Sunshine at the Bay

July 6, 2018

By the end of June, the weather was looking promising, and we decided to take a long weekend in Aberdour. We popped our genoa and mizzen up for the journey, which got a tad lumpy around the bridges, but not anything that required remedial action.

We often scan the harbour at Dalgety Bay from a distance as we pass on our way to Aberdour, and nine times out of ten there’s a blue long keel ketch in residence. This time however must have been the magical tenth time as the harbour was vacant, so we changed course and made a beeline for The Bay. I use the term ‘beeline’, because bees tend to buzz around unpredictably, and that’s what we did. It might have been the excitement of discovering that the harbour was free, or the fact that it had been ages since we visited Dalgety Bay; either way, I missed the buoys that mark the rocks on the approach and we had to faff around until I got my bearings …and I was certain that I knew where the hard pointy things that lurk beneath the surface were.

On reaching the harbour, we couldn’t help but notice that there was a fence blocking-off the pier. Paranoia inevitably kicked in, but the fence along with the large marquee was all part of an event laid on by the local Rotary club. We’re not entirely sure what was going on; there was a bit of singing and some late-night music, but nothing much to write home about.

The weather was really good with blue skies. We set-off on an easy walk east, and made it to St Bridget’s Kirk where we sat on an old tree stump and watched the scenery drift pass for a while.

Any breeze was a warm breeze, and for the first time in a long time, when we made it back to our Macwester Malin, we stretched out on the foredeck and bobbed around. We had to take sensible precautions of course, and we made sure that we were well-hydrated with regular trips to the fridge. Later, I fired-up the barbie and cremated various bits n pieces of poultry.

On day two of our three-day break, we walked west however the coastal path was closed for renovation work, so we didn’t make it all the way to St David’s Harbour as planned.

Instead, although neither of us are sun worshippers, we opted for more baking on deck, on the basis that we didn’t know when the next opportunity to do so would come along. As it turned out, this was the start of a sustained spell of good summer weather that would last for well over a week. Good times!


Port Edgar June 2018

June 30, 2018

With very busy lives away from the water this year, we’ve had to squeeze in time aboard our Macwester Malin whenever we can. Inevitably, sometimes the tides are inconveniently AWOL. The photograph above is taken from the Ghauts on a beautiful June day, with our yacht stranded high and dry in the middle distance.

Whereas the shot above is taken on the return leg of a quick day sail we squeezed-in over towards Blackness; on this occasion we didn’t have the time to actually stop off at the little harbour on the south side of the river.

By mid-June we made the time for an overnight stay in Port Edgar. The weekend weather was promising, although we were motoring into an easterly to begin with. Once we arrived and got organised, we wandered along to Hawes Pier at South Queensferry, and on the way back [at the town harbour] we bumped in to our chums who have a Macwester 27 called Huck Finn. I popped onboard for five minutes, but the crew didn’t fancy the short walk across a slightly precarious gang-plank, so she stayed on the pier.

Forth Flotilla Erin

We also caught up with our chums from Tight Fit V, a Grandezza 33. This was the first time that we’d seen them this year and they filled us in on the impact of the ‘Beast from the East‘ in the marina. Their shiny new Grandezza sustained damage to the guard rail, some bent cleats, and scratches on the gelcoat. ‘Pinta’ was holed above the waterline, but worst of all was ‘Erin’, a 49-foot Jeanneau Sun Odyssey, pictured above during the flotilla to mark the 50th anniversary of the Forth Road Bridge back in September 2014.

Port Edgar Crane

Erin was beached at the far side of the marina, then when she was being towed off the beach [by a dredger] and taken round to be hauled out, she was blown underneath the unforgiving concrete and steel pier [the one with the iconic crane shown above], where she was repeatedly smashed, to the point of being written off.

Having been onboard Erin previously, it was really sad news and must have been heart-breaking for the skipper …who watched it unfold in front of him. At the time of writing this, I don’t know whether the skipper has plans for Erin II, but we hope that his insurance company eases the pain.

Our time in Port Edgar vanished in a blink of an eye, and before we knew it, we were heading back home. There wasn’t any useable wind, so we motored all the way. Nonetheless, we enjoyed cutting through the still water as we headed back west.

Next up, a trip to Dalgety Bay!


