Over six months in…….is it what we expected?
Taking the decision to sell up, buy a boat, and sail around the world, was one of the scariest and yet most exciting times in my life…. all sorts of questions flurried around in my mind:
“Is this the right decision?”
“We have stayed on boats before, but living full time on one….. will we be comfortable?”
“How will we cope with living in a relatively small space?”
“Will we be able to sail such a large & powerful boat?”
“Will it be easy to have friends and family stay?”
“How are we going to downsize our possessions to fit in a 40ft boat?”
“What will it be like seeing out bad weather both on the dock and out at sea..?”
This is but a fraction of the things I would ask myself everyday in the run up to ‘moving day’ ….. it seems like just yesterday and yet here we are more than 6 months in…. we are sat here in the Salon (Living Room) warm and cozy, cup of tea in hand and it feels like this has always been home.
Neither of us had ever imagined that this boat and the full time live-aboard lifestyle would be this comfortable or as fulfilling as it has been.
Flashback to April -
Moving day arrived and it was cold - even though it was the end of April, spring was yet to have sprung…
The boat was on the ‘hard’ in her cradle and the only way to describe living on a boat in this state, is that it feels like living in a house on stilts!
We had two weeks before ‘launch day’, when we would actually get to see our boat in the water for the first time, and we had a lot of ‘out of water’ jobs to complete before then. But, in the meantime we didn’t want to commission the kitchen or water tanks, with the extra weight that would add to her whilst in her cradle, which made living aboard a bit awkward, but we are very lucky with the facilities available at the marina.
Sleeping aboard whilst in the cradle also made for some rather bizarre dreams - with her big wing mast, even bare poles, she would feel like she was squirming around in the cradle! It was also cold at night if we didn’t run the heating…..
Once launched and in the water there was an immediate difference! The boat was warmer at night - in the cradle the cold wind could whistle up through the keel box - once in the water that stopped, also the water temperature never really gets below 10 degrees in April, so suddenly half of the boat was ‘blanketed’ from the cold wind by the water.
Also, being back in the water meant we could finally commission the water system and kitchen …. so we could start to really make the boat feel like home and start to live quite normally. The marina is so sheltered and with the boat having a deep, heavy keel, her centre of gravity is so low that the boat barely moves at all and what little movement there is we have stopped feeling. Now we joke that the only way we know the boat is moving, is that the fruit and veg net starts to swing!
The master cabin onboard, otherwise known as our bedroom, is incredible - the bed is palatial and the original owner John spared no expense when it came to the mattresses!
So one of the worries I had had about moving onboard, “would we be comfortable sleeping onboard?” was quickly quashed when on the first night aboard we slept like logs! It was the first time we had both slept straight through the night in years!
The house we moved out of in Bristol was lovely and we were very very lucky to have had the privilege of owning it, but we had always pined for an open plan living space, and the separate kitchen away from the living and dining room always felt quite anti-social.
So as we settled in aboard, we quickly fell in love with main salon and galley area, we finally had our open plan living! It is the heart of the boat where everyone comes together to cook, relax, and work.
The galley (Kitchen) is along the starboard side of the salon and is quite spacious for a 40 ft boat and it’s position in the boat is what makes it super comfortable to be in whilst at sea.
The galley is directly opposite the keel box structure which splits the Salon area in two, most specifically the oven is directly in line with the keel - which means that when conditions get ‘nautical’ it’s a comfortable place to be as the boat moves the least around the keel.
The other feature we absolutely love is the HUGE windows in the coach roof! They let in an incredible amount of light - more than I have ever experienced in a monohull! The other advantage to the huge windows is that where ever you look, you always have a horizon to look at when out sailing - as even seasoned sailors know, having a horizon to look at whilst ‘down below’ is the key to keeping sea sickness at bay!
(Conor) “I have to say Sarah has made some amazing meals while underway even in big seas and she has been perfectly fine! Having good hot food is a definite moral booster for long journeys, as I’m sure many cruisers would agree - so to say we love the galley onboard would be an understatement!"
The guest cabin / fore cabin / guest bedroom, whatever you choose to call it, with it’s own head (toilet) has proved ideal for visitors and we have already had lots of friends and family stay with us over the last six plus months and it's worked out really well. As we head off, this will be the space that hosts visiting scientists, academics, family and friends and it’s worked out perfectly so far!
When we made the decision to follow our dream of moving to a live aboard lifestyle, we knew that it would bring an element of freedom and that our quality of life would improve, but, in no way did I think it would come in such quantity…..
We are definitely both happier, healthier and way more relaxed - we both get way more fresh air and sunshine than we probably ever did - living on a boat forces you connect with the space around you in a way that you seldom do in a land based life - especially when you are out sailing or in an anchorage - sitting outside surrounded by nature and wildlife and watching sunsets and sunrises from aboard a boat is truly magical and food for the soul!
We are still learning and adapting to life as live aboards - like finding the best way to store food and clothes, especially now that we are into the colder, damp, very British, winter months - but it is all part of the learning curve and the experience!
But, six months in we feel like this is now well and truly our home! We are very comfortable and we certainly want for nothing! All those worries and questions that had previously flurried in my mind have been blown away!
We have both already had experiences and made memories that will be treasured forever and this is only the beginning…….
It's pretty late in the season to be doing a channel crossing for sure - but with our friend Simon’s 50th birthday coming up, Conor and I had been conspiring with his wife Jo for months to find something fun to do together for a week! So when we made the decision to sell up and buy Given Time, we immediately knew we had to go sailing for the week! But where…..
It’s hard to set any plans in stone when it comes to sailing, as it all depends on, wind direction & strength, sea state, weather, time to destination, achievable boat speed, how long you want to be sailing for….. the list goes on…. so in the months leading up we discussed lots of potential routes/destinations to give us as much flexibility as possible, but it would all come down to the few days before we were due to leave when the weather forecast would be reasonably stable, to make our decision…
With two/three weeks to go before departure the weather was truly miserable! One night in the marina saw gusts in excess of 40+ knots, the boat being blown around enough to shift stuff in the kitchen cupboards! If the weather didn’t start behaving itself what were we going to have to deal with on our trip!
