h1

Cold and windy start to the season

April 26, 2017

We hoped to get away over the first weekend back in the water, (which was the long Easter weekend), even if it was just to Port Edgar. The late tide on Friday was our chance to set sail, but the forecast for the following day was awful and we decided that we didn’t like the idea of being stuck at Port Edgar, so after much (too much) deliberation we set sail for Capernaum instead.

We hid from the worst of the high winds inside the harbour, and made good use of the time by pressure-washing our Macwester Malin’s hull, cleaning her cockpit, and fixing the port midship cleat which had become a smidgeon wobbly. The best access to the cleat was by taking the cockpit speakers out (above).

We also helped the Joint Venture team put out the club’s race markers ahead of the first race the following weekend. The tanker on the horizon is leaving Grangemouth presumably having delivered shale gas from the US.

In total we spent three nights onboard Indefatigable Banks. It was chilly, but it had been six months since we last had the opportunity to sleep onboard so neither of us were too bothered about the cold and the howling wind. It was just great to be floating again.

As you might expect, we had a few visitors, with the crews of Artemis, JambelJoint Venture, and Pitteral dropping by. As if we needed an excuse, we reasoned that it was the six-year anniversary of our maiden voyage from Naarden in the Netherlands back over to the River Forth. Posts here. Photographs here.

The following weekend I single-handed our Macwester Malin back to Capernaum, where the welcoming crew from Joint Venture was on hand to catch the ropes. I had made provision for getting alongside without help, but having assistance took some of the stress out of arriving, as this was my first true single-handed trip leaving our mooring and arriving at Capernaum.

I spent the rest of the day finishing-off some repairs and renewals. Just before noon the following morning the Calloo crew kindly helped me pop our Macwester Malin back on her mooring. I had thought about single-handing again, but the forecast was for 30 knot gusts and I didn’t fancy taking unnecessary risks …especially when I have friends willing to lend a hand.

With another long weekend ahead, hopefully our 2017 shakedown sail is up next!!

h1

Crane-in 2017

April 13, 2017

With our hard hats strapped on we were at the club for 7 am, even before the crane arrived. I say ‘we’, but the crew had other matters to deal with at home, so more accurately I was at the club for 7 am. Okay, yes. I suppose by that token I should really re-write the first sentence, as ‘our’ and the plural of ‘hat’ is also technically wrong, but lets not dwell on that …there’s boat stuff to be getting on with.

Anyhoo, the weather for the first day of crane-in was fabulous given it was early April (day two less so, but still not bad). This meant that we (‘we’ the club) made great progress, as we (‘we’ the club, again) weren’t fighting against gusting winds. In fact by the end of day one only three or four yachts and the pontoons were left to crane-in.

Indefatigable Banks, our Macwester Malin was in the air shortly after lunch on the Saturday. Everything went according to plan, which is always a relief. No matter how prepared we are (that’s a generic, sailor cohort ‘we’), there’s always the worry that something might fail, somehow.

Thankfully, moments later we (collective ‘we’; the yacht, the crew, and I) were in the water and onboard checking all the seacocks were watertight and there was no sign of any water ingress. As usual, one of my first tasks is to burp our (the yacht’s) deep-sea seal, which lubricates the seal and lets some seawater into the bilges in the process. Then we (collective ‘we’, as above) continued preparations to take our (collective ‘our’ as above, again) yacht over to her home for the next six months.

I think it’s probably best that I stop clarifying what I mean by ‘we’ and ‘our’ …and let you (the reader) figure that out for yourself.

It was truly fantastic to be out on the water again. We (no, I’m not going there) did discuss throwing up a sail or two like our chums on Calloo had managed earlier, but it was after high water and we (nope) still had quite a few tasks to nail before close of play.

Reluctantly we headed into the harbour and having popped our Macwester Malin on the mooring, we shut everything down and waited for the club boat to pick us up.

One of the things we wanted to do before the tide dropped completely was row our tender over to the mooring. We enjoyed the journey, but it has to be said that the pull of the tide against us through the Ghauts was pretty strong, and I had to work hard to make progress.

