Friday, 22 June 2018

Summer blog fiesta

Very excited to be part of this summer blog fiesta celebrating the launch of a book with lots of amazing bloggers.

This blog post is unusual for us. I received a free copy of another sailors book - Ellen Jacobson - in return for being a pre-launch reader. We are taking part in the blog fiesta as part of this but the review of the book is my own thoughts and genuine reaction.

Devon countryside

We live in a green and pleasant land. We were amazed when we returned to England just how green it is even compared to other countries not very far away. Being in the warmth of the Gulf Stream gives us very different weather and temperatures to other countries on the same latitude. Despite England’s reputation for rain however, we have had lovely weather so far this summer. The sun has been out and the English Riviera is a good place to be. People have even stopped packing a mac when going out for the day – just in case!

The Devon coast

 Plymouth, Devon is a nice place. It has also given its name to over 40 different places around the world. There have been one or two famous explorers that have set off from these shores over the years. There is always lots to do around Plymouth but it is a great place to be in the summer.

For those coming from the sea there are 4 marinas and several anchorages around the Sound as well as mooring buoys available in the rivers. Check out the local pilotage guides for more details. The
West Country Cruising companion by Mark Fishwick is a good one and of course the Reeds Almanac.

Mayflower steps, close to where the Pilgrim Fathers set sail

The Sound has many small beaches. Some are easy to get to, some more secluded coves can be reached by coasteering or tackling scrambles down rough paths with ropes in particularly tricky places. Others are only accessible at certain states of the tide by dinghy or kayak. They are all worth it when you get there though. The waters of the Sound are clear and lovely to swim in.

Quiet beaches reached by dinghy

 If being on the water is your thing, there are various launch sites available if you bring your own. There are also many places specialising in hire or courses for stand up paddle boards, kayaks, dinghies, boat trips, fishing trips, diving. In it, on it or under it you can easily find the right place to do it around here. Or you could stay at the edge and try your hand at a bit of crabbing.

The Skipper in one of his hand built skin on frame kayaks

Friday night club racing in the Sound

There are loads more things to do – ice cream on the Hoe, swimming in the Lido, visiting the National Trust houses (especially Saltram), enjoying fish and chips on the cobbled streets of the Barbican. The National Marine Aquarium is great whatever time of year you visit even if it can get a bit crowded on rainy days. There is lots to see and do. The staff are full of knowledge and seem to love shoring their enthusiasm with visitors.

Lots of history in and around Plymouth

There is lots of good walking around here too.  The South West Coast Path runs along the water, the two moors way starts not far from here. There are also lots of woods, river valleys and of course Dartmoor itself.


Plymouth does like hosting big events. From Armed Forces day, to the MTV crashes weekend, Lord Mayor’s day and pirate weekend. One of my favourites is the National firework festival held midweek in August. Over two nights 6 teams of pyrotechnicians compete to create the biggest, most spectacular display which can be watched from all around the Sound. The reflections of the light on the water and cheering from all directions add to the atmosphere and display. Many people choose to watch it from the water too so there are loads of boats with their lights out in the bays. It is an extraordinary sight. 

Fireworks in August

Lying in the sun with a book is another great way to spend a summer’s day. And so to the book. Ellen Jacobson lives on her sail boat and enjoys eccentric travel adventures with her husband. They have a great blog over at thecynicalsailor and have been to many wonderful places including spending several years in Scotland. This is a cozy mystery and the first of the Mollie McGhie series. I really enjoyed being an advance reader for this first book - Ellen Jacobson – Murder at the marina. It is a cheerful romp through a mystery – the Famous Five or rather ‘Wonderful One’ for grown ups. Based in an American marina there is sharp insight of sailing, sailors and boats. A great summer read, light and fun. I do have one complaint though; I was enjoying the story so much one evening that I missed my bus stop and had to walk back up the road to get home! Thanks for giving us this story Ellen, I’m looking forward to the next ones now.

I love the cute cover for this book

and the other books we've been enjoying:

Jeffery Archer, reading my way through some oldies but goodies. I’m reading A matter of honour at the moment.

Cream teas, traffic jams and sunburn by Brian Viner. A light-hearted look at the British on holiday with lots of interesting facts in amongst the anecdotes.

Miranda Hart. Is it just me? Very funny, I love it when you can almost hear the person reading it to you in your head.

Lots of reference books for a course I’m doing for work; interesting but hard going

One of my teenagers has got very into Terry Pratchett. We love his books, especially the Discworld series. He was a very clever, creative and funny man.

