On the move again

Even though we set out from Ireland in October last year, this week felt like it was the re-beginning of the adventure. I’d like to say that we left late in the season, but really the season was well and truly over by the time we left. This induced something of a race to find a comfortable winter port for Faoin Spéir and her crew. We found this in the form of the excellent Gillingham marina. It genuinely had every conceivable facility that a boat owner could want and was just 45mins by train from the centre of London. Oh! The luxury!

So much happened over the winter and spring, too much to go into here. Things like overhauling the rudder after quick lift for inspection and Mary’s week in the hospital in Ireland with a dose of cellulitis. But, here we are, anchored in Stangate Creek in 22°C of sunshine, just 8 miles from the marina, and it feels like we’re a world away.

We selected Stangate Creek on the Medway river as our first stop as it is renowned as a safe and easy anchorage. Although we have a thousand miles under our keel, this is our first time anchoring and as with all things ‘Faoin Spéir’, there was some learning to be had.

Stangate sunset

We arrived on a good tide in the late afternoon on Monday, found the spot that I had marked on the charts, right up at the end of the creek. With Mary at the helm, we drifted into the wind and as our momentum dropped to nothing, I released the anchor. Mary reversed and I paid out the chain. At the 30m mark, I locked it off and expected the boat come to a stop as the anchor dug in. 40m, 50m, 100m, still no sign of the anchor digging in. With a sand bank drawing ever closer behind us, Mary popped the boat into forward, and I hauled back in the anchor.

Motoring back to our intended spot, I had a look at the anchor to find a barnacle encrusted inner tube hanging from one of the flukes of the bruce anchor. Repeating the whole cycle again, this time without the offending inner tube resulted in a secure and steady boat for the week. This did not stop me from getting up every couple of hours to check the position of the boat, something that I have heard many other boat owners talk about on their first night at anchor.

Yesterday included a trip to the store. This involved paddling a kayak for a mile and a half to Lower Halstowe, followed by a mile and a half walk to a village called Upchurch. Then back to the boat with a bag of shopping on my back. The paddle back involved a little wind over tide causing standing waves and a soggy shopper 🙂

The weather is set fair for the coming week, and so we expect to be in France this time next week…watch this space….

A week away, gotta keep moving!

The time is nigh, or so the saying goes. Anyone following our videos on YouTube will have seen just how tired we have been lately. Of course the going away party in Mary’s home town which meant not seeing the bed until 6am has done nothing to help alleviate the fatigue, but it was worth every sleepless minute.
I would love to ramble on here about how insanely busy we are for the past couple of months and how each minute that passes, we discover an hours more work to be done, however, something much more profound has taken priority (Ok, profound may be too grand a statement).
I am 42 years old, and from what I’ve read, it is unusual in Ireland for someone of my age to give up mainstream employment and indeed mainstream life in general. I have had many conversations with many people (most well-meaning), suggesting that rather than subject myself to a life of uncertainty, that I should work until I’m 65 and pursue a life at sea living off my pension.
Honestly, it simply would not happen. At 42, and in reasonable health, I am absolutely shattered with the workload involved in building a new life and wrapping up an old one. If I were 65, I would probably end up sailing for a few weeks of the year all the while wishing I had gone 27 years ago. Don’t get we wrong, there are many liveaboards in their 60’s, but I don’t know of any who made the transition at that stage. No doubt some have, and I applaud them, but I fear I will lack that super human energy at that time in my life.
If you are like me, and you feel like taking off in a little boat, caressed by the wind to who knows where, then do it now while you have the energy.

Shameless plug (the wind may be free, but we’ve still gotta work)

For the past few months, it seems that a day does not go by without some work being done towards our departure. Sometimes we try to take a ‘day off’, but even those days a spent planning and plotting, editing or writing. In a way, our new life started with the decision to move aboard a boat and sail. In the beginning, it might be just a few hours per week dedicated to the boat project, but now the balance has firmly shifted in favour of the boat, and it feels like we a squeezing our ‘land life’ in around our usual boat life preparations.

In the interest of keeping food in our bellies, we’ve enjoyed exploring possible alternative ways of generating income. Gone are the 9 to 5’s (they never really suited me anyway) and in are the less concrete, but infinitely more satisfying entrepreneurial style incomes. Mary make some of the most beautiful jewellery and I, well, I’ve started writing. Yes, this is totally a shameless plug, but we can’t live on the scrapings of the bilge. So, here it is, my first book (says he blushing slightly).sat complete

 

“Toby and Sam are your typical 11 year old brother and sister, except that they happen to be twins. Join them as their adventure begins with the discovery that their Granddad is not quite what everyone thought he was. Follow them as they try to track down the villain and stop him before he completes his evil plans.”

Available for download at Amazon for only £3.90

 

Don’t listen to Sailors :-)

The cost of sailing is one of those topics that pops up time and time again. It would seem that if you put the word ‘sailing’ or ‘marine’ next to anything, it instantly triples in price! Now, those of you who know me will have heard me say that sailing is for everyone, and I do believe it is. The key to budget sailing is to not listen to sailors. Ok, don’t leave just yet, although I count myself as one that you should not listen to, I’d be grateful if you read on while I explain myself.