Once our Macwester Malin was safely ensconced in her summer home, we headed back to the club once more to finish-off a number of other tasks. Eventually, we made it to the club patio; the bar was open and we (I just can’t help myself; a club-wide ‘we’) had a really enjoyable time in the sun.

Season 2017 is here at last!

h1

Prepping for season 2017

April 4, 2017

With the fuel system overhaul behind us, we turned our attention to getting our Macwester Malin ready for crane-in. As you can see from the shot above, she’s got a fresh coat of antifoul paint coupled with a new boot top. The main sail and genoa are back on, and the mizzen followed later.

You probably can’t spot the replacement sprayhood windscreen that we had replaced professionally over the winter. To be honest, we’re a little disappointed as the quality of the replacement material isn’t as good as the Dutch original. However, the windscreen needed replaced and the new one is an improvement, despite falling short of our expectations.

My little helpers kindly re-varnished and painted the dinghy (above left). Then with one week to go, it was time for my least favourite pre-season task, which is as much fun as wading through mud …mainly because it is wading through mud. As the tide receded I reluctantly dragged on my waders and trudged out to our mooring. It was heavy going, as the large and heavy tools and the large and heavy chain relentlessly sank into the energy-sapping putty. All in all it took me two and a half hours to make some alterations to the mooring ground chains including swapping out a couple of shackles, and re-installing the Hippo buoy. On the plus side I avoided face-planting the brown stuff.

Back onboard, I replaced the engine anode, and then proceeded to bleed the fuel system. I had studied the manual and was struggling to understand where the air actually escaped from the system. My chum from Joint Venture offered to help and he realised that our Lombardini diesel has a self-bleeding system, so all that’s required is to prime the fuel …and the air escapes back into the port fuel tank all by itself.

Unsurprisingly, the engine took a few attempts to start due to the fuel system overhaul, however everything was fine when it was up and running. I let the engine warm up a little before shutting it back down again.

We checked the gearbox oil which didn’t need changing. I then set about draining the engine oil. As you can see above, our Lombardini has a dedicated pump on the starboard side of the engine to empty out the oil. I cut a small cross-hatch in the side of a used water bottle and pushed the bottle on to the oil outlet before pumping the oil out. Easy.

I refilled the engine with fresh oil, and then tightened the fan belt which was a tad on the loose side. After a few more checks, I turned on the ignition and the engine burst into life first time.

That’s it. Our Macwester Malin is ready to get her bottom wet. With just four sleeps to go, crane-in and season 2017 is up next!

h1

Fuel system overhaul – 2017

March 20, 2017

Interested in cleaning out diesel tanks? Like talk of filth, choking and pumping? Or perhaps you’re struggling to sleep? If so, this is the post for you!

Over the last few years I’ve had nagging doubts lurking in the deepest recesses of my mind about our Macwester Malin’s fuel system. These question marks were completely unfounded, however when you buy a used yacht, you really can’t be certain of the integrity of components until you get up close and personal with them.

Our Macwester Malin has two large fixed fuel tanks, and three or four years ago I decided to stop filling them up at the end of each season and run them down instead, so that I could open up the inspection hatches and have a look inside (see above). Part of the overhaul project included dismantling and cleaning other components such as the pipework that joins both tanks, changing both fuel filters, servicing the Jabsco raw water cooling pump, and trying to find out why our Malin’s diesel tanks occasionally leak when they’re brimmed and our yacht is healed over.

Given there was up to a 100 litres of diesel in the tanks, I bought a 12v pump capable of transferring 45 litres per minute, and 10m of hose. Unfortunately the hose wouldn’t navigate a join in the fuel-fillers, so the skipper of Joint Venture helped get the inspection hatches open and we emptied the tanks in a matter of minutes. The bottoms of both tanks were pretty filthy, but the good news was that this filth didn’t appear to be diesel bug. The filters inside the tanks were completely choked (see below), and my chum reckoned that problem would have led to engine problems within the first 24 hours of engine usage during the new season. That being the case, my unfounded nagging doubts (a.k.a. paranoia) turned out to be a good thing.

