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Homemade helm seat

June 19, 2017

The cockpit on our Macwester Malin is deep compared to most centre cockpit yachts that we’ve seen, and as a result when you need to keep a close eye on things there’s really no substitute for standing behind the wheel.

On longer journeys we either stand, or sit on the raised, padded cockpit cushions. Having made good use of the helm seat on Ragdoll during our Irish Sea trip (here) earlier in the season, I decided that it was time for us to have a third option, and so set about making a helm seat from leftover material that I had stored away. As you can see from the photograph above, I didn’t have any suitable hardwood for the seat top and given that the seat is detachable, I used softwood instead. If that becomes a problem, then I can always make V2 from hardwood.

I didn’t faff around with anything too complicated. I just took some measurements and then cut, shaped, and joined pieces of wood until they were robustly constructed, finally fine-tuning the aggregated item to be a snug fit over the lower washboard from our aft cabin. I purchased some waterproof-backed canvas-like material for about £7.00 from eBay, and my step-daughter crafted a simple cover for the leftover foam that I previously cut to shape with a sharp Stanley knife. I used velcro to attach the cushion to the wooden base. Total spend less than £10.

The finished helm seat doesn’t look entirely out-of-place. Yes it’s fair to say that the new navy blue cover isn’t a precise match for the existing blue canvas wheel cover, but the wood staining and varnishing isn’t too far away.

I tested the new seat over the weekend and it worked well, with no movement in any direction whatsoever. So I’m pleased with the fit, even if the finish could be a little better.

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Festival flotilla fail

June 13, 2017

Preparations for this year’s river festival had been going on for months, and it must have put a smile on the organising committee’s collective face to see things taking shape on Saturday morning. It’s a pity that the weather forecast for the weekend was poor, with rain and gusts over 30 knots.

The main task for the crew and I was helping with the river golf. Our job was to collect the balls after they were struck by the paying public. This meant a three-hour shift in a dinghy, which at some point was interrupted by the arrival of Wave Spirit from Port Edgar. With two 500 hp water jets, we could feel the hum of her engines permeating every inch of our bodies. Yes, I’ll have one of those please!

After our river golf shift was completed, we dried ourselves off and spent some time catching-up with friends on the pier and in the garden. The sun came out for a while, and it started to feel like June. At the bar, the barman gave me a choice of beer from the local brewery. It wasn’t until later that I realised the barman owned the local brewery, and that my favoured tipple would probably have been available too. This would come back to haunt me.

Our plans was to bring Indefatigable Banks, our Macwester Malin round later in the day once the rib trips had stopped. We had a window of about 30 minutes to leave our mooring before the tide would leave us high and dry. I spent a lot of time mulling over the conditions; the wind was picking-up and there were waves coming into the harbour from the south-east. In the end the conditions, the deteriorating forecast for the following day, plus the lack of space to manoeuvre in a busy harbour meant that I decided on the safe option and left our yacht on her mooring.

We enjoyed a good night with live music and our friends in the marquee. As usual, time vanished and I didn’t get to catch up with everyone that I hoped to. With no yacht alongside to sleep onboard, our chums from Calloo kindly put us up for the evening (thanks again team Calloo). Unfortunately the crew had to put up with me keeping her awake for what was left of the night, as three hours in a dinghy obviously represented more exercise than I’m used to, and I had leg cramps all night long. The following morning I was hobbling around like a ninety-five year old cartoon crack-whore who’d been a life-long-nookie-neighbour of Glenn Quagmire.

Giggity-giggity.

We all headed back to the club to help clear away the fixtures and tidy-up the litter left behind the night before. The flotilla was planned for mid-afternoon, and the raft race would take place following that. Although we’re no quitters, with the rain tipping down it became clear that our collective lack of sleep, my ongoing leg cramps (I should really be fitter), the hangover jitters from the local hooch …and the pressing requirement for me to be near conveniences (which again I put down to the local bitter rather than the very mild chicken curry) …meant that sailing in challenging conditions wasn’t the most sensible thing to do next. I guess that makes us light-weights; not heavy-hitters.

As the crew didn’t have a bullet to hand, she scooped me up and took me home for a warm bath. While that was disappointing and represented an epic flotilla fail …sometimes that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

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Port Edgar quickie

June 4, 2017

The crew and I were down in London for a couple of days in late May, and I took the opportunity to rattle round some old haunts, catching up with family and friends. I also managed to squeeze in a trip to St Katherine’s Docks, and was really surprised to see that the red-hulled Macwester Malin I spotted back in 2013 when we were down for three months [see here], was still berthed in the innermost harbour. At 32ft long, she looked diminutive compared to the larger boats surrounding her.

It was after midnight before we got back from the airport on the Friday night, but we were keen to make the best of what was left of the weekend, so we set course for Port Edgar as soon as the tide allowed on Saturday. We left a moody, pregnant sky behind us and yet it was remarkably bright by the time we reached the marina. Unfortunately there was a newbie in charge at the marina office and we ended-up having to move three times from our allocated berth due to returning owners amongst other issues. While that was a pain, we accept that the challenges of a new role can be …umm …a challenge. We ended up berthing our Macwester Malin alongside Copepod, a Hallberg-Rassy 43 (see above, lower right of image).

