When in Italy

As I am sure you have been able to tell from the website, we are rather keen on Italy and Puglia in particular.  However we are not the types to try and turn a small part of Italy into little England.  To that end for the last few years we have been trying to learn Italian, who knows another language may even help us on our travels.

We started with some lessons bought through the internet with Listen and Learn UK.  This didn’t work out very well for us, since the requirement that the lessons be in our home seemed to be missed and so we were travelling across Colchester for our lesson. We started to get into a rhythm of having these when our tutor got pregnant and decided to give it up.  When we went back to the company they told us that the money we had paid was non refundable and that the fact these had not been completed quickly due to our tutor’s availability was immaterial.  On top of that they were expensive but a total the time we didn’t know anyone who could teach us Italian and so a large mark up had to be stomached. A pretty poor experience all round.

In Ipswich, we have our haircut at an Italian hairdresser and one of the team there spoke to us about our Italian recently.  He mentioned that his wife was in the process of starting up a small business to teach Italian and so we jumped at the opportunity to restart our lessons – something that our Italian friends will be grateful for, I’m sure!  We previously had been using the espresso books, but our lessons had been dotted around these, rather than structured, and we didn’t feel we were learning conversational Italian.  italian coursebookOur new teacher has a slightly different approach and a new book (Contatti 1 Italian Beginner’s Course).  We are looking forward to developing our language skills further….I think our Italian friends are probably looking forward to it even more than we are :). Having had our first lesson, it has reignited our love for Italy and I think will help us to keep the dream alive when we are in England.  Our final help will be a Easy Italian: Photo Phrase Book (Collins) which will apparently help perfect our pronunciation.

Clothes Washing

Mariadz, when we first got her, had a SOBA 20170626_114401washing machine which is small and apparently designed for the yachting life.  However, Maria wanted to see if there was a portable solution that would work on the boat, in the motorhome or in Italy before the main house was finished.

In the end, washing machineshe decided on a PORTABLE 230V MINI 3KG WASHING MACHINE. so watch this space to see how this handles our motorhome holiday to Italy and a few uses on the boat during the summer…..the answer is very well.  It is slower than a normal wash because you have to manually change it from wash to spin and the load is not huge but for washing in a hot climate it seems to be a pretty good solution and got a lot of use on our recent trip to Southern Italy.

I have to say though, that I am looking to see IMG_5857whether the Drumi a low-water usage, foot-operated washer takes off. It looks a really good design but a bit pricey.  The price may come down over time so I am keeping an eye on it.

Fixing the engine – Part 4

We have done a fair bit of work on the engine over the last year and one of the last of the jobs we had identified was replacing all of the cooling hoses on the engine with new ones.  The old ones had been heat and age damaged and we thought we would take the pre-emptive step of replacing them all so that we didn’t have one go at a bad time and potentially cause damage to the engine.  At the same time, we wanted to resolve the slight oil leak at the front of the engine which we believe to be from the bolts on the engine.  We had reviewed the service manual, identified which variant of the Yanmar engine we have and then the replacement pipes had been ordered for us and we had these on the boat for quite some time before we could get the work scheduled.  Step one was to review what we had against the engine list.  We found that some of the ones we had were right but most of them were not!  Back to the drawing board on the ordering of the pipes.  We also agreed that we would get the key pipes sorted and then look at what was left after that.20170620_135019

Lindsay at Seapower has been great with us on this.  He knows our plans and knows we will have to be self-sufficient and so encourages us to get heavily involved in the work, for instance the last full service of the engine was done by me, assisted by Seapower (to make sure I didn’t mess it up!).

The pipe replacement process is quite simple but time consuming since you need to clean up where the old pipe was before you can put the new pipe in place.  20170620_134937Some of them do not have great access so someone with small hands is best.  Firstly Houghton It is very important to completely empty the coolant before you start!  We don’t want a messy bilge…. Each removed pipe is labelled so that we know what we have replaced and jubilee clips are replaced as required.  As part of this work, various engine parts were cleaned up or replaced including the thermostat.  By the end of this process we will have a pretty new engine 🙂 it takes quite a bit of time to do all of this work.

the other advantage of getting this upfront and personal with your engine is you start to see other things that need to be addressed. A missing injector clip. No pipe running an overflow to the bilge rather than letting it spray all over the top of the engine if there was a problem. Poor running of the fuel pipe too close to the gear change lever which could result in wear on the pipe.  A nice new vetus water strainer opener attached to the water strainer so that we can take the lid off without using a red rope! All of these have been addressed and i think we are now in a position where we can have a little confidence in the engine, at least until the next time we have to do something!

Sorting the engine – Part 3

Sorting the engine – step 2

Sorting the engine – step 1

Yanmar engine – why maintenance is so important

Servicing the wenches (oops I mean winches)

We recognise as we go round the world that every six months or so that we will be servicing the winches.  This regime hasn’t started yet and at the beginning of the week I was still very much a wench winch virgin.

