Stuck up; well and truly shaken down

May 24, 2016


We left our mooring in a stiff south-westerly early on Saturday afternoon and headed to Capernaum for a few last-minute tweaks ahead of our 2016 shakedown sail on Sunday. While checking the rigging, I spotted that a halyard on our mizzen was on the wrong side of the stay that runs between our Macwester Malin’s two masts, and came up with a fantastically cunning plan to rectify the problem. I’d simply hoist a small hammer up the mizzen, rock the boat, and lower the hammer back down on the right side. All done and dusted in two minutes.

Or so I thought. Unfortunately the hammer wasn’t quite heavy enough to pull the halyard back down, and two minutes later I had a hammer dangling near the top of the mizzen. Despite trying to lasso the hammer from the deck below, eventually I had to accept that I couldn’t avoid climbing the mast and retrieving the hammer with a boathook.

Not such a cunning plan after all.


The following day we had drinks followed by an enjoyable lunch onboard for the friends and family that were coming along for the short trip under the bridges and back home. There were six of us on-board in total.

Our chums in Calloo, a Moody 31 [above] and Fyne Thyme, a Westerly Konsort Duo also made the trip.


The weather was changeable; it was wet and breezy when we left, but it brightened and the wind started to drop as we approached the new Queensferry Crossing. We made steady progress of around five knots over the ground against the tide.

Shot above; all three bridges clearly visible, with the newest to the fore and oldest furthest away. The larger yacht in the middle-distance is Erin, a 49ft Jeanneau that had eased past us on our approach to the bridges.


It was calm and sunny as we rounded Inchgarvie and turned west to head back under the bridges once more. It was great to see lots of yachts out on the water.

I kept an eye out for Huck Finn, a Macwester 27 that I expected would be sailing around the bridges on sunday afternoon …but I didn’t spot her.


Huck Finn spotted us though. The shot above of our Macwester Malin, Indefatigable Banks heading west, passing under the Forth Road Bridge, copyright of Charlie Simpson. Thanks Charlie.


As we left the bridges behind, we lost sight of our chums in Calloo and Fyne Thyme, along with the sunny weather. The wind picked up to over twenty knots and it started raining. We were heeled over enough to prompt crashing noises from below deck, and some of the crew went down to brace the cupboards until things eased a little. We’ll need to re-organise some of the stowage down below.


By the time we reached our mooring the sun was back out. Calloo arrived shortly after, and Fyne Thyme circled around our stern before heading off to her mooring.

We heard the tell-tale ‘pop’ of the cold fizzy stuff being opened while we were still getting the strops on, and three friends from Calloo arrived by dinghy to join the après-sail celebrations shortly afterwards.

One of our chums and crew member for the day, a naval architect by trade, had baked us fresh ginger cookies. They were robust, well-built biscuits that we decided to label as “ginger brittles”. They tasted great and were very much appreciated.

Everyone seemed to be having a fantastic time, which was rather inconveniently interrupted when our Macwester Malin took the ground. Eventually we grudgingly accepted that we needed to overcome the logistics of ferrying a party of nine to the shore while the dinghies were still afloat. We also had to tidy the boat up, and go through our usual procedures of shutting the boat down. It was tight, but we just about made it.

As luck would have it, the local pub happens to be just two hundred metres away from our mooring, and within a couple of minutes our après-sail celebrations started afresh.

All-in-all it was a really fab day.

Shakedown completed; roll on the summer!


Lazy May weekend in the sun

May 17, 2016


Early tides meant an early rise if we wanted to get away for our Macwester Malin’s 2016 shakedown cruise over the weekend, and the crew spectacularly failed to be enthusiastic about a 6am rise on Saturday morning.

I had loosely been planning an overnight at Port Edgar, but that will have to wait.


The weather was better than forecast, however I took the opportunity to squeeze in one or two tasks below decks while we were stuck in the putty. Installing an access hatch in the v-berth was high on my agenda, as that means it will be much easier to open/close the heads inlet seacock when the v-berth is in use. As you can see above, this area still needs some further work …but it’s definitely going in the right direction.


With the tide back in promptly on the Sunday morning, the crew ventured out in the dinghy while I ticked off some more items from my pre-season to-do list. You can just about see her out in our dinghy at the Ghauts above, drifting beside a chum in a kayak, yakety-yak-yaking, while his son was wading back and forth across the Ghauts.

