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

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Stormy Weather Stops Play

Well the predicted stormy weather hit today and caused the Americas Cup World Series to be cancelled. It was so windy spectators were asked to leave the arena on the common lest a tent be wrenched from its footings and sock some poor unfortunate on the bonce.

The winds are supposed to die down but of course it'll take a day or so for things to really calm down. That's probably when the next belt of rain is due.

To cap it all youngest son wants to come down from London on Tuesday and stay over after finishing his Uni term.

This cruise seems destined not to be.

Sail-Oriented weekend But Cruise in Jeopardy.

Well, I went with Jim down to the Americas Cup World Series practice sessions yesterday. It's a good job we had decent waterproofs because the rain started about 5am and never gave up all day.

How do I know it started at 5am? Well, I saw the weather forecast but just in case decided to get an early night and if it turned out dry I was going to go out on the boat and watch. So it was back to bed and then donned the waterproofs just before lunch when the racing started.

This is the rainy view we got:

To be honest the race was a bit unfathomable, with the boats going all over the place in seemingly random patterns. Not sure what was going on.

The weather forecast for Saturday was good, so I thought I might get up early and get out on the boat to spectate. So I went to bed and..... woke up 9 hours later and way too late to get on the boat and catch the last of the outgoing tide.

To be honest that's probably my subconcious going "Meh!" at the thought of watching it again.

Anyway, later in the day I braved the crowds and watched the race, this time with commentary from Express FM. I saw that many people had taken to the water to spectate:

So with a commentary could I make some sense of it at all? Nope, still couldn't make head nor tails of what was going on, even with a commentary! The boats were too far away, they weren't really that impressive I guess because the wind wasn't strong enough for them to foil much. To add insult to injury a J class yacht flying a spinnaker came down the Solent behind the race. The huge yacht was far more impressive than the AC45s, despite there being the best part of a century between them.

Here's a shot of today's "action":

I know the AC45s are at the cutting edge of sailing technology, but I imagine foiling 60ft catamarans as per the original spec of the ACWS would have been even more impressive. I obviously have an interest in sailing and I'd love it if we won the Americas Cup, but the actual event left me cold.

I'm not sure that the current format of the event shows the boats off to their best. All it seems to be is a corporate jamboree for the champagne swillers, very much like the London boat show seems to have become, with a bit of sailing tacked on. I certainly don't think the current race format suits something as special as the Americas Cup. I just think it belittles it.

Anyway, after watching the race I was supposed to be cruising down the South Coast this week, but so far a day full of rain on Sunday and gales Monday/Tuesday are ruining that plan.

Maybe I can salvage a couple of days in the week to sail up the Solent and stay over for a night. But the weather is so variable at the moment if I do stay out for a night there's no telling if it will allow me to come back!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Provisioning and Weather Watching.

Just loaded 15 litres of fuel on board Sprit 2 ready for my cruise. Weather looks naff tomorrow so it may be plan b and a shore based trip to the Americas cup rather than watch from the water.
Saturday looks better so may sail out to watch then.
The plan is to leave Sunday before the hoards leave. Who knows. But its a sailing holiday to I'll just take things as they come.
I was going to go to Ashlett and meet up with the small sailboat guys but a 5am start in the morning demands an early night.
Dinner then chill and bed I reckon. Such a hectic life us sailors lead!

Monday, 20 July 2015

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

Today I just had a lazy day on the boat, trying a few things, people watching and listening to the radio.

I took my hudl on board to make sure the charging lead still works, which it does.

Jim turned up just as the tide turned, he'd been to a car boot in the morning helping a friend run their pitch. It seems his friend is interested in boats too, so Jim might have a crew for next weekend! It'll be cool if we can go out and watch the racing as a fleet.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Sunny Saturday, One week to go..

Took Sprite for a short sail up the harbour yesterday, just using the jib. It worked amazingly well so lifting the sheets up has made quite a difference. It looks like I'll be tweaking the main while I'm sailing.

While on board I loaded reading material for my week away on board, plus a few little gadgets like a radio and other stuff.

I also played about with my camera:

Meanwhile I'm trying to plan for my week sailing, which starts next weekend.

The current plan is to get aboard on Friday (I have the day off work) and then stay aboard around Portsmouth to watch the Americas Cup Races during the weekend. The boat will provide a handy base because Portsmouth being on an island means there are only 3 roads into the city. I predict gridlock. The only alternatives to the car are the train (which I'm sure will also be full to capacity) or to ride by bike down the Eastern Road, which has a nice cycle path all the way down it. Getting to the seafront at the bottom end might be tricky as the cycle lane ends, but the traffic will be at a standstill at that point so no problems!