As there was still a smattering of diesel on the bottom of the tanks, I agitated the murky contents with a stiff brush and then cleaned out what I could. Then, by decreasing the hose diameter incrementally, I pumped 25 litres of clean diesel back into the tanks with a little bit of pressure, and went through the agitation process once more before pumping it all back out again. After drying, I brushed the bottom of the tanks, and finally used a vacuum cleaner to suck up any remaining loose debris.

A week later I had another session brushing the bottom of the tanks in the first instance, and then using a telescopic magnet to reach the distant corners. I was surprise by how much debris was still inside, so I kept using the magnet until the diminishing returns diminished to the point of being unrewarding.

We dismantled the filters and pipe that links both tanks and I took those home for cleaning. I considered mothballing the starboard side tank, but having looked at the options and taken advice (thanks), I decided it was better to keep them both operational on the basis that it’s arguably the best way to stop the tanks from rusting.

I reassembled the pipework that links the tanks and re-installed the clean filters inside. When it came to re-sealing the inspection hatches, I bought 100g of Hylomar Blue gasket & jointing sealant, along with two 200mm x 200mm x 3mm sheets of nitrile which made up the new gaskets.

For the record, this was the first time that I had changed the secondary fuel filter, and I soon realised that it was impossible to simply unscrew the filter (see above), as there wasn’t enough room to drop it out of the housing. I therefore had to remove the housing from the engine block to get the filter off. None of this effort qualified as additional work, as I had to remove the secondary filter and the filter housing in order to get an allen key into the lower bolt that attached the Jabsco raw water pump to the engine block any-which-way. The good news is that the secondary fuel filter was clean and contained nothing but clean fuel.

My friend from the club took the Jabsco pump away and drilled out a bolt that had been left behind when the top of the bolt sheared off. The following paragraph is a particularly boring one for my future reference, so please feel free to skip on to the next paragraph.

The raw water pump is a Jabsco 29470 2531C model. The impellers we have always used have ten blades. The Lombardini part number for the ten blade impeller is 0042002040, while the Jabsco part number is 18653-0001-P (although “–B” is the same as “–P” without the gasket). Having spoken with Jabsco, a six blade impeller is also suitable (part number 653-0001). Jabsco stated that there was no difference in performance or longevity and it was okay to use either. In the end I bought the Jabsco SK405-0001 service kit which came with a ten blade impeller (although the SK405-0001 service kit typically comes with a six blade impeller), mainly because I wanted to replace all six of the bolts, because with the benefit of hindsight, I now think the existing bolts were non-original and could explain why one of them sheared off. The cost for the kit was £50 including VAT and delivery. Did you read all the way to the end of this paragraph? …well I told you it was boring.

Our chum from Ragdoll popped over for a look inside the tanks. He was briefly over at Port Edgar, before heading back to James Watt Dock on the Clyde, where Ragdoll was waiting ahead of a trip south to Liverpool. Having had a good poke around and performed a HD video survey, he gave the tanks the thumbs up. Not perfect, but pretty solid and serviceable. I bought some replacement braided hose and set about re-working the venting system as that appeared to be an unorthodox sealed configuration that might be the cause of the diesel leak. I didn’t get too far into that project before I spotted that the tanks actually are vented overboard not sealed, as the hoses running around the engine bay are not connected. Instead there is a hidden crossover and the hoses vent over the opposite side of the hull from the corresponding tank.

Granted, overhauling the fuel system wasn’t the most exciting of pre-season maintenance projects, and combined with my crane-out finger injury, it delayed the work that I still have to do to complete the heads compartment, but we now have substantially improved the fuel system, and that should mean that we’re less likely to have fuel-related problems out on the water. It’s fair to say that as we haven’t actually had any fuel-related problems since we bought our Macwester Malin back in 2011, that doesn’t feel like much of an achievement. However another way of looking at it is that we were destined to have fuel problems in the first few weeks of the season, and following the overhaul we’ve substantially reduced the likelihood of that happening.

