Better Get Used to Delays if you Plan to be a Sailboat Live Aboard

from 'The Journal of Alacazam', by Mary Swift...


Sunday 15th July 2001

After re-evaluating the various passage plan options we decide to leave at lunchtime today. I realise that I still have two business letters to write. Dick is impatient with me and goes ashore to the Chandlers. Within five minutes he is back, he has forgotten his wallet.

Off again and while he is away I finish the letters, collate all the washing and our bathing gear and start making the boat ship-shape. He finally arrives back in quite a stressed state, unbelievably, as he approached Alacazam the gear lever fell off the outboard motor into the water and the motor is stuck in forward gear.

I have not seen Dick this upset in a long time, sunglasses fly across the yacht, expletives rip, before he collapses in a depressed heap. Not always known for my discretion, I know instinctively not to say a word. And definitely not laugh...

The harbourmaster arrives and we pay £51.50 for seven days mooring which is very reasonable (£10.50 per night plus two free nights).

Dick has calmed down and I prudently suggest that perhaps we should buy a new outboard motor or at least try and get this one fixed. Following phone calls to Rex at the Bosun's Locker and Dave at Marine Bazaar a new Susuki 4 stroke outboard motor would cost £529 and there was one here at Falmouth that had to be PDI'd before it could be released. The earliest this could be carried out would be tomorrow as soon as the engineer arrives for work. We will not be leaving for France today.

But the British Formula 1 Grand Prix will save the day...

We go ashore to shower at Yachthaven (the outboard motor is stuck in forward gear remember so we can still use it) and whilst Dick (a F1 fanatic) watches the British Grand Prix in 'The Watermans' pub, I wash and dry the dirty laundry, have some chips and an icecream (guess I must be stressed too) and buy another DVD in Smiths ('The Thing about Mary', which I have been trying to buy for ages).

I collect Dick from 'The Watermans' and we wander around the Yachthaven Marina to see if anyone is using weatherfax and meet Eric and Jan on 'Kuramu' an old Oyster 39. They too are sailboat live aboards going long distance sailing and are hoping to sail directly to Gibraltar before moving on to the Canaries and Grenada in the West Indies. Then they hope to visit Venezuela before heading north to America and Canada, back down to Panama, through the canal and on to Mexico, California, Hawaii, Australia and South Africa.

Kuramu's interior is very Spanish looking with a lot of carved wood. It is quite old-fashioned compared to Alacazam but very homely and comfortable, and Oyster 39's are reputed to be good cruising yachts.

Jan too has a sewing machine on board and I spent a pleasant hour or so chatting to her while Dick and Eric talked about the weather fax programme that Eric uses. Eric has offered to assist Dick in setting up ours.

The day has turned out to be pleasant and sunny and the evening is very quiet although the Navtex is still forecasting gale force eight in the English Channel. Is this why we are still here?

'First Time Atlantic Crossing', an ebook by Mary Swift recounting what sailing across an ocean with your best beloved is really like.

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The day-by-day account of a cruising couple's first Atlantic crossing

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The Bee Incident

While I am preparing dinner, Dick is trying out the Yankee sail on the foredeck following its repair. Suddenly, however, I hear a yell aft, from the area of the cockpit...

"Well, if that isn't adding insult to injury"

Oh dear, what can have happened?

For some reason I have not yet determined, Dick had jumped barefoot into the dinghy, stepping onto a poor unsuspecting bee, which immediately responded by stinging him between his toes.

My first instinct was to collapse in uncontrollable peals of laughter, before realising that Dick could possibly be allergic to bee stings and I needed to treat this accordingly.

The first aid book especially bought, when found, had nothing on bites and stings but the Boots the Chemist pamphlet I had kept, did and 'Wasp-Ease' and antihistamine cream were duly produced and administered.

Dick had removed the bee and its sting before too much poison had been released, never-the-less his foot soon became swollen and he was feeling quite unwell. As soon as we had eaten dinner Dick retired for the night.

The water was as still as glass and the mooring buoy kept tapping the side of the boat. This woke Dick up and he had to get up to check it out. All was well however, and we spent an enjoyable few moments in the dusk feeding a swan that had come to visit us. A pleasant end to a somewhat eventful day.

