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Solar panel frame or downforce from a spoiler

Lots of people brag about how fast their boats are and most of the time it is light hearted banter.  We have such a conversation with our friend Stig, since we chased his boat Wild Dream 2, up the Wallet when returning from Burnham on Crouch one time.  We gave them a one hour head start before catching them up and it has been a joke shared ever since.  It is only recently that we admitted motor-sailing 🙂

So it has often been said (by us 🙂 ) that Mariadz is a fast boat (she’s not really but don’t tell her that!).  However, like a formula one car the problem with this speed is the potential for lift at the stern and therefore downforce is important if we are going to make sure that the rudder stays in the water 🙂 . Clearly the last thing you want is the stern to come out of the water when she is going really quickly! Reason number one for the work we have had done.

An alternative reason is that you have the davits at the back of the boat with your nice rib hanging from them and if the boat is your home then your rib is really the equivalent to your car.  Ideally you would want your car to have a garage or car port to protect it from the elements? So Maria may have wanted a “rib port”, a little shaded area where the rib goes and is protected from the sun like a car port protecting it from UV damage. Reason number two.

You will have seen on some of larger yachts a helipad so the billionaire can get to the boat by helicopter.  Now clearly Maria is not going to have these gin palaces having something she can’t have on Mariadz, so does the top of this structure have a large H on it for landing the Chinook? Reason number 3.

Mariadz is also famous for its parties and high alcohol cocktails and the aft deck is a perfect place for a little soiree.  Is this the high level drinks tray so that the drinks don’t get knocked on the deck? Reason number 4.

The final alternative is that if you are cruising long term you need to be self-sufficient for power, or as close as is feasible, so you need to look at wind and/or solar power.  A lot of boats create a stern arch on which solar panels can be mounted but these can look quite ugly and intrusive.  We currently have davits, rated at a high weight capacity, and these are attached to the stern with a large number of heavy duty fixings.  We therefore decided to fit a solar frame above the davits because of the chance that this area will be unshaded and hence give good power and it is out of the way. We are fortunate that because of the size of the boat, our davits are fairly wide apart which provides a good solar panelsolid base for the solar and also allows us to have three large but lightweight (240W) panels which were Panasonic – HIT N Series 240W Black Solar Panel.  We think this is a sensible amount of solar for a large, power-hungry boat although we will be also be looking at further ways to reduce our consumption.  An alternative would have been to have a small wind turbine fitted to the boat. You will see this on a number of cruising boats but to get a good charge you need some wind, normally in excess of 20knots for any meaningful contribution.  Maria and I discussed this and decided that we would generally prefer to be in an area sheltered from wind if possible.  The other disadvantage of wind turbines is that they are quite noisy and are also likely to cast a shadow over solar panels that would impact the solar performance so a mixed solution may also not be great.  So it was agreed we would go with a solar array matched in Watts to the amp hours of our batteries (720W and 880Ah of battery power). Reason number five and the best reason! although I quite like the helipad idea……

When designing the frame, we were keen to make sure that we still had access to the boat from the stern using the passerelle.  20170901_114430This would mean that we would need to have a certain amount of headroom and the frame couldn’t be mounted directly on top of the davits even if we had wanted that.  Another reason it needed to be raised would have been the console on the rib which sits proud above the level of the davits.  These reasons, and aesthetics meant we wanted to have something that felt balanced with the boat. We worked with East Coast Stainless on the design and came up with a design that we think works.  One of the design questions was about being able to tilt the mechanism, which is more efficient for solar (and creates more downforce, returning to a previous train of thought 😉 ).  However, we had concerns that this would be cumbersome, heavier and fail over time as the combination of salt water and stainless welded the tubing to itself.  We had exactly this experience with a telescopic boat hook that wouldn’t budge after it 7had been immersed in the sea and left for a few months.  As part of this work we lost the Neptune’s fork that used to be mounted here but we had already moved or replaced most of the aerials that were on this and we didn’t want this to still be in place and potentially shade the panels.  Some of the aerials were better mounted on the mast anyway.  A few were left over which are mounted on plates to the side of the panels, providing a little shading but hopefully not impacting our solar output too much.  When the fork was removed the davits suddenly looked naked until the frame went on, it was strange.