Eyes glued to every weather channel/app/forecast we watched as front after front blew in and brought yet more miserable weather….. then with a week to go, the weather forecast showed something of a minor miracle… not only was there good weather coming, but the wind direction was going to be completely in our favour for a hop, skip and a jump across the channel !!
Now our eyes were still glued to every weather forecast, but in a squinty ‘I kinda don’t want to look’ peek through your fingers kinda way! Please don’t change!
Two days to go and Simon flew off to a business conference, this gave Jo, Conor & I some breathing room to get the boat ready and go provision the boat for the week - Jo grabbed her & Simon’s sailing kit from their boat ‘Don’t Panic’ and met us at the supermarket ….. provisioning done we took everything back to Given Time - I think at this point we were all relieved we’d managed to keep the plan under wraps and that in 24hrs Simon would be picked up from the airport and the adventure/celebrations could begin!
Sunday night and a text came in from Jo, she had picked up Simon from the airport and they were on their way, then…..
Jo - ‘Here. In Car Park’
Sarah - ‘YAY!’
Jo - ‘Blindfolded’
Sarah - ‘😂😂😂😂’
Jo had blindfolded Simon as they had left the airport - the plan, after all this time keeping it a secret, wasn’t going to be given away that easily!
Conor went to meet them in the car park and helped lead Simon towards the pontoons ….. much to the amusement of the security guard! and right up to the point the blindfold came off he really wasn't sure where he was….. plan perfectly executed!
Once aboard we had a late supper, some drinks and it was off to bed because we had to be up early if we were to get across to Cherbourg before it got properly dark!
Monday dawned bright, crisp and cold with just a light breeze from the north - we slipped the lines, set off down the Lymington river and emerged into the Solent.
Sails hoisted, engine off, breakfast cooking, we headed towards The Needles - I love sailing through this stretch of the Solent - when you are leaving the Solent it gives you a chance to get your sailing muscles stretched and enough time to get excited about the journey ahead whilst in a familiar, friendly and frankly stunning setting!
Clearing the Needles, we turned due south - next stop, Cherbourg!
With 6 knots of wind behind us we furled away our ‘working’ jib (fore sail) and hoisted the larger drifter but with the wind right behind us were only making 4 knots through the water - this was no good as we still had 60 miles to run and that would make for a very late arrival!
Time to deploy ‘BIG RED’
Big Red is our large asymmetric and is twice as big as the drifter! So with 6 knots of wind being right in the middle of it’s wind range - once deployed our apparent wind speed went up, the wind came onto the beam and we were quickly clipping along at 9 - 10 knots boat speed in just 6 knots of true wind …. which is just incredible!
(Ok, the above sounds like greek if your not a sailor, and I admit it was the same for me up until a few years ago so let me explain….. imagine you’re about to go for a run - your true wind, is the wind speed and direction you would feel if you were stood still, so imagine that it’s blowing from behind you - now when you start running, the wind feels like it’s blowing more from the front/side, that’s because your now pushing through the air and generating your own wind. This is the same principle that occurs in sailing, but when this happens it’s called your apparent wind and it is a combination of both the true wind speed/direction and the wind speed generated from the boat moving through the water and it makes it appear that the wind speed/direction has changed/moved)
(the ‘beam’ just refers to the mid point on the side of the boat)
With ‘Big Red’ doing its thing, our slow start was quickly forgotten we were able to sit back and enjoy the wonder that is sailing a boat that goes faster than the true wind - even when the wind dropped to 4 knots we were still making over 7 knots through the water - amazing and a true credit to the incredible team that designed and built GIVEN TIME.
There is no traffic separation scheme ( think of it as motorway lanes for cargo ships ) directly between the Needles fairway marker and the Cherbourg breakwater - but the shipping traffic tends to stay in what would have been their lane and follow the same path from one separation scheme to another. As you get closer to these ‘motorway lanes’ you have to watch the horizon - because the ships you can see in front of you won’t be the problem - It’s the ones you can’t see yet, as they are travelling at up to 20 knots and they will creep up on you!
Now 20 knots is about 23mph, which seems like a snails pace in driving terms…. but, these things can be anywhere between 250-500m long and weigh 70,000+ tons - they take miles to stop and aren’t easy to manoeuvre/change direction, so you really do not want to be in the way when one of these things come through!
AIS (Automatic Identification System) gives you information on a vessels speed and heading - our plotter also gives us a CPA (Closest Point of Approach) i.e if neither of you change course or speed how close will you get! (Ideally you want to be at least a couple of miles apart!)
In the Solent you can be reasonably sure that most vessels are keeping a good watch and the reality is that in a relatively small cruising area, merchant vessels and cruisers get quite close to each other as a matter of course. Ironically, mid-channel with way more room, it's actually more dangerous. Many vessels set a course and only periodically check the horizon or set alarms based on AIS CPA or Radar track CPA - So you can never assume you have been seen!
As we got closer to the shipping lanes all of us were on heightened alert, closely watching vessels through the binoculars and on the AIS system. We were set to get very close to a few, anything less than 1/2 mile when they are doing 15 - 20 Knots and we were doing 10 Knots, is too close! We had to make several big changes to our heading to help increase the CPA - frustratingly one vessel showing an initial 50 yard CPA, still showed 50 yards even after a big heading change - in short - we had made a big change to go behind him and at exactly the same time he had made a change to go behind us - the net effect was cancelled out!
With a good 10 minutes before our closest CPA we held a steady course and he again made a change to go behind us. On Given Time we have a standing rule that we make early and obvious changes of course to avoid other traffic especially in heavy shipping areas. If we still look close with less than five minutes to go then we get on the VHF radio have a chat so, 1: You know they have seen you and 2: To let them know what your intentions are.
Clear of all the East and West bound ‘shipping lanes’ we could now concentrate on our entrance to Cherbourg - 20 miles out and France popped up on the horizon and with 10miles still to go the Cherbourg breakwater appeared - today’s visibility was very very good!
