Replacing sockets

We had a lot of electrical work done a few years ago and as part of this we had some extra 240v sockets added in useful places with usb sockets included. The vast amount of devices that are now chargeable by usb seemed to make this a sensible change.

Unfortunately this year one of the usb units had failed and of course it is the one we use the most. 20180422_205400The double socket is a standard model from screwfix but while I wait to source a suitable replacement, it seemed sensible to swap the broken socket for a functional one that we don’t use. This was done on a Sunday and flush with the success of having fixed the windlass remote I switched off the sockets on the board and set about unscrewing the ten screws to swap them over. Half way through this Maria has dished dinner and rather than letting it go cold, I stopped what I was doing. We thought we would watch something on the tv that we had recorded on sky… better switch the sockets on to do that!

No prizes for guessing the idiot next step. Having eaten my gorgeous dinner, I picked up the screwdriver and went to finish the job without remembering to switch off the sockets again. Earth and neutral were fine but as I touched the live there was a loud bang and lots of sparks. Fortunately, the screwdriver was insulated and so I didn’t personally try to conduct the electricity but it was a stupid mistake. Of course all of the trips have gone so I need to reset the power which includes a breaker next to the inverter charger, two shorepower breakers in the lazarette and the shore power itself on the pontoon. It takes some time to remember all the potential breakers that may have gone but eventually the power comes back on. I leave the sockets off so that I can finish the job, hoping that I haven’t damaged anything. After screwing everything together, I can safely switch the sockets back on. I test the two sockets I have swapped and the original faulty one is working but the one I was working on that banged has no power. Maria then notices that another one in the same area is also not working. This is also true for the sockets in the aft cabin but the ones in the galley are working fine. Hmm, that is weird. We seem to have only one 240v circuit so how come half of the sockets no longer work? I spoke to a friend of ours, James on Valentine, who suggested that the short circuit caused by my screwdriver may have caused a problem with one of the sockets and any that are “downstream” of it.  Apparently, this is common in older houses where one of the wires downstream effectively acts as a fuse and breaks but how do you find the break? Hopefully it would be into one of the sockets that isn’t working. I decide to start where the problem first occurred, by undoing and reseating the live wire (having switched off the sockets first of course). This had been blackened and I wondered if this was causing a poor connection so I set about cleaning it up and reseating it. By luck rather than good judgement this resolved the problem and all of the sockets were then working. I still have to do the job properly, which will include stripping the wire back a little but that needs to wait for the replacement sockets.  Next time, of course, I won’t forget lesson number one: double check that the power is off!

Anchoring issues – fixing the windlass remote

When we bought Mariadz, the anchor windlass had only just been replaced and we laughingly have suggested that this was the only thing that actually worked properly when we got her. So it was with some dismay, that on our first weekend of the 2018 season, we tried to deploy the anchor and got nothing.  Fortunately this was immediately traced to the remote as we were able to control the windlass from the now working button on the steering console in the cockpit. However, this would need to be sorted.

Having checked the remote control unit it was clear that one of the pins had broken within the connector, having corroded badly. It wasn’t repairable and actually the buttons on the old controller had started to fail as well as the labelling. Time for a replacement then.

Originally we had a Quick remote control and this seems to have done well so we decided to implement a like for like replacement. The new one has a slightly updated design, and also had the option of a torch, but the rest looked very similar. 20180429_163339We decided on the two button control with lamp But as you can see they sent us the six button instead.

I decided I wanted to resolve this issue without the help of my friends, whether fellow boat owners or professionals. At least until I had messed it up, anyway!

The first stage was understanding how the old control unit, itself an eight button, was wired in. Only two buttons worked and on investigation there were three wires required to make this happen.  Thankfully, on checking the manual, it appears that the colour of the wires hasn’t changed since this had been fitted so that would make it easier. I decided to do the same, with the slight added complexity of adding in the two extra wires required to support the torch functionality. In retrospect I am thinking that it would be good to connect all of the buttons to the windlass so that if there is a problem within the remote, I have an alternative. I may go back and do that!

The female end of the connector for 20180429_163441the remote is mounted on a stainless steel bracket (top right of the picture) and of course the design of this has changed which meant I needed to redrill holes into the plate for the new female connector. The wire then goes around the aft part of the anchor locker to the control box. Having crimped each of the wires and having learnt my lesson from the recent stereo replacement, we were soon ready to go. 20180429_163451I am connected up and so go back into the boat to switch on the power. Silence so at least I haven’t done anything stupid! I go to the steering console, let’s make sure that I haven’t broken anything, it works. That’s a good start, at the very least it isn’t worse than when I began. I plug in the remote and go for the buttons. The windlass springs into life and works as expected. I have wired the power for the light to the incoming live but wasn’t sure which negative to use so I test it and that works. I am now feeling very smug as I replace the cover for the box, cable tie the wire for the remote and finally fit the cradle for the remote to the wall of the anchor locker.