The skipper has had his nose deep into the Yanmar inboards manual

A stack of summer reading

Wherever you spend your summer I hope you enjoy it and get some time to sit somewhere nice with a good book.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

The refit (part nine)

Work seems to go for ages with behind the scenes stuff that can’t be seen then suddenly we go through a period of being able to see progress. At the moment it is easy to see what is happening.

The boat is made of 3 layers of plywood bound together with glue. To repair each of the soft areas/damaged bits the Skipper has to strip it back layer by layer before then building it up again with fresh plywood. One of the largest areas of the hull was behind a large bench which had to be removed first and involved lots of clearing stuff.

We had too many old through-hulls. As you know holes in a boat are not a good thing and two of them have now been filled in. There are still some seacocks to be removed. 

The skipper has been reshaping the internal doors to create a stronger shape which braces the bulkhead (walls), increasing the strength of the hulls. Using wood he created the shape then filled it with expanding foam and finished with epoxy. Doors are being created by cutting the wood with a jigsaw into an oval and shaping it using planes. He has then made very nice wooden door handles and latches.

These latches and handles are very, very awesome

Door frame in progress - attack of the foams

On the outside there has been a lot of preparation to paint. With over 160 feet of boat to be done this is a long job. The deckhands have been helping to pop paint blisters, scrape barnacle scat and sand down the flaky paint. This has been finished off with an electric sander by the skipper. The repair work done in L’Aber Wrac’h was very good and kept us water tight and strong but was never pretty and didn’t completely match the other hull. This is being sorted and reshaped, filled and made good. Once it has all been sanded down properly fairing compound (a light epoxy filler) will be used.


At the moment we don’t have a name on one side which is a bit odd. We have no intention of renaming her mainly because we like her name. Her builder and previous owner named her, it is Portuguese . We also have no wish to upset Poseidon. Having the name clearly on the side is liked by people like the national coast watch as it means that they can see it easily, it was reassuring going round Portland. When we’re further along with the painting we’ll look at vinyl graphics to put her name back.

Propulsion is a subject on our minds at the moment. The old propellers and  sail drives are coming out and being serviced and cleaned. There are also discussions around replacing them with electric motors. We've looked at Torqeedo sail drives. They are not cheap but reducing the environmental impact, having better, more efficient and controllable engines are definite positives.

Another thing we have found invaluable for the work is the skipper’s new wedding ring. He still has the original white gold but is now wearing a silicon ring; for working with power tools this is so much safer. He has accidentally tugged it several times already. I have seen de-gloving injuries and they are not pretty so this is a really good option for him.

We had intended being back on the water by Spring but life had other ideas and we are still working on her in the yard. We've got lovely views from here but we're looking forward to getting back on the water.

To see what has happened in the refit so far: 

Friday, 11 May 2018

Visiting some boats with fascinating stories

Sunshine, interesting boats and friends. What more could you want on a bank holiday weekend. There are lots of links to external pages in this blog because there were lots of interesting things so you can find out more if you want to. We have not been sponsored (or bribed in any way!) by any of them.

South Devon looking beautiful

The May bank holiday weekend marks the official start of the boating season in Britain. In Plymouth it was marked in style with a display of boats, lots of bunting and a treasure trail. We enjoyed catching up with people and walking along the pontoons; something we hadn't realised how much we had missed. We visited the stalls of the RNLI with their helpful safety messages, had a nice burger and admired the amazing pictures created by Deep impressions. We love her work and now have a very nice cuttlefish magnet in the galley. There was also a helpful chat with All boat services about our refit plans and possible alterations.

All boats have their own story but the ones we saw had some great ones. Bounty's End was built specially for the channel 4 programme Mutiny. She is a 23 foot wooden replica of the boat that Captain Bligh and 18 other crew members of the Bounty were cast out on in 1748. They travelled 3,500 miles in the little boat whilst the mutineers settled on the Pitcairn Islands. Now a legacy project to educate others and inspire adventure she is being used by the Island Trust for day sailing. She is a beautiful boat but it is amazing how they survived in a boat so small.

Bountys End

Also belonging to the Island trust that do so much is Moosk. Another beautiful wooden vessel she is one of the three traditional vessels used for sail training. The Island Trust is a local charity that was set up in 1973. Their aim is to allow everyone access to the water, especially those children that would normally not get the chance. They use their gaff rigged boats - including a Bristol pilot cutter -  to build confidence, experiences and adventure.  It is an amazing project and we see the thrill on the children's faces and the pride in their achievements as they come back from a voyage. Over the last 40 years they have taken hundreds of children on life changing adventures. I have a lot of admiration for the adults running the training.

