For years I have said, give me a chart, a stopwatch and a compass and I’ll navigate anywhere – whether it’s in a plane or on a boat. As I get older, the bravado wanes and the complexities of (safe) navigation increase. We now have to watch out for an ever-increasing number of ships on passage, debris and flotsam in the oceans and not to mention rocks in the shallows as we try to navigate the most optimum (fastest) routes from A to B.
After much soul searching and due consideration, I have decided that the current chart plotter and nav system on Pamela C is woefully inadequate for the planned voyages ahead. Safety is paramount and having up to date electronic charts, access to ship’s metrics, a working and accurate autohelm (and more) is vital if we are to survive some of the passages that are planned.
Just having a vaguely accurate Speed over Ground (SoG), a Course to Steer (CTS) that may only be partially correct depending on how accurate the onboard compass is, and an autohelm that only seems to work when it wants to, with charts that (in the cockpit at least) are woefully lacking, just isn’t enough any more.
With this and other technical requirements in mind, I have opted for the B&G Zeus 3 system. It seems to be head and shoulders above the rest as far as quality and features go, and whilst I could have waited another year (or 3) for B&G to approach and offer to make me an ambassador with all the free gadgets that this seemingly entails, I felt it prudent to go for the upgrade now (and pay for it out of my own pocket) rather than wait on the chance of winning a lottery! 🙂
I have played with Savvy Navvy and Navionics on a tablet, and whilst they are great for planning and do help with situational awareness, there are too many times when things can go wrong, and when they only work when you have internet connectivity.
As such, I have bitten the bullet and ordered a new Zeus 3S chart plotter, Precision 9 compass and a new HALO 20+ Radar for Pamela C, along with new transducers that monitor speed, depth and water temperature and integrate together with my AIS, Radio and other components using an NMEA2K network – something I have already been busy installing and upgrading.
This of course means yet more expenditure and still relatively minimal income. If you haven’t yet considered becoming a Patron, now would be a great time to sign up! If you aren’t ready to make a regular monthly commitment then you can make a one-off donation/contribution through PayPal. Every penny helps, and as a Patron, you will receive regular updates, entries into our regular crew draw, the winner of which gets invited to spend a week with us on board somewhere in the world and more!
Before setting off on the planned Atlantic adventures later this year, I feel it prudent to run a few shakedown cruises closer to home. I’ve mentioned some of the anticipated destinations in earlier blog posts, but this is the first time I’ve started to actually get the charts out and plan the trips.
The idea is, on the whole, to avoid marinas where ever possible and live “on the hook” making the most of dried provisions, our new (yet to be installed) watermaker from Spectra (ordered at the 2020 boat show and delivered at the end of December).
The mission of the shakedown cruise is to work out the best camera angles, and to get a load of b-roll for my upcoming documentary series, to work out what does and doesn’t work on the boat and find ways of fixing / re-modelling what we can, and to train the crew ahead of trips where we may be out of sight of land for 2-3 weeks at a time (instead of 2-3 hours or worst case a day).
The planned excursion totals roughly 2,200 nm – which is quite a trip, and would take 18 days if we were to sail it none stop. The actual plan is to spend between 1 and 2 months doing it, starting on the South Coast, working our way up the West Coast until we hit the Isle of Man, spending a week or more exploring the Isle of Man (and seeing my mum) before heading up to Scotland to explore some of the Islands there and then heading South again, ideally down the West Coast of Ireland (weather and seas permitting) before making for the Scilly Isles, Guernsey, Jersey and then back up to Weymouth or Portland – or South to Gibraltar depending on how well the shakedown went.
Current plans are to dip our toes in the water with small overnight trips during February and March before heading off on the longer trip towards the end of March/beginning of April – although as with all things sailing, there is no hard and fast schedule as we are always at the mercy of the weather (and technical issues).
If all goes well then the next journey will be roughly 1,450nm to Gibraltar via the Channel Islands, and a number of ports and marinas en route as we bimble along the West Coast of France, Spain and Portugal until we arrive in the Meditteranean and the Straits of Gibraltar. The anticipated journey time is 3 weeks (although, again, we could do it none-stop in 8 days – but where’s the fun in that?!)
Following Our Travels
It is my intention to try and post fairly regular updates on YouTube both on a special channel for SV Pamela C as well as on my own channel SeaSwabJon as we progress around the West Coast, detailing the issues encountered as well as the sights we have seen.