One more test…..of course it still works! How many times have you put everything back together after it has been tested and it suddenly stops working. Final test at the steering console and no problems there either.  We have a fix.

However, my smugness is short lived after I start the next simple job.



Track 2- Getting the music right

Those that are familiar with our journey will know that music is important to us. One of the first things we did when we got both of our boats was install new stereo systems with Bluetooth, to access music on phones, and a remote control to allow us to control the stereo from anywhere on the boat. Having installed the same head unit, a Sony, on both boats we have been happy with what we have – Music.

So it was disappointing to find that after four years intermittent use, the stereo was resetting itself every five minutes or so.

That has to be sorted. So off to Halfords and look at the stereos…. we’re looking for one with Bluetooth and a remote control, preferably a Sony, a good name and the same as we had. “Nah, none of those sony’s come with a remote control”. Ah, back to the drawing board.

Maria and I go back to the internet, what stereos come with a remote control and the answer is……none of the quality makes but a number of random makes you have never heard of have them.  There has to be a reason. And there is. You don’t need a remote anymore because remotes are so last year, this year is the year of the app. Sony, and other manufacturers, do an app that controls the stereo. Now in a car setting that sounds even worse, i can imagine the random passenger in the back that now has complete control of my stereo, including the volume, without my knowledge! Can you imagine the horror of Amanda Jane Furber having access to this technology!!! Dancing Queen from ABBA at top volume, and nothing you can do! 🙂 obviously one thing you can do, “I’m sorry officer, I had to drive off the cliff to stop the music…..thank you for saving me.” And you know, the stereo would have moved on to Waterloo!

Anyway, having established that a remote is no longer required, we return to Halfords to choose a suitable stereo. Stereo selected, a Sony MEX-N6002BD Stereo, we are off home and my job is to fit it.

That is a five minute job…….

Of course the first task is to remove the old stereo which is obviously made very easy by the two metal keys that are apparentlyinserted in either side to pull the old one out. Simple. Remove the plastic surround by pulling hard, with. Little inward pressure and the access slots are revealed. Insert one of the keys and then the other, pull them out together and hey presto.

You have two keys in your hands and a stereo looking at you saying “what?”.

Ok, carefully ease the left key in, hear a click. Same with the right. Ah, now I know what I did wrong. Most importantly pull very gently and together. Easy…. Easy….. you have two keys in your hands and a stereo sit sat in place looking at you saying “what?”. Repeat for at least twenty minutes.

My new stereo is not even out of the box yet, I’m not having that! In these situations the internet is your friend. So let’s spend half an hour watching random videos of Eastern Europeans with broken English, explaining how you can also do this using two large chopping knives before you lose patience.

The problem is that the chassis that holds the stereo, has some side panels that spring in and hold the stereo in place by catching it. This stops it coming out in normal use. So let’s get in there with a flat had screwdriver and lever the smug {expletive deleted} out! That works perfectly 🙂 time for a victory dance!

Then we can pull out the aerial plug and the plug for the power and speakers so we can get the old one out. Get the new one, plug in and job’s a goodun! The aerial connection is fine but even though the functions of power and speakers are exactly the same from the same manufacturer, it’s a different plug! Thank you, sony.

Now the plug has two sets of cables with big black plugs on the end, one for the power and one for the speaker system. I imagine, in a car, these plug into the stereo harness – if you are lucky. On a boat, no chance. However, the advantage of buying the same manufacturer is surely they haven’t changed the colours of the speaker cables over time……. Writing this has made me realise that I haven’t checked that the speakers are connected to the right cables, but surely not..please….. that may be a later blog!

I recall that when we fitted this stereo, we had the same problem and removed the blocks and replaced them with spade connectors for each wire ensuring that there was a good connection with each cable. So I need to do the same for the new setup. Cue 24 hour delay as I go to my toolbox and find all I appear to have left are the female end of these connectors!

The next day, I have acquired more than enough spade connectors, I have been here before. I have my useless crimping tool from the toolbox and I get to work. Firstly, the wire stripper on my tool doesn’t work so I will be doing this the old fashioned away. Fourteen wires later, I have a harness with spade connectors and I’m ready to go.