With the wind coming round to the South West we dropped Big Red and set our heading so that our track, including tide, had us arriving just right of the westbound entry of the breakwater.
As the sun said it’s goodbye for the day, it seemed to take an age for the Navigation lights in Cherbourg Harbour to come on!
When they eventually switched on, they were incredibly difficult to pick out amongst the myriad of lights in Cherbourg Town! Bright red brake lights of those sat at traffic lights & the bright green Pharmacy signs within the city, were constantly trying to lure our tired eyes away from the red & green lights of the harbour!
Safely into our Marina, now we had the task of trying to tie up the boat to what seemed like the worlds SMALLEST & LOWEST finger pontoons…. Conor had the job of guiding the boat into the space whilst the rest of us handled the lines - Conor said he did get a little freaked out when I went to ‘step’ off the boat onto the finger pontoon and I just kept disappearing over the side, ending up with me hanging off of Simon’s arm just to reach the pontoon! No Joke ….
Once tied up and checked-in, we tucked into a late dinner and all of us crawled into our beds!
The next morning we woke up and summer had returned! for traveling 60 miles south the weather was waaaay warmer, so much so, we had to dig out the old shorts again! Woohoo!
We ate breakfast in the cockpit, soaking up the Sun’s rays - aaah you’ve no idea how much we were tempted to just keep on heading south !!
Tuesday and Wednesday ( aka Simons Birthday ) were brilliant! We had so much fun in what is a great place for cruisers to visit! Cherbourg Town has lots of lovely places to eat and drink - plus I got to go explore the supermarket, Carrefour! I love european supermarkets, especially the incredible choice when it comes to fruit & veg!
Once in the supermarket the aim was to gather the last few bits for Simon’s birthday, we bought some lovely bread, cheese and grapes, and the finishing touches for the cake we had planned to bake. Now, I’m Gluten Intolerant, so I always keep Gluten free alternatives stashed on board, so, I’d said to Jo that I already had a GF cake mix on the boat that we could quickly whip up and shove in the oven - queue to baking time, when I pull out the box and realise that I have actually picked up GF cookie mix …… what a numpty! Oh well, we made it work, and Simon had a GIANT 50th birthday cookie - Happy Birthday Simon!
After two days of celebrations and partying, we had our eye on getting back to Blighty for the weekend! So we set off early Thursday morning to make the crossing back.
Again the wind was from directly behind us, but stronger and set to increase, then due to come around to the North West as we went across.
Leaving Cherbourg breakwater we were greeted with some very confused and lumpy seas, the sun had decided to hide behind thick clouds and rain was visible on the horizon - not sure we were going to have the ‘Champagne’ sailing we treated to on the way over!
In weather like this when the wind is shifty due to various weather fronts pushing through, it’s always tempting to put out more sail to increase your boat speed and help stabilise the boat in the lumpy seas - but then a rain front comes through, brings high winds gusts with it and you would be so glad you didn’t!
Eight uncomfortable hours later with the sun setting in the west, the Needles came into view! We had timed our journey just right and arrived at the entrance to the Solent just as the tide switched and started ripping through the Hurst Narrows, hurtling us through with it!
Tired from the rough crossing, the entry to Lymington was a welcome sight but with a moonless night it was frankly hard and I hate to think how many yachts have fallen foul of the string of lights that greet you as you look down the channel! Even as our home port, and having done the entry many times before, at night it is a completely different ball game and we all found it challenging.
We got Given Time back alongside in her own berth and put her to bed - Luckily, Jo and myself had made dinner before we left Cherbourg, so all we had to do was heat it up and tuck in!
Although this wasn’t the first time we had completed a long passage or crossed the channel - this was the first time we had done both of these things in Given Time, and all I can say is she behaved in the most graceful way, handling the weather conditions beautifully.
In light winds and slight seas, she picked up and flew, travelling faster than the wind! and in high winds and confused seas, she took it all in her stride - it was still uncomfortable for the squishy organic human components, but I would not have wanted to be out there in anything else!
For most, including me, the thought of sailing anywhere in the dark can be daunting ….. as navigating becomes harder …. there are more dangers, more risks….. which is true, but with a bit of preparation, care and having taken the time to get to know your boat, sailing at night is a truly magical experience that you will never forget!
The beginning of this month brought us the Annual Bournemouth Air Show - having heard rave reviews about the previous years displays, it gave us the perfect excuse to hoist the sails, head back to Studland Bay and watch the display from one of our favourite anchorages!
We invited our amazing friends Simon & Jo along for the weekend and decided to set off on the Friday evening for what would be a cracking night sail!
We slipped the lines just after 7pm, made our way down the Lymington River just as the Sun was starting to say its farewell for the day, then as we emerged into the Solent we were treated to the most incredible fiery sunset that burned with an intense glow…. at this point there was only a whisper of wind and there wasn’t much forecasted for the night ahead either - but with tide in our favour we hoisted the sails and turned off the motor!
Heading towards the hurst narrows the wind built slightly (as it always does) and the night really started to creep in with just a hint of sunlight still coming from the far west - but with an almost Full Moon casting the most brilliant ‘night light’, the reality is you can still see quite a bit and all your other senses really come to life!
Through the narrows and approaching the Needles our night took a surprising twist!
(Keeping a good look out means also looking behind you too!)
As we looked back down the Solent towards Cowes we could see swathes of Red Lights (navigation lights) - we all looked at each other and said ‘are they really all navigation lights’ - because when we had emerged from the Lymington River, there was only ourselves and a couple of other boats for as far as the eye could see!
However, unbeknown to us, this was the day of the RORC Cherbourg night race!
and they were sneaking up fast behind us!
It was a beautiful sight as we watched this sea of navigation lights get closer and closer.
It’s always nice to be overtaken by a fast race boat, carrying full sail & fully powered up - and with the last of the sunlight disappearing - these huge race boats were just majestic as they silently glided past with all their racing crew perched on the rails!
