Saturday, 28 January 2012


Many boats have a built in generator, ours does not, and I for one, have no intentions of buying an insanely overpriced marine unit. I have 400watts of solar panels which when fitted should provide about 90 percent of our energy needs.

Solar panels are much cheaper than they used to be and are ideal for boats sailing in tropical regions, up here in Scotland they are useless for much of the year and wind is a far superior proposition, but since we are heading south, Solar it is!

Now for the times when the sun doesn't shine, you have the option of running the engine to charge the batteries, but running a large diesel engine to turn a small alternator does not make much sense to me, wasting a lot of fuel (money), engine hours and wear, no thank you!

So after my research I bought a small Honda EU20i generator, this came highly recommended from other cruisers, I did look at the kipour /hyundai and other cheaper makes of generators, being the cheapskate that I am , I always try and buy the no name brands of things or cheap named brands.

Google and the like are wonderful things, after much searching and talking to other owners of the bargain priced generators , I came to the conclusion that they are fine for the odd camping trip or a small amount of use here and there, but don't stand up to regular use and in the end would cost more than buying the known to be bulletproof but expensive unit, one place not to penny pinch!

If you are buying a generator solely for battery charging then a lower power unit would make more sense, should consume less fuel and less space, but a slightly larger unit offers you the chance to use it for more than just battery charging. I bought a small portable aircon unit, which can run on the generator. The aircon unit is for emergency use only, the days where you get invaded by insects or it rains all day and you are stuck in 100 percent humidity sweat box.

The honda Eu20i can also be linked to another unit to boost the power and has an amp 12v outlet as well, which could come in handy.

Lets see how bulletproof they really are!


My one main concession to the civilised world was ice. I really did not want to spend several years with warm beverages. Now the boat does have a large fridge with a small compartment which can make ice, but does so in small quantities and very slowly.

I bought a small desktop ice maker, about the size of a breadmaker or small microwave oven, in the paperwork it claims to consume only 140watts of power, on the land this would be nothing, but as per usual on a boat everything is difficult.

I already had a 300 watt pure sine wave inverter from my old boat, an inverter turns the 12v dc from a boats batteries into 240v ac just like what comes out of a socket in a house. The inverter claims 600w surge capability, so I hoped this would power the 140w ice maker. Not a chance! plugged it in and red lights lit up when the compressor in the icemaker tried to start up.

The problem with things electronic that have motors in them , is their start up surge ,which may be several times the devices normal power use. The general rule of thumb is about 3 x the devices rated power will normally get them started. Well this rule of thumb did not prove right for me. Trying to be a cheapskate and save money I ordered a 500w pure sine wave inverter which had a 1000w surge rating, plug in the ice maker, red lights again, it cuts out.

So I did a little research ,only to find out that icemakers consume 2100w on start up, granted only for a small amount of time,but long enough that the surge capabilities of most inverters can't keep up with it. I ended up having to get a 2500w inverter just to run a 140w appliance.. ....Who'd have guessed! (I should have, I've got a degree in electrical engineering, homer simpsom dooh moment)

So if any of you out there are considering running things on inverters, which have motors in them, be aware you'll need a far larger inverter than you think, don't buy a small one and waste your money!

I would also recommend sticking with pure sine wave units, the modified sine wave inverters (ie square wave) can play havoc with many electronic items, they are a little cheaper, but this is one case where cheapness could cost you big time later down the road when it destroys the things you plug into it.

Notice the 500w is exact same as the 300w mmm

Testing the 2500w only to run a 14ow load, crazy!


Yesterday the batteries arrived, the fun part begins, 60kg each and in a small confined space is not fun!

Batteries are almost as hot a subject as anchors and guns are in the boating world. I opted for Elecsol 250AH AGMS x 2, the company Elecsol doesn't have the best name in the world when it comes to warranties or after sales service, yet why did I buy from them?

Well to be honest they were the greatest Amp Hours I could fit without modifying the original battery holders, secondly, they are fancy carbon fiber agms supposedly good for 1400 discharge cycle or so they claim.

AGM batteries differ from normal lead acids in that there is no liquid in them, the acid is impregnated into the fibers, they can be stored on their sides, they don't leak and should a capsize take place or lots of heeling they wont gas us!

