General Interest

  • 267. Top Tips Tuesday - Beyond Redemption

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    With our time on Hindsight in the Ionian nearly over, Monday the 24th of June saw us departing Cleopatra marina in Preveza at 7:45am. Motoring out, we hoisted the main and 110% jib and set sail. However, forty minutes later the early morning breeze died away so it was a case of hoist the black triangle and motor sail North.  As so often happens in this part of Greece, it's either zero or too much wind. Five hours later we had the latter, 24 knots of breeze and of course it was on the nose! Our destination that night was Platarias, both locations incidentally mainland Greece. At this time of year, almost high season in the Ionian, space in anchorages and harbours does become limited. Often if you are not in your chosen location before lunch time you have to make do with second best. Well when we 'rolled up' ten hours later, weather beaten, very hot, tired and thirsty and still with that 24 knot breeze, the two options were either to anchor in the bay outside the harbour, which was very lumpy, or to enter and moor stern on and of course all the best and easier places were already taken!

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    Hindsight, of course, does not have the luxury of a bow thruster which would make it a little bit easier as the breeze was blowing parallel to the quay. The need for speed of course overrules the very thought of fitting one to make our 'parking' easier! On entering the harbour and slowly motoring around then deciding on our eventual location, checking of course first that you're not going to drop your hook over another anchor and chain (all the skippers stand at the bow of their craft and watch for any misdemeanours ie crossed anchors by the late arrival to the party) It's then a case of hook down, get it to bite whilst going astern and aim for your chosen spot. The trick is to try and hold the bows in position whilst paying out the chain. If it's breezy, which it was, pay out too much rode and the bow falls off, not enough and one rapidly looses steerage. Well we managed easily (only took us five attempts) albeit with a little help from the reception party who were by now waiting to take our lines on the quay. The 'leader' of the group who helped us park was a charming and knowledgeable guy in a small inflatable that methinks had seen better days!

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    If your inflatable has started to lose pressure and the porosity of the fabric is questionable, perhaps expanding foam can be used as a last resort. However, before you do the drastic and go down that route it's worth trying some Sealflex sealant for Inflatables. For repairs, ie applying a patch or re gluing say a seam that has started to part company, first you have to ascertain what fabric the boat was manufactured from. The common materials used in their construction being Hypalon or PVC. Most inflatable dinghies these days are manufactured from the latter, cost being the reason. However, if in the market for an inflatable and you are intending to take it to a sunny climate a dinghy manufactured from Hypalon such as the Seago will last a lot longer than one manufactured from PVC. If applying a fabric patch, the adhesives for both materials are available in either premixed (single tube/tub) or as a liquid to which you add a catalyst. It is generally recognised that the two part route provides a stronger repair especially if, say, the tube is parting company from the transom!

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    Patch material for both Hypalon or PVC is available in a range of colours but for instant patch repairs Tear Aid, available only as a translucent film, is a brilliant addition to your yacht or powerboat’s 'first aid' kit. With this self adhesive tape virtually no preparation is required and almost max adhesion is obtained within five minutes. If, however, you are only in the mood to remove years of ingrained muck from your tender or RIB, Polymarine’s Inflatable Boat Cleaner works wonders and if you follow it up with an application of their Boat Finish it will help seal the surface from absorbing future surface contamination.

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    As I mentioned earlier, skippers do stand on their bows when space is tight and show their displeasure if they think there is going to be a crossed anchor, the headline image was taken the morning  after when two other yachts that had moored the night before after us decided to hell with crossed anchors lets just get our stern in to the quay and sort it out next day! Only took them an hour to lift and separate, bet they were glad there was no breeze blowing.

    Please note that the below image was not captured at Platarias but on Kalamos, but it illustrates what great spectator sport that a crossed anchor can be next morning!

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  • 266. Top Tips Tuesday - We Like A Drink

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    I must admit that Jenny and I do like a drink. As we age 'gracefully' it's quality not quantity and as we are now enjoying the Ionian weather (took a long time arriving, the weather that is) it's often a refreshing pre dinner G&T before we row or motor ashore after firing up our little Yamaha. Well for the last three years that we have had Hindsight in Greek waters it's been a case of slipping on a couple of old but regularly serviced lifejackets for our shore leave (our regular Spinlock deck vests being too valuable to leave in the inflatable whilst we wine and dine at a nearby taverna). Touch wood the old jackets have never been 'borrowed' or gone walkabout whilst in Greece but we still have concerns about leaving safety equipment such as lifejackets in the dinghy, faced with maybe a 1/2 mile walk. Having said that I don't fancy carting them up to our choice of eating place then dumping them on the floor, table or chair either!

