Sunday, 8 October 2017

Dunstaffnage Visit 1

Hi everyone,
We have just returned from a long weekend visiting Zen Again.  On Wednesday night we travelled north from London to Glasgow on the Caledonian Sleeper.  On Thursday morning we continued by coach to Dunstaffnage.

Before leaving Zen Again last month we prepared her for haul-out and de-rigging.  When we arrived she was ashore with the rig neatly laid out alongside.

Zen Again ashore

Rig awaiting work
We spent Thursday afternoon installing a replacement for our old Raymarine ST40 log/depth instrument.  We installed an Airmar DST800 "triducer" which measures boat speed, water depth and water temperature.  Raymarine, Garmin and Simrad all appear to use this unit which can be bought with an NMEA2000 interface.

The yard staff had already removed the old transducers from the hull.  We removed the old ST40 display and the wiring to the old transducers, then fed through the cable from the DST800 and connected it into our NMEA2000 network.

Next we removed our very old Garmin GPSmap450 from the cockpit and replaced it with the newer Garmin GPSmap451 from the navstation.  Rearranging the cabling took a little while but this eliminated SeaTalk and NMEA0183 from everywhere except the autopilots.  And we were left with a fully functioning NMEA2000 network connecting AIS, triducer, chart plotter and VHF.  Sooooo much neater than NMEA0183!!!

Setting up the GPSmap451 to display boat speed, water depth, COG and SOG was easy.  That will be our main cockpit display instrument.  We'll be chart plotting on our iPads using our Vesper XB8000 AIS's WiFi hotspot.  The AIS is now the heart of our electronics system with NMEA2000 and WiFi feeding and distributing data.  Simple and effective.

View of Oban from the northern end of the harbour
We were very pleased with sorting out the electronics in a single afternoon.  We took a taxi into Oban where we checked-in to Corran House, our accommodation for the weekend.  Below the hostel is a nice cosy pub Markie Dan's.  Highly recommended and I especially enjoyed their Crofter's Platter (a Scottish Ploughmans').

Crofer's Platter
On Friday morning we took the bus to the marina.  We stopped for a minute in the marina office and while there a DHL delivery man arrived with our new heater.  Amazing coincidence.  We spent the day installing our Dickinson P9000 heater.

The simplest part was mounting the heater itself at the forward end of the saloon on the port side.  This located it under the hole in the coachroof once used for the chimney of a solid fuel heater - when the boat was Japanese and named Shirahae.  Since then there has been a mushroom vent filling the hole.  Back in 2011 while in Darwin we replaced the headlining and the new headliner had no hole for a chimney.

To fit the chimney we had to take down the Laminex headliner and cut the hole for the chimney.  Then back up with the headliner and fit the P9000's flue cap.  Finally we offered up the chimney pipe and found it was exactly the right length.  More happy coincidence!

Dickinson Heater showing chimney 
Dickinson Heater detail
We had previously met with the gas fitter who will extend our gas system to supply the heater.  Hopefully that will be done in time for our next visit when it will be considerably colder.  After a full day working aboard we returned to the hostel and had a quiet evening with a fish and chips take-away dinner.

We spent Saturday morning tidying up the boat and making her ready for winter.  The yard mechanic had winterised the engine when Zen Again was hauled out.  We went through the boat making sure all clothes, towels etc were stowed in sealed boxes or bags, all five low-power electric "tube" heaters were safely placed and working, and all tools oiled and stowed.

View of Oban from the ferry dock
View of Oban from southern end of the harbour
It was great spending a few short days on Zen Again.  And great to get so many jobs done.  We enjoyed exploring central Oban too.  On Saturday evening we took the coach south to Glasgow, stayed in an airport hotel overnight then flew south to Heathrow on Sunday morning.

Preparations for replacement of our standing rigging and main furler are now in place with Owen Sails.  They will also be tidying up our sails and boombag over the winter.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Readying for Winter at Dunstaffnage Marina

Hi everyone,
We have spent the last two days preparing Zen Again for her winter stay ashore at Dunstaffnage Marina.  Here are the items ticked off the to-do list:
  • Cleaned below decks
  • Cleaned and aired cockpit lockers
  • Emptied water from the void below the chain locker
  • Derigged, dried and stowed jib, staysail and mainsail
  • Derigged and stowed the boom and rodkicker
  • Cleaned, dried and stowed running rigging
  • Removed and stowed over a dozen blocks from toe rails, boom and mast foot
  • Stowed anchor below
  • Stowed outboard below
  • Stowed side dodgers below
  • Disconnected electrical cables and antenna feeds at base of mast

Zen Again ready for haul-out
Boom stowed
At the marina itself we have arranged for the boat to be lifted out, derigged and the engine winterised this month.  She will stay ashore until April.

We arranged for a gas fitter to visit us this afternoon.  We hope to extend our system to fit a heater (probably a Dickinson P9000).

We also arranged for Owen Sails to inspect our sails and store them over winter.  We hope they will also be able to replace our standing rigging and do various other rigging jobs.

Our depth sounder has been misbehaving over the last two weeks.  The Raymarine ST40 unit is very old.  One of our two old Garmin chartplotters is also misbehaving.  We'll be thinking about replacement and how best to optimise our instrumentation over the next month or two.

At Dunstaffnage we've enjoyed two great meals at The Wide Mouthed Frog hotel restaurant.  We may stay there when we visit.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Western Caledonian Canal and Beyond

Hi everyone,
Zen Again is safely berthed in Dunstaffnage Marina near Oban.  This will be Zen Again's winter home this year.

On Tuesday we motored from Laggan Locks to Banavie on the Caledonian Canal.  This involved travelling down Loch Lochy and then through several miles of canal.  Both were very scenic.  Banavie is at the top of Neptune's Staircase - a flight of eight locks down to sea level.  The weather was showery with occasional sunny spells.  While the rain was very chilly the sun was very warm indeed.  And the colours ashore when the sun came out were amazing.

View to NE from Laggan Locks
Laggan Lock
Loch Lochy 
Loch Lochy
At the southern end of Loch Lochy lies Gairlochy which is a very pretty spot.  We had to wait there for an hour while the lock keeper was on her lunch break.

Waiting for the lock at Gairlochy
While waiting Ocean Spirit of Moray arrived too.  We had been near them in Inverness Marina and it was good to see them again.  They are owned by the public school (ie private!) Gordonstoun but had a set of students from a state school aboard for a sailing adventure.

Company in Gairlochy Lock
The canal between Gairlochy and Banavie
Ben Nevis to port 
Alongside at top of Neptune's Staircase
On Wednesday morning we were up and in the lock at 0800 to begin the 90 minute descent.  Going down in locks is much easier since the water leaves the chamber which is more or less turbulence-free.
Corpach Sea Lock
We returned to sea water at Corpach Sea Lock and headed down Loch Linnhe.  Perhaps we should have sailed but the prospect of two full days to prepare Zen Again for the winter took precedence.
Loch Linnhe
Approaching Corran Narrows
A few "light showers"
We arrived at Dunstaffnage Marina at 1600.  Although our holiday has felt like a delivery at times we really enjoyed the 3 day sail to Inverness and the Caledonian Canal was fantastic.

We spent today preparing Zen Again for the winter.  More on that in tomorrow's post!