Another advantage of agm batteries is that they have a lower internal resistance, this means they waste less energy as heat when charging or discharging, normal batteries waste about ten percent of the energy going in or coming out. I have 400watts of solar panels to fit, if I used normal lead acids then it would be the equivalent of having 360watts of panels, I'd have lost ten percent of my power . I'm hoping these batteries live up to the companies claim , they offer a seven year warranty, which to be honest is not of much use to me, I will be very far from the UK and wont be able to return them , imagine the shipping cost to send 120kg half way around the world!

The main negative about AGM batteries is the cost, they are more than double for cheap lead acids, so unless the 10 percent performance thing means a lot to you, I'd suggest sicking to normal cheap as you can get lead acids and not the sealed ones , which will be useless after one overcharge boils away all the liquid, get open tops ones you can fill should they get overcharged.

The batteries are now fitted, this was a very simple job given the reasonable access , the only difficult part was manhandling them up and down the marina and of course by the time we had them fitted the tide was at its lowest, meaning the ramp off the marina was very steep.......

New batteries sitting in their home.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Fitting out

Well on the way back, we discovered what worked and what didn't, luckily enough for me , most of what didn't work was easy fixes and money I had put away for repairs was free to spend on upgrades (OK Toys).

The autopilot was not doing what it should, quitting after a few seconds, hand steering for 700 miles was most definitely not fun, it turned out only to be a bent bar on the rudder position sensor, very simple fix, unbend!

Next the windlass was not working, fix? corroded rcd  unit, 8 pounds.

The chart plotter, just corroded terminals, cut back the wire and reconnect, simple!

The fridge , same again corroded terminals, though I had to rewire in the fuse, someone in the past had bypassed and a new fan they had also bypassed, and the rcd for the main wiring panel, which had been bypassed, NOT SAFE! the wiring bodges, done by previous owners were very dodgy full stop.

But I had budgeted for new autopilot/windlass/compressor/chartplotter, so that save a littleand was only one days work, I may still get a new chartplotter, would be nice to have data outside at the helm, especially now I have figured out how to pirate garmin charts on sd card.. No sorry, I should buy them and pay thousands of pounds for public domain data, Now like most people I don't mind paying for hardware but to pay thousands of pounds for charts to go around the world in electronic format on a chip that cost a couple of pounds, I think not! Charts that were compiled mostly with tax payers money at that!

So nav wise I have the laptop with open cpn, a garmin dakota handheld with charts for everywhere,a viewpad (ipad android clone) with charts at a very reasonable price I was quite happy to pay for! and the raymarine with really poor base map oh and some very wide paper charts in case of ww3 and lightening, the gamin hand held lives in a metal biscuit tray inside another metal biscuit tray, should save it from lightening.

I installed a standard horizon vhf with AIS receiver built in, but now have a dilemma as it is F'ing useless without a gps input, they don't say that on the tin, not stand alone,pretty peeved about that one! a gps chip is how much nowadays? couple o quid in electronics to add it!

I added a nasa navtext, which works fine as long as my radio is not on!, think I need to mount the antenna further away, good piece of kit otherwise and a nasa wind instrument, I have 400w of solar to do a bimini install so the wind vane is going to be pretty much useless. The solar has a german Mppt controller and have two new 250Ah each agm batteries to be fitted.

I fitted a new stereo, well I like my music, the some nice infiniti kappa speakers and an alpine sub, I replaced the outside speakers with sony units and a dremel came in handy for cutting the fibre glass.

The sails were replaced by the last owner, but i renewed the standing rigging which was ten years old iffy...
Added a 22 inch LED TV, less power than lcds, replaced all 38 bulbs with leds, mostly cheapos from china on fleabay und3er a dollar each and they have worked remarkably well, the nav lights i splashed out on and got decent leds .

The stove i replaced twice... the original had no grill and bent rings which resulted in very black pots & probably lots of that bad monoxide stuff! I ballsed up on the first one, it was too tall to gimbal properly.