To their credit, Port Edgar subsequently took steps to remedy the situation and we were not left with a sour taste in our mouths. That said, two hours moving the boat around when we had other things to be doing, knocked the edge off our overnight stay, and the inaugural outing of the crew’s newly-purchased disco ball will have to wait for another weekend.

The following day we slowly tacked our way home into the wind, however we eventually chucked in the towel close to Rosyth and pootled the rest of the way back to our mooring using the engine.

Once we had gone through our mooring procedure, there was time for something cold out on deck, while the sun was making a reasonable job of convincing us that summer was on the way.

The following weekend we also squeezed in a quickie to Capernaum. The weather was changeable, but I managed to achieve my goal for the trip which was to construct the basics of a helm seat that will sit on the lower washboard of the campanionway to our Macwester Malin’s aft cabin.

With neepy tides, unfortunately we couldn’t take up the offer to go racing on Calloo, as the window to get back on our mooring was just too tight. That was a pity, as with a noticeable south westerly, the race was very exciting. In the shot above you can see Calloo just this side of Joint Venture. Seconds after I took this shot, a big gust of wind caught Calloo and she momentarily rounded towards Joint Venture. It must have been more than a little bit hairy onboard.

On second thoughts …perhaps it’s just as well that we couldn’t join the Calloo crew afterall.

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Single to Dalgety Bay please

May 25, 2017

As the crew had prior commitments, it was down to yours truly to get our 32ft Macwester Malin to her destination for the weekend on the Friday. I had work to complete on the engine bay hatch (see previous post here), and therefore I set off in the morning so that I had the afternoon to get my head down.

There was very little wind on the journey east, which suited me as this was easily the most adventurous single-handed sail that I’ve tackled. As luck would have it, an unwelcome swell appeared out of nowhere just as I was coming into the harbour at Dalgety Bay. Fortunately things settled a little as I rounded the end of the pier. It was a neep tide and having overshot the stairwell, I realised that the leap up on to the pier was too risky, and so had no choice other than to manoeuvre astern …using the thruster to keep the bow steady. It was all good.

I worked on the engine bay hatch until the crew arrived by road later in the day. It was a peaceful evening, however that peace was shattered in the early hours of the following morning by some late-night revellers intent on revelling. With raised voices for an extended period, I got up and kept a look-out for upwards of thirty minutes.

Saturday was mainly soggy and we didn’t venture out apart from a trip to the local store for provisions. There was a brief spell of sunshine late afternoon, but that was followed by increased winds on Saturday night. Despite this, the weather didn’t dampen our experience too much, as this was the first trip away from our home port this season, assuming that our voyage from Whitehaven to Largs on the west coast a few weeks ago didn’t count.

Sunday morning came around all too quickly. We set sail as soon as we floated and headed west towards the bridges. On passing under the Forth Road Bridge, I presented a wooden boomerang to the crew. She momentarily paused, before throwing the boomerang back towards the bridge in an act of commemoration for a close friend’s son who had leapt from the bridge a few weeks previously.

Leaving the bridges behind us, we threw our genoa up and pressed on with the motor to meet friends from our club at Blackness. We arrived just about the same time as everyone else, which was a pleasant surprise as we weren’t at all sure that we were even going to make it given the neepy tide.

With almost nothing under our keels and the tide falling, there wasn’t time for much more than a handshake and a quick beer at the Blackness Boat Club bar. The shot above was taken from our Macwester Malin’s stern as all the club boats made a hasty retreat.

Thanks to Blackness Boat Club for their hospitality. Hopefully we’ll have more time to spend the next time we visit.

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Engine bay hatch upgrade

May 24, 2017

The engine bay hatch on our Macwester Malin also doubles as most of the cockpit sole. At some stage in the past a previous owner had covered the GRP hatch with strips of wood as shown above. Over the years since we purchased Indefatigable Banks back in 2011, the wood has slowly deteriorated and one of the strips (see top right of image above), which was broken when we made the purchase, has unsurprisingly totally failed to re-grow back to its former state.

With this in mind, I decided that it was time to bite the bullet and renovate the hatch. The largest part of the project was preparation. The wooden strips were bolted and glued on, and didn’t pay the slightest bit of attention to my reasoned arguments. Eventually, I lost patience and got physical with sharp …and blunt instruments.

Removing the wood and glue was laborious. The next stage was filling the holes left by the bolts, and repairing the isolated areas where my prolonged, careful and caressing approach to removing the wood had ripped off the gelcoat. All in all the preparation took around three days. Maybe a knowledgeable individual with more technical ability than me would have cracked through it quicker …but I’m stuck with me.

I purchased some Tiflex flooring to match the flooring that I used in the new heads and in the forepeak (see here). I also bought a couple of 60mm diameter Osculati 316 stainless steel latches. I used the hatch as a template to cut the Tiflex. Then leaving it to cure over a number of days, the Tiflex was bonded to the hatch using Sikaflex 291i.

