All posts by mariadz2010

Buying the Moody

So, we had our bad experience leaving Dunkirk in April 2012 and had to go back because of the bad weather.  The journey had been pretty bad and Maria spoke to Martin Hubbard about how we could move forward.  We had decided that we were keen to go around the world and had a read a number of books including an inspiring book called Sail Away by Nicola Rodriguez. This is a story of a normal couple with initially no knowledge of sailing who had taken the plunge and sailed a way for a year which had been extended for many years (and two boys!)image

A blue water cruiser can be expensive, especially a new one, and we wanted a boat that we would be comfortable in for a number of years.  Having looked at what was available, and likely to be within our budget, we didn’t think we could afford an Oyster, Hallberg Rassy or similar.  We felt that a Moody could be viable and started to look at these.

We initially looked at a 2007 Moody 49 called Mornin’ Gorgeous which was immaculate.  There was nothing that was needed on the boat and the only question mark was that she was blue hulled and we didn’t know whether this would be good in a hot climate all of the time.

I sent a note to Martin Hubbard asking whether he had an opinion on the Moody 49.  His response was that the “Moody 54 was a cracking boat….”.  At this stage I saw an advert for an older Moody 54 with JR Yachts. We were due to go and revisit the Moody 49 to make a final decision and I suggested that we combine an initial view of the 54 to help us make our final decision.  I spoke to John Rodriguez and arranged a viewing without telling Maria too much about the boat.  We visited Mornin’ Gorgeous who looked perfect.  This started to make me think.  As fantastic as this boat was, she was someone else’s dream and ideas.  As we found with the Dufour we liked to put a personal stamp on our boat and make her our own.

So after visiting Mornin’ Gorgeous, we drove the short distance to Swanwick to meet John and take a look at the older Moody 54.  One of my first questions for John concerned his surname. imageWe then found out that John is Nicola’s husband and so it immediately felt that we knew him since we had read so much about their sailing adventures. We have found John incredibly friendly and knowledgeable and are proud to consider him a friend.  One disadvantage is that John is very persuasive and every time we see him he tells us we have to set off now and not to leave it any longer! He is a very bad influence 🙂

So we arrive at Swanwick and the Moody 54 is out of the water, exactly the same as when we first viewed the Dufour. This means that we have to climb a ladder to get onto the deck – this wasn’t a good start for Maria but she likes Moodys and decides to climb the ladder.  John and I had a conversation and I explained that Maria will know immediately whether she likes the boat or not. I mentioned what had happened when we first went onboard the Dufour and Maria decided that was what she wanted. On deck we had to climb under a tarpaulin to get into the cockpit and then into the boat itself.  As soon as we stepped down into the saloon, she seemed palatial. The difference in the size of the saloon compared to the Dufour and even the smaller Moody was amazing.  There was a little bit of a musky smell but we put that down to the fact that the boat had not been used, or loved, for nearly eighteen months and expected that, like the Dufour, she would come back to life with some TLC.  Speaking to John, it was clear that we liked the boat a lot, and had decided that the potential offered by the larger Moody would let us put our own stamp on the boat. The name of her didn’t work for us since she was called Alice (Alice, who the f…. Is Alice 🙂 ).  That wasn’t a concern since we had already gone through a renaming ceremony for the Dufour, previously called Charley Farley (who comes up with these names 😉 ). The other key factor was that we had put the Dufour up for sale on the South Coast and this sale was a prerequisite for any offer being accepted on the smaller Moody.  mariaThe owners of the Moody were keen to have a deal and were prepared to take the Dufour as part exchange. With a little negotiation on price we were able to come up with a deal subject to surveys and finance. We were ecstatic.

The surveys are both fine and so we moved forward.  This was in April 2013 and we didn’t expect any further problems.  Unfortunately there were some problems with the marine loan and the lender made a number of stipulations and told us that we needed to comply with these within three months before they would reconsider our application.  This was crushing.  However we persevered, but had to stop the purchase until we had done everything required.

Three months later we were able to speak to the lender and got the green light and the deal was back on.