Aberdour at the Double

June 21, 2018

I’m writing this on the 21st of June, the summer solstice. Our season is well underway, but I’m snowed-under in other areas of my life and we’re struggling to find the time to go sailing, never mind find the time to write about going sailing. As a result, it seems that my blogging is likely to be less-prolific than previous years until things calm down again.

Some might think that’s a good thing.

We have already been out on the water a few times. Our first trip was to Aberdour at the end of April, and as can be seen by the photographs above and below we had great weather.

When we arrived, Dick, the friendly harbourmaster was a tad soggy, and it turned out that just moments before he had ever-so-slightly failed to complete the step between Vaago, his Macwester 27, and the pier. Fortunately he was absolutely fine.

Despite the remedial work on our Macwester Malin’s stern gland following the gearbox renovation over the winter, we still had a small leak when motoring. That wasn’t a problem when using wind power, so we popped the genoa and mizzen up for the journey back home, and enjoyed our first leisurely sail of 2018.

Our next trip was to Port Edgar to catch up with our friends over there.

We got up at the crack of dawn. Immediately we had a problem to overcome with our dinghy mooring, and by the time we resolved that issue the delay put us under a bit of time pressure given the rapidly falling tide. In the rush to avoid being stranded on our mooring, after I threw our bow strop overboard, I managed to snag our mooring link line with our Macwester Malin’s prop. The engine stopped abruptly and we started to drift. Fortunately we managed to retrieve the bow strop, and once that was back on, I did what I could to untangle the rear strops. Having done all that, we phoned the marina at Port Edgar to cancel and waited for the tide to go out.

That’s the first time I’ve made that particular mistake, and given 2018 is season eight …I suppose we’ve been lucky.

A couple of weeks later in Mid-May, we made a return trip to Aberdour. We passed Calloo out on the water, and Fyne Thyme [above left] accompanied us on the trip down to the bridges.

There was very little wind west of the bridges, but there was a light breeze as we headed nearer to Aberdour. Above; our Macwester Malin, Indefatigable Banks heads east, with HMS Prince of Wales just visible in the background above our mizzen boom.

We had another enjoyable stay at Aberdour, with good weather once again. However one issue that was concerning me was the annoying leak from the stern gland. That seemed to be worse rather than better. With this in mind, when the time came we headed back to Capernaum so that we could get on to one of the club pontoons for remedial work.

After a few days waiting, we got on to the north pontoon and our chum who’s also the local marine engineer helped us with the leak.

We spent quite a bit of time fettling the ManeCraft deep sea stern gland, but despite this there was still a leak when we carried out tests under load. Eventually, we decided to lower the engine to improve the alignment of the shaft, as running over the mooring line and stalling the 30hp Lombardini diesel might have jolted the engine out of position.

The haar came and went as we sat on the pontoon for over a week. The shot above taken from onboard, shows HMS Prince of Wales re-emerging from the mist that had obscured her just moments earlier.

The leak was substantially reduced by our remedial work, but there’s still water ingress when motoring. That might mean we need to take a look at the cutlass bearing, however that’s a job for the end of the season, so we’ll just need to manage the leak when required.


Crane-in 2018

April 17, 2018

Macwester Malin

As usual, crane-in day required an early start. There were lots of new health and safety procedures this year, so I pulled on my waders for one shift in the mud, taking the slings off boats as they were lowered down into the putty.

The tide arrived by late morning, and with my shift over, it was really just a matter of waiting around until it was our Macwester Malin’s slot. The lift went smoothly, but obviously one of the first checks I performed was the stern gland, as the gearbox had been out over the winter.

Sure enough, there was a notable leak. As it happened, our naval architect chum was onboard with us (he was tagging along for the ride), and after some tweaking he managed to stop most of the water ingress. However there was evidence of further leaking when we reached our mooring. We spent some more time trying to understand the problem and improve the situation, including the skipper from Joint Venture, who made an appearance too. Subsequently we shut everything down and had a celebratory beer before heading home.

I didn’t sleep well that night.

The tide was back in at around 1am and, rather predictably, by 2am I was in the dinghy rowing over to our mooring in the darkness. Predictably again, there was no further leaking underway, so I settled down in the forepeak and spent the rest of the night shivering every last one of my timbers …as it was bitterly cold without access to shorepower.