I am also encouraging Jack to write a book on the Gibraltar leg, along with details of ports and routes, which we will then “fact check” en route and hopefully have more YouTube exploits for your viewing pleasure as we undertake what will inevitably be one long pub crawl from Brest to Gibraltar – checking out the marinas, the restaurants and the bars as we go!
Jan 5th and we have been partying like its 1999 all over again!
Forgetting COVID for a few days, the world felt almost normal again! Heaving dance floors, packed pubs, it was like the pandemic had never happened. Irresponsible? Maybe, but after 2 years of lockdowns and 3 jabs, it was time to try and get back to a semblance of normality – even if only just for a few days.
It’s now Jan 5th and time to move on from Weymouth (Weybiza!) and go for a sail before returning to Portland to continue the upgrades and repairs … only 1 thing though, Jack needed some wet weather gear!
The only impossible journey is the one you never begin ..
As we start a new year, we reflect on what was and then we look forward to what will be, always remembering that our past does not equal our future!
These past 3 years since I quit my job and started on a journey of self-discovery, I have come to realise that so much time was wasted in the never-ending rat race, working to live but actually living to work.
I had been mildly successful and had a couple of lucky breaks, but like the gambler who always thinks they’re on a winning streak and who keeps going regardless, I didn’t know when to stop, walk away and say “enough is enough”. I kept ploughing on, re-investing the money I’d made into new ventures, only to find those fail one by one and my cash reserves disappearing rapidly as a result.
More than ten years of my life was spent trying to replicate the accidental successes I had in the midst of the dot com bubble. Instead, I should have walked away and banked my winnings. To be honest, I did try to do this when I was in my late twenties, but without life experience or any real idea of what alternatives were ahead of me, I just carried on doing what I knew best. I think I lacked the imagination or had already had most of it beaten out of me in the early years (I had pitched a number of ideas for services such as YouTube, Netflix and the like only to be rejected so many times, I started to believe these things really weren’t possible)
It wasn’t until I was in my 40’s that I finally began to appreciate that there must be something better – an existence that doesn’t involve working 100 hours a week, sleeping on the floor of the data centre because I was too tired to drive home or even walk to a hotel nearby. I had truly gone from one extreme to the other with work, but I was addicted, I couldn’t let go or switch off. I was hiding from life in my work.
That time when you finally get your head together and your body starts falling apart
Five years later, however, I have finally managed to switch off – possibly a little too successfully – as I am now living almost full time on my boat, slowly starting to explore the coast of the UK and planning my next “impossible journey”. Money is running out, but my inner peace and mental well being are better than they have been in a very long time.
Your past doesn’t equal your future
In the past, I was guilty of doggedly holding onto a losing cause, whether it was the failing business, my failing relationships, or just the fact that I needed to work no matter what. I still exhibit some of those “addictive personality” traits, but I am looking forward to ways of continuing the journey and not looking back at the quicksand that had become my career – the more I struggled and fought against it, the faster I sank into the sand.
I love asking kids what they want to do when they grow up because I’m still looking for ideas!
Initially, I plan on learning my new boat inside and out. I need to work on my personal fitness (I was unfit before spending 18 months in lockdown!)
I need to find a small crew who can help with general handling, ideally, someone to share the experiences and the costs with, but primarily someone to spend the cold nights with and stop the cabin fever setting in!
Once general handling is second nature, then we set off on one of those “impossible journeys”. Heading off in search of warmer climates and exotic foods, golden sandy beaches and crystal clear waters of the Caribbean.
Life is a journey, and just as in Life, I don’t want to get there and complete the trip quickly, I want to enjoy the experience and make new memories, travel and make new friends along the way. Gibraltar (for example) is 1,000 nm away. We could do the trip in 5 days, but where is the fun and adventure in that – instead it should take maybe a month, as we meander down the coast stopping off at little villages and ports along the way, dropping the hook and exploring. The same with the Mediterranean, spending just one season exploring the Med seems short-sighted, ideally, this should take a few years (if funds permit). No more rat race, no more rushing to the finishing line travelling at Mach 1 with my hair on fire!
There is a lot to be said for travelling at 5 knots. You see the world in a different way when it passes by so slowly, and there is so much to see out there!
Exploring the World
One of the beauties of owning a boat and sailing is that you can move your home to a new location without any fuss. The feeling of waking up in the morning in a new location, opening the hatch and looking out at a different neighbourhood every few days, meeting new people and experiencing new cultures … is truly priceless.
After sitting on tenterhooks waiting for the UK Government to announce a lockdown and cancel New Year’s Eve, we were overjoyed to find that no new restrictions are being imposed this side of the New Year!
