Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Long awaited update….

It’s been a long time is I’ve written anything with any substance and now I actually have a few stories its probably a good time.

The Engine Part 1

As I wrote a bit earlier I bought a new engine in February. After a few days of Smarty and Rich putting it in things were looking good for finally getting the DB sailing again. All we needed was to get it aligned (I wanted the suppliers to align it as this can be a bit fiddly and is worth getting right). Unfortunately my engine bay left it about 5mm out with no adjustment left… This meant taking it all out again and re-cutting the engine bed. All I can say is it was a horrible horrible job, it took me all weekend and me and the boat were covered in fibreglass. I burnt out a jigsaw and skill saw, as well as broke about a dozen blades. As well as this I had my lovely new engine in my galley for a week!

Nevermind, all’s well that ends well and before long the engine was back where it belongs, lined up and tested by the suppliers and now finally (apparently) ready to go sailing!

We did find time between fixing engine to decorate Mick and Deb's boat during their retirement party

The Engine Part II

For easter Smarty and I had planned a sailing trip to Guernsey in the Channel Islands (about 140 miles from Brighton). We talked about 10 other’s into coming along and with the wind and weather in our favour things were looking up. Mick and Deb planned to take their boat across too, so with the number’s fairly even on both boats we figured we’d have a good race on our hands.

Leaving the dock at our prescribed time (necessary to get the tidal streams right) we were off. About 50m from the marina while we were putting up the sails Linda yell’s out that the engine’s struggling. I role my eye’s thinking to myself silly girl it’s brand new! She’s dead right, 5 seconds later it cuts out and we’re getting blown straight towards the sea wall. We quickly dropped the anchor and managed to avoid any similarities with the Titanic on our re-launch maiden voyage.

After about an hour trying to fix the problem we just couldn’t get the engine going reliably, and after sailing clear of the sea wall decided it was best to get towed / sail back into the marina by Mick and Deb. Upon arriving back at my berth Smarty, Rich and I were able to have a good look at what the problem was. The engine was piping hot and had no water. A valve on the side of the engine was open when we bought it and basically all the water had evaporated. You can imagine by now I’m really well p*!sed off with this bloody engine and am thinking my recent short marina tour may have just turned it into an expensive paper weight! I was also really unimpressed that the supplier (who had prior spent 8 hours doing engine checks for the warrantee) hadn’t picked it up.

Anyways, as before all’s well that ends well and a week later after a pressure test and lots of engine hours in the marina we found she was good as gold. I finally got that monkey off my back ;-)


With the sailing part of our ‘Sailing trip’ now out of the question and a load of commitments we’d made for an Easter weekend in Guernsey, the crew drove to Weymouth to catch the 4am ferry. Once in St Peter’s Port we met up with those who’d opted to fly.

The highlight of the trip would have to be visiting Guernsey’s little island neighbour, Sark. The island has no cars and only a few 100 permanent residents. The ambulance is a caravan pulled by a tractor and there is no tax on the island! (After a day cycling around the island we were particularly impressed to find a pub selling pint’s for only £1.50)

Back in Guernsey we caught up with Cat Fish Keith, a good sailing friend I met in the Azores with Smarty and Jas. It was great to bounce idea’s off each other with future sailing plans while getting messy in the local sailors pub. All in all a great way to spend easter and definately worth checking out if you ever get the chance.

Captain Jon

After 2 years of calling myself Captain I figured I should follow in William and Paul’s footstep’s and get my RYA Yachtmasters. They both said I’d learn a lot and although the idea of one day working in boats is very appealing, I wanted to become a better seaman.

Being tight and not having much time I decided to teach myself the theory with borrowed notes from Mick (4 big folders of several hundred pages!). However I found it hard to teach myself as whenever I’d sit down to do some study I’d end up deviating to boat jobs… I also had to get my VHF radio licence (yes in the UK you need a licence for this) which was a one day course in Brighton. When I got back to the boat with a few new found friends from the course, Mick and Deb were waiting with champagne and had covered my boat in ‘Congratulations radio Jon’ posters! You would have thought I’d just finished a degree not a one day course a 5 year old would pass ;-)

The Yachtmaster course consisted of a 5 day’s prep and a 2 day exam in the Solent, and Mick and Deb very kindly offered to sail me down to Portsmouth. We had a great sail and good night out once we tied up in Gosport. The next day we sailed over to Cowes and I left the boat in the Isle of Wight for the course.