The crew turned up the following day, and we got on with some further tidying-up and prep for the sailing season. There was still the problem of the stern gland leaking while motoring, so we knew that the following weekend was going to involve more remedial work.

The following Saturday was a cracking day – the hottest of the year so far. We slipped our mooring at 7am and headed over to the club. Fortunately there was one free space left on the pontoons. Moments later, Joint Venture appeared and rafted-up alongside us.

We filled our water tanks, and I power-washed the decks to get the worst of the winter’s grime off. That’s a job that always more fun in the sunshine, and just like last year I had my shorts on for the occasion.

Joint Venture’s skipper came onboard to resolve the leaking issue with the ‘ManeCraft’ mechanical seal that we installed in 2013. In the image above, you can clearly see a green colour on top of the gold colour; that green ring shouldn’t be there. Some mild abrasion got rid of the nasty green stuff …hopefully along with the leak. It seems that the green corrosion probably took hold over the winter when the gearbox was out and the plates weren’t in contact with each other, as they typically would be.

So our Macwester Malin is on her mooring and pretty much ready to go for the new season. Yes we have a few small things to organise, but nothing that would stop us from getting out for a shakedown sail when the opportunity arises. Good news everyone!


2018 pre-season

April 13, 2018

It’s been a long, cold winter in Scotland, with more snow than we’ve seen for a long time in the central belt. The photograph above shows ice in the harbour at Aberdour, which isn’t something that we’ve witnessed before.

Over the closed season our reconnaissance trips included the harbours at Alloa, Broughtyferry, and Wormit amongst many others. We spent a few days at Kilconquhar Castle in February, where we cremated marine ply taken from our Macwester Malin during the heads rebuild. Call me sentimental, but I didn’t want to just toss it into landfill.

Our pre-season prep this year included repairs to our cockpit tent (including replacing three windows), and replacing the drive cone in the gearbox following a gearbox issue on the last day of the season [see here]. The gearbox project turned out to be more expensive than expected, and with hindsight we would probably have considered replacing it with a new gearbox if we had known the final tab in advance. Still, it’s done and our 30HP Lombardini diesel is ready to go for the new season …which is a result.

We fitted a new impeller, and changed the engine oil and oil filter just before crane-in. We bought a Majoni fender step, and 100m of 8mm braided line which I’m going to use to replace the one and only halyard remaining from 2011 when we purchased our yacht. We’ll still have plenty of spare left for any other requirements.

In terms of our mooring tackle, we replaced the 20mm chain that runs through our hippo buoy. We only needed a metre of chain, but were given a price of £42 for a metre (galvanised). As the supplier only had three metres of chain left in stock, they gave us a good deal on all three metres so we opted for the additional chain, meaning that we have two spare 1m sections for future replacement. I’m going to inspect the rest of the mooring tackle again mid-season, as I want to be sure that there’s no excessive wear, which will be easier to spot when our Macwester has pulled some of the chain up out of the mud.

When it came to actually reinstalling the mooring tackle, this year, we decided to launch the dinghy and row the Hippo buoy over to our mooring from the club. Once the tide had dropped, it was a shorter distance from the dinghy to our mooring. That worked well, and we intend to adopt that process from now on.

This year we managed to find some time to work on our Macwester Malin’s hull (hurrah!). We cleaned it, then T-cut it, then polished it. This made a big difference as the hull was previously more of a matt finish. If we get the time, we plan on carrying out the same process to the topsides once our Macwester Malin is back in the water.

One fly in the ointment over the winter was the slow realisation that our yacht was being targeted. On a number of occasions we found large disposable paper cups (the kind you get from Starbucks) complete with soggy tea bags on our yacht’s deck, which caused staining. That left us wondering what else might have been done that wasn’t so obvious and, although the paper cup tipping appears to have stopped now, we remain concerned about tampering. After a bit of detective work we figured out the most likely source, so that’s one we’ll need to keep an eye on.

Crane-in next!


Boats n’ ho-ho-hos

December 24, 2017

With the party season well under way and the big day just around the corner, the crew has been asking me what I want for Christmas for several weeks now. I had been considering a sailing watch; I looked at digital ‘smart’ watches with GPS features, but didn’t see anything that floated my boat.