I did the heads pumps, new jabsco twist n locks , some smelly stuff and lots of calcium build up (vinegar come on). Next the tender and went through several 2nd hand outboards till I got a light enough 8hp 2 stroke that I could manhandle with one hand granted I made a buck or two selling the ones that were too heavy, so all was good in the end.

I replaced the anchor chain with 80M of 10mm chain and the old bruce claw copy with a plastimo kobra 2 model.

I managed to get a second hand nearly new katadyn water maker for a great price, so that's still on the to fit list.

Spares wise, the boat is like a floating parts shop, alternator, starter belts, filters, you name it, more electrical connectors than some shops ,glues, oils you name it, I got it, bar the bit I really need in the middle of nowhere.

I'm sure  I've done plenty of other things i have forgot about, I spent a bit more than I planned but since I got the boat so cheap I did not mind.

Chart table at start

After extras navtext , stereo.vhf,tv

New anchor 20kg Kobra 2
Stove replacement attempt 1
Attempt 2, a bit better Smeg unit much nicer than plastimo one.
Inverter 1/2 both crap notice the 500w unit is the exact same as the 300w one! mmm chinese rarrr
Finally an inverter that will do the job IE run a 130W Icemaker!!! 2500w for 130W that's the chinese for you!
Bulletproof or so they say!
More speakers
I couldn't help this one, but Nic hates it Well she got sparkly pillows, I got this!
Wind instruments and masthead leds going up!
A nice beer at the end!
And a nice sunset at the end!

The delivery

With the boat bought it was time to take her to her somewhere closer to home where I could do my fit out, add all the stuff that I really don't need but would like and makes life more comfortable and a bit safer.

I was still a bit nervous about taking a new unfamiliar boat with god knows what gremlins hidden away on a long journey on rough seas.

It was late September 2011, the destination was 55 degrees north, a rough passage was pretty much guaranteed and yes we did have a rough passage. Considering the time of year and weather experienced in Scotland/England at this time of year, volunteers for crew were not forth coming, the short notice didn't help much either. I only had ten days to get her moving or start to pay very expensive short term marina fees.

I called my first tutor, Mr Brian Woodruff, he was my tutor on my very first sailing course the RYA competent crew course, I enjoyed his relaxed teaching manner. I asked if he was free to do a delivery , extra training trip, fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge and skill (that's what I'd like to call em, others may differ in their expression of my abilities).

So the crew consisted of Brian, Nic and myself, we set off down on the Sunday night, my good friend William agreed to drive us down, a long drive, a 1000 miles up n back, with a car full of crap (sorry useful stuff). We made it down to the south of England in good time, the boat was lying in Kent, which is the south east of England and was going up to Scotland through the Irish sea. The forecasts were not good, but unlike when cruising you can wait it out, this was a delivery, everything had to be arranged, time off work taken, we had 2 spare days, the journey was approximately 700NM so 5 days and we had seven, not a great window but we went for it.

The first day was not too bad spent heading along the English channel, staying away from the traffic separation zones where the big ships trundle along. Nic , who had not been on the sea for a while became sea sick, Steven who in a rush, forgot the 4 different packs of sea sickness tablets he had bought, left at home on the table next to the door , left right at the door so he would not forget them... doooh.

The first night picked up to F6-7 South easterly, ie right on the nose, on came the iron sail and we bashed and slammed through it, pretty much all the way to lands end, shortly after which it was sail or sail, ie 1/5 fuel tank left, it would have been nice to have tacked all the way along and probably a smoother ride, but hey it was a delivery we bash through it, time scale to keep and all that. The front v berth was uninhabitable, it was like a shotgun going off every twenty seconds or so, Nic was very sea sick but managed to make dinner and a nice one at that, it was difficult enough to stand up never mind anything else, she was a miracle worker!

We managed to sail the remainder to Milford Haven in the South west of Wales, Nic awoke just after we surfed the last waves on entry to Milford haven, hoping the swell would not set us on the mid channel rocks.

She came up dosey from sleeping saying her stomach was iffy, but she was rested, brian and myself laughed, knowing what we had just been through and she had slept through the lot of it, F8 left overs of some hurricane, the gps recorded 20.8 knots while surfing on some rather large breaking waves, welcome to sailing! I'm glad i had worked on the fishing boats in my youth, I had seen very large seas and a skipper with a full hold waits for no storm. It was strange feeling the helm go light as the waves lifted the aft of the boat out of the water and the rudder began to loose grip.