Back in October a group of friends and I sat in a pub and said “Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to worry about getting a taxi back to Portland at 3 am” … and from that, the idea was hatched to move SV Pamela C to Weymouth Marina in time to ring in the New Year!
A good friend and great musician, Finn, is going to pipe in the New Year at the Old Rooms in Weymouth, which is another good reason to make sure we can enjoy the celebrations and not have to walk 5 miles home in the cold afterwards (or wait 3 hours for a cab!)
This week, however, the weather has been decidedly unpleasant and we’ve had winds gusting over 40 knots – which makes manoeuvring in Portland marina a little tricky (as I don’t have a bow thruster, and if we get caught by a strong gust on the beam, we go where the wind takes us – no matter what we would rather do – and in the narrow alleyways of a marina, that’s not a good look! Having just about decided that we were onto plan B and going to have to try and book a cab for a pre-determined time and place, there was a break in the weather and the wind died down to a more manageable 15-20 knots without the gusts. This means moving the boat is doable!
A quick call to potential crew to see who was free to handle lines and Alex volunteered. 30 minutes later at 16:05 we were slipping lines and heading out of Portland marina and on towards Weymouth. I got on the phone to the Weymouth harbour master and booked the bridge lift for 18:00 (on the basis that we weren’t going to be there in time for the 16:00 lift).
We arrived in Weymouth harbour at just after 16:45 and tied up at one of the port side pontoons. There we had a great view of the bars we were going to be visiting New Year’s Eve – it was very tempting to tie up on these visitor/temporary moorings and not even venture through the bridge to Weymouth Marina, but it was decided that as the berth was already booked, we should at least go through tonight and see what it was like – we can always come out again tomorrow if we really want to.
At exactly 18:00, the Tower Bridge opened and shortly afterwards we were making our way through having received a green light. Then on to find our berth in the dark. Despite trying to contact Weymouth Marina staff from 16:00 onwards there was no answer, and we didn’t actually know where we were supposed to tie up, but we figured worst case there were the alongside visitor berths and we would be fine there overnight. Tomorrow, they may ask us to move to another slot (especially as Alex is talking about bringing his 54′ Trader into the marina, which would need to tie up where we are currently)
The view of Weymouth at night is amazing. Check out the video above and some of the photos we took on the way in.
“When you sail for the first time, you have one of two experiences. It becomes a one-time, bucket-list thing you check off your list, or it becomes a part of your soul forever.”
For me, sailing has been in my blood since my early days at school. When I first discovered I could go sailing Wednesday afternoons instead of having to play either rugby or hockey at school, I saw the appeal, but once I was on the water I was completely hooked!
Over the years I’ve progressed from small sailboats to larger yachts, and for years had wanted to sail and to explore (more than race). I have always been of a mind that the journey is almost more important than the destination, whether I was flying a plane, going on road trips across America, Europe or even the UK, or jumping on a yacht and sailing. Sadly, most of the people I would sail with were more of the mind that a quick spin out into the bay or a potter out for an hour (or two), then turn around and come home. There wasn’t much of a “journey” and certainly no real adventure – but it served to develop my skills and show me some of my many weaknesses.
Having worked hard for most of my life and taken very few holidays, eventually burning out, I finally found the time (and the money) to buy my first real yacht. She’s a 1977 Moody 39CC so not exactly anything “flashy” but she’s solid, and she will get me from A to B and hopefully all the way to Z!
But first comes the maintenance and repair work. Being almost as old as me (I was, after all, born in 1971, so the boat is just 6 years younger than me!) she needs some work. New rigging was a must and that ended up meaning a new boom too. Original estimates were that we’d be done by July 22nd, but due to delays in the supply chain, miscommunication with the company doing the rigging, additional works being required to strengthen/repair the mast and just the fact that everything “boat” takes twice as long and costs twice as much, it was October before the critical upgrades were completed. There are still essential jobs that need to be done tuning the new rigging, resolving issues with friction on the furling line for the headsail, we need to look at ways of bringing the reefing lines and sheets back into the cockpit so that I can sail the boat single-handed more easily.
There are also some ongoing issues with the hot water system which will only really be addressed by replacing the existing water heater with a calorifier and accumulator. All of this is an additional expenditure that I hadn’t originally accounted for this year. I’ve also ordered a water maker, which retails at about £7,500 – but means I will be able to make my own water whilst at sea, thus being more self-sufficient. I’m in the process of installing Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries and an inverter so I can still have 240v power whilst at sea, charged by solar panels, wind and/or even the engine depending on where we are in the world.
