Thursday, 28 March 2013

Downsizing Woes

For a second time in a dozen years, I'm trying to fit a quart into a pint pot (it's the skipper's third attempt at it and he seems quite serene). In 2001 it seemed painful but ultimately not too hard and anyway we cheated storing furniture and more in a Pickford's warehouse against for our return. This time there is no furniture except the bits that seem to have persisted in our UK garage cum boat store and I don't plan to return to life ashore in the short term. The huge amount of ornaments, pictures, books and other sentimental clutter will have a place to go, mostly in the boat store. A small selection of silver smithing or beading tools and supplies will stow away on board. Then there are clothes...

Neckline detail - my posh and weighty
Frank Usher frock
In my usual attire of shorts and freebie regatta t-shirts I may not look like a clothes-aholic but I am rapidly discovering that items in my wardrobe not worn in all the time we have been in the Middle East (three years plus) are still too difficult to part with. Splitting my much loved dress collection into "get rid of", "suitable yachtie wear" and "long term storage" piles is akin to having someone wrench a limb off or have a beloved pet die suddenly. The latter category is just not practical - where do you store clothes free from damp, mould, moth and other perils? Definitely not a lockup garage no matter how dry it appears. And why am I keeping them? No I can't answer that one except to say I can't put part from them nor is there room on an 18inch wide hanging rail for them. The long Frank Usher beaded number that weighs several kilos in its own right has no place on a boat, nor does an eye catching Indian embroidered silk kurta in brilliant pinks, pale greens and turquoise, nor the mother of the bride number in dusky pink dupion, worn just once since the big day.

MoB dress!
Then there are the dresses and jackets kept as I might go back to work one day, as if! There's a cream and dark blue printed fitted dress with a chunky beaded neckline and a flirty skirt then my favourite winter dark grey wool dress and jacket from M&S. Both wonderful for meetings, travel well ie come out of a carry-on bag with nary a crease, plus matching accessories for both. Neither have been worn for three and a half years. Add to that a selection of business entertaining LDBs, a-line skirts, wool trousers, tailored jackets, lambswool jumpers and soft blouses, rainmacs and fancy silk scarves, all the remnants of a marketing directors wardrobe and perhaps you can see my dilemma.

Indian glamour
I really don't want a practical yachtie wardrobe of t-shirts, shorts/sailing trousers, fleeces and oilies to dictate my party clothing choices! Even if the aforementioned yachtie wear is pink, floral or otherwise girlie, inherently the style is more masculine than dressy up, special. But to balance this desire against the impracticability of ironing dresses, skirts or blouses on the tiny galley worksurface, getting things dry cleaned or simply hanging anything longer than a jacket in my rather restricted hanging locker space and I do need to have a drastic cull! As for laundry we have a mini Wonderwash which does what it says on the tin but the weather during our recent sojourn aboard prevented outdoor drying and diverting some of our warm air heating to an aft heads (bathroom) full of dripping clothes for several days was not helpful. Experience over years of sailing holidays and longer term cruising is that even with a well equipped laundrette washing clothes is a time consuming not to mention expensive chore so the less that requires washing the better and quick drying, non-iron is preferable over denim, linen or cotton.
Blue & White...just how many t-shirts does a girl need?

Perhaps my wardrobe downsizing approach should be bottom up - not from socks and tights through trousers and belts to hats but more from the point of view of what a liveaboard girlie needs.  A list of items for say two or three weeks without a washday across a range of climates/seasons plus a few smarter outfits for parties or meals ashore and one or two outfits for very special occasions. That could be a much smaller collation and might even fit in the locker space available if I can bring myself to do it.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Trials and Error - An upheaval in the starboard cabin

Bedding fills the saloon
It seemed a bright idea, a second autopilot head installed down below in case the existing one failed which would also provide info such as wind speed and log data at the chart table even when the laptop is off. Raymarine's self steering computer (aka the brain) allows for two separate circuits so this second "control head" should in theory be easy to install and whilst we were at it we'd solve the problem with the wind display in the cockpit...

First empty the starboard cockpit locker (toolbox, warps, safety gear and more) then trace the existing connection forward from its position close to the wheel. Down below empty the starboard aft cabin of pillows & duvets, empty the same cabin's lockers of towels, bed linen and stuff to access the autopilot's brain, unscrew or otherwise remove most of this locker's shelves and backboard to gain access to a Seatalk* junction box, clear the chart table and surround so the rear of switch panel can be accessed and finally remove the radar so the rest of the Seatalk cabling to and from the laptop and GPS is getatable when needed. And pile everything up in the master cabin up forward or on the saloon table, providing yet another opportunity to refold all the towels, sheets & duvet covers!
A tidy pile of towels....