I decide to swap the harnesses one wire at a time by disconnecting one wire from the old and plugging the same colour in from the new.  This looks like spaghetti junction in no time and I am sure I inadvertently do it the wrong way round a couple of times as I get confused. But it is all done soon enough and the old harness drops to the chart table as I disconnect the last wire. What could be simpler, plug it all in, leave the stereo half in the hole just in case and off we go! So plug it all in, power on – excellent, tune the radio and I have stations so the aerial is working ok – excellent :). I also have sound, excellent 🙂 🙂 …..from one speaker, not so excellent! 😦 pull everything out and disconnect. One of the speaker wires has come out of its spade connector. Surely that wouldn’t cause such a big problem but repaired I try again – no difference. Take another look, push in the spade connectors a bit more, put it together again and……nothing at all. Not even power. The power lead has come out of the connector but pushing it back in solves that problem, but still sound is an issue.

At this stage, your mind plays tricks on you. Clearly there could be nothing wrong with my work so maybe as I have pulled the wires to connect them, I have pulled something out further behind the stereo. Better check the old one stick works. Go through the one wire at a time swap to the old harness and plug in the old stereo. Of course the sound is crystal clear on all speakers! Guilty as charged 😦 So let’s take a look at my harness. I decide that I haven’t stripped back the wires enough and so redo them all with new spade connectors. I am particularly careful to make sure that none of these puppies are getting disconnected!  The painstaking swap of the harnesses is working fine and we have a successful retest 🙂

Now we all know what happens next. You put the stereo back in the hole properly, fit the fascia surround, switch on the stereo and nothing!

But not today.

11F187A6-2891-4223-8AD7-82E20754EB3CThis stereo has dual Bluetooth connections which allows you to have one as a source for music and another as a remote control using the songpal, or Sony music centre, app.  Installing this and you have full control of the stereo from anywhere on the boat, and off it. Absolutely perfect for a marine setting. Now to get somewhere where we can play our music loud!

A final thought, there are people out there who wonder why I don’t do everything myself! When something this simple takes this long, maybe there is justification…. nah, I enjoyed it and every day is a school day, I have learned some useful things through the experience.

Maria goes fishing and actually catches something!

So on the back of our first weekend, the weather held on and we decided that another jaunt down river would be the perfect way to recover from a hard week of work.  Maria was working from home on the Friday and was able to get the boat prepped and I finished early so that I could get home and we could get on our way in time to spend a couple of nights on anchor before returning in perfect wind conditions early on Sunday. In fact for mos of the weekend, the wind is blowing up to 20knots from the South. Not a concern for us at anchor or when we are sailing, we have done both in much worse than that.

The anchoring would require the hand signal approach we had developed previously since, although I had acquired the replacement remote for the windlass, I would not risk fitting it while the anchor was down in case I did something to stop the other control or windlass from working.  That would be bad so I will fit it when we have a little time in harbour. That way if I mess it up, I can get it sorted without having to come up with a way of raising the anchor by hand (or winch)

Our plan worked well to start off. Maria had done well to get the boat ready, got bait from the fishing tackle shop and collected me from the station to save us another ten minutes. Engine started and Maria is calling into the lock to request a lock out. We’re in luck, we are catching the end of freeflow which means the water is at the same level as the river and we can go straight through the lock, as long as the light is green.

Heading down river is fine although we are taking it in turns to do some work, whether taking calls, processing emails or working on our laptops. It’s very quiet down the river as everyone else is starting to eat out of work.  The wind is a little close on the nose so we decide to motor down so that we can be sure to arrive at our chosen anchoring spot in good time.  This will give us the opportunity to relax and enjoy the last of the evening before the sun goes down.

As we approach Felixstowe, the wind blows up a little more and is a bit more than forecast.  We discuss our plans and consider an alternative of spending the night on halfpenny pier in Harwich. This is well protected from a southerly wind. As we round the corner of Felixstowe we approach the confluence of the Orwell and the Stour.  There are only two boats on the outer part of the pier which normally means that there is space. However the motorboat in particular looks something like 60 feet and it is right in the middle of the western half of the pier. We call into the excellent harbourmaster on their mobile phone. It is clear as we get close that even moving the two boats around won’t give a great amount of space for Mariadz who can take up 60 feet herself. The harbourmaster suggests we could raft up to the motorboat but at twenty tonnes we are concerned that it will not be a comfortable night for any of us. Also we imagine that they would get quite upset at someone rafting up.  We revert to plan A and head down the river Stour to one of our chosen anchorages. In the Stour we have a few options, we can anchor near the top of the river opposite Harwich Parkeston Quay, we can return to the Holbrook Bay area and anchor where we were the previous weekend or slightly further up where we traditionally anchor near the cardinal buoy. We decide to anchor near where we were last weekend where the water is a little deeper. With our new system and Maria controlling the anchor, we are anchored in no time with anchor float showing where we are, snubbers protecting the windlass from damage and the anchor ball flying.