Having completed my tasks, I found myself hanging around on deck waiting …and waiting.


Eventually the crew returned and, racing to beat the falling tide, we took the dinghy back out to the Ghauts as we had planned earlier in the morning. The shot above shows the crew discovering that the water wasn’t quite as warm and inviting as she had imagined.

With the salty wet stuff continuing to ebb away, we parked our dinghy on the pontoons while we still could.


As the water receded further still, we pulled on our gum boots and walked back out to the Ghauts, and then from the far side, walked east along the water’s edge. We spent the rest of the day pottering around on deck enjoying the heat of the sun and generally taking things easy. Although we didn’t make it off our Macwester Malin’s mooring, we actually had a really enjoyable and relaxing weekend.


Before I finish, I want to take a moment to thank our club’s rear commodore piers and moorings for taking swift, hands-on remedial action, when it came to light that the owner of the yacht beside us hadn’t made a particularly great job of replacing his stern mooring chains. I had become aware there was a problem (1) with our neighbour’s starboard stern chain shackled on to our port stern chain (as flagged-up by the passing skipper of Pampero), however our rear commodore discovered it was much worse than we had anticipated (2), with our neighbour’s port stern chain simply lying in the mud unattached.

All fixed now though …thanks the K-man.


Macwester Malin heads refit – part five

May 13, 2016


Although not strictly the heads compartment, a related area that I tackled at the same time is the floor in the forepeak where the original heads had been located. This was also where the replacement Porta-Potti lived. It’s been a bit of an eye-sore since we bought our Macwester Malin back in 2011 and now was the perfect opportunity to put that right.


When I removed the old wooden floor, I was relieved to find pristine GRP underneath. I used the old wood as a template for trimming-out the replacement Treadmaster rubber flooring. This is an even bigger improvement than the photographs above suggest.

I have also purchased a beige access hatch, which will be fitted into the vertical GRP to the right of the image above, to enable easier access to the inlet seacock when the v-berth infill is in place. Just waiting for the 140mm hole saw that I need to arrive.


It didn’t take more than a couple of minutes to fit the air vent, as I had already cut the hole in the ceiling panel, and pre-drilled the screw holes through the vent itself.


I used a small amount of silicon rather than an adhesive to bed in the light switch. I want to be able to remove the switch easily in the event of any electrical issues in the future.


I made sure that the hole for the stainless steel loo roll holder was a very tight fit, as there was no obvious way of securing it in place, and as with the light switch, I didn’t want to use an adhesive. Again, I may need to remove the fitting, given the hole it sits in provides access to the pump on the right.


I left a 3mm space to the left of the wood surrounding the Treadmaster rubber flooring, as I will source something to cover the damaged veneer. That’s probably going to be acrylic, although I’d like to source a solution a with a more natural texture if possible.


The shot above shows how the heads on our Macwester Malin is looking just now. Although there are still a few items required to complete the refit, not least fitting a door frame and door, our new heads compartment is functional. No doubt I’ll finish off some of the smaller items during the season, but installing the door and door frame is a job I’ll do after crane-out 2016.

Enough of this DIY nonsense.

Where’s my tide tables? Surely it’s time for our long overdue shakedown cruise!


Macwester Malin heads refit – part four

May 13, 2016


When I was installing the electrics on our Macwester Malin, I tested my wiring using a small 12v motorbike battery, as that ruled out wider problems [see here]. I finished off the installation of a recessed LED light strip concealed behind an acrylic and wood strip that I laminated, and attached to the underside of the cupboard to the rear of the heads compartment. That gave a pleasing light effect, without being too blingy.

When it came to finishing touches, I decided to stick with the Dutch language labels, as a nod to our Malin’s ownership heritage.


As explained previously, I did as much preparatory work as possible [outside the boat] on the sanitation hose installation. Over time I discovered that it was pretty much impossible to cut the hose at a right angle despite trying at least three different types of saw; in the end I used a Dremel to straighten up the edges. If you’re going to try this ‘at home’, it’s best to wear safety goggles as the Dremel ablates the plastic …and you probably don’t want the melted residue chemically welded to your iris.

Attaching the hoses to the Blakes Lavac Popular toilet was a really (really) tough job. The 19mm inlet hose took me a full hour using a hot air gun and wooden bungs to stretch the plastic as much as possible (the bungs being a timely tip from a fellow club member). It was truly energy-sapping. The outlet hose was also tough, but took slightly less time.