The boat handled it all in its stride nothing broke, it had the proverbial S**t kicked out of it non stop for 5 days in total, 3 to wales the other 2 to Scotland. I had explained to Nic that the trip would more than likely be rough and the chances are that she would not experience anything worse than this on a trade winds downhill sail.around the world.

Entering Milford Haven

Nic being sea sick, she has got better!

A wee celebratory drink for our arrival

The calm after the storm lol still 15-20ft
Milford haven, lots of steps...

Cheers, happy people

Buying a Yacht.

So I had finally sold up enough to buy a yacht, now this one I put a lot more thought into, but still ended up buying on a kind of impulse, granted the impulse had taken a couple of years to get me.

Boat shopping becomes far more complicated, when you are going to take it to places far from help , where you have to be very self reliant, it also has to be a home as well, so has to have comfort and some space.

I had set my sights on 40-50 foot, for many reasons, space and safety being the two biggest factors, the bigger the boat the safer and more comfortable it will be (generalizing that is), you also normally get a bit of extra speed as well. Granted speed in yachts is a funny thing, I would never have though at any point in my life I could get excited about an extra mile per hour.

I would have liked a catamaran, yeah they are ugly, you cant get over this fact, but they don't heel much, mostly they are unsinkable, the have lots of space on deck and a nice upstairs saloon with a view, not coffin like as most monos, you have two engines/rudders, lots of redundancy. The downsides are they cost soo much more, even for smaller ones, you have so much more to clean , antifoul, two engines to maintain, cost far more to berth, they won't self right if knocked over. Overall they are probably a little safer than monos.

People argue a 40ft cat has the space of a 50ft mono, I'm not so sure on this, do the math, yes a 40 ft cat does have more room than a 40ft mono,but as much room as a 50ft mono? Maybe close!  When it comes to second hand prices you can pick up plenty of 50ft monos for far less than 40ft cats. If I was buying from new, then yes I think a catamaran will hold its money far better than a similar priced mono. Realistically, in the second hand market you can get far more boat per buck buying a second hand mono than a second hand cat. There are simply thousands of ex charter monos versus hundreds of ex charter chats, simply supply and demand, this may change in the future as more cats are built, diluting the demand.

In between times, I thought it prudent I should learn to sail, you know it would help a bit! I did know the basics from sailing in the past and had built up a bit of knowledge stomping around in the motor boats. the biggest barrier I found in learning to sail was learning the language, once you could understand the "sail language" sailing was actually very simple. Understanding something like "use the port winch to sheet in the main to stop it luffing", translated into normal - take the rope with the red spots into the winch on your left side turn it a few times so that the inner part of the big rear sail stops wobbling about. I went on a few RYA courses, with hit n mixed results, one skipper was such an A-HOLE I almost left the boat on the first day, within ten minutes of sitting on the boat , not even left the dock he told me I had failed.

I will try an explain the RYA system, you have theory and practical courses, the theory ones you don't have to do in order to do the practical ones (up to a certain level), this particular boat school was in it for the money in a big way, I had read up well on the theory and knew it to a good level, yeah I did make a couple  of silly mistakes, but only a couple. At the end of the course they told me they would pass me on the practical if I attended a theory course with them ie spend another 400 pounds and we will pass you. I should have wrote to the RYA and complained, but just went to another school instead who were fine and passed with them without doing the theory.

So back to boat shopping, there are so many dilemmas when buying a boat that is going to be your home as well. Money is a big subject, newer= less problems and maintenance but more depreciation, bigger = more costs. Small and old is the cheapest way, but do you really want to spend time in a very cramped space?

Keeping a boat simple save times and money, people can become slaves to luxuries, eg Aircon/generators etc I would have loved these and yes i have them, just not boat ones, A second hand honda eu20I generator (apparently legendary with cruisers) and a cheap portable aircon unit, under a thousand pounds, the boat equivalents would easily be teen times as much, if my 130 pounds aircon unit breaks, just buy another one, if you have a four thousand pound unit youll be a slave to fixing it or rich enough to pay someone else to do it.