At the time it is wind against tide and when the wind is in the opposite direction to the flow of the water, the chop is a little worse.  We are hardly moving but the water is not smooth. We know we are comfortably anchored for the night and settle down for a healthy dinner of steak and cooked vegetables, and by cooked vegetables I don’t mean potatoes cut into long fingers and deep fried!

B8CB4D72-FB53-4626-9408-C014BEE72874In the summer and especially at anchor, we often stay in the cockpit watching the world go by, chatting and listening to music. 610E12C2-6BC9-4B54-9F87-D48CF4A5FE7EThe cats are settled and like being close as they sleep. We are all really relaxed. With the built in stereo system still temporarily unavailable, see later blog, we are using the amazon echo to play the music. This has the added advantage of being voice controlled :). It’s a lovely evening and we may have enjoyed a couple of drinks and maybe even a little dance after it got dark but thankfully it is not too late a night since we are both shattered from the working week. Just before dark, one of the scout training yachts decides to anchor near to us, actually in our traditional spot near to the cardinal buoy. AD974BEF-7BC2-4343-9FC7-635A3CE453EBThey have a reputation of bouncing off people but we haven’t personally experienced it and the skippers seem very nice when you meet them. Apparently, on this occasion they were concerned that they may have disturbed our tranquility in the evening. They clearly don’t know Mariadz at all 🙂

The next morning there is some trepidation as we approach the scales but we decide to weigh in and survey the damage since we are both meant to be dieting! We are both pleasantly surprised to see our weight has gone down a lot over the last few days. At least now we know what we need to do…. 🙂

It is not too late when’s we get up, and it is a beautiful day with quite a bit of wind. In short perfect sailing conditions. So Mariadz in the spirit of rebellion settles down for a chill day. Maria decides that today is the day she is going to catch our dinner. FD6CAAF1-83F6-4F32-AC7C-848F8724652DNow I don’t think this sounds too difficult, surely you go to the freezer, pick out the packet, put it on the side – dinner caught! But apparently, Maria has different ideas. She has gone to the freezer as I thought but she gets out the squid and puts it next to the worms, she is fishing for supper! Now with our standard amount of success in this area, it is certain that we are going to starve but it is ok since we have food available on the “off chance” Maria is unsuccessful.

EECED568-E4DE-4320-B0C7-B4BADBA8D1EBIt takes Maria some time to set up the two rods but she is pottering around having a great time and looking relaxed without a care in the world so I am not going to complain. It’s not as if she’s going to catch anything so it will be a nice relaxing day!

As the afternoon progresses, Maria has lost some bait so something is going on under the surface of the water. 69940FE4-988E-44AF-B9AF-62C8A1B885C1And then suddenly, the rod moves, and Maria gets excited…. she heads over to the port side rod and wow, she has only gone and caught something. It is time for Maria’s caught a fish song! Now the interesting thing about Maria’s “I caught a fish” song is that apart from the “I have caught a fish” chorus, every other lyric in the song starts with the letter “f” and is a word normally deleted in polite company. Unfortunately I don’t have video evidence, not that I could show until after the watershed! But it’s ok, because she follows up this crowd favourite with a haunting second song, now this one I do have on video!

She’s caught a whiting and is a very happy and proud girl.  The rod is ready to go again and she is on a roll.  Maria catches a couple more smaller fish but decides to put these back. Now normally when they are a little smaller, Maria struggles to remove the hook and fatally damages the fish. Sometimes it is still moving and she hopefully returns it to the water where it lays on the surface until some passing seagull puts it out of its misery. More recently I have been asked to despatch them. She is on a roll though and really enjoying herself, work is something that effects other people. That’s how a weekend should be. Then late on, Maria has more luck! This time it’s a larger sea bass, and we have video evidence…..

Clearly I was very confident about Maria’s prowess with a fishing rod and not at all surprised so we had the meat for a BBQ already out on the side, so no fish supper tonight!BB6E3B22-EB57-4E51-86F0-C41707EAF112 Another relaxed evening chatting and, it has to be said, that since Maria’s weight loss, dancing has featured a lot again.  She’s happy 🙂

The next morning we are to return to Ipswich and it is a glorious day: bright sunshine, and a southerly wind of about 20 knots. Perfect wind to get Mariadz going and we can have a nice relaxed sail home. The boat is ready to go and we get the anchor up in the now familiar way with Maria controlling the windlass from my instructions. To my knowledge this is the only time Maria has ever obeyed my instructions 🙂

