Life Onboard

  • 336. Top Tips Tuesday - Roller Coaster Ride


    As I start to write this blog whilst recovering from two and half hours of hard labour (down on my knees applying the first coat of Epifanes gloss varnish to our lounge floorboards) on Monday the 4th, Millie, our elderly cross Lurcher/Collie, seems to have recovered from what we think was something revolting that she had eaten whilst out on her daily exercise walk, completely off her food for two days and very very lethargic. Today has also seen the rollout of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca jab and by midday the FTSE was up 2.7% overall and the other bit of good and exiting news is that the new TeamO coastal backtow life jacket is now available in a choice of three colourways. Was feeling quite buoyant if you excuse the pun. However, by 8pm the bad news, of course, is that we are back into National Lockdown; mind you if the behaviour of a small number of selfish folks in our area is replicated elsewhere it was inevitable! Crowds drinking on our little beach during the day and round bonfires at night! A complete lack of social distancing on Tynemouth Village Front Street during the Christmas and New Year break and an absence of face coverings, must be a ‘shortage’ of face masks up North!

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    When the TeamO Offshore backtow lifejacket was introduced to the market it attracted a lot of attention with its unique selling point, the towing of a casualty on their back to keep their mouth and nose above water. As a result we have sold not only into the UK but as far afield as the USA, Holland, Spain etc, however, from the feedback that was being received from customers turning up at our bricks and mortar chandlery and other outlets, that higher price was at times an inhibiting factor for those guys who wanted a lifejacket for coastal sailing with the occasional overnite passage thrown in.

    TeamO's patented Backtow life jacket technology functions in a man-over-board situation by turning the user in to a face up seated position as they are towed alongside the vessel. This keeps airways clear of the water and allows communication and immediate rescue by the crew. Backtow also reduces the risk of injury during recovery.

    • 170N lifejacket with integrated deckharness and TeamO's award-winning patented BackTow system.
    • ISO approved: suitable for Inshore and Offshore sailing (ISO12402 and ISO12403)
    • Automatic inflation system: features the UML Mark5i inflator and 38g CO2 cylinder.
    • Soft loop attachment point to clip on in rough weather or at night
    • SOLAS approved safety whistle
    • Adjustable double crotch straps with soft loop attachment point on back
    • Adjustable double buckles on back for perfect fit
    • Lightweight: lifejacket weighs 1.15kg

    Please note whilst the bricks and mortar chandlery is ‘closed’ under the latest government guidelines we are still allowed to offer click and collect however our opening hours are changing with immediate effect. Monday to Friday it's 9am till 4pm. Saturday regret we will be closed. For 'click and collect' you can either ring through on the usual number 0191 2661037 and place an order and pay by credit card or order on and select ‘collect in store’ as the delivery option.

  • 328. Top Tips Tuesday - Must Be Good, Faslane Gets Through Loads Of It!

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    We, like a lot of other businesses, are finding that supplies of certain products are in short supply due to the Chinese import of Covid. I was in a decorator's merchants this past Saturday and they still haven’t got any Polycell Brush Restorer, Jenny ordered a 1Litre container some five weeks ago and apparently, they are still awaiting stock. Builder's merchants the same and as for our chandlery and the mail order arm one product we sell pallet loads of (especially in the winter) is an American product called Rydlyme Marine descaler and at the moment we cannot get enough! We sell in large quantities to the Royal Navy at Faslane on the Clyde on a regular basis but also a lot of our retail customers, both power and sail, purchase it to dissolve unwanted deposits in the heat exchanger and in engine cooling systems. Last week we finally received a half pallet load which we had been waiting for over a month. God willing or President Trump perhaps, we will see the balance of the order, another one and a half pallet loads turning up this week!