...were joined by sheets, duvets and t-towels

Head down in a locker
Eventually after a few false starts the cable was traced, a second one connected the new head to the computer and after a trip to Raymarine's premises in nearby Titchfield the wind instrument was working again. There was one "Seatalk" fail when we switched on the MOB Lifetags but after checking the wiring again and some extensive overnight testing everything was hunkydory. Everything could be returned to its home and the boat could loose its jumble sale look once again.

A major sea trial was called for so Temptress motored to Shepherds Marina, Cowes in a bitter easterly, her crew treating themselves to supper at Mojac's. First off Southsea beach a few tightly executed curves checked out the new rudder, then we settled down on a straight course, the wheel felt light to handle despite the wind and fairly lively sea. We then attempted to trial the autopilot but it wouldn't lock on the wheel. in the wide expanse off Fishbourne depsite the ferries we performed the slow circles and motoring directly to windward to recalibrate the repaired wind instrument so that the arrow on the screen pointed pretty much in the same direction as the apparent wind at the top of the mast.

Radar on its face again

Locker dismantling

Amazing what is hidden away!
Once in Cowes, the starboard cabin was emptied again and the skipper crawled through to the services area to review the steering set up -  doh! The autopilot ram had basically not been engaged with the steering quadrant after the recent rudder replacement, a simple enough fix which should have been spotted before we left our berth. A further session on a flat sea is now needed to perform a final autopilot calibration but that can wait for warmer weather!
Wiring at the back of the cockpit instrument displays
Connecting up the "brain" to its new control head
* Seatalk - Raymarines serial communication protocol that enables instrument information like wind speed, boat speed, distance travelled, GPS position to be networked and shared

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Of Water Pumps

When arriving on the boat after a time away one of the first tasks is to refill the tanks so there is water for cooking and washing. We usually precede this at the start of the season with a dosage of Milton to sterilise the tanks, delaying the resumption of normal water service but we can be confident that what comes out of the tap later will taste sweet. Several 500ml bottles of Milton were duly purchased, it always raises eyebrows at the checkout! These were poured in as the hose filled Temptress' three tanks (a total of 580 litres of water). When the tanks are reaching full three loud  reports (still alarming after over ten years) as the tanks change shape, usually alert us to the imminent need to turn off the tap.

The next step is to turn on the water pressure pump and open the taps to let this first fill-up drain away. The Milton flavour won't kill you but it is not at all palatable, and after showering you end up smelling faintly of swimming pools all day! Mid-afternoon on a cold March Friday it was not to be. Turning on the water pressure switch was followed by an ominous silence, no buzzing as the pump brought the system up to pressure. It had been a bit dodgy before we last left it in November but at least it had been working... a quick trip to the chandlery and we were confronted with an array of pumps with more than confusing packaging (identical boxes with a barcode sticker being the only unique identifier of the contents) resulting an initial purchase of a bilge pump with no pressure sensor. The sensor is essential as the hot water tank has a maximum pressure and if exceeded its relief valve will chug chug chug nosily away releasing water into the bilge until it is happy again. Well at least we were able to pump the Milton-laden water over the side.

Another trip to the chandlery on Saturday morning and job done. Kevin even mounted the thing which involved some lateral thinking quite literally as 20 years on the design has changed and instead of  mounting on a base plate attached at the bottom of a wooden panel, the new pump needed to be mounted via two side brackets directly to the same panel.  Now the reverse of this panel is home to a myriad of grey 3/4 inch plastic piping that ensures all three tanks are connected to the hot water system and to the cold taps in both heads and the galley, not something you want to start drilling holes in from the other side! Substantial self-tapping screws of a well judged length replaced the supplied bolts, job done!

The water was changed once more and we were in business, hot showers, washing up water and easy to fill kettles. Well, until late on Sunday when nothing, the water from the tap dwindled to a dribble as the pump once more failed to kick in. Give it a hefty tap and it sprang to life. OK as an occasional fix but with the whole kit and kaboodle located under the saloon seating not a practical long term solution unless we wanted to live with a large piece of plywood (the locker lid) and a collection of cushions permanently piled up on the remainder of the seating.

Monday morning on his way to work the skipper called the manufacturers Jabsco and then relayed some instructions back to me. Was the pressure sensor confused by our large accumulator tank that retains the pressure and avoids over use of the pump? The new clip on clip off plumbing was a boon - simply unclip the pipe to the accumulator, turn the pump on and see if it would work. It did after a tap but failed again an hour or so later. More talk to the extremely helpful technical support people. Diagnosis - faulty motor winding, it needs replacing under warranty.

With the skipper commuting to Bracknell in wintery weather and the chandlery open 8am - 6pm its going to be several days before the exchange can happen. (I have my bike but its not the weather for an expedition across Portsea Island to Port Solent.) Meanwhile our trusty manual pump supplies cold water, we have an electric kettle for heating it up and Southsea Marina has some very nice showers with lashings of hot water!

Snowbound in Southsea

View from the deck yesterday morning

Eastney Lake foreshore

Southsea Marina - daffodils offer a cheery welcome

Snug in her new berth

Wintery scene