As we wandered out onto the pontoons breathing in the familiarity and feeling the water underneath us we saw the stunning super yacht Elfje. She is run ecologically and was designed with racing and  cruising in mind - a challenging combination.

At the other end of the size scale is Popgun. At 23 foot she is used for racing in the Sound.

Still small but very mighty we had the chance to meet Mark on the 23 foot Coconut. He is preparing for the Golden Globe 2018 edition which sets off from Sable D'olonne in July.  It is a non-stop, single-handed race which will take around 10 months to complete. The race has been organised to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the original 'Race for madmen' that was won by Robin Knox-Johnson in Suhaili. He was the only man to complete the gruelling course and the first to race non-stop around the world. The boats have to meet the standards of the original race of 1968/9 using no additional equipment. That means no GPS, no electric, no weather forecasting and no contact with the outside world (except at set points).


Mark, the skipper was a very nice man who invited the deckhands into his cockpit and showed them bits of equipment, talked about the race and generally enthused them so much that they came away talking about taking part in the 100th anniversary edition in 50 years time when they reckon they will be ready. He showed them all sorts of interesting things like the wind vane steering, rope log and sextant. The youngest was taken by the inside; "There was a door made of aluminum the same as you would find on a submarine. To help to stop the boat sinking as quickly". The middle one liked the colour; "It's bright orange because you need to have at least 2 square feet of orange so he decided 'why not paint the whole boat orange'." The eldest was taken by the practical aspects of stowage; "It's floating a foot high at the moment but wont be when he starts because of the provisions. He will have a tonne of food and half a tonne of spares on top of that. We joked that because of that he will be going faster at the end than at the beginning."

We'll certainly be following the Coconut on her adventure.

The deckhands also enjoyed trying their skill at balancing on a mechanical surf board and talking to the very knowledgeable and enthusiastic people from the National Marine Aquarium about shark teeth and turtles complete with bits to touch. It was an enjoyable day in the sunshine.

Fair winds to all for the season ahead

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

World book day 2018

"You can hold off a child’s boredom and unease for half and hour with a new toy, or half a day with an outing but a new story will keep them going for weeks on end. Nothing kept the children happier or more satisfied than the exotic games and fantasies they developed out of the tales we found them."
Libby Purves from One summers Grace

I know it is late for world book day but the weather seems to have delayed everything else so lets blame that.

"Aha, Oho, tracks in the snow..." Julia Donaldson The Gruffalo

Instead of dressing up as characters and talking about books on Thursday most of the children in Britain ended up having a snow day. Its something we don’t get very often especially this far South and West. The Libby Purves quote above comes from her book about their families circumnavigation of  Britain by boat. Giving children the gift of stories through travel is great but we have to remember that adventures can be found everywhere in the small things of life. Building snowmen, throwing snow balls and generally being out in the white stuff will hopefully give them tales they can share for years to come.

The journalist from War of the worlds by HG Wells

Book day focuses a lot on favourite authors, sadly one of my favourite authors died this week. Penny Vincenzi wrote books that suck you in. With strong female leads, many characters and complex plots these are proper 'blockbusters'. I'm actually reading one of hers at the moment An absolute scandal and it is just as good as all her others I have read.

There seems to be a lot of very good charity anthologies around at the moment. The second edition of Stories for homes was launched at the end of last year including some incredible authors. Like the first book this one is raising funds for Shelter. Christopher Fielden has also released more of this charity anthologies recently. I enjoyed being part of the second Adverbially challenged. These have raised money for various charities and contain some great tales.

Maybe the accessibility of anthologies and the ease of dipping in and out of stories is what is driving their popularity at the moment. Or am I just more aware of them? Maybe the time is right for a festival of charity anthologies - unless such a thing already exists. Is there room for a sailing anthology - stories from the sea? from women sailors? families? boat children? Just thinking out loud, unless anyone else has a suggestion to make something like this happen.

Finally, Memories of  Haslar is an anthology which contains stories from over a hundred people who lived, worked or were nursed at a Naval hospital in Gosport, Hampshire. The hospital was opened in 1754 and served soldiers from the Crimean war, Napoleonic wars, the injured from both sides after D-Day and carried on serving service personnel and civilians until it's doors closed in 2009.

The memories range from VAD’s, through the artisans, choir boys, nurses, sick berth attendants and patients. My memories of eight years there are sat with those of children who grew up within the walls of the hospital and people who spent significant parts of their lives there. The way the book has been put together is very clever, ending on such positive note for the future of this most special of buildings.