Let me give you an example; most sailors love to nose about other boats, seeing how others arrange things, what layout they have etc., etc., and I am no different. Knowing this, I am happy to extend an invitation to a chatty passing sailor to view our ‘construction site on the water’. On one occasion recently, the visitor enquired as to where and what make of plotter we used. I replied that we had opted to use a laptop at the nav. station as our electronic solution, backed up by paper charts etc. (not uncommon for live aboards). I went on to explain our reasoning behind choosing this arrangement, to which he uttered the following, “Yes, but it’s not very nautical really, is it”.

Perhaps not, but I had a laptop and the GPS antenna only cost me €27, add to this free navigation software and we have saved the best part of a grand. Do you have any idea what work I could do on the boat for a grand? Not much if you listen to sailors, but if you suit yourself, then it could cover most of the refit! It doesn’t stop there, you can look at most aspects of the boat and find ways of reducing the cost of getting on the water. Wind instruments for example, it costs nothing to stick your head out and feel the breeze, or even tie a short length of wool to the shrouds. Both techniques are far easier to maintain and much more reliable than the complex mast head systems found in most boats these days.

Of course, if you like these things, then no one should tell you not to get them, but not having them should not be a barrier to getting out on the water and enjoying the freedom of being pushed along by the wind…

 

Paperwork? But all I want to do is sail!

In our preparations over the past couple of years, one of the things that has slipped under the radar in all of the many lists that have been produced is the paperwork associated with living on a boat. In Ireland, there is no need to register a small recreational boat such as Faoin Spéir, and no need to obtain certification to say that you can sail it. Other optional extras include life raft certification and insurance. So, can you imagine preparing to take a trip across the globe, visiting countries that have some or all of these requirements!

The problem is that as Ireland doesn’t have these requirements, the whole process seems to run backwards, or at best at a standstill. As it stands, to obtain a piece of paper from the Irish government that states that Faoin Spéir exists and is in fact ours, we have to go through the same process as an oil tanker! There is no ‘small ships register’. Ok, fine I hear you say, let’s just get on with it. Having contacted the relevant department three times in writing, they ignored my request three times. I can’t say that I’m too upset because the costs involved are outside of the Faoin Spéir budget, (which anyone who knows us is about 20c).

We’ve had more success with the other bits, Mary obtained her radio operators license which in turn allowed us to apply for a ships radio license. This document looks all official and has the name of the boat and our names on it too, so if we fail in our efforts to register like all law abiding oil tankers do, then at least we have some sort of evidence of existence. As some of you may know, I got the ICC (International Certificate of Competency), issued by the Irish sailing association who should be giving lessons to the department of the marine as they had a 48hr turn around on my application! Thank’s ISA 🙂

All of these little pieces are needed for our application to navigate the waters of the national parks in Galicia, Spain, later this year on our way south. I guess the lesson learned here is that amongst the piles of wood, buckets of resin and miles of wire, make sure enough time as given in advance to tick the boxes of bureaucracy…

Work, work and more work!

Back on the main land after spending about 10 days on the boat. Over the past 2 weeks I’ve managed to get the deck painted! Something that I have been trying to do since last November. It has really been a winter of storms like no other that I can remember, but like so many hardships, it all fades into the past when the sun is out and the work is getting done. Although even while the sun was shining I found myself cursing a world that would make perfect sailing weather the same as perfect painting weather.

We had our share of rain too, but as always there was plenty of work to be done inside too. Oh the luxury, we have a cooker J no more swapping in and out those little gas canisters that cost more than the camping cookers themselves. We tracked down a gimballed cooker with a grill and oven for a song on Ebay. Toast, can you imagine, toast on a boat! Yes, I know this millionaire lifestyle is getting out of hand.

A start has been made on the heads (bathroom for Mary’s friends), but I’m struggling to find a fitting that will allow me to connect the sea-water in for flushing the toilet. It’s one of the drawbacks of old boats, imperial threads in a metric world. But, at least the bathtub is in place and supports my ample weight. I hear sailors everywhere gasping, “did he say bathtub?” Yes, yes I did, ok so it’s not exactly a 6 foot tub with whirlpool jets. It’s more like one of those sit up deals that you might find in a mobile home (actually it is one of those found in a mobile home). But as the heads does not have full standing room for the average hobbit, then showering while seated makes a lot of sense. This and the fact that it’s a great place to dump wet scuba gear.

The navigation station is coming together too, complete with a blue-tooth stereo (probably worth more than the Fiat that it came out of) and an AIS transponder. AIS (Automatic Identification System) is a very useful piece of kit for those of you who may want to follow our travels. Essentially, when we have it switched on, it transmits our location, speed, ID etc., to other boats and the internet. So, if we are out sailing, we can be tracked using www.marinetrafic.com  .

Of course, this is just some of the work going on at the moment, with only about 4 months before we move aboard full time, the jobs are piling up, but we’ll get through the all vital ones, most of the important ones and maybe even some of the comfort ones before we head south…

Updating the Website!

So I’ve finally gotten around to sorting out the website! All the old stuff should still be there, but it was becoming much too cumbersome and, well, you know how it is; when a job starts to become too much hassle, it’s less likely to get done.

I’m going to keep this entry short, as there is still plenty to do, and I don’t just mean the website. We’ve only about 18 weeks to go before we move onto the boat full time! Meanwhile I’m still trying to shake the chest infection. This is the first time in 2 weeks that I’ve been able to do anything of any use, and even this is a bit of a struggle.

 

Stay tuned… Leonard…