Cold racers perhaps not thrilled at the incredible smell of dinner emanating from our galley (kitchen) Sarah was busy rustling up a delicious dinner of roast mackerel, roast vegetables and rice!
So out came the cameras and we did our best to capture what we could of the Race fleet.
We continued along the deep water channel that leads you clear of the solent staying firmly between the red and green channel markers and once clear of those we made our turn right towards Studland.
Having left the shelter of the Solent the wind quickly built to over 20 knots (not forecasted) and with a two metre plus swell, we decided it would be safest to put a first reef in the main sail.
To explain: when you reef a sail, you are reducing the size/surface area of the sail - you do this in strong winds to take some of the pressure off of the mast, rigging & boat. You can sometimes find that your boat speed will increase even though you’ve reduced sail as the boat will be better balanced and more well behaved.
And that is what happened for us - having reefed we were still clipping along upwind at 7.5 knots through the water, taking waves over the bow!
Looking back towards the Needles lighthouse we could still see the RORC race fleet strung out over many miles, heading off South in the dark with a bright moon and stars above - What a great night for a race!
With an incredibly clear night it wasn't long before we could see the anchor lights of boats anchored in Studland Bay, even though we were still over 8 miles away.
As the wind was blowing from the North West, the closer we got to Studland, the main land offered more protection from the wind and the sea state began to drop, making things less wet and more comfortable.
A couple of short tacks helped us get to where we wanted to be and we were soon crossing the Poole channel, engine on and almost ready to anchor.
It's never ideal to anchor in the dark, but this was a familiar, favourite spot and we knew from experience where the good holding was. It was a nice clear night with plenty of moon light, the moon casting it’s beady eye upon the boats which hadn't bothered with an anchor light…..
Sarah went to the front of the boat to get our 20kg Rocna anchor ready to drop from the bow (we also have a back up Fortress and a small Bruce on a tape real for kedging etc so GIVEN TIME is well equipped in the Anchoring department!)
Having taken longer than usual, Sarah came back to the cockpit, "No windlass" (the windlass is an electric motor that grabs the anchor chain and rotates to either drop or pick up the anchor)
Simon took the helm and I nipped below to make sure the switches and breakers were all in the right place - frustratingly they were all correct, which meant something was broken…
Coming back on deck I went to the bow with Sarah and tried reconnecting the windless remote - still nothing….
As we had sailed across in big seas, waves had been crashing over the bow and we had taken a lot of green water (sea water) over the bow. All I could think was that sea water had gotten in somewhere sea water shouldn't!
A few mutterings under my breath later, I had pulled about 20 metres of chain through the windlass, by hand, and we dropped the anchor in the planned position! Phew!
Sarah set the Anchor alarm, then we all went inside for a well deserved cup of tea and collapsed into our beds.
Morning broke with clear sky's and bright sunshine and it was warm from early on. We made breakfast and had a cup of tea and the sun felt really good!
We were excited to watch the Red Arrows, who were lined up to start Saturdays entertainment at the Air Show - and they didn’t disappoint! We have seen them quite a few times before, but we are always blown away by the skills the Red Arrows pilots have, truly amazing!
With a gap in the Air Show entertainment, Simon and I gathered up the tools and went to see what was ailing the anchor windless. One of the things we had already fixed before launching in May was the windless control, as it had been picked up in the original survey. The line to the thermal cut out inside the motor was badly corroded and at the time we had debated moving the windlass controls inside the forward head (bathroom), but with a long list of other jobs at the time, we repaired what was corroded and decided to move the controls at a later date.… jobs like this have a habit of reminding you that it’s ‘still on the to-do list’, at the most inconvenient of times!
I climbed into the anchor locker, took the cover off the little ‘waterproof’ box which held all the wiring, and there was my answer, staring me right in the face…. Sea water had gotten in and had completely dissolved one of the connection posts that the control wires attach to…. grrrr, but on the plus side at least it was an easy fix for now and I didn't have to spend hours chasing Electrical Pixies around the boat!
Once fixed (all be it temporary) we tested the windlass and all was good….. We wouldn't have to pull up the 20kg anchor & the 20metres of chain up by hand when it was time to leave!
As a post boat work treat, we decided to take advantage of the sunny warm weather and clear water in the bay ‘rare combo in the UK’ and have a swim!
With the water so clear it was the first time we had been able to dive on the Anchor and see how she was set…. sat in a patch of sand our Rocna was dug in well!
After a brilliant day relaxing and swimming, we were all far too chilled, so planned to stay another night.
We knew the weather was due to build a little through the night and into the next day for our journey back, with the wind due to switch to a South Westerly - so we should have been nicely protected in the bay overnight… but, the ocean had better ideas and the swell was wrapping around the headland and into the bay, turning our boat into somewhat of a washing machine!
The anchor alarm Sarah had set, had also squawked a few times during the night … the wind and sea swell had forced the anchor chain tight and as we swung around with the change in wind direction, the Anchor had also flipped around and reset - so the boat just tripped outside the warning perimeter on the alarm - sending Sarah’s adrenaline gland into overdrive - she then altered the perimeter alarm to compensate but by then she said goodbye to the prospect of sleep!
By 4am, the waves had built and they were crashing all around us, so a good nights sleep was not had by all!
Despite our lack of sleep, we all had to be up relatively early on the Sunday morning so that we could ‘work’ the tides at the entrance to the Solent - otherwise we would be fighting a rather large current!
The wind had built to over 20 knots overnight, so we decided to set off with the first reef in the main and hoisted it before we pulled up anchor, this was the safer and easier option as we were still in the relative shelter of the anchorage.
Once ready we picked up the anchor (with a working windlass!) and we set course for the solent channel entry at the Needles.
Out of the relative shelter of the bay, we were thrust into some rather large waves and sailing directly across them at about 50 degrees to the apparent wind.
Sailing on just the main sail, even with a first reef taken, we were whizzing along at more than nine knots….. Simon was at the helm and Jo, Sarah and I were huddled under the cockpit screen chatting away, when one rather large wave crashed over the front of the boat and came hurtling towards us at the back of the boat!
