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Life Onboard

  • 186. Hip Hip Hurray

    Marseille to Corfu delivery trip

    All being well by the time you read this, I will be either 'kicking my heels' waiting to be discharged from hospital along with my new all singing and (eventually) dancing hip or, you never know, I might already be at home not yet bored but give it time. Reading matter already awaiting my attention includes Marine Diesel Basics, Splicing Modern Ropes and Happy Hooking, books I got quite enthusiastic about the other week! However I digress. Having always considered myself to be fairly active round the boat, I hate to admit that old age is definitely catching me up and I am now finding myself just a little bit less mobile with ‘sail makers knee’, never mind my dodgy hip so maybe I should make life a little easier for myself. There is an autopilot on the Mystery which, I must confess, came in very handy on our long motor/occasional sail from Marseille to Corfu however, this autumn, when venturing out singlehanded with the tiller pilot working happily away there were a couple of occasions when I was out of the cockpit stowing fenders, hoisting the main or whatever when I thought it would be nice to easily alter course without having to get back to the control unit some fifteen feet away and dare I say it Ionian charter boat skippers do sometimes have the habit of doing the unexpected!

    Raymarine S100  Remote Control

    Staff member Andy Laurence purchased a Raymarine S100  Remote Control for use on his recently restored Cutlass 27 after a little incident with some piles on the banks of the river Tyne! He was out single-handed and on deck removing fenders after leaving the lock at Royal Quays. Nellie Dean, his pride and joy, was on Autopilot at the time and without warning, not a command from the skipper, decided to go hard a starboard! Andy thinks if he'd had the remote slung round his neck at the time he could have avoided kissing the ironwork as the yacht had the base station already fitted (he assumes the past owner either forgot to give him remote control or kept it for his next boat). After using the remote all this season, he is a convert, so much so he talked me into buying the system for next season.

    Raymarine S100 Remote Control

    The compact Raymarine S100 Remote Control gives you basic onboard wireless control of any Raymarine SeaTalk autopilot, even if you are below deck and out of sight of your autopilot. It’s  easy operation and intuitive menu structure gives easy access to all its feature (sounds perfect for someone like me who isn’t that computer literate to say the least)  The Raymarine S100 wireless control is powered by two AAA batteries, displays two lines of text, displays signal strength and has an "out of range of base station" warning and of course it has a Keylock feature so that you can temporarily lock the autopilot keys to ensure that it is not accidentally operated!

  • 185. Magnetic Pull (Or Not)

    Nawa Stainless Steel Mooring Reel rescued from the marina using a grapnel anchor

    Mobile phones, wrench, sail maker's copper headed hammer, customer's boat keys and a Lift-the-Dot closing tool are just some of the items I have kicked or dropped overboard in my forty odd year ‘sail making/rigging ’ career; Some lost forever, some recovered either by grapnel or by using a Sea Searcher recovery magnet. My last "bit overboard" shout was earlier this year when I was fitting a Nawa stainless steel mooring reel to the pushpit of Hindsight. I had started to secure the clamps (always the hardest part as the lock nuts are easy to drop) and the backing plate and was feeling fairly pleased with myself when disaster struck and down into the briny went the reel and 32 mtrs of webbing! Fortunately there was no one around when a chain of expletives escaped from my mouth!

    As the reel was stainless there was no point in using a Sea Searcher magnet, which incidentally I always carry in my works van in case of operator error, with my track record you never know when it will come in handy but as for a grapnel it was a case of borrowing one from the marina office. Five minutes later over £150-00 worth of kit (excluding the fixing bracket and clamp) was back on the pontoon ready for a hose down! If you haven't got a grapnel onboard a folding anchor whilst not quite as effective may do the trick.

