Sailing with a land cat

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.

Another day at sea!

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.

The route taken
Captain Jack

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.

Lulworth Cove

Auto Helm

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

The sunset on the way home was divine, the camera seriously didn’t do the view justice, so many shades of colours

TikTok highlights of the return

Maiden Voyage

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.

Marine Traffic monitoring seems to work
First excursion into the bay

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!

Genoa giving 5 knots on its own!

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.

All in all, a good day!

The Seven Stages of Buying a Boat

So, you’re thinking of buying a boat or you’ve just done the deal! Now prepare for the seven stages of grief boat buying!


  1. Acceptance and Hope
  2. Reconstruction and Working Through
  3. The Upward Turn
  4. Depression
  5. Anger and Bargaining
  6. Pain and Guilt
  7. Shock and Denial

Sold Stock Illustrations – 31,858 Sold Stock Illustrations, Vectors &  Clipart - Dreamstime
  1. Acceptance and Hope

You’ve bought the boat and everything seems full of promise!

  1. Reconstruction and Working Through
Boat Repair: How to repair cracks and scratches in 8 easy steps | Norton  Abrasives

You start the repairs and upgrades. You want to replace the old lights with energy-efficient LED lights, maybe the battery charger needs upgrading/replacing, solar panels or a wind turbine. Things are looking so promising!

  1. The Upward Turn
2009 Pixar film Up

You’ve installed a few upgrades and are so full of excitement. But then you realise that there are a few issues that didn’t get picked up in the survey. Maybe the rigging wasn’t quite as solid as you first thought or the boom has hidden corrosion and needs replacing, the new rigging is delayed due to supply shortages and two weeks turns into six.

  1. Depression

The delays continue, the costs keep on increasing and you now realise the £10k you budgeted for repairs and upgrades is closer to £20k

  1. Anger and Bargaining
Is Your Bargaining Perpetuating Your Anxiety? 5 Things to Try. — Eileen  Purdy LCSW Is Your Bargaining Perpetuating Your Anxiety? 5 Things to Try.

You’re now (rightly) annoyed at the continuing delays and costs. You start trying to negotiate discounts and cost savings, you may even begin to look to negotiate finance so that you can still afford the dream. You start to cut your cloth as you realise that it’s either rigging on the boat or food (well ok an extra bottle of wine) on the dinner table tonight.

  1. Pain and Guilt
How to save yourself another pointless guilt trip | Psyche Guides

You start to realise that maybe this wasn’t such a great idea after all. You’ve spent way more than you budgeted and you’re still no closer to actually being able to go sailing. You think about all the other things you could have done with the money, the good that could have come from it (the mortgage payments, starving children, credit card bills).

  1. Shock and Denial

The sailing season is now pretty much over, and you’ve still not actually made it out under canvas. Then the “final” bill arrives. You don’t believe for one second that it has really cost THAT MUCH! You wonder if you could maybe sell the boat, a lot of the work has already been done, she would be a bargain for someone who just wanted to start sailing when the season gets up and going again.

Choosing a tender (dinghy)

The tender is your car, your primary mode of transport when living off the hook. You use it to go get groceries, to get to the beach and more.

Choosing a good tender is therefore highly important. Having spent many weeks now reading up on the subject, here are my main findings.

Hypalon is the way to go. The material lasts for years, although it can be relatively tricky to repair if it does become damaged. Unaffected by UV light so won’t harden if left out in the sun.

PVC will die in a year or two if exposed to UV light (the sun). The UV rays they are exposed to from the sun will cause the rubber to dry out and become porous. PVC is not abrasion resistant when dry.

The bigger the tubes the better. 20″ or 50cm tubes are a must. The smaller the tube, the wetter your bottom will be while you’re riding the boat – especially if you are “larger” such as myself.

Air deck or slatted floor? The consensus would appear to be for air deck as this adds to stability. In addition, you can get some dinghies with an air deck and keel (inflatable tube under the floor) which increases efficiency and agility.

Highfield may be expensive and the ones you see all the YouTubers using, but their build quality apparently leaves something to be desired, as does their quality control. This is a shame as I really wanted to get one, but at £3,000 and based on the feedback from some, I’m now reluctant to spend the money. The CL290 has 44cm (17″) tubes which are larger than most, but still not the magic 50cm.

Talamex and SeaGo dinghies seem to be a good compromise, but the tube sizes aren’t as large

Avon dinghies just seem to go on forever. I’m finding lots of 10 to 15-year-old Avon dinghies for sale online at sensible prices, and they just seem to go on forever, even if they look a little ugly.

When buying a second-hand dinghy, make sure it holds air. Not just overnight but for a week, or even two weeks – if you can.

References

Outboard engine – Electric or Gas?

