Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Bloody BT

I know this post is not really a boaty post but I do feel annoyed enough to post it.


BT Phoneline and Broadband

We have the great misfortune to be a customer of BT. Unfortunately, being fairly rural, we don’t really have any other realistic options and believe me, we have searched.
These are the options we looked at:

Wireless Broadband:

We approached AB Internet and Xwavia Ltd. AB Internet were polite and helpful and sent out one of their technitions to see if we were in a viable spot, o receive a signal from their mast. Unfortunately, as it turned out, the signal would be too weak. Xwavia didn’t even bother to respond to any of the emails sent to them. Well, if they don’t respond to potential new customers, I doubt you would want to be one of their existing customers.

Satellite Broadband

It seems there are two main players in this game: Avanti and Tooway. From what I could see from their on-line packages, Avanti offer more packages and it looks to be better value for money. The trouble is that, whilst it looks like a great option, it turns out not to be once you have spoken to them. VOIP calls would have a 1.5 second delay, which means, we would still need a BT landline and the minimum average speed they claim to provide is based on an average of all their customers, so not at all area specific. They also admit they will throttle the speeds during peak or high usage times and that your speed could drop to less than 100 Kbs instead of Mbs. Also, having researched some reviews of satellite broadband, I was struck by one person saying that satellite broadband should be called “last resort broadband”. Perhaps, it is better the devil we know, which leads me back to BT.

So, I bet you are wondering what the problem is? Well, the phone line has never been particularly good nor has the broadband but 8 years ago, I accepted that a speed of 1.5 Mbs was as good as it was going to get. Roll on 8 years later and the speed is now 0.8 Mbs on a really good day and tends to vary between 0.3 Mbs and 0.8 Mbs. Acceptable? I think not. As far as the phone line goes, we have had multiple faults. We have also in the last year had the local Pheasant Shoot come through the area and shoot out the phone line. BT finally got off their arses and did a ‘temporary repair, which involved a piece of plastic being taped round the break in the line. Once I had complained about the plastic bag repair, it was then replaced with black insulation tape, which slowly unravelled itself. Apparently, according to BT, this was a perfectly acceptable repair, despite the fact that condensation gathering amongst the tape made the phone unusable in the morning until about 11 am. It then took 6 months of arguing with various BT robots and Lord only knows how many engineer visits (I lost count at 13), to get them to replace the section of cable that needed repair. I might add that, the neighbour was also subjected to all this BT Bullshite.

Now, we are back to square 1 again…. The phone line has gone down…unfortunately during a Pheasant shoot. I’m not sure yet if the shoot is responsible for my line going down or if it is merely co-incidental. We shall find out when I finally manage to get someone from BT to take interest. You see, it could have actually been solved quickly because a BT engineer has come out to deal with a fault on the neighbour’s line, which just so happens to be the problem we are experiencing. I told this to the engineer, including the fact that the neighbour’s line and my line both went down at the same time. His response was “You are not on my job list and your neighbour is not in.” So, the lazy bastard sat there for 10 minutes in his van and then buggered off, not having fixed anything. I really have to wonder at the sense of logic. Surely, even to someone with only 2 brain cells, it’s obvious that it makes sense to schedule jobs in the same area for the same day and that if the 2 jobs happen to be next door to each other, that there might be a common fault?

I can only conclude that BT basically doesn’t give a continental hoo ha! Really, why should they? They have a monopoly and enough separate entities, that there doesn’t actually have to be any real ownership of a problem. After all, you call a call centre, which is clearly not based in the UK and then depending on your problem, they call Openreach or BT Broadband Boost or whatever other part of BT they can foist the problem on to (this is all assuming you can get them to acknowledge there is a problem*). Then you start on the to and fro of trying to get an engineer to actually show up or to actually fix a problem.

*Getting BT to acknowledge a fault is extremely trying. They basically seem to think that if you have a dial tone you have a service, even if every phone call involves a crossed line or a line so bad that they cannot hear you! I once had a BT operative telling me she couldn’t hear me and then in the next sentence telling me there was an acceptable level of noise on the line. BT….. go figure, I certainly can’t.

Fast Forward a bit: an engineer came out and looked at the line, turns out the line had been shot in several spots, which meant a section of line needed replacing. Several days later, BT came out with their hoist and replaced the section of line and buggered off again, without coming in to check if it was actually working. As you might have guessed, it wasn't. We had a crossed line and what sounded like an angry swarm of bees on the phone line. So the next day, they came out yet again and scarpered off as quickly. Well, the phone line was up but the broadband was still not working - I might add that by this stage we have reached day 15.