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    Those clever guys at Spinlock have, however, come up with the answer to my prayers. The recently introduced Alto, not a lifejacket but a flotation aid that is worn round the waist rather like a 'bum bag' or as they are called in the US of A, a fanny bag. You can wear it in the small of your back or facing forward. Once you have fastened it round your waist, you tend to forget it's there. Certainly, sitting on a bar stool at the Tree Bar in Nidri the other day with it nestling in the small of my back I wasn't aware of its presence; meal times its small enough to be removed and placed on the table or deposited on a convenient empty chair!

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    Please be aware the Spinlock Alto is not a full blown lifejacket, it's described by the manufacturers as a 75 Newton floatation aid which, as a ex-dinghy sailor, I know that it gives you 1/2 as much  flotation again as most standard foam buoyancy aids. The Spinlock Alto is designed for adult use only, 40 Kilos upwards, and is only available in one size to fit from 70 to 140cm waist. As can be seen from the Spinlock promotional video below it's also great for canoeing, or in my case when I inflate my Gul paddle board and disappear off to do a bit of exploration of the coastline when Hindsight is at anchor. Keeps Jenny happy that I am wearing a flotation aid, me happy that I am not wearing a full lifejacket!

  • 265. Top Tips Tuesday - I Wish

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    Having climbed a good number of masts over the last forty five years and winched work colleagues up aloft more times than I wish to remember, it's not very often we come across winches (especially on production yachts) that are man enough to get myself, weighing in at just over 12 stone or my boss Andy, these days a mere 10 stone, up a mast easily. On our Mystery I decided to go for larger size winches than were fitted to the production ones, ours being a home built one. Not only do they serve as halyard winches but with the 110% jib being sheeted on the coach roof they also service this need. Why larger ones? Well, I felt that if I was sailing with Jenny and if I had ever to do a mast climb, at least going up in barrel size would give my long suffering wife a fighting chance to get me aloft should the need arise. Well the acid test came the other day; the PVC tape that I had used to wrap round the clevis pins and split pins had finally given up the ghost due to exposure to UV and nearly three years of Greek temperatures and the tape on both the lower and upper spreaders was streaming aft like a set of jib telltales!

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    Well last week Jen succeeded in hoisting me up the mast to the lower spreaders. It was slow progress but she managed it and today was the acid test, the upper spreaders were the target. However, once at my 'destination' the old tape removed and replaced with new, and after I had been safely lowered she did comment, "I wish I had given you permission to purchase an Ewincher." Let's hope she remembers those words when we fly back out to Greece in early September as I haven't broken the news that I need to go a bit further up the spar, this time to the mast head, as the vanes of our Windex are slightly 'skew whiff'.

    With its 3 modes of operation, Ewincher is your new crewmember that assists you with all your maneuvers on your sailboat:

    • In assisted mode: Ewincher does the work for you in the winch's 1st or 2nd speed
    • In manual mode: you can use Ewincher like any other winch handle to make adjustments
    • Combined mode: add your own speed to the one of the handle to reach exceptional hauling speeds

    Ewincher's extreme power and adjustable speed allow you to perform all possible maneuvers while sailing: hoisting, sheeting, adjusting sails, furling your genoa or even hauling a crewmember up the mast.

    • Genuine winch handle - 2.2kg
    • Brushless engine
    • Manual or assisted mode
    • 15 to 80 revolutions per minute
    • Torque of 80Nm: Ewincher is equipped with an adjustable torque from 10kg to 32kg of traction on the handle, it allows manoeuvring sailing boats up to 55 feet without damaging anything. As you hold it like a regular winch handle you will feel immediately if there is a blockage in the lines, any problem. This is something you don't have with electric winches: you press the button and if something is wrong and you are not careful enough, the electric winch will keep on working and can damage the sails or boat.
    • Waterproof and locking system
    • Long-lasting battery life: Ewincher offers a great autonomy thanks to its Lithium Ion battery: more than a day of sailing with only one charge. Charging time takes about 1½ hours and consumes 7Ah (1.7% of a 400Ah battery bank) It is a high efficiency Lithium-ion 25v battery 3000mA.On a 40ft boat that means you can in one day: Hoist the mainsail 3 times, put in 30 tacks and put an 85kg man up the mast (15m lift).

    An optional extra battery is available if desired. Ewincher includes the unit, one battery, the charger, a lanyard, a winch handle pocket for the cockpit, and carry case. It comes with 2 years warranty.