I got a bit of a wake up call for what I was in for when I arrived on the boat. The other guys were really onto it having spent the last 6 weeks together training on the boat. Also at the dock my lack of knowledge of weather, collision regs and lights / sounds was very obvious. Suddenly doing the theory course seemed a good idea…

The week was fun but really intensive. Everyday we’d set sail at 8am and usually tie up again between 1 – 3am. Basically we all took turns at being the skipper and would be given tasks along the way to complete (Man overboard, sailing onto buoy’s / marina’s, blind navigation, tidal calc etc). Reliably every task would have to be done without the engine or GPS!

I got off to a very bad start to the exam. I cocked up the tides and basically put the boat broadside onto 4 others! Convinced my exam was over before it began I more or less decided I may as well just enjoy myself and basically sailed just like I normally would (not necessarily the RYA way). Was funny as over the prep week my instructor said several times ‘I have no problem with the way you did that but its not really the RYA way to go about it’. Like many of us I’ve never had any formal sailing training and just tend to work out a way that works.

Anyways, long story short late on Sunday afternoon the examiner completely surprised me with a PASS. Although maybe not completely deserved you wouldn’t have thought so by the amount I drank and size of my smile ;-)

To be honest I think I completely winged the theory with a little knowledge about most aspects. Practically I’m probably ok at sailing but they’re really more interested in how you deal with situations etc. Like the examiner said when we’d finished referring to my unfortunate crash ….. ‘Yep you f*!ked up - Sure it wasn’t the first time and won’t be the last, just like the rest of us’

DB's Offshore Race Debut.... The Royal Escape

Since sailing to the UK Smarty and I have been interested in a yacht race across the English Channel called ‘The Royal Escape’. Basically it’s a 70mile race from Brighton to Fe’ Camp (France) held on the May bank holiday weekend, and is as much about drinking as it is about sailing.

Following an evening race briefing at the Sussex Yacht Club with the crew (Rich, Smarty and Linda) we got to work lightening the boat and stowing all the essentials. It was a fantastic site the next morning to see the 70 odd boats flooding out of the marina for the 8am start. Everyone was in good spirits, hooting and excited as the weather was gorgeous and we didn’t have to spend it working.

We actually had ourselves very well placed for the start, only instead of sticking to our guns we cocked it up by being a bit conservative and ended up near the back. Over the next 8hrs we slowly reeled back up the fleet, eventually overtaking about 10 boats. Then we hit the doldrums, 15miles from the finish (All that needs to be said about those last remaining miles is that we didn’t break any rules!). Finishing in good time we tied up at the dock about 9pm and were soon enjoying cold Stella’s to a beautiful sunset.

That night we went out and explored Fe’ Camp to find it was a very quaint and friendly little French town. Enjoying more drinks and watching the remaining boats come in we retired back to the DB in the early hours.

Saturday was always going to be a big day with free beers, wine and cheese for breakfast at 10 in the yacht club. The day moved on to prize giving, and one can imagine loads of laughs partying and telling stories of the race.

We had a fantastic and spontaneous sail home with all of us wearing the biggest smiles. It was a nice reminder of just how the simple things truly make us happiest - The sea, sun, a boat, beer and good friends ;-)

Wa Wa….

Just to set the scene… Smarty, a very key element to a lot of the fun I’ve had over the past 5 odd years, is leaving the UK at the end of June to return to NZ with his beautiful and pregnant wife Renae. Renae very kindly gives me and Richie a weekend pass to shout Smarty on a trip somewhere for his birthday…

So bring on a weekend in Ibiza with nothing more than the clothes we’re wearing, passports and credit card ;-) Basically the place is all its cracked up to be and I don’t think much needs to be said. The highlights for me were a massive party in an abandoned zoo with everyone dressed up as animals, and Smarty’s ‘altitude’ sickness on the way home (ask him about it). We call it wa wa.