    Sea Searcher magnet

    Now Hindsight is down in Corfu we have both a Sea Searcher magnet and a grapnel on board, boat and car keys have floatation devices attached and if I manage to throw my mobile or iPad overboard they will be protected and float thanks to the Goopers! My favourite Sea Searcher story is that of Grace who was the skipper of the 70 foot James Cook sail training ketch working out of Royal Quays marina who managed to drop the boat keys overboard whilst the new crew were waiting to board! First dip with the Sea Searcher magnet brought the bunch of keys up much to the relief of Grace and no doubt her new crew! Incidentally if you do happen to drop your camera, tablet or car keys in and do recover them don't forget that a Gadget saver may save you a considerable amount of money (Andy now keeps one next to the upstairs and downstairs toilet back on his ranch) but that's another story, read about it in "Greater Lover Hath No Man".

    Andy L checking his rig making sure he uses his tool saver to prevent dropping anything on the deck

    Climbing masts and using tools aloft, touch wood, I have never dropped a drill, rivet gun or whatever on the deck below. I make sure that I am using a tool saver, loop goes over the tool and the carabiner is secured to my harness, and before I start work I check that my winch buddy is back in the safety of the cockpit! Incidentally the other Andy (our website guru) last year managed to drop his Leatherman Crunch from the top of his mast. It bounced on the gunwale, hit the edge to the pontoon finger and became unrecoverable in the depths of Royal Quays. However this inconvenience was nothing compared to his experience in Hong Kong many years ago. His colleague was up the mast of a Pilothouse Tayana 57 and the tool he dropped smashed right through one of the forward windows of the Pilothouse, and yes the air was blue!

    Ps Andy B, these days my boss, has just reminded me whilst checking my spelling, punctuation and grammar that my 'bits’ overboard should include in 2016 a rather nice digital camera with had a great amazing zoom, I managed to catch the padded camera bag on a guardrail when climbing aboard a Moody, put him in a bad mood for a few weeks!

  • 184. Top Tips Tuesday - Trickle Or Treat - Merlin Smartgauge Battery Monitor

    Merlin Smartgauge Battery Monitor - Easy Installation

    The MERLIN SMARTGAUGE BATTERY MONITOR (now with a two year warranty)  is certainly not trickling out, it’s more like a torrent! Andy went away on his half term hols early on Sunday the 29th with a good stock of them for this time of the year and on our website over the Sunday/early Monday sold four and promptly ran out of stock!  I then had to  break my vow which is, when the boss is on holiday try my utmost not to contact him unless there is a real emergency. However, sometimes needs must and he gets a text, which went, "need to order another ten Merlin SmartGauges!" Well as I start this blog, being Saturday the 4th and, dare I mention it, my day off, it looks like he will be ordering another batch of ten in the very near future.

    Smartgauge Battery Monitor

    SmartGauge represents a totally new approach to monitoring the state of charge of deep cycle batteries. The most common type of meter used for this purpose is an amp hours counter which basically adds up the current going into a battery and subtracts the current coming out to give a representation of the state of charge of your batteries.

    The SmartGauge works on a different principle. The final result is a battery state of charge meter that is much simpler to install, simpler to set up, simpler to understand and yet gives a meter that actually does a far better job of telling you the state of charge of your batteries. SmartGauge uses computer models of different types of lead acid, deep cycle batteries. This model is then used by an algorithm in SmartGauge to calculate the state of charge. The algorithm continually calculates results and some of these results are fed back into future calculations giving an ever changing, and self correcting, result.

    The result is that SmartGauge cannot run out of synchronisation with the batteries and successfully manages to track the battery capacity as they age and lose capacity, which is the biggest problem with the amp hour counters and the main reason they make such a poor job of tracking the state of charge of batteries over time.

    Merlin Smartgauge Battery Monitor - Easy Installation

    Installation is incredibly simple. To monitor a single battery bank only 2 light duty cables to the battery are required, or 3 light duty cable if the voltage of a 2nd battery is to be monitored as well. It benefits from automatic self-setup and adjustment, is suitable for both 12V and 24V systems and its shuntless design retains factory warranties. So what are you waiting for treat yourself and your boat now, don’t wait till Christmas!