  • 264. Top Tips Tuesday - Make do and mend

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    Out in the Ionian, a refreshing swim from the transom of Hindsight when at anchor is easy on the feet with our fold down stainless ladder (assuming the weather is good enough and the last four weeks have not been typical!) however at last it's looking up! With the warmer weather, a refreshing plunge from the shoreline in a secluded bay is a different matter. Small pebbles or larger rocks, take your choice it's very hard to find a sandy beach. To overcome this, last year I bought myself a pair of Crocs for this very purpose, however I also wear them ashore to keep grit out of my deck shoes. Last week disaster struck as one of the heel straps snapped on my Crocs as I was tugging it slightly harder than necessary. Well I can wear and walk with the damaged shoe but swimming with it is a challenge, fortunately they do float!

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    I did price up a replacement pair in Nidri on the island of Lefkas, however balked at the price of 46 euros as the Crocs I bought back in the UK were a discounted style at fourteen pounds! So it was a case of delve into the starboard 'spares & repairs' stowage lockerand find a tube of Stormsure, an excellent product that, once cured, has amazing properties such as tremendous elasticity coupled with high strength! Back in England I have have used Stormsure to stick the sole back down on my old trainer, repair Jen's scruffy dog walking coat, her beach wellies also; and back in the sail loft permanent repairs on clear panels in sprayhoods where customers don't want to have the panel replaced. For that it's brilliant! Clear rear windows in convertibles, where you cannot repair them in the sail loft due to the permanently attached metal roof bars, Stormsure has been a godsend, giving convertible hoods another lease of life.

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    In the locker can also be found a couple of packs of Tear Aid. The A sachet is the perfect repair tape for all fabrics and, in my opinion, far superior to spinnaker repair tape(clear so you don't end up with a patch work looking kite) As for repairing acrylic on biminis, spray hoods etc it's the only tape that I know that sticks permanently to acrylic canvas. As stated on the packet it's extremely strong, watertight, airtight, very elastic, does not fade, does not dry out and of course it's permanent! As for the B pack, has all the same features as the A pack performance wise, however this is the one for Vinyl and PVC repairs. Great for instant repairs on most inflatable dinghies, vinyl life buoy covers and of course clear spray hood windows. Back home it came to the aid of the grand children's paddling pool earlier this year when our dog Millie decided to join in the fun and punctured the inflatable side panel.

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    As for a third vital 'repair' product we keep on the good ship Hindsight, a Gadget Saverpack. And judging by experience of one 'Liveaboard' that I was talking to last night in George's tavern on Kalamos (his track record being, dropped but recovered three mobile phones and one I-pad over the past seven years, all 'dead' even after 'drying out' in the sun) this handy pack may have saved his bacon on more than one occasion! As for the effectiveness of this, Andy my boss these days managed to save his wife's brand new Samsung Galaxy after Jill tried to flush it away! Read all about it on my blog 'Greater Love Hath No Man'.

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  • 263. Top Tips Tuesday - Silence is golden

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    Some say I had a reputation for being a little noisy when competitive dinghy racing all those years ago, so much so that when my brother, myself and a sailing friend of ours decided to buy three unpainted Enterprise dinghy hull and decks together (bulk purchase meant a better price) the names we chose for the dinghies, once we had painted, varnished and fitted them out, were See No Evil, Hear No Evil and of course Speak No Evil. Sadly, no prize for guessing which one I ended up with! Some years later looking for some 'swimming practice' I then repeated the exercise by purchasing an International 14 hull, varnished then fitted it out, called it 19th Nervous Breakdown, put it on the water did reasonably well in competitions then sold it at a profit!

    This turnover of dinghies helped to make my early sailing self financing, however when we started our fledgling sailmaking company back in the mid seventies, all we had was Alan Bax's National 12 as a 'company' boat, my Int 14 having been sold to help raise some finance. A year or two later Alan and I heard through the grapevine that there were a couple of GRP International 14 Kirby V bare hulls which had been imported into the country by Performance Sailcraft (manufacturers of the Laser, which of course was designed by Bruce Kirby) surplus to their requirements. We purchased both as a job lot, fitted the first one out put it on the water, called it 'Animal Farm' and when we sold that one on we repeated the exercise with the second. The colour of the gelcoat of the second hull was gold, hence the name 'Silence is Golden'. Our landlords, whose fabrication business specialised in alloy welding, helped construct alloy space frames to absorb the rig loads, saving the hulls from buckling. It was, we like to think, leading edge technology of the day! Since those heady days, boat building materials have changed dramatically. These days some production cruising yachts incorporate 'space frames' to absorb the rig loads, be that they are fabricated in stainless, alloy or glass reinforced fibre, and of course carbon fibre can also be found in production racing dinghies such as the National 12, Int 14 and small keelboats like the Flying 15.