In terms of more traditional watches for sailors, I’m not personally convinced about the way the Rolex Yacht-Master Rainbow watch looks [see here]. For a start I think I’d prefer a metal bracelet strap to the rubber one that comes with it. However for this 2017 pre-owned example even with the £5,000 discount currently on offer, the reduced sticker price of £74,950 still costs substantially more than our yacht. So even if the Yacht-Master Rainbow was to my taste …at that price I think I’d be replacing our yacht not my watch.

This year regrettably we failed to make it to the local for a festive meal with our chums from the club, but there will be other opportunities over the holidays. Besides, at this time of the year a trip to the local without bumping into a couple of our friends would be virtually impossible. By my reckoning crane-in is now just over three months away, so if we spend enough time “topping up” in the pub …we’ll be back in the water in the blink of a bleary eye.

Over the holidays we plan to head off on coastal road trips checking out potential cruising destinations that in all likelihood we won’t make it anywhere near during the coming season, but at some point in the dim and distant future we might just visit. Pointless? Well it keeps us out of the aforementioned pub and gives us a boat fix of sorts.

With the winter solstice now behind us, season 2018 is gradually drawing closer. In the meantime fellow sailing aficionados there’s some partying to be done – a very Merry Christmas to you and yours. Sláinte!


Rescue ends with soggy cox

November 22, 2017

With most of our winterisation tasks completed by mid-November we waited for a weather window that would let us row our tender back to the club. When that opportunity arrived, it was cold but there was hardly any wind. It also happened to be lunch time, so we had a picnic as we floated around freestyle for a while out on the river.

By the time we had finished lunch, we had strayed too close to the local pub’s gravitational field, and no matter how hard I rowed in the opposite direction …the gravitational pull was just too much to overcome.

We parked our dinghy at the bottom of the stairs (first photo, left-hand circle) and enjoyed the panoramic view of the River Forth on a soft day, as we sat outside the pub (first photo, right-hand circle). Inevitably the coldness started to penetrate our winter layers, so we reluctantly left the pub behind us.

I warmed up again after a few minutes rowing but the crew, who was promoted to cox for the day given the traditional layout of a small rowing boat, remained a bit on the chilly side. The next waypoint on our late season adventure was a nearby beach to rescue a stray dinghy that belongs to one of our chums from the club. The plan was simple enough; retrieve the dinghy and tow it back to the yacht club. An oil tanker passed five or ten minutes earlier and we were expecting a large swell, but there really wasn’t much wash at all as we made our final approach to the beach.

Obviously I was rowing backwards unsighted. The cox encouraged me to get on with it as she was cold, and the wisp of ‘ambience’ that had followed us from the pub was dissipating by the second. As luck would have it, just as I was beaching the dinghy the tiny waves breaking on the shore reached a crescendo and two teeny-little waves broke over the transom in quick succession. The cox took a direct hit and she got totally drenched.

The good news is that I managed to escape without much more than a couple of damp patches above the welly line.

The cox wasn’t ‘feeling’ the good news.

The cox was cold, wet, and still wasn’t seeing the funny side; although in fairness to her she refrained from tipping me in when an occasional smirk broke free …and ran screaming from one side of my face to the other like a streaker desperately trying to evade the rozzers. Somehow her soaking turned out to be my fault, because I was rowing.

We successfully retrieved the wayward dinghy and completed the rest of the journey in silence. At least I refrained from sniggering like a cad in the way that Timothy West does when Prunella Scales catches a mouth-full of trees in the title sequence of Channel 4’s ‘Great Canal Journeys’.

With the cox up in the clubhouse drying-off in front of the fire, I got both dinghies back up the slipway with the help of a couple of friends from the club.

Reflecting on the minuscule waves breaking into the dinghy over at the beach; while it was funny and we were never in danger, the dinghy was half-way to being swamped by two very small waves in less than ten seconds. Another couple of tiny waves over the transom and, with the weight of two adults on-board, the dinghy would have sunk; again not a problem in the shallows a couple of feet from the beach. As usual, we had our life-jackets on, but in truth given the flat-calm nature of the river that day I briefly thought about not bothering with them. Whether you’re a supporter of the nanny state or not, it seems to me that life-jackets are a sensible precaution no matter how benign the conditions are. If you already have a life-jacket, it doesn’t cost as much as a penny to wear it one more time …and only takes seconds to throw on.

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