Finally on the exterior, we have added some lighting to provide a “welcome” light for the swim platform, a courtesy light for the aft deck where we quite often eat in the summer and finally relocated our aft navigation light to the far side of the solar panel.

Electrically, the work was again done by Olly at Seapower bur most of the solar power work was done when we did our refit last year.  We 20170901_114240had looked at how the power went into the batteries and had agreed with Olly on an MPPT controller which maximises the power going into the batteries by being very clever (please tell me if I am being too technical!).  It takes a high voltage as an input and then converts this to the lower voltage required by the batteries.  We went with the blue solar set up which is supplied by Victron since we had other Victron equipment and this gets great reviews.  It also comes with a Bluetooth communications module which will allow us to monitor the solar array in its own right.  All of our on board monitoring would give us a nett effect after any load had been subtracted, unless of course we switch off everything on the boat….so the ability to check the solar in isolation is useful.  But it is also useful to know whether your batteries are being charged after considering the current load as a baseline.

I will update the blog with some real world figures in differing conditions but since we will be generating our own power, we are expecting our electricity bills to also come down because of the solar array.  W9BBC4886-5594-419B-8DA2-DAC847502D88ith just one panel connected up and with rain water on the panel, which impacts efficiency, we were getting 4A going into the batteries which is all electricity we don’t have to buy off the marina or fuel for the generator.  Now you even get money-saving tips from Mariadz 🙂

So a few weeks later and having had the three panels giving a total of 720W fully working for a week, I can now see how well solar will work for us.  During the week we changed our orientation to the pontoon, facing South rather than North but I haven’t seen any noticeable drop in yield based on this move. The other key factor is the state of charge of the batteries, clearly if they are full we will not get a fair representation of how much power was available.  I have been able to ensure that the panels are in bulk charge mode most of the time by switching additional load on when necessary, mostly the immersion heater or a kettle.

One thing I have noticed is that I now think of our electrical capacity differently. We are a 24V boat with some 12V and obviously some 240V, and like the Victron I have been working on KWh since that is easy to consider irrespective of what I am looking to use. So our 880A of 12V batteries is 10KWh of battery capacity and this means we have effectively 5KWh of power available to use from the batteries before charging.

The maximum power we have had from the panels was 668W, nearly 28A at 24V and 93% of capacity. Over a full day we have had a maximum of 2.5KWh… in the UK, in September which I think is pretty good!). However, our average is 1.75KWh since we have had some cloudy and dull days.  These represent the panels giving between 22% and 31% of their rated wattage each hour.  All of this gives me confidence though that we have sized our array well.  As we get into warmer waters, the sun is better positioned and it is brighter, I would hope that we would do better than a September’s day in the UK, possibly twice as good but that is one for the future.


This is also one of the last major projects that we need to do to the boat as preparation for the big trip, so apart from rig and sails she is close to being ready to go 🙂

A trip to Osea Island

With the boat back in the water and Maria’s upcoming workload as her projects go live, we had worked out that the only opportunity we had to get out for a few weeks was going to be the first weekend of August.  It had also been a long time since Lisa Jones had been with us and so we made arrangements to all get together. Lisa took Friday off work to come to the boat with the intention of getting out early for a nice weekend away.

The weather forecast was a little changeable with an element of Westerly in the wind prediction for most of the weekend.  Although the temperatures looked pretty good there was also some rain expected over the weekend so it was more with hope than expectation that we prepared for the weekend.  As usual, Maria wanted me to go to the fishing tackle shop and buy her some worms so that she go fishing over the weekend.  I may have mentioned before that this is a common request from Maria and most times there isn’t much fishing being done.  The result is I feed a lot of worms to the crabs and would have had better value for money at the fishmonger rather than the fishing tackle store! All of the other provisioning has been done, including unloading lots of stuff from the motorhome, and the boat is ready to go.

The girls are both very keen to go to Burnham or Osea Island but I am trying to tempt them with heading North for the first time.  Maybe Lowestoft or Great Yarmouth would be good destinations to try out?