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    Last year the Autumn air was, I am ashamed to say, filled with an expletive or two as I kicked a cup of freshly made coffee across the cabin of our yacht. How? Well in the Mystery, with its relative snug interior, we have 'done away'  with a floor mounted saloon table to give us more space, instead the table is stowed horizontally against a bulkhead and only lowered if we decide to eat down below, which in the Ionian is not very often! The starboard leaf of the table is supported by a rather clever set of hinges which spring  out offering support. So being the lazy so and so (takes probably twenty seconds to deploy the table!) that evening I did as I had done for the last couple of years, placed a hot cup of coffee on the cabin sole which is varnished with Epifanes two pack varnish, which happily takes the heat of the base of the cup. Forgetting the cup was there I jumped up at the command of Jenny to pour a Metaxa and in the process sent the fresh brew flying!

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    This year on my 'jobs to do list' was fix a couple of folding cup holders to the side of the saloon seats. Hopefully no more spilt drinks and no more words said in anger! Whilst they won't take large mugs, they are the perfect size for a pre dinner G&T's if the weather is not suitable for the cockpit ... or a sobering coffee after staggering back from the taverna!

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    Writing of gold, some folks love the golden colour of fresh cut teak, others prefer the weathered grey look. As for me, this loud mouthed scribe, I personally prefer a bit of colour on the small amount of teak we have on board. Our washboards, tiller, cockpit seats and, of course, on our brilliant cockpit table I use Teak Wonder Dressing and Sealer. However, very popular in the chandlery back in the UK, is International's Wood Skin and Deks Olje. Some folks, of course, swear by good old fashioned Golden Teak Oil! You pays your money and you takes your choice, Matt finish or glossy.

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  • 262. Top Tips Tuesday - Embarrassment!

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    Last week's blog was entitled 'Things can only get better', I'm composing this latest one sitting in Petrinos taverna in Vathi harbour on the island of Meganisi with an ice cold 'Fix' beer, things are looking up. Perhaps the weather had finally settled down, today started off as the first occasion that I wasn't wearing my Dubarry deck shoes on my feet as with a lack of wind we motored and consequently, as the sun rose higher, I ended up dancing like a cat on a hot tin roof. According to all the taverna owners they have never had a May like this one, lots of rain, low temperatures with cold nights. Last few days we have been slightly blessed; yes sun, no rain which makes a welcome change! However, it's still with a cold wind, in fact eating out at night in the open fronted taverna's it's been a t-shirt, Musto fleece and a Gill Hydrophobe Gilet and still it's not that comfortable, must be all that alcohol consumption diluting the blood!

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    Well we had a cracking sail from Sivota on the island of N. Levkas to Sami on Cephalonia. Last Wednesday it was snubber off, switch on the Quick windlass, lift and stow the Vulcanafter cleaning the chain of some strange looking ribbons of translucent matter (jelly fish or similar we think) using the deck wash pump. We motored to the entrance of the inlet, hoisted the mainsail and bore onto a beam reach and with the engine ticking over in neutral it was a magnificent 1 knot of forward motion, so it was a 'step on the gas moment.' Out went the Selden bowsprit, our code zero hoisted to the mast head after attaching the tack to the base of the Ronstan furler, unfurl and yes, boatspeed built up to 4 knots in 4 knots of windspeed and that was with us towing the dinghy! Two hours later the wind shifted and rose to 15 knots. It was then a case of furl and drop the lightweight headsail and unfurl the 110% jib. A beat to windward, then bear away round the corner of the island and a run down to Sami, headsail furled and asymmetric spinnaker hoisted (it's hard work this cruising lark) was an almost down hill ride with boat speed of 6.5, 7 & 8 knots at times.

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    1/2 a mile from our destination it was engine on, asymmetric snuffed, mainsail lowered, sail ties round the main, fenders on and stern lines at the ready. We motored into the harbour, found a gap between two larger yachts, dropped the Vulcan and with crew member John paying out the chain we went astern and ended up neatly (as I thought at the time) between these two yachts and tied up. Three minutes later, whilst I was adjusting my fenders, the skipper of the starboard hand yacht said, "are you Rob Storrar?" to which I replied, "Yes and you are whom?" to which he replied, "Your business partner for the first twenty years!"

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    Well, I had thought that I had got a good memory for faces but this was a spectacular fail, however in fairness to myself when I messaged the above photo (I am the one with a lack of hair) to our then  mutual circle of friends back home including my wife they didn't recognise Alan either, nor did an ex flat mate of his and let's face it was a long long time ago that the partnership of Storrar & Bax was dissolved! That night we went out for a meal and 'chewing the cud', caught up on how our respective offspring are doing and other things, followed by the polishing off a bottle of Ouzo on board his Dufour! The next night, it was pre dinner G&T's on board the Mystery with me bringing out our cockpit Lagun table to 'hold the drinks and olives' and then again a meal with them, but this time no after dinner drinks onboard!