“Woohooohoo, that was huge" said Jo, forgetting that we were nicely protected under the canopy, we all looked back at a now very soggy Simon, who was just laughing, having taken the wave right in the face!
GIVEN TIME was again remarkably well behaved sailing across the prevailing waves and with the windward ballast tank filled we were sailing fast and flat. In a little over an hour we were at the Needles and ready to head back into the Solent.
Having had a rough nights sleep and taking a bit longer to leave the anchorage, we were a bit behind in our goal of reaching the Needles before 10.30am, not by much, but enough that the tide had started to switch.
So with wind blowing against the direction of the tide, some mighty waves had formed… which made for some fun ‘surfing’ as we came back through into the Solent. YeeHaaaw!
By the time we reached the Lymington River, the rain had been pouring for quite sometime, leading to some very cold and soggy sailors! So the moment we were back on the dock we were straight round the local pub, for a pub grub lunch (thanks, Jo!)
Each time we take the boat out in new and more challenging conditions, she just seems to shrug it off - Given Time is truly remarkable which just adds to our growing confidence in her!
We just can’t wait to do some more night sailing and are planning some longer 24+ hour journeys to start to develop the watch keeping practices we will need next year when we set off.
If you are a keen sailor and have never experienced the beauty and excitement of a night sail… make sure you do! It is a truly magical experience you will treasure forever!
During our little break in the summer holidays, whilst on the Isle of Wight, like many, we were drawn to the beach - there is nothing like a bracing walk, breathing in lungs full of sea air, then finding a nice little spot to sit down and listen to the waves crashing up the beach!
However on our little trip to the beach, Brook Bay on the IOW, our bracing walk turned into a litter pick …..
In our already hectic lives, we all too often find ourselves rushing around, trying to keep the many plates of modern life spinning - so, as consumers we are generally looking for convenience, we don’t have time to stop and think about why our ‘get the day started’ Cappuccino always comes served with a plastic lid, or think about how our take out lunch is packaged or why our supermarket fruit and veg is always perfectly displayed behind a veil of see through plastic…
The world is also jam packed full of brands, all competing for our attention, all desperately trying to get us to buy THEIR product and these companies generally do this by luring us in with their sleek packaging…..
The type of packaging that Manufacturers insist on using, is the type that is easy and cheap to make to help keep their profit margins high!
Crisp packets for example, are non recyclable (foil plastic hybrid) and also highly persistent once in the marine environment!
Could crisps not come in paper that was 100% biodegradable so if (when) some of that packaging ends up in the environment, it can break down and be harmless?
A drive for plastic free aisles in UK supermarkets is truly welcome, as the only winner on plastic covered vegetables, is the supermarket! They spend 5p on a plastic container, place fruit or vegetables in it, then charge you the consumer a £1 more for the product - value add, nice easy profit - and we play to it because we are all too busy and it’s easier/faster to pick up 4 apples in a plastic container, rather than have to pick 4 apples up individually. Also, these products are carefully placed in high traffic, optimum eye line areas, so that you are more likely to pick them up - supermarket psychology (a whole other can of worms)
Perfectly sized fruit and vegetables in single use plastic are only about profit margins and not about good products or sustainable practices.
Back to Brook Bay, we did our best to pick up as many items as we could carry off the beach and took pictures as we came across them. The UK products were either washed down river, washed up from other coastal areas or left by visitors to this particular beach.
Wave and UV action will eventually break these items down ( taking up to 450 years for a plastic bottle ) but all that means is that they become smaller micro plastics that get into the food chain - just because you can’t see it any more doesn't mean it isn't there! And doing huge damage!
The blue bottle pictured here, found at Totland beach, this time on the North (Solent) side of the Island, had clearly been in the water a very, very long time. Weed and crustacean growth, as well as it being partially broken down, shows a bottle which is part way though becoming entirely micro plastic.
Let's be clear, plastic is not the enemy, it’s a useful manufacturing material that when used responsibly can provide long life products that at the end of their life can be recycled and used again.
It's single use, throw away plastic that's the problem and in our busy lives we have developed throw away culture - because once we can’t see it anymore, it no longer is a problem to us ….. this is part of the wider issue and we as a planet need to come together to deal with this before we destroy our environment & ourselves!
Anything with a short use - like a straw for example with an average use time of 12 seconds before being thrown away or this plastic Costa Coffee lid we found - shouldn't it be made of an entirely biodegradable material? Paper perhaps?
Only we can start to force the change with the choices that we make and I know it’s hard to when we are all so busy.
So, start small - if you like to indulge yourself in a take out coffee, rather than use a throw away cup that is only promoting the brand, treat yourself to a re-usable thermal cup, but get one in your favourite colour or with a design that you love so that when you go get your caffeine kick, it makes you smile! You’ll also get a little kick out of knowing you’ve made a little step in helping to change the planet too!
Or when you are at the supermarket - don’t play their game, play your own - do you really need a bumper plastic bag of apples or a full plastic punnet of mushrooms? Pick your own and you’ll only pick as many as you need - because lets face it, how many of us end up throwing away excess food that has gone off, all because we’ve been conveniently sold it in bulk, all whilst being charged for the privilege of doing so.
Next time you are out walking, whether it be on a beach, in the countryside, or in a major city - if you see litter, pick up what you can and dispose of it but take pictures of where you find it, we will soon have a link you can post the pictures to with the location of what you find - perhaps together we can start to educate the big brands that their packaging persisting in the environment is not okay and they need to do something about it.
Conor & Sarah x
After an incredible start to the summer, as the schools began to break up for their holidays the rain came, it turned cooler and the Sun jumped on a plane and ran off on its holidays! Typical! However a few weeks later the Sun returned, made its apologies and has been trying to make up for it ever since!
With the holidays also came some enforced downtime for the crew of Given Time - with everyone off, everything slows down - but with lots of family visits booked over the coming weeks, we decided to take advantage of this and have a little break.