One of the things you need when sailing a boat, is a smaller boat to get you to and from shore. Yes, you can just take your big sailboat into a marina and pay £20-£50 a day for the privilege (ok, so the South Coast is more expensive than the North).

The tender is your car, for all intents and purposes. It is the vehicle you use most often to get to the beach, to go shopping, go visit neighbours and more. Traditionally your tender has been powered either by human muscle (oars) or a small petrol-driven outboard (either 2-stroke or 4-stroke). In today’s greener world though, there are other options worth considering. Electric powered engines are really beginning to hold their own, and whilst still more expensive than petrol, they are coming down in price and becoming more and more affordable.

I recently started a thread on one of the Facebook sailing forums asking for input from the veteran members as to whether or not I should buy an electric outboard or go for a (used) petrol engine. The feedback I received was both insightful and also somewhat surprising.

ePropulsion Spirit 1.0 Plus electric outboard motor

One of the biggest comments was about re-charging your batteries. With a petrol outboard, you just stick a few litres of petrol in a can, pull the chord and off you go. With an electric engine, you have to consider the fact that if the battery is flat, you need to wait up to 12 hours to recharge it on your boat – and then you may only get 1-hours of usage out of it (less if you run it at full power). Batteries (like the one pictured above) aren’t cheap. The ePropulsion Spirit Battery costs £800 to buy, not to mention the £1,650 for the motor itself. Tests I’ve seen so far seem to confirm the 6-8 hour usage scenario from a single charge, but also show a full charge taking closer to 24 hours than 8 hours as advertised (when charged from 12 volt DC systems, which is the norm here).

screenshot-2021-04-08-at-17-52-08.png

It floats (which is good) and is waterproof (essential) but takes 8.5 hours to charge, which means you probably need to keep at least one in reserve on charge at all times, and possibly carry a spare fully charged one on your boat.

When you’re living off the hook, you have to consider every amp-hour of battery usage on your boat, and turning the engine on to recharge the house batteries is less than optimal. You can install solar power, but you’re likely to only get 30-40 amps of charge out of a 600W solar array in a 24 hour period, and space is at a premium so you may not even be able to host 600W of panels.

So, considering how green everyone is generally in the sailing community, I was somewhat surprised to find that the general consensus was to get a 4-stroke engine and continue to use that for as long as possible.

The downsides of petrol engines are reliability and weight. 2-stroke engines are generally just not reliable enough and 4-stroke engines are heavy.

Biofuel

What makes this whole process harder is the UK Government’s recent switch to E10 fuel. Not all (old) outboard engines will run on E10, and whilst E5 will remain in circulation for some time to come, it is going to become more and more expensive (I recently paid £1.52/litre for E5 at a forecourt) as supplies are wound down.

There were the usual debates about the damage to the environment caused by the manufacture of solar panels and lithium-ion (LiFePO4) batteries, etc.

The manufacturer of ePropulsion engines boasts some interesting usage figures compared to a petrol outboard, the question is though will this new generation of electric outboard actually convince people to switch?

One of the problems with using ethanol based fuels is that ethanol attracts water, making it particularly unsuitable for marine use as the water can reach the carburettor and reduce performance and increase fuel consumption.

Repairability

One of the issues that I have noticed reading reviews of the ePropulsion outboard is that it seems to be, like an iPhone, designed so that there is 0 maintenance and 0 repairability. Owners have reported issues with broken battery cases when they dropped the battery onto a wooden deck from a foot or so above and the case cracked, when they contacted the manufacturer for spares/repairs they were simply told to buy a new battery – and in fact a new engine too as there was a newer version out. The ePropulsion motor comes with a 2 year warranty, and nothing much more after that – is that planned obsolescence?

Compare this to a 2-stroke or a 4-stroke engine which, although requiring annual maintenance, is infinitely more repairable and petrol engines have been known to run for 10-20 years without needing to be replaced or being “obsolete”.

Conclusion

It seems the steamroller switch to electric is inevitable, and no matter what the option the costs (to the environment as well as my pocket) are likely to be steep, but in the short term I think I may well stick with a used, 10 year old, outboard and deal with the hassles of maintenance for the next 5+ years while I wait for the electric outboard engines to become considerably more mainstream, or be replaced with hydrogen-powered engines instead!

Why did I buy a boat? (Part 2)

The trials and tribulations of buying a 1977 Moody 39CC and moving from a desk job and into the cruising lifestyle – or “Welcome to my mid-life crisis”, as I like to say 🙂


“One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight, for a very long time, of the shore”

André Gide

One thing is for certain; I had lost sight of my reason for living for a long time. I’d had a failed marriage, my business was about to collapse (some would say it never really ever got off the ground), my physical and mental health was in decline, and I was still struggling to come to terms with the death of my father at the age of 66 from lung cancer. One of my biggest regrets is not spending quality time with my parents, who had moved to the Isle of Man about the same time I moved to London to work at Demon Internet in 1995.

