Launch Day

Flamingo was launched without incident as planned on Monday 15th April 2019, it’s always nerve wracking but the yard crew are utterly professional as ever. A miraculous transformation takes place when a boat goes back into the water. On her yard trolley she is ungainly; positively precarious in the hoist but she becomes a boat again as she returns to her intended element.

One last job before she goes into the water is to finish the anti-fouling, there are areas on the hull that are inaccessible when she is on her trolley and the keel needs to be done. With Flamingo in the slings we discovered that we had left the painting rollers at home! Sailors need to be resourceful so, as recommended by Tom Cunliffe, I raided the skip and returned with a recently discarded roller, unfortunately it had been used for painting blue so our keel now has a psychedelic blue/purple/red marbled paint effect.

Windows and Stripes

The cabin windows have leaked slightly for several seasons, this is not catastrophic but does cause damp cushions and occasional drips on your head when hunkered down on a rainy day. Various patch-up repairs have failed over the years so this is a job that I wanted to get done this year if time permitted. The striping on the coach-roof has also become very badly faded by UV light; this striping runs under the windows so replacing it while the windows are out makes a lot of sense.

This turned out to be a mammoth job, taking almost a day and a half to complete although part of this was caused by my continued efforts to slow down and enjoy working slowly.

Belinda applies the finishing touches to the striping

A Google search will reveal are as many methods for sealing windows as there are boats out there; I opted to use 3mm closed cell polyurethane foam sheet to make gaskets, preferring this to using sealants on the grounds that the windows can be removed again simply for future maintenance. Gaskets do however rely on the securing screws having sufficient grip which certainly wasn’t the case, so I ordered new screws and inserted a mahogany filler piece into each hole to give the screws extra grip.

Foam window gaskets

The result has smartened the topsides up considerably, none of which we will see from the cockpit but Flamingo does need to look her best. We were unable to test the windows thoroughly but a couple of buckets of water failed to penetrate the cabin so fingers crossed. I imagine that we may get some rain during April to give it a more thorough test.

While I was poncing about on vanity projects Belinda hand polished the whole hull and anti-fouled underneath; these are actual grotty jobs that need doing. Launch day is scheduled for Monday with a planned delivery trip to Brancaster on Wednesday; unfortunately a particular stubborn high pressure system has parked itself off the Norwegian coast blocking the Atlantic lows and causing persistent strong Easterly winds so we may have to delay our departure.

Easterlies at Easter

It’s Alive

Following many days of careful and at times challenging work the Webasto heater finally works, filling the cabin with lovely warm air. There has been a considerable financial cost but the project has been fun and it is clear that it will be a game changer now that it is working. We will now be able to retire to a cosy warm cabin after a chilly sail or on a cold spring or autumn evening.

Heater Installation

With that job completed there remained one potentially problematic task to do; change the eye bolts on top of the keel. This has the potential to be a grotty job, working under the boat to jack the keel up sufficiently to push the top of it out through the access panel on deck so that the old eye bolts can be removed. There is a considerable danger of trapping a finger (or worse) between the 320kg keel and the keel box so work has to be slow and meticulous. With all of this in mind I considered leaving it to next season but good sense told me that now was the time.

As soon as I applied the stillson wrench to the eye it became clear that this was the right decision, gradually the thick coat of corrosion crumbled away to reveal a rather miserable looking piece of solid metal within.

Disaster averted!

Quite how this ring was lifting 320kg of keel is a mystery, what is clear though is that if we had used it for one more season it would have broken with potentially disastrous consequences.

Buoyed by this success I tackled one more easy but grubby job, servicing the heads. Deep breath, rubber gloves and a scrubbing brush; 40 minutes later all of the components have been scrubbed clean of limescale (and other detritus), lubricated and reassembled. This should give us another season of trouble and odour free operation.

While all of this was going on Belinda has cleaned, scrubbed and tidied the interior and Flamingo now begins to resemble a boat rather than a landfill site.

Man Overboard!

So much fuss is made about the dangers of falling overboard at sea but the magazines rarely warn against the dangers of falling aboveboard in the yard! Admittedly you are unlikely to drown but it’s a lot further to fall and concrete is far less yielding than water. So with diesel all over my shoes and in the pouring rain I managed to fall off the boarding ladder; I did however manage to hang onto the battery drill so that was undamaged. Fortunately I have escaped with a few bruises, grazes and a headache.

The weather today was miserable with heavy rain most of the day; this limited progress on the heater but it did enable me to complete some electrical work. A new USB socket for the MiFi and a charging socket for the cool box. The cool box draws a lot of current so I have built a little control circuit that will only power it up when the engine is running.

Cool Box control circuit (the switch overrides the relay and switches it on permanently)

The weather cleared a little in the afternoon which enabled me to move the heating forward a bit. There was another big hole to drill into the boat, this time in the transom to accept the exhaust outlet. I also managed to finally tap into the fuel tank so there is now diesel running up to the heater fuel pump.

I also managed to lag most of the heater exhaust pipe, this is a filthy job and although I managed to wear my dust mask throughout I didn’t put my gloves on so I ended up with dirty itchy hands. Lagging the exhaust properly has two benefits: firstly it reduces condensation in the exhaust which should help prevent corrosion; it also makes the exhaust less likely to melt ropes and fenders as it passes through the locker. I have used an after market lagging product which seems much more substantial than the stuff supplied by Webasto, however the Webasto sleeve does fit nicely over the top to create a clean and nicely presented finish.

Insulated Exhaust Pipe

An emotional week

This week after over 30 years working for the NHS I have handed my notice in and am taking early retirement!!

This is so we can spend time sailing on Flamingo without worrying about returning for work, and I don’t have to wonder which weekends I’ll be working and do they fit in with