The boat I ended up with is 43 foot, just a nice size, enough room not to be claustrophobic, big enough to handle rough seas, enough storage for an extended journey. All boats are compromises, unless you are a billionaire. My compromise was boat cost vs spending money, less boat more to spend, more boat less to spend. I would say get the smallest boat that you feel is safe and has enough room for your needs.

The boat I bought , I had to buy, it was just too good a deal to let pass by, it certainly was not what I expected myself to buy, it is no racer, but is not an old school slow and steady job, a kind of compromise somewhere in the middle. It had been in charter in the British Virgin Islands then in private ownership for a short period.

The good thing about this boat is me, I can fix anything and believe me, you need to be able to fix anything on a boat or have very deep pockets as the guys you pay to fix things don't come cheap. There is also the satisfaction of solving the problems or the frustration and wanting to smash things! Lastly you know the job is done right or know what botch you used ;) Paying someone, you don't know what sort of job they have done and your life may hang on their workmanship.

People  keep on saying when you find the right boat you know it is the one, I thought this was a bunch of nonsense, but they are right! A bit like girls, maybe not...........I reserve judgement on the girls part.

She is a Gib'Sea 43, they were made for mostly for the charter market, she is 10,400kg  heavy for a modern 43 footer, light by older standards. She has kevlar reinforcements in the places that matter, she has a no frills but pleasant interior and is actually thought out fairly well and she was at a price I could not say no to.

If your ever go through this process, Just think of your budget and needs, try not to have preconceptions, try not to set your heart on just one thing and have an open mind to anything that may suit, don't write off things listening to some old salt, remember skodas used to be terrible but now they are volkswagons.

You don't need a full length keel and skeg hung rudder, yes keels can fall off, but rarely if you do maintenance, rudders can get bent , but how often does it happen? and yes a skeg hung rudder can jam. Yes a full length keel boat will sail straighter , narrow beam boat may be better in a storm, but that full length keel and all that weight will slow you down that you may end up being caught in that storm that the fin keel boat has outran and wait till you try and berth that full length keel boat  ;)

The average cruiser spend 80 percent of their time at anchor, they can wait for weather windows and are rarely caught out in big storms, maybe why so many cruisers have catamarans, they are great at anchor!


At this point in my life I was single, I would love to add Young and Free, ok maybe freeish, but you really don't realize how tied up your life is by things. The more things you have , the more ties you have to anyone one place, removing all the things certainly makes you more portable!

The young part , well late thirties, it all depend on which way in time you are looking!

I was enjoying boating on the Loch and working towards sailing around the world, I has a kind of plan, but nothing set in stone, just a general "This is what I'd like to do sometime soonish".

One day in April 2010 I met Nic, she was camping on the loch, complete with the most slow dog I've ever come upon in my life, granted the dog was a pensioner, but walked with a drunken stagger. She had her fishing lines out and camp fire built, she even had a kitchen sink (ok plastic tub). I was on a boat with a sink that even had hot and cold running water , but being a typical man was still using plastic cups and paper plates rather than do the dishes  ;)

We chatted and drunk beer and had snacks, the next day I took her for a spin on the boat to wallaby Island . It took much convincing to make her believe that there are kangaroo type creatures in the wild in Scotland, but after seeing some she became a believer, but I never managed to convince her of giraffe island ( On a side note I must apologize to the English tourists whom I convinced there were monkeys on the adjacent island and sent them off looking for them).

Nic has been planning on emigrating to Australia , but planned to do a few years traveling before hand, I told her of my dream to travel around the world in a yacht and we hit it off.

It is now almost a year later and we are almost ready to leave, she hopes we can leave on our first years anniversary, it would be nice to do so. I have just turned the big four oh, they say life begins at forty, for me this just may be true!

Nic the second day I met her on a rare sunny Scottish day!

The idea to sail around the world!

Having gotten into boating in a big way, I made the fatal mistake, I bought a boating magazine!

