Monthly Archives: February 2019

  • 249. Top Tips Tuesday - The Liveaboard Wife


    The Liveaboard Wife was written by a friend and occasional next door neighbour of ours, who some eight and a half years ago decided he was going to quit the rat race and with his partner, Elaine, sail their Moody 44 Mychi from its berth at the RNYC near Newcastle, down the North Sea, through the Dutch and French canals (sampling the wines on the way) and exiting at Port Napoleon in the Mediterranean. Their final destination, Lefkas marina, being their winter base and Nidri as the ‘base camp’ for their Ionian exploration. Once down there they got quickly ‘sucked into’ the liveaboards scene. His partner Elaine joined a choir, walking group and animal rescue as well as ending up as The Moody Owners Association Mediterranean Captain. Jan, who served his apprenticeship at Vickers Armstrong working on the tools and had in his own words ‘never done anything arty, dramatic or creative’ and had never sung in his life (except when at a Newcastle football match), not to be outdone by Elaine (now his wife) joined a male expat/sailors choir, called the Levkas Shantymen, and much to his own and Elaine’s amazement started to write poetry. He became known as "The Bard of Levkas” and performed regularly at expat functions.

    Apart from his poetry, his choir practice and the occasional concert, Jan found that his past knowledge of running his own steel fabrication/engineering company could be put to good use once again in the Lefkas area. When leisure time permitted, he fabricated, in stainless, the occasional stern gantry, boarding ladders, pushpit and pulpit mods and repairs. Now Jan and Elaine have sailed their Moody back to its home base for a refit and he is rejoining the ‘rat race’ in a very small way, so if you are in the market for a stainless gantry or whatever, he has lots of experience of Med style stern mooring.  Contact  him at I gather distance is no object.

    Jan is too modest to admit it but I have seen him in action, singing with the Lefkas Shantyman and reciting his poetry. He certainly has a certain stage 'presence' so if you want a ‘celebrity’ to ‘do a turn’ at your yacht club, view this clip filmed at Concrete Bills in Nidri, it's best with sound. As for 'Jan the man,' he is the handsome one with the six or is it seven pack dressed in black (just like Johnny Cash) on the right!

    Having now 'completed' almost two full seasons of my semi retirement and having seen first hand what skippers wives/girlfriends/mistresses and Jenny put up with, I thought that maybe those skippers who are so demanding may be interested in the following products which will/should make life on board a little bit easier for their 'Liveaboard Wife'.

    • Always ready to use. 
    • No loading, messenger or guide lines. 
    • Use the your real mooring line directly. 
    • Works as a ordinary boat hook when the hook head is in its locked position. 
    • Made in glass fibre reinforced nylon and extruded aluminium.

    Stern mooring in the Ionian can be great spectator sport for the crews that arrive early and are sitting at the quayside taverna bar watching beginners, (like me and Jenny) some of the bare boat charter crews and a fair number if not most of the Italians, who ‘park’ like they drive! Often on the quay there is a friendly soul to take your stern lines. However, if the wind is up and a cross current running, say at Preveza town quay, the ‘helping hand’ ready to catch your lines can have a habit of vanishing at the critical time. The Robship Hook and Moor boathook may help save your skipper's face or, quelle surprise, him having to raise his voice as once again he (not the faithful Liveaboard Wife) gets it wrong. The Mystery 35 that Jenny and I sail is tiller steered and if you let go of the tiller when going astern, unlike a wheel it will immediately kick like a mule to port or starboard depending on what kind of mood it’s in. So my 'two month at a time Liveaboard Wife’ is reluctant to steer Hindsight in reverse. Consequently at times life can get a little hectic in so much as said wife Jenny must pay out the rode after ensuring the anchor is firmly dug in (thank goodness it’s a new generation Vulcan anchor, sister to the Rocna that digs in fast)  She must ensure sufficient chain is paid out so that the stern almost reaches the quay but not so much that the bow falls away and you end up sideways. For her then it's a mad dash to the stern to throw the line ashore to hopefully a clued up bystander. Skipper, of course, is doing nothing apart from clenching the tiller firmly between both hands and issuing instructions. Should the quayside line catcher disappear at the critical moment or was never there in the first place the first thing the 'Liveaboard wife' must do is get a stern linethrough the mooring ring and back to the boat in double quick time. This superb Hook & Moor boathook will extend to three metres if we are ‘short’ of the quay. It's so clever that it can thread a line through a ring or hollow cleat like magic. It has a rubber handle for a good secure grip however if it does go overboard in the heat of the moment it will float. It weighs just over a kilo, retracts to only 115cm is easy to stow and apart from that it doesn’t shout!