We got hold of BT again and a Broadband engineer came out. He basically said that as the line quality is so bad (although it falls within BT's range of acceptability), he was going to sync our broadband speed at 500 kbs to stabilise the line and that, the most we can expect is 610 kbs. This is despite our neighbour getting 1.3 mbs. Fair enough, I thought, if it stabilises the broadband, we will just have to live with it, except it hasn't. Our broadband has been up and down like a yo-yo. We cannot maintain a connection and sometimes the connection drops for hours. 

So, I phoned BT yet again. I have explained that we have several pairs of lines coming into the house and if the pair they are currently using is so bad they should consider changing it. Apparently, an engineer is coming out in a week. So, we wait and see.

Update:

The promised engineer arrived promptly at 8 am, despite getting lost, which is easily done on our lanes. He spent a couple of hours clearing various noise issues on the lies and lo and behold, we now have a 1.25 mb connection!! In addition, BT have agreed to monitor the quality of the phone line and the broadband connection for the next few weeks. They will be calling me once a week, to check on the telephone line and broadband stability and quality. Fingers crossed it stays stable. I will update again in a month.

Another Update (7/01/2016)

Line is down again (seem to have a crossed line and loads of crackling noise) although we have broadband... well some of the time. It went down on the 27th of Dec, came back up on the 30th and back down on the 1st of Jan. Apparently, it is scheduled for repair by the 11th.

I think there is water getting into the line joint.... who knows?

Line repaired on 9th of Jan. Let's see how long it lasts this time.

Further Update (9/5/2016)

We have been placed onto a new pairing of wires as the phone line is very crackly and the Broadband is down more than it is up. Bizarrely, if the BB is actually working and someone calls on the landline, the call will knock the BB off. also our downstream is approximately 1.8 Mbs but the upstream varies between 64 Kbps and about 128 Kbps. Very odd. Next engineer visit booked for 19/05/2016, as the problem is still persisting

Update: 19/05/2016

BT have not turned up.


Mini Rant: I see the twats in Government have decided that people in rural areas don't need or want Broadband. Knob-heads! Why does it not surprise me that they are going back on an election promise....?

Monday, 26 October 2015

Heating

We chose to try and sail as much as possible during our first winter afloat. There were plenty of sunny calm(ish) days to go sailing and it proved a good decision. Keeping the boat warm at night however, proved a bit of a challenge! We started initially with several tube heaters and then brought an old oil filled radiator heater down to the boat when the tube heaters couldn't keep up.

The oil heater provided adequate heating once it had warmed up but was costly on electricity. We also needed to switch it on and then escape to the pub for a pint or two to allow it to get the cabin up to something bearable (a real chore I know). Probably the biggest pain other than the electricity cost, was tripping over the oil heater which seemed to be permanently in the way (but that may just be the small boat!)

As many other recreational boaters have done before us, we started researching more permanent heating systems for the boat. We were impressed with the operation of a hot air system after spending a weekend on a friends boat with one of these systems. A trip to the London Boat show in January settled it after visiting the Eberspacher stand, where a very knowledgeable and helpful gentleman cleared up a lot of unanswered questions around installation etc. As I was intending to do this installation myself, their advice was crucial and very useful.

We have installed a 2Kw system with 3 outlets (main cabin, heads & rear cabin). Both the heads and rear cabin have closeable vents to regulate the heat in these spaces if necessary. I bought a 7 day timer option to give us the flexibility to warm the boat prior to our arrival. I also bought the temperature sensor to mount in the main cabin.

The heater unit is mounted in the cockpit locker high up on the hull. I epoxied a wooden block on which to secure the mounting bracket. The unit sucks both combustion air and fresh air from the locker space. The warm air is then piped via ducting to the interior spaces. Exhaust is out through the transom via a specialist fitting. All cabins have carbon monoxide alarms.

The heater unit draws diesel from the engine's supply - I've tee'd it off the engine feed despite all the doom and gloom in the manual about doing this.

The system fired up first time and has run reliably ever since. Comments after a few months operation: fantastic piece of kit! Very economical on diesel and also a frugal user of battery power. It warms the boat up very quickly from cold and then throttles right back when the cabin is up to temperature. We had to purchase a temperature sensor for the cabin (it connects to the main wiring harness). Without this, the unit controls the heat input by the temperature back at the heater unit. This temperature sensor also allows you to keep the unit on a "frost" setting if desired. We've also noticed much better condensation control.

One unexpected spin-off from having heating on the boat is that starting the engine in winter is dead easy - no difference from summer. Our old Volvo MD5 doesnt have a glow plug and doesn't like starting when very cold. A warmer boat has cured that!