We’ll have plenty of time once I retire and you’ve grown your business“, he said. Well, we never managed to get that time, sadly.


David Morby 1946 – 2013

After my father died in 2013, I started spending more quality (guilt?) time with my mum, and we went travelling a little bit, as our schedules would allow. We would eventually go away for a month here and a few weeks there visiting Greece, Lanzarote, Mexico, South Africa, etc. I would sometimes go to the Isle of Man, or mum would come to London, and we would see a show in the West End (or whatever). We started to get to know each other again, and it was great! And then COVID and we’ve been unable to see each other for 18 months. Thank God for Skype and FaceTime!


Through all of this, it became apparent that I loved to travel and to explore countries like a local (not doing the mundane touristy bits). I had been travelling for work for years, but never really getting to see any of the places I visited. Running 14 companies in 9 Countries for a UK PLC, you see lots of airports and hotels, but very little of the actual country that you are in 🙁

Film School

Raindance logo square.png

To get me out of my funk, in 2017, I signed on to an HND in Filmmaking with Raindance in Trafalgar Square,

2019 Cannes Film Festival poster.png
Cannes 2019

London. The course was for 2 years, from October 2017 through to August 2019. Graduation was supposedly March 2020, but COVID put a stop to that. I did graduate with a Distinction though! (all be it without the fanfare). We had made over 50 short films; most were classroom exercises, but 7 of them did make it into the Raindance Film Festival, and at least a couple ended up subsequently winning awards on the festival circuit. We even went to the Cannes Film Festival and experienced the delights of the French Riviera…

The following year, I vowed to return to Cannes in my own yacht; and host some of the students as they submitted their films to the various competitions in the festival.

By 2018, it was obvious that my heart wasn’t in running Fido anymore, and I took the radical steps of effectively quitting my day job, finding someone with the will and strength (and time/gumption/faith) to turn the business around. I decided to make some big changes in my life.

Road to Yachtmaster

After a suitable handover period, I was free to follow my dreams. After a week in Zante in September and then most of December 2019 in Lanzarote with my mother, I flew to Gibraltar on 3rd Jan 2020 to start a FastTrack Yachtmaster course with Allabroad Sailing.

Things were going great guns, I was having the time of my life, I’d met some amazing people and I was losing weight! I had lost some 15kg and clothes that didn’t fit me when I went out there were now falling off me!

Then COVID struck, and just 3 weeks before I was due to take the Yachtmaster exam, the world closed its borders. I opted to fly back to the UK to rescue the cat which I’d left with my neighbours (or is that rescue my neighbours from the cat?!) rather than risk the uncertainty of many months in Gibraltar being unable to leave as the pandemic took hold.

Elite: Dangerous PlayStation 4 Front Cover

A year passed, and nothing much happened in my life. I had put an offer in on a 32-foot Westerley near Brighton, but that fell through when Boris announced the 1st nationwide lockdown and we couldn’t get a surveyor anywhere near the boat. I spent months playing Elite: Dangerous and even bought a new PC, partly for Elite and primarily (I convinced myself) for video editing purposes (oddly, a year in, I’ve barely edited any video, but I have played nearly 1,000 hours of Elite)

By this stage, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life; and was going through some fairly dark times. I had been locked away for over a year, hiding from COVID, hiding from life. I had earned some money doing consultancy work remotely. Still, I hadn’t made a film for over a year, the feature film I was going to write “when I had the time” had failed to materialise, and I had put on 25kg in the meantime sitting in front of a computer playing games and not getting any exercise.

I eventually managed to get the first COVID vaccine in March 2021, which gave me a bit of a mental boost, and I started to venture out again. The world was a different place, but slowly getting back to normal, and I too was starting to feel more like my old self again – and this is when the sailing bug came back with a vengeance, and I desperately felt the need to get out/on/near water. I started calling around to sailing schools trying to book refresher courses, mile builder courses, anything just so I could get back onto a boat and do some “recognisable” miles for my logbook, but the schools were all mothballed; they weren’t sure when they were going to be able to operate again and at that stage I knew, I just knew, that I needed to buy a boat and go do it myself.

Mid Life Crisis in full swing

To make matters worse, I had now turned 50 (May 2021). The mid-life crisis was well and truly upon me!

When I was 25 I bought a sports car, 30 I learned to fly, 35 I bought a plane, 40 I got married, 45 I got divorced (and had to sell the plane), so I guess it was only natural that by the time I was 50 I should be looking to buy a boat.

Every waking moment had ended up being either my watching YouTube sailing videos or searching online for boats. However, now the world was staying at home this summer, there were no boats for sale. Brokers were telling me that boats they took on at 9 am were being sold, above their asking price, by 3 pm the same day. It was a seller’s market! I found a 32 foot Moody in Portland but couldn’t view it as the brokerage that had just listed it was closed due to a COVID outbreak. Subsequently, it seems the boat has sold 2 or 3 times, but the buyers have dropped out; I’ve not as yet been able to find out why, though.