    In my blog of the other week you will have read that, when ‘on annual leave’ in the Ionian the other month, there was a minor earthquake, when I had the boat lifted some two weeks later I did notice that there was a lot more fouling from baby barnacles round the water intake than I had been used to seeing after only eight weeks in the water. An old local fisherman did comment (not to me I hasten to add) that strange things happen after earthquakes such as increased or heavy fouling! With this in mind I intend, on my next trip out to Hindsight on Lefkas island, to take a 5L container of Rydlyme with me, dilute 50/50 with water and offer the mixed solution up to the saildrive water intake and with the engine running circulate the mixture through the leg and into the engine cooling system. Haven’t worked out yet how I am going to capture the liquid as it exits the exhaust as you need to circulate this product for at least a couple of hours but more than a few months to work that one out!


    Rydlyme Marine is an innovative biodegradable descaler designed for the maritime industry to improve the performance of vital water systems by safely dissolving deposits, such as:

    • Water Scale
    • Calcium
    • Rust
    • Barnacles
    • Zebra Mussels
    • Tiger Shells

    Use Rydlyme Marine to dissolve unwanted marine deposits on heat exchangers, engine cooling systems, condensers and much more. It is non-corrosive to metals and materials commonly found on water operated equipment.

    Rydlyme Marine is non-toxic and non-hazardous. Unlike other descales and traditional harsh acids, Rydlyme Marine can be safely handled by personnel, you can even hold it in your hand without injury.

    With Rydlyme Marine, you can clean in place to reduce downtime and maintenance costs. There are no waste disposal issues as it is non-toxic and biodegradable in any concentration. It can be disposed of through normal sewer systems.

    Use Rydlyme Marine on recreational boats, such as cabin cruisers, power boats, yachts, mega-yachts, jet skies and more...


  • 324. Top Tips Tuesday - The Tale Of The Leaking Dinghy (Or Not)


    Last October I brought back to England my elderly (1992 vintage) Avon dinghy as one of the patches that a previous owner had stuck on the underneath was starting to lift. Like most of my good intentions the job was put on the 'back burner' until a week before I was due to come back out to Greece when I realised my Hypalon two pack adhesive and patch material were still in foreign parts, on Hindsight! Fortunately in the sail loft there was some scrap Tear Aid, a brilliant clear repair material which we use for all sorts of repairs where stitching would be inappropriate, like delaminating 'plastic sails' invisible mends to foul weather gear etc etc.


    With now over five weeks of the dinghy bobbing gently in our wake it hasn't budged an inch however last nights electrical storm followed by fearsome winds and torrential rain resulted in some 50mm of rain dumped in the dinghy. Getting rid of that rainwater? I must confess at the moment I still rely on brute strength and ignorance; pull the bow of the dinghy up over a guard rail covered with Andy's split tube* and a couple of sail chafe protectors (maybe that's why the original patch started to fail in the first place?).


    However my 'neighbour,' clever folks these Germans, didn't do what I did (and he has an extra eight years of maturity on me, me 'slightly' over seventy). He got into his dinghy with what looked like, from 15m away, a Whale easy bailer stirrup pump and within less than five minutes his dinghy was empty. No strain on his body and no possible damage to the dinghy. Was he feeling a little smug watching me struggle to get my boat upright? Heaven knows, however I did feel maybe a little smug as my Vulcan anchor (designed by the guy who invented the Rocna) held last night whilst his 'plough' type anchor did not and he ended up almost alongside Hindsight! He told me earlier that he had been approx 400m to windward of us when the breeze picked up!


    Methinks a little plastic pump such as the Whale Easy Bailer might be a useful addition to our inventory next year, what say you Jenny? Or to make it even easier, how about a Seago battery operated pump? Just press the button on the top and wait for the water to empty!


    * Don’t forget that stainless steel will rust if not exposed to air. Split tube should either be a loose fit or if snug removed on a regular basis and trapped dirt removed from the wire.