We are fortunate to count as one of our friends Mat Jerram, who is a very experienced marine engineer, and as a friend Mat has imparted knowledge normally in exchange for copious food which has been a small price to pay. So on Sunday, as Maria was making roast dinner for all of us, he raises the fact that I have been talking about servicing the winches for a couple of years….and haven’t done it yet. Maria is twenty minutes from serving so it is enough time to break apart a winch and explain what to do! Mat explains the process really well and takes a look at the winches which have clearly not been properly serviced for some time (i.e long before we had the boat). There is a mass of grease on the entire winch mechanism and I now understand the process.

So the start of a new week and new jobs.  I get the lewmar oil, grease and spare pawl springs, as recommended by Mat, and now will service all of the winches. I start with the one that Mat had broken up on Sunday on the coach roof.  It all seems to be going fine as I clean up the winch using white spirit to remove the previous grease and grime.  I am able to keep hold of the pawl springs and even they get a good clean.  The whole winch was in a pretty bad state but not disastrous or close to failure. Having cleaned everything up, I apply oil to the pawls and move them around to spread it, they are moving really freely. I then apply the grease to the rest of the mechanism, a very thin layer so that it feels greasy to the touch but you cant really see the grease on it. Everything goes back together and I test the winch – all good. The second coach roof winch is in similar condition and the process is pretty much the same apart from the ping as one of the pawl springs goes flying from my hand across the boat and into the drink! Thank you Mat for suggesting that I get some spare springs.  This winch is somewhat quicker since I know what I am doing.  Quicker but ultimately flawed since it doesn’t work when I test it!  I know exactly what I have done, one of the units with pawls could go either way and I haven’t put it back in the right way.  Of course you don’t have to take the winch half apart to change this, the whole thing has to come apart to the base plate so that you can swap the part round the other way!  Retest and success, two down….SIX to go!

I’m on a roll, so onto the big sheet winches, knock these out in a day (amongst the other things I have on) and then the four small winches should be easy.  Unscrew the cap, take off the self tail mechanism and lift the casing off the mechanism. It moves a quarter of an inch.  Stop being a wimp and lift it! Quarter of an inch again. Last try, all my strength, quarter of an inch! At this stage, you look around for something to beat the winch with in true Basil Fawlty style.  Unfortunately there are no trees in the Marina, so I will have to come up with something else.  I find a couple of blocks that I can rig as a block and tackle. and attach set this up to the boom which I have swung out and tied off above the winch.  My trusty “red rope” (previously used for lifting outboards, freeing water filter caps and pulling pipes off through hull fittings) is at the fore as the attachment to the winch.  I tie it off using a pipe hitch and a round turn and to half hitches to the block, the tail of the line is then used to provide a second lifting point on the other side of the winch so that the pull is straight up.  I am ready to go and …..success….it moves half an inch! Success is measured in degrees when you have successfully lifted the whole winch by a quarter inch on three previous attempts.  I was happy to get it to a half inch on the first attempt.  Push it back down and pull again and it goes a bit further. I continue this making more and more progress until the casing comes clear 🙂  20170615_120841I now get to see what I have to deal with… The entire mechanism is glued together with calcium, salt and lots of old grease which has hardened.  The whole thing was solid and it is difficult to see how the thing moved in the first place.20170615_224543  The bearings are equally bad with no movement.  At this point I have to admit that the act of cleaning these things up and getting them back together is incredibly therapeutic and does give a great feeling of satisfaction when it is all back together again so thoroughly recommended.  When I was young I used to try and fix broken alarm clocks.  In common with a number of people I would take them apart and put them back together again, they never worked again and there were always a few spare parts lying around at the end of the process.  It is important that this isn’t the case when rebuilding a winch! A nice way to try and stop this happening is to be very organised as the winch is taken apart.  20170615_165840I laid out paper towel on the deck and had each group of parts on a single piece.  I found this really helped to make sure that I put it back together in the same order as it came apart.  As you can see, there was a lot of work required to clean these up and the whole process, with a few interruptions, takes a number of hours.  There is no way I am getting the second one done on the same day.

The next day, I set about the other sheet winch.  I have left the block and tackle rigged, I’m clearly going to need that.  This is going smoothly and faster than the first.  I get most of it apart quite quickly and I now have to remove five bolts, with alun key holes, that hold the tower casing onto the base.  On the first winch these were tough cookies but my rachet set up is equal to the task.  I get four off with quite a bit of effort and notice that some of them are a little rounded but they are off.  The last one looks particularly tight and the hole looks even more rounded than some of the others.  Even spraying with WD40 and PlusGas does not help this one to budge and as I try to shift it the wrench twists round and the alun key shaped hole is no longer alun key shaped but round 😦  For the moment I have to clean up everything that I can and reassemble the winch but I will need to drill out the bolt to finish this winch off.

