Sunday, 2 December 2018

Winter Maintenance in London #1

Hi everyone,
We've have now settled in at St Katharine Docks Marina in London.  Loving being back aboard Zen Again.  Also loving being in the centre of London - in the shadow of Tower Bridge.

Zen Again in the shadow of Tower Bridge
We have a lengthy list of maintenance work for this winter.  At the top was upgrading our AC mains and gas systems to meet local regulations.

Previously we attached an AC mains extension cord from the marina berth outlet to a power board which gave us several socket points and powered the battery charger.  Now we're spending so much time aboard - in winter - we need a "proper" AC mains system.  Early this year we had the boat surveyed.  One of the shortcomings noted was the lack of mains RCD and circuit breakers.  That's now fixed.

External mains power is now plugged-in just inside the companionway.  From there power is fed directly through a bulkhead into the back of the RCD/Breaker box.  The box provides one 16A and one 6A circuit.  We decided not to mount the connection outside since we wanted the box close to the inlet.

RCD and Circuit Breaker Box in companionway locker
Ready for Action
From the RCD/Breaker box the 16A circuit is fed back through the bulkhead to the galley.  The outlets there are specifically for high-current loads - kettle, hair drier and fan heater.

Mains Socket and 16A Circuit Outlets
The 6A circuit runs around the boat to all regular loads.  We have one dual outlet in the quarter berth and two at the pedestal (saloon table).  Also on this circuit are six permanently mounted and connected tube heaters. Each heater has a thermostat allowing it to be turned of locally.

The quarter berth outlet powers the dehumidifier which is on more-or-less 24/7 in winter.  Excellent in keeping the damp away.  Amazing how much water it produces!

Quarterberth Outlets
The pedestal outlets are used for various purposes including running the computer we brought aboard from our flat.  The top power board shown below has been held-over from the previous arrangement.
Pedestal (Saloon Table) 6A Outlets
The tube heaters keep the boat from getting too cold while we're not aboard.  We have two in the forepeak, two in the saloon and two in the engine bay.  The latter help ensure the engine doesn't freeze.
One of the 100W Tube Heaters in Saloon
Two 40W Tube Heaters in Forepeak
One of Two 40W Tube Heaters in Engine Bay

Another item on the to-do list was our gas system.  Our regulator was severely corroded and the solenoid valve was failing.  We've been battling US POL versus UK POL fitting issues ever since we arrived in the UK.  US hoses connect to UK bottles, but the reverse is not true.  Getting any type of gas bottle filled in the UK is difficult since everyone swaps them.

For the last 18 months we've been using local Calor Gas 3.9kg bottles.  Soon after arriving at SKD we decided to change to a much larger bottle.  We now have a 13kg bottle which should last at least a month given likely use of our Dickinson gas heater.  It fits in the bracket designed for our Australian 9kg bottles.

13kg Gas Bottle in pushpit bracket
UK Regulator
Sadly the UK gas fitter was unable to fit our spare solenoid.  So now our gas detector is only that - it used to control gas flow too.

Upcoming tasks on the to-do list include new upholstery, adding laminex panelling in various locations (including the instrument panel), relocating instruments and much, much more.  May need to be a long, cold winter to get it all done!

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Chatham to London

Hi everyone,
Last Friday evening we trained down to Chatham.  At 0700 on Saturday we locked out from Chatham Maritime Marina for our passage towards St Katharine's Dock in London.

Here are the usual plots for the passage...

Zen Again Track
Zen Again Speed
And here are the usual statistics...
  • Distances/Speeds
    • Route Distance = 51nm
    • GPS Distance = 53nm
    • Duration = 9 hours
    • Average ground speed = 5.9 kt
  • Weather
    • Minimum wind speed = 2 kt
    • Average wind speed = 15 kt
    • Maximum wind speed = 20 kt
    • Apparent wind angle range = 0 to 120
    • Seas up to 0.5m
    • Initially sunny, then increasingly cloudy.
  • Engine
    • Total = 4 hours
    • Driving = 4 hours
    • Charging = 0 hours

Initially the weather was very pleasant with a mostly clear sky and a light southerly breeze.  We motor-sailed down the Medway in the early morning light.

Approaching the lock in Chatham Maritime Marina
Heading down the Medway River at dawn
As we approached Sheerness at the mouth of the Medway we could sail in the 10-15 knot southerly.  We sailed around the Montgomery wreck before gybing and heading west.  We had a very nice sail up the Thames Estuary.

As the river narrowed and its meanders took us directly into the veered SW wind we returned to motoring.  By then the tide was flooding and we had over 3 knots of current with us.

Approaching the M25 Dartford Bridge 
Approaching the Thames Barrier
As we approached central London the river's meanders became more frequent.  The SW wind was increasing a little and funnelling along the river when it was aligned.  We had to keep a close eye on the high-speed ferries which whizzed past.