So the plan is to get down very early on Friday, load the boat up and then leave the car there for the day or weekend, depending on circumstances. The folding bike is being loaded on the boat anyhow, so if I need to get around Portsmouth I'll use that.

Then off on my grand tour...

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Plan B's

Just in case something happens to scupper my plans to watch the Americas Cup World Series races from the water, I've just got the free tickets for the Friday and Saturday.

That way I can get to watch from the shore and have a mooch round the encampment on Southsea common.

At least I have the option should I need it.

Tickets are available frtomv the ticketmaster UK website.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Delayed Departure

I thought I had next week booked off for my South Coast Cruise but aparrently checking with work today I actually booked the week after off.

which means I won't be around for the small sailboat group's meeting at Ashlett Creek next week, although I might drive there if anyone turns up.

Also I won't be around for the ACWS practice day on Thursday. But I have booked Friday off so I will be on the bwater to watch three days of foiling cat fun.

The upside is the tides are better the week after with high tide in the morning and evening. So I may have calculated them last year, booked the week off and then forgotten when I booked the time off and why. Old age is a great thing. With such a rubbish memory there are so many discoveries just waiting to be re-discovered. Again. And sometimes again and again.

So, I'm off work on the 24th for 10 days. I have to be back by the 31st as I have an appointment that day but the rest of the break is open for discovery and adventure. Lets see where I can get to.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Non-Boat Weekend

This weekend there's a family BBQ as a farewell to a member of the family flying back to Bahrain, plus I'm driving them to the Airport tomorrow so so boaty stuff going on.

I did get a couple of hours aboard on Thursday after work which I spent seeing if I could get a working speedo. To no avail.

Getting back on the dinghy was a bit of a shock as the screw hole had opened up in the bottom again, so last night after work I popped down and syringed some epoxy into the hole. Hopefully this time the whole hole will be full of epoxy and the repair will last a bit longer.

Saw Jim and a couple of the guys down there so had a chat, then watched the dredgers come into the harbour before I went back home. Hopefully by the time I next use the dinghy the epoxy will have set and I won't have any more problems with the hole.

I'm still planning my week long cruise. I'm just wondering how to store the dinghy once I'm aboard. Leaving it on the mooring leaves it vulnerable for a whole week, so I'm still mulling options over regarding tides and stuff. High tide being in the middle of the day means I'm a bit compromised on options. I'd prefer a high tide in the morning and another corresponding one in the evening when I get to my destination.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Pipe Dream

At the marina I got my small outboard from they're selling a Carter 33 fin keeled yacht on eBay too.

I'd love to click on the "make offer" tab with a cheeky 100 quid bid, but for the fact it would cost a grand at least to moor, it, insure it, get it surveyed, etc. The scary thing would be if the offer got accepted.

Then maintenance wouldn't be a quick session on the beach, it would entail lift-outs, cradle hire and more.

It just shows with big boats come big bills...

Not for the Skint Sailor, no matter how much I dream about it.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

New eBay purchase

I mentioned in my previous post that I've got something new for the boat.

Well, here it is:

It's a Mariner 2.5Hp two-stroke outboard. For less than £40. Bargain!

It has issues, though. At that price it would be silly to think it wouldn't.

The first issue was it started but died not long after. That was traced to a dodgy fit on the cap on top of the carb. It looks like the cap which the throttle cable goes through and the throttle mechanism bolts on to has stripped it's threads. A temporary fix with araldite has made the engine work and stay working, but at some point it needs a more permanent resolution. The throttle seems to have been designed badly, with the throttle lever mechanism bolted onto the cast alloy cap. Any tension on the throttle mechanism pulls on the cap and strips the soft alloy thread.

A while the engine was running in the dustbin it's apparent that there's still something a bit iffy. The exhaust note isn't right. Looking around the engine there's a water within the casing. It looks like the head has cracked and possibly the gasket sealing the power unit to the leg has failed. But the leg is fine, the impeller seems to be pumping water, so there is good news.

The cylinder head seems to be another point of especially bad design: the head is a casting which includes the moulding at the rear of the engine. If you drop the engine on the ground hard you crack the cast moulding or in some cases like this one the head.