Unfortunately, Maria is incredibly busy at the moment with a go live on her projects at the end of the week and so there is no let-up in her work.  So Maria is going to have to work on the Friday.  However, if she can get a free thirty minutes, we can get through the lock and she can continue to work while I sail Mariadz down the river.  We can then tie up at Halfpenny Pier in Harwich, anchor in the Orwell, moor on a buoy at Levington or start heading to our destination depending on the time.  Maria doesn’t get ten minutes to herself all day so we are stuck in our berth waiting for a window in her workload.  By 6pm, we can leave.  The first stage of the plan will therefore be a stop down the river.  We decide that a mooring buoy sounds like the best plan and head down the river at a gentle pace following a new large Fairline motor boat on its way to Southampton. IMG_6140In just over an hour we are tied up to a mooring buoy, the Prosseco has been broken out and the girls are starting to relax.  We settle down to watch the sunset over the River Orwell as our pork chops cook in the galley.  At the age of 72, Adam’s Dad has discovered Facebook.  His regular posts on the recovery of Adam’s Mum from a stroke in March, help us all understand the progress and the difficulty of these long term recoveries. It is clear from his latest update that today has been a hard day and we agree to facetime him to have a face-to-face chat over the internet. Two hours later, dinner has been switched off, alcohol has been consumed and we are all still chatting but Dad is in a better place and his favourite daughter outlaw (in joke I’m afraid) is now past eating.  A few more drinks and a bit more chatting and it is time for bed before we head to Osea Island the next day – I never get my own way 🙂

We are up at a reasonable time the next day but inexplicably seem to have run short of milk so I have to deploy and hop in the rib to pop to the shops before we can go anywhere.  Fortunately, the chandlery at Levington has a small selection of food and drink including milk so I don’t have to go too far and I am back on board and rib stowed before the girls have finished getting the rest of the boat ready for sailing.

I have an easy way to remember the tides in the North Sea, where the area fills from the North and empties to the North.  That means that prior to high tide the flow is south and after high tide it is North as the water levels lower. We are ready to leave at pretty much high tide in the morning so we will be fighting the tide all of the way.  However, the wind seems to be staying North Westerly so at least we will have some wind helping us even if it means we are slightly wind against tide with the issues with nasty waves that can be a result.  We are also getting a little more wind than the 8-10knots that we were expecting with the wind getting up to the high teens.  We are keeping the engine on and motor-sailing to ensure that we can continue to make sensible progress and will arrive early evening rather than near to sunset.  Our friends in motorboats don’t suffer from the tides like we do.  When you average seven knots, adding or subtracting up to two knots can add a lot of time to your journey.  This isn’t quite the same at 20 Knots where the impact is 10%.  We have found before that a journey that can take a couple of hours with the tide, can take four against it so we are always very watchful of the tides and try to have them in our favour whenever possible.

It doesn’t take long to get out of Harwich when you start at Levington, and we are soon heading South towards the Gunfleet windfarm and the wallet, the stretch of water between Gunfleet and the land. We are making good progress with a full mainsail out, the staysail deployed and the running backstays setup to ease any stress on the mast. Mariadz is sitting comfortably in the water as we progress through the wallet heading towards Brightlingsea.  Its about lunchtime and we have a perfectly serviceable meal from the previous night, thanks Dad!  Maria heats and freshens it up and the pork chops swimming in gravy come out with mash and veg.  It is wonderful.

As we approach the Colne Bar, the clouds are getting a little more menacing and they are some squals in the air. One of the squals is a little too close.  The rain and wind come suddenly and the wind strength rapidly goes to 40+ knots, not comfortable at all.  We try to point the bow to the wind using the autohelm so that we can take the power out of all of the sails since we still have a lot of sail out but we are heeling over quite a lot as we get there. The self tacking staysail is the problem since it adjusts itself to get the wind unless you are pretty much pointing at the wind.  As we get close to the wind direction, I free the staysail outhaul so that I can go and reel it in.  In the time it takes me to get to the stern to pull it in the leech of the sail (the edge of the sail furthest aft), has thrashed itself against the outhaul line and torn the ultraviolet protection strip.  Not a disaster but annoying and will need a repair.  The main goes in a little messily but is reefed in safely and we are back under complete control and safe.  A lightening bolt and a huge clap of thunder are very close to us but this misses us by half a mile and so not a problem for us or the couple of other yachts that we can see nearby. Then as quickly as it came onto us, the squal is gone and the wind is back to how it was.  We had been a little bit complacent about Mariadz’s capability and not as observant as we should have been but the boat had handled it fine (and safely) and we had a minor repair to remind us of our mistake.  On checking down below, all is good, so we must have stowed everything away well enough to handle a lot of movement, and the cats are not too worried.