The “half” clean up goes well and the winch works again so at least I can put it back together. I receive quite a bit of advice on how to get the remaining bolt out.  Cut a slot in the top of it and use a flat head setup to get it off, the idea being there is more metal to push against.  Another is to use a “screw extraction” set, which works by burying itself in the bolt and then as you tighten (it has a reverse thread), it loosens itself.  This probably works best when the bolt is not stuck fast into the hole. I cant get the screw extraction tool to bight into the stainless steel bolt.  Time for some help.

Lindsay is on board doing some changes in the engine room, more of that later, an offers to help me drill out the bolt.  Drilling out stainless is not lightly taken on and the trick is to have the drill on a very slow setting and take your time.  We drill out quite a wide hole so that we can get a large screw extractor in there.  I had previously been using the ones that you screw into the bolt but Lindsay’s set is driven in hard.  The large one works well and the head starts to move.  Unfortunately the screw is stuck so tight that the head separates from the rest of the bolt but at least I am now in a position to get the winch apart.  We use a smaller drill to get into the screw but this is still stuck hard so we have covered it with Plusgas which should help the bolt to loosen over twenty four hours.  That said, the whole area had been lightly bathed in WD40 and plusgas for most of the previous 72 hours so it may not be enough. That still doesn’t work so we will be leaving the thread in their for a few weeks soaked in plusgas and have a go at a later date.

Having temporarily resolved the seized bolt issue, I can now continue with the servicing of this winch.  This is as bad as the first with lots of cleaning required again to get it to a standard where you would be happy to reassemble.

Anyway, at least the other winches which should be uneventful since I have done the hardest ones first…. Or maybe not.  we have eight winches dotted around the cockpit and another at the mast.  Each pair in the cockpit are completely different and the mast is a two speed winch without a self tailor.

To be fair the servicing is not bad, except two of the winches are pretty much jammed due to lack of use and poor previous maintenance.

That is easily resolved and it actually makes it more interesting when you have to work out how the winch is put together each time.  Reassembly is also interesting and I was flummoxed for a few minutes when I put a winch back together and couldn’t drop the bolts into the cogs.  On inspection, the whole was out by 2mm.  Now that just isn’t possible, these things are precision engineered and when not covered in gunk go back together beautifully   I worked out that I had put one of the mechanisms in upside down and the two “same-sized” cogs were actually slightly different sizes.

So I am done on the cockpit winches, lets start on the mast one!  this is interesting and again completely different from any other winch I have done.  For the first time, I take the winch casing off and something drops out – that shouldn’t be possible.  It is a pawl, the part of the mechanism that gives the winch is familiar clicking sound.  That’s not good.  I get the winch assembly off the mast and onto the deck so I can see what needs to be done.

This winch is a two speed winch and it is the slower setting that has both Pawls broken.  I have bought some spares and so can set about cleaning up the winch and getting it back to perfect working order.  Now on my ninth winch, ten if you count one on a friends boat that I helped with, I am confident when putting it back together and it all works first time.

My top tips for winch servicing:

  1. Don’t be scared, things are not going to ping all over the place as soon as you take the case off.
  2. Remove everything slowly and make sure you hold the underneath, sometimes some of the components have others within them.  You don’t want them falling out
  3. Read the service guide, the lewmar one has pictures
  4. I put my finger at the end as I lift the pawl out of place, this means that the spring hits your finger rather than pinging off into the water
  5. A very thin layer of grease but nowhere near the pawls and oil around the pawls.  I had it so that they felt greasy but you couldn’t really see grease on them
  6. Take your time and clean everything really well, it will cost an extra five minutes but if you don’t do it you will know it every time you look at the winch



Taking a week fixing what broke in a weekend

We had an eventful weekend in the Stour and the broken list was extensive.

  • Initially the large domestic alternator had broken down and I had disconnected this to try and prevent any further damage.
  • The davits had stopped working and this seemed to be electrical in nature too.
  • We still had a problem with water flow to the engine
  • We had a sheered bolt in the impeller

To this list I added a couple of long outstanding jobs:

  • Replace the hydraulic rams for the swim platform and get this working again
  • Fix the mount for the navigation on the rib and make sure it now charges

Firstly the cooling problem.  We knew that this was related to the through hull and so the first technique we tried was to attach the filling end of the rib’s foot pump to the pipe from the through hull.  This would create air pressure that should shoot out whatever was in it like a torpedo.  Or not.  Lots of pressure and difficult (read almost impossible) to increase the pressure further with the foot pump.  So that didn’t work but we know there is something blocking it.  The next theory was to insert the dockside hose down the pipe and blast it out with water.  I do not like the idea of filling up the boat with a hose (water tanks excepted) but I wont be blasting for long.  With Maria holding the hose in place and a cloth over it to avoid any “blow-back”, we test slowly. I imagine Maria wouldn’t be too pleased if she and the engine room wee soaked by an icy blast of water.  One second burst, five second burst, five minute burst while I discuss with Peter, our neighbour, the problem I am trying to solve.  Oh sorry dear, forgot about the hose. Fortunately no drama or screams from the engine room.  Put everything back together and a quick check of the engine – we have full flow! 🙂  Subsequently, I heard of another technique that I also think would work which was to use a plunger from outside the boat, but Maria wasn’t keen for me to go swimming in the locked Marina water.

For the swim platform and impeller bolt, I will need to go to a chandlery to get spares (hydraulic fluid and bolts).  I go to Fox’s chandlery locally but they don’t have the right bolts and they are asking detailed questions about the rams and the pump before agreeing which hydraulic fluid I need.  I phone the UK distributor for the Bennetts rams who explains that any automatic transmission fluid will do so that saved me some money since it doesn’t have to have marine in the labelling.  On my return to the Ipswich marina, I see Lindsay from Seapower and explain my difficulty obtaining the right bolts for the impeller plate and he has a couple of spares “in the van”.  So I am sorted!

The sheered bolt is remarkably loose and I am able to spin this round with my nail to retrieve it.  Spin may be exaggerating a little, I can move it without drawing blood. I had tried to use a tool to help but the lack of visibility meant it was easier to feel your way with your nail. I replace all of the bolts with longer bolts having checked that they will fit correctly and that is another job ticked off.

Onto the hydraulics replacement, carefully lower the tank to a level where it wont try and fill the system when I take the old ones off.  Place a container under the rams to catch any fluid that leaks out.  The swapping over is easy and it is now time to try and bleed the system.  Back in the lazzarette, to find the reservoir lying nicely on its side and the hydraulic fluid coming out of a rip in the lid, thanks, and after I had tried to be so careful.  Refill the system with the new fluid. It is quite a small system and there appear to be no bleed valves so it’s a case of opening and closing the bypass while activating the pump.  It is all good and I am finishing the bleed when the platform starts to come up. And I am holding the down switch!  Our friend Mat, marine engineer on Song of the Whale, is coming for dinner, maybe I can pick his brains.  Mat and I take a look at this and the Davits.  It seems that whichever button you push it comes up, and if you swap the electrical connections over you can get it to open, no matter which button you push.  So a problem with the switching that needs to be solved when Ollie from Seapower comes back to the boat. To be fair this switch was wired when the platform didn’t work so easy not to get it right.

The davits are interesting and we spend time looking in the control box.  There is what appears to be a slow burn fuse that is located on the edge of the box and pokes through the box at the top.  This has the same pins as a car fuse and we swap this for one to test it.  The davits start to work.  Taking apart the black slow burn fuse reveals water is inside it (from all of the rain the previous weekend!).  We clean this all out and replace it.  The davits are now working perfectly. But who puts this outside of the box when there is likely to be water, we cover the top of this in tape to hopefully overcome this problem in the future.

As our final job for the moment, we take a look at the alternator.  alternatorWe had found that a bolt had sheered which held the casing of the alternator together.  This had come out and had significantly damaged the vanes of the fan, which also explained the noise Maria heard.  So we get the alternator off and I will take it to the local specialist to see what can be done.  On investigation the alternator is fried and badly damaged which makes it uneconomical to repair.  A replacement is available and should be with us within 24 hours.

It is interesting though that since removing the alternator, some electrical devices are no longer working, and the engine circuit will not power up.  I had taped off all of the wires for the alternator. We put the negative from the alternator onto an engine bolt and everything starts working again but we are both at a loss to explain why the engine earth is going through the domestic alternator.

The next day I have refitted the alternator and tightened everything up. Just as discretion is the better part of valour, cowardice is the better part of discretion so I want Mat to check my work before I restart the engine.  We are all fine and so decide to test the new setup.  The engine starts well, we have water flow and the charge is also looking good although the batteries are pretty full at this stage anyway. We are working our way through the list well.

The new mount for the rib navigation has arrived which is a straight swap with a little help from Maria to hold the screw driver on one side while I tighten the bolt.  Definitely not a one man job unless you are stretch Armstrong.  When perusing the instructions I discover the original problem.  Apparently the mount comes with an all weather cover for the electrical connections.  That will stop water pooling around them causing corrosion and the mount to fail! RTFM.

Another job ticked off and I’m feeling good – maybe just lift those davits….nothing!  Maybe they are on the engine circuit so I need to power that up.  Nothing! In fact no light on the engine circuit at all. So this appears to be the same problem that I had when I took off the old alternator….but the new alternator is fitted and the negative is connected again.  I speak to Mat quickly to get an opinion and we agree that I need to look into why the domestic and engine circuits are connected.  I have already checked the “parallel” switch, for anyone starting if the engine battery is dead, and this is set correctly.  So it is under the bed in the aft cabin to check out the wiring there.  negative meltdownThere is a problem, it appears the bolt holding the engine earth to the negative bar is loose (right hand side of picture).  This has caused arcing between the cabling and therefore heat build up with some scorching.  In fact one of the negatives has corroded and melted the insulation so much that it has melted through another wires insulation and these are welded together.  That will be what caused our problems and it could even have been what damaged our alternator.  In some respects we were probably lucky the alternator went rather than continuing to build the heat up and potentially start a fire under the bed.  This doesn’t explain why the old alternator used to provide the earth to the engine and the new alternator doesn’t, despite being identical.  The current view is that this was as a result of the damage to the alternator which provided that earthing thereby by-passing the corroded engine earth.  But I will update with more information as it is available.

In the interim we have put a bypass in place for the earth but the engine and alternators will not be used until the above is fixed.

All in all, not a bad week, since we fixed a lot of issues and uncovered a pretty major new one. At least we found them in Ipswich rather than in the middle of nowhere and know how to deal with them in the future – all part of the education!


Problematic East coast weekend

We have spent the last two weekends away, firstly in Lymington, attending a seminar about blue water cruising and then to Italy to pay taxes, speak to builders and check out the house.  We therefore decided that we would have a weekend away somewhere quiet and decided that a few nights in the River Stour would allow us both to relax and chill.  It would also work out because we were expecting to see my son, Matt, over the weekend and it would be easy to pick him up from Harwich.  Maria still had to work on Friday but we decided to leave on Thursday since our setup allows her to work from home wherever we are.

It’s a beautiful evening as we head down the River Orwell and start to discuss where to stop.  We can either pick up a mooring buoy at Levington or anchor either at the bottom of the River Orwell or the top of the River Stour. We decide to keep going to the anchorage opposite Harwich Parkeston Quay at the top of the Stour adjacent to Shotley.  The trip down is mostly uneventful except Maria starts to think the engine doesn’t sound “right”. I go below and notice on the electrical panel that we are charging the batteries intermittently. This is changing the tone of the engine which is what Maria heard. I start to investigate and everything seems to be ok as we continued but I recognise that we will have a job to do when we return understanding why the charging is not consistent. 20170601_191903As we pass Shotley we notice our good friends the Thompson family from Ipswich, coming back up river. They have taken on an amazing project and are living aboard while they renovate their boat before going off travelling. It is an ambitious project but they are committed and we are really pleased to think of them as friends.

IMG_5772We anchor in a familiar spot and have a quiet evening. IMG_5771The traditional arrival drink, a beer, is ready and this time in our new hand painted glasses!  We also got some good news about a potential new role for me so all is right in our world as we settle down to a dinner of steak.

The next day starts well from a weather perspective and I am checking over the boat as Maria works.

I even break out the hammock that we have had for eighteen months and think about how to rig it.  Maria has always been worried about the pressure on the headsail of rigging it to there, which we have seen a number of times previously. I had noticed that Simon Thompson had rigged a spinnaker line to take the vertical pressure from this setup and thought by using two spinnaker lines and a cleat I could rig this so that both the horizontal and vertical pull was held by two different lines, sounds perfect in principle.  20170602_120504The other end could be held on a masthead cleat and I have been able to set up the hammock in a way acceptable to her majesty, siting on her throne at the chart table.

Between work calls, I am able to distract Maria enough to get her to try out my new setup (having checked it first, can you imagine the trouble I would be in if it failed!). Maria agrees to give it a go. I have video evidence. I also seem to have a court order which bans me from sharing said video evidence.

Anyone who has read about our rib will know one of the main issues we were trying to address was to allow Maria to get in and out with some decorum since she seemed to spend most of her time in an inflatable lying on her tummy with her bum in the air! She also struggled to get out of the Lotus Elise when we had it, with a common outcome being a loud thump and Maria picking herself up off her hands and knees….in front of a packed pub garden. Cool. So with much noise Maria gets into the hammock and we are all good…the camera is still rolling….she starts to get out.  Let’s just say that the first thing to hit the floor was her left hand, and she tried to get out on the right hand side. The final shot of the video that you are not allowed to see is Maria reversing back to the camera as she stands up….. close up and fade to black! I don’t think the court papers specifically excluded a description of the events. If they did my next blog will be from a police cell.

It gets towards the end of the day and Maria is finishing work. The anchorage is nice but is opposite a commercial port with ferries coming in and out infrequently. if we head down the river, it is very quiet under the Royal Hospital School. It’s been a glorious day but some clouds are to the west of us where we are heading. Maria points out that they look pretty evil but I check the wind direction which is gently blowing towards these clouds and point out that unless they are going against the prevailing wind direction, we’ll be fine….. 6243749872_IMG_3278Maria is not one to say I told you so but within ten minutes the rain is lashing down, the wind has turned and it is blowing over 30 knots.  Not the best weather to go on the foredeck and put out the anchor. We decide to float around while the thunderstorm passes, Maria also points out that where we were is still bathed in sunshine and it wasn’t her idea to move!  She points this out quite vociforously. With limited visibility, I take over the boat and decide to check out exactly where we will be anchoring when the weather improves. IMG_5840Quite a few people ask us about how the cats are on the boat, IMG_5841particularly when we are doing longer journeys or the weather isn’t good.  Bonnie and Clyde have grown up around boats and are very relaxed, on passages they will generally be in the cockpit with Maria and I or asleep downstairs.  You can see how stessed they were at the height of the storm.  It isn’t long before the thunder stops, well after three storms roll through, and the weather starts to improve and Maria takes over so that i can set up our anchor gear.
We have to reset the anchor because we weren’t quite where we wanted to be and at low tide it gets a bit shallow in the bay under the hospital school.  Finally we are set up, anchor float attached to the anchor with a line that can be used to retrieve the anchor. Ten metre snubber line to ease 6243749872_IMG_3282the strain on the boat and anchor, and several other snubbers making sure that even if we have a problem the windlass is never exposed to the yank of the chain.  Anchor ball up and we are ready for our evening. When the rain was lashing down earlier, we had taken a look at our BBQ food and thought we may be in trouble here! With IMG_5839the change in weather we decided to have a Thai dinner rather than cooking in the rain and wind.

We settle down down for a quiet evening, Mariadz style… it was probably around 11pm when Maria decided she wanted to listen to music. Oh dear! The Louisa Johnson song where she laments that it was only ten how did it get to three, could have been written for Maria…..obviously three is just the start and if Louisa wanted accuracy she would probably have gone for five or six! This night is no exception and despite a couple of attempts to get her to go to bed, it is “just one more song” until 5am when Maria makes egg and bacon sandwiches before going to bed as most of our (sensible) friends are starting to wake up. 6243749872_IMG_3283Later that day, we are “hanging”. It’s a lovely day, but a bit breezy. However, my hangover is not shifting and I go back to bed for a little while. While I am asleep, Maria chats to Amanda Furber, and agrees that we should all get together – I just need to pick them up from Harwich (4 miles away) in the rib like I am a taxi! I’m still not in a great state but I am sure the river ride will sort that out! While deploying the rib, there is a momentary stutter from the Davits as the motor stops and just clicks.  But it comes back, so another one to put on the list of things that need to be checked.  Just before leaving, Maria asks me how we are doing for fuel.  On the rib, we have the main tank that feeds the engine and a reserve five litre can which is always full.  The wind is blowing down the river towards Harwich and there is quite a swell.  This doesn’t bode well for the return journey but getting there should be fine. We have only done a few miles so I’m sure the fuel is fine…..of course I get a mile downriver and the engine cuts out as the main tank is empty! so it’s lift the seats get the two cans out and transfer fuel from the reserve to the main tank, all while being rolled around, beam onto the waves. 6243749872_IMG_3287Refuel complete, I can restart the engine and get to Halfpenny pier to pick up my fare. Amanda and Mark are waiting on the pier when I arrive.  I throw the rubbish into the bins and am ready to go. But Mark has a cunning plan, he will drive the car to Wrabness, slightly up river from us and I can get him there, it will be a shorter journey. Amanda joins me in the rib and we start to head off back to Mariadz.  I may have mentioned that it was blowing 15-20 knots and the waves are quite deep, probably a metre from the tip to the bottom. We are making progress but it is not particularly comfortable.  On the way to collect Amanda, I had remained dry for the entire journey, that wasn’t the case on the return.  Amanda acted as a good water and wind break but I still got wet.  Her back was also aching from the constant banging up and down and together we arrived at Mariadz wet and tired. Reading that last sentence back I should probably reiterate that this was a journey in the rib and nothing rude! I drop off Amanda and call Mark to find out where he is.  He is on the far side of Wrabness with the beach houses and the mooring buoys. He has waded out to knee height as I approach and climbs in and we have a comfortable ride back to the boat with the wind and waves at our backs.  On return to Mariadz, we go to the stern and decide to lift the rib back onto the Davits to avoid the rib banging the back of the boat overnight.  We are clipped on but the stutter we had previously seems to be here to stay and the davits wont work.  The rib is up enough for overnight and we decide to check it out in the morning.

I can now do the barbecue we have been 6243749872_IMG_3312promising ourselves and we all settle down to a lovely evening in the cockpit chatting, eating and drinking.  Mark is quite tired and bails responsibly early, i.e. before midnight, but Amanda has the bit in her teeth…. and a few drinks in her tummy. It is 3am (again) when we eventually all decide it is time for bed – someone will be feeling a little worse for wear tomorrow.  The next morning we are up reasonably early since we need to get Mark and Amanda back to Wrabness.  At this stage, Mark and I are beginning to think that since I added the 5 or 6 litres of fuel into the tank we have travelled six miles to and from Harwich and a couple of miles return to Wrabness which is now being repeated.  It should be fine…. and I will fill up both tanks when I return to Ipswich.  We get enough from the davits to drop the rib again but they are still playing up.  It is a bit calmer for the journey back to Wrabness and I am able to drop them off quite close to the beach at high tide and they wade back in.

Now for the return journey to Ipswich.  We are still getting nothing from the davits which appears to be an electrical problem, potentially something shorting out.  I have checked in the control box and everything seems fine in there, no loose connections and voltage where I would expect it but I am no expert.  Maria and I decide that we will have to tow the rib back and work it out over the next few days.  We hardly ever tow a rib so we have a large mooring line to do the tow and two back up lines…a bit belt and braces, especially when the mooring line also has a shock absorber built in!

I go to lift the anchor, having previously checked that the davits electrical problem wasn’t impacting the windlass.  This is reasonably uneventful and the anchor comes up surrounded by approximately a two foot ball of mud and weed!  IMG_9679It is a sight.  I call Maria to come and take a look with Mariadz on autopilot and tracking down the middle of the Stour.  As we return from the bow, Maria notices more white smoke than is usual coming from our exhaust.  We check the temperature of the engine and it is above the normal working temperature.  We reduce revs as I go down below to check out what is going on in the engine room. I am greeted by quite a warm engine room. At the best of times the engine room is a “no shirt zone” and this was hotter than usual.  The water strainer on the aft bulkhead is completely green inside and it seems obvious that this is blocking water getting through to the engine.  I explain the situation to Maria and we decide to get some sail up quickly and switch the engine off while I try and fix it.  The clear lids on water strainers on Marine engines are great things, they allow you to see exactly what is going on.  However, they do have a tendency to stick fast, especially if there has been any heat.  Needless to say I can’t budge it.

I phone every chandlery along the Orwell to see if they have the specific devise designed to remove these covers but none have it.  Our friends on facebook, where Maria had updated, are trying to make suggestions: hot water over the top of the cover to make it easier to shift, wd40 under the lid to try and budge it and a wet cloth to get a better grip.  Nothing is working.  Since there is no water in there, perhaps a vacuum has formed so loosen the feeder pipes and let the vacuum out before trying all of the above again.  still nothing working.  On Cliff Elgar’s advice, I try to wrap a line around the lid with a view to pulling and twisting the lid off.  Again I am unsuccessful.  By this time, Mark and Amanda have called us to offer some assistance and some tools!  We agree that Maria and I will go along to Levington, pick up a mooring ball and meet them there.  After 45 minutes of eventful sailing, a regatta of 50 odd boats was coming the other way and not really thinking about how we were going to pass between them, we arrive at Levington.  Maria approaches the buoy perfectly with me midships as her spotter calling down the distance and angle of approach. In fact she sits Mariadz there so perfectly I could have had a cup of tea while I threaded the line and took it back to the bow to tie off.  Once settled, I get in the rib and head to the marina to meet Amanda and Mark.  They have stopped at Halfords and bought various tools that should give us a grip.  They also have their dog, Milly with them, and most importantly a new 5 litre can of petrol for the rib!  The four of us head back to Mariadz so that we can start to fix the problems.

Unfortunately the water strainer is being stubborn, none of the tools that Mark had brought were shifting it and we decided to review the rope technique again. With one minor adjustment, suggested by Mark, we had a better grip and the top started to move. In the end we had a loop in the end and the other end passed through this, this was then placed around the edge of the lid with the loop on the left hand side.  The pull would then tighten and then move the knot anti-clockwise.  With both of us pulling we start to budge the lid.  We can now see the jumble of weed that is in the strainer, we clear this out, put everything back together and are happy that we have fixed the problem.  Engine start and check the flow of water……negligible. oh dear, engine off. We should probably check the impeller.  On the yanmar engine, in common with a lot of marine installations, the impeller is in a very awkward place where I have to unscrew panels to access the impeller and even then I am going under the engine and reaching up to the vertical plate.  Our new lighting in the engine room is great but doesn’t get to this area which is still quite dark and you cant actually see it anyway because of its location.  So you are groping around in the dark and you have to feel your way (as Olivia Newton John would say).  It’s four bolts so release those, catch them so they don’t fall in the bilge (virtually inaccessible if they fall), as the last one goes, remember to catch the plate (similar bilge access issue!).  I have the plate off and a firm grip of all the parts so we can see the impeller, it looks fine and moves as it should.  Lets put it back together then.  Plate in place, don’t drop anything, hand tighten four bolts and then tighten with the spanner, 1, 2, 3, snap! Now that’s unfair, one of the bolts has sheered but at least the other three are on tight which should stop any leaks. Another job for when we are back in our berth.