We have decided that we will sail and drift all the way home today, there is no rush and although we have a few chores we want to get done, as long as we are back before 3pm all is fine. It’s a day for all three sails as the reasonably steady wind comes across our decks from the starboard side. The staysail is deployed first and comes out easily, the lubrication the other week has done a great job.  Next for the main. This is normally a one person job, keeping an eye on the sail as the winch pulls it out.  The sound of the winch is always a good tell-tale for how it is coming out, as the winch starts to struggle you normally pull on the outhaul to ease it. We have done this consistently for four years while we have owned the boat.  That said, when we first got her we had a couple of mild sail jams as the main was furled into the mast. However, we soon found a technique for avoiding these by keeping the tension on the main as it furled.  This and the boom being horizontal stopped any creases in the sail which could then cause a jam. As I say we have had four years of jam-free sailing so the technique seems to work.  Until today! The sail is a third out when it folds against itself and jams solid! I notice that we have a crease and the sail has stopped coming out from the mast. Not good.  The sail will not come out and will not go back in again. The problem area is too high to reach so I will have to use a combination of pull from the outhaul, jiggling from the furling mechanism and leverage from pulling down on the sail occasionally to see if I can shift the fold that is jamming the mechanism. Initial results are not good but I persevere with the sail under tension, trying to adjust the angle of attack on the crease. There is movement but there is still a crease at the top of the sail.  The problem area is moving up the mast so I decide that with the wind veering slightly behind a slight change of course will allow me to safely deploy the whole sail and remove the crease once and for all. 3C5CC253-0935-4AAE-8856-57BEB7F569F7It is slowly coming out just using sail tension and the furler now and Maria is keeping a watchful eye as well as keeping an eye on our course and other water users.

We’re clear and I even bring in a little of the main just to check that the fold doesn’t reappear. It’s all good. So we then turn our attention to the head sail and with roughly half of these flying we are sailing comfortably.

But the episode of the sail jam makes you think, what would we have done if we hadn’t been able to clear the jam.  The answer lies in my trusty red rope with a loop in one end.  This rope is the equivalent of James Milner, or Fabian Delph, for those who like their football. It’s a do anything, equally well, rope. It has acted as a harness for an outboard, a replacement main sheet holding the boom in place, a dog lead as well as any number of uses where a short strong line was necessary. Today, as it has previously, it would have been a sail tie. We would have loosened off the outhaul, trusty red line would then have pulled all of the offending sail into the mast and with a couple of wraps would have held the sail in place with little showing. But all of that isn’t necessary today and we can enjoy our sail up the Stour. As we get up towards Harwich the wind gets a little stronger and to be fair at this stage we would normally have reefed all of the sails to reduce the power from the wind driving Mariadz. We generally reef the sails a lot and early, Mariadz is more than capable of handling that much power, although she sails more comfortably and faster when nice and steady rather than heavily heeled.

BA666C2F-DCB3-4DAD-BA39-E6525E09FE94We make the turn at Felixstowe towards Ipswich with the wind directly behind us. This disappoints Clyde who was really enjoying the sea air.

There are quite a few larger yachts behind us in the forty something range. Now we are very clearly cruising sailors, we have never raced a yacht or any sailing vessel competitively and to be fair I don’t think we have anything like the sailing skills to do this well. However that does mean that Maria is not competitive, and maybe me too! Although we are not racing, whenever there are two boats sailing Ona river that are reasonably well matched a race shall ensue. Maria’s view is very similar to Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, when faced with an army of Orcs – “you shall not pass!”. This is normally accompanied by a soundtrack of “Ad, Ad…” any time someone gains on us. Mariadz is not the fastest boat but of course being a little longer than a number of other boats helps to keep her ahead. Of course, if the worst comes to the worst, we can always switch on the iron sail, with its water free exhaust, meaning no-one would know…. not that we would ever do that!

The trip up river is relaxing but the wind has veered a little to the West which means it is slightly in our faces as we get to the top of the river. It is also intermittent which is caused by the the hills and trees on the banks which funnel the wind, giving changes of wind direction, spots where it is very blowy and other spots where it seems still.  This presents some challenges for us trying to keep on course up the winding river when we are tight to the wind. As we go past Wolverstone, conditions and our angle to the wind improve and we are clear now until the Orwell bridge where we must call into the lock, take the sails down and prepare for mooring.

8D59C54C-60CB-4750-83D6-F6D388C020C4We haven’t seen many other yachts for a while, obviously laying in a trail of dust behind us! But up ahead, we have Lister Light again, that’s two weekends on the trot. They are drifting nicely down river having a leisurely sail with Sally at the helm. To be fair I really wanted to pass them on the “wrong” side so we could get a better lit picture but at least the got a good one of us just before we took the sails down.CB45903C-BB9F-4C0A-95B7-B0D20BC77635

Now clearly , we are very careful putting the mainsail away and are even more vigilant in checking for folds as the sail goes away. It seems to curl away fine and so we breath a sigh of relief although the true test will be when we next take the sail out! The lock is easy and soon we are in our berth, tied up nicely (that’s Mariadz is tied up rather than Maria, by the way) and thinking about dinner. 8C76A780-3D3E-40B9-A14B-9FA21AF3EB9FHang on, don’t we have two gorgeous fish we can eat….straight on the BBQ in foil with our own Italian olive oil, lemon and vegetables.