After this bit of excitement, it takes a little time for us to get the confidence back to put more sail out again and for the rest of the trip we are very careful with a watchful eye on the sky.  There are no further surprises and we can get back to enjoying the trip. At Mersea island, we have a choice of whether to anchor in Pyefleet Creek which goes around the North of the Island or head the two hours further down the River Blackwater to Osea Island.  We agree to push on through since it is likely we will be arriving at the anchorage prior to 6pm.  If it is full, it can be very popular, then we can head back to Pyefleet.  This may also be difficult with the Brightlingsea festival on this weekend but we will see.

The River Blackwater is a lovely wide river at this point which is better for avoiding other boats than the Orwell which can be quite thin with a number of options where people could tack.  In the Orwell there have been a number of occasions when I have had to alter course multiple times to avoid a boat tacking towards me when they have tacked at unexpected points.  This is not a problem on the Blackwater where the courses are quite predictable and there is less traffic.  Although there are quite a lot of buoys that are not on the charts so you need to stay observant or you will find one going past within a few metres…..

When sailing, we always observe a radio watch on a local channel if required but also one channel 16.  This can be fun when you hear people saying “over and out” (one or the other please 🙂 ).  Some of the boats calling each other can be quite amusing too, “this is ocean dream calling St. Tropez, over”……. off the Essex coast on a bit of a dreary day! But you also hear other calls, a pan pan because someone is stuck on a sand bank but not in immediate danger and another boat that has lost their mast and rig.  A busy day on the radio and you are constantly chaning channels to see what is going on, and also to offer help if you can 🙂

Further down the River Blackwater as we make progress past Bradwell power station and Mersea island, there is a ship anchored with a red hull and a large radio mast.  6176663328_IMG_3790This is the Ross Revenge which is the boat that used to broadcast Radio Caroline in the North Sea during the Eighties.  This was after the first Radio Caroline ship, Mi Amigo, had sunk which is remarkably similar to the story for the “The Boat That Rocked”, although apparently this is a coincidence! So a little bit of history to enjoy as you sail past.  There are then a large number of moored boats before you get to the anchorage at Osea Island.  We arrive shortly before 6pm, right on low water, and with only five other boats spread around the anchorage find a good spot and start to drop anchor. In one respect arriving at low water has the advantage of simplifying the calculations for the anchor chain although it does mean that we did not benefit from the tide at any stage!

We anchor in a shade over three metres of water with another three metres being added for high tide.  We deploy about twenty five metres of chain and our long snubber 6241692640_IMG_3749although on this occasion I forget to attach the anchor ball to the anchor to help with 6241692640_IMG_3750location and retrieval in an emergency.  Time to relax again, as the sun goes down and out comes the Prosecco and the raspberry gin – hmmm, theme developing here.  Our friends are at Brightlingsea listening to music and send us a video, the singing doesn’t sound the best if we’re honest and doesn’t compare to the band we can hear on Osea Island where there must be a wedding 6241692640_IMG_3752or large summer party.  It’s a lovely, still, warm evening as we settle down.  For the second night, the fishing rods are shut firmly in their carrier and my Dad FaceTimes us and we talk for ages and Bonnie chills on deck.

Later that evening, Clyde is practicing his party trick.  6243751552_IMG_3657Maria has taught him to do a high five for treats, he likes to practice this a lot and he has the girls wrapped around his little paw! He gets treats.

It is an earlier night since we had a late one the previous night and lots of sea air and we are falling asleep long before midnight, although 6243751552_IMG_3658Clyde is now being a bit cheeky and trying his “come to bed” eyes on Lisa!