As many of you can probably relate to, when you live and work in an area, you can be a bit blinkered to all the tourist attractions and places to explore around you, as you are generally caught up in the day to day grind - but, having family or friends come to visit is brilliant, as it forces you to stop, take a breath and go explore with them!
My Mum and Dad, came to visit us for a few days, it was their first chance to see the boat since we had moved aboard - and with the first ‘champagne’ sailing day we had seen forecast in weeks, Mum and Dad came straight out for a lovely day sail on the Solent!
We then continued the week in true tourist style! We took the ferry across to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight, and jumped on the ‘Needles Breezer’ open top bus tour! We LOVE an open top bus tour, if you’ve never experienced an open top bus tour, add it to your bucket list now! Although one piece of advice, if you ever find yourself on the ‘Needles Breezer’ make sure you sit on the right hand side of the bus, Starboard side for all you sailors 😉 - you’ll thank me later!
During our touristy bus tour we stopped at Alum Bay & the Needles Battery -
The multi coloured sands of Alum bay are truly lovely and even in the crowds of summer it is a beautiful bay, with clear water and sheltered from the prevailing wind! It just so happens to be an anchorage too, so we plan on going back in Given Time very soon. But it was nice to sit on the beach, soak up some sun, close our eyes and listen to the waves wash the pebbles up and down the beach.
The Needles Old Battery, as well as getting you the closest view of the Needles from Land, also gives you some of the most stunning views of the Solent and the Hampshire/New Forest coast line. It is well worth the National Trust entry fee!
You can even ‘time travel’ - the tearoom within the Battery takes you back to WW2, with the staff dressed in 1940’s attire and papers of the time for you to read - you can also sit and enjoy 270 degree vista of the solent from your seat - we even caught sight of a pod Dolphins playing in the waves!
Once family visits were over, we were ready for some quality time together.
The August Bank Holiday weekend was approaching and like all us Brits, you are almost scared to even look at the weather forecast in case you jinx it - British bank holidays generally come with a bad weather guarantee! But for once the forecast was for a hot and sunny weekend! (queue the supermarket sweep on all things BBQ)
So we checked the tides and set our alarm clock for 4:30am on the Friday. You quickly learn when cruising an area with strong tides that to get anywhere fast, you need to work the tide, not the day!
Friday - 04:29……04:30 BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP ! neither of us had slept well and full grumpiness ensued! We tried our best not to wake our neighbours as we slipped out of the marina before 5 am with the first hint of light appearing from the East. By the time we cleared the Lymington channel and entered the main Western Solent, we were treated to one of the most incredible sun rises! Our frowns were promptly turned upside down and we caught ourselves giggling with delight! It is one of the blessings of this cruising life, that we are just starting out on, to see the magic that is dawn and dusk happen each day and it is especially magical on the water in a way that you just never see on land. We made our way out through the Hurst Narrows, past the Needles lighthouse and then turned right towards Studland Bay. A breeze built sufficiently that we were able to get the sails up and make 4 knots enjoying warm sun. We were both excited to be out of the Solent and heading to a new anchorage.
A rolling green hillside, white cliffs and clear water greeted us at Studland. In four metres of water we were still able to see the bottom, which is unusual for UK waters. Lumpy when there is any Easterly element in the wind, (which there was the day we arrived) so it was a bit more rolly than we were used to, but the sun was out and we were able to swim, sunbathe and enjoy what Mother Nature was finally offering.
By evening the sea and wind had calmed down - the day visitor boats had left, leaving the anchorage much quieter and having first set a good anchor alarm app, we had a great nights sleep!
Waking up to sunshine in a beautiful anchorage is never going to get old! We had a nice breakfast followed by a swim - Conor took the time to clean the boats water line and with clear water was able to dive under the boat to check the propeller and the keel for the first time since we launched. The prop had started to grow some barnacles, but they easily came off with a scraper.
The copper coat anti-foul on the hull and keel is holding up really well, with a few odd patches growing longer weed, which easily cleaned off and the vast majority just having a thin coating of dark slime but no other growth, which is great!
Conor was pleased to see that the areas we touched up and re-worked with copper coat ourselves before launch (step 7 - all work no play) are particularly clear of any growth 😎👍 we will likely do the rest of the hull again ourselves before we head south. We are both fans of Copper Coat, but you have to apply it correctly for it to work at it’s best and it will still need to be cleaned off periodically - but with no pesticides in it and being applied only once every 10 years, its the most marine life friendly option we could use, which was clearly important to us both.
The back deck of the boat has proved to be a great place to chill and swim from and even becomes a yoga deck at times too!
Like always reaching for your favourite comfy pair of jeans - the security of the marina was a very welcome crutch to start with, but having tasted the freedom of anchorage hopping, already we are feeling the call of the next anchorage - at the moment it is the need to get the Crowd Science project up and running properly that drives our return to the marina regularly, (that and getting ourselves and the boat ready for much longer trips). Being on the boat full time means we have already sailed more in the last few months than we would have done in many years of leisure sailing.
It's great to feel both of us improving in our seamanship, our team work when out on the water and also feel our knowledge of the boat and our confidence in her increasing all the time.
We are loving this boat! Safe, comfortable, fast and easy to sail she is a true pleasure to be aboard even when its not sunny!
There are two types of sailors, those that have run aground and those that lie about it!
Once "step 9 - the first sail" was out of the way and all of our near term targets had been met, we both fell ill - understandably we were a little (read a lot) run down. From the point from which we said yes, lets sell the house, buy a boat and do our crowd science project, oh and film it all for a documentary too - it had been just 14 weeks - we had completely changed our life and now frankly we needed to stop for a few days. (p.s. I may or may not have made us both ill by drinking water from the tanks with cleaner in still - sorry Hun!)
With the dust settled and feeling recovered, we were now ready to go away for a night and enjoy being on the hook or on a mooring ball. The Solent is one of the premier places in the world to sail a yacht and for good reason, with numerous picture postcard places to visit and creeks to explore, it offers much to the coastal sailor that few other places in the world can.