I was expecting the same issues with the skin fittings, but they both slipped on relatively easily following a five-minute blast with the hot air gun.


Installing the pump unit proved to be another struggle. Mainly because it’s situated inside a cupboard on the other side of the bulkhead. I had anticipated this challenge ahead of installation, and cunningly decided to site a recessed toilet roll holder adjacent to the pump [to the left, just out of shot above]. The hole for the toilet roll holder allowed substantially better access. That said, the installation which happened out of sight on the other side of the bulkhead from me, was really fiddly and took time, and it’s fair to say …more patience than I happened to have available on that particular day.


Installing the Lavac toilet unit was simple enough, apart from the slight complication that I had added, which was a solid wood support I fashioned to sit directly underneath the toilet. This meant that access to tighten the six bolts was challenging. However it was probably a job worth doing, to cover-off the possibility of my cake & chocolate habit getting out of hand over the coming years.

The good news is that the plumbing all worked exactly as it should; no tweaking required.


After installing the floor lighting, I created a wooden surround for the floor, leaving space for future finishing touches, including a 3mm space on the left to cover up the veneer damage caused when removing the original seating, and 18mm on the right where I intend to box-in the compression post, which will happen when I fit the door surround and door.


Finally, using a cardboard template that I made from an assortment of thin card [thank you Belhaven Brewery], I trimmed out some Treadmaster rubber flooring from a 1.7m roll that I purchase specifically for the job.

By this point I was increasingly keen to cross the finishing line, and it was a relief that things were beginning to look like they were coming together …at last.


Macwester Malin heads refit – part three

May 12, 2016

Light switch solder

I was disappointed by the clunky marine products available having searched online for small, high-quality light switch suitable for our Macwester Malin. In the end I opted for a non-marine 19mm stainless steel latched momentary switch with an integral illuminated ring. It took me a while (days) to fathom out how to wire the switch up, as there are five connections on the reverse. After much testing, hair-pulling, and googling I figured it out. Hurrah.

Then after spending some time on YouTube, I tried my hand at soldering for the very first time. I bought a battery-powered soldering iron for about a tenner on the line. There were substantially more powerful mains-powered alternatives for a couple of pounds more, but I reasoned that I didn’t need anything more than a low-power, low-use solution …and that I could do the job (and less damage) with the battery-powered ‘Daler’ that I opted for.

It worked well, and my soldering was effective and robust …if a bit agricultural.

Wiring junction boxes finished

The wiring for the lights was pretty complicated for a novice like me, but I took the time to work out what was required in terms of components and eventually it all made sense when I looked beyond the heaps of cable and connectors. The cabin lights in the forepeak were always a nuisance as they were on the same circuit as the main cabin, meaning that the main cabin lights had to be on to use the forepeak lights. I took the opportunity to run a new [tinned] cable from the main switch board to allow the forepeak lights to operate independently. In terms of the installation process, I made all of the wiring long enough to enable the wiring work to happen outside the cupboard prior to installing it in its final location.

When it’s finished, the heads light switch will illuminate when the lights are turned on, with a concealed LED strip at waist height and floor lighting. There’s also a small window and air vent which provide natural light.

Blakes Lavac air bleed valve

Once I had cracked the electrics, I test fitted the hoses. The inlet hose shown above is 19mm sanitation grade hose. I used blue tape to mark where the Blakes Lavac Popular bleed valve would be situated while it was up at its highest point, then brought the hose back out to drill the 5mm hole and insert the small plastic bleed plug. The shot above shoes the bleed plug in-situ, before the hose was returned to its final installation location at the top of the cupboard.

Blakes Lavac Popular pump hoses

With such a tight space to work in, as with the wiring and inlet hose, I ended up assembling the outlet cables to the pump outside the cupboard. I needed to heat the hose to get it to fit on to the pump unit and there’s no way I would have been able to do this at arm’s length in a dark space with some of the components out of sight. The image above shows the pump orientation as it will sit inside the cupboard of our Macwester Malin, with the hose on the left rising from the toilet (out), and the hose on the right looping upwards and then back down to the seacock (out).

Are we there yet?


Macwester Malin heads refit – part two

May 12, 2016


Having purchased a Blakes Lavac Popular toilet for our Macwester Malin’s new heads, next on the cards was to specify and purchase the plumbing hardware. Shown above, the inlet fittings are 19mm and the outlet fittings 38mm that I opted for.