  • 323. Top Tips Tuesday - Fitted In The Nick Of Time


    I finally got out to Hindsight on my tod, Billy no mates was the expression Jenny used, and why did I set off on my own? Concern for the boat's batteries was the reason. Last October, on the advice given to me some years ago from a seasoned sailor and sparky to boot who told me 'best to disconnect the batteries before you leave the boat as against leaving them connected to a charger'. Well I have followed his advice over the years and never had any issues, off to the UK, batteries disconnected in Oct 2019, due to go back out this year in early May, what could go wrong? A virus called Covid19 came and scuttled my early season plans so once things 'settled down' and we could venture to far away shores we decided that we would go out early September, get those batteries connected and charged and then go sailing just as we usually do. Tickets were on hold from our earlier travel so it was just a case of rebooking... or was it? Jen then started having second thoughts, sitting up in the sky in a tin tube with 200 odd passengers for a few hours didn't appeal to her as she has had a couple of health issues in the past. So here I am, writing this blog on my tod and having just ridden out my second Medicane in three years. Some folks know how to have fun! However, I'm very pleased that I got round to fitting the folding grab rail kit to the sprayhood just before the storm hit! Incidentally it was brought out to Greece at my good ladies request! It was a bit hairy going forward to check the condition of the anchor chain and snubber line at 2am in the morning in the pitch black with the boat being laid over and yawing widely.

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    Being on my own meant, however, that I could spent all my time doing those 'little jobs' which I never get round to do when Jen's out with me (we are too busy enjoying and socialising ourself when she's on board). On the list of things to do was a means of making it easier to go forward past the sprayhood in a breeze or a lumpy or rolling sea, so a relatively new to the market set of folding sprayhood bars came out with me. The package, as can be seen in the above images, comes with two hinged bars, available in two different lengths, complete with four split clamps and four tube ends, all of course in 316 stainless. As I was installing the assembly on the boat far away from Andy's sail loft, I also took a packet of Tear Aid with me to reinforce the four holes that I had cut in the spray hood, Tear Aid would also stop the raw edge from fraying.

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    As for fitting the two folding bar assemblies, it was the time spent making sure that I got the bars in the correct plane that took the longest. Once I was happy with the aesthetics it was cut four holes in the hood, reinforce the fabric then cut the bars to length and assemble once the clamps had been attached to the bars. The complete job was done afloat with the exception of the hacksawing of the tubes, I took them ashore and found a suitable object to hold them whilst attacking them! Another job crossed off the list and I hope a satisfied customer, Jen, when she hopefully comes out next year!


    Incidentally, with the cruising we now do in the Ionian, sailing in a t-shirt as against a set of foulies the Spinlock Deckvest Lite+ lifejacket is our preferred jacket of choice. Much lighter than its big  brother the Spinlock Deckvest 6D. Obviously when the Medicane hit the other day it was worn even in the cockpit! It has the same buoyancy as it's all singing and dancing brother inc crutch strap and built in harness however it doesn't have a light or a sprayhood so it's almost half a kilo lighter. And folks, that’s not me in the below image. I ‘lost’ my head of hair many years ago!


  • 322. Top Tips Tuesday - True Story (Luv My Ewincher)


    The plug was pulled some months ago on the official 2020 Southampton Boat Show, in its place sprang up BOATS2020. Sadly this was cancelled literally at the last hour (less than a day before the official opening!) Apparently Southampton City Council decided the show could no longer go ahead due to the rising risk of Covid-19 and growing government fears! As for Jenny and I and Covid-19, this year's on the water activities have been frustrating to say the least as usually we drive down to Greece with all our 'goodies' including antifouling, polish etc to keep the UV damage at bay. Once that's out of the way it's island hopping in the sun! If you are frustrated by the on/off/on/off situation re the just cancelled show, we do have a cracking 'SOUTHAMPTON SPECIAL' to warm the cockles of your heart, if that's the correct expression, seeing the temperature gauge back in the UK is on the up again.

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    From today till the 4th of October we are repeating that fantastic offer we had the other month which helped kickstart our turnover and that of the manufacturer of the handle as we came out of lockdown. Buy an ewincher and we will throw in a spare battery worth almost £300 (incidentally when the last offer was running we had to place four more orders with the French manufacturers to keep up with demand) However before you discard this 'hard sell', take a minute to read the below email that my boss Andy was sent the other day, the guy in question sails the West Coast of Scotland on a forty five footer, with a big tall rig, fully battened mainsail, as for the weight of that sail, I should know cos his main and genoa are in our sail loft once a year for a 'wash & brush up' and they weigh a ton!