Whilst waiting for the brokerage to re-open and re-arrange the viewing, I stumbled across a Facebook marketplace listing for a 1977 Moody 39CC. I had wanted a 38-40′ boat (or even a 50′ boat), but they were out of my price bracket. I did not have £100k to spend on a boat, and even the cheapest I had found was £75k and they pretty much all needed the rigging replacing and other work, so add £15k to the price (as a minimum) for repairs.

The find (of the century?)

Pamela C was listed at £25,000. I could afford that .. barely. She probably needed new rigging, but the sails seemed in good condition, the boat itself seemed sound, and the guy selling her was amenable. He had apparently already sold her once, but the buyer backed out when he realised that, post-Brexit, he would have to pay VAT on her to get her into Ireland, where he lived.

I engaged a local firm of surveyors, and they found a few minor issues, no show-stoppers (sadly, they missed the issues with the mast, which has cost me about £2,000 more than budgeted so far). Still, they did find enough for me to get £2,000 off the list price and get the vendor to include about £2,000 worth of items that he was trying very hard to unscrew and remove before I saw them. (AIS, Hydrovane wind vane, courtesy flags, etc.).

Now the real work begins!

So that was it, I had, all of a sudden bought a boat! Now the hard work begins, cleaning, sanding, painting, repairing and then learning to sail her. The last bit is the biggest challenge. I have never single-handed a boat this large, and I’m not 100% certain where all the bits of rope go either .. this is, of course, harder to envisage when the boat has no sails, no boom, no mast and no rigging. This, however, is a story for next time!

What is it about sailing?

What is it that I love so much about sailing? Good question! 🙂


Take everything you own that you can’t live without, put it and yourself into the shower turn on the cold water all the way, stay in there for at least two hours. If you come out with a semi-sunny disposition you’re in the club

unknown

The Appeal


Sailing appeals on so many levels, it isn’t easy to know where to start. The fact that you can travel the world without burning any fossil fuels is certainly high up on the list, as is the fact that you can travel to pretty much anywhere in the world!

Yes, it is slow. Pamela C will cruise at roughly 6 knots (7 mph/11 kph), which isn’t really much faster than your average jogging speed, but the fact that she can go 24 hours a day without stopping means that you can easily cover 264km a day or 1,848km in a week, all pretty much while you’re sitting there reading a book, drinking a cup of tea or eating a cake 🙂

When you get there, you have your entire home with you too. You’re not restricted to 10kg of luggage like you are with Ryan Air. You get to sleep in your own (very comfortable) bed every night, and if you have friends along with you for the ride, then you can chat, play games and generally enjoy the journey as part of the experience, without the rushing and cramped quarters of an aeroplane or car.


Life is about the journey not the destination

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yes, there can be bad days, stormy seas and wet weather, but we take the rough with the smooth!

I love waking up on the boat each morning; the fresh sea air and the gentle rocking motion of the boat all lean towards a generally relaxed and happy feeling first thing in the morning. Pamela C has a fairly roomy head with a shower (somewhat larger than showers I’ve encountered in some hotels!) and a gas boiler which heats the water to quite a nice warm temperature.

Since buying the boat, in fact, it no longer feels “right” waking up at home. I really don’t sleep as well as I have been sleeping when I’m on the boat, whether it is the noisy neighbours or traffic zooming past my front door at 3am (the speed bumps just seem to encourage them to go faster in a lower gear between each ramp).

Exercise

Coke Zero 10 X 330Ml - Tesco Groceries

I also love the fact that I’m getting exercise all day, every day, whilst on the boat – without it feeling like I’m going out of my way to exercise. I’m walking roughly 5km a day while the boat is in the marina, compared to less than 1km a day when I’m at home. My core gets an excellent workout when I’m at sea, and the weight seems to fall off. I seem to pick and nibble on sweets and drink lots of Coke Zero when I’m at home. Yes, I have Coke Zero and sweets on the boat, too, as well as beer and alcohol, but I find I’m drinking considerably more water when on the boat and “doing more” every day.

Solitude

Siege is swinging back to being way too strong — Elder Scrolls Online

Yes, some days, sailing on your own can be lonely. I certainly miss the cat (Vesta) and hope that once the boat repairs are finished, I will be able to bring her down to the boat, and she will “cope” with the change of scenery. Inside, I’m a little scared that she’ll get upset, climb the sails/mast and then get catapulted into the sea when a big wave hits the boat, to then be eaten by a shark or similar before I can fish her out of the water. Hopefully, that cartoon scenario of cats being flung into the ocean will never happen, but there is a risk of her getting out and doing something stupid in a state of panic.