The next morning is clear with very light winds, which is pretty much as expected.  It looks like we will have to motor-sail most of the way home.  Leaving at a similar time as the previous day means we will gain the full benefit from the tide in the wallet, although we are keen to get away a little earlier so in the river we will still be fighting the tide.  The wind has picked up a but and we have a quite useable 15knots of wind which will be directly behind us as we go up the wallet.  So the plan is to motor-sail up the Blackwater, tiptoe around the Colne Bank before switching off the engine and sailing all the way home.

We set off and are accompanied by jetskis for the first part of our journey, this is one of the disadvantages of the anchorage as well as the water skiers, but they don’t do it for long and it just spoils the tranquility for a short time.  We are making good progress and arrive in the wallet as the tide turns.  For a short period the water is confused and fighting both itself and the wind but it soon works it all out and with engine off and tide with us we are sailing up the wallet at 7+ knots.  There are a few boats around us and Maria is not a racer by any means but similar to Gandalf – “You shall not pass” – when she is sailing.  There is one boat behind us with their coloured cruising chute out but 6176663328_IMG_3805they are falling behind as we start to catch up with a couple of smaller boats ahead of us. We travel up the wallet passing Walton, Frinton and Clacton which all look very different from the sea.

We are starting the turn towards Felixstowe and the wind is now directly behind us which gives an opportunity to get the sails out on both sides and sail goose winged.  We always have a gybe preventer on our main if the wind is behind at all.  This stops the boom smashing across the boat which is dangerous for the crew and also not healthy for the rig.  It is something we were taught early on and it is now a habit that we have got into.  We are still going past boats and Maria is smiling and waving, she does enjoy a nice relaxed sail.  The channel from the wallet to Felixstowe is Medusa and this is pretty much due North to the entrance.  The wind has picked up and with another change of course is now more on our beam.  I had seen this coming and had reduced sail substantially because we had noticed that the wind had been growing during our sail up the wallet.  It is now blowing between 25-35 knots which doesn’t feel so bad when you are running in front of it but after turning you suddenly feel the full force and after yesterday’s fun and games, no risks are being taken.  We are bobbing along nicely with half our main out and about the same from the headsail as we are being crossed by several boats going towards the wind, a lot more uncomfortable, bouncy and heeling over with lots of sail up. We’re grateful that we don’t need to worry about that for the rest of this journey but as we enter Felixstowe harbour, my mind does start to wander to an hour and a half away when we could be trying to get into our berth with a gusting 25-35 knot wind!  One to worry about closer to the time. This is also the time that Maria likes to get the roast dinner on, a couple of hours later we will be ready for it…

There is a large modern Southerly yacht, trying to catch us as we gently sail up the Orwell but Maria is having none of that and we hold them off until they take their sails down to go into one of the river marinas.  Its a lovely sail up the river with the wind starting to die but we are able to keep the sails up until we get close to the Orwell bridge.  Some people get frustrated at the time it takes to get through the lock and into your home berth but we find this all part of the fun and there is no major delay although we are asked to let one of the commercial boats, Orwell Lady, go into the lock first.  They must be more worried about hitting us than us hitting them :).  The two boats are the only ones in the lock and the wind has died down completely now so I had nothing to worry about.  I also clearly didn’t have anything to worry about as Maria completes the turn towards our berth and brings Mariadz home nice and gently.  I am able to get the lines on easily and the engine is off very quickly.

With the boat tied, tidied up and everything settled down, I dropped the worms over the side and fed the crabs …… again 😦


Build in Puglia – Trullo complete

The build continues in Puglia and Massimo and the team are making great progress.

We are now nearing the end of the Rustic phase and all the cones are complete inside and out. And they look AMAZING!