    I wanted to give you some feedback about the ewincher you supplied. I had been thinking about buying one for a while and finally went ahead this summer. I bought it mainly to help with delivery trips when single-handed in these times of social distancing. My expectation was that it would help to limit jib sheet flogging by speeding up setting the genoa after tacking. Of course it does that, but the main revelation was the effortless hoisting of the main sail. It completely transforms sail management. Shaking out a reef after yet another squall in this stormy summer we're having, is no issue. The battery easily lasts for a day's sailing and the multiple charging options (boat 12v system and shore power) make it easy to keep it charged. Of course, the free spare battery that was on offer helped clinch the sale as the unit is always available. A secondary benefit is that I can ditch the cumbersome kit I previously used to climb the mast. Once I'd volunteered my son to go aloft to change the failed windex (Rob subsequently diagnosed a seagull strike), he was up there in a couple of minutes (literally) and had the unit changed for a new one in not many minutes more. The sheer versatility of the ewincher and its ability to deal with the "heaving lifting" jobs means that, even when fully crewed, there's no shortage of willing hands to manage the sails. I should have bought one long ago!

    Regards, Andrew


  • 321. Top Tips Tuesday - The Tin Triangle


    Was the Vulcan anchor named because it looked like the British iconic bomber of the same name? Heaven knows but to me there is a certain similarity in its shape to the  outline of the aircraft methinks? The Vulcan To The Sky Trust website is worth a look at if you're so inclined. It may, however, be that the designer of the Vulcan (and the Rocna) New Zealander Roger Smith was a fan of Star Trek, apparently they (the Vulcans) are typically depicted as faster, and longer-lived than humans, what that's got to do with the anchor don't ask me however the Vulcan bomber was, according to my source, 'the only aircraft ever to fulfil every role the RAF called for.' Methinks a statement that could be attributed to users of both the Vulcan and Rocna anchors! Incidentally, The Tin Triangle was the affectionate name given to the Vulcan bomber.


    One of our regular customers sent us the below email the other day, it sums up what I find so reassuring in my own Vulcan capabilities in that it always sets first time and it's easy to remove the glutinous mud found in the area of the Ionian that I frequent! My confidence in it's holding power was proven when our anchor held in the Medicane that swept through the Ionian the other year, we held in seventy knots of wind... many didn't!

    "Hi Andy 

    Just to let you know. We took the boat up to Jura anchoring every night. I have been delighted with the Vulcan, it set first time every time and comes back onto the bow roller in the correct orientation. Also it is a lot easier to clean the weed and mud off without the roll bar

    Thanks Jonathan"

    Why did we go for the Vulcan instead of the Rocna? Holding power is the same but the Vulcan is more expensive however we have a retractable bowsprit on the Mystery which the roll bar on the latter would foul. If you have a spare few minutes, the video below featuring these superb new generation anchors is worth watching.


  • 320. Top Tips Tuesday - Things That Go Bump (In The Night)


    Over the comparatively short time I have cruised with friends either in Greece or on the West Coast of Scotland or on our own boat, there has been a few occasions when we have been awoken by another boat or an object 'bumping' us awake! The first time it happened we were anchored in Tinkers Hole on the west side of the Island of Erraid. Way past midnight I was woken up by an odd sound, a strange moaning and it sounded like someone was walking on the foredeck. Nipped up on deck to find the fog had come down and the almost naked skipper peering into the mist. He had come up on deck to investigate the noise, the footsteps that I heard belonged to the skipper as for the moaning we both thought it must be seals or heaven forbid, perhaps an amorous couple!