Every guide on this area will talk about New Town Creek being the ultimate of these overnight explorations. Originally a Stone Age settlement, it's provided safe harbour and shelter for hundreds of years. We had also been there before on a friends boat for a lunch stop - I had helmed on the way in, so learned the slightly odd entry and some of the challenges of getting safely onto a mooring ball, helped by having Andy stood next to me who is a qualified instructor! (thanks Andy!)
So we checked the dingy and test run the outboard, put food and fuel on the boat and set off on the short sail to New Town just a few miles East of Yarmouth on the Isle Of White. It was great to have the boat with just the two of us aboard for the first time and we enjoyed champagne sailing all the way! We dropped the sails as we approached and lined ourselves up for the entry no problem.
Once inside we headed for the same group of mooring balls we had picked up last time. The channel along the mooring balls here is comedy narrow, there is little to no water outside of it and you really have to be careful to remain inside of it - I didn't!
With boats swung to the south I gave myself some swinging room to go around them and motor onto the mooring and promptly ran aground - oops - one of the many reasons I love Given Time, is her clever lifting keel, it just came up and made it easy for me to slide the keel bulb back off the shallows again - I backed off, moved closer to the channel and promptly did it again, in my defence the channel is no wider than 80ft and with the boats swung to the south, I actually needed to approach from the northern side and then once on the ball allow ourselves to swing around.
We went around to the northern side and picked up the next available mooring ball on the first try - fantastic ... except that once we swung around we were almost touching the channel marker so we just moved one ball down! All good practice and no running aground this time!
Once settled we made some lunch, paid the nice man from the National Trust, £22 for a night on the mooring ball (noted the directions to the pub!) and promptly got the dinghy in the water, ready to explore.
New Town if you've not been, is stunning and well worth a visit but even mid-week the mooring balls were all gone just a couple of hours after high tide - there are some good places to anchor on the Eastern side of the estuary but perhaps not for a first go - it's good to see where all the shallows are at low tide, from the relative safety of your mooring ball!
After dinner, we had motored over in the dinghy to the beach by the entrance to go and stretch our legs but on our way back we noticed that Given Time was no longer swinging in line with the other yachts along the line of mooring balls - with the keel down we draw 2.7 metres and we were in effect caught in the deepest part of the channel and were no longer free to swing - Time to try the lifting keel system!
It worked a treat and just a couple of minutes after getting aboard the keel was all the way up , secured and we were free to swing.
Sunset at New Town was shear bliss! This was what we had waited so many years to do and we could at last start to plan the longer passages that will get us and the boat worked up and ready ahead of setting off permanently in Spring 2018.
So in this trip we did; first sail alone on the boat, first anchorage entry on our own, first running aground, second running aground, first trip in the dinghy, first time lifting the keel in anger, first night at Anchor/Mooring ball and first proper on board sunset - Lots of lessons learnt and loving all of it !
Conor & Sarah x
The day had arrived.... Time to see how the girl performs!
In preparation for the big day, John, the previous owner, had come down to spend some time running though how he prepares the boat, ready for a seasons sailing. As she is a one off design, there are no forums or websites we can refer to, to get helpful hints from other owners. So, during this process we got to learn 8 years of experience, know how, tips and tricks to getting the boat ready from John himself. (thank you John!)
Waking up on the morning of the test sail, we were both nervous, but super excited! John arrived as did our good friend Simon. I have sailed with Simon for many years, he is methodical and thoughtful in his approach to sailing and his seamanship is second to none and better still we both trust him completely. So we invited him aboard so that he could helm the boat, leaving Sarah and I free to work with John in running through all the sails and systems and gaining vital knowledge on this completely bespoke boat. John had perfected his approach to sailing her over many years and this was our chance to learn from him direct, so we were ready to make the most of it.
We had fair weather and better still the wind was forecast to build a little, letting us try the sail wardrobe in a number of modes.
We set off from the marina and were soon in the Solent ready to hoist the main - it was truly awesome to see the main up for the first time! We unfurled the working jib and were nicely gliding along at a couple of knots in just 3.5 knots of wind - it was ideal conditions to learn what went where and what rope did what, on this unique custom carbon rotating rig.
We had ideal conditions, so we furled away the working jib, extended the carbon bow sprit and hoisted the largest sail, an asymmetric (aka. Big Red), we then pulled up the sock and big red ballooned out in front of us. It was a beautiful sight!
In 3.5 knots of wind, at a broad reach, we were travelling at over 5 knots - awesome !
As the wind continued to build, we swapped the asymmetric for the furling drifter, which is also deployed from the 6ft carbon bow sprit - this too was an amazing sail, being effective both up wind and off the wind too.
As the morning flew by with the excitement of seeing our girl, Given Time, sailing along for the first time, the wind, as forecasted, had built nicely and we had made our way down wind along the Solent towards Cowes. So before turning and heading back up wind towards Lymington, we slowed down to enjoy a bit of lunch on the Solent.
So, with full tummies and our mugs refreshed with tea, we put away the drifter and the bowsprit, unfurled the working jib and turned to head up wind.
By now the wind was peaking at around 20 knots, about the limit for carrying full sail, so the decision was made to try out the water ballast. John talked Sarah through the water ballast system and before we knew it, 750 litres of water ballast had filled the windward tank and had us sitting nice and flat - we were FLYING along doing 7.6 knots, up wind.
Just before tacking we would let the water ballast flow across to the leeward side tank and you could hear the roar of air rushing into the emptying windward tank. We would go 'tippy' for around 60secs whilst the water transferred, then tack and be nice and flat again. We were 100% powered up and right on the limit for full sail, but with a flat calm Solent we were screaming along, it was a total pleasure. Taking turns on the helm she was super responsive, easy to helm and the self tacking and water ballast meant their was no hard work. We were sailing flat and fast. Before we knew it we were back in Lymington and this time we parked her on her pontoon without drama and felt like we had had a very fulsome handover, in all respects from John.
The boat is elegant, fast and very, very comfortable and a true pleasure to sail - we cannot wait to cross an ocean in her!
Thank you to Simon, for always being up for an adventure and doing an awesome job of helming the boat on our first sail!