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    Further embarrassment was to follow when the time came for us to leave, as we motored off the quay a crossed anchor chain courtesy of yours truly, fortunately Alan and his crew had gone sightseeing and were not around to see our predicament. Our trusty grapnel, however, came to the rescue. Dropped it over, lifted his chain slightly and the Vulcanswung free. Off we motored, after leaving instructions with the Greek skipper of the Bavaria moored now next to Alan that he ought to check his anchor on his return, certainly we didn't think there would be an issue! However, if he does happens to read this blog, sorry again for not recognising you and sorry again for crossing your anchor chain!

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  • 261. Top Tips Tuesday - Things can only get better

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    I was lead to believe that once we moved our yacht down to the Ionian from the North East coast we would be blessed with flat sea, warm winds and loads of sunshine. Well on our sail from Platarias to Lakka on the island of Paxos we certainly did have a fabulous beam reach, flat seas and sunshine, clocking over seven knots at times, however, it was accompanied with a cold wind, a bit like a 'warm' North Sea breeze in the middle of summer! Having said that it was considerably better than the week before where we 'enjoyed' an awful lot of rain so must not complain! However, my woes weren't finished. They started late last year with the grey waste tank emptying its contents into the bilge (only discovered the morning of the day we were catching the ferry that  departed  Corfu at  6pm).

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    After much sucking of cheeks and muttering under our breath we discovered earlier this week that a non-return valve had been factory assembled the wrong way round. I had never checked it out when installing and as a result it wasn't doing the job it was supposed to do!  The last time I had spent 'quality' time in the lazzarete was some six years ago when I was a little bit more supple. Thank goodness for my Freebag, it made an uncomfortable job a lot more bearable. Am not sure if Jenny would be impressed with my use of the Freebag in that environment (I did clean the surface it was being used against first).

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    They are, of course, a superb way of getting comfortable when leaning against halyard bags or other immovable objects when it's time to relax after a bout of housework or when reading up about our next destination using Rod Heikell's Greek Water pilot and its companion publication the Ionian. We spent yesterday at anchor in Tranquil Bay opposite the town of Nidri. Rod, in his excellent book Ionian, does write 'the bottom is good holding once your anchor is properly dug in, but it may take several attempts before it is holding to your satisfaction'. Interesting to read what Alex Blackwell, co author of Happy Hooking - the art of anchoring has written:

    "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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    Our Vulcan anchor, designed by Peter Smith designer of the Rocna set first time in Tranquil, and of course held well last year in Vliho (just round the corner) when the Medicane blew through!

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    Anchoring in Tranquil Bay gave us the opportunity to lift the floorboards, check the grey waste tank was performing as it should do and investigate why the shower drain pump was not functioning. We discovered that yes the filter needed cleaning, should have done it more frequently, but even after cleaning this the circuit breaker on the switch panel kept tripping when operating the switch. 'Dismantle the Flojet' was the order given. First we checked out the 'diaphram end,' no blockage or sign of failure, then it was a case of let's take the back end off and as we started to remove the casing rusty water started to trickle out. So casing off, peered inside and the conclusion drawn... It's terminal. Local chandler had a Chinese copy of the Flojet at a similar cost to the discounted price Andy sells them for back in the UK. I think it's a UPS from Andy then to the Vliho yacht club for collection back end of this week. Today we up anchor and set off for Sivota. Will be interesting to hear what crew member John's thoughts are on the village as it was some twelve years ago when he had his first experience of a Mediterranean charter! I've just signed the blog off, the sun has broken through, we are about to haul the anchor and yes things can only get better'. Let's hope our grey water issue of last year is now finally over!

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  • 260. Top Tips Tuesday - Sun? sailing and a soaking

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    Well, after enduring snow and a ferry strike on our drive down from the UK to Greece, I was hoping for some pleasant sailing conditions once we had got the boatyard 'business' out of the way. Yes it was great to get Hindsight back in the water however now we have moved on we do miss the fish taverna across the road from the Corfu boatyard. One starter of anchovies, Greek salad both shared, two main course of sardines and four beers.