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    Some years later we were anchored in a bay off the island of Corfu, I was awakened from my slumber at around 2 in the morning by shouting on deck and looking through the port hole (was an Oyster ketch belonging to friends) saw we were alongside another yacht we had admired earlier in the evening which had anchored some 150mtrs to windward of us. Despite our shouting and shining a spotlight over the deck and cabin the crew slept through oblivious and 'carried on' downwind, next morning we found them a further 200mtrs to leeward. Some years later in a crowded anchorage in Vliho bay near Nidri on Lefkas island with the breeze building rapidly, a rather large charter catamaran decided to drag its anchor, crew had gone ashore some two hours earlier so it was up to Jenny and I to fend the cat of in the gathering gloom. I must now confess after a few brief encounters we do now deploy fenders if the anchorage is 'busy'. Our wandering fender which is a large ball type is always ready to be deployed as well.

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    Dock fenders have, over the last few years, gained in popularity if one is returning to ones berth. If you’re short handed or trying to berth a long keeled yacht which, when going astern, have a mind of their own they can be a blessing in disguise! Attaching either style of fender can be a challenge if the marina doesn't allow you to bolt or screw through, if this is the case we do sell a rather clever piece of kit which does the business. I am not sure if the guy parking his high speed craft was relying on a few of these fenders, if not what's that saying 'practise makes perfect!

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  • 319. Top Tips Tuesday - The Air That I Breathe


    Those of a certain age will remember a couple of classics from the hit parade from a considerable number of years ago, 'The Air  That I Breathe' was a recording by the Hollies and released in 1974 (showing my age again) it reached No.2 in the Hit Parade. The ballad was written by Albert Hammond and initially recorded by him on his 1972 album, 'It never rains in California.' It's since been covered by a variety of artists, my favourite version, of course, was by the Hollies. 'Every Breath You Take' was written by a Geordie (Sting) back in 1982, during what he later said was a 'mental breakdown! Interesting lyrics methinks but shame about the husky voice! With the Covid threat, we certainly have to be careful when taking a breath of air!

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    If you're like me, particular about the air that you exhale and breathe, and like me have forgotten on a number of occasions to 'pack a mask', why not consider buying one, or a couple, of BUFF's (wash and a wear?) and pop one around your neck from the time you leave your house or crawl out of your bunk till the time you get back in? Consider the benefits; firstly they are unbelievably eco friendly being made with 2 recycled plastic bottles! They are 'unbreakable', you don't get them tangled if wearing glasses, they're  washable and fast drying. They can, of course, be worn in a large variety of ways to protect you from the sun! The image(s) above is of course of your ‘handsome’ scribe wearing a Buff against the background of Jans famous ‘The liveaboard wife’ tea towel! Boss man Andy is on holiday with his good lady on the West Coast, currently sheltering from storm Francis and the below image is of his two girls wearing their Buffs, taken before the storm hit!


    The trouble with most face masks if you ask me is that because they are not user friendly, they are liable to be forgotten, resulting in a 'refused entry' or a trek back and they certainly don't look smart!  You can easily break the ear loops,  with a lot of masks you cannot wash and reuse them. Plus, as stated above, most are not ECO friendly use and throw away!  For water based activity and socialising the majority of masks are certainly not practical! Buffs are extremely comfortable to wear being 100% seamless, the fabric has a four way stretch for improved comfort and elasticity. On a hot day a Buff will have a cooling effect, managing heat and sweat to keep you dry and comfortable.


    Please note as of present, due to unprecedented demand, the junior size Buffs are not in stock having said unlike me with my big head my good lady just pulls her Buff over her ears and it stays in place!  As for colours and patterns it's a case of what we have in stock and they are moving fast!


    For more inspiration on how to wear your Buff. Watch Henry's quick demo below.


  • 318. Top Tips Tuesday - Nice But A Bit Pricey


    Storage of mags, papers and other ‘things’ can be a contentious issue, especially if the boat you are on doesn’t have that much spare space once you get your Reeds, Imray pilot books and a few paper charts stowed. On our Mystery, with its traditional interior, we purchased a U-shaped chrome plate fixture c/w an elastic storage net and attached it to a bulkhead. Tis a good job that Jenny never saw the invoice for it, didn’t quite break the bank but got close to it. The other day, however, Malcolm (that rather nice ‘retired‘ salesman from Kingfisher ropes) came a calling and like a magician pulled out from his van, not a rabbit but a couple of net storage assemblies. Both come complete with a black ‘U’ shaped matt plastic frame, 4 pre-drilled P securing brackets and an elasticated top which, of course, will expand or contract depending how much you stow in them and guess what ... they are at a very attractive prices! The smaller of the two, dimensions of 30cm x 19cm retails at £9.95 and the larger, 50cm x 19cm, at £13.95!