At this stage, we thought all the hard work had been done, we were so wrong.  Over the weeks, we had been close to John Rodriguez, but now we had to work really well together to push the sale over the line.  The Moody 54 had a varied background which had included a tour of boat shows and being registered in Malta. Unfortunately the documentation didn’t fully show the history and the lenders were not happy that they could prove the boat was VAT paid which would add a lot of money to the deal and would have been a deal breaker.  John worked really hard to make this work and after several weeks we were able to complete the sale.  Part of the deal was that we would have the Dufour delivered to the South Coast where we could pick up the Moody and return her to Ipswich.  Unfortunately work got in the way and we were unable to do this ourselves which we were really keen to do.  Having engaged a professional crew however we were able to bring the new Mariadz home 🙂



Home from Dunkirk (part 3 of 3) – successful

The day after our aborted trip to Ramsgate doesn’t start well from a weather perspective. We check a couple of weather forecasts and also speak to the harbour master.  The morning is a write off but there is an eight hour weather window with a little wind that we will be heading towards. This is followed by another nasty weather front coming in.

Having tested the engine the previous night we start the engine again and it is purring. We decide we will try to make the weather window rather than return to the UK by train and try to work out how we get the boat back – other friends of ours have not been so lucky in the past and it is a nightmare and costs a lot getting the boat back.
We’re making excellent progress motor sailing and the engine is running really well. It is quite an uneventful trip mist of the way home. We turn past Rough Towers, the old WW2 gun platform that is now a principality in its own right. The wind is now perfect and so I decide to have an hour with the engine off, thinking I didn’t want to push my luck.  This was a mistake.
We are now just outside Felixstowe where there are big ships moving around all the time. I decide it is time to switch the engine back on to turn into the wind and head up the river Orwell to home…..nothing. The starter is working fine but the engine won’t catch, I try five times and still nothing. Eventually, I decide to put the gearbox into neutral and start the engine with some revs. It starts but dies in seconds. I try again and it catches. Maria looks at me – this is not the “you’re my hero” look that i was hoping for bit more of I “told you not to switch the engine off” look. Needless to say the engine stayed on until we were back in our home berth!
We head up the river and it is a nice evening but yDSC_0287ou can start to see the first signs of the bad weather coming in. We race up the river at the speed limit (6 knots) trying to get in before the wind picks up. As we approach the lock, Maria takes over so that I can help Lisa prepare the boat. We come into the lock and Clive the lock – keeper is friendly as always. “You wouldn’t believe our weekend, we didn’t think we were going to get back!”. We tie up on B pontoon and everything is tidied up. Five minutes before the heavens opened. This was always a talent that the Dufour had, she could get in just before the rain. Every time.
As we walked away that night, Mariadz got a little tap and a thank you for seeing us safe all weekend. It had opened ours eyes to the dangers out there and given us a few extra things to check as part of our preparation to sail.
but it did get Maria thinking…..
dunkirk route

The return from Dunkirk (part 2 of 3) – pan pan

Our first trip to Dunkirk (part 1 of 3)

We had decided that we wanted to cross the channel again and we asked Lisa Jones if she would join us.  I’m sure that Lisa won’t mind me mentioning that she was in recovery from treatment for Cancer (we will always have everything crossed for her). Lisa has only been on sailing boats called Mariadz but has had some help from Martin Hubbard, our yachtmaster and guru, and understands a fair bit. So our happy crew of three head off from Suffolk Yacht Harbour, where we had stopped the night before, in the early hours so that Dunkirk1we can arrive at Dunkirk, a new port for us, in daylight. We have a fantastic sail over, Mariadz is flying, at eight knots, beautifully balanced and we even get through a number TSS, or motorways of cargo ships, without a hitch.

A number of hours later we arrive off the coast of France and approach Dunkirk. Dunkirk entrance has a large lighthouse with three bands and on the other side we have probably the most famous sea wall in history. We approach in glorious weather with the sea and sky a bright blue. We decide to go into the furthest Marina, Yacht Club de la Mer du Nord (YCMN). On approach, and having consulted our reeds and channel pilot books, we spoke to them on the radio and were allocated berth 6. Maria is behind the wheel on approach.

