Ardoran to Tobermory

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David Fairhall and Tony Kennedy at Tobermory

David Fairhall joined Tony and Peter for a few days commissioning cruise, first to Tobermory in a brisk southwesterly up the Sound of Mull. This was after negotiating the interestingly shallow, narrow and winding exit from Loch Feochan (reminiscent of the east coast rivers of Suffolk and Essex where we used to be based.) We were retracing our steps from last year, when we went from Oban up past Ardnamurchan to Rhum, Arisaig and Loch Moidart among other places. Continue reading “Ardoran to Tobermory”

Fitting out at Ardoran, 4 -11 May

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First launch….

We arrived at Ardoran Marine on 4 May to stay at one of the three chalets the boatyard owns, with a few days fitting out planned. (Peter, Christine, Tony, Elaine and Nigel). Ardoran stores boats in an old quarry behind the main workshop, and we found Spring Fever in excellent condition, dry inside and well cared for, with the anti-fouling done ( a present to ourselves because of the 500 mile drive to reach her.) Continue reading “Fitting out at Ardoran, 4 -11 May”

Marine survey accuracy

Data published by the International Hydrographic Organisation shows up a surprising fact: the UK and Ireland are below Turkey in the league table of survey quality by area of national waters. Spain, Portugal and France score much higher than the UK. Continue reading “Marine survey accuracy”

Med charter disaster?

Since looking into chart accuracy following the Orkney cruise (see previous article) I’ve spent a couple of months in the Mediterranean. It’s much worse there.

I vaguely knew that, but previous sailing in the Mediterranean had been without chartplotters and on the earliest occasions without GPS. More recently, chartplotters seem to be standard on charter boats as well as private yachts. We amused ourselves by doing some checking. Continue reading “Med charter disaster?”

Orkney Roulette

Not long after a jack-up rig called Octopus ran aground in Stronsay Firth in the Orkneys in 2006, we were feeling our way into a bay at nearby Stronsay. We crept through shoals and reefs relying on chartplotter and echo sounder, in strong winds and bad visibility, confident that our plotter would get us through: after all, we had checked it frequently on our passage up the English and Irish coasts and through the Hebrides, and had been pleasantly surprised never to find the GPS positions more than 50 metres out on the chart.

So confident had we become in our first chartplotter that a few days earlier, in fog rolling off the island of Hoy so thick that the boat’s bow was only just visible, we used it, along with the depth sounder, to find our way at dusk into the harbour of Stromness, which involves a tight turn round a reef at a point where the tide can run at up to 8 knots into Scapa Flow, right across the entrance to the inlet leading to the town.

If only we had known more about the quality of the local charts ….. much later, I came across a Marine Accident Investigations Branch report on the grounding of the jack-up rig Octopus, under tow by the tug Harald, which popped up in a web search for something else. (MAIB Report 18 2007).

Continue reading “Orkney Roulette”

How to mimic big ship equipment

To cut back seriously on paper charts, the greater vulnerability of equipment on a small craft to accidental damage would have to be taken into account, including lightning strikes. For small boats it is already possible to buy, at a price, extremely robust electronic systems, including waterproof laptops that withstand impacts (costing several thousand pounds), and high capacity lithium battery back-up packs;  small back-up generators have also become cheaper in recent years and can be accommodated on many mid-sized cruising yachts.

At a cost, robust weather and shockproof  electronic navigation with reliable backup systems should therefore be quite close to achievable now on a yacht. Even if we fall well short of the rigorous standards of an ECDIS system, we will not be carrying 100,000 tonnes of crude oil or thousands of containers, so perhaps we can be allowed to be rather less tough on the backup specifications. Similarly with training: new courses may be necessary, but perhaps not the 40 hours plus specified for ECDIS for commercial ship deck officers.
Continue reading “How to mimic big ship equipment”

Paper-free chart tables

The idea of a paperless chart table is usually dismissed out of hand, and the very suggestion makes some old hands fume. But if a 100,000 ton bulk carrier can now be paperless, then it is hard to maintain that it will always be a mad idea for experienced yacht owners.

Continue reading “Paper-free chart tables”

Round Britain 2012-13: Cowes, Whitby, Inverness, Oban

This is the story of the first year of our two-year round Britain cruise in Spring Fever, a retired racing boat on a mission to go slowly (like us). A previous round Britain in 2007-8 in an earlier boat, Pepper of Brixham, had left us hungry to see more of the beautiful West of Scotland, where we had time to spend only a month sailing.We decided to go anti-clockwise, up the East Coast and down the West, rather than the clockwise route we used last time, and to use the Caledonian Canal rather than Cape Wrath and the Orkneys, which we visited in 2008. The account of our passage back from Scotland down the West Coast of Ireland in 2013  was written as a daily blog (follow this link to see all the posts) but this first part of the cruise is a single account, a photo album with words.

A cheerful start - a Robin spends time with us off Beachy Head
A cheerful start – Robin off Beachy Head

We left Cowes on 11 April 2012 for what always seems a bit of a trudge to the Thames Estuary, though with the right timing there are about 11 hours of favourable tide on the way from Beachy Head to Ramsgate, which cheers things up. After leaving Brighton, for an hour or two we were much entertained by a stray Robin’s search for a safe haven on the boat. He eventually found such a good hiding place – it was a mystery where – that we didn’t see him again until he flew off while we were entering the Deben in Suffolk more than a day later. He had hitched a 130 mile ride.

Follow this link to read the the rest of the story of our cruise up the East Coast and through the Caledonian Canal.

Round Britain in Pepper 2007-8

Goodbye, Kehaar. In  2001 we decided we were spending too much money and time on the boat we had owned for ten years, and sold her. Wouldn’t it be much more sensible to charter other peoples’ boats in nice places, and get on with our lives the rest of the time without obsessing about equipment and cruises?

Pepper of Brixham
Pepper of Brixham

For several years it worked. Hello, Seychelles, Adriatic (several times), Greece and other destinations. However, William began to investigate the idea of buying a small boat and sailing round Britain in his gap year, so naturally I helped him narrow down the choice and began to visit boatyards with him to look at ideas, with a Contessa 26 the favourite. We looked at several.

It was the beginning of a slippery slope back to boat ownership. Will changed his plans and went off round the world using other means of transport; I kept on visiting boatyards, egged on by a small inside voice telling me that it would be good to have a healthy outdoors project in the run up to retirement, and sailing round Britain could fit the bill – my own sort of gap year. The upshot was that in 2005 we bought Pepper, a Verl 900, a 30 footer with an unusually large amount of room down below for a boat from 1978, and a surprisingly good turn of speed for her top-heavy looks.

She had a new engine and Furlex, and the hull had just been resprayed professionally, but otherwise she needed a big refit, which we spread over two years, until we had new rigging, electronics, sails, ground tackle, and a host of the other odds and ends that need renewing on every boat of this generation. The plan was to go slowly, fitting a round Britain cruise into other schedules by doing it in stages, exploring as we went, and finding places to leave Pepper whenever necessary, including a winter at Oban in Argyll.

Follow this link to read about the round Britain cruise in 2007   and this link to read about the second year from Oban to the Orkneys and back down the east coast.