Vesta

What about my friends, I hear you say? (Once you’ve stopped laughing at the vision of the cat flying through the air in slow motion). Well, my friends are all more than welcome to join me for a day or a week or longer. Most have day jobs or wives and, as such, can’t get “permission” to be away from home for weeks on end. Yes, they can (and will) come for a day sail or a weekend or whatever, but the concept of dropping everything and sailing for a month or more to Lanzarote seems too alien or shocking for them. Even my last girlfriend decided she couldn’t cope with the thought of me either being away for weeks at a time or that she had commitments and as such couldn’t see how we could even go sailing for a weekend, let alone a month – and promptly ended the relationship. Probably for the best at the end of the day. (I think she could also see that I loved sailing and Pamela C potentially more than I loved her, who knows)

Destinations

Well, as I’ve already said, it is more about the journey than the actual destination, although you obviously need waypoints along the way. I have already come up with a few waypoints while thinking and planning, waiting for the mast and new rigging to be installed. In the short term, I think I’m going to explore the Jurassic Coast of England, then head up to see my mother in the Isle of Man and maybe spend a month there before returning to Portland for the winter (assuming they have found me a berth by then) otherwise I may put Pamela C back on the hard for the winter and dream of sailing further afield in the new year.

Turtle Beach, Zante

I had hoped to be able to sail down to Lanzarote or the Meditteranean for Christmas. With the delays in getting the mast on and the need for some time to do shakedown trips and snagging, it is unlikely that I will be able to get across the Bay of Biscay before September and the insurance company’s moratorium. (No crossing Biscay between September and April). If I manage to get down to Gibraltar before September, I would need to cross to Lanzarote before mid-October to avoid the worst of the weather. Alternatively, I still have a tentative reservation at a little taverna we found in Kiri, Zakynthos, which overlooks Turtle Beach, where we can drop anchor and row ashore for some amazing prawns.

The Views!

Sunset in a marina

The views are also something it can be hard to describe. Beautiful sunrises and sunsets, amazing vistas as you sail along the coastline.

another amazing sunset

The Challenge

Not every day is a simple bimble, every time you go out on the water; you learn something new. Something can break, the weather can turn for the worse despite forecasts saying clear skies. It’s how we deal with these challenges that make a difference.


Sailing – Fixing your boat in exotic locations

A sailor

So, what is it about sailing? You decide. For me, it’s all of the above and more. Hopefully, some of this will tug at your heartstrings and perhaps convince you to go to your local yacht club or sailing school and experience sailing first-hand.

Cheers!

Water Water everywhere …

One of the basic requirements to sustain human life is water. When you’re at sea, especially on long passages, drinking water becomes a valuable and scarce commodity.

water bladders
Water bladders on Pamela C

Pamela C has 3 bladders that will hold a total of roughly 450-500 litres of water. The average person should drink at least 3-4 litres of water a day, potentially more in hot weather or if you are exerting yourself, so on the surface, you’d think that would be enough for weeks.

This however is nothing, according to WaterWise the average person uses upwards of 140 litres of water PER DAY in the UK! Obviously, this isn’t sustainable on a boat when you have such limited quantities of water available, especially on passage when you might be away from shore for 3 weeks or more at a time.

When on passage, certain things have to give. You can’t shower every day. Washing up might have to wait, or you use salt water wash and then sparingly use fresh water for that final rinse.

Considering the amount of water around you (roughly 332,519,000 cubic miles of sea water!) it’s a shame that drinking it will eventually kill you. If only there was a way to turn the seawater into drinking water I hear you say? Well, funnily enough, there is – and there are a few options.

You can set up funnels to catch rainwater and dump it into your onboard water tanks. Great, but you risk also getting some seawater and who knows what pollutants are in the rainwater (acid rain anyone?). You can build a still to boil off the water and catch the condensation/steam and turn that back into pure water. If you’re shipwrecked on a desert island then both of these tricks are definitely something you would be doing.

Water Makers

On a boat, however, there is another option. You can install a “water maker”. These work by using reverse osmosis and forcing seawater through a set of filters, initially under pressure, which results in freshwater being produced and a by-product of brine. The freshwater can then be stored in the ships water tanks, and you have an almost infinite supply of fresh drinking water that you can generate at rates of between 25 litres and 80 litres per hour, depending on the water maker you’re using. This however comes at a cost. The cheapest I have found so far comes in at roughly £3,500 with prices increasing to over £10,000 at the 80 lph levels.

They also seem to come in two flavours, either modular (naked) or as a complete unit. On a boat, space is very much at a premium and the modular options seem to make more sense as you can install the components in various spaces around the boat.

How Do They Work?

Most marine watermakers use a process known as reverse osmosis to extract fresh water from brine. Basically, it involves putting the seawater under pressure (some 800 – 900psi) over a semi-permeable coiled membrane. Freshwater then migrates through the membrane and is collected, leaving a more concentrated brine solution behind.