After seriously considering Marlon seacocks, I eventually settled on Corrosion Resistant DZR (from ASAP Supplies) in part because I wanted all of the fittings to be of the same material (the Marelon seacocks came with plastic skin fittings). This was also feasible with bronze, however bronze was a bit more expensive, without necessarily being any better.


I drilled pilot holes from the inside, and these were then used as a guide for the full-sized holes. As this is a nerve-racking process, I had the support of a friend from the club to make sure that I avoided any mishaps.


I used Sikaflex 291i and PTFE tape to install the fittings. The 19mm inlet shown above is located inside the starboard storage space below the v-berth in the forepeak. It’s position is roughly a metre to the left of the upright storage cupboard shown below. Hastily scribbled ‘open’ and ‘close’ labels are admittedly a bit sub-optimal …but will do for the moment.


The 38mm outlet is located in a thin, upright cupboard also in the forepeak, which is just fore of the bulkhead. In other words, if you were to drill a hole through the bulkhead to the right of the picture above, you would drill through to the new heads compartment (and come through the bulkhead with the paper template shown below). Cables shown in both images above are for the thruster.


Next up was to take a closer look at the plumbing installation. Although more expensive than the manual Jabsco toilets, I chose a Blakes Lavac Popular toilet on the basis that it got sterling reviews online, and has a reputation for being reliable and robust. Legend has it that the Lavac is capable of eating a tennis shoe. The cardboard template above has arrows showing the point where the outlet hose will enter the bottom of the pump and exit via the top.


I subsequently popped the pump in the holes that I had made to test that they were fit for purpose. Obviously the pump will be fitted on the opposite side of the bulkhead, and therefore the inlet and outlet will be angled as shown on the cardboard template, not as seen above.

Round about this point in time there was a pause in the installation as I had to focus on crane-in 2016, including de-winterising our Macwester Malin’s Lombardini engine, anti-fouling, and re-installing our mooring tackle.

Part three up next.


Macwester Malin heads refit – part one

May 11, 2016

Macwester Malin Floorplan Diagram

Without further ado it’s time to spill the beans on the upgrade that I’ve been beavering away on.

Our Macwester Malin was supplied new to the Netherlands and stayed there until we brought her back to the UK in 2011 [see here | here | and here]. The layout we have is the same as the original Macwester Malin main layout shown above without the heads compartment. Instead, our Malin originally had heads installed in the forepeak, and various legacy plumbing for pump-out exists to this day (although previous owners and I have removed most of it). The most recent Dutch owners preferred a Porta-Potti solution, however that wasn’t one that, ahem …sat well with us.


Cue a mini refit.

We decided to install a heads compartment in line with the original C.S.J. Roy Macwester Malin design. We had considered installing heads while the yacht was lying in Naarden back in 2011, but we weren’t wholly convinced that the £2,000 sticker price would have given us the level of fit and finish that we wanted given that we were too far away to stay on top of it, so we put the project on hold.

The image above shows where I removed the extra seating that previously occupied the space where the heads should be located. The cables you can see run through the bulkhead to the bow thruster.


The template for the new heads partition took ages to refine, but I can assure you that refining the cardboard template was much easier than refining the plywood. My advice is to persevere with the template until you get a really snug fit.


Using plenty of clamps, counter-sunk screws and heavy-duty glue, the partition was the first piece of the jigsaw in place, however I was well behind schedule. Round about this point I realised that I wasn’t going to be even close to getting finished before crane-in.

Crane-in 2015 that is.


A good chum at our club shaped some hardwood to my cardboard templates that would finish off the partition as well as provide support to the cabin ceiling. I was really pleased with the fit and finish.


With crane-in 2015 fast approaching, I prepared some other components, such as drilling holes in the vent for the heads, and then parked the project for the 2015 season.

Just as well we didn’t toss the Porta-Potti in a skip.


After crane-out 2015, I got stuck back into construction determined that we would have functioning heads for 2016. I opted to maximise the use of internal space by slightly angling the toilet and it therefore made sense to angle the supporting woodwork. The shot above shows the LED lights and the supports that I constructed (see through hole on left), to support the weight of the lights in heavy seas.


It’s fair to say that progress was slow, however I’m no shipwright and I had to go through a learning curve in order to achieve the quality of finish that we wanted. By the turn of the year it still wasn’t clear whether the new heads would be useable during the forth-coming season, as there was still lots (and lots) to do.


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