Monday 16th July 2001

We awoke to a beautiful day. The swelling on Dick's foot had gone down and he was feeling much better. The Navtex however, was still forecasting gales north of 44°N with severe gales in Finisterre.

We had a leisurely breakfast before Dick went ashore to check out the situation regarding the outboard motor and to read the new five day weather forecast bulletin on the Yachthaven Security Hut noticeboard.

He arrived back with good new and bad news. The good news - Rex had offered him a good deal; he would exchange our broken outboard motor for the new Suzuki and £375 cash or he could repair and service our outboard for about £80. The bad news - northeasterly force eight gales were imminent and it would be safer if we anchored Alacazam in the sheltered anchorage near the Yachthaven Marina.

We immediately decide to head for the anchorage. Dick moves forward onto the foredeck to pull in the mooring rope but unfortunately he holds the plastic chafe protection pipe and the rope pulls right through and remains in the mooring buoy. It takes three attempts to retrieve the rope but we are successful and no harm is done.

We pull the dinghy onto the starboard side of the boat to ensure we cannot get caught up in the ropes when motoring. With good foresight it seems, I also insisted Dick clear the forepeak in case we had a problem letting out the chain. We find a good spot to drop anchor but the anchor chain keeps sticking and Dick has to climb below into the forepeak on numerous occasions to sort this problem out, only to discover that the chain is catching on the overlong bolts securing the hawse pipe.

The plastic markers used to mark the chain lengths are difficult to see and Dick lets out too much chain and rope so we also discover that the rope will not self stow and needs to be pulled back down (which is what you would expect really). We are finally settled and the anchor has dug well in. I have had some very good practise in boat handling today.

Dick says 'it will be 'easy-peasy' to sort out the chain problem'. He was later proved right when the long ends of the offending bolts were easily removed using the 'Dremmel' saw but at this moment, knowing his luck to date, I reserved my judgement.

Happy that Alacazam was secure we rowed ashore and agreed a deal with Rex of £350 for the new motor, which I was more than glad to pay (Dick is concerned at the amount of money we are spending lately). We now had a good dinghy and outboard motor that should prove trouble free for sometime. We bought a 5 litre petrol can from Rex and set off for the 15 minute walk to the garage to buy petrol taking a leisurely stroll back through a pretty park we had noticed. We also stopped at Iceland where I managed to buy one of the plastic eggs filled with charcoal used for removing smells from fridges.

Back at the Bosun's Locker the outboard motor still had not been PDI'd and Rex offered to bring the outboard to the Marina for us when it was ready. We had a leisurely drink sitting outside of the Quayside pub (the outside of which was covered with the most beautiful flowers) before returning to Alacazam for a late lunch on board.

The weather was lovely, sunny and blue skies, no sign yet of the forecasted gales. The weather forecast ashore had shown the weather to be unsettled for the next few days. It does not help that the forecast started 'Unusually for this time of year'......

No sooner had we eaten, Rex phoned to say that he was at the Marina with the new outboard motor and Dick rowed ashore to collect it. I set about cleaning the fridge again and introduced the new charcoal filled egg odour eater to the fridge (I hope it works). The new outboard motor is so much quieter than our old one that I hardly heard Dick return. He was like a kid with a new toy and set off on a lap of honour around Alacazam only to run out of fuel.

About 1700 hours the weather started to close in with grey skies all around. I think we will be on anchor watches tonight. James, Marion and Anna all phoned and I simply could not resist telling them the story of Dick and the bee. They all responded with peels of laughter. Poor Dick, will he ever live this one down?? At least he is more relaxed today as we realise that had we set off when we had hoped to we would have run into some very nasty weather.

While I cooked dinner, Dick continued with the journal, filling in parts that I had missed, then he went to bed around 1000 hours. I 'boat watched' for a couple of hours, to make sure that all the other boats remained anchored, before joining him.

Next: The Sailboat Live Aboard Lifestyle, Part 4

Close Encounters with a French Yacht

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