Some of these jobs were slated for next year, but as the boat wasn’t going anywhere and as I managed to find some deals at the boat show, I decided to start them now. All of this does mean however that I’ve spent considerably more money now than I had a) budgeted for and b) actually have, which means some creative financing. I’m also trying to sell off some possessions that I quite frankly don’t need and were an extravagance when I bought them 20+ years ago (thankfully it turns out they’ve become collectable, so could be worth somewhat more than I paid for them – we shall see)
So, what’s next? Well, I need to find a source of income that will enable me to continue to chase my dream. My current income sources are drying up and whilst I had hoped to have enough saved to last for 3-5 years, it is looking more than likely to be 6 months before I run out of money at this rate. That said, I’m not yet ready to give up on my dream of sailing to Lanzarote and on to the Bahamas just yet!
By now, I should already be in the Canary Islands, but thanks to the monumental delays and additional expenditure (some £10,000) of additional essential works and another £6,000 in mooring fees, that just hasn’t happened.
The start of the journey is not easy, we have to cross the Bay of Biscay, and doing that in the winter is a very bad idea. Rough seas and strong winds make the crossing risky, to say the least. The boat’s insurers specifically state no crossing Biscay after September. Doing so is like playing Russian Roulette with the weather. One day it is calm and the next day you’re running from a force 9 gale and 6-10m swells. (just 3m swells can capsize a yacht and can also be most uncomfortable!)
Today, for example, there are 35kt winds and 6m waves in/around Biscay. It would not be a pleasant place to be just at the moment.
Before setting off across Biscay, I wanted to log several hundred miles sailing around the UK first, dropping the hook and staying overnight in coves and anchorages along the way. To date, I think we have managed to log a total of just 30nm and the only time we tried dropping the hook the windlass failed and I ended up having to drop and retrieve the anchor myself by hand (which resulted in a bruised rib – not the most successful of shakedown cruises).
Some successes and upgrades though, the new diesel heater for example is amazing – I had the boat up to 24C inside while it was just 4C outside, so nice and toasty!
I am also tempted to replace the gas cooker with an electric oven and an induction hob. There were some cheap Black Friday deals on Amazon so I’ve ordered an induction hob and I’m looking at combination microwave ovens currently. They should run off the new bank of LiFePO4 (340Ah) batteries (another Black Friday deal) and the 3KW inverter which I bought from Renogy this month. Fingers crossed anyway!
So, the UK sailing season has ended and whilst I’ve already spent more than 145 days onboard, I’ve only actually managed to sail 30nm so far. We’ve dropped the hook and had a swim and a picnic (water temp was 8C so the swim was short, but we did see mermaids!)
The plan early next year is to circumnavigate the UK, stopping off in the Isle of Man to celebrate my mum’s birthday, and visiting a number of childhood holiday spots on the way including seaside resorts such as the following bucket list which amounts to more than 18,000nm travelled if I see them all!
Destination Bucket List
Isle of Man (Laxey, Douglas, Peel)
Port Eynon in Swansea
Watermouth Cove (Ilfracombe)
Scotland and Scottish Isles
Antigua and Barbuda
Trinidad and Tobago
Bucket List Destinations
If you fancy more regular updates and would like to support my adventures then you can always become a Patreon supporter and make one-off or regular donations towards the operational costs of cruising life. If there is a call for it then I will start making videos showing the delights of the locations, the problems encountered whilst underway, and anything else (within reason!) you want me to do or highlight.
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Margaret Morby (Gold Patron)
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On the evening of Saturday 16th October, I had a few guests over for dinner. The night was fun and Vesta was happy sitting on people’s laps and being loved. Then one of the guests jumped up to take a phone call and rushed out of the boat.
I had already asked everyone to make sure that they kept the hatches closed, primarily to keep the heat in, but also the cat as the weather for the week was not looking all that promising (40+ mph winds were forecast).
Before I noticed that the guest had not, as previously instructed, closed the hatch, it was too late, Vesta had run up the ladder and out of the companionway! Now normally, this isn’t a problem. I would leave the boat open when I’m out and Vesta would come and go as she pleased.
Vesta stayed out all night, despite my leaving the hatch open just in case she came back (yes, it was bitterly cold and wet that night).
The following night I found some signs that she may have been nearby (fresh poo on another boat) but other than that, there was no sign.
We’ve put posters up and have posted to every missing cat group I can find on Facebook that covers the Dorset/Portland/Weymouth area. Less than a week after Vesta went missing, these posts have been shared more than 100 times!