    For the price of approx 2 bottles of cheaper gin there is another intelligent boat hook or line feeder which goes by the name of ‘Catching’. It has almost all the bells and whistles as the Robship Hook & Moor, in fact you can get the price down low to that of a really good craft gin if you buy only the singing and dancing head and fit that to your old boathook!


    The importers of the Catching Boathook and Line Feeder comment ‘this is the best line-reever we’ve seen. It’s really tough and solid. In our humble opinion, it leaves all other line-reevers and mooring devices in its wake!’ I haven’t tried this make in anger, only played with it in the chandlery and yes it seems to do all that asked of it!

    Now that the boat is safely moored up and she has her five parts gin, one part tonic and one part ice, where is she going to find a comfortable place to relax in the cockpit cos the halyard bags c/w halyard tails dig in her back, likewise the cockpit coaming locker catches, remind me whose bright idea was it to fit teak slats to the cockpit seats and as for the mainsheet traveller that’s literally a pain in the butt when you’ve company aboard! If the drink doesn’t help her get comfortable, throw her a Freebag but only after you have brought your own tipple up from down below. The Freebag can be described as ‘instant comfort abroad,’ originally developed by a Norwegian yachtsman to increase comfort and endurance on long voyages in rough waters. The Freebag today is commonly used by people trying to find comfortable and relaxing positions in boats or on, in our case, the rocky beaches of The Ionian. The Freebag boat cushion incorporates a patented design and is a lightweight, multifunctional water repellent cushion/bag and if she ever happens to nudge the skipper overboard in a hot moment, you could always take pity on him after he has cooled off and throw him his, (shame to get yours wet) cos they float!

    Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 11.06.45

    When we were fitting out the Mystery, all those years ago in a rash moment I decided to upgrade from the size of the winches that were fitted as standard on the factory fit out boats. This was in the hope that Jenny would be able to winch me to the top of the mast if the occasion demanded. Whilst she is now keeping the spectre of ‘bingo wings’ (see blog no.244) at bay with regular trips to the gym she does feel that perhaps it would be a good idea to invest in an Ewincher and then she wouldn’t have to raise a sweat whilst hoisting me up the mast! She also pointed out that even though we don’t race Hindsight, it has become very apparent over the last two seasons that if another yacht seems to be catching us up or getting away from us immediate sail trim is called for and a fast tack or two becomes a matter of life and death!


    Whilst Jen is more than capable of steering the Mystery on the wind in flat water when it’s a force 4 or above in a lumpy bash to windward it's yours truly on the tiller and she has to provide the grunt to these 'oversize  winches which because of the narrow sheeting angle double up as sheet winches! Why not electric winches I hear some folks say, well with a powered winch, a inexperienced crew on the button if you’re being hoisted up the mast, hit a snag and your foot gets stuck where the lower shroud(s) intersect the mast it ‘does not let the winch hand know’, likewise I have seen a clew pulled out of a genoa by an ‘enthusiastic’ crew member! With the Ewincher you will feel it through your hand and unlike an electric winch you can set up a torque limit directly from their mobile app.

  • 248. Top Tips Tuesday - New Arrival(s)


    ‘Our’ Claire, she who has the patience of a saint, she who sorts out all my random scribblings, vague or garbled instructions, contradictions, last minute additions and all things relating to our regular Tuesday’s Top Tips should, if all things go to plan, have given birth by now. The new addition to the Green family may be just over a week old assuming the baby arrived on the due date! And just for once I seem to have got ahead of the game as if it was an early birth, the TTT of the 29th January, 'Not Fade Away', was written around the 10th of that month. This ‘New Arrival’ blog was started the day after, and if the baby is very late, yes got that one nailed and ready to roll, because that one has been signed off too! Surely the new arrival will not give Claire as many sleepless nights as my TTT words of wisdom, nor her last child Max who, at three, is apparently still not the best of sleepers!


    This winter we have already seen some excellent new products to grace the shelves. There is, of course, the excellent Ewincher which I wrote about on my TTT blog of Tuesday the 22nd of January, which, despite it's cost, I am confident will be a best seller this year! Incidentally it got a great reception at the huge German boat show in Dusseldorf which has just finished! There is already a new Standard Horizon handheld VHF in the market place, a new Ronstan quick lock winch handle, an Ocean Signal ATB1 class b AIS Transponderand a new bottom wiper or cleaner! I wonder what the next couple of months will bring not, I hope, another Beast From The East!


