Living on board – second year report

This feels a little like a school report. Hopefully it won’t say “must try harder” or “Adam would do much better at school if he spent less time looking out of the window watching the boys play football.”

We have now lived on board for two years and have experienced a wide variety of conditions. Having down-sized from a large six bedroom house, we were a little apprehensive about whether the reduced space would work for us. That said, even when we had the big house, when the kids weren’t there, 75% of it remained unused!

So we first moved on board in September 2015 and at the time I was in a role that required a lot of travel. Shortly after moving in, we had a lot of electrical work done (Electrical panel). This couldn’t be done with us on board and so Maria had to move from a 6 bedroom house to a small 3 bedroom apartment (the boat) to a one bedroom motorhome in the space of six weeks.

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She must have wondered what she had done wrong as she sat on an autumn night alone in the motorhome with the wind and rain howling, having inadvertently joined the traveller community. All of this while I was stuck in a posh hotel overlooking the harbour bridge and opera house in the heat of an Australian summer !

It has been said that if you can survive the first winter on the boat, you will be fine, and this is how it proved for us. The wooden pontoons can be lethal when there is ice but the marina provide grit that you can use, if you remember. If you don’t remember, you certainly do next time!  This is particularly a problem when you are wearing work shoes, which always have limited grip it seems, and this generally seems to mean that you perform some kind of duck-like walk in order to negotiate the treacherous pontoon. You can get some spikes that go around your shoes and offer more grip but where is the fun in that? And you know you would forget you had them on and walk on your beautiful teak decks 😦 .

The cold of the winter is not an issue on a modern fully equipped boat although I have lost track of the times I have been told that we must get cold in the winter. On Mariadz, we have reverse cycle air conditioning units, but had an eberspacher diesel heater on our last boat, and with extra electric heaters you can be toasty warm but you do need to keep an eye on your electricity/diesel usage which can result in an eye-watering bill.  It can get worse with a diesel heater if you don’t realise how much fuel you are using and suck the “gunk” from the bottom of the tank and as one liveaboard near us did.  This had the dual effect of killing the diesel heater and requiring a tank clean. Definitely something you don’t need.  The key for us is not to let the cold in and this is helped by our cockpit tent which effectively gives us double glazing at the door.  This insulates us from the outside very effectively, especially as we generally have to leave the companionway open (with a curtain to retain the heat) so that the cats can go for a wander if they want. It was that or another cat flap!  We also have a backdrop, dropping down from the spray hood dividing the cockpit into three rooms, which gives us an entrance hall or porch.  This stops a sharp Northerly wind coming straight into the boat when someone, or a cat, comes in.

Condensation and damp can also be a problem on a boat particularly in the winter when you don’t want to let the cold air in to ventilate the boat. We use a Meaco DD8L Dehumidifier which keeps the boat dry and stops that annoying drip on your head from condensation while you sleep  🙂 The dehumidifier is always in the fore heads, aka cat litter room, which also means this small room works as a clothes drying room when needed. The final piece in the jigsaw happens at bedtime. IMG_1108Who wants to get into a cold, wet-feeling bed? Certainly not Maria, and so we have heated blankets on the bed which are individually controlled on each side. This makes the bed nice and toasty when you get in rather than giving you a cold shock and then requiring a bed-warming wriggle.  Although I may be missing a trick here around the bed-warming wriggle…. The other potential issue can be getting into the bed when the blankets have been on as the cats love a bit of warmth and with the size of Bonnie and Clyde, there sometimes isn’t room for the two of us as well.

As liveaboards, one of the other questions asked of us is how do you survive in such a small space (without throttling each other!). Recognising that Mariadz is quite big by boat standards for a couple, this has not been an issue (yet 😉 ). Like all couples, we will occasionally bicker but it generally doesn’t last long and we genuinely enjoy each other’s company so we were close together even in the house 99% of the time so there isn’t much difference in the smaller space.  One regret is around the size of the galley, Maria and I have traditionally cooked our special meals at the weekend together but it is really only big enough for one at a time.  At least it isn’t like you are locked away in a room somewhere though but you can’t fit in there together.

Entertainment is exactly as before, we have a QuickSAT QS65 Satellite System linked to our sky receiver and so have everything available that we used to have in the house – in fact the reception is better than the tree-blocked reception we used to get!

IMG_1438So despite all of the work on the boat and having to move out, we survived our first winter and then you get your reward because the summer was glorious. I was working locally and around a lot more, so we were able to enjoy lovely, balmy summer evenings on deck, enjoying the view and maybe a small glass of something chilled. Dinner can also be served on deck so you really get downtime in the evening, not even mentioning the difference in a sailing weekend which I have discussed before (Liveaboard vs Weekend sailing).

It was also wonderful when working from home to be able to sit up in the cockpit while you work although it can be a little distracting with the hustle and bustle of a busy marina. The background noise (“is that a seagull I can hear?”) can also be distracting for conference calls so outside working has to be done sparingly.

Of course the fact that we are both still in the U.K. and working, or at least looking for work, means we have to have storage for work clothes as well as our normal wear.  Maria has assured me on numerous occasions that her clothes will “fold down to nothing”, particularly when a “Next” bag turns up or we are out and Maria sees some clothes she likes. :). So clearly we won’t have any problems when we eventually leave.  However right now we also have a lot of work clothes.  At the moment, Maria and I share the available wardrobe and drawer space on Mariadz.  To the uninitiated this means I have one wardrobe (ish…) and Maria has the rest – and some space in our storage area too 🙂 .  Clearly this will all change when we cast off to start our trip and we are both looking forward to that.

We found the second cycle of seasons relatively easy to cope with because we knew what to expect.  In fact the summer has been particularly pleasant with Maria working from home (albeit working very hard) and me either job hunting or doing some maintenance on the boat which will be useful experience for when we start our travels and can’t afford or can’t find other people to do the work. The disadvantage has been that our plans have been delayed a little since I need to earn some money so we can finish everything we need on the boat and Italy as well as having some savings before we go.

So from our perspective, the move to a floating life has been easy and enjoyable and the only thing we really miss from having a house was the ability to have a bath or hot tub.  Again that will be solved when we travel by going to places where the water is warm, and clearly with no sharks around!  In the interim the occasional hotel stay should keep Maria happy.

We also forced this change on our two cats and it has been interesting to see how they have adjusted.  IMG_0716Bonnie and Clyde have always been treated like any other (spoiled!) moggies.  We were told by our first lovely vet that we should allow them to be cats rather than ornaments around the home that never ventured outside.  When we had the house, they would both like to go out a lot and explore.  There was many a night when I would be walking round the village at midnight trying to call quietly to find Bonnie, who was hiding in her usual haunt before trotting happily behind me, following me home.  They have always acted more like dogs than cats!

When we moved to the boat we were happy for them to keep going out despite the risk that they could fall in the marina.  And they have fallen in regularly!  Despite what most people think, cats are very good swimmers and can swim around for ages as long as the water is not too cold. Thankfully, the cats are generally very good at getting themselves out of the water and back onto the pontoon.  To help with this we have cloth covered fenders at water level so that they can climb back up if they fall in near to the boat.  We have had a couple of occasions where they have been further away and have struggled to get out and this has meant some additional fenders being placed strategically around the marina to provide an exit.  So far so good. Although it is quite a sight when you see one of the cats coming onto the boat like a drowned rat with their usually thick fur stuck to their bodies making them look really small. In these situations, the worst is yet to come because we generally take advantage of them being wet already and get them in the shower to clean them up and get them warm.  So they get two soakings if they fall in which doesn’t make them happy.  So unhappy in fact that the only way I can get them into the shower is to carry them in, which means wearing thick protective gear – namely a very thick bathrobe.  Otherwise they would rip me to shreds to try and get out.  The other key is to have the shower quite hot, I used to have it at a normal temperature but found a little warmer is more comfortable for the cats and I can’t feel the difference through the bathrobe anyway.

But apart from the risks of water, the cats have been very happy.  6243751552_IMG_3658In fact the smaller IMG_2966space means that they are closer and more affectionate than when we had a big house.  They also don’t seem to struggle when we are at sea although if the weather isn’t great, they like to be in the cockpit sitting close to us.  All in all though, we think the cats enjoy living on board.

So two years in and still a couple of years before we will be able to leave on our travels.  IMG_6865But the good ship Mariadz is generally a happy place for all crew members all year round.  Long may it continue.

Minor improvements and maintenance that make a difference to living aboard

It’s been a little bit quiet on Mariadz over the last few weeks with a number of the big jobs having been completed during the summer and a few last pieces of stainless steel being finalised. I thought it may be worth highlighting some of the minor changes that we have made on Mariadz to modernise her, fix some issues and make her more comfortable.

The first of these was required because of corrosion on the original taps when we got the Moody. 20171017_124534We needed to replace all of the taps as part of the initial fit out. We decided to go with good quality domestic taps and found ones for the bathroom that had a “water saving” feature, which was as simple as a stop when the tap was half open! Still every little helps. At the same time we changed the plugs to push in which again stopped any problems with lost plugs or disconnected chains. Unfortunately it was only much later that we discovered that these had been fitted without PTFE tape and we unknowingly had a leak from the sink waste which was responsible for some of the water in our bilges. Now corrected, this area is bone dry and doesn’t contribute any more water below the floorboards.

