Thursday, 14 May 2015

Planning ahead

When we had Robinetta surveyed at Cairnbaan one of the things that the report highlighted was the need to store her undercover over the winter in Scotland. It is not something we thought about doing further south, but it makes sense given that we can not get to her quickly. Undercover storage is at a premium, so needs booking early, so I started looking once we were back from Tobermory.

We were thinking of taking Robinetta to the Tarbert Traditional Boat festival, which meant she would be in the Clyde, so I looked at Silvers, and Fairlie. Silvers had room, but Fairlie was cheaper, and a lot easier to get to by public transport. Since Robinetta is small they have managed to squeeze her in, so we will be at Fairlie marine this winter. To the best of our knowledge she last visited the yard back in 1937!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Robinetta does tech

The last bits of 1970s technology have been retired for this season. I repaired the Seafarer 3 echo sounder twice last summer and finally decided to replace it. The old VHF radio works fine but prompted by the surveyor Alison wanted a modern DSC unit.

The Seafarer 3's transducer died a few years ago and Nasa Marine still sell a compatible single frequency 150 kHz unit. It is embedded in the foot-thick oak keel so I didn't want to change it again. I could have installed one of the current equivalent Nasa head units but I wanted the chance to remote the depth indication. The Actisense DST-2 can drive the transducer and a log and temperature sensors and outputs NMEA 0183. It can also be connected to a PC. For now I've put it in a visible spot but once I know what I want to do with it I'll hide it. I wired it to the Garmin GPSMAP 450 chart plotter in the cockpit and now we get depth in metres without having to peer into the cabin. The new ICOM M323 needs latitude, longitude and time to do its DSC mayday magic and that comes from the Garmin. It can also send the position of other ships obtained by DSC position requests to the plotter, but I don't expect to use that so I haven't wired it up. Finally the plotter is also connected to the Simrad tiller pilot so in theory it will steer to waypoints. I'll try that sometime. The tiller pilot can steer to wind with the right input. I might do that at some point, but we don't have a windex yet. The cabling will get a bit tidier.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Perfect day sail

Tobermory in April means COLD nights, and sleeping in woolly hats, but the sunshine was glorious in the morning, and Julian did some work on the rigging in his teeshirt!

After that we went sailing, or at least motoring in still air to have a look at Ardnamurchan Point with the thought that we would then head for Muck. We saw some thing that was probably a pod of whales in the distance, heading into the Sound of Mull. We were too far away to see much, but they looked bigger than dolphins!

Ardnamurchan light
As we got close to Ardnamurchan a breeze sprang up, so we raised the sails. The forecast had promised some wind, 3-4 from the East or North East, and as it came in and strengthened nicely we decided not to beat towards Muck, and instead turned onto a broad reach for Coll. Much better! A seal popped up to have a look at us , but was really more interested in the sea weed it was holding!

There were quite a lot of guillemots about, and a couple of cormorants fishing, plus some gulls too distant to identify. Plenty of birds really, but not a hint of a sea eagle! 
North end of Coll

At Coll we gybed round and reached back towards the sound of Mull, romping along at 4-5 knots, and touching 6 for a moment. This sort of day is what sailing is about, a good breeze, hardly any swell, and wonderful scenery; the sort that photographs are too small to convey!

The wind disappeared as we got back into the shelter of Ardnamurchan point, and we motored into Tobermory and picked up the bouy where Robinetta is going to spend the next five weeks while Julian and I go back to work.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Sailing north?

Weather reports are essential when planning a day's sailing, so we turned on our brand new radio to get the 2210 weather update last night. The problem was, we could not hear anything! We called up the coast guard for a radio check, nothing! So now we needed to work out why.

We have a brand new radio (which we had never tried before), and newly connected antenna up the mast, but we also had our spare radio antenna inside the cabin, which we knew worked from that position with our old radio. The old radio had been left in the car at Cairnbaan. The first question we asked ourselves was why neither of us had thought to do a radio check at Cairnbaan! No answer to that one!

We hooked up the old antenna to the new radio, and had no luck with that set up either. Refiting the old radio seemed the best idea, but it was in the car four miles away, and it was almost certain that its the power lead had made its way into the bin by accident.

Julian got up early and walked back to Cairnbaan along the tow path, which since it was a bright (but chilly) morning along a scenic bit of countryside was not a hardship. He drove back, bringing the radio with him. The missing power lead did not turn up, but the manager at Crinan boatyard found an old spare for a nominal fee. He also told us that the Crinan basin was a well known radio hole, and offered to do us a radio check on his hand held. It worked. The new radio picked his call up on both antennas.