They can be powered from 12/24/48 volt DC, AC and/or a generator. For my needs onboard, 12 volt is abundant and as such I will be primarily looking at the 12-volt solutions.

The Options

So far, after a fair bit of research, I have identified the following options based on a 12-volt system.

ManufacturerGPH/LPHCosts
Rainman30 LPH$5,000 USD
ECH2O Tec50 LPH$6,000 USD
ECH2O Tec120 LPH$8,000 USD
ECO Sistems Splash 30S30 LPH£ 5,279 GBP
ECO Sistems Water Pro60 LPH£ 7,862GBP
Blue Gold ECO+ DIY30 LPH€3,864 EUR
Blue Gold ECO+ DIY60 LPH €4,641 EUR
Seawater Pro65 LPH$3,795 USD
Prices ex VAT and shipping

Pros and Cons

One of the problems with a water maker is that if you’re not using it on a regular basis (at least twice a week) then you need to “pickle” the membranes to preserve them. This means lots of additional maintenance and potential additional costs. As such the general advice is not to install a watermaker if you intend to spend a lot of time in marinas.

You need to replace the membranes on a semi-regular basis and (apparently) might need different sorts of membrane kits depending on the water/ocean you’re in?

A pack of 5 replacement filters for the Seawater Pro is only $39 USD however, so this at least doesn’t seem too expensive, depending on how often they need to be changed of course. You can also get a UV sterilizer for $95 that is compatible with the SeaWater Pro watermaker which looks like a useful addition.

Conclusion

At this stage, I’m not sure which one I will end up buying. I think the top 2 on my list are the Rainman and the SeaWater Pro. The more I look at the options, the more I think I’m inclined to go with the SeaWaterPro – it just depends on whether or not I can get one into the UK without excessive additional import costs.

So you want to buy a boat? (Part 1)

Don’t do it, just don’t. Rent one, charter one, go and sail on other people’s boats – just whatever you do, don’t buy your own boat, you’ll regret it!

The two happiest days in a man’s life are when he buys his yacht and when he sells his yacht

a wise man

That’s what everyone said to me when I told them I was looking at buying my own boat … “A boat owner is only happy on 2 occasions, the day he bought his boat, and then the day he sells it,” they said.

Well, I listened and then completely ignored them and went ahead and bought my boat anyway. I ran the numbers, had a healthy contingency and wanted to experience the trials and tribulations. It can’t possibly be as bad as everyone was making out … can it?


I’d spent a good 2-3 years looking for the right boat, trying to find something which wasn’t a complete wreck but that I could still afford. Something that perhaps cosmetically wasn’t all there but physically was sound. After looking at what felt like 100 boats, I stumbled across Pamela C and instantly fell in love!

I arranged for the survey from a local company, one that seemed to have good online reviews (at least no terrible reviews) as I really didn’t know anyone, and the guy selling the boat just kept saying “Don’t bother getting a survey, they never spot any of the issues anyway”. Well, that was partly true .. but that’s a story for another day!

If it flies, floats or fornicates, it is cheaper to rent than to buy

Felix Dennis

The surveyor did find a few things that needed to be addressed, earth bonding wasn’t done properly, broken track, broken cheek blocks, gas certification was out of date, and a few other bits and pieces. These all helped in the negotiations, and I managed to get the vendor to drop his price by roughly 10% and, more importantly include several extra items he had originally said he would be removing/transferring to his new boat (Hydrovane wind vane, full AIS, windlass, etc.)

The vendor had been doing renovation work for a while, and there was new headlining, an electric toilet (pumping by hand is so very very very tiresome), and generally, things seemed to be in a reasonable order. The boat had been on the hard for almost 2 years, so it was impossible to look for signs of osmosis, but she seemed watertight and hadn’t let any water in during the recent torrential downpours, so I read that as a good sign.

There was some water in the bilges, but this was mainly traced back to a small leak through the centre cockpit around where the autohelm cables come through into the engine bay (some grease in the hole should sort that), and the stuffing box seemed to be leaking, again some grease in there and that should dry out fairly quickly. Worse case it just needed a bit of “rope” stuffing into the box and the nuts tightening.

So, I signed on the dotted line, transferred most of my life’s savings (in 3 instalments as I could only transfer £10k/day from my bank account annoyingly), and the boat was mine! I had 2 weeks to sort out the antifoul, address any other issues and get her in the water before the rental period on the hard came to an end. Yes, I could have extended this, but I didn’t buy a caravan; I bought a boat!

I arranged for one of the local (highly respected and recommended) rigging experts to look at the rigging, and he confirmed my fears that the rigging would need to be replaced.