    For folks like me with a very poor memory, the spec of this handheld reads like a prayer. The Standard Horizon HX890E is a floating handheld, it features 6 watt output and is a class H DSC. It’s 'job' description is 'Forget about trying to memorise the owners manual because a brand new easy to operate menu system makes this the most intuitive handheld on the market. DSC calling, position sharing, waypoint and route navigation and navigation to DSC distress call can be performed with just a few simple steps.' Sound like it’s the perfect VHF for me!


    Are you like me, no not with a poor memory, but suffering from arthritis in your fingers and wrists? Then why not consider the new Ronstan Quick-Lock winch handle? The Ronstan Quick-Lock allows you to immediately place the drive head into the winch socket, WITHOUT the need to rotate a knob or depress a button. It's stainless steel locking lever then retains the handle securely in place until you are ready to remove it. It makes my life so much easier and less painful as I used one of the prototype handles last year and yes it can do the same for you!


    The new Ocean Signal ATB1 class B AIS Transponder incorporating the superior SOTDMA access scheme provides increased visibility and safety at sea. Features include, simple installation and a free user friendly mobile app for set up. Other features include a faster reporting rate and higher output power than CSTDMA class B units. It sends AIS Transmissions every 5 seconds instead of the maximum two transmissions per minute and the 5W output power instead of 2W allows your transmission to reach further. Finally it's quick and easy to install and comes complete with an external GPS antenna.


    Do you have a clean bottom? Whilst the antifouling that you use does what it's supposed to do, if you are not on your boat and using it regularly chances are you will end up with a coating of slime on the underwater surfaces and more pronounced growth around the waterline. All is not lost as the Scrubbis could well be the answer to your dirty bum! We used to sell the Brizo, a device that you could use to clean the below waterline surfaces. It worked well (I used one on my Channel 31 when we had it in the Canaries) and was great for getting rid of the growth which had accumulated in my absence! My now boss used one to great effect when he was campaigning his Sports Boat with the guys winning the winter series more often than not! Shame we left my Brizo with the Channel when we sold it some five years ago but transporting it back from the Canaries with all our other personal belongings was not an option. Whilst this cheaper product is not quite as sophisticated as the Brizo it still seems to do the business! New to us, the Scrubbis is an innovative tool to clean the boat hull in a timely and effective manner. The cleaning head is buoyant and is attached to a telescopic handle, the head is equipped with flexible scrapers that effectively clean the hull. Whilst the boat is in the water fouling is soft and has not hardened so the buoyancy acting on the thin scrappers make the ‘scratch’ force very high and effective. Scrubbis is environmentally friendly, using a Scrubbis instead of toxic paints is the solution to an environmental issue. It's foldable and easy to stow with its detachable cleaning head and telescopic handle.


    Yes I know I got all excited about the Ewincher the other week but I do think this is the way forward to taking the effort out of winching and judging by the reaction to our blog so do others. I will shut up, however it's worth reading this testimonial from owners who are living the dream and sailing round the world.


    Since 2011, we have been sailing around the world on board our sailing yacht Ganesh, a 15-metre lifting-keel aluminium yacht from the Alliage Yachts boatbuilding yard.

    There are two of us on board, Corinne and myself, and I wanted to electrify 3 or 4 winches in order to facilitate handling operations with a small crew, when, visiting Paris in December 2016, I came across the Ewincher at the Nautic boat show. Attracted by the concept, we decided to try this winch handle, which was not yet in production, and we received one of the first units on board 6 months later.

    Over the past 6 months, we have covered more than 3000 miles, from the Maluku Islands to Phuket in Thailand, by way of Flores, Bali, Borneo, Singapore, Malacca, Penang, Langkawi, Ko Lanta…

    Sailing conditions were very varied, close-hauled, broad reach, flat calm, reefing in strong winds, launching the gennaker, etc., and Ewincher truly became a 3rd crewmember.

    Handling operations that used to be performed by two people are now carried out singlehanded with Ewincher – marvellous when night-sailing - the battery life is excellent, familiarisation takes just a few moments, Ewincher enables easy management of the highest loads on board a 50-foot yacht such as ours.

  • 247. Top Tips Tuesday - Blade Runner

    Blade Runner, the film, was released to the public in 1982 and is set very conveniently in the year 2019 (believe it or not I have been waiting to use the name of the film since I started my TTT blogs many years ago) Director Ridley Scott was born in South Shields, just across the river Tyne from my favourite pub the Low Lights, and like me managed only one O level. I wondered if he found that skiving off school to go messing about in boats was more attractive than schoolwork? In the film Blade Runner, ex detective Rick Deckard is called out of retirement to track down and eliminate a team of humanoid androids that have escaped. Up on planet Newcastle today, February the 12th 2019, the boss of Andy Burgess has been asked to track down the missing blade which has done a runner, boom boom! Does he fail to complete his mission or does he pass with flying colours and track a replacement down? Only time will tell.