A MASSIVE thank you to John, the boat you had designed, built and sailed is incredible and we both feel very lucky to now be her custodians into the future! Thank you for all the help and support during the process of buying her and getting to know her.
And to all the team that John worked with to design and build her we thank you and hope we can do her justice as she becomes the centre of our adventure and our new very comfortable home!
Conor & Sarah x
The day had finally dawned! Today we would see our new home actually float!
Was it sensible to buy a boat having never sailed her….. erm probably not! but it had suited us to buy her ashore to complete the survey jobs before splashing her. Given the pedigree of the designer and builder and the magazine reviews, accolades and awards she had won, we felt pretty sure she wouldn't disappoint!
We ran through all the below water openings one more time and double checked that the engine and the bow thruster were ready to run - we hadn't been able to run the engine up in the cradle and it was faith in the low hours, good service history and our preparatory work that we were relying on - once in the water we would have only a few minutes on the waiting pontoon and then we would have to motor around to our new pontoon mooring, as there was another boat being launched straight after us… no pressure!
The super efficient team arrived, lifted her off the ground and we walked around with our cameras running and tummies full of butterflies as she was carefully manoeuvred off the gantry and through the yard to the awaiting hoist!
We had been working full long days since the day she was ours, to get her ready for this moment and its unlike any other feeling - a yacht literally comes to life in the water and we were super excited to get to know how she felt in the water and for her to be back in her true element.
It was raining (first time in weeks… typical) but we didn't care, we were both so excited and the culmination of weeks of work and years of planning was about to come to fruition.
As the straps of the hoist took the weight and lifted her off her cradle, our butterflies multiplied and the grins on our faces kept getting wider and wider. The hoist operators then gently guided her into position over the water and then she was slowly lowered …. the keel touched the water then quickly disappeared, followed by the rudders ….. then as we both watched, the straps on the hoist went slack… that was it! she was afloat!
I thrust my camera into Sarah’s hands so I could get down the ladder to where the boat was being tied up and quickly jumped aboard, she barely moved the centre of gravity is so low, I barely made a difference on the deck.
I rush below and make my way around all the below water openings, taking perhaps more time over the ones that we had serviced. I get to the log and depth sounder and to my horror water is gushing in around the log - I had lubricated the o rings and cleaned it all thoroughly but it needed to be tightened a little more - I rush up and tell the lift guys to hold fire for two minutes while I fix it - grabbing a rag, I tighten the log a fraction more and to my great relief the flow of water stops!
"Thanks guys, all good" - she was walked back onto the waiting pontoon and the big hoist moveed away - "if you could be clear in five minutes that would be great ! " Another boat was launching directly behind us!
Lump in throat I walk to the wheel and having checked all the breakers are in the right position I press the start button on the Volvo Penta engine - A broad Grin covers my face when it fires right up, Sarah looks back from the bow and shouts - "did that start on the first button push?!”
Next we power up the bow thruster and check it works - again all good except the switch works in the opposite way that intuition would dictate - that's going to be interesting!
We slow time make our plan for the prevailing wind and tide to get her to her new mooring. We slip the lines and before we know it we are motoring our new home off the waiting pontoon - it feels amazing and the adrenaline is running high. But sod's law the wind is building and the tide is streaming in - what great timing!
We arrive at the pontoon to gusts of 20 knots pushing us sideways - we make an approach but its clear we can’t get in and I bail out spinning the boat using the bow thruster and swinging her around for another approach - this time its better, but again we are being pushed quickly sideways, a good push of the throttle and we barge our way in - once we were in, Sarah looked at the side of the boat and thought we’d put a three foot long scrape in her paintwork but thankfully it was just a white rubbing mark from the corner fenders on the finger pontoon - we tie up, have a celebratory cup of tea and then I grab a cloth, some rubbing compound and start to remove the evidence of our bad parking. Over the next few hours we watch many others try and park in side winds and we feel much better about our efforts, as other clatter their way into their spaces. (Over the coming weeks we get quite adept at getting the boat on and off the mooring and we have come to accept, that with less than a foot of clearance each side of the boat, getting into our space bump free is an imperfect exercise at best!)
By the evening the wind had dropped and the odd movements of being in the cradle are all gone, she is supremely stable and still. We had a truly epic nights sleep after a mammoth day!
Given Time is the most comfortable, cosy home we have ever had - she also just happens to be an ocean going yacht.
Are we missing living in a house? - no, not at all and the feeling of being free of all that extra stuff is utterly liberating!
Pre-launch job list = long hard days working at height!
We had a list of jobs to do while she was out of the water and our new home on stilts would move about in the wind. It was a little unnerving to be so high up from the ground when working on the deck - it was also hard to sleep with boat squirming around in her cradle, we could feel she was desperate to be back in the water too!
Our list of must do jobs, some which we had identified but most born from the survey - had to be done before we could splash the boat (put her back in the water) so we made a scrum board with post it notes and started to work through them one by one!
Our friend Simon joined us for a few days and we quickly rattled through the list! Others jobs took a little longer as we had to wait between cure stages for epoxy or had to wait for replacement parts to be delivered before we could continue.
Ultimately after a few weeks work we had enough done and could book the lift in - Woohoo!
The next step would be the days sailing with the previous owner where he would walk us through some of the yachts unusual systems. We were both super excited to see our new home actually in the water!
We live on a boat now - but it's actually okay - better than okay! It's awesome!
The broker had done a great job of looking after the boat on the sales gantry, so she was already clean and tidy but we wanted to go through every locker and go under every deck plate to properly clean and disinfect the inside before we moved all our remaining stuff aboard. (It's good practice to do this, as things can get mouldy and smelly pretty quickly on a boat)
Simon and Jo our friends put us up for a few days and let us put all our "coming on the boat stuff" in their garage while we cleaned right through.
This also gave us a chance to run though all the equipment the former owner had left us and actually learn a load about the boat in the process by emptying each and every area and cleaning it completely.
There will be no surprises, as we now know what lies beneath every deck plate, nook and cranny!