I decided to use Sikaflex 291i because I read that the two-part adhesive alternatives tend to be near impossible to remove, whereas Sikaflex will give a permanent bond, but when the time comes to remove it, the process will be slightly less onerous.

Fitting the hatch and tweaking the latches to make sure that they were a tight fit took a few hours. Once the hatch had been fitted, I also made some repairs to the area surrounding the hatch where there had been legacy fittings. I subsequently used “Bar Keeper’s Friend” to clear accumulated grime, as the bright GRP of the renovated hatch had made the surrounding area look pretty shabby.

From start to finish the whole project probably took me around five days. That was longer than I had hoped, but I was pleased with the results. In practical terms, the new floor will be less slippy than the wood when wet, there are no longer any holes left by legacy fittings that let water ingress into the engine bay over the winter, and the new Osculati latches do a much better job of securing the hatch.

All-in-all then, another upgrade that makes our Macwester Malin better than it was before I started. So that goes down as a victory in my book.

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Irish Sea 2017: Cumbria to Cumbrae

May 11, 2017

Last weekend’s plans to get our Macwester Malin out on the water for a long overdue shakedown sail had to take a back seat, as the skipper from Ragdoll sent me a text telling me he was absolutely crew-less. Our chum needed to get Ragdoll, a Westerly 33 ketch, from the Lake District to Largs. With weather on Saturday the 6th of May the wrong side of sensible, we travelled down to Whitehaven by road and prepped for a Sunday departure.

After a night on board, we were in the sealock at Whitehaven by 7am, and were looking forward to a great couple of days out on the water. First up was crossing the Solway Firth with the Isle of Man to our south. The skipper had planned the journey to arrive at the Mull of Galloway at low water (around 3pm), with a view to hugging the coast and missing the worst of the choppy seas where two conflicting tidal streams meet. The weather was changeable; good enough for shorts at times, but cold enough for a neck gator at others.

We kept look-out for a black 17ft Fletcher speedboat which had gone missing (leaving from Port Logan) on the Saturday. We wondered why such a small craft was out on the water given that they would have had to navigate the Mull of Galloway during what must have been reasonably poor conditions.

We rounded the Mull of Galloway at the same time as Angel’s Share, a large cat with a similar passage plan. There were a number of vessels taking part in the ‘mayday’ search, including ‘HMS Battersea Power Station’ (a.k.a. MPI Resolution) which was the first self-elevating Turbine Installation Vessel in the world,  as well as planes and helicopters. The majority of the SAR activity appeared to be further offshore, which we found a little strange as the speedboat was supposed to have been travelling from Port Logan to Stranraer.

When we reached Portpatrick some 12.5 hours and 65 nautical miles after leaving Whitehaven, one of two lifeboats was exiting the harbour. We later discovered that the bodies of the two men from the missing speedboat were onboard the lifeboat. We also discovered that they weren’t on a leisure trip to Stranraer, instead they were heading over to Northern Ireland on some sort of puppy smuggling run.

We berthed in front of Angel’s Share and popped up to the Crown for a cold one in the remnants of the evening sunshine.

The following morning (Monday), we set off just before 8am and found that it was heavy going for a few hours as we pushed against the wind and tide. Talking of heavy going, the skipper treated us to a rendition of some show tunes, as he sang along to an American musical that we were unfamiliar with. Captive in the cockpit, I was reminded of the Vogan captain in “The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by the late Douglas Adams, when the captain reads Vogon poetry as a form of intergalactic torture. Still, we survived without jumping overboard and things got a little more entertaining when we found some useable wind approaching Ailsa Craig (above).

With the wind typically in the high teens to early twenties, we made good progress and buzzed the east of Ailsa Craig, before altering course slightly toward the west coast of Arran. We had planned on circumnavigating Arran, with an overnight in Lochranza, but commonsense kicked in and we changed course for Largs, which was a couple of hours nearer.

By the time we cleared Arran, the wind gradually fell away and we had to resort to motoring. The skipper was first to spot the dolphins (above, looking back to Ailsa Craig), and we lost count of the amount of sightings. The tranquility and warmth of the sunshine was a big contrast to our romping sail just a couple of hours earlier.

On the approach to Largs, the skipper unexpectedly dropped the engine into neutral as the depth log was showing almost no clearance. My first instinct was to look over the side and a couple of feet away a dolphin broached the surface; the closest I’ve been to dolphins since our 2013 cruise [here]. Dolphins beneath the hull seemed to be the most logical explanation for the momentary lack of depth.

The wind picked up again to 20 knots on our final approach to Largs Yacht Haven. Berthing wasn’t too much of a problem as it’s quite sheltered in the marina. On day two we had travelled another 65 nautical miles and it had taken about 12.5 hours again, so our pace was pretty steady over both days.

All in all a cracking couple of days sailing for our first west coast adventure.

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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!!

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