  • 183. Top Tips Tuesday - The Weakest Link? The Art of Anchoring

    We do not recommend the use of swivels on an anchor rode

    A couple of weeks ago, whilst laying up our Mystery in the Corfu Boatyard, I saw that the guy next to me had lowered his ground tackle onto a piece of ply. Being a nosy so and so I wandered over and took note of his method of connecting his anchor to the chain! Stainless shackle from the anchor to a stainless swivel, stainless shackle to the chain.

    In Alex & Daria's excellent book 'Happy Hooking The Art of Anchoring' they do not recommend the use of swivels and I quote "We do not recommend the use of swivels on an anchor rode. Under normal circumstances you do not need it. Whether you have a chain or rope rode, it should untwist all by itself when you weigh anchor obviating the need for a swivel. Perhaps the only circumstance where you might consider adding a swivel would be if you were to anchor your boat for a very long period of time. Then, just as in a permanent mooring setup, you should incorporate a heavy duty swivel, as your boat is liable to swing around many times."

    They also write and once again I quote "Many people opt for a shiny stainless steel shackle. Just consider that stainless steel is, by its very nature, smooth and the pin is thus actually inclined to unscrew itself. We would suggest using a galvanized shackle instead. As the galvanized shackle's surface is rough it tends to bind and not open easily.

    Whatever you wind up using, make sure the shackle pin is secured or 'moused' with high grade monel wire. As opposed to stainless steel or copper, Monel® is inert and will not react with metal shackle."

    Millie the dog 'at anchor' in the beer garden

    As we all know stainless steel can rust and it's in hidden spots that are not easy to inspect. If, for whatever reason, you do need a swivel and you want stainless, go for the best i.e. Kong but inspect it on a regular basis for signs of rusting. As for me I have taken on board the advice from 'Happy Hooking' and fitted a galvanised fixed connector for my Vulcan (has the dig in/holding quality of the original Rocna, but with no roll bar and therefore clears my bow sprit). I used Loctite on the threads of the swivel for security and of course peace of mind!

    Mid November I go under the surgeon's knife and hopefully, with my new hip joint bedded or properly dug in, will be back in the sail loft before too long. To keep me out of mischief whilst laid up I have Happy Hooking to reread. I also intend to delve into Marine Diesel Basics that I skimmed through and blogged about last week, over 200 pages and excellent drawings on most subjects. Incidentally, when down in the local boatyard today, I did notice and photographed the danger of leaving a rodent or bird entry, as per the illustration in last week's blog!

    when down in the local boatyard today, I did notice and photographed the danger of leaving a rodent or bird entry

    If that isn't enough 'Splicing Modern Ropes' is on my reading list as well. All I need now are some short lengths of offcuts, be it Dyneema or similar high tech rope, borrow Andy's fids and D scissors and before you know it (I hope) I will be making up some soft shackles and loops. Once again, like the Diesel basics book, loads of very informative and easy to follow pictures/text.

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  • 181. Top Tips Tuesday - It's A Dog's Life

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    It's a dog's life when you're not consulted as to where you will be spending your summer holidays. Me, I'd rather be sniffing round lamp posts in Tynemouth or chasing squirrels in the local park, but when my bosses Rob & Jenny Storrar decided that we would spend 'quality' time in and around Corfu on board Hindsight then my tail decided it would spend the next few weeks firmly clamped between my legs!

    My first introduction to a dogs life on the ocean waves was on the DFDS ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam (pet friendly cabin no less; i.e. no carpet on the floor in case my bladder played up during the night on the overnight crossing. As for the recreation area on the aft deck for doing my 'business' on the sandpit, you could hardly swing a cat never mind park my butt!) After a drive through Holland, Germany and Italy there was another overnight ferry in another pet friendly cabin, from Ancona to Igoumenitsa on the Greek mainland. This time the rest and recreation area was the whole of deck eleven however I was a bit disappointed that after a few of my fellow canine furry friends did their number 2's, other dog owners didn't clear up! Finally there was a short ferry crossing from Igoumenitsa to Corfu, even I, as a land lubber, could tell the cutless bearing on the prop shaft was on its way out, talk about shake, rattle and roll. Finally we arrived at Mandraki harbour underneath the fort where their boat was moored bow onto the quay.