Stopping there for a moment. Maria and I were married and on our honeymoon we chartered a boat owned by a husband and wife.  We noticed that the wife was generally behind the wheel when manoeuvring and since this is quite unusual asked why.  The response was basically that you should always have the most physically adept doing the lines because inevitably something will go wrong in these situations and you want the person who can limit the damage physically being there. From that point on, Maria and I agreed that generally she would do the pontoon bashing and I would do the lines, anchor or whatever. Of course, Maria is actually very good behind the wheel so I rarely have to do anything exciting but in keeping with our cautious approach, we have stuck by this decision.

Meanwhile, back at the plot, Lisa is keen to help and so we set up lines ready to come in. dunkirk2 We will be coming in astern and so I suggest that Lisa owns the bow line and I will deal with the stern and mid line. Firstly though, we have to find our berth. This is easier said than done, the marina is very tight for a 45 foot yacht although I am guessing the theory is that if you have something that large then you should have learnt how to use it. We cruise slowly down the aisle that we have been assigned looking for berth 6. They are not well marked (and that will be Lisa and my defence til our dying day!). We find a gap between the finger pontoon and another yacht, the only gap we have seen, and both Lisa and I look at it and we see a six.  Job done – “Maria, it’s this one”….then we look again. Looks a bit tight…..he definitely said a six… must be this one! I go towards the stern, my station as we are about to come in, as Maria stops Mariadz in her tracks. I get to the cockpit and Maria whispers to me “Ad, how am I going to get it in there?”

Now, the advantage of Maria being behind the wheel all the time, is that when she asks me these questions I can give an answer without fear of actually having to perform the manoeuvre I have just described.

“Well, darling, just point her at the gap, tick over reverse and the steer her in using the bow thruster”- it was incredibly tight! I then look at her quizzically as if to say “but of course you knew that darling and it is the most natural manoeuvre in the world”.  The aim of this is that she will confidently “throw” Mariadz into the berth with no problems. Mind-games 🙂

Maria looks at me as if to say, “well of course that is the way, I guess I’ll just go and do that then” and I stand behind her a relieved man. The alternative, of course, would be “if you think it is so (expletive deleted) easy, the why don’t you do it yourself, you arrogant (expletive deleted)”. And queue an unhappy crew for several hours irrespective of the result.

Maria pops Mariadz into astern and the Dufour starts to gently move towards the berth. She is perfectly aligned and just giving a little burst of the bow thruster to ease her in. I have taken my position, lines in hand, ready to tie her up – it now looks incredibly tight but Maria has got it completely under control. We ease into the berth, did I mention it was tight. Lisa notices how close we are to the yacht next to us and mentioned that the fenders will hit each other. We decide that we will move ours out of the way as required and Lisa comes amidships to do that. Maria is still in astern but has to put a little more power on because the fenders are providing resistance. It is still a beautifully controlled manoeuvre. At this stage I have seen the number of the berth clearly…….oops!

We are now in the berth and I step off and take a look. We are wedged in resting on our fenders and the fenders of the boat next to us. It almost seems redundant to tie her off but of course we do. Lisa has taken her bow line and done the same and we walk back to the stern together. “Don’t look at the number…..”. Maria is doing her chores: engine off, spray hood up etc. Lisa asked “should we tell her?” And we agreed to wait to see what the harbourmaster said. Lisa and I cheerily mention to Maria that we will just go and report in.  As we walk up the pontoon we see berth 6, a very wide easily accessible berth but a little near the end with a large motor launch opposite – we tried to convince ourselves that it was harder than the one we were in.  In the harbourmaster’s office, I am incredibly apologetic and I use all that experience in the headmaster’s office to good effect. We misread the number, we’re so sorry, what do you want us to do (please don’t ask us to move, Maria will be doing that manoeuvre with Lisa alone having already killed me!). The harbourmaster is very Gallic and relaxed, it is not a problem for me if it is not a problem for you, but I will come and take a look.