Accompanied with fish skewers and a salad it is very healthy and more than we can eat. Please ignore the optical illusion of a cheeky glass of white!

so the end of a cracking, relaxing weekend. The best part of it? The fact that nothing new had broken…but I still haven’t fixed all the breakages from the last weekend away so it’s a small mercy.

The grand project is reluctantly put up for sale

Those who know Maria and I well, or have read the website, will know that we have had a couple of dreams, rather than the one dream in the tag line.

The first of these is to travel the world on Mariadz. As you will have seen, getting the boat ready has taken a lot of time, effort and money.

img_5370The second dream after we had finished travelling was to live in beautiful southern Italy in a magnificent property. By having this property available prior to our departure, it would provide a steady income stream which could support us during our journey.

We spent a lot of time and effort working with our Italian friends to identify the land, design the house, get planning permission (no mean feat in itself) and then start the construction. Trulli Mariadz 2Our plans were ambitious. The house was sized as an equivalent of the house we had in the UK and so consisted of 250 square metres of interior space. But of course, in Italy, with its temperate climate, a lot of time is spent outside so interior space is less important. The problem with building a large place is that the cost increases in proportion to the size and if we had developed something of 150 square metres, we would now be looking at a finished build.

In Italy the build is done in two stages, the first is the rustic element which includes foundations, walls and ceilings. The completion follows which is when the windows, doors, electrics, water, climate control, bathrooms etc get finished. Finally, in Italy, the kitchen is not included in the build, or house sale, unless specifically identified!

As you can see a lot of expense over a period of five years and unfortunately the property is stuck at the rustic stage. After some bad luck, and bad decisions, we have found that we won’t be able to afford to complete the property for a number of years.

We have looked into loans but can’t find a lender who is prepared to lend on a part built property in Italy with someone that is not currently living there.

It has put us into a dilemma. Although we both love the land and the project, it looks like we will have to reluctantly decide to sell it to someone who can afford to finish it. So our gorgeous Italian project is on the market and having of valued by two different people, the price is €400,000, which is not much for such a huge building. We are hoping it will sell to someone who will love it as we have. The overall dream is not over. Our intention would be to reinvest the money from the sale in a smaller completed property that is usable straight away. This would bring the dream closer and put us very close to being able to start our journey. So fingers crossed for a happy ending.


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And they’re off, the start of the 2018 season

It is unbelievable that we are already in the middle of April and there hasn’t been a single good day for sailing! Normally we would have had a few, potentially chilly, eeekends by now. I remember from when I played a lot of cricket you would always get some unseasonal warm days early in the season, normally just before a May was rained off completely though.

In previous years we have gone a reasonable distance too especially at Easter, maybe to Ramsgate or across the channel. Going to France is more tricky now because then the cats couldn’t come.

So, at last, our sailing season has started even though it is really late this year. The weather for this weekend was meant to be cool with a very light Southerly wind so not much to get excited about sailing-wise but a great opportunity to get out, check the boat is working well and have some chill time. So we decided to head down river and anchor in the River Stour that is the border between Essex and Suffolk,

We were hoping to get away early on a Friday but unfortunately I arrived back too late from work so we couldn’t sail down to Harwich to see off our friends Lars and Laura on Sweet Dream, a beautiful Island Packet, as they set off to Norway before starting a trip round the world in January 2019. However, there is more than one way to skin a cat………, sorry Clyde! Since we hadn’t had the opportunity to properly say farewell, we decided to drive to Harwich and meet them for their last supper before they left at the Alma. 205C8138-05D6-4C7B-BE52-55EFBA62EA08The Alma is a lovely pub that sells very fresh lobster and beautiful cuts of beef, all listed on a blackboard, when it’s gone, it’s gone! The food as always was really nice. We had a cracking evening chatting which was capped off beautifully with a quick dance to a live band – Lars and Laura know how to make an exit. The obligatory exchange of a few presents including our crew t-shirts for our friends. In the picture is their very own “Anne Plummer”, she’s a very popular artist, don’t you know!

After a good nights rest, we decide to be up early to get our chores done prior to going out on the boat.  We have refilled with water and fuel as well as running all of our pre-trip checks.  One of the jobs since it was our first trip of the year was to go around all of the blocks lubricating them. Last year we noticed that there was a lot of power required to bring in the head and staysail. This year I have lubricated everything I can reach including all of the guides for the furling line that runs it from the bow to the stern. Let’s see if that helps. So Mariadz is well lubricated, no change there, and we are ready to go. We have timed going through the lock just before high tide which means that we can go through the lock without stopping, with permission of course and only on the green light.

The engine hasn’t had a proper run for six months or so and is slightly smokey, we will need to keep an eye on it but I suspect that this just needs a good run.

At last, after six months of confinement to Ipswich, we are out and heading down the river and it is a pleasant daynot much wind but nice to be out.3C5CC253-0935-4AAE-8856-57BEB7F569F7 The trip down the Orwell is uneventful and we make the turn into the Stour. Now what little wind we have is right on the beam and so we decide to get all of the sails out to check that they are ok. Everything comes out fine but we are against the tide with little wind and so keep the engine running to ensure we can make a sensible pace. Of course the key will be how they go away and whether I need to use all my strength!

The cats are incredibly comfortable and also grateful that we have got them such comfortable new seating in the cockpit. This of course means that the two seating areas that we had set up seem to be feline spots.20180414_173958 It does amaze us though how comfortable the cats are on the boat.  No matter what the conditions, they seem happy and relaxed.  When it is bad they stay quite close to us for reassurance but when it is a nice day like today they stretch lazily and chill. We have a number of friends who have commented that they don’t necessarily believe in reincarnation but if they did, 20180414_132812and could choose, they would like to return as Maria’s cat – spoilt isn’t the word!

After an hour of motor sailing, we are approaching our anchorage at Holbrook on the North side of the river under the watchful eye of the magnificent Royal Hospital School. It is time to get the sails away so fingers crossed. The smaller staysail flies back in with relatively little effort but the real test will be the much larger headsail. The difference lubrication makes is amazing, the sails go back quite easily.

So the sails are away and we can now think about anchoring.  Maria selects the spot as I am forward preparing the anchor, anchor float, snubber line and the anchor ball.  The anchor float that tells us where the anchor is located is fixed with its ten metre line to the anchor itself.  This has the added advantage of acting as a trip line if the anchor gets fouled.  Maria is pretty much ready so I decide to ease the anchor off it’s stowage using the wired remote. Nothing, not even a click of a solenoid.  Hmmm.  I know I have flicked the switch on for the windlass down on the electricity panel -that is normally what I have done wrong when something doesn’t work! I immediately go back to Maria and explain the situation and also to check the anchor controls at the steering position – let’s at least try and isolate the problem.  The issue I have here is that when we got the boat, as mentioned previously, pretty much everything needed fixing….. except the windlass that brings the anchor chain in.  That had been replaced at great expense just before we got her! So with some trepidation I press the button on the steering column and the windlass springs to life and the anchor starts to deploy.  Huge sigh of relief, it’s “only” a remote that I need to replace! However, we like to deploy the anchor in stages so I need to be back on the bow while we do this. We quickly agree some obvious hand signals for up, down and stop. I think Maria has some hand signals of her own planned too!

It is quite high tide and we are in a nice spot with about seven metres of water so we will be perfectly safe even when the tide is out.  We start deploying the heavy rocna anchor and our the chain in ten metre increments letting the boat settle after each one.  This helps with getting the anchor set and also stops piling a lot of chain on top of itself is a cone or on top of the anchor.  Despite it not expecting to be windy, we deploy thirty metres of chain so we can be confident that Mariadz is going nowhere. As we get to thirty metres I put a hook attached to the middle of our snubber line through a link of the chain and tie it off on both bow cleats.  This takes any pressure off the windlass hopefully meaning we won’t have to replace it in the future! It also balances the load across both bow cleats and means that the anchor chain doesn’t rub against the hull as we get pulled around the anchor. Lots of great reasons to do that then. Letting a little more chain takes the tension off the windlass. I can then tie, three further snubbers onto the chain which can take the pressure even if the hook falls off the chain. Probably a little too much redundancy but you just get into the habit. cropped-e9b1d950-7cf9-4b4e-bf3c-da3a0a60679b.jpegThe final job is to raise the anchor ball that tells everyone during the day that we are anchored.  This is attached half way up a spinnaker line run down to the deck, we hoist it about ten feet up so that it is easily seen.  Obviously at night the anchor light at the top of the mast is illuminated so that people know where we are. These signs usually work very well and people know where you are and keep clear.  Unless of course they are a blue hulled scouts boat, in which case you need to switch on the spreader spotlights and everything else you have got before they hit you!