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    They then stuck me in a Crewsaver pet float before lifting me on board the Mystery, talk about humiliation. I had to be shoehorned in between the pulpit and the Harken headsail furler! The golden retriever on the boat next to us had his own personal gangplank! As for getting down the companion way steps, it took at least five chew stick bribes before I got the hang of them, however no sooner had I got used to being lifted up and onto the bow than my bosses decide that our next port of call would be Gouvia marina where the grumpy skipper decided that from now on we would be stern on to the pontoon. More bribes as I then had to learn to walk the plank and to make it worse he insisted I should join him in his restored boat jumble Avon dinghy (see blog 148. Life In The Old Dog Yet) shame he hadn't finished stenciling the boat's name using the IBS stencil kit that Andy his boss had provided.

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    Just as I was starting to talk the talk as now seasoned sea-dog, my skipper upped sticks and had Hindsight lifted out, well that was a barrel of laughs cos when we finally got her chocked I was then fifteen feet off the ground with, as far as I could work out, only an aluminium ladder to allow me access to terra firma. However, once again, my trusty Crewsaver Pet Float came to the rescue. Skipper guided me up whilst skipper mate used an Anderson winch to do the lifting. Incidentally I did overhear her saying to the skipper that her bingo wings have disappeared!

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  • 178. Top Tips Tuesday - More Of Our best Top Tips

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    With the laying up season drawing ever closer, already underway in the far North, I thought it would be worth reminding avid readers that if you want to keep a eye on your boatyard or marina electricity consumption over the winter months, maybe concerned that your near neighbour is 'borrowing' your supply or that you may be being charged for more than you are consuming why not consider purchasing a Metermaid as first blogged about in 'Check Your Winter Consumption'.

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    An excellent product that we started stocking this year after a thorough evaluation by our own staff and yours truly was the Tercoo rotary flexible stripper. We very quickly found it was a great time saver when our staff were tasked with refurbishing the cast iron keels on what had been a sadly neglected twin bilge keel Hunter. Incidentally I blogged about this superb product back in March ('Better late than never') after I used It on a rusty race boat keel and found it cut down our preparation time dramatically. On the strength of my recommendation we then sold a couple to a skipper who is stripping off all the underwater coatings from his steel 40 footer, his thoughts if I remember on the Tercoo was, "a brilliant bit of kit, almost makes it a joy to be removing rust and the various coatings applied by the previous owner!"

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    Speaking of time savers and underwater surface preparation, when we lifted Hindsight earlier this year to carry on epoxying the hull, we needed to coat the surfaces hidden by the cradle supports. Even though the boatyard who lifted her did an excellent job of washing her down we found that Starbrite Boat Bottom Cleaner made light work of removing the fouling that the marina wasn't able to. Read my blog 'Saved My Bacon' for more revelations on how good this product is! Incidentally it's also great for removing fouling from stainless steel prop shafts and of course propellers, assuming they have not been anti fouled.

    Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 23.56.57

    Y10 is one of those products we sell bucket loads of even though it comes in a tub containing 300gms of this amazing product, it's great for removing rust stains from glass fibre (see images before and after taken on Hindsight as we enjoyed a leisurely lunch at anchor) Y10 is brilliant for removing the brown waterline stains that often appears on older boats, see my blog 'Before & After'

    Katrinacomb

    PS. Don't miss next weeks much longer article on laying up, it's full of excellent advice and written by the guys at www.marinechandlery.com; sailors with over 175 years of combined experience.

  • 176. Top Tips Tuesday - When Waiting For Weather

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    Yesterday, sheltering below deck on board Hindsight in Mandraki harbour, which is just under Corfu town fort, and listening to the rain beating down with a 'little' lightning and obviously thunder got me thinking, has the weather broken yet in the UK, has Autumn arrived? Youngest daughter then WhatsApp'ed Jenny and I, saying there was no sign of her baby coming yet and then started complaining about the poor weather back in the UK. Next minute boss man Andy texted, weather is c..p here; no doubt you are enjoying fabulous sunshine and how about letting me have next week's blog on time for once so I can correct all your spelling, grammar and punctuation as I am short staffed on Monday/Tues! Having spent Sunday morning slowly working through the list of to do items (only thirty three still to do) and failing miserably it got me thinking about what has been our four most popular autumn Tuesday Top Tips over the last few years?