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Turkey Yacht Charter

After coming to the conclusion that, Summer was simply not going to happen, we decided to book a yacht charter in Turkey. Bearing in mind, that we had a 40 ft boat in Thailand, we decided it would be fun to do the same in Turkey. After all, it makes a change not thumping your head in smaller spaces.

We looked at a few Charter companies in Turkey and chose to book through Nautilus Yachting. Nautilus act as an agent in Turkey for Aura Yachting. Nautilus were quite helpful and responded quickly to all of our questions.

We chartered a Beneteau Oceanis 40, called Karibu.

On the whole, Karibu was clean and the sails were in good shape. The engine was spotless and well maintained. The technical handover and discussion regarding various sailing itineraries was very informative. The boat was well stocked with pots, pans and all the implements one needs for cooking. The tender was in good condition, although, I really do object to having to pay an extra deposit for the tender and for having to pay to hire the outboard for the week. It starts to feel a bit like a Ryan Air flight with all the extra necessary expenses (Compulsory transit log: €120, outboard: €70, compulsory cleaning fee: €75, *tender deposit €500)! At least with Sunsail and with Asia Marine, these cost were included.

There are some aspects that could be improved: the sanitary hosing needs to be replaced. The batteries need to be replaced as they ran down to 11 volts rather easily and a decent battery monitoring system should be installed. The Bimini and Spray hood both need waterproofing as they leak like a sieve. A coat of Renovo Ultra Proofer or similar would do the job cheaply.
Water soaked through the Bimini

 Last but not least: The bedding sheets supplied were ridiculously small - invest in some decent double sheets at the very least!

It would also be useful if they had supplied a cooler box. Apparently, we are not the only customers to have asked. Perhaps it would be useful to take notice?

Beneteau Oceanis 40

Pros
  • Twin wheel -  this makes for a wide spacious cockpit. Good steering visibility.
  • Teak cockpit - dries quicker than plastic & no glare from the sun. 
  • Decent sized fridge
  • Ample storage space
Cons
  • Straight line Galley - difficult for 2 people to work in the galley as you are constantly climbing over the chair to get past each other
  • Step down into the Fore Cabin - John constantly bumped his head stepping down through the doorway.
  • Sanitary hosing router underneath the bunks in the main cabin - all good and well if you have a non-smelly fresh water system with proper sanitary hosing, that is replaced when needed, however, very stinky with a sea water flush and standard non-sanitary hose. Not even a good wipe down of the pipes helped -  there was this pervasive smell of urine. Not good at all and not necessary.
  • 3 cabin layout - would have preferred 2.
  • Loo in the Fore Cabin - the boat is not really quite big enough for this.
Turkey as a Charter Destination:


Beautiful Turquoise Water

Once you get over the general horror of the package holiday hoards on the flights (we flew with Easyjet so it was expected) and the 4 hours of hell, sitting next to 2 young females, who insisted on re-applying their make-up, every 15 minutes of the flight (they looked like 2 pancakes with the features drawn in, with smashed fly eyelashes due to the amount of mascara by the end of the flight), you get to enjoy the delights of Turkey. The return flight was an entirely different story... there were actually 2 rather thuggish and somewhat plump males strolling around the airport without their shirts off. To my horror, they were on our flight back. Thank goodness they were at least 10 rows in front of us. 

Enough about the flights, more about Turkey! We flew into Bodrum and we were then driven to our Hotel in Bitez. We had arranged for a Private Car, as there are no surprises about the cost. We stayed at the Doria in Bitez for 2 nights. The hotel is lovely and the staff are friendly and helpful. They actually served us food at midnight - you would not get that sort of service in a British hotel.

After recovering from our late flight and getting into the holiday mood, we travelled to Aurura Yachting's base in Yalikvac. We fortunate enough to be given the boat at 1 pm, instead of their **handover time of 4 pm. This allowed us to get going on Day 1. We had decided that, taking time constraints into account, we would be sailing in the Gulf of Gokova. Our first stop, was Gumusluk. 

Gumusluk:

Gumusluk is a fairly busy anchorage, with lots of little restaurants and cafes surrounding the water's edge.The food was superb - we started with a mix of very yummy meze and then shared a whole large sea bream, which was cooked simply and was delicious. We spent a Saturday night there, which was a little noisy due to music being played quite loud (until 3 am) but I suppose, it might be quieter during the week.