Panic over. We locked out of the Crinan basin at 0930 into a flat sea, with bright sun overhead, and no wind. By 1800 we were moored up at Tobermory, having motored all the way. We did bend on the jib and raise the main mid morning, but there was not enough wind to sail, and we soon took them down. We carried the tide nearly all the way, taking full advantage of the favourable flow through the Dorus Mor and the Sound of Luing. Not a bad first day of the season at all.
Photo by Stu and Sue from Esseness

Wednesday, 15 April 2015


We are afloat at Crinan!

Robinetta was craned into the canal yesterday morning and the mast dropped in around noon. It was a horrid soaking wet day. As we untangled the rigging I realised I had managed to get three separate ropes the wrong side of the VHF antenna cable.

The only untangled halyard suitable for hauling Alison up to fix it was the one we call "spare" which has no purchase. Luckily the yard people were there to help haul.

The next problem was the batteries. As expected they didn't start the engine so we drove up to the chandlers at Crinan and bought one. So we now have one good battery. The remaining old one will start the engine a few minutes after a charge from the engine, but not reliably. We will make do with one until I can get another, cheaper one.

lunch stop just before Bellanoch
This morning we bent the mainsail on and headed through the locks with two other boats. One was single handing and had booked an assisted passage so we had the benefit of Scottish Canals staff to take our lines and work the gates and sluices. I helped with the gates.

We got to Crinan about 3 pm, having missed the north going tide through the Dorus Mor so we are staying the night in Crinan.

We used the time to fill the water tanks and get the new echo sounder working.

Our venerable Seafarer 3 became very unreliable last year and I decided it was time to retire it. I didn't want to fit a new transducer - that's a major job on Robinetta. Actisense make a 150 kHz compatible version of their DST-2 box. This is a microcontroller which has sensor inputs for a depth transducer, log and thermometer and outputs NMEA. I've hooked it up to the chart plotter so we finally have a depth display in the cockpit. I need to calibrate it but for now it seems to be working.

I could do all of this in theory with an Arduino or a Raspberry Pi but the depth sensor needs a high current pulse and non-trivial intepretation of the response. The Actisense has been around for a while so it seemed worth trying. We now have four NMEA compatible devices on the boat. The depth sensor feeds the chart plotter and the chart plotter feeds the DSC radio and the tiller pilot. In theory the radio can send DSC position data to the chart plotter but I haven't wired that up. I wired the chart plotter to the tiller pilot last year but it didn't seem to work. I'll try it again.
In the Crinan Basin

Friday, 10 April 2015

Work goes on

We did not get much done today compared to yesterday. But that was mostly because we took the afternoon off!

Alex finished off the anti fouling, and patched the above waterline paint where it needed it. Unfortunately the new tin of Lauderdale Blue looks a lot darker than the old, and the patches stand out. Knowing that the fresh paint will soon fade to the same shade as the old does not help at this point!

Julian checked the thru-hulls and fettled them. They did not need a lot of work, but we don't want them getting back in the state they were last year!

The inside of the hull is now as mould free as an old wooden boat ever gets, so it's time to get things out of the car and into the boat! I fitted the new radio, but we can't check it out until we have the batteries back in Robinetta. One of them seems to be coming back from the dead, but it won't fully charge and we are investigating replacing both.

Adam Way, who runs the boat yard, helped free Robinetta's mast from its cramped and inaccessible storage rack, so this evening Julian is looking over the rigging, ready to start dressing the mast tomorrow.

The weather is supposed to break this evening, and although we got another layer of varnish on the top of the mast and the bowsprit, the varnish on Robinetta herself was still tacky this morning, and certainly not ready for another coat by the time we left the yard, when it was beginning to spit with rain.

On Wednesday I said I would be happy if we got three good days in a row. We have, and I am feeling really good about our progress! Three people working on one small boat can do a lot in two and a half days!

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Another great day

The weather is holding so far, and outside work is well advanced. We got a complete layer of tie coat on before lunch, and grey metallic primer where it was needed on the topsides, then after lunch it was time for varnish on the mast and bowsprit. The first coat of anti-foul went on mid-afternoon, then the varnish on the foredeck and cabin sides got its second coat.

I'm happy so far, since Robinetta could be craned in now, even if the weather broke this evening. There is still plenty of work to do, including checking the thru-hulls, before I'd want her launched, but the vital, weather dependent stuff is done.

Meanwhile work inside the cabin continued with only one aim, to get rid of the black mould  that is growing on all the paint work. I bought some spray on anti-fungal wash from Screwfix, and we took it in turns to spray and wipe throughout the day. There is still more of this wonderful task to complete tomorrow...

In between all this work we had a drink on the terrace at the Cairnbaan Hotel, and walked up the hill to show Alex the neolithic stone carvings. We ate our lunchtime sandwiches there, staring at the view down towards the canal. I am sure there are better places to keep a boat over winter, and get it prepared for launch, but on a warm sunny April day it's difficult to think of one.