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    After that feast, which we didn't finish, (doggie bag requested) John my driving companion/crew went looking for the Liverpool/Barcelona football match. I went back to the boat being more of a rugby person but next morning he advised me that whilst looking for a taverna to view the match he stumbled across, in a backstreet opposite the Corfu ferry port, an establishment that cooked on the charcoal grill meat that you personally selected. As we were both 'fished out' next day John advised me that it would be a meat night, eat and then watch the Tottenham/Ajax match on the screen. So that evening off we trotted to a night of food and footie. Interesting place, at first I thought (if it were not for a few tables) we were in a butchers shop as the counter had probably at least six different cuts of beef on display in the chilled counter display, pork, lamb, chicken etc. Two very very large meals, one Greek salad and four beers between the two of us all for 30 euros. Our only complaint... no sound whilst watching Tottenham Hotspur sorting out Ajax on the screen!

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    Before we battened down the hatches last October I serviced the engine (using the Yanmar service kit package) plus a replacement Delphi primary filter. The oil change is so easy these days using a vacuum extractor. I am using a Pela which was kindly given to me by an old friend, took pity on me when my grey water tank overflowed, due to my cock up. It was perfect for getting the waste water out of the Mystery's deep bilge! As for the engine oil change, easy peasy with no chance of an oil spill. For those on a limited budget the Seago vacuum oil extractor works well and is excellent value for money.

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    As you can imagine after six months on the hard standing, the cockpit and deck gets a little grubby, and by the time I have replaced bedding, brought on board provisions etc it's even dirtier! Starbrite deck cleaner gets the nod from me. Have tried a few others (purely for research of course) but always come back to this one. The Shurhold telescopic brush handle complete with the interchangeable brush gives me the option to use a soft, med or hard head. Or if I want to clean the topsides whilst on deck a head is available with a different angle. You can also adjust the length of the handle if necessary.

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    I was disappointed to find water in one of the cockpit lockers, had thought it fairly watertight! The cover for the folding bucket was stained with mildew however an application of Yachticom's mould and mildew remover soon put paid to that! Same treatment was successful on the various ropes stored in the locker over the winter! Don't forget, however, to wash thoroughly with fresh water once desired effect had been achieved.

  • 259. Top Tips Tuesday - Searching for the sunshine (and some sailing)

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    As was mentioned in last week’s ‘I have failed’ blog, being too busy clearing the sail-loft floor to contemplate putting pen to paper before my search for sun and some sailing out of Corfu. Leaving behind a cold North East we embarked on the Newcastle to Ijmuiden ferry, our estate car loaded to the gunwales with antifouling, roller trays, Shurhold Orbital Polisher, Yanmar engine and gear box oil etc etc along with a Gul Cross inflatable SUP for a customer of ours who keeps his yacht in Gouvia.

    It was looking promising weather wise once we had disembarked on Saturday morning. However as we drove thru Holland then Germany the outside temperature kept falling and by the time we entered the Swiss road system we were greeted with sleet and snow and zero degrees! With darkness came poor driving conditions, the glare of the unlit road surface from the headlights and to boot no cats eyes to keep us on the straight and narrow! Just before we pulled over in Italy for a few hours shut-eye we observed the outside temperature climb from zero to fifteen degrees in a matter of twenty minutes! Arriving in Ancona ferry port Sunday morning we were greeted with a spectacular lightning display and torrential rain which left the terminal car park flooded. Methinks the English registered camper van with the lifebuoy on its stern knew what we were about to receive!

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    Booked in only to be told that the ferry which runs from Ancona in Italy to Igoumenitsa in Greece was running 4 hours late! Then learnt  that when we arrived at Igoumenitsa the ferries that run from there to Corfu would be on strike tomorrow! Looks like our proposed launch day of next Saturday may have to be put back till Monday!

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    As I mentioned above we are transporting a Gul Cross SUP (inflatable stand up paddle board) for one of Andy’s mail order customers; wish they had been available when I bought mine some two years ago, as it’s much better value for money, and of a superior construction!  They are great for exploring the various inlets/coastline and they do give both Jenny and I a chance to keep slightly fitter!

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    I use a 12volt high speed inflator to inflate/deflate it, also my trusty dinghy, the one I have sadly has been discontinued however the new SUP 12v Air Pump does the business.

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    Jenny worries that when I disappear on one of my paddle board explorations that I am not wearing a life jacket, however this year I have purchased a couple of the new Spinlock Alto life jackets. Worn as a belt they are perfect for paddle board safety and if we are going ashore in the dinghy at night, much more convenient than a life jacket as you wear them round your middle like a ‘bum bag’ so no more worries of facing lifejackets pinched from the Avon!

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  • 257. Top Tips Tuesday - Pre-season Prep - Above Deck

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    GUARD RAILS AND STANCHIONS

    Even though they are ‘staring us in the face’ throughout the season, stanchions and guard rail wires are often items that are overlooked during pre-season checks. Stanchions should be checked for security; make sure the base is fastened securely to the deck and/or toe rail, there is no movement and ALL fastenings are in place.

