3. So, nearly a year on since our last post… where are we with our plans, and what have we been up to?

Hull to Brighton
As you’ll have gathered, we bought Rose Rambler of Devon… We sailed her down from Hull to Ramsgate with her previous owners, then round the corner to her new (temporary) home in Brighton with Alan, our ‘skipper for hire’. We discovered what a pig she is to manoeuvre in confined spaces and at low speeds.
We had a lesson in manoeuvring in confined spaces from a fellow long-keel owner, and now know that yes, she may be a pig, but at least we know and expect it now. And we don’t ever expect to know in advance what she’s going to do in reverse.
We completed the Club Class sailing/racing weeks with the Brighton Marina Yacht Club and then….. We took her out sailing. By ourselves. And we didn’t die. Or kill anyone. Or damage her. Once we got going, it was actually rather jolly. A big learning curve all round, but we like to think that we *did* learn…
Then the engine stopped working. Luckily, this happened in winter when it was a bit chilly anyway, and I for one didn’t really fancy going out in everything I owned. I am clearly going to be a warm climate sailor. It took a couple of months to get ourselves together to get the engine fixed, during which we also completed several other tasks (by which I mean spent a lot of money):
  • We decided to buy a decent cooker since we will be limiting our dining out while away and wanted something that will be a bit nicer and more efficient to cook on. Also something that doesn’t carbon up all our pots and pans. We also got the entire gas system checked so that we don’t explode while we’re away (new pipes, connections, gas lockers, gas alarms)…
  • We bought some spray foam insulation to cut down on the condensation (and associated mould) in certain storage areas – mainly where we store clothes and dive gear. I like to think that this has made a difference, mostly because of the huge amount of work involved in clearing, cleaning, preparing, and spraying the areas involved! It has certainly given us a couple more areas to store clothes without them moulding up. We didn’t suffer from condensation as much as some boats, but we certainly had our fair share, and pulling things out of cupboards and seeing those little grey and green spots of mould was getting pretty tiresome.
  • We invested in a diesel heater. And it really has been an investment. The heater was fitted in January and has made the boat not only warmer, but a lot drier too. This (I like to think in combination with the insulation…), has made a big difference to the internal environment and storage areas of the boat.
  • We bought a DSC VHF radio (AIS) which enables us to see other boats with AIS (and them to see us) and communicate with them directly if necessary – this is also connected to our chart plotter and radar, so it will be quite handy, especially when crossing those shipping lanes…
  • We bought a new spray hood and a full canopy for the cockpit (still waiting for the canopy bit though…)
  • We bought a stack pack so we can drop and store the main easily.
  • We have had our rigging completely re-done: standing and running. The mast was taken down and completely re-rigged with like-for-like. Getting the keel-stepped mast out was a huge job, and it has certainly made us think twice about ‘just getting the mast down’ to go through the French canals next winter! However, I worked alongside the rigger, and it was an interesting experience (a lot of cleaning the mast was also involved to be honest)
  • Power: all internal lights have been replaced with LED’s. External lights, with the exception of the steaming and bicolour lights, have also been replaced with LED’s. A battery monitor has been fitted, and EuroTek have now wired up the shore power and batteries correctly so that the batteries charge when the engine is on, and the battery monitor is displaying accurate information…
  • The sink pump. We have to physically pump water out of the sink and shower in the heads, which is fine, but the pump stopped working… Lots of nice standing water in the sink for the cat to drink, but not quite so enjoyable for the human crew. The pump was taken apart and put back together (twice), but the problem actually turned out to be: an old school Bic razor guard stuck in the pipe! I will admit that a hair clip (that may have belonged to me rather than the cat, whom I tried to blame) did not help the situation, and also having two high-moulting beings on the boat (just to clarify, Jamie is not one of them) contributed fairly comprehensively to the blockage, however these things have to start somewhere and so we to like to blame the bit of moulded orange plastic… In addition to this, in the process of re-fitting the pump and all the pipes, the lever of the skin fitting came off and sea