Approaching Tower Bridge
On arrival off St Katharine's we had to wait while a group of boats locked-out.  That involved slow circles while keeping a close eye on traffic.  It was a bit weird going around in circles so close to iconic Tower Bridge.

Locking-in was fairly straight-forward.  We were allocated a berth in the Eastern Basin.  The OCC's Port Officer and his wife were there to take our lines.

Entering St Katharine's Dock
Since arriving we've been busy sorting out the gear we moved aboard from our apartment.  We're also gradually stripping off sails and deck gear in preparation for winter.  We're enjoying SKD and it's fantastic not having to commute by train every day!

Monday, 8 October 2018

Ramsgate to Chatham

Hi everyone,
Yesterday we had a fun sail from Ramsgate to Chatham.  We trained down from London on Friday evening.  During the week we remotely oversaw an engine service following our engine problems described in the preceding post.

Here are the usual plots for the passage...

Zen Again Track
Zen Again Speed
The speed shows we held the morning's flood tide well.  Then as the tide turned against us in the Medway the increased wind helped overcome it.

And here are the usual statistics...

  • Distances/Speeds
    • Route Distance = 45nm
    • GPS Distance = 45nm
    • Duration = 9 hours
    • Average ground speed = 5.0 kt
  • Weather
    • Minimum wind speed = 2 kt
    • Average wind speed = 12 kt
    • Maximum wind speed = 22 kt
    • Apparent wind angle range = 0 to 150
    • Seas up to 1m
    • Initially sunny, then foggy, then misty with rain.
  • Engine
    • Total = 4 hour
    • Driving = 4 hours
    • Charging = 0 hours

We departed Ramsgate at 0645 after an early morning engine check.  We were followed out of the harbour by HMS Puncher, an Archer class patrol vessel.

There was a very light NW wind so we motored north towards North Foreland, regularly checking the bilge!  It was a beautiful sunny morning and it was nice watching the sun rise and seeing the coast lit by the dawn light.

Just another sunrise (with HMS Puncher)
As we passed North Foreland the wind picked up a little and the visibility steadily degraded.  We motor-sailed into the gentle NW breeze as the fog reduced visibility to 200m.  We kept a sharp lookout in addition to monitoring AIS, hopping from bouy to bouy as we approached the Princes Channel.  We had our tricolour lit for the rest of the passage.

On entering the Princes Channel we "tacked" and were able to get some help from the wind.  Visibility improved to about 1nm.  The wind gradually increased and backed to NNW.  We passed several east-bound ships.  We talked with one of them on VHF to agree which side we'd pass - red to red in this case.

By the time we passed into the main channel we had killed the donk and we having a great sail.  It was a little chilly though!  Visibility had improved to 1-2nm.  A set of commercial traffic kept us busy, including a very large container vessel which had his very loud fog horn going regularly.  We had a quick chat on London VTS channel 69 with the pilot conning her.

Shivering Sand WW2 Forts
It was fun sailing past two of the WW2 forts we used to race to from the Medway when sailing with my uncle in the 1980s.

Red Sand WW2 Forts
In the main channel we had a nice 15-18 knot NNW breeze and were cracking off into the Medway approach channel.  We stayed just out of the channel, passing the famous sunken WW2 Liberty Ship Montgomery - still full of ammo!

It was great fun sailing back into the Medway and passing so many landmarks I remember from the "old days".  We had a great sail up the river, gradually shedding sail as the wind increased and it started to rain.  And rain.  And rain.

As we sailed further up the river we passed through several racing fleets.  Reminded me of sailing home to Fremantle Sailing Club after a weekend at Rottnest Island.  Except for the opaque water, muddy shore, poor visibility, rain and cold!!  Very cold.

We arrived at Chatham Maritime Marina at 1545.  We were lifted about 4 metres in the lock and they're not shy about pouring the water in!  The floating dock with many cleats and wood battens makes it a simple operation.

In the lock at Chatham Maritime Marina
In the pen
After drying off and tidying up we explored the surrounding area before in the rain.  The development around the marina has lots of apartments, shops and eateries.  We had dinner at the Ship and Trade pub/hotel/restaurant.

This morning dawned with clear sunny skies.  We spent the morning drying out our gear.  We then headed into Chatham and walked to Rochester to explore the area where I spent much of my childhood.  The Medway towns certainly seem a brighter and cleaner place than I recall - great to see.

Rochester Cathedral
Rochester Castle
We had lunch at the Ye Arrow pub.  Their beer garden has a great view - see above photo!

The Pub
From there we walked down to the Medway river and across the bridge.  The bridge was reconstructed in 1914.  It is ornately decorated.
Rochester Bridge
We're now looking forward to the last leg to St Katharine's Dock in London.