El Niño = no go

May 31, 2015


As May 2015 slips through our fingers, we’re getting ever more frustrated that we haven’t managed one single cruise since crane-in six weeks ago. Of course there have been some fine days, but at the weekend these have been in isolation, so while we could have set sail for an overnight sortie, we wouldn’t have been able to get back the next day.

Okay, okay, when I say wouldn’t have been able to get back, that’s not 100% accurate. However these days we are dyed-in-the-wool, fair-weather sailors and we choose not to set sail knowing that there’s a storm on the way.

Been there, done that; and the T-shirt remains in tatters (see here).


We did have one overnight at our club pier in May (see 180 degree breakfast view above), and in theory we could have squeezed in a cruise that weekend, but we had some maintenance to carry out, plus the tides would have left us struggling against yet another incoming weather front, so we decided to exercise patience …it’s a virtue don’t you know.

Forth Bridges from Port Edgar

From time to time we have been out and about catching up with our sailing chums, however that’s been by road which isn’t quite the same.

So, as the rain is pelting relentlessly off the dingy window of my land-locked garret, let’s hope that the north of the UK manages to get out of the dismal weather pattern that we’re stuck in, and then, at last, hopefully we can all go sailing!


Shakedown sail 2015

May 11, 2015


With the weather misbehaving so far this year, we hadn’t made it out for a shakedown sail since crane-in last month. At the top of our agenda was testing our Macwester Malin’s genoa, and on Saturday night we had a small window to do this.

We slipped our mooring around 5.30pm and headed out on to the River Forth managing to dodge most of the showers. There wasn’t all that much wind, but there were noticeable gusts, so we decided not to unfurl the whole of the genoa and leave the main and mizzen under wraps until we had properly tested the genoa. We pootled along at a leisurely 2.5 knots, and reckoned that we had just enough speed to tack, so we gave it a go.


We were right to be cautious as, just as it did throughout last year, the genoa wouldn’t play ball. Given that there wasn’t much wind and we didn’t have the other sails up, I was able to casually make my way out on deck. With a few tugs I managed to get the sail furled back up. This is a problem that originated when we got the UV strip replaced during the winter of 2013/2014. We had to reverse the sail so that the new UV strip protected the genoa as intended. The sail loft are adamant that they put the new strip on the right way, but it seems to us that they didn’t. The solution is to change the position of the furling drum, and until that’s done then we really aren’t ready to go sailing in anything more than a very light breeze …and there aren’t too many of these around at the moment (see screen-grab taken ten minutes ago from windyty.com below).


Still, that’s what a shakedown sail is for. So I’d better come up with a cunning plan for a permanent fix.

…now where did I leave that sledge hammer?


Nasa Clipper Duet replacement

May 6, 2015

Mooring wide shot May 2015

I took the very first opportunity I had to swap out our old Nasa Clipper Duet (depth and speed) display unit with a brand new one after it became clear at crane-in that the old one wasn’t operational.


We purchased a full system, which means we have some spare parts to add to the boat’s inventory including a new depth transducer and speed log. I replaced the depth transducer in 2012 (see here), and the existing speed log works perfectly well. In addition I decided to retain the old display unit as there’s a chance that the fault might have been caused by a loose connection.


Swapping the units over was a straightforward job that took about an hour or so by the time I had read the instructions and double-checked everything. It was during the process of swapping out the display that I realised a loose connection might have been the cause. Either way I was happy that the new display unit was installed.


We headed out on to the River Forth to check that it all worked properly, and we got reassuring readings that were in line with our expectations. It’s particularly good to have the reassurance of knowing what’s under our keels again, rather than using local knowledge, maps, pilot books, and our Garmin chartplotter to avoid shallow water.

Lombardini engine anode

I also checked our Lombardini diesel engine’s anode. It was showing almost no noticeable wear over the last year, so I popped it back in and will check it again during the season. Before calling it a day, we carried out some more small jobs that we didn’t get done before crane-in.

Macwester Malin River Forth mooring

Hopefully we’ll get out for a shakedown sail within the next few days, although the weather has been pretty poor so far this year compared to last year.


No sleeps til crane-in

April 20, 2015


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


Scottish Boat Show 2014

October 13, 2014


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.


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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