The Rigging

The rigging was 10 years old, and whilst the surveyor indicated that it seemed to be ok, it was always going to be down to the insurance company to accept 10-year-old rigging on their risk. As it was, the insurance company didn’t seem to care, but I wanted an expert to take a look, so with the boat still on the hard, I got Andy Gordon of AD Gordon Rigging to have a look. He spotted a number of issues, including a fault with the gooseneck that the surveyor should have spotted, and I decided that it was best to replace the rigging now rather than in the next couple of years as I had originally planned.

Quotes came in, and they were between £5k and £7k. Andy Gordon was actually towards the lower end of the estimates, so coupled with the generally positive recommendations from everyone in the local area (and the fact at least one of the big boat companies I went to called Andy for a quote as they always use him for their rigging work), I instructed AD Gordon Rigging Ltd to replace both the standing rigging and also the running rigging.

To do this, the boat would have to go into the water as they’re not allowed to work on / climb the mast whilst the boat is in storage at the National Sailing Academy. So a lift was booked, and the boat went into the water Thursday 8th July 2021. I had to arrange temporary berthing for her at Portland Marina (where I am trying to get an annual berth, but they’re running a waiting list currently) and of course, that means paying visitor rates, not berth holder rates – £1,000 per month roughly – something I hadn’t budgeted for.

I had a contingency budget of up to £6k/year for berthing if I chose to keep her in marinas, but my main plan was life on the hook and life in the sun! (plus, I hadn’t expected a number of the additional costs that have been racking up).

I speak to Andy Gordon and he tells me that there is a crane lift at Clark’s yard Friday morning and that the 2-week window should be enough time, so long as there are no delays in getting the parts from suppliers. So off we go.

The mast comes off on July 9th at 9 am and is due back on before July 22nd. Happy Days!

The Big Clean

While the boat is on the water, I’m busy cleaning and tidying and removing 45 years worth of dust, pubic hair and grime – I don’t think this boat has ever really been cleaned. I enrol friends and my girlfriend to help; we bring the Karcher jetwash down and blast the decks and the teak woodwork. She’s looking better now, so much cleaner! The paint is flaking, but that’s ok; that’s the next job – sand the decks and re-paint. (why do this on the water where it is more expensive? Well, I didn’t want to be responsible for friends falling down ladders or off the deck (3m above ground currently) and breaking bones, or worse)

EVA 240*90CM Foam Teak Boat Marine Yacht Flooring Mat Decking Carpet Sea Pad

Then I meet one of the locals (Dan) who knows the boat and a little of her history as he used to be moored near her in the bay. Dan suggests using EVA Foam instead of painting the deck .. cheaper, looks nicer and easier on the bare feet too! … So off I go to eBay to find and buy some. That turned out to be easier said than done, with one seller cancelling the order as he had problems with his supplier, and the second attempt going missing inside Yodel for nearly a week .. but the decking finally arrived, just as all my volunteers had headed home, so I’m left sanding, measuring, cutting and sticking on my own – I’ll let you know how that pans out next week!

2021 Spinlock Deckvest 6D 170N Lifejacket DWLJH - Yellow

Going around the safety equipment on the boat, it is evident that it needs replacing/servicing/purchasing. The danbuoy has definitely seen better days, there are no throwable flotation devices, there were 2 lifejackets (which I believe are from the Titanic), the liferaft needs a service (£385?), the EPIRB needs a service (£250? They’re only £400 new!) and I need to buy lifejackets (8 of which cost me £2,100 plus another £500 for 2 x MOB alarms).

I think Ian at Pirates Cave Chandlery in Rochester must have thought all his Christmases had come at once when I walked in and 5 minutes later had spent over £2,500 on 8 lifejackets and a load of other bits.

The Water Tanks

When I spoke to the vendor, he told me that he’d taken the water tanks out to replace the wood they were sitting on as it had rotted. He agreed to put the tanks back in before the sale, which he did, he just didn’t actually connect them!

As a result, I now have to lift the floor and work out the pipework and routing for the freshwater storage system. Having done so, I’m not convinced that I want to keep the bladders (tanks) for long, although they are working currently, and having pumped a large amount of Aqua Sol through them I’m relatively convinced that they’re sterile and the water won’t kill me. I still think that longer-term they need replacing, but that’s yet more time and money!

The Mast (continued)

July 22nd comes and goes. There’s a problem with the mast too. It has some structural issues due to aftermarket modifications and needs braces to restore structural integrity (currently it has perforations all the way around), custom-made braces, which will add a week or two and £500. The spreaders are corroded too, so they’re going to need rebuilding – that’s another £300. The winches are in serious need of repair and service, so that’s another £500 too. We’re now rapidly approaching and passing the £7k figure for rigging repairs, and we haven’t yet got to the running rigging and blocks that are going to need to be replaced.