    If you take a wander round your local boatyard and stick your head down low you will be surprised with the number of both powerboats and yachts that have been lifted out with little or no anode(s) left on the backing plate! If the anode is not doing its job for whatever reason, earth wire broken, been painted over, fallen off or just wasted away, failing to keep an eye on the anode(s) can lead to some very expensive repair bills. Whilst a replacement two bladed prop can be had from around three hundred pounds a rebuilt stern drive for a powerboat or sail drive, what with parts labour, lift out/in can run into thousands. A sinking through the failure of a skin fitting, apart from the danger of loss of life may be hundreds of thousands. I have seen an aluminium yacht salvaged from the seabed and the hull reminded me of a colander, what happened to the cathodic protection?


    Sacrificial anodes are supposed to do what they say on the box ie sacrifice themselves whilst protecting the superior metal, however for me to even try to attempt to explain this ‘black art’ would be like me trying to explain the theory of relativity to Jenny!

    However our very good friends at M.G.Duff advise us that Cathodic protection is an electrochemical process which halts the natural reaction (corrosion) of metals in a particular environment by superimposing an electrochemical cell more powerful than the corrosion cell.


    Sacrificial Anodes are fitted or bonded to the metal to be protected, this results in an electrical potential difference and the metal becomes cathodic causing the sacrificial anode to waste instead. In a correctly installed MGDUFF Cathodic Protection System corrosion only occurs to the sacrificial anode which is replaceable. The number and size of anodes is determined by the type of material and the surface area being protected. Several factors determine the type of cathodic protection system fitted. Firstly the environment in which the vessel is operating, secondly the size and type of construction and finally the length of time that the vessel is likely to be afloat before the next maintenance slipping.

    I knew that you could use either zinc plated or stainless 316 bolts however I didn’t realise that bilge water could cause a problem, stainless bolts will place more of a demand on the anode than zinc plated but this is not a problem. With a stainless bolt it is normally easier to undo the nut to change the anodes as the end of the season. It is extremely important to ensure no bilge water is allowed to wet the bonding connection on the inside of the boat, whether stainless or zinc plated the bonding cable may start to corrode and develop high resistance. Make sure you cover the connection with Lanocote or similar to protect the connection. If you have a boat be it yacht or power and you do have an issue with water in the bilge it makes sense to use zinc plated bolts. If you are like me and need to work to a list spend a couple of minutes reading the MGDuff preseason checklist :

    1. Check you are using genuine MGDuff anodes
    2. Check that your anodes will last for the duration of the forthcoming season. Renew if more that 50% wasted
    3. Check that your anodes are surely fastened, the fixing blots, nuts and washers are tight
    4. Check all internal bonding to ensure that the connections are clean and the cable is clipped up where necessary. if you have an MGDuff electro eliminatorcheck that the springs are sound and it is positioned so that the brushes are in contact with the shaft.
    5. Check that you are fitting the correct anode material for the waters you are in i.e.
      • Salt water = Zinc 
      • Brackish Water = Aluminium
      • Fresh Water = Magnesium
    6. When fitting a new anode you should also replace the serrated fan disc washers under the nuts and change the backing sheet on wood and GRP hulls. Exposed fixing studs, nuts and washers should be well greased or painted after assembly

    Andy, being a bit like our hero the detective Rick Deckard (note the 'nautical' name) did manage to track down a replacement so the story does have a happy ending!


  • 246. Top Tips Tuesday - Brace Yourself!


    It’s a bit of a topical title, as the lovely Claire Green (she who used to run the chandlery clothing department and for the last few years has used her IT expertise to put together the ramblings of a grumpy old git into a presentable blog) is due to give birth on the 13th of February! For once I thought I would get ahead of the game by preparing this one in advance, just in case the new edition to the Green family came early! For my wife Jenny it was a case of brace yourself when we were cruising in Greece last autumn and ended up in the middle of some rather nasty weather. This has been described by some as a Medicane, sometimes referred to as a tropical hurricane. For the first customer who bought a Rocna from us back in 2010 for his Moody it was an instruction that he shouted to the guy on the windlass the second time it was deployed, his new anchor dug in so fast the first time it was used in anger it nearly sent that foredeck hand over the pulpit!

    Grateful thanks to Jake Kavanagh for allowing us to use the above cartoon.