Cokertme:

From Gumusluk, we sailed onto Cokertme. Cokertme is a fabulous anchorage. There are 3 restaurants, each with their own jetty, which you can moor up to (provided you eat there) that, supply free water & electricity. We ate at the Cokertme restaurant, which was very good. John sampled the Cokertme Kebab, which is a speciality and he gave it a definite thumbs up. The next morning we bought freshly baked bread, bottled water and ice. It is absolutely astounding how friendly and entrepreneurial the whole idea of free mooring, water & electricity is provided you eat there. I doubt you would ever see this in Britain, which is such a pity as we have a beautiful coast line to complement the idea. 


Bread bought from Cokertme Restaurant
Longoz Koyu:

Longoz Koyu was our next destination and the first time we had to anchor and long line our boat ashore. Long lining involves tying the stern of the boat to a rock or a tree. It is preferable to use 2 lines -  one for Port and the other for starboard and if at all possible, try and tie your line around a rock as opposed to a tree, as the rope tends to damage the bark.

I would like to say we got our long lining right on he first attempt but the truth is that we provided the many ***Gulets with some humorous entertainment for at least 20 minutes before we cracked the technique. We found it easiest to motor the anchor down to the ground with the windlass whilst the boat engine is in neutral or ticking over in forward if necessary for steerage. Once the anchor has touched the ground, engage the reverse gear on the engine and then motor the anchor down with the windlass (Do NOT let the chain free fall because it forms clumps and the boat will continue backward once the anchor has bitten). Let out the required amount of chain and then check if the anchor has bitten. A bit of throttle on reverse helps. Once the anchor has bitten, swim out or take the tender and tie ropes from the stern to the shore.

Longoz Koyu is a long narrow inlet, which is very sheltered from the wind and hence, quite popular. There is a restaurant but we didn't try it as we decided to try our hand at cooking a few Turkish meals on the boat.

We spent the night here. Unfortunately, when we woke up, it had started to rain with a vengeance. We pretty much got up early and made for English Harbour in the pissing rain... with the Bimini leaking like a bloody sieve. Not ideal.



English Harbour: 

I would love to tell you about the delights of English Harbour but most of our time spent here, was in the pissing rain. It was quite literally torrential. Look up "floods in Bodrum" on youtube and you will understand the sheer volume of water that came down. Aside from torrential rain, we also experienced some rather robust lightning and thunder. At one point (at about 2 am in the morning), I was lying in bed, counting the seconds between the lightning flash and the sound of the thunder, to try and understand where the lightning was, as it was so bright and there was no gap. Basically, the storm was directly above us. It was at this point, I started wondering about the fact that we had this great big lightning conductor, called a mast, sticking out of the boat, coupled with the fact that we had long lined onto 2 trees. I, of course, had to wake John up, to share my thoughts - he was not very comforting. All I got from him was a bit of snoring, some lip smacking sounds and a mumbled "Go back to sleep".

We spent a day and a half in English Harbour, waiting out the storm. It is a good sheltered spot but unfortunately, there were loads of Gulets.





Seven Islands: North Cove (Yedi Adalari):

This was a fabulous anchorage. Picturesque small bay with a restaurant. The owner zips around on his dinghy asking if you would like a reservation for the evening and he offers to collect you from your boat and return you after dinner. Do yourself a favour and eat at the restaurant because the food and hospitality are both very good.




Kargicik Koyu:

Another pretty anchorage although, a bit crowded with Gulets.



Yalikvac Marina:

Yalikvac Marina is a fairly large marina, with a good many 'Super Yachts'. The facilities are clean and it is easy to provision for your charter as there is a supermarket approximately 50 metres from the marina entrance. There are also 3 Chandleries (we call them Swindleries) and plenty of restaurants, cafes and various boutique shopping opportunities (I was not allowed to make use of them). I think I might have preferred the marina before it developed into such a monstrosity of a marina, as it might have retained a bit of charm. Thumping nightclub music until 2 am, did not enhance its appeal.

*Tender Deposit: There is a tender deposit of €500. This has to be paid even if you pay the insurance waiver. It is refundable but if the tender is stolen, you are €500 out of pocket. I'm not sure I agree with the fairness of this.

**Boat Handover: I have to admit, I thought the boat handover times were quite cheeky. Our Charter was a 7 day Charter (Saturday to Saturday) and we were expected to return the boat to the marina, by 4 pm on the last night of the charter. As far as I am concerned, if you collect the boat at 4pm, then you should be able to return it 7 days hence at 4 pm, as this qualifies as a full 7 days of charter. I appreciate they need time to clean the boat, which you also pay for but, you should receive your full 7 days. If you happen to arrive after 4pm there is a penalty charge (I think it was €70 an hour).