In a last-ditch attempt to make this post a little more exciting, the shot above shows the Cutty Sark’s rigging …taken at the weekend in Greenwich, London. The crew and I walked around her and mused about the adventures she’s seen; inevitably our thoughts drifted to the adventures that lie ahead for our Macwester Malin over the coming months.

With just two weekends left to prepare for crane-in, it’s going to be a challenge to squeeze in; getting the engine recommissioned (including bleeding the fuel system), anti-foul painting, re-installing the mooring, repairing the dinghy floor, restocking, refitting the anchor, sails and the cockpit tent.

Guess what I’ll be doing at the weekend?

h1

Macwester Malin …as seen on TV

March 9, 2017

With just one month to go before crane-in, we got a surprise reminder of the adventures that lie ahead over the next few months, when we spotted our very own Macwester Malin, Indefatigable Banks in a fleeting, background shot roughly 14 minutes into BBC1’s Heir Hunters (Series 11:8) shown yesterday.

The footage was shot by a film crew onboard Christina II on her way back up river, while to the best of my calculations, we were heading away on our last sail of the season.

The Christina II crew did well; coming away with all of the fame …but none of the fortune this time.

Imagery copyright of the BBC.

h1

In search of Ferness

February 13, 2017

seatown2017-01

Regular readers of this blog will know that if we’re not sailing, fixing, or fettling our yacht, we’re typically checking out possible cruising destinations.

Early in February we set off on a road trip with an aspiration of seeing the Northern Lights, but predominantly to find ‘Ferness’; a fictional fishing village that was the setting for Bill Forsyth’s 1983 film Local Hero. As it turned out, there was nowhere to actually stay in Ferness (a.k.a. Pennan) as the Pennan Inn was closed until March and there was no availability at any of the rental properties, so we rented a small cottage in Seatown; the oldest part of Gardenstown just a couple of miles west of Pennan.

We arrived in Seatown well after dark. The photograph above shows the shore-front road to the small car park, 100 precarious metres beyond our cottage [to the left of shot]. The dark area to the right is the North Sea.

seatown2017-02

When we eventually made it out of bed the following morning, we were surprised at just how good the weather was. Yes it was cold, but it was very bright. As the forecast wasn’t amazing for the next few days, we headed directly over to Pennan, and we did all the things that tourists do on arrival. We took photographs of each other in the phone box where ‘Mac’ called ‘Happer’, took photographs outside the Pennan Inn, and also down at the harbour steps where the Russian character ‘Victor’ arrived by rib.

crovie2017-01

Later that day, we walked to Crovie which proved to be a hidden gem [above]. Crovie feels like it hasn’t changed much over the last two or three hundred years; for example Crovie doesn’t have a traffic problem – as there is no road. Again the weather was fab, in fact it was so bright that all of the photographs I took were bleached out, so the shot above was taken a few days later when the sun was less generous with its rays.

The weather on Saturday was poor. We headed over to nearby Portsoy in the morning, but didn’t stay long as the crew wasn’t enjoying the freezing, blustery wind. The inner harbour was calm, but it was lumpy out on the open water. Days later, we realised that the helicopter that woke us up in the middle of the following night (Sunday night) was searching for a missing kayaker that set off from Portsoy late Saturday morning; precisely the same time that we were there. Unfortunately it’s not possible to wind the clock back.

pennan2017-02

The weather improved again by the time Sunday rolled around. We were compelled to return to Ferness/Pennan as, having re-watched Local Hero the night before, we realised that although we had taken photographs outside the Pennan Inn, and in the Pennan phone box, these were not in the same places as the hotel and phone box in the movie. It turns out that the Ferness phone box was a prop, and the hotel was two houses joined together with some add-ons to make it look like a hotel. The real phone box is now a listed building (despite not being in the film), while the Pennan Inn is actually fifty metres to the right of the shot above, which shows the two houses that were used for the hotel exterior shots in the film.

macaskillarms-ferness02

With this in mind we took lots of photographs of us outside the film set hotel and in the non-existent film set phone box. The top photograph of the pair of images above shows Pennan, and the image below shows the fictional Mackaskill Arms of Ferness, that I’ve roughly reconstructed (digitally) for no good reason that I can think of as I type.