The water saving theme continued with the shower where we found the Ecocamel Orbit Shower Head, which whilst expensive, IMG_6895sucks air into the showerhead to make the best of the water power. We found a noticeable difference when using this compared to a standard shower head. Apparently the water comes out as bubbles which explode on your skin…..if you believe the marketing. 🙂 but it does seem more powerful than the old basic head.

There was more corrosion on the shower door handle and even with our daily use the mechanism was always stiff. Early in 2017, this had got extreme and the metal bar that connects the handles together sheered! IMG_6896In the short term I had to put some string around this area to act as a door handle, potentially a sub-optimal solution to the problem as Maria very clearly and robustly pointed out. The replacement parts are made by Southco and this is an exact match for the broken part. Originally I tried to order these through EC Smith but due to some confusion and despite almost fortnightly reminders, these still hadn’t been ordered three months after my request. In the end I spoke to a very helpful lady at Zycology who had the part I needed in stock and got it to me within a couple of days. Fitting was easy and it was nice for Maria to be able to have a shower without the risk of being locked in there by the broken door mechanism – not much of a risk but it would have been hilarious for a few seconds before I was punished. You have to get your fun where you can.

Moving into the galley, we bought a new mixer tap with an extendable hose. This took a lot of choosing and in the end we bought it from our friend Richard Davonport at Davonport Kitchens. Definitely a quality product although fitting it was difficult with the limitedx room under the sink. We also had some leaks from this but now I know how to tighten up the pipes if they work loose.

In both the galley and heads (shower rooms), we fitted liquid soap holders. 20171017_124514This was another idea we loved from the Moody 49 Mornin’ Gorgeous and I am sure they didn’t mind us stealing it. These are wall mounted and you often see them in pubs and clubs. It means that soap is always available, even when healed, with no soap bars lying in wait on the floor for the unsuspecting to fall over.

We, of course, had to make some changes to the boat to make it cat friendly. I remember Milton Jones, the comedian, telling all cat owners that their homes stink. Hopefully Mariadz isn’t too bad for this. We tried to reduce the cat smell by putting the cat litter in the shower cubicle of the forward heads. This is great but of course the cats are going to struggle to open the shower door to do their business, although I’m sure Maria would love to try and teach Clyde to do this. To overcome the door problem, we fitted a cat flap in the shower. This means that the shower will still work like normal (if the cat litter is removed) but also means that the smell is mostly contained. We do however immediately clear the box if it is used for “number 2s”! We still don’t understand how such a foul smell can come out of such a pretty cat. The last part of this was to allow permanent cat access to the forward heads which was achieved by adding a retaining hook to hold the door open a few inches. This gives the cats access but as an added bonus ventilates the room which could get stale if left closed for a long time.

I have mentioned before that the boat hadn’t been looked after for some time before our ownership and so corrosion both inside and outside has been a major problem. img_6788There are numerous blogs on how this has been addressed, particularly on the outside but in the forepeak we have some cupboards with retaining catches. These were either broken or extremely rusted. It was difficult finding where to source these. Our Moody was internally fitted out out by Princess Yachts and having found the shower handle at surmised that other parts may have come from the same manufacturer. They also had the catches. This items were supplied by EC smith from stock. They arrived quickly and I set about fitting them. How difficult can it be to remove one and replace it with a new one…. one of the things I have discovered on boats is that even the simple ten minute jobs can bite you and this was no different. IMG_6897The catches were very different although they did the same thing, in fact the Southco catches are very professional and robust, looking a much more quality part than the original. With these catches, the mechanism fits on the door and there is a bar that it hooks onto on the frame. The bar on the Moody is angled because of the angle of the curved door and the one supplied is a right angle. Hmmm. Let’s just see how they fit together. Reading the instructions, it is clear that the catch is designed for a 90 degree door to frame angle. By trial and error, I work out that the right angled bar is just too long because of the extra angle of our cupboards. If I can file down the protruding part it will still hold the mechanism but when the catch is opened it will clear the bar and the cupboard will open. I discovered this the hard way by closing the cupboard and then being unable to open it, fortunately I had only put a retaining screw in and so I could shift the bar to the side to free up the cupboard. Otherwise, it may have been a case of “sorry dear, I crow-barred the door of the cupboard to get at the contents”. Boat jobs have a habit of catching you out like that. Fortunately, our friends on Valentine had an angle grinder I could use to file down the six retaining bars, otherwise I would have been hand filing the stainless – that would have been fun! With the bars down to half of their size, I fitted them again, and after getting the offsets right on the door and frame, it worked perfectly. Putting on the other five will be a proverbial piece of cake….of course not 😦 . Some of the screws wee so rusted that the screw dissolved when I tried to unscrew them. Fortunately, after much very careful effort, I was able to get all of the old bars off and throw away the rusty screws. Fitting was fine, with some minor adjustments needed to make sure that each catch fitted how it should. And we were done, a ten minute job had taken a shade over two hours! No surprises there then.