    As for Jenny and I we had been tracking, with growing concern, the weather that was predicted to hit us around the 28th of September and decided to make our way up past Nidri and find what we hoped would be a secure and safe anchorage in Vliho bay. The morning before the bad weather was due to hit we anchored in 5 mtrs of water, our anchorbeing a Vulcan (same designer same superb holding power as a Rocna) let 40mtrs of chain out and hooked up our 18mm octoplait snubber using 7mtrs in length to help take the shock out of an all chain rode. During the day as the wind started to rise we dismantled the bimini, removed the outboard from the inflatable and took the cruising chute, code zero and gang plank down below to reduce windage over the deck (the Mystery doesn’t have the large cockpit lockers that a lot of cruisers have).


    Sadly I didn’t deflate the dinghy and bring it onboard but as it’s always stored on the foredeck I was concerned that it would be a windage issue if the s…t hit the fan! Finally 8 fenders were deployed around the topsides, with our large ball fender ready close to the mast if we ended up with a visitor alongside.


    Whilst Jen was making some sandwiches and dug out the flask to give us a source of hot drinks later, I sneaked a quick look at Happy Hooking by Alex & Daria Blackwell, their excellent book on anchoring technique, and concluded that if we had room to swing (which we did have) it would be sensible to let some more chain out and increase the length of the snubber, so we ended up with a ratio of 10-1 ie 50 mtrs.  Later in the afternoon we spotted a rather large charter cat (height and windage of a double decker bus) slowly drifting down on us with no sign of life on board. Out came the fog horn but no response. Just as the stern cockpit got within 2 mtrs of our pulpit and each hull almost level with our bows help arrived in the form of the Sailing Holidays rib with one of their instructors onboard and a couple from Carlisle, customers of my old company back in Newcastle. Dave & Karen had seen our predicament and rang the Sailing holiday base at the Iris pontoon, they boarded the cat and managed to pull it away from our bows; thanks once again guys! I believe it then took them something like eight or so attempts to get the charter cat's anchor to hold! Text and WhatsApp messages were starting to come through of a sinking in the Lefkas canal and the nearby marina was 'closed’ for boat movements.


    By eight that evening as the wind was still increasing, it was a case of on with our baseand mid layers followed by full foul weather gear and then our Spinlock lifejackets with safety lines ready to deploy. Handheld Standard Horizon VHF in the cockpit plus our powerful rechargeable spotlight and a couple of waterproof LED torches. Ready for anything, or so we thought. It was then I decided that I would try and get a little shut eye before the wind peaked. Ten minutes later a mighty shriek up on deck from Jen as the spotlight which had been secured, or so we thought, shot across the cockpit as the boat heeled right over. Back on deck it quickly became apparent that no sleep was going to be possible as Hindsight was now being thrown sideways, and veering wildly. Later that night, when the wind was at its worst, the Avon dinghy, which had already been flipped over and back probably seven or eight times, decided this time it would try and join us in the cockpit! At least three yachts to windward of us that we could just make out in the pitch black were dragging and our searchlight was constantly being used to warn those whom we felt were getting close. Apparently the crew on one of the 'drifters' made ten attempts to reset his hook and the talk at the Vliho yacht club three days later was that up to 30 boats had dragged. Others that had abandoned the pontoon on the lee shore opposite Tranquil Bay and the quay at Nidri spent the night motoring round and round, unable to get their anchorsto hold.


    As we have a retractable bowsprit on the Mystery to use with the cruising shute and the light wind code zero, we could not go down the Rocna route as the roll bar would 'clash' with the sprit, instead we went for the Vulcan which like the Rocna was designed by Peter Smith. The Vulcan has no roll bar but features a  unique combination of shank and fluke geometry which, in conjunction with a roll palm at the rear of the fluke, self rights. As for its holding power, one word for that: magnificent!

    Due to the holding power of the new generation anchors such as the Vulcan, Rocna, Manson as compared to old faithfulls, the Blackwells do feel that in certain anchorages the description of the holding ground perhaps should be altered, see their comments below!

    "We are converts to the new generation scoop-type anchors and have retired our CQR as well as our Admiralty-type anchors from active duty. No, it is no longer about a weight on a rope. The new generation of anchors represent significant advances in anchor technology and engineering.

    In fact, we're so convinced that we are intending to help re-write many of the cruising guides. Where anchorages are rated as having poor holding, we believe they may have been rated with inferior anchors, as we have often found the holding to be good. So if your anchor is not holding as well as you might like, consider your options. The insurance of having a good modern anchor may just let you sleep peacefully through the night secure in your chosen anchorage".

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