**Gulets: The Gulf of Gokova is swarming with Gulets, there really is no getting away from them. Gulets are large wooden sailboats (who mostly motor), full of tourists. Depending on the Gulet, you might find anything from a small group of people to an unbelievably large group, whose sole purpose is to play loud music and get as drunk and be as loud as possible. Unfortunately, even though we tried hard, there was no such thing as a private bay devoid of Gulets. Simply no avoiding them..


Wooden Gulet
Gulet Decor


John and our good friend Al, both seem to think the clothing above should be the new uniform for Genesis. I don't think they have the figure for it.

After our charter, we spent a couple of days at the Med-Inn Boutique hotel in Gulluk. If I didn't have to go all the way to Heathrow to fly to Bodrum, I would certainly enjoy a few long weekends at the Med-Inn. Fabulous hotel, wonderful staff and excellent food. what more could you want?

We made a point of going into Gulluk town but to be honest, it's not much to write home about. Don't let this put you off though because ironically, the snorkeling in this area is much better than anything else we had experienced during our charter. Before we arrived at the Med-Inn, we had concluded that aside from fish farms, the Gulf of Gokova was singularly devoid of any fish but we saw quite a few shoals of fish whilst snorkeling in the bay right in front of the hotel.

One word of advice, make certain you pre-book private car transfers instead of taking taxis. We got caught out with our trip from the Marina to the hotel and paid more than double for a taxi. Private cars are a much more economic solution and the cars are in better condition than the taxis.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Electric Windlass

The "final" major upgrade we planned after the first season was to sort out the anchoring system.

Genesis came with a 25lb CQR as the bower anchor. This came with 5m of 8mm chain and 45m or 12mm 3-strand nylon. Our experiences of anchoring in the Bristol channel quickly showed up a few problems with this set up.

The first problem was the poor holding capability of the CQR in the strong tides and mud/sand combination off Cardiff. The CQR was also a bit of a pig to recover and secure as it would not go on the original bow roller. We resolved to rectify the situation and fit a new bow roller with a self launching anchor and a windlass to do the retrieval.

A further problem was our seemingly unique ability to wrap the anchor rode around the keel on 2 out of every 3 anchoring sessions. This always happened when the tide reversed and was a real PITA. We had mixed luck "unravelling" the situation. Sometimes we got it right by motoring in a wide circle and unwinding the rode from the keel. Other times we couldn't figure out which way to motor and ended up undoing the bitter end and tossing it over the side with a fender attached and then retrieving it.

Some research on the web highlighted that we weren't the only hapless victims of this particular problem. The solution seemed to be either all-chain or an "angel" i.e. a weight that slides down the anchor rode to ensure it is pulled strait down.

We decided in the end to buy 40m of chain. We chose 6mm chain after some research. This size would be sufficiently strong to anchor our 26ft lightish boat, but would not add a huge amount of weight in the anchor locker (30 kg). We bought a 6kg Delta copy to go on the end. The windlass is a Lofrans X1 which has been mounted on the anchor locker lid.

Update: One season on and the decision to install the windlass has proved itself time and again. Delta copy & chain works well ad we've yet to have a dragging problem or a failure to set.  The only negatives have been the foot switches (bloody useless - now replaced with a wired remote) and the shallow anchor locker. The chain piles up in a nice pyramid in the shallow locker and eventually jams the incoming chain. This necessitates opening the locker after every 15-20m of chain recovered to flatten the chain pile. Nothing I can do about the depth of the anchor locker but apparently stainless steel chain would solve the problem as it tends to "flow" better than galvanised chain. At roughly £350 for 40m it's never going to happen!

Update 2: I've finally used the warping drum on the windlass. It's proved very useful for hauling the tender on board. I clip the spinnaker halyard onto the towing eye and route the halyard via a turning block on the toe rail to the drum. This makes hauling the tender up n deck an absolute doddle.


Saturday, 18 July 2015

BBQ

No boat would be complete without a bbq. No one wants to be cooking in a small cabin on a sunny evening when you could be out enjoying yourself in the cockpit.

We gave up charcoal bbq's as a PITA years ago and have got quite used to the convenience, flexibility and great taste of a gas bbq. You also run less of a risk of upseting the neighbours in the marina!

For Genesis we have installed one of Weber's smallest Q series bbqs on the pushpit using the supplied stand in modified form. This was really just to prove the concept and I'll get round to a more permanent stainless steel mount when I can find the time. In the meantime it's working well.

The gas supply is teed in to the main boat supply using a self sealing quick-couple fitting and an isolation valve.


