getting into the spirit of the occasion …in advance.

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The fireworks were set-up on the east side of the Forth Road Bridge, and the marina is to the west, however this didn’t appear to dampen the experience too much. We completely missed the torchlight procession which had taken place before the fireworks, but it’s feasible that we just weren’t paying attention.

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In the end, the fireworks only lasted for around ten minutes, but it was a pretty impressive ten minutes. Easily the best firework-fest that our crew have seen.

Shark Toy

On top of the fireworks, I had been given a shark with a frickin’ laser beam attached to its head to play with, so I was having more fun than most.

As the fireworks subsided, we ended-up on our friends’ Moody 31, where an enjoyable if rowdy night was had by all. It was a fitting end to the season …even although it wasn’t quite the end of the season.

Sink Outlet Renewal

The following day, I discovered a leak under the galley sink, so it was back down to earth with a splash for me. Anyhoo, I did all that I could in terms of remedial work and eventually left the various bits of plumbing disassembled until I could source replacement parts. A few days later the new parts arrived, and by the following weekend I had replaced the sink outlet with shiny new components.

Macwester Malin at Blackness Castle

The weather remained better than could be expected for mid-September, so we eagerly squeezed in another great weekend before the end of the season, which now looms less than a fortnight away. Above shows us approaching Blackness Castle from the north-east.

Hopefully we’ll get one more weekend before crane-out.

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