I think that brings us pretty much up to date and hopefully gives some suggestions for others.

Rig check and immediate fixes

It is our intention to be insured while we are travelling around the world. However, nearly all insurers require that the rig is replaced every ten years and the rig on Mariadz was last done in 2010.  So we have agreed to get the rig refreshed as one of the last tasks we do prior to leaving.

At the Southampton boat show back in 2015, I had spoken to a rigging company about doing this work.  They claimed to have re-rigged a Moody 54 previously and were able to give me a quote….and it was eye-wateringly expensive.  It made me realise that 10% or 20% off an already inflated price was no bargain! I was also not convinced that I wanted to go to the South Coast to get it done anyway and this helped with the decision.

On the East coast of the UK, there was a rigging company with a good reputation called Rig Magic but they apparently stopped trading late in 2016 and so we needed another alternative.  I spoke to a number of people in the marina at Ipswich Haven and also spoke to the team at Spirit Yachts.  They introduced me to Richard at Evolution Rigging who at the time had rigged several quality yachts in Ipswich and also rigged Spirit Yachts and Oysters!  Maria has always had a view that if something is good enough for Spirit and Oyster then it would be good enough for us!  I was always a bit fearful of the costs of this approach but it has worked out well for us in the past.

I spoke to Richard about our rig and he explained some of the things we would need to consider, ably demonstrating his helpfulness and knowledge.  He also came back with a quote which was much more reasonable than the over-inflated boat show price from one of his competitors.  As part of his offer, he mentioned that there was also an upgrade available that would be 30% stronger than the standard rig for the same weight and size of wire.  This would cost an extra 20% on the quote but would give us more piece of mind.  Can you imagine not going for this option and then losing the rig at some stage!  It was a no-brainer for us.

As a first step he suggested for some of his team to perform a complete rig 20170824_111656check, even though we know we will be replacing it in the next year or so.  This would make sure we were safe in the interim.  At the back end of August, this was performed and as expected a few things came up which need rectification but nothing that was a safety issue (so lots of amber and no reds).  The check was very thorough and the written report backed up that we were safe enough for the moment and also identified some of the changes that they would recommend when we go for the full refit.

The other benefit we had here was watching the guys go up the mast.  You can learn a lot from someone who goes up the mast as their day job.  We noticed that the team didn’t lock off the line in the self-tailer but used the electric winch to help with the pull while pulling the line by hand.  This made the process less jerky and uncomfortable for the person in the chair.  A top tip for us, probably adding more comfort for me!

The deck organisers that help run the lines back to the cockpit were an issue.  These had all jammed which caused friction in the use of these lines.  We had noticed that the weren’t running as easy as usual but hadn’t linked this to the deck organisers.  Using Corrosion-X , I was able to unjam these, deck organiseralthough I did also need to take the headlining down in the saloon to access the bolts under the organiser, some of which were on a bit tight.  Having freed these, it did make me think that we have more work to do with the rig and we will discuss replacing the clutches and organisers as part of the rig refresh over the next few years.  There were also a number of other easy fixes i could do myself such as tightening up the lines across the gates.  That was also being redone as we extended our pushpit.

We had also noticed that the block for the staysail outhaul was UV damaged and the plastic cover was shattering although the weight bearing metal elements of the block were still ok.  We decided to replace the obsolete Lewmar 72mm ocean block with an upgraded block from the current range and after speaking to Lewmar this was the HLX block.  These are stronger than the old ocean range and I was told to go down a size but, of course, this didn’t work for me because the attachment to the traveller track was 10mm rather than 8mm so I have gone back to the 72mm block which increases the safety margin even more.  At the end of the day, I took the decision to change this and if, after consultation with the rig team, it was decided to upgrade this even further then we have a spare block available.

I have now gone throughout the entire rig, checking all blocks and using corrosion-X to free up any stiffness in the block.  It was surprising how many were seized but also how easy they are to free.  This work included the stanchion blocks that run the headsail and staysail furler lines.  Interestingly, this seemed to have an immediate effect, in conjunction with lubricating the furler itself, and I have found these sails a lot easier to furl since doing this work.

So we now have confidence in our rig and a high level plan for its replacement which we need to finalise with Richard.  I believe as part of this we will replace all of the blocks that we have in the rig.  We also addressed a few things that will help to make it better in the short term and the thorough rig check was not expensive.