Saturday, 11 July 2015

Welsh Air Show

We had the privilege of being able to watch the Welsh Air Show, from just outside the exclusion zone in Swansea Bay. I was lucky enough to get some reasonable photos of the Vulcan and of the Red Arrows. The day was somewhat overcast but at least it was dry. Here are some of the photos:

















I wasn't able to take as many photos as I would have like to have done, simply because my little Canon Powershot is not as fast as it needs to be and whilst I would love to have a digital SLR, I don't want the hassle of carrying something big and clunky around with me. The Canon Powwershot suits me just fine most of he time!

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Thailand Yacht Charter

We are fortunate enough to have been able to charter a yacht in Thailand. As we have spent so much money on our own boat, it meant that funds were rather limited in terms of what we could spend on the charter. Unfortunately, this meant, we were unable to afford to even consider *Sunsail, especially as they were considerably more expensive in comparison to everything else available.... not that there was a huge amount of choice.

Most of the smaller boats we tried to charter were already booked up, so in the end, we chartered a heavily discounted Hanse 400 called Kinnon, through Asia Marine. Really, this should have been the first clue. Lets just say, the boat was a rather tired 2007 model.

On arrival, we were greeted by the Asia Marine representative, who talked us through various anchorage and victualling possibilities. We were taken through the usual technical and safety briefing and given a pilotage guide and various charts. We were supplied with a large cooler box filled with ice, which was a very thoughtful gesture.

Hanse 400 (2007 model) Pros & Cons


Hanse 400 called Kinnon
Pros:


  • Good sized boat with a decent sized cockpit
  • Auto tacking jib
  • Large fridge with a top and side entrance (this makes access so much easier)
  • Teak cockpit
  • Good sized cabins with ample storage
  • Boat feels solid & well made
  • Double sink
  • No clutter on deck as all lines are out of sight and lead back to the cockpit


Cons:


  • Single wheel
  • Gear throttle not in an intuitive spot - Bavaria 37 does this better
  • 3 cabin layout - we would have preferred 2 cabins with an extended galley
  • No way of securing shower door - it tends to swing about if the boat heels
  • **Manual sea water pump-out loos -  this is the 21st century, sailing can be civilised!


The Condition of the Boat


  • Where to start? Well, on day 1, we had an almighty rain storm, which lasted for several hours. Thanks to the rain storm, we discovered that the hatches leaked and the Bimini & spray hood had clearly not been weatherproofed at all... seeing as the rain was coming straight through it. Thank goodness the boat was well stocked with cooking pots, as we had to place these underneath the various leaks coming through the hatches. The Bimini & spray hood particularly annoyed me, as it is cheap and quick, to weatherproof these bits. I have used Renovo Ultra Proofer on both our spray hood and in the past on a rather old canvas soft-top on my car. Both are weatherproof and the cost was minimal, especially in comparison to the comfort. A 500ml bottle costs approximately £14.
  • The floors were generally scuffed and worn - this is to be expected with a charter boat of that vintage.
  • The Gib sail was either stretched to hell and gone or completely the wrong size for the boat. The track for the main sail was very sticky and in need of lubrication and the Lazy Jacks Sail Bag was in pretty worn condition - one of the Lazy Jacks snapped.
  • The dinghy and its motor had both seen better days and I think both are pretty much on their last legs.
  • In terms of cleanliness, the boat was fairly clean. It was however, annoying that the shower filter is clearly not cleaned between charters. Removing someone else's wad of hair from the filter was stomach churning to say the least. It was not helped by the fact that there was a further bundle of hair shoved up the hose leading from the filter. I still get shivers up my spine thinking of it.
  • The charts were plastic coated. This is one of those ideas that, sounds sensible but doesn't translate very well into practise. The coating had done something to the writing and symbols on the chart, which made the writing pretty much illegible. 
  • No extra rope was included on board. Annoying at best.


Thailand as a Charter Destination:

We flew into Phuket and after recovering in a hotel for 2 days, caught a taxi to Yacht Haven Marina. From Yacht Haven, we were able to get a taxi to the Thai version of Tesco, to victual the boat.

From the Marina, we headed North for the first couple of days, to investigate the Hongs. The water in the North is more of a green emerald colour and in April, it was 30 deg C...piss warm... We visited all the typical islands you would expect to (James Bond Island and so forth and so on). John even took me on a tour of Bat Shit Cave. This is obviously not it's real name... because I can't remember it but it was full of bats and bat shit. We managed to miss the deluge of canoeists going in with their head-lamps, mainly because they decided that night time was the right time to explore. Very odd because as far as we were concerned, that was beer-o-clock... or cocktail-o-clock, depending on your preference.