    An unstable base is not only dangerous (it could possibly lead to a man overboard situation) but the mechanical fastenings could be the source of a leak into the interior. If the stanchion is secure but there is evidence of water leaking into the interior of the boat, as a stop gap you could apply sealant round the base however the correct fix is to remove the stanchion and re-fix as per our suggestions below. If the base is found to be loose, remove, clean and re-fit using the appropriate sealant, my recommendation is to go for a polysulphide, such as Arbokol 1000 or Geocel 201 as against a silicone sealant.

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    Before refastening a stanchion or any other deck fitting, make sure you remove any old sealant using Debond Marine Formula, degrease the fitting and deck using acetone or similar and, if the hole is not countersunk to accept the sealant do so. Finally, mask both the deck and the base so any excess sealant that is squeezed out as you tighten down can easily be cleaned up. However when bolting down make sure that you don’t squeeze ALL the sealant out, tighten, allow the sealant to set then go for a final turn on the spanner.

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    Should there be an issue with the integrity of the deck click here for further guidance.

    Check stainless tubular type stanchions where they are drilled (for mid height guard wire to pass through) for signs of stress cracks round the hole. Make sure the stanchion is well secured into its base either by lock nut and bolt or by split pin, however if an alloy stanchion is being secured with a stainless fastening you must use a barrier such as Duralac or TefGel to prevent an electrolytic reaction, same if you are using stainless stanchions in aluminium bases isolate between the two dissimilar metals. Split pins can be very sharp, likewise the end of a stainless bolt. They should be covered in self amalgamating tape or have a blob of clear sealant applied to prevent snagging on footwear, foulies and of course skin!

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    Guard rail wires should be carefully examined for broken strands, especially where the wire exits the swage or Talurit termination and where they pass through stanchions. You will have to slacken each wire and draw it through the stanchion to fully inspect. Flex the wire gently at the start of a termination or where the wire has passed through a stanchion, if any broken or worn strands are found they MUST be replaced. It’s certainly not recommended and highly dangerous to just tape over them! PVC covered stainless steel guard rail wires (banned some years ago for use on offshore race boats) can hide broken or corroded strands, especially where the PVC cover butts up against swage or Talurit terminations. Moisture and a lack of oxygen provide the ideal scenario for crevice corrosion to go unnoticed. Any signs of rust in these areas can be a pointer to wire failure through weakening of the internal wire strands – if rust stains are in evidence, replace without question, preferably with uncovered stainless wire.

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    Ensure pelican hooks in gate assemblies are free to operate, preferably single handed, and that the piston fully engages when closed. Lubricate same with a dry film spray, Boeshield T9 or similar. Incidentally, Wichard have just brought out an automatic locking pelican hook that has been designed for single handed use and the piston engages in a different manner to traditional types. If your method of tensioning the guard rails is a cord lashing (strongly recommended as should you need to 'drop the wire' it's an awful lot quicker cutting the cord) by the pushpit, we would suggest that this is replaced on a regular basis. Check that all the clevis pins, rings or split pins in the assembly are secure and either tape over using self amalgamating tape to avoid snagging, or cover with those rather nice leather boots as blogged about on TTT.193

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    If small people or dogs etc are going to be found on board this season and netting is already fitted, examine for signs of degrading through UV exposure and check it is secured to both guard rail wires and toe rail. There’s no point in fitting it if your precious cargo can roll under the lower edge! Remember that saying 'there is no such thing as a free lunch'. Cheaper netting is welded whilst the stronger and, of course, more expensive netting is knotted!

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    Once you have finished your inspection of guardrails and stanchions, check the security of your bolt on accessories such as the liferaft cradle, horseshoe bracket and while you are in that area, are any electrical cables passing through the pushpit showing signs of chafe?

    JACKSTAYS

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    Whether wire or webbing they should be inspected. Check wire termination, especially PVC covered as per guard rail wires, for corrosion. Webbing jackstays should have their stitching checked for integrity, if any nicks or cuts are found in the webbing or if more than 3-4 years old they should be replaced owing to UV degradation of the material. If replacing wire jackstays, consider changing to webbing as an alternative, it is kinder to decks and doesn’t roll under foot.