The three of us walk back to the pontoon and Mariadz. As we come up to Mariadz, he stops and does that incredibly French thing of frowning with a down-turned mouth whilst nodding sagely. He looks at Maria, there is a nod of respect (how hard-earned are those from a French harbourmaster!). He takes a look at the other side, “I have no problem, if you have no problem” and marches off back down the pontoon.

We have moored at a few places and Maria was clearly surprised to see the French harbourmaster coming down the pontoon so Lisa and I decide we have to come clean. We admit that although containing a six, this may not be the berth that the harbourmaster first had in mind but we’re here now so all is good.

We have a lovely time in Dunkirk, eating lovely food and having a few drinks. If you have a smaller yacht I would strongly recommend this Marina for location and also atmosphere. The weather is glorious and of course I haven’t put any sun screen on so by I now have a large red beacon of burnt skin on the end of my nose.  All is fine and we have a nice meal on the boat and a few drinks the day before we are due to leave.

Of course, the return journey on Easter Sunday was another matter completely…..




Very Easily Led

So we had bought the Dufour and had a number of lessons from experienced skippers. It was time for us to take our first steps across a sea.  But we may have had the training but we certainly didn’t have the confidence yet.

Our good friends Richard and Janet of Easily Led had spoken to us about the next step in our development. We discussed going for a longer trip than our current trips out to the North Sea so we agreed to join them on a trip to Dunkirk via Ramsgate for a long weekend.

Lisa Jones joined us as we headed off on the Friday night to get down the river and stay at Suffolk Yacht Harbour. Here we were meant to be meeting my best man from the wedding, Zimm. It had to be early because we had a really early start the next day. Needless to say, Zimm wasn’t early. And of course we hadn’t seen him for ages so we didn’t get to bed early because we all wanted to catch up.

So it’s 4am the next morning, Mariadz is quiet. We’re due to leave. So Maria and Adam get up in their pyjamas and cast off. Maria is at the wheel, there is a need to check around the boat for lines, fenders etc. As part of these essential checks, Maria  feels a large weight on her head but soon realises it’s nothing to worry about. 🙂 Adam has a slightly different hangover to Maria…..IMG_1076

We set off in the calmest conditions I have ever seen in the channel, but it was our first time sailing in the channel, so that may not be saying too much. The sea was like glass without a breath of wind and so we had to motor all the way to Ramsgate.  That wouldn’t have been so bad except it became clear after a couple of hours that we were not getting enough water into the engine.  There was a minor blockage in the pipe that feeds sea water to the engine, this meant that we had a little steam in the exhaust.  It wasn’t bad enough to stop us on our journey or overheat the engine badly but it meant it was difficult to keep up with the lightening acceleration of Easily Led. The trip to Ramsgate was chilled but does take several hours. We were little more than 30 minutes away from Ramsgate when our “crew” came up to help. “So where are we then and what can I do”. Not masses cos we’re arriving in Ramsgate now. 🙂 it was quite amusing to do the whole journey on on own while our guests slept.

Part of the reason for going to Ramsgate was to try the excellent Thai on the front the Thai Orchid was wonderful. This was our first time but we had heard good things and we absolutely love the place.

So the next day we set off from Ramsgate and the weather is as still as you like. Now the channel is one of the busiest sea areas in the world. Going across the motorway that they call the TSS is like playing frogger – one for older readers (if you’re young look it up! 🙂 ). So we are nicely in convoy with Easily Led in the lead. At this stage, Maria and I are feeling lucky because we have found friends who are prepared to help us in this way when we need it. Like all good friends you never forget what they did.

