Making the Most of a Minimal Budget. Contact me at: or on Twitter: @skintsailor

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Slow Charge

I've had the boat battery on charge for a few days now and its just about struggled to 13.3 volts. It looks like its been disconnected from the solar panel for a couple of weeks and the bad news is it may not recover fully.

I might have to bite the bullet and buy a new battery. :-(

I may have to use my contacts and see how cheap I can get a leisure battery. But not before I fit a solar charging regulator.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Cold and Damp

After having a coffee aboard Jim's boat, I went on board Sprite 2 and found a bit of a mess. She'd been bounced around a bit and there were a few things thrown around the cabin.

It's still damp inside the cabin thanks to the leaking deck fittings. The damp seems to haver affected the electrics as although the solar panel was generating 17v, the battery was showing less than 10v. /to cap it all, only about 6v was getting to the accessories.

I think I know the culprit: there's a choc-block connector under one of the bunks and fiddling around with that seemed to intermittently improve things. By

So a new job for the spring is to rewire the solar panel directly to the battery and have the accessories fed from a continuous wire without the choc-block.

A bit of wd40 on the switches and fuseholders might help too.

Of course getting the cabin dry seems to be moving up the priority list now.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

MX Mariner and Navionics\Compared!

Last month Steve the Wargamer asked in my comments section if I'd compared the Navionics software on my Hudl2 with MX Mariner software.

At the time I didn't have the money to get MX Mariner but luckily this month hasn't been so heavy because I've opted to pay my car road tax monthly.

Sooo, let's get comparing. Here's a screenshot of MX Mariner for the mouth to Langstone harbour.

As you can see its pretty standard, being a digitisation of standard charts. It's fine if you're happy with a basic app, which puts a cursor on a map, allows you to plot routes and track your progress. For the money (less than a tenner for the app and charts of the South Coast of England), its fine. However there is very little interaction with map items, which is where the Navionics software has the edge.

Also when at certain zoom levels on MX Mariner, the map becomes fuzzy, because it is just a scan of a chart.

Also you have to zoom in to get all the information in the area, which makes things a bit cluttered.

Compare now with Navionics. Here's the same view of the entrance to Langstone Harbour:

Navionics has a cleaner look about it. That's because it just gives you the information to navigate, rather than the full chart information.

Zoom in and the picture stays sharp:

All the items on the map are interactive. Move the item under the centre of the crosshairs and tap the question mark and you get information about that item. In the first picture you can see a red arrow. The direction its pointing shows the direction of tide. The arrow is a bar chart that fills up with more colour the faster the tide. Select the arrow and you get detailed tide information.

You can also get the details of a marina like the telephone number and address.

The advantage MX Mariner has is that navigation light timings are on the chart, whereas you have to click on a light to get the timings on Navionics.

Navionics has other interactive features:

For instance I've added Sonarcharts, a feature that gives more accurate sounding data.

You can also send tracks etc. to Facebook, you can overlay Google or Bing satellite views with the chart data as well.

So, which one would I chose? Well, Navionics is three times the price of MX Mariner, but provides a wealth of interactive features and includes tide data. Its also regularly updated. It's more like a "proper" full featured chartplotter on your tablet.

MX Mariner is fine as an electronic copy of a chart, but lacks the interactive features of Navionics.

For me there isn't much to chose between the two as they do different things. I guess it boils down to price and whether you want an interactive app or an electronic copy of a paper chart.

MX Mariner is updated yearly and costs less than a fiver for the South of England charts.

Navionics costs £23.99 a year and covers the UK and Holland, with a years worth of (sometimes daily) updates.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Disappointing Boat Show

Jim, myself and my son Josh went to the boat show today.

To be honest it was a disappointment compared to the Southampton show.

If I had an interest in huge motor boats, then I'm sure the show would appeal, but I don't so it didn't. The telling thing was the Champagne bars on the mobo stands. It pretty obvious who the London Boat Show is aimed at: the people that work in the City of London, the people getting the huge wages and bonuses.

So not having an interest in huge mobos meant that probably 60% of the show wasn't relevant for us. Not having an interest in water jet powered surfboards, or folding dinghies, or Range Rovers meant that the total sum of interest we had in the show was about 20%.

We talked to the guys on the Ben Ainslie racing stand where Joshua tried an Occulus Rift Virtual Reality headset. Now he wants one.... better start saving then Josh!

They also had a 3D printer working on the stand. They print prototype parts out for theire boats first in plastic to confirm the concept and the fit cheaply, then the 3D print the item in metal. They had a 3D printed bike frame on their stand. Of course SpaceX now use 3D printed metal parts in their rocket motors, so the technology and the materials used in the higher end of 3D printing can withstand same tough treatment. Interesting stuff. All they need to do is have a 3D printer that weaves carbon fibres into shapes at the same time as laminating them with epoxy.. 3D printed boat hulls anyone?

So, the BAR stand interested use for 20 mins or so. Then we cruised the small stands, where I picked up a waterproof case for my HUDL2 tablet. The case has a port for a headphone lead, but a while back I ordered a micro USB plug so I can make up my own adapter lead to make it into a power lead. All I need are the 3.5mm jack plug and socket and I'll be in business with a powered waterproof tablet case.

But that's about it. Some of the electronics companies were showing off new kit but its so expensive its only worth a passing interest. Certainly not something I could consider actually buying.

So there you have it, the London Boat Show: Shiny, Spectacular, but not at all relevant to the Skint Sailor.

We never did find the picture of my sails Jim took. It doesn't seem to have been anywhere we looked at the boat show at all.