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    Number one without a doubt has been Wet & Forget, this superb product was first featured on my blog 'Flying off the Shelves' in December 2013. Spray your decks, canvas work or anything that turns green through lack of sunshine in the autumn or winter with a diluted solution of Wet & Forget and it won't! PS. It doesn't need any hard work; you wet the surface you want to protect and that's it.

    be2c1652-55fc-46ec-b1ec-1f2082dc05b5Second on my list is Freezeban. See My Top Tips Tuesday blog 'Lay Up For Winter' in which I advised that this non toxic antifreeze is an excellent safe product for protecting water pressure systems and calorifiers. Regular repeat orders would certainly confirm this, however beware last year our supplier 'ran dry' so don't leave it too late.

    As for my third TTT that was my blog on 'Winterising Your Marine Engine'. Don't forget that even though it's considered standard practice to fill your fuel tanks up to the brim help prevent condensation and of course the possibility of contracting the dreaded diesel bug, (especially  now they add a small measure of Biofuel to the diesel) Grotamar82 is the perfect product to help keep your fuel healthy 365 days of the year and your filters clear.

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    Tested out on my backside when we sailed Hindsight down from Marseille to Corfu, was an excellent product called Tear Aid which we import from Holland. The week before the delivery  trip I managed to tear the backside on my 'past their sell by date' mid-layer salopettes. Our supplier had none in stock surprise surprise when I ordered them so it was make do and mend. Over a thousand miles later my backside was still dry, the patches showing no sign of letting go so I have cancelled the order and will carry on with old faithful. Tear Aid which I blogged about in blog 'Wonder product' in August 2016, does what it says it will do. It repairs all sorts of hard to stick to materials, it's brilliant on acrylic canvas, so if you are leaving your canvas work on this winter to protect your bright work and it's looking a little thin on say a stress point, Tear Aid is more than up to it! Abrasion or a tear on foullies, it's brilliant. Cracked window on a spray hood or canopy a repair using Tear Aid will outlast the item!

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  • 175. Top Tips Tuesday - See No Ships

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    I am constantly amazed as to how many ‘good old’ Blakes Seacocks we sell and ship all over the world: in the past week seven to a skipper in the USA, same for Henderson watertight hatches (seems the popular choice that the rowers use when crossing the Atlantic and other large oceans) As for electronic charts, whilst the majority are destined to be used on yachts or powerboats under 50ft occasionally we get a ‘bulk’ order for a superyacht and they will often be purchased in multiples of three or four. We assume one for the bridge, one for the backup system on the bridge, one for the big say 45 foot tender and the last for the ‘small tender’ usually about 25 foot! As for seeing ships, since the price came down (how long will it stay down with the way the pound is falling?) Bynolyt binoculars have been flying out the door so fast that both the distributor and ourselves have been constantly running out of stock! The SeaRanger II has been the choice of the RNLI since 1999 and was awarded PBO’s best buy and at £179.95 inc FREE UK SHIPPING* is a great way to keep an eye on the shipping. Also down in price at only £199.95  is the new improved and fast selling Bynolyt SeaRanger III. Slightly heavier than the SeaRanger II it has larger lenses to allow in more light, resulting in a clearer, higher quality image. The SeaRanger III is, of course, used by mariners and also by professional and commercial end users worldwide. Like the Searanger II it has an integrated illuminated compass and built-in height distance scale.

    * Terms and conditions apply

    Whilst the SeaRanger has a built in compass and height scale there are times when our little hand held compass comes into its own, easy to slip into a pocket it features a lanyard so you can keep it secure, has built in illumination and with a non slip rubber outer its easy to grip but tough as old boots! Folks I hate to say it both would make good Christmas prezzies.