So we have established that the engine is trying to draw water in, and the problem has to be at the other end where the water comes into the boat.  We decide we need to check the through hull.  Take off the two jubilee clips and lift the pipe off the through hull….nope.  That aint moving either! We have applied heat from Maria’s super hairdryer but still no progress.  Eventually and with a rolling hitch we have successfully attached my trusty, water-strainer-lid-remover rope to the pipe and it does it’s magic!  With the pulling of two of us we are able to get the pipe off the through hull.  Now lets see if we have any water coming through the through hull or whether the problem is in the pipe.  Open the through hull, just for a second, we don’t want to sink… a dribble of water comes out.  We could leave this open for weeks before we would need to worry about the boat sinking.  So there is a blockage on the though hull outside of the boat.  So two techniques, firstly, wire hanger to clear any hard objects and the large brush under the boat from the rib to scrape away any weed.  20170605_161329We test the engine and we have flow and a six inch piece of weed goes straight into the strainer!  At least we know what happened.  Having removed this, the lid comes off without the threat of “the rope”, and put everything back together again we’re ready to go.

I drop Amanda, Mark and Milly back at the marina so that they can go for a walk and return to Mariadz for the last part of our epic journey home.  We start up and everything is looking good, but within 200 metres the temperature is starting to rise and again we need to slow the engine down.  By staying between 1,000 and 1,500 revs we can keep the temperature under control, less than 100, and we limp back to Ipswich slowly.  This gives Maria time to cook a roast dinner for when we arrive – an advantage of having a great cook for a wife!

Coming into the lock is interesting, Maria has the boat well placed but, after she has stopped, I have to move the rib out of the way before I can bring the stern in.  Everything is tied off, including the rib.  Coming into the berth, one of our neighbours, Peter, offers to help and I throw him a bow line and ask him to tie it to the end of the pontoon so that we can use it as a spring to keep the boat under control while I tie her off.  We’re in and safe and Maria has the engine off before I have finished tying us off, she has confidence in her man!

We can now inspect the damage over the next few days and fix everything….but first time for a lovely roast dinner.IMG_9684

Limoncello and the Cherry equivalent

When we started this blog, Maria did promise to write some recipes as part of the blog.  Eighteen months later and not a sausage, so to speak!

It is somewhat fitting that the first recipe to go up on the site is for an alcoholic beverage, our homemade limoncello.

In the UK, 95% alcohol is banned, probably because UK teenagers (we were once!) would probably try and drink it neat as some kind of test of bravery!  We bring ours in from Italy, which is allowed, for personal use.  So what do you need:

10 unwaxed lemons

1 litre 95% alcohol

1.5 litres of fresh water

500g granulated sugar

Firstly, peel the unwaxed lemons and keep the peel.  Split the alcohol into two using a couple of litre bottles, preferably with a wide neck, the reason will become clear later.  Put the peel into the bottles equally.  The next part is contentious, (some people don’t do this!) add the juice from the lemons to the alcohol… the peel has enough in it to create the taste but the juice makes it more “lemony”.  limoncelloNow leave it on the side for two weeks shaking and turning it each day.

Two weeks later, it is time to put everything together.  Firstly we need to get our flavoured alcohol out of the bottles and put it to one side for a moment.  We will use these bottles for the limoncello so the peel needs to be emptied too, this is difficult because the peel will have become stiff and it will try and stay in the bottle, hence the wide neck on the bottle so that you can get fingers, chopsticks etc into the bottle to get the peel out!

Put the water into a large pan and bring to the boil, add the sugar and keep simmering until the sugar is dissolved into the water.  Take the pan off the heat and add the flavoured alcohol.  This now needs to be left to cool but first have a taste to check that the mixture is not too bitter. Only a taste kind! If you need to add more sugar then make up a sugary paste with a little boiling water and then mix this into the limoncello.

Once cooled, the limoncello can be put into the two litre bottles with some left over for the alcohol bottle.  The bottles can then be put into the freezer so that it is served cold.  The final product is about 35% alcohol so be aware if you decide to sit down and have a few of them! (for the pedants…that might be you Dad 🙂 …, the lemon juice is what brings the mixture down to 35% from 38%! 🙂 )

Drink away!

This works equally well with oranges but remember they have to be unwaxed.

We are now experimenting with a cherry version where the de-stoned cherry is added to the alcohol.  We will update with how this works and the measures. As you can see from the pictures we used a lot of cherries!

And of course label your bottles up and get ready to drink straight from the freezer.