Late summer trip to the Burnham Carnival

It has been a tradition that Mariadz goes to Burnham-on-Crouch for the carnival late in September.  This coincides with a meeting of fellow Moody owners so an opportunity to catch up with friends. The marina also have a marque setup with lunch and a live band, Street Life, who we were lucky to have play at our wedding back in 2010 and we consider them to be friends.  This also seems to be a traditional place where we meet new friends.  We are invariably at the entrance to the marina and this seems to be a spot where you are seen.  This has resulted in many good friendships being formed including Amanda and Mark when they first collected their yacht Serenity, Stig on Wild Dream 2 who seems to share the tradition of visiting Burnham for carnival and Martine who had a beautiful Hardy, called Kismet.  Lots of reasons to head down the coast and into the Crouch then.

Maria and I decided we would get down to Burnham nice and early and have a few days there.  With the communications setup we have with the boat wifi extender, a mifi and now an aerial booster for the mifi, we are always connected and Maria could continue to work as usual while I guided the boat.  The journey to Burnham on Crouch from Ipswich is about 45 miles and it is ten miles to get to Landguard which is a cardinal buoy that we consider as the start of all of our routes.  Maria was very keen to get to Burnham early in the day so that Mariadz (rather than Maria) could be tied up for the afternoon. Unfortunately this meant that the tides in the Wallet wouldn’t be ideal, and neither was the wind.  It would also mean going across the shallow Spitway at Gunfleet on or around low tide.  Mariadz is more than capable of handling the weather although it would mean that we would probably be a little slower than our usual passage planning speed of seven knots and we would be especially careful at the shallow sections.  In order to offset this we decided to leave the night before and pick up a mooring buoy near the bottom of the Orwell which would gain us an hour.  A nice early start the next day and all would be fine…..

The provisions were on board and we were pretty much ready to go but it is getting later.  IMG_3795Maria gently pulled Mariadz out of her berth to head towards the lock and Mark from Motion took a pic for us.  Shortly after the picture was taken we noticed that the satellite dish was still up, just ahead of the mast!  Better get that in before we go too far down the river!

The trip down the river is uneventful with few craft on the river and within the hour we are approaching the mooring buoys but with a strong southerly wind in our faces.  We discuss the approach and think that the wind is going to be stronger than the tide so to approach into the wind so that Maria can stop Mariadz easily.  After a couple of failed attempts to pick up the buoy Maria suggests we approach from the other side.  The buoys opposite Suffolk Yacht Harbour have a thick loop of rope and one of these had another thin long line attached to it, I assume to help with picking it up. That restricts the use of the bow thruster then, we don’t want a rope getting caught in there.  I have our stainless extendable boat hook and I get a good grip of the line for the buoy, unfortunately the hook then decides to detach itself from the pole.  It is ok though since it is still caught up in the thick line on the buoy.  Go and get the other boat hook while Maria spins Mariadz round, pick up the line, grab the old hook, thread the line and we are all good!  Maria does her part perfectly and has the buoy perfectly mid-ships where I can reach it.  I start to lift the buoy and the hook is coming up and just as I reach out to grab it, it drops off and into the Orwell where it joins an identical complete stainless steel boat hook that we dropped there a few years ago!  Oh well, another replacement hook required.  Still I thread the line and tie us close to the buoy.  Maria is a little concerned since we are lying quite close to the next buoy which has a catamaran on it but I agree that I will check it at the change of tide a bit later in the evening.  In the end we remain far enough away from the catamaran despite the slightly different swing characteristics compared to Mariadz.  It is a breezy evening but the next day is clear although we didn’t get started too early, no surprise there.  Based on our later departure time, we are likely to reach the spitway shortly after low tide so at least we will be on a rising tide if we do find it too shallow. It’s 9am by the time we reach the Languard buoy, and we head towards Medusa while being on lobster pot lookout (this area is notorious for badly marked pots and fishing nets strewn across the channel). 6176650768_IMG_4267Progress is slow and there are very few other boats out.  We are 6176650768_IMG_4271against tide and wind and we travel down the wallet quite slowly (for us).  I’m not too worried since we will arrive at the Spitway at the bottom of Gunfleet sands after low tide as expected and it does give us a chance to get some good shots of boats coming the other way with the wind and tide.

I have also had the opportunity to tidy our fenders on this trip and eight of them fit perfectly on the two mast pulpits (granny bars).  Martin, our yachtmaster and friend, would be proud that we hadnt left them on the deck!

We arrive at the top of the Spitway which is marked with a single buoy and a corresponding buoy at the other end.  When we have no fears over water levels we will quite often cut the corner between the buoy and Gunfleet sands where the water is quite deep.  This saves a bit of time and I have never had any shallow water issues but at this state of tide we are going to take the text book route.  We are lined up and I am behind the wheel, unusually, but this will allow me to take over from the autopilot quickly if we have an issue.  The water is smooth, which is helpful. At least I won’t need to consider the wave height when thinking of the depth of water but it is getting shallower.