    DECK FITTINGS

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    Mooring cleats, Fairleads, bollards, eye bolts or u-bolts, like stanchions, should be checked thoroughly for movement. Should you suspect a deck fitting as a source of a leak, as we said before the application of a bead of mastic round the edge is only a short term solution! Any shackles securing a block or similar should all be checked for wear and moused with either monel seizing wire or cable ties for added security. However, if using ties and they have been snipped, watch out for razor sharp edges, use a drop of silicone sealant to cover. Water in the fuel last season, was it a 'dodgy' refill or is the fuel filler cap nitrile seal past their sell by date, spare seals are available for the Easy filler caps and some other makes, however if sourcing a seal don't forget diesel rots neoprene in double quick time.

    BLOCKS, TRACK AND CARS

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    Blocks, especially ball or roller types, should be given a good rinse with fresh water from a hose to remove all traces of grit. Lubricate ball bearing blocks using Harken’s OneDrop Ball Bearing Conditioner or if plain bearing McLube. Don’t use grease as it will attract and hold grit which makes a very effective cutting compound causing wear. DO NOT oil or grease any Tufnol based block or fitting as it causes the material to swell and will seize sheaves onto pins. Any sheaves that are found to have wear between axle and the sheave (either sideways or vertical play) or nicks in the edges of sheaves which will cause damage to sheets or halyards should be replaced. Check all cam jammers on mainsheet block systems if the teeth are worn or the springs have lost their power replace. Rinse all mainsheet and headsail cars especially those using ball systems with a hose, inspect for wear and lubricate as per blocks. If fitted with plunger stops ensure these are free, lubricate with light oil and make sure they locate correctly in the track system. Check all track fastenings for integrity and make sure all track end stops are securely fastened, any rubber pads within the stops should be replaced if worn.

    WINCHES (HALYARDS & SHEETS)

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    Winches should be stripped and cleaned of all grease, if the grease is hardened it may be necessary to use paraffin and a de-greasing agent. Inspect for wear especially pawls (rounding of the edges and cracking), check for play in all bearings and especially those bearings between drum and the gearbox, if drum can be rocked excessively the caged roller (or plain) bearing is most likely worn. Re-assemble using winch grease, don’t use the white stern tube grease as it isn’t suitable for the purpose, and don’t smother parts heavily, a light coating will suffice. Keep grease away from pawls as it will make them stick, only apply a light pawl oil. Replace all pawl springs as a matter of course, a pawl that doesn’t engage through a broken or worn spring subjects the other pawls to overloading which can lead to damage. On self tailing winches check the rope gripper on the top of the winch for signs of wear, if worn replace. A manufacturer’s service kit is recommended as it usually contains most parts that are required for a full service together with an exploded diagram and instructions for stripping and rebuilding the winch. Ex-Geordie Mark Gardiner who works for Harken often jetting off round the world to service Volvo RTW winches and the like some years ago kindly wrote an excellent article on winch servicing, click here to access. Rope clutches, often neglected, should be washed thoroughly and checked for holding power, service kits are certainly available for Spinlock, Easy Marine and Barton, other makes no doubt also please check with our staff.

    HEADSAIL FURLING/REEFING SYSTEMS

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    A good hosing out of both the upper swivel and the lower drum unit will remove grit and salt deposits, check both items revolve freely on their bearings, if not rinse again, DO NOT attempt to strip swivels or drum units especially older Furlex units as you will almost certainly lose some of the bearings and possibly damage the retaining circlip(s) during stripping, you may also find it impossible to re assemble the unit without the use of a special press, seek advice regarding this. Only grease systems according to the manufacturers recommendations, some systems use grease, others recommend a dry type lubricant such as McLube. Check the integrity of the furling line especially the knot that secures it to the drum and most importantly are the stanchion leads, if of the sheave type, running freely and check for flats on the sheave. If you haven't introduced some 'friction' when unfurling the genoa to prevent a riding turn on the drum why not consider a Harken ratchet block complete with becket (elastic tied to becket/guardrail to avoid it damage deck or itself)

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    WINDLASS

    Last but not least don’t forget the windlass, out of sight out of mind and you certainly don’t want it to fail if you have to up anchor in a hurry! Despite having a great bunch of guys with a shed-load of expert knowledge windlass servicing is not our forte so I make no apologies for reproducing the following maintenance schedule courtesy of Lofrans. A. Clean all external surfaces and hidden points with fresh water and remove all salt layers. B. Grease the rotating parts, particularly, the main shaft threads and clutch cones. Check for evidence of corrosion and mechanical stresses. A coat of Boeshield T9 is recommended. C. Remove and clean the terminals of the electric motor. Coat terminals with Vaseline before re-assembly, then when everything is back in place, spray with Boeshield T9. Test the voltage drop at the terminals. D. Replace all gaskets. E. Remove the anchor windlass from the deck with a little help from Debond, clean all salt deposits and the like from under the base and seal with polysulphide again.

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