As a bonus I'm told that book day will now happen in the youngest deckhands primary school this Thursday instead. I look forward to seeing all the outfits and hearing what books children - and adults - have fallen in love with.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Liebster award

A question and answer blog about living on a boat and cruising.

The Liebster award is all about bloggers recognizing other bloggers. Working together and finding out about others blogs and what they are writing is part of the enjoyment. This award was intended to promote the discovery of blogs you may not have come across, the blog itself is for anyone to enjoy.

It has been around for a while but the push for me writing this blog is that the collaborative sailors blog The monkeys fist is running the topic this month. These questions were set by Life afloat. Their boat looks amazing and their blog is very readable.

So, on to the questions.
  • What got you started on boats/sailing/cruising?

The decision to sell the house and do something with the money we were earning rather than plough it into a mortgage. We decided to look at our options and sailing offered the freedom to travel. We had spent a lot of time on and around the water before that point but had never properly sailed until we started preparing for moving on board. We started with a 17 foot trailer sailor which was a really good for learning about both sailing and looking after the boat.

  • What was your life like, pre-boat?  What did you do for recreation?

3 toddlers/very young children, full time job for the skipper, various part time jobs for me that worked around the children, semi-detached house and a nice life in Somerset. Not much time for going out but we did enjoy going walking and canoeing. We were happy, the children were growing but we felt that once we had thought about going travelling we would always wonder 'what if' if we didn't go. Leaving the town - and the neighbours! - was as sad as it was exciting.

  • What's the most unlikely thing you currently have aboard?

A 1907 hand cranked sewing machine. We actually have 2 Singer sewing machines which might be quite unusual - unless you know otherwise!

  • Tell us about your first night at anchor.

We were off the west coast of France and shattered from travelling. There had been no room at the previous couple of anchorages we had tried and were just grateful to be able to sink the hook and take it in turns to go to sleep.

It was a really long night nodding off and intermittently checking that we hadn't dragged the anchor. The Skipper forgot to tell me that I only had to check every 20 minutes so my watch consisted of me trying and failing to stay awake, coming to with a jump every now and then.

In the morning it was incredible. Calm water, a beautiful island and perfect peace. We enjoyed our breakfast, pulled up the anchor and set sail.

  • If money were no object, what addition/change would you make to your present boat?

She is undergoing a fairly full refit as it is. I don't know that we would spend any more than we plan to as we are being sensible about where to spend and where to save.

With a lottery win though we might possibly sell it and replace her with one of these:

  • Aside from finances (we all have that issue), how has boat life changed you?

It made us more relaxed, more of a team, more aware of the world around us. It gave us the chance to look at life more slowly and appreciate the little things. My Dad used to quote WH Davies
'What is this life, if, full of care,
we have no time to stand and stare...'
I think that changing our lives gave us that chance to look around us.
We also met people from other countries who we count as friends and learned about living in someone else's country which possibly/hopefully makes us more understanding of others.


  • Most bloggers have a story about someone they met through their blog, or an amusing connection or opportunity that happened because of their blogging ... what's yours?

We've met some interesting people, in real life and on line. I've recently found several local bloggers who have introduced me to other lives and viewpoints. It has been interesting and fun reading their blogs and introduced me to all sorts of new things.

  • Give us a link to your most popular blog post.

A fairly recent one about a not very fun day

  • And to one that you think deserves a wider audience.

I wrote this one not long after we returned to Britain about some of the foods we had missed whilst we were away. Funnily enough when we returned to France recently we realised how many French foods we missed and enjoyed many of our favourites.

Thanks to Life Afloat for setting these question. Now to passing the award on and if you are reading this, that is your invitation to join in. Plymouth Bloggers I'd particularly love to see the answers to your questions so I am making mine more general:

  • What was the final push that made you hit publish on your first blog
  • What blog you've written has your favourite picture(s) in it
  • Give me a link to your most popular blog post
  • Where is the strangest place you have written a blog post
  • Give me a link to a post you've written that is about the sea or a boat
  • What quote sums up your blogging
  • Tell me about someone you have met through blogging or about an opportunity it has given you

I look forward to reading your answers. Enjoy thinking about them and I'd love to see a link to your answers in the comments.

Edit 6/3/18: I was hoping to also give a virtual high five to and invite the following blogs to join in but somehow didn't! To The Pirates Payne, Selling up and sailing, Carina of Devon, Yafit Davis and Squidges scribbles, I'd love to see your answers or a link to an old Liebster if you have already done one.