The scaffolding is down and they can now be seen in all their glory. I have mentioned before that in the completed house they trullo will be a single master bedroom. As you walk into the area through a corridor, there will a dressing table on the right with the entire cone to the left set out as a walk in wardrobe.
img_5387Walking through to the main cones, on the right will be the doorway to the gardens and on the left will be the bedroom with a large bed taking up most of the space. In the next set of cones will be sinks and again to the left the toilet and bath shower. All of these will have the fantastic inner cones to look up into. Cheeky alert – no more counting ceiling tiles for the ladies, we are so considerate we have come up with a beautifully crafted ceiling for you to look at…. 😉

It has taken a long time and our builders have shown a lot of patience as we have slowly got the money together to build the house. We still have money to pay which will all be paid by April. After that comes the really exciting stage of completion where we choose windows, doors, the plumbing and electrical work gets done and the heating/cooling is finalised. We still have a lot of work and money to go but the end is in sight.trullo mariadz

Mariadz, Moody 54

Dunkirk (Early 2013)

Crew: Adam Dunlop, Maria Dunlop, Lisa Jones

Predicted weather: S/w 20 knots to help us get back to Ramsgate.

That all sounds fine until there is a sharp change in the weather and the prediction goes out of the window with a force 8 on the nose!  Our Dufour 455 was being thrown around but she was fine, the crew weren’t too happy but we were safe enough.

However, there were a number of lessons learned:

  1. Check, recheck and check the weather again from any number of different sources!
  2. Always make sure the fuel is full, don’t believe the fuel gauge
  3. The boat can handle a nasty sea but it isn’t fun

At the end of this experience, we spoke to Martin Hubbard about his thoughts on whether we were mad contemplating going round the world in a Dufour.  He reassured us that the boat was more than capable but that after a number of days of storms at sea the crew may be strung out.  A heavier boat with better sea-keeping would handle it well and the crew would probably be fresher if the worst happened.  Maria’s interpretation of this: in true “Jaws” fashion – you’re gonna need a bigger boat!

Clearly we couldn’t afford a brand new blue water boat so we started the process of looking at what we could possibly afford in the future.


So during the early part of 2013 we started the search for our new boat.

Welcome to the Mariadz website

Hi everyone,

So this is the start of a new adventure for us.  The plans to sail around the world have been in place for five years now but this is our first opportunity to discuss the trials of how we got here :).  Firstly, why Mariadz:

  1. It’s a combination of Maria and Adam (or Adz)
  2. It’s recognition that from the first moment Maria met Adam, all she ever wanted to do was marry Adz!


In 2015 we sold our gorgeous six bedroom home in West Bergholt,  Essex.  We had many great parties at the house and will miss the built in DJ decks, pool table, hot tub and huge TV with cinema sound.  Funnily enough we don’t miss it but we had some great times.

We now live on SY Mariadz while we save the money to allow us to give up work and go travelling. How can someone give up work, we are not rich.

So we have been saving whatever money we have left and building a house in Italy.  trullo mariadzThe plan is that this beautiful holiday home (plug-plug) will rent out during the summer and the income for this will keep us in beans and rice.  It’s a plan 🙂

It does take time though, it took a year to buy the land and then two years for planning permission, the build has also taken a number of years so it looks like the house will be ready from 2017 (so get in quick with your bookings).

For the time being, we have also bought a motorhome so that we are not chained to the boat at the moment.  IMG_3326[1]This helps us with our frequent trips to Puglia and also gives us another retreat. It is an Autotrail tracker RB with a few creature comforts added. We will also document some of the fun and games we have in the motorhome. No prizes for guessing that it is also called Mariadz by the way 🙂

Now how can I get through so far into this post and I haven’t mentioned our four gorgeous kids (the pic may be a little old, but they were cute then :)). DSC00383

This was when we went on a tour to india and met up with a lot of really good friends.  They are from left to right: Amie, Matthew, Kristy and Rachel.  Amie and Kristy are Maria’s twins and Matthew and Rachel are Adam’s children.  This picture was taken back in 2007 when the girls were all 13 and Matt was 11.  They have changed since then – we may blog about them at some stage (if we are allowed!).

There are two other members of our family….. our two gorgeous cats: Bonnie and Clyde.  These are two ragdolls, born in 2010.  They have their own facebook page!  They are very affectionate and important members of our crew.

And this is where all of the fun will be had, our 2001 Moody 54, Mariadz – extensively refitted, and more of that as we blog.


So a lot for us to talk about, hopefully some of it will be interesting for people to see!

Whatever you are doing, have fun 🙂

Adam and Maria

SY Mariadz