    Plastimo Hand Bearing Compass

  • 174. Top Tips Tuesday - Us Hardy Folk

    70121bfc-e91d-4321-ba58-121e16a11061Us Geordie sailors in the North East like to quaff our Gin neat, rub Jack Daniels on our bald heads in a vain attempt to get our follicles to spring to life, use Balkan 176 vodka as our aftershave, remove Newcastle Brown ale bottle caps with our teeth and go trotting from hostelry to hostelry through the Bigg Market Newcastle upon Tyne in the middle of winter, wearing thin t-shirts or in the case of Geordie ladies the skimpiest of dresses (in Andy’s case a pink fairy dress on his rare nights out).  What we do like, apart from our nights out, is to cruise on the opposite side of the North Sea however by late August we toughies are usually back across the pond. So whilst its welcome news its come a bit late for us hardy folk to be told that the newly published 4th edition of the Baltic Sea and Approachesis available. Having said all that if you are already planning your 2018 summer cruise and the Baltic is your destination this pilot book is a must. The nine countries bordering the Baltic Sea offer an immense variety of cruising grounds, people and cultures. There are thousands of harbours and innumerable anchorages, and it would take an entire bookshelf, to cover them all in detail. The information contained in this book is therefore selective. It has been chosen for its value both at the planning stages - preparing the yacht, choosing the most suitable route, timing and communications etc - and again on arrival, when a general overview of each individual country is followed by specific harbour information.

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    Mind you for those of you about to follow the sun and head South, destination the Canary Islands, perhaps join or shadow the next ARC the bang up to date Cruising Guide to the Canary Islands has been published at just the right time! Written by Oliver Solanas Heinrichs & Mike Westin, and having kept our Hunter Channel 31 first of all at Puerto Mogan, Gran Canaria, then in Lanzarote during the Summer months, Graciosa in the winter and finally settling in Gomera I wish It had been published when we first arrived all those years ago. What I like about the guide is the tips from local sailors on the best harbours, marinas and anchorages. Priced at only £27.95 it's of course bang up to date and with over 180 pages is worth every penny.

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  • 173. Top Tips Tuesday - Dry Ship... Not On Your Nelly

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    Apart from being a left-handed dyslexic, ‘asked’ to leave the Newcastle upon Tyne Royal Grammar School at sixteen having failed all my O levels as I was always bunking off to go sailing, I have a memory like a sieve when it comes to remembering certain things. I can, of course, remember all the details of the International 14's POW Thursday’s cup race back in the late seventies when we led for the first three laps and then got slowly overhauled by Mike Peacock: or the time when competing in Keith Musto’s Flying Dutchman at the European championships on Lake Thune when they had over twenty attempts to get the fleet off cleanly and the race was finally postponed to another day as the race officer ran out of cartridges for the starting cannon! But ask me for my mobile number or home post code (have only lived in the same place for ten years) and I am stumped. Fortunately Jen cannot remember our wedding anniversary either but as she said the other day it's like four life sentences without an early release for good behaviour.

    With Hindsight, our Mystery 35, now in the water in Mandraki harbour Corfu and Jenny and I getting ready to drive out to Greece (Millie the dog is insisting she comes with us) we are slowly working through the list of items we need to bring out with us to finally complete the ‘things to do.' Luckily Andy my boss gave us a leaving present when we had Hindsight shipped down to Marseille by truck; a Weems & Plath logbook and also one of their excellent Maintenance logbooks, open the front cover and the first page can be filled with information that you maybe don’t need every day but when asked for you need it fast! The Maintenance logbook has got blank pages for specifications, spare parts, section on it for boat's maintenance and separate repair record, blank pages for drawing on and most importantly a page at the back for additional information. Strange that Jenny has already written under ‘needed’, three bottles of Gin, couple of bottles of Port, cans of Fever Tree tonic, however what worries me that, if we say, each have two G & T’s per night a bottle is going to last maybe a week and a half and if we arrive Greece on the 4th September and leave Corfu on the 15th of October, even allowing for Jenny to fly home to see our youngest daughter's new born in the middle of September we are going to  run out of gin fairly rapidly. Looks like she will have to visit the duty free at Newcastle Airport on her way back out!

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