Our depth instruments are set to actual depth of water rather than water under the keel.  This means that the alarm goes off at three metres depth (over a metre under the keel)rather than nearly five metres which it would be if it was tuned to depth under the keel, and at five metres the alarm would always be going off on the East Coast.  We have barely started the passage across the Spitway and the alarm goes off for three metres depth and the depth is still going down.  It is now in the low twos for a long time but as we approach the middle of the Spitway the level goes below two metres.  Mariadz is a shaol keel which means she only draws 1.8M, although she will draw the same if she is heeled.  When calibrating the depth I had also added 20cm safety margin but when I see the depth touch 1.8M I am getting a little concerned.  I recheck and we are directly between the buoys but this is less water than I was expecting.  Fortunately this doesn’t last for long and soon the depth is increasing as we exit the Spitway.  I am now wondering whether my usual “short-cut” route might actually be preferable and deeper.  Certainly something to check the next time we go through.

We turn and head towards the River Crouch, going between the mud banks at it’s entrance.  The River Crouch seems very long when it starts at the mud and it is not the most picturesque river but the advantage is 6176650768_IMG_4298the opportunity to see seals bathing on the mud. Today there are relatively few, we have seen nearly a hundred before but there was a nice group gathered for a coffee morning and chat.  Soon after this we see an ocean rowing boat.  We later discover that this is team Kung Fu Cha Cha who are intending to be the only Chinese team in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic 6241720160_IMG_4290Challenge this year.  They seemed to be doing pretty well on their warm up run up the crouch and the AIS track showed good speed :).  We will definitely be following this team in the upcoming race.

There is quite a stiff breeze as we go up the river and we have put some sail out to provide better balance and a little extra speed.  We see some other boats coming the other way,

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as we negotiate the northern channel into the crouch adjacent to Buxey sands and everyone is exchanging friendly waves.

The cats are their normal relaxed selves, sitting in the cockpit being chilled as we motorsail in.

The wind is now blowing quite hard from the South and we start to think about the approach to Burnham.  We intend to get the sails away before we get amongst the moorings at Burnham where the channel thins out which will give me lots of time to get the lines and fenders sorted out.  It is now lunchtime and I call into the marina using the phone, we are too far away for the radio.  Bruce answers and explains that the minor issue he had with a boat in our booked berth has been overcome and we are clear to take the hammerhead.  Maria and I then discuss our approach.  We are only a little after low tide and so there are shallow elements near the entrance of Burnham 6174626816_IMG_4323and we will need to be careful, no cutting the corners today!  Maria realises that she will have to come in and as she passes between the entrance poles, she will have to turn hard to starboard and then let the wind push Mariadz onto the pontoon controlling her with the bow thruster and using the engine to line her up with the hammerhead.  Maria is a little apprehensive in the twenty knot wind but she handles the boat well and I am confident that we will do fine if we communicate well.  On the final approach into the marina, the water is shallow and the alarm goes off.  For one second we are thinking we may run into the mud at the entrance and be stuck for some time waiting to be floated off by the tide – you know every man and his dog would have chosen that time to come into the marina – and you don’t want to be the gnome greeting everyone at the entrance!  There are no such concerns as Maria negotiates the last of the approach and puts the wheel hard to starboard before starting to take the speed off the boat.  A bit of straightening up with the bow thruster and minor adjustment to line up with the hammerhead and we drift gently into position.  I step off and we are tied quite quickly.  A little after lunchtime but Maria gets her afternoon moored or tied up….lucky girl.

6176650768_IMG_4308The E/F pontoon hammerhead is our usual and favoured berth at Burnham but the pontoon feels shorter than we remember, we are therefore overhanging on both sides so we will need to think carefully about how we tie up.  I catch up with Bruce who explains that another similar sized boat will come in the next day and could we make this easier by moving forward when they come in before returning to our normal position afterwards.  We absolutely understand the issues with manoeuvring in the tight spaces and we offer to give them a hand when they arrive.  Our friend Lisa has also come to stay for the weekend so the cats will get spoilt too.

Friday is a normal working day for Maria and, after job hunting an opportunity for me to get the boat cleaned up, we like her to look her best :).6176650768_IMG_4311  This takes several hours but by the end of it Mariadz is looking beautiful for all of ten minutes! This is an issue at Burnham.  The marina is very nice, we have met some great people there and the carnival weekend is always excellent but there is an issue with birds – not Essex girls but Hitchcock level birds.  They look lovely as they fly around and at one stage we saw thirty starlings on the spreaders and standing rigging of one boat which made it look like a Christmas tree.  6176650768_IMG_4313However, these birds seem to eat a lot of red and black berries… shortly after I have finished the deck, it looks like Prince’s mythical Purple Rain has happened.  I have cleaned the windows and I am not doing that again, so we will put up with it until the end of the weekend when I clean Mariadz down after our journey.