water started to pour in. Hmmm. Quite important to sort that out, we felt. We couldn’t get the lever to sit properly in the hole, so the water kept dribbling in around it and we couldn’t get it to hold fast, various lever positions but still the water kept coming… Turned out to be the screw that screws the lever in to place (thus plugging the hole) had failed… New screw and a bit of frustration (‘get in there you bastard’) and there it was, properly seated, screwed in, and water tight. Quite a relief really, not sure we could have sat there trying to block it (or furiously pumping the bilges) for too long while 11 tons of boat dragged seawater through a small hole in the hull. Still, on the plus side, now we know how the sea cocks work…
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Upcoming jobs:
  • The fridge. Oh jeez, the fridge. This has been a bit of a trauma. There has been warm beer, sweaty cheese, solidified milk, and more gone off veg than we had ever wanted to consider. However, we had friends for dinner last weekend and did manage some chilled beers using the bucket-and-ice method, but unfortunately this isn’t too sustainable on a day-to-day basis. We currently have a water-cooled fridge, with the copper piping running along the inside of the hull, rather than being cooled via the sea water at a skin fitting, add to this the compressor is a little elderly and quite corroded looking… Well, a new (air-cooled) fridge it had to be… We are hoping this will be installed next week so we can have some nicely chilled alcoholic refreshments to celebrate.
  • The toilet. We believe that this will be a frequent topic of conversation whilst on our travels. Essentially, the pipe that is connected to the macerator became completely limescaled up, came loose, and shit sprayed everywhere. Not much more to say on that really. We did wonder why it didn’t seem to be pumping properly… A lot of cleaning for a start, but we also need to take all the pipes off and descale the lot – possibly one of those jobs to do annually when we have run out of all the other jobs we need to do, because we certainly don’t want the resultant experience again…
  • Stereo. This may not seem a particularly exciting (or even boat-related) job, however it is something that threatens our sanity on a daily basis. Turn volume up (volume turns down to silent and won’t turn up again), turn volume down (volume turns up to ear-splitting and won’t turn down again). We have tried many techniques and ideas to remedy this, but ultimately there is only one solution: cash outlay.
  • Wind turbine and solar panels – the wind turbine is ready to go after its service (when we get around to re-mounting it), but some new solar panels are in the offing. We will need these to keep the batteries topped up while we are away.
However, despite the ongoing jobs – there will NEVER be nothing to do on a boat – we are making plenty of progress for the imminent departure in other areas:
  • We’ve been out several times on our own and each time has been successful – a great confidence boost, and once with Alan again (a bit of an eye-opening ‘whatever the weather’ trip, that struck Jamie down with dreadful seasickness). Turns out that the Dragon is the best sailor of us all so far, however we are not deterred! Every trip out has taught us a lot. We have even had an overnight trip to Eastbourne (through our first lock), and also *started for* Dieppe (in the BMYC Dieppe Dash) – see other post.
  • We did the RYA Sea Survival course at Andark Diving in Southampton – a really excellent course that gave us a good idea of a) what could happen and b) what to do about it if it all went a bit pear-shaped. We got dunked in the water with random strangers to do some drills before scrambling into a life raft while being pelted with cold water. We now even have emergency procedures for the pets as well as ourselves; not ones that they will like, but ones that (we hope) would work if it came to it.
  • We’ve finished our Day Skipper (theory) and are doing the practical in July, we can’t navigate by the stars yet, but hopefully we have learnt something….
So, mid-August is our current plan for leaving the confines of Brighton Marina, and the first semblance of a plan is coming together: work our way down the south coast (using up our ‘free’ nights in Premier Marinas on the way), over to France, across Biscay, round Spain and arrive in Gibraltar for Christmas… After that, we plan to explore the less touristy areas (sorry Benidorm is off the list) of Spain, Southern France and beyond…. We are trying not to plan in detail too far in advance, as you never know what the weather will do, and also we want to be open to a bit of spontaneity if we see somewhere we fancy staying a bit longer or getting out of quicker.
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