Thursday, 21 April 2011

Back home, sort of

The plan from Howth was to head to Newlyn, but as with most of our plans, thing change. We made such goo progress coming down from Ireland that we arrived at Lands end a few hours early, we caught a good south going tide but approaching Runnel Stone the tidal gate was firmly slammed in our faces, from 7-8 knots over the ground we went to 1-2 at times! In two hours we covered less than 5 nautical miles. But we were still ahead of schedule, and having motored though a foul tide we could take advantage of a fair tide to go around the Lizard to Falmouth.

The wind increased to around 10 knots so I unfurled the genoa and was able to make headway for about 45 wind until the wind faded again. I went to start the engine again, nothing! No sound from the starter motor, no clicking, just a couple of lights to show me that something was working. I fiddled with the wires for about 5 mins before the engine came to life, much to everyone's relief. We daren't switch the engine off until we were tied alongside.

Somewhere between Ireland and Cornwall we had picked up a short length of line around the prop, but a few minutes with the boathook got it off.

After a quick rest, and tidy up of Pixie, Dick Kirsty and I headed to the Chain Locker for a hard earned pint of Skinners Cornish Knocker in the warm Cornish Sunshine.

Dick decided as his work was done and we had reached our destination in good time, he would head home to be with his family for Easter.We headed out to a restaurant for dinner before retiring back to Pixie for drinks on board.

A fine 48 hours

24 hours later than planned we left Howth, after a bit of shopping and an Irish fry up which left us no washing up and full stomachs for the trip ahead. At just after 10:30 we slipped our lines motored out around the headland and pointed Pixie South, there was little to no wind but lots of sunshine, it was hay with about a mile and a bit of visibility, but the AIS was working wonders, picking up ships 20 miles away and warning us if any were going to come too close. By around midday the time was setting south with a fair old lick.

By the afternoon we had over 10 knots over the ground as we passed Wick Head. We were making far better progress than we had predicted, but the excitement was short lived when we reviewed the tide tables and saw that in a few hours we might have 3 knots against us. We decided to head for Pollduff to anchor for the worst few hours of foul tide. But as we threaded our way though the sand bank a breeze came up from the north east and we were able to sail. preferring to sail than to anchor and working on the idea that even if we do one knot over the ground it's not costing us anything and it's a knot further south we kept going as the sun set.

Instead of heading south we managed to make quite a bit of easting, a little too much if I'm honest as we got within sight of Wales and passed between the Smalls and the TSS, but the forecast was for the wind to come from the east the next day so we would see if the gamble paid off.

It was a sunny, if chilly morning the next day, but as I came on watch the wind, which had sadly been lacking for Dick's watch, started to build...from the east. Happy days!

With 12-15 knots from the east we reached along at around 5-6 knots and stayed that way for a few hours until the wind faded a little, so I unpacked the cruising chute. With our good run south with the tide the day before we had some time in hand so we were able to sail at around 4 knots in the warm sunshine and gentle swell until that breeze faded as well.

So on went the engine. For a few hours it was windless, hot and sunny, not great for sailing, but great to be on the water. The breeze returned and the engine went off again as we sailed in beautiful conditions, such a contrast to our previous crossing.

I went down for a snooze in the afternoon, around an hour later Kirsty woke me up, Pixie was surrounded by dolphins! Around 50-60 of them in all different sizes played around Pixie for around 30 minutes. It was a beautiful experience watching dolphins playing a few feet from where I was sitting on the bow.

They went their way while we continued on ours, it was a great day sailing, the sort of day you dream about and happens all too infrequently. Even with the motor going it was still awesome to look out to the horizon as the sun was setting.

The engine's days are numbered!

The events of Sunday were the final nail in our big red Bukh's coffin. We had a great, (read: completely non-eventful) 29 hour trip from Largs.

It was sad to be leaving Scotland, a beautiful country that had meant so much to both of us over the past year and to see the lights fade away over a watch, then get up and for her not to be there anymore was a strange feeling.

There was little or no wind for the trip, but the engine hadn't missed a beat, it ran perfectly and smoothly all the way. But when it refused to start, we had the indescribable sinking feeling we never got used to when something with the engine went wrong. I looked in the engine compartment and noticed a line of salt deposits running around the exhaust elbow from the exhaust manifold. This could have been far worse for us, as one day cleaning out the depths of Pixie's lockers I had found a spare.

This didn't however sort out why the engine wouldn't start. Rooting around the engine I noticed That below the cracked exhaust elbow was the connector for the engines electrics, and the water that had leaked from the crack in the exhaust has corroded some of the terminals. I couldn't be sure but it seemed likely. Whatever had caused it the cracked exhaust elbow had to be replaced, so I set to work removing it from the engine. It was corroded on to it's bracket, so it seemed like a good time to phone the experts. Dick got the number of an engineer from the helpful people in the marina office. Good news he could make it the next morning. It meant we would miss our tide window, but there was nothing else we could do so we headed out for a Guinness and a steak.

Around 10:30 the engineer arrived, took a look at the exhaust elbow and it's replacement and then took them both away with him, about 30 mins later he returned with the old elbow in 3 parts and the new one fitted on the bracket. About an hour later it was installed, the corroded wires connected and the engine was running smoothly again.