Bruce returns to tell us that a 50ft ketch, Sweet Surrender, will be with us in the next thirty minutes.  I set about moving Mariadz using the lines and the wind to push her forward.  It won’t be that easy to get her back, we will need the engine, but I am able to move her forward without disturbing the girls, or the cats!  Sweet Surrender arrives and John, the skipper, has her perform a flawless pirouette before putting her gently on the end of the long pontoon next to us.  6174626816_IMG_4328I am there to take lines if needed but she comes to lie so gently against the pontoon that we have all day to get her tied off.  Maria can then start the engine of Mariadz and we can put her back to her old position with stern coming out as far as the boats on the long pontoon and the bow slightly overhanging the next entrance.  We have a nice chat and later a few drinks with the crew of Sweet Surrender before coming back to Mariadz for a gorgeous home made fish pie, prepared by Maria but with top quality ingredients sourced (or sauced) by Adam.  It’s going to be a long weekend so an early night is called for but not before Maria asks whether I can get the satellite dish setup so she can record some programmes over the weekend.  Now in a domestic setup, a clever engineer, works out where to point the dish when the system is setup and you never need to think about it. On a boat or motorhome, every time you move you need to reposition the dish, and in a boat you need to make sure you are tied well or the dish will move and lose the signal.  On one of our trips to a motorhome show, Maria had decided to get rid of the old standard dish and replaced it with a QuickSAT QS65 Portable Satellite System which doesn’t have an arm that can be broken. It also comes with everything you need to align the satellite…well, a mat, a rudimentary compass and a clever device to get the angle right – who needs a spirit level when you have that! At our home base in Ipswich, I know pretty much where to point the dish and generally get it set up well but I have not had such luck on our travels.  Burnham is quite easy to work out as the river goes east-west and we are on the north bank, so I put down the mat and roughly align the dish while I go to get the compass etc.  Before I get back I have a signal on the sky box! Excellent, now Maria can record X-factor…. 😉

Saturday is the major day of the Burnham weekend.  It starts with the Tucker Brown cup, followed by the meal and great music from Street Life and the end of the day is the carnival itself with a funfair on the walk back to the marina.  A busy day! We were asked if we fancied joining the race down the river but on this occasion we decline, I’m not sure if there is a handicap for having extra crew and Bonnie and Clyde aren’t really up for it.  There also isn’t much wind and definitely not enough to get Mariadz moving well. Apparently running the engine, even in stealth mode with our dry exhaust would be frowned upon :).  However, we are in a good position to take photos as they go past the Marina although the sun is a little bit of an issue, we are not going to complain.

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We also get a chance to support a lovely Hallberg Rassy 352, with its crew of four including two cats.  Unfortunately, the cats aren’t able to make the difference and they don’t win it this year!  With the race finished the lunchtime entertainment is due to begin and the Moody Owners have reserved some tables so we can all sit together.  These are near the food and bar and furthest away from the band.  We have seen Street Life a number of times and booked them for the evening entertainment for our wedding.  They are great with a mixture of old and new music.  If you haven’t seen them, I often describe them as like the band from The Commitments film but without the obnoxious lead singer character, we love them to bits and always have a good time when they are playing.  It also helps that Cliff is a keen sailor with his boat “Lusty Wench” (What a great name 🙂 ).  The food is great, the drinks are flowing and we are spending time with old friends and new.  I even finally got Maria up to dance towards the end.  As the place clears there is an invite to a Moody Owners get together on a Jeanneau NC11 motorboat, not a Moody and not a yacht but we won’t hold that against them. It actually looks really nice and the thirty odd people seem to fit on it, although she does look like she is on the plane with all the weight in the stern.  A couple more drinks and some nibbles before we head back to Mariadz to prepare for the evening’s entertainment.  Most of this preparation seems to be inviting people on board and more drinking and chatting. Oh well 🙂

To be fair we missed most of the carnival, unusual for us, and then met up with other friends in one of the pubs before getting home late and rather drunk.  Everyone seemed to have a good time and a very enjoyable taxi ride home – one to ask us about when you see us!

On Sunday we are due to return home.  One of the reasons that the event this year was a little less well attended than usual was the weather prediction for Sunday and the rest of the week.  Strong winds being expected from the South although this should work to our advantage and push us home nicely.  It also combines perfectly with the tides with a not too early departure.  That was a stroke of luck! However, in the morning we are not quick to rise and it is 10am before we have seen Lisa off and have the boat ready.  6176654608_IMG_4362Just before we go there is a little excitement as one of the ocean rowing teams, not our Chinese friends, is brought in by the RNLI. There is a little concern at how bad it is out there but Mariadz can take it so hopefully we wont be needing the RNLI services later.