    Next from his hat, or should I say van, a Kingfisher splicing kit containing every item you would need to splice high and low tech ropes. Contents include a set of four Selma fids, small Swedish fid, 1pr of D-16 scissors (they cut through all hi tech ropes such as Dyneema, Kevlar and Vectran with ease), a right handed sailmaker's palm (please advise if left handed required), 5 sailmakers needles and much more. And if you didn’t already know… a splice is considered to maintain a much greater working/break load than a knot! ‘Ah’ I hear you say, ‘I can do a three strand splice, a sort of braid on braid splice but anything else……..’ Splicing Modern Ropes is the book for you according to Andy, whose homework is often a ‘bit of splicing on the side’.


    For those skippers who already have a palm, a Swedish fid, needles etc we do offer a set of Selma fids in neat little storage tubes. Great for splicing Braid on Braid or Dyneema, the set of four covers 3.5mm up to 10mm, if your inclination is to splice up to 14mm the set of five is the one for you.


    If you are looking to splice lines thinner than 5mm, consider perhaps the D-splicer needle. It’s the ultimate solution for splicing thin yachting ropes and in other scenarios where existing fids are not suitable.


  • 317. Top Tips Tuesday - What Gets My Back Up...


    Some three or four years ago I got it into my silly little head that it would be good for my constitution if I joined a small but dedicated (some may say crazy) bunch of guys and girls for an early morning dip in the North Sea. No rules that I knew of but no one seemed to wear a wetsuit! My first venture into the briny was a December morning two days after Jenny and I had just come back from a winter break on Gomera, one of the less popular Canary Isles. By the time I tip toed up to my knees I honestly thought I going to freeze to death but carried on determined that an old sea dog such as I wasn’t to be out done by a husband and wife couple also taking the water who’s combined ages would be over one hundred and fifty. I survived that first immersion and carried on, not sure why! However, further down the road the rewards for me include seeing some fabulous sunrises, a definitive feeling of well-being and definitely less colds and If I get a ‘chesty feeling’ I seem to have the ability to shake it off by the next morning. The reward for long suffering Jenny is that she has been delighted that I now don’t snore in bed anymore!

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    What gets my back up these mornings is the amount of plastic pollution that we find on the beach. Tiny pieces of plastic, polystyrene beads, polypropylene rope from fisherman’s nets, plastic straws and loads of discarded plastic bottles of all shapes and sizes. And don’t mention the litter left by families and youths after a day out at the seaside. One can ‘happily’ spend 1/2 an hour each day picking up rubbish which has been discarded by thoughtless individuals never mind the seaborne debris. Since that first tentative toe in the water it's strange how certain of my habits change, and no I have not become an eco warrior but I now, once back home after my early morning dip, shower using a bar of soap as against shower gel from a plastic bottle!


    The guys at Marine 16 who manufacture and sell us the additives that we recommend you put into your diesel fuel tanks have recently brought out a new range of completely different products. The line-up consists of 3 biodegradable products and I quote ‘in compliance with Marpol Annex 5 1.7.5 not harmful to the marine environment that will collectively cover over 95% of on-board cleaning requirements‘. ZerO cabin and heads cleaner, ZerO deck and sail cleaner and last but not least ZerO engine and bilge cleaner. The beauty of these three products is that they support ZERO plastic pollution by the fact that you can purchase a 100% recyclable bottle for life to refill and reuse. When empty you can top up your original dispenser with a 10x concentrate pouch and with one 500ml pouch that’s 5 refills! Once the pouch is empty, firmly replace the screw on the ‘envelope’ and send back for recycling; it’s even got a post-paid label attached! Remember Refill - Reuse - Recycle.



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