August 5th, and still no mast. We have, however been busy plugging away at the internals. There were a number of issues with the 12-volt electric system, not least of which was an electrical short, which could have caused the entire boat to burst into flames, thankfully that was located. The earth bonding had been cut out in places and not restored – very strange. Without adequate bonding, the boat will suffer from galvanic corrosion, and the keel, rudder and propellor could all corrode and fall off, not to mention the through fixings could all corrode and crumble, leaving the boat like Swiss Cheese and sinking. That had to be addressed, and the shore power connector was heavily pyrolysed and ready to catch fire due to either a leak or just poor installation by the previous owner).

The Shower

Shower Sump

Another issue identified by the surveyor was that the shower was draining into the bilges. This is unhygienic and suboptimal. It turns out that this is actually a relatively easy fix though, there should be a shower sump that catches the pubic hair/etc, in a trap and pumps the dirty water out of the boat through one of the skin fixings. £35 later from Amazon and a new 750 GPH shower sump has been acquired, and we now just need to work out whether any of the myriad of cut wires under the floor is actually meant to power the sump or if we need to run a new 12v power feed to the sump – a job for next week.

Portland Marina has been very helpful and has now extended berthing until August 26th, which takes us to the end of Portland Week – when there will be fun and games “on, above and below the water” apparently! Hopefully, by then, I’ll have a mast, functioning sails and be able to at least sail around the local area.

The Windlass

The windlass was left on the boat by the previous owner but in a locker. It had been taken off to be serviced, and while it was away, they had apparently lost the motor, and it needed a whole new motor to be installed at a cost of £900 that was paid for by the company the windlass was sent to for the service. The plus side of this is that whilst the old windlass was “up only”, this new one is reversing and can go down as well as up! (To release the anchor you had to undo the clutch and bail the chain out by hand).

Corroded Solenoid

Fitting the windlass was a job and a half. The old solenoid had corroded away (and was a 2 pole, 1 way, solenoid). A new solenoid was sourced (£65) and after some experimentation, I was able to wire it up and get the windlass working! It was at this stage that I realised the old anchor chain was probably not going to hold in any serious blow, and the Danforth anchor didn’t really fit on the bow roller (plus it was bent and battered and again probably wouldn’t provide great holding in windy conditions).

After some research and investigation, I settled on a new Lewmar Delta anchor. When I tried to order this, however, I was advised that they weren’t readily available, that there were a number of issues with them and that I would be much better off with a Mantus M2 anchor instead. I looked at the Mantus, saw some reasonably positive reviews online, and decided the price (£513) was right and the spec too. Whilst talking to Ben over at Pro Marine Store, he managed to upsell me on the Ultra Swivel – guaranteed to ensure the anchor is the right way up every time, so no issues getting it onto the bow roller (unlike the Danforth, which I actually had to lasso and manhandle onto the deck when I brought it up – not something I want to be doing in a swell!). I also ordered 60m of new 10mm G40 anchor chain, and as a result, was some £1,500 poorer in a matter of minutes!

The new anchor, chain and swivel are absolutely awesome however, and I am very very happy with the purchase!

The Electrics

https://www.victronenergy.com/upload/products/Phoenix%20Smart%20IP43%20Charger_old.png

We also tidied the electrics in the engine bay. We replaced the archaic Merlin trickle charger with a shiny new Victron Energy IP43 Smart Charger (£500) .. a really cute bit of kit with Bluetooth support so you can monitor the battery status on your phone from anywhere on the boat. More on this in another post.

In the engine bay, there were cut/bare/exposed wires everywhere. It was a mess! It needed an audit, and that’s where Daz of Marine Tech came in. Daz is an amazing guy and has been an inspiration and guide on several things, helping me get to grips with the electrics and other aspects of the boat. I can highly recommend his services! We soon tidied up the loose wires, random nuts and bits of wire that went nowhere. Daz drop tested each of the batteries and (to my surprise), gave them a clean bill of health. One less immediate expense (although longer-term, they do need to be replaced with Lithium for longevity and to support the inverter / etc that I want to install).

the mess before we tidied

Still to do

The major expenses still to be incurred include solar panels, an inverter and a water maker. Combined, these will cost about £8,000, oh and of course the mast still needs to go back on – so there could be yet more costs there which I’m not expecting! 🙁

In addition, upgrading the chart plotter and instruments will likely cost another £10,000 to bring them up to state of the art. I really like the B&G Zeus3S system, but that’s outside my price range currently, unless B&G want to sponsor me 🙂

I also need to buy a tender and outboard motor if I’m going to live on the hook, as I’ll need transport to get from the boat and into the marinas/beach/etc. That’s potentially another £3k-£5k new (or £1500 second hand)

Part 2

Part 2 coming next week when I go into more detail about the water systems, the mast, decking and other joys of buying a 1977 yacht that hasn’t been in the water for almost 2 years!