Before we left Pennan, I abandoned the crew in the general vicinity of the phone box and headed off by car in search of a signal for my mobile. I drove for miles, and miles, and then even more miles. Eventually I found a signal and speed-dialed 01346 561 210 [‘Ferness 261’ in the movie].

At the very end of Local Hero, ‘Mac’ calls the Ferness phone box from the US but poignantly there’s no answer. When I called the phone box, the crew let it ring for a while and then we talked for a moment or two.

seatown2017-03

With the exception of the wet and windy Saturday, we ventured outside every night at twilight and had a couple of drinks while the coal fire was warming-up our wee cottage, and the waves were doing their best to soak us. Our rental cottage was the pale blue one to the left of the shot above. It’s just possible to make out the livingroom window that faces north – the waves were bouncing off that on the Saturday night. In fact, a local told us that the waves were crashing over the roof tops just a week or so before. We were spared such excitement.

We had a great time in a lovely part of the world. If like us, you’re a fan of Local Hero, then Pennan should be on your bucket list. If we find ourselves up in that neck of the woods onboard our Macwester Malin over the coming years, we’re definitely going to spend a night or two in the harbour. Maybe we’ll be lucky enough to see the Aurora Borealis next time.

Right, I’m off to call 01346 561 210!

h1

Bridging the generation gap – Part 2

February 4, 2017

tss-clanchisholm-no429

My earliest childhood memories come from blissful days onboard my late grandfather’s boat Dara. Recently, I was given some old plans and charts that belonged to him. The large plan above for example is the rigging arrangement from the T.S.S. Clan Chisholm built by the Greenock & Grangemouth Dockyard Co Ltd. The blueprint is dated 27th September 1937, and after doing a little Googling I discovered that the 463.8 ft ship was launched on 05/08/1937, completed in October 1937, and sunk by torpedo on the 17/10/1939, about six weeks after the start of World War II.

daramooringrosneath60s

One chart in particular caught my eye.

Over the last thirty years, I have occasionally tried to rediscover the precise location of my grandfather’s mooring. I always understood that Dara was moored off Clynder. I had previously looked at the cine footage, looking for clues in the background (such as the house above), but was never able to translate that into tangible results on location in Clynder.

backgroundhouserosneath2017

The chart that I was given proved to be the holy grail; it gave me the missing detail that solved the puzzle. I had been looking in the wrong place, and with the map to hand, the crew and I found the house above, which is the same house that can be seen in the cine film …albeit with 2017-style hipster foliage.

daramooringlocation2017

With chart in hand [see below], we positioned ourselves with the aforementioned house to our backs and the wall ruins to our right …and looked out on to where my grandfather’s boat sat all those years ago [above]. My recollection of the scene was clearly warped by my diminutive size at the time. The stones on the beach are large pebbles, whereas I remember them as heavy boulders. Nonetheless there was something comforting about having rediscovered the location of those early happy memories.

daraoldmooringmap60sb

In a mind-bending twist; one that really took me by surprise, on what was after all a journey to somehow reach out, through the formidable barrier of death, to my long-lost family sailing heritage …we then walked south to the peninsula two hundred metres away. Not visible on any map or chart that I had seen previously, we looked back over to my grandfather’s mooring from Limekiln Point.

Kismet, karma, whatever you choose to call it, I felt that somehow I had made some sort of improbable connection with my grandfather. Sure, you could put it down to coincidence that his boat was moored just off ‘Limekiln Point’, and that we randomly stumbled upon and subsequently chose ‘Limekilns’ on the other side of the country decades later; whatever your thoughts might be, on this occasion …I allowed myself to read something more into it.

%d bloggers like this: