April – third mate missing

We moved the boat back to our mooring in Cowes this month, but on the way our autopilot lost its sense of direction.

Whenever we are just two on board the autopilot is an extra member of the crew, and an essential third mate on longer passages.

With a big steering wheel for racing, it is hard to deal with the sheets on Spring Fever without putting the autopilot on. With Pepper, the smaller previous boat, we had a tiller, so on a solo watch I could if necessary steer for a while with my knees while trimming the sails or doing other cockpit jobs, and would not have to disturb the watch below – sleep is of course vital for safe crewing.

A small problem, we thought, so we asked Wroath’s, the Cowes electrical firm to check when they replaced our broken masthead light. But it turned out not only that the repairs would cost a large proportion of the price of a new one but that spares are hard to get for a 10 year old model. So that’s £2,000 extra on this year’s budget for a new autopilot.

Thankfully, we are running twice that much below our target for annual spending, with very low bills so far this year, so it’s not too much of a pain to install a new one ahead of our hoped-for cruise to the east coast in May.

Meanwhile, better news on Pass Your Yachtmaster, the book I collaborated on with the original author, David Fairhall. It looks like Adlard Coles, the publishers, have a solution to the copyright problem that held it up. Fingers crossed. The text was delivered complete last June and the book has been ready for printing for months.

Battles over flares

In one corner, the Royal Yachting Association, declaring pyrotechnic flares are obsolete. In the other, the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency, pointedly renewing for another 2 years its ruling that flares are mandatory under the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention, though softening it a little round the edges.

What does it actually mean for a typical small yacht? The crucial issue here is that SOLAS distress signals are only a legal obligation for yachts above 13.7 m or on smaller craft licensed for commercial use, including sail training. They must carry flares. This means if you charter a yacht, it has to have them. The RYA has, however, won a dispensation allowing private yachts from 13.7 to 24 metres to at least dispense with parachute rockets, easily the least useful and most hazardous in use of the flares. Continue reading “Battles over flares”

Bowsprit – pronounced bow, bo’ or bogh?

How do you pronounce bowsprit? I’m usually against language pedants, who try to foist the views of Victorian grammarians onto the 21st century. But this word is my one little obsession, ever since getting a letter into Yachting Monthly on whether the first syllable of bowsprit should rhyme with dough or cow.

I was reminded by contemplation of this lovely boat recently.

I can’t remember why or when, but I learnt to pronounce bowsprit to rhyme with dough as a child. In fact, the similar word bowline is always pronounced like dough. Continue reading “Bowsprit – pronounced bow, bo’ or bogh?”

New engine calculations

A new engine is a big challenge, not just financially but in the thought process running up to the decision.

Our Volvo is 30 years old and we had it taken out and largely rebuilt 10 years ago. It has been reliable since then but this winter it has been increasingly difficult to start, and the expert verdict was that the valves probably needed regrinding. Continue reading “New engine calculations”

Useless marina internet

Marina internet is a waste of time. It’s fun doing a live blog of a cruise, but it was so difficult to get web access on our 900 mile round trip to the Morbihan this summer that I failed to file anything en route, and will do a single post later.

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How we got marina wi-fi in Vannes, but nowhere near the boat. (The jacket shelters the tablet from the rain).

Every single marina over 4 weeks advertised wi-fi, and only one actually delivered it in practice at a decent speed, with the rest either intermittent and unworkably slow, available only a few yards from the marina office, or simply not showing up on my tablet’s wi-fi source list. Some marinas openly confessed to technical problems, others were incredulous at our inability to log on. At most marinas, it was a cheek to advertise wi-fi at all. Maybe sailing magazines should be taking this on as a campaign.

There were cafes and restaurants, of course, but we went to drink and eat not write in a corner. I’ve also filed posts in the past from my phone using 3G, but we seem to have consistently chosen places where the 3G signal was poor, so that didn’t solve the problem either.

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”