But this engine is a lot better than my Seagull that has never started. I'm going to bung the Seagull on eBay as spares/repairs and use the money to put into the Mariner. Despite it's problems, it still runs which means its worth spending the money on.

So I'll be stripping the Mariner and checking on it's issues over the following weeks and making a shopping list for boat jumbles and eBay.

Oh and also today I installed Jim's solar panel on his boat. I'm pretty sure his battery is buggered because I checked it's voltage and it was 2.9 volts. He needs a new battery for the panel to keep charged.

I tried a spot of sailing on Friday but the mainsail had other ideas, jamming about 2ft from the top of the mast. Some dry lubricant sorted that out but I only fixed it when back on the mooring. By then the tide was dropping. I lubricated all the blocks and also re-jigged the downhaul which was also jamming. A bit weird because it all worked last year. It just goes to show checking all of these things in advance is worth it.

The VHF is back on the boat but I didn't have time to give Solent Coastguard a call. Too busy sorting the rigging and doing bits on Jim's boat.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Clearing MMSI from a Midland Neptune Tranceiver

Okay, as all you blog followers know I'm always out for the thrifty option when it comes to things.

Now I understand that Digital Selective Calling is a wonderful thing and it can make emergency calls as easy as a few button presses.

Part of this is a unique identifier called the Maritime Mobile Service Identity (get me I remembered that from memory!) for the ship/boat which you program into the radio. All great in theory: you change your licence details on Ofcom's website and eventually your ship/boat is allocated an MMSI number. The number appears on the licence and you program that into your radio using the setup menu(s).

However, there's a but (and it's a big one!): the transceiver manufacturers and the authorities put a restriction on the number of times you can change the MMSI number. In some cases you can only enter it once, so you'd better get it right first time! Some other manufacturers allow up to three updates of the MMSI. Now as the Skint Sailor it offends me when manufacturers limit your ability to change things, or force you to return stuff to the dealer to get it modified. I mean, the memory is already in the radio, the limit on changing the MMSI is made in software. I suppose they could argue this stops stolen radios easily changing their MMSI but technology has a habit of circumventing any restrictions but on devices in software.

Back when I had my powerboat I bought a Midland Neptune VHF DSC transceiver, which was duly programmed with that boat's MMSI. When I sold my boat I kept the radio, thinking I would get another boat some time and I'd fit the radio. Always the optimist!

Anyway, the Neptune falls into the "can only enter the MMSI once" camp. A bit of a bugger really as you have to send the transceiver back to the dealer or manufacturer to get the MMSI cleared off the radio.

However, there is another option: Midland do a program that can program the MMSI and ATIS numbers and also add private channels. So when I got Sprite, I thought great, I'll nip down the local Midland dealer and buy the programming software and wipe the MMSI. Ah, there's a but: by that time Midland had discontinued the software! Bugger, back to square one!

Anyway, proving the internet is a wonderful thing eventually Midland put the PRG Neptune software on their old website for download. I downloaded it straight away!

Now the only pitfall was the fact I didn't have an interface between my computer and the radio. I bought one I thought might do the trick but it didn't work. But a few months ago I bought one that does! Its a USB to RS-485/422 convertor interface off ebay. Cost: a fiver!

You get a short cable with the Neptune to connect to NMEA devices and its this cable you connect to the RS-485 convertor, to the D-/B and the D+/A connections:

Then you plug the connector into the NMEA connector on the radio and run the software and hey presto, the original MMSI is cleared:

Lookee that, a clear MMSI!

By the time I'd done all of this, Sprite 2's shiny new MMSI popped up on my Ofcom licence details, so I entered it into the radio.

I've also added the MMSI to my CG66 entry on the MCA website too.

Next thing is a live test. Might give Solent Coasties a call at the weekend to check out the procedure. 

Talking about Solent Coastguard, I noticed today they are still having bandwidth problems on their links from the new(ish) centre and their aerials. Quite a few transmissions today had digital artefacts corrupting words spoken by the coastguard. I'm not sure what that does for clarity of communications in an emergency situation, or when trying to listen to weak signals. 

I have a trip out tomorrow morning to get another eBay bargain I won today. More on that tomorrow.

Update: Sadly I lost the PRG-Neptune software in a computer crash at the beginning of this year. Midland have revamped their website so the link to the free software download has gone as well.
So I no longer have the software, but I guess I was lucky to get the MMSI changed quite cheaply.
It's possible an email to Midland themselves might get the software as it's obsolete and they did have it on a free download for a while. But unfortunately I don't have it any more