Sunday, 11 January 2015


Went down to the boat today for a couple of hours. The wind at the start allowed me to get on board.

One thing I noticed is its rather wet in the cabin. It looks like the wind and torrential rain have got through some of the deck fittings. So that's another job for the spring added to the list.

Before I came off the wind picked up considerably. The return to the beach was a lot quicker than the row out!

The cockpit lockers are still relatively dry so I can forget about them and instead worry about leaks into the cabin.

Luckily I have sealant left over from a few years ago when I did our caravan roof. So the fix will be cheap.

The Costs for 2014

At the start of 2014 I costed up how much my sailing cost through 2013, so it's now time to put together how much 2014 has cost me.

Mooring Fees were £130 for the Year

Insurance was £120

My Solar Panel was £20.

I got the depth sounder, which cost me £30 

Navigation Software was £24

The New turnbuckles for the rigging cost £50 (most of that was one turnbuckle from a chandlers!).

Clam Cleats £33

Fuse holder for rectifier £3

Boom Vang upgrade £8

Winch Repair Kits £45

Fuel £40

Varnish £10

Wood Stain £5

Plywood for locker tops £10

Epoxy Glue £6

Contact Glue £4

12V Cable £15

LED Cabin Lights £20

Stainless bolts & Screws £20

New Shackles £10

Shroud protectors (PVC water pipe) £5

The battery meter was £8

Sundries £20

The total for the year stands at £606

Eek, that's a lot, but then again I didn't sell anything this year to offset the cost of ownership, so it's sort of comparable with last year, although last year I did very little work on Sprite. This year has seen a fair bit of work done and stuff added to her.

Of course there were other indirect costs, such as car petrol to get to the boat, but most times I was already in the area, like nipping to the boat after work to keep the cost down.

But I can quite happily say that's lower than a lot of people's annual mooring fees!

Plus the fact the boat is still worth more than I've spent on it so I should get all my money back should I come to sell it.

Amazingly I'm still using the gas cylinder I bought in 2013 originally for our caravan!

Friday, 9 January 2015

Picture Perfect

Jim's picture of my sails came up trumps and the Boat Show people are using it at the show somewhere. Keep an eye out for it...

As a thank you we've been sent two free tickets. Very cool.

Here's the picture, I love it. Its the essence of our summer sailing.

And I think Jim is still in the running for the free Jacket...

Not bad for a picture just snapped casually with an iPhone...

Bargain Boat

Boaty bargains are still around, especially at this time of year.

To prove it, this Alacrity just went for £41...

Now that's cheap....

Monday, 5 January 2015

London Boat Show

This week sees the start of the CWM FX Boat Show in London.

I got two tickets back in September as they were half price back then. So me and Jim can have a day mooching around boats and kit again.

I entered a picture Jim took during our summer cruise to Cowes into a competition the Boat Show is Running, the prize for which is a sailing jacket.

Jim doesn't have any sailing clothing as such, so a decent jacket will be great for him if it wins. I entered the picture and the organisers asked for a more high-res version of the pic, so lets see if Jim wins some new kit!

Anyway, here's hoping I get next Thursday off work so we can go down mid-week without too much in theb way of crowds. Last year was a pain regarding holidays, ending up with me having to take my days off at the end of the year.

Rest assured there will be a more assertive attitude to getting days off this year as I lost a lot of days where the tide and weather were ideal for sailing. I've already booked a week off in July when there are spring tides, the weather is usually fine and the Americas Cup races are on in the Solent.

Ben Ainslie Racing's Americas Cup HQ is currently being built next to the camber in Portsmouth. I went down there this weekend and had a look at the skeleton of the building (complete with Christmas Tree taped to the top!).

It's not as huge as I thought it would be considering the size of the Americas Cup boats, but it'll be interesting to see what it looks like eventually. I'm going to nip down there some time and take a few piccies.

But it's good news to have some water-based development in Portsmouth, especially as the dockyard assembly side is being run down. Destined I suppose to become yet another dry stack shed like the old VT yard accross the harbour.

Winches refurbished

I've now cleaned up the winch bodies and fitted the new parts.

I supposed it was actually a good thing I got a full refurb kit rather than just a couple of spring clips because the winch pawls were extremely rusty. The rust was so bad it was causing them to stick and not work properly.

Here's the state of them:

Pretty Grotty winch pawls. Are these stainless steel?

The plastic bearing races inside the winch were also pretty gummed up with dust and salt.

Anyway, after a good clean of the winch body, I fitted the new parts. I've been careful not to add grease or oil as it looks like the winch is dry-lubricated and any oil may swell up the plastic parts and stop the winches working properly.

The new winch innards are now shiny and work as they should, so everything's good.

All nice and clean, ready to re-fit.

Maybe winch covers will be next on the list of items to buy for the boat to avoid salt getting in and causing havoc. Although to be fair I don't know how long the winches have been on Sprite 2.

The spring clips that hold everything in place will get a coating of white grease to hold off corrosion, as rusty clips were the thing that forced me to buy a whole repair kit.

The next job is to sort out the winch bases with fresh sealant and stainless fixing bolts before refitting the bodies on top.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Boaty Stuff at Last

High tide was just after 10am today so I got up and headed down to Sprite 2 despite the downpour Portsmouth was experiencing.
Once I got on board I checked the cockpit lockers and happily it looks like they are pretty water tight now. The problematic starboard locker had about a cup of water in the bottom. Not much to worry about at all.
This weekend I might make a start on the winches. As you can see the innards are pretty rusted, so I need to clean them up and fit the new parts I got er,last year.