Bat Shit Cave
We didn't get enough time to explore as much as we wanted in the South. From what we did explore, the South has slightly cooler water temperatures in April; 28 deg C versus 30 deg C, which makes it a bit more pleasant. The sea is a bit clearer and the water tends toward a turquoise blue as opposed to emerald green.

Some of the islands we visited:

Krabi: not my favourite. Too crowded and noisy. Although, the Lady-Boys made for good people watching. To top it off, I was stung by a Jellyfish, which was pretty much ALL John's fault. I had seen a jellyfish floating about, so I asked my supposedly dutiful husband to keep an eye on it, whilst I had a very quick dip, to cool down. He watched it swim underneath the boat and the continue on to sting me on the arm and the arse. Divine justice was served up when I demanded he return to shore and find some soothing ointment. The Gods smiled down when he neglected to check the fuel level in the tender, which meant that on his return trip from shore, I had the satisfaction of watching him paddle at least half the distance back! Rather helpful at relieving the intense burning of the jellyfish stings, which left raised itchy sections of skin for the next 3 weeks. Pity he didn't run out of fuel sooner.

Although not my favourite spot, we discovered it was not a bad place to stock up on water, alcohol and food. We caught a tuk-tuk to their local supermarket and he waited, whilst we did our shopping and brought us back. Quite an experience... a bit like watching death racing toward you.


The View from Inside the Tuk-Tuk


Kho Pipi: Although busy, this had a good local feel to it. Loads of very tasty street food and good victualling opportunities. Slight annoyance was that their water facility for boats was out of order.
Crispy Chicken and Savoury Rice

Tasty Squid

James Bond Island: immediately recognisable. Makes you feel like you are on a Hollywood set. Appealed more to John's Bond fascination, than mine. I might have been more interested if Daniel Craig was to be seen exiting the water in very little swim shorts.


James Bond Island sans any Near Naked Men


PhangNga Bay: Well worth a visit. Amazing limestone rocks, which seem to rise up straight out of the sea. The rocks are also decidedly phallic in nature and therefore, massively appealing to my juvenile side. Some beautiful lagoons to explore.





Kho Khai Nok: This is a fantastic little island. It is better to get there mid afternoon, so you can still enjoy some of the stalls and food but don't have to tolerate the ***Longtail boat day-trip hoards for very long. By about 5pm, they have all packed up and left and you can enjoy the peace and privacy with a little bit of snorkeling in the buff.... The snorkeling here was truly like being in a tropical fish tank. Very colourful and massive schools of fish including the very colourful Sergeant Major Fish, Trigger Fish and Angel Fish.

Naka Yai: This was a fabulous spot, especially, once all the speedboats and Longtails had cleared off, with their masses of tourists. Although, it was with great glee, that I noticed one of the tourist speedboats, was called SuperPorn!!!! You couldn't make it up.



We went ashore with our somewhat knackered tender and enjoyed some superb Mai Tais and Pina Coladas. Absolutely yummy. Beautiful views, yummy cocktails and a quiet anchorage. What more could you want?


Would we Charter in Thailand Again?

Absolutely! The food and scenery are amazing. Make certain you try the Green Papaya Salad - absolutely superb! The people are friendly and helpful. It was a wonderful experience, unfortunately, not long enough but really enjoyable. 

Things to remember: 

  • Supermarkets will only sell you alcohol between 11am & 2pm and then between 5pm & 12am each day. Supermarkets enforce this , although, it is enforced sporadically from local smaller shops.
  • Wine is heavily taxed and therefore, quite expensive.
  • The colloquialism for the local Chang beer, is Changover. Read into this whatever you will.
  • Fill your water tanks whenever you get the opportunity. Thailand is not as well set up for chartering as the Med is.
  • Try the streetfood. It is superb.
  • Buy plenty of bottled water. You will drink far more than you expect. Ditto with beer.
  • Thai Charters are flexible about the length of charter, as well as the start and end days. We collected our boat on the Monday and returned it on the Sunday. When researching charters, we had no issue with the length or timing of the charter. Don't expect this in the Med.

*Sunsail: In hindsight, Sunsail would have bee a much better bareboat charter option. We happened to stop in at Ao Po Grand Marina to top up our water & fuel tanks, ice supplies and of course beer and wine. Sunsail just so happen to have their Phuket base in the marina. Walking round and looking at the Sunsail boats, it has to be said that from what we could see, they were in considerably better condition and they even had a BBQ mounted off the pushpit. Aside, from which, AO Po Grand Marina is far better base to explore from as you don't have to travel for at least a day before you get somewhere interesting. The marina staff were also very helpful with our shopping requests.