Mariadz is settled nicely, there is a very light breeze and a gentle soothing movement of the boat, it’s mid afternoon. 62D24B49-8ECD-46EC-BF62-898122559D4BWe decide to stay up in the cockpit as Maria prepares the feast of fish which is our lunch and dinner, or so we thought. As you can see from the picture, Maria has a little furry friend. Now Clyde is rather partial to prawns and demands them as an almost daily treat.  When Maria brought the platter up, Clyde stirred. Ah, treat time and wow what a great selection. What shall I have first mummy? Maria of course obliges and starts feeding him lobster.  LOBSTER! Is there another word that is more than spoilt… hmm a very lucky cat.

Anyway, let’s just talk about the weather…..when the weather is good on a yacht, there is no better place. In the winter we are cooped up down below catching up on films and box sets.  In the summer, the TV is rarely on and we sit up in the cockpit listening to music.  This is the first time that we have had the opportunity to use the cockpit properly with the cushions that James has made us, one word – excellent.

So the music is playing as we chat.

Today is the day of the grand national though and the one day a year when Maria likes to gamble – except for the lottery and the annual trip to the casino. We choose roughly nautical and lifestyle names for the horses and we have our four.  Last year Maria won so she is relaxed and confident. Obviously our interest in the race is over by the first circuit and as the winner wins by a small margin, Maria announces that she was going to choose that one….that’ll be my fault then!

It’s getting to the end of the day and we have been anchored for over six hours,  usually at this stage the electrics, such as the fridge and freezer, have started to take a toll on the batteries but not tonight. With our new solar power set up our batteries are at 100% as the sun goes down – we like that!

6F35E185-930E-4CE3-9444-CFC3D48CF18DThe sun is going down and as we look down the river we see lister Light with the young Thompson family on board. yeah that ones for you Sally 🙂 you owe us. 8C065C79-4AE3-4341-913F-2BD064DF5DE9So our neighbours who are 250 metres away from us in Ipswich are the same distance from us in the stour. But wow doesn’t their boat look great in that light.

0B25DBA5-22DD-4ED4-A4DE-1D7C7A82E559While the Thompson’s have their own great evening, we are settled down listening to music. It’s a lovely evening with a variety of music and we go to bed at a reasonable time. Of course with Maria that is any time before 4am – but it was early even by these standards!

It’s not an early start, which gives an idea of how late the previous night was, but as we get up we find that there is a thick fog with 50-100 metres visibility. So we will need to put the fog lights on and continue to drive at 70+ miles an hour! Not quite.

A very thick fog means it is a day for AIS and radar. AIS is great, it tells you the course and speed of larger ships, whilst also telling you how close how close they will get to you. We have an AIS transponder so we are sharing the same information with everyone else, if they are looking out for it, going through a major port it does gives some reassurance that we are suddenlyWe leave it till noon to go so that there is a chance to burn off and it does seem to clear.

Until we get to Felixstowe. Pea souper. Fifty metres visibility with no idea what big ships are moving. Radar is helping and ais is also sounding but the hardest is finding the buoys so that we know where we are – thankfully we know this area quite well.

But of course this could be about to to get much worse in the Orwell where the vessels aren’t very big with no AIS transponder or a big radar shadow. This is going to be very stressful. But as we move away the fog lifts and we now have a few hundred metres of visibility before it lifts again and we can see up to a mile. Stress over.

The return journey is all under power and the engine is a lot happier now, not much smoke for a start.  Mariadz has a split exhaust which means we still get people frantically trying to stop us at the dock because of the lack of water coming out of the exhaust.  It does help when we motorsail too when people are amazed at how fast a larger yacht can go with so little wind. 🙂

We come up the river and arrive at the lock gates.  While we wait for the water levels to equalise, we meet a couple with a new to them boat who will be staying at Ipswich. We recommend b pontoon – best, beautiful and boozy! All the “B”s.

Coming in and Maria has everything under control. I have set up dual lines on the bow prior to entering the lock so I have swapped over the mid line, the first line we generally get ashore. Linda our very helpful neighbour comes over to give us a hand and takes the mid line for me and I glance aft to notice that the stern cleat is bare, I haven’t moved that line.  What a wally! I’m sure there would have been panic in our first few years of sailing but I tell Maria the situation, not that she can do anything about it and quickly swap the line over. Lasso the cleat from th deck of Mariadz and we are back where we should have been.

We get into our routine of adjusting lines and getting the power on and we are all tied up adjacent to our steps.  The other boat we have just seen has been put on b pontoon and so we give them a hand before settling down for food.

The weather has brightened up noticeably and so it must be bbq time. 20180415_174048Obviously that changes the weather and of course it starts to rain but not before I get the rail mount fitted and the bbq fitted. Really convenient, now if only the food would cook quicker!

So a weekend away and as is common on a boat, a list of maintenance jobs: stereo needs replacing, the usb charger in saloon has stopped working and the remote for windlass. Ah sailing life, going to beautiful places to fix your boat!