There is a 20knot southerly wind pushing us onto the pontoon and Maria is a little 6174626816_IMG_4344concerned that this may push us onto the bowsprit of Sweet Surrender but we have agreed to spring off from the bow which take us away at 30 degrees from the pontoon.  All the fenders are in place and we have a little help from our new friends. This was a little fortunate as I hadn’t moved the bow spring far enough back onto the pontoon but we were able to pause the manoeuvre, move the line and start again.  We come off fine so although not exactly text book, everything is good.  Maria then takes Mariadz astern and with a hard starboard turn we are through the exit and into the river.  This gives me the opportunity to stow the fenders on the mast pulpits (granny bars) again.  Unfortunately our departure coincides with a yacht race down the Crouch so Maria slows down and we follow the race down river.  There is some minor concern as the racers approach their turn and we momentarily think that the course may return directly back down the river and straight at us but they pass on our port side presenting some good photo opportunities.

After this excitement, the river is very quiet today which is something we quite often find.  There have been any number of occasions when we have looked at each other and realised that we are the only “mugs” out here!  We always keep a watch out on channel 16 when on passage and at 11am we heard a new weather warning.  Having swapped to the correct channel we hear that there are gale force winds expected “soon” which is maritime speak for the next six to twelve hours.  This means it could be when we are out there.  This wouldn’t be the first time that we have experienced force 8/9 winds since we had this experience returning from Dunkirk (The return from Dunkirk (part 2 of 3) – pan pan).  This would be our first time in Mariadz as a Moody though.  So we will need to be careful.  Originally, the expectation with a good breeze behind us was that we would fly up the wallet (lucky we have that spoiler on the back now!).  The reality was that the wind was variable and gusty with one minute there being 10 knots of wind and the next 35 knots of wind.  We decided that we would be taking no risks and started off sailing with half the main, the staysail and a third of the yankee headsail out.  6176654608_IMG_4377As we came out of the Crouch we saw the only other sailing boat that we would see all day coming back in under ominous black clouds.  At this stage, even with much reduced sail, we are flying along at 8.5knots with the wind on the beam.  Soon we will be turning towards the Wallet and over the Spitway, which this time has lots of water over it.  As we turn, I take advantage of the change in the wind angle to take in the headsail, the other two are easy to get in if we need to and those clouds could be accompanied by even more wind.  To be fair the reduced sail didn’t harm our speed much and we still bumbled along at a good seven knots for the whole journey but it gave us piece of mind.  First though the Wallet, which is affectionately called “vomit alley” was incredibly rolly, with waves going across our beam but at least the tide and wind were in the same direction.

It is much worse when they are against each other although Mariadz is big enough to plough through these rather than bouncing up and down like Captain Pugwash’s Black Pig.  However, it is a little rolly which with a couple of hangovers isn’t ideal.

We have travelled up the Wallet quite a few times and when you have a following wind, there can be a problem as you turn to port into Medusa to head toward Felixstowe.  The wind changes from being behind you, to be on your beam and what seemed like a gentle breeze can seem much worse and make the boat heel a lot.  We are always very careful before making this turn.  On this occasion there is enough south in the wind for it to remain astern of us and so we just needed to control the gybe as the wind passes from one side of the boat to the other.  We always use a gybe preventer whenever the wind is behind and this can also help us to control the main when we turn so the manoeuvre is quite smooth.  After completing the turn we seem to be sailing very nicely at exactly the same speed as the waves, it is smooth and not rolling at all while we still travel at seven knots. We still haven’t seen another boat since we left the Crouch!  It seems no time at all till we are at Landguard and into very familiar waters.  We decide to keep sailing up the Orwell because the wind should be perfect.  Actually, it is even more variable as we are intermittently shielded from the wind by trees and hills on the shore.  It is now late Sunday afternoon on the Orwell and the river is 6176654608_IMG_4380completely empty, there must have been real concerns over the weather because normally the river is busy at this time.  We head up but lose a bit of time because of the variability of the wind, we are not too bothered and by this time Maria has put the roast dinner in the oven so it will be ready when we arrive in Ipswich.

Despite there being twenty knots of wind Maria gets Mariadz into the lock perfectly even when we had to move her forwards because another boat is approaching (where did he come from !!).  It is then through the lock and into the wind for a bows-to mooring in our berth which goes seamlessly.

Thirty minutes after being tied up, dinner is on the table!

We’ve caught up with our friends and made some new ones, the sailing has been great and Mariadz has performed perfectly.  All round great weekend!