**Manual Sea Water Pump-Out Loos: This is truly a particular sailing bug-bear. I simply cannot understand why people insist on having sea water manual pump-out loos. Quite frankly, they are barbaric. They stink and they are absolutely unpleasant. If you can't get your wife to go sailing with you, well, look at your loo!You would not tolerate that smell at home, so why tolerate it on your boat. I think what annoys me the most is the curmudgeonly waffling explanation, from sailors, who have never used and electric fresh water flush loo, pontificating about how it is bound to block. No it isn't. In fact motor boaters who tend to be a little modern in their thinking, manage just fine with electric fresh water flushing loos. Fancy that... it is possible to come out of the cave and join the 21st century with a non stinky civilised loo experience.


***Longtail boat:  The Longtail boat seems to be a extremely popular form of water transport in Thailand. The reason it is called a Longtail is because the propeller is mounted on the edge of a rather long pole. This is used for both steering an propulsion. The boats tend to be somewhat banana shaped with a rather large battery and a car or truck engine (probably whatever engine can be cheaply sourced) as a means of power. They have a somewhat DIY quality about them.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Refrigeration

Genesis probably, like most other yachts of this size, was equipped with an insulated "cooler box" set into the galley counter top. Initially we filled this with ice from the local supermarket to keep supplies (beer and Prosecco etc.) cold but quickly found that ice was competing for booze space!

This led to the idea of looking for a fridge unit that we could retrofit to the cooler box to give us a proper fridge. Many DIY fridge units are available from the major chandlers that, can be fitted without the need to hire a refrigeration engineer. Isotherm & Waeco seem to be the most popular/available brands, with units to suit most box sizes.


Installation is simple: select the condensing unit & evaporator plate combination that suits your cooler box size best (always go bigger in terms of capacity). Evaporator plates are available in a variety of sizes and shapes and can be easily bent to fit a non-standard shaped box. This is exactly what we did. The cooler box was roughly 34 litres in capacity, so we bought the smallest flat plate evaporator and bent it into an "L shape" to fit along the side of the box. Once you've found a suitable location for the condensing unit (compressor etc), then all that is required is to connect the evaporator plate to the condensing unit via the quick couple connectors (simple spanner connection), power up the unit and bingo!


Most models of condensing unit use an air cooled condenser similar to your domestic fridge at home. Tucked away under a bunk or in a locker, the warm air from the compressor has nowhere to escape and will warm up the locker/interior of the boat.  Not a problem in winter, but it's the last thing you want in summer! Furthermore, the compressor will run for longer ratcheting up electricity consumption.


Having a background in refrigeration, this concerned me, given the small size of our boat. Keel cooled condensers are a better but more expensive option, however I discovered a rather interesting solution offered by Isotherm. Isotherm produce what they call a "self pumping" unit; essentially a water cooled condenser which doubles as a through-hull fitting for the galley sink drain. Slightly more expensive than ordinary air cooled condensers but way more efficient. The "skin fitting" or condensing coil replaces the galley sink skin fitting (you simply drill out the old one and fit the new one). The refrigerant pipes connect to this via the quick couple connectors and it's ready to fire up.An added benefit is that it takes the standard sink drain from 1/2" to 1 1/4" so no more blocked sink drains!


We've had it operational all Summer and I must admit how impressed I am with the operation. Power consumption is also quite low, at less than 10KWh per week in the marina (never switched off), and it never runs the domestic battery (a single 100Ah) particularly low whilst at anchor. This would probably improve significantly if the cooler box was better insulated than the paltry 1" of foam it currently has.


All in all, one of the best upgrades we've done.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Moving to Swansea

I am aware that I have not posted very much but to be fair, we have been quite busy enjoying our little sailboat as opposed to writing about what we have been doing. We have had a fantastic stay at Penarth marina and would definitely recommend it as a Marina. They have been very friendly and the facilities are quite good. The men's toilet could do with being cleaner and the wifi certainly needs to be less irregular but aside from that, it has been fantastic.

We made some really good friends in Penarth and we have had some wonderful sailing days, which has included a spot of fishing! It is quite interesting to see the coastline from the boat side as opposed to the landside.

In terms of sailing, John and I have both come along in leaps and bounds. Admittedly, John knoew how to sail, whereas it has been a completely new experience for me, which I thoroughly love..... although, I think I enjoy the fishing, or more precisely, the catching more!

Whilst Cardiff has been wonderful, we are now keen to move to some less muddy sailing prospects, with easier currents to plot courses through. As such, we have decided to move our boat to Swansea.