I was enjoying boating so much, but the fuel prices and fuel burnt was a different story. I had been on a couple of sailing yachts in my time, but had never thought of owning one. Leafing through the pages of the glossy yachting magazine I came to an article entitled Sea Gypsies.

The article covered people sailing around the world on their yachts, I never thought such a thing was possible on small boats, you just don't think of it! I was hooked again, it was like finding a dream you never knew you had, but was there all along, you just never noticed it!

I had a long hard think on my finances, I had some money aside and had made a bit on property going up, I did my homework, figured out the budgets . The cost of cruising  is one hotly debated subject, Lets say it can be done from maybe $8000 a year on a small budget, to the sky is the limit. Figure on around 20-30000 US $ a year and you'll be in the middle class comfort zone. I reckoned I could afford a few years out, without being knocked back into the ground when I was forced to start working again.

I'd love to say that I set a timescale and planned it all out, but no, I just jumped in yet again. I had this dream, now how do I make it happen?

First things first , sell everything, you name it, don't need it, sell it! One thing planning all this has taught me, is don't buy anything new, you just waste money, buy nearly new , get the same thing for a fraction of the price.
The second thing it has taught me , is just how little you need to live, all this "crap" and it is crap we surround ourselves with, do we really need it?

So wrapping up my life, I stopped buying anything I really, really didn't need.Started scanning for anything I did need on websites , classified adds and saved a fortune! I realized how much I had wasted, simply going through my wardrobe , the amount of items bought , but never worn or worn once, how wasteful I had become.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Moving up in boats

Loch Lomond in the moring.
So I had caught the boating bug, hook line and sinker! Several months after buying the little jet boat I was out boat shopping. Now a jet boat is great fun, but you could never say it is practical in any way shape or form!

I don't mind camping out, which is what we did to begin with, but a boat you could sleep on would have been nice, and i think a much more fun way to waste money than a new car, so the money I had aside for a new car got diverted to a new to me boat.

What a steep learning curve boating is, by sheer luck or fate I actually made a fairly good choice for my second boat, it was still bought on a whim with not a great deal of thought put into it.

The next boat was a Sealine S24, good well made motor boats and she served me well in my 2 years of ownership.

Beached on Loch Lomond in the narrows.

I had moved up in the boating world!


Boys day out

Though perhaps not moved up in class (240 cans of beer were consumed this day  by 5 blokes!)
A rare sunny Scottish day!

Believe it or not , that's the sun rising!

And the sun setting! As we are so far north the sun takes several hours to set

Where to start?

I met Nic in April 2011 on the bonnie bonnie banks of loch lomond (loch is a Scottish word for lake) ,a very beautiful and special place, commonly referred by people of Glasgow as their back garden (yard for Americans).

My story starts a few years earlier, I had worked on a fishing boat in the North sea of Scotland for a while in my youth, it was heaven and hell at the same time. It was back then I developed an affinity for the sea, every time I went on holiday to an exotic place I had to include a boat trip, yet the thought of ever owning one of my own never crossed my mind.

One drunken night in April 2009 Myself and my friend William were having a wee drink or two , OK we were getting well and truly plastered! He told me of some friends who have little boats, who go up the "loch" and have fun, camp and do MEN things. The next thing we know I'm on ebay bidding on a little jet boat, the day after, we did an almost 1000 mile trip to collect the boat.

Now Scotland , being Scotland, Sunny days are few and far between, but boy when they come it is one beautiful place and boy was I waiting for a sunny day! I just wanted the first trip out on the boat to be special a  memory to take to the grave. After several weeks of waiting the sunny day came and off we went. Scotland being Scotland once again, the sunny day lasted half the day then the skies opened up, but by then we had successfully managed to slip the boat get her started  and get moving, of course we had a few cold ones on the way ;)

Boy was that jet boat scary, bear in mind we have 3 blokes, not one of them had ever driven a speed boat or had much boating knowledge, prancing about in a boat than did nearly 70mph, while drunk!  By the grace of god or sheer good luck , we never broke or anything killed anyone. Now I don't recommend to others to do this, but I can't advise you not to . At least we had the sense enough to buy life jackets!

The jet boat first day out at Loch Lomond

It was this day that was to change the direction of my life.