We are about to enter the TSS with large ships hurtling past, we are literally seeing up to ten ships, every one could be on a collision course. At this stage Easily Led came on the radio, “we have a problem….”. They have crossed a fishing net and it has caught on their propeller, hey that is no problem they are a sailing vessel….except there is no wind! Easily Led is lucky, there is a willing, if inexperienced, crew nearby who can provide help. As a true seaman, Richard is only prepared to offer a line for the tow, you can’t accept a line from the “salvaging” vessel…. We took up the tow and started the long journey back to Ramsgate at a very slow pace with a slightly steamy engine…. All the time,Easily Led are in touch with the U.K. Coastguard who are offering help as required. After a few hours it is clear that the return journey is going to take a while and the RNLI are dispatched. imageAt this stage we are grateful for the Ambassador rope cutter fitted on the Dufour, we knew this had saved us in the past because you can feel it working. Amazing piece of kit. On the Moody we have a circular rope cutter without the teeth, hopefully it will be as effective.


The picture shows how still it is as the RNLI  rib comes along side and takes up the tow. A burly and highly skilled RNLI crew member comes aboard to secure the tow and to make sure that the boat and crew are  safe. The guys are brilliant and are able to bring Easily Led into Ramsgate in double quick time. Our crew may not have made it across the channel but they experienced a great adventure.

Below, a sailing vessel archieves planing speed…… With a little help from their RNLI friends..but still with their French courtesy flag raised, as they head to Ramsgate.


We return to Ramsgate. We like Ramsgate but we had hoped to be eating mussels. 😦

Easily Led is being lifted out to have her prop inspected and so, as any good sailor would do, we offered to take our good friends home recognising that they would then have issues sortimg out the boats problems but this is probably easiest from home.

So we now are now a big crew on the Dufour. We have Zimm, Kirsty, Lisa, Maria, Adam, Richard and Janet.

So where do we go from here. The choices after an aborted trip to France are Burnham or Brightlingsea.

After a lengthy discussion, we decide to head to Brightlingsea. We are now a full crew, at this stage it became clear that we had to have a lesson on the use of our plotter and Richard was our man. Unfortunately, we clearly had a different version of the plotter to the one Richard was used to.  We were able to create waypoints but seemed to be struggling with joining these together.  The problem of course was when we reached a waypoint. It would seem to be simple to move us to the next waypoint but there had been some confusion. Mariadz, did an immediate 180 degree turn. That didn’t go down well with any of the crew. We were able to switch off the autopilot and return our course towards Brightlingsea.  But we didn’t underestand how it could have gone wrong so the autopilot was engaged again – another 180 degree turn, almost losing some of the crew. No more autopilot.

We arrived at Brightlingsea and told Richard Davenport that we were in his neck of the woods. Richard owns a fantastic kitchen company, not cheap but then quality doesn’t come cheap. You can spend a lovely couple of hours just drooling over his lovely kitchens. We met with the whole family and had a wonderful evening,

The next day we flew up the wallet next to the wind farm and arrived back in Ipswch mid afternoon.  On our return to Ipswich, we tidied and cleaned the boat as always. There was ice below and Maria asked one of our guests to dispose of the ice. This was clearly confusing because the question was asked of Adam, cleaning the deck, what should we do with the ice…..I just looked over the side of the boat, it’s water – the ice should be fine 🙂

The end of a wonderful first weekend’s sailing.

The first Mariadz, Dufour 455

We started sailing in 2009 when Maria booked a trial sailing weekend in Ipswich on a Bavaria with a number of other strangers.  We loved it!  At the end of the weekend, we went straight to Burton Waters in Ipswich and picked up brochures knowing that one day we would buy ourselves a boat.

Our lack of experience has meant that we have been keen to learn the theory and also to practice this whenever we got the opportunity.

Step one was to continue our introduction to sailing by becoming competent crew.  This can be achieved over a week or three weekends and since we had one of the weekends under our belt we decided to continue on that route.  Our second weekend in 2009, was on the same Bavaria but we were increasingly getting frustrated with some of the people who were on the course.  These seemed to fit into categories:

  • the old sailing bore, who has been sailing for years but has never actually learnt anything.  You would hate to see this person in unfamiliar surroundings outside of their comfort zone.
  • the fair weather sailors, who like the idea of sailing as long as you “don’t spill the champers darling!”
  • normal people who are trying sailing
  • the know-it-all, been there and done that, think they know better than the instructor
  • the master mariner in a week, going through some kind of crash course and expects to be captaining a cruise ship by the end of the month- the first one to try anything and monopolises the instructors time
  • the over excited puppies, oops that will be us then!