I spent the rest of the morning photographing Howth and attaching various bits of kit and wiring to Pixie. I've added a rely to our SmartGauge to switch off the Ultrasonic Antifouling if the batteries drop to below a certain voltage. I've wired the Simrad autopilot into Pixie's instruments to take advantage of its advanced features, and finally I've wired up the Digital Yachts WLN10 which transmits Pixie's instrument data to my iPhone wirelessly. It's not a piece of kit we need but it's for a piece I'm writing for Yachting Monthly. In the evening we took a Horton walk up the hill to a restaurant called Ella, the food was excellent and not to be missed.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

We've got engine trouble...for a change

After 29 hours, 27 of which were motoring, we arrived in Howth just before low water, we ran aground in the mud I'll fill in the details tomorrow, but we got Pixie's bow to the pontoon and managed to refuel, then went to start the engine and nothing. Looking at the engine I noticed a crack in the exhaust manifold.

We've got a spare manifold, and I've got a thirst for Guinness and steak. Good night

Back on watch

I'm back on watch and have managed to avoid writing a blog to myself for just under an hour before giving in. It's not that being on watch at the ungodly hours of the morning is boring, it's not. It gives you a wonderfull remote feeling it's hard to find in modern day life. But motoring along in no wind with an auto pilot and Automatic Identification System (AIS) and not a lot of boats about, means that scanning the horizon for big ship trying to run us down takes a few seconds. So before all these gadgets came along there was something to watch out for, now I just look at the Garmin plotter and I know the name of the ship, what type of boat it is, it's course and speed, how close it will come etc. It stops short of telling me the skipper's name and his favourite colour, but it means the things that used to absorb my time on night watch, now don't.

This is no bad thing as it makes the yachtsmen who sail though the night, and through shipping lanes, safer. But it does mean I'm at a loss for things to do right now. Once I install the Digital Yacht iAIS, I'll be able to have this information on my iPhone, on the toilet for example. I'm not on the toilet now, just incase you were wondering! But even in the part of a boat, where the crew can call their own, they will still know the shipping around them. Which is why, dear reader, I have time on my hands to write a blog entry at 0319, oh bum, forgot to write the log, back in a sec....I'm back, one job an hour and I forget to do that because I writing to you. Nevermind the plotter has every thing under control. While I was below I plotted our position on the chart and we've done just under 4 miles in the last hour. Tide is against us, which is unavoidable if you go to sea for more than 8 hours.

Anyway back to being on watch. Years ago I used to think about my perfect boat while on watch, everyone thinks about something different when they have a few hours alone with only a boat and nature for company. I used to think about the perfect boat because the topic was endless. On one night I might think about a shallow draft boat to go exploring creek and rivers, other nights it might be a blue water cruiser to set off around the world, or just where the wind would take us. I couldn't afford any of these boats of course, but it didn't stop me thinking them through in every minute detail to whisk the night away. But now we have Pixie, and it feels unfaithful to think about another boat when we're alone together, so I had to find something else that's quiet to do, but what? When there is no wind, no sails to trim, no ships to look out for, no position to work out, what's left for the person on watch to do?

Blog of course! My two hours out here alone are almost over, and they have flown by. Please excuse me while I enjoy them on my own, good night (or morning as the case might be)

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Homeward bound

We're back!

Hurrah! Back for the last part of our trip. Pixie's bow is pointing south (ish) and we're heading towards Ireland.

Kirsty myself and our new crew member Dick flew up to Glasgow after work last night. We were picked up from the Airport by Muir from Flymingo Yacht Charters who is a friend of Kirsty's. It was gone 11 and drizzling when we had arrived, and once onboard the work started. In the 6 weeks since we left the boat I've had all manner of equipment delivered to Pixie, we're using this trip to do some gear reviews for Yachting Monthly. We're testing Tiller Pilots so we've gone from having one broken tiller pilots to having 4! With the extra crewmate Dick, Kirsty and I are able to spend more time doing nothing, which for us is novel.

Muir had kindly taken all the boxes of kit onto Pixie, so when we arrived, half the saloon was taken up by brown cardboard. Once unpacked we had a nightcap before turning in.

This morning I had work to do on the engine, I adjusted the valve clearances and went to replace the oil. The oil suction pump we bought had two pipes to feed into the sump, both were too big, so Dick and I headed off to the chandlery and then to the next door dive shop where they had the perfect bit of pipe. Getting something sorted this quickly is a new experience for me. It usually involves hunting around 10 different shops at different ends of town. We went back and drained the oil befor replacing it with fresh stuff.

Then it was time to settle the marina bill. We'd overstayed our winter berthing arrangement by 15 days, but again I was met by a welcome surprise. Largs give 50% discount to winter berth holders who need to stay on for a short time after their winter agreement runs out. All paid up and with another package I returned with a spring in my step and a smile on my face. This package contained two clever bits of kit from Digital Yacht also for me to test on the way down. One bit of kit is a WiFi NMEA transmitter, the other does the same but also transmits AIS information. Where does it transmit it to? I hear you ask. Well to any device that connects to WiFi like laptops and smart phones. All this means that I can take all the information from Pixie's onboard instruments and see them on my phone.

Once back onboard I set about installing the Simrad tillerpilot. Unfortunately it's not a direct swap for our old Navico pilot but 30 mins with wire cutters, crimps and a file to make the plug hole bigger and it was installed. It took a little longer than planned to tidy up and sort the boat out but we managed to slip our lines at 12:45, not quite the midday start we had hoped for.

It was grey and a bit chilly this afternoon. We had a couple of hours of good sailing, but eventually the wind died. Now and again we were able to get a bit of sailing in, but for the last few hors we've been motoring in 3 knots of true wind.

We had my 4 tin chilly for dinner, testing out the first tillerpilot while we ate.

Kirsty and Dick are off watch, it's getting darker by the minute. It's overcast and a bit cold, but the tillerpilot is doing it's stuff as lighthouses in the distance blink into the night.

Best go and write the log, good night

Thursday, 24 February 2011