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249. Top Tips Tuesday - The Liveaboard Wife

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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 www.yachtfab.com 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'.

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  • 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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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