Anyway, it soon became clear that we were loving sailing but not enjoying being around people who were being quite rude.  We finalised our competent crew by going to a completely different area to broaden our experience, the Solent.  We did this final course with our good friend, Kevin Carrick. The weather wasn’t great fort his weekend but that didn’t deter us as we popped over to the Isle of Wight.  That night the wind picked up and it was blowing over force 8 (in excess of 40mph).  Maria wasn’t happy. We were duly informed that if the wind didn’t die down she would not be going back in the boat the next day.  At that stage she realised that she was now on an island and the only way out was by boat! Fortunately overnight the wind eased and we had a pleasant rest of our course and got our certificate to say we were competent….

Our love of sailing and ambition didn’t stop there and we decided we wanted to learn more.  However, we didn’t want to be forced to spend time with people who ruined our enjoyment – not you Kev!

We spoke to a number of people about the possibility of buying a boat and continuing our education on our own boat.  The overwhelming view was that this was a great idea. I then received a friendly phone call from Burton Waters…..when we had looked at the Dufour range, we had seen some beautiful boats.  We had learnt on a 42ft Bavaria so a reasonable size didn’t hold too much fear but we had decided that 40 feet had to be the limit although that 45ft Dufour was gorgeous it was just too big so stop looking at it!  Then we went to the Southampton Boat Show, suddenly the plan changed and we were looking at an Oceanis 43. We returned from Southampton sure that we knew the boat that we wanted eventually and trying to think when would be the right time to buy one.

We are now late in 2009, it is approximately six months until our wedding, as you will see from another post we were heavily into the process of looking in Italy for a future home.  This is not the time to even be thinking of buying a boat!

Then our friends at Burton Waters called me to tell me that a three year old Dufour 455 was arriving and this would give us a view of what they were like to help us choose a smaller Dufour in the future.  I was at pains to point out that despite it being a great boat, we had discounted this one because it was just too big….for a first boat…for a couple that had been sailing barely a year…… Giles Houlston was still happy for us to take a look and so shortly before my birthday in March 2010 we popped along to Ipswich to take a look at a Dufour.

When we arrived, it was not a pretty sight. She was a boat that had been neglected for three years, delivery from France to Wales was the only time her engine had been started (2.5 hours on the clock), the mast was down, the interior was a mess with cushions everywhere and dirty. imageTo say she wasn’t looking her best would be an understatement. But like Emily and Bagpus (for the older readers), as soon as Maria stepped on board she loved her.  Maria could see through the dirt to the girl underneath and declared that what she needed was some love! It took a little time for the sale to go through but by the end of April 2010 she was ours.  dufour sailing

As part of the agreement with the insurance company, I had stated that we would never take our boat out without a qualified skipper.  We both were also keen to progress with our own qualifications.

Finding someone to help us learn the boat (and how to sail!) has a few false starts but eventually we found Martin Hubbard.  Martin helped us learn the boat and develop our skills but possibly the best thing he taught us was to listen to people to further our knowledge.  Martin also got to sample some of our hospitality but for anyone with cream upholstery you may like to think about where the red wine gets left….:)

dufour interior

We now have a boat, an excellent teacher who helped us to learn everything we needed to become Day Skippers and to be comfortable to take our boat out on our own.

The first Mariadz went far wide including Ramsgate, Burnham, Ostend and Dunkirk.  She was a fantastic boat to sail with a large cockpit made exceptionally comfortable by the cushions that Maria designed.  She was also quite fast, even in light winds.  dufour cushions

We vividly remember one trip up the Orwell with a similar sized boat chasing us as we breezed along at nearly nine knots.  She was always safe and we had many wonderful adventures with her.  We hope that one day she is lucky enough to find another owner that loves her as much as we did.