The marina has very kindly agreed to put posters up on the gate and noticeboard, but so far there have been no sightings. One of the marina staff has been round in the workboat looking in all the “usual” spots in case she fell in and was washed up somewhere, but (thankfully) no signs of her there either.
The search continues …
It has been nearly a month since Vesta went missing and despite dozens of suspected sightings, she has not as yet been found. I have personally walked miles and miles in the local area checking out suspected sightings, and have even collected and taken stray cats to local vets so that they can be scanned and reunited with their owners. I only hope someone eventually finds Vesta and does the same.
We have had several storms, winds topping 80mph and still no sign of Vesta. At this stage I’m beginning to give up hope and can only assume she has either stowed away on another boat and is sunning it up in the Bahamas somewhere, has found another loving home where it is warm and there is a fire and she is being fed and cared for, or that she has met Davy Jones and has learned to swim with the fishes 🙁
I keep hoping that someone will find her and take her to a vet so they can scan her chip and we can be reunited, but at this stage I’m about ready to accept that she isn’t coming back 🙁
It was a bit of a gamble taking Vesta on the boat. She’s been a landlubber for 7+ years and I really wasn’t sure how she would take to being marooned on a boat, surrounded by water, with little to do and no mice to chase.
I’m glad to say that on the whole, she has coped quite well, even when we were at sea and tacking around as we got used to the jib and how Pamela handles under canvas.
She did come up on deck after one particular day on the water looking a bit unhappy, as though she wanted off but couldn’t work out how she was going to get off, but that didn’t last and she went back down below and played with her toys and then slept.
Most of the time, she just finds somewhere that the sun has touched and sleeps there, be it on deck, or in the saloon under a hatch (window). She has food, she has toys, and she has scratching posts .. so on the whole, other than fields to go frolic in, she has most of the creature comforts from home.
September 20th, Jack again came on board with Gregg’s finest, suggesting that it was a nice day for a sail … to be honest, he had me at “hello” and I was raring to go (I’m not yet comfortable taking Pamela C out on my own, although getting closer and closer to feeling comfortable) and anyone offering to come and catch lines is more than welcome!
We went out into the bay with a plan of dropping anchor and having a cup of tea. Jack, leading me astray as always, suggested a trip to Lulworth Cove as a bit of a shakedown. I don’t know if he’s been reading my blog or not, but Lulworth Cove was literally the first place I wanted to go once I had the sails on the boat! So, with just the headsail and still no boom, at 3:30 pm, we set sail for Lulworth Cove.
We were on a starboard tack all the way there, wind in the sails and the sun on our backs. It was heavenly!
Arriving at Lulworth Cove just before 5:30 pm we decided to go around the corner to Mupe Bay where we found ourselves along with 2 other boats all getting ready to drop the hook. I looked at my watch and realised that it was going to be getting dark soon (7:30 pm) and if we didn’t head back fairly soon we would find ourselves returning in darkness. We turned and put the jib out again, but the wind had decided to pack up for the day, so we ended up motor sailing back at 6 knots, getting back to the outer breakwater at 7:30 pm and were tied up just before 8 pm (so in the dark). Warren and Bill (neighbours in the marina) very kindly turned on their deck lights so we could see where we were heading back to on J Pontoon, and they were there to catch lines and help us tie up, and then have a beer to celebrate our first proper sail out on Pamela C.
Yesterday the autohelm worked wonders, held a steady course with no issues. Today, it kept wandering, 30 odd degrees before I gave up and turned it off. Eventually, it settled down and was happy steering a course, but I need to get to the bottom of why it was randomly veering off course.
The sunset on the way home was divine, the camera seriously didn’t do the view justice, so many shades of colours
September 19th, 2021 we finally managed to take Pamela C out under canvas for the first time since taking ownership back in June! Well under the Genoa as we’re still waiting for the new boom to be delivered.
It was just a short trip out into Weymouth Bay, primarily to raise the Genoa and attach the jib sheets. This was a success and we sailed around a bit before returning to base.
With the Genoa fully out we were seeing a speed overground of some 5 knots with almost 0.5kts of tide against us, pretty good going considering only 10-12 knots of wind!
I managed to implement makeshift jib sheets from an old halyard I found in one of the lockers, it was exactly the right length to use as a single sheet with a (rather badly tied) butterfly knot in the middle. The jib sheet was surprisingly large, which is why I guess we were getting such good speeds from it …. the furling system wound easily at the drum, although I found some issues with friction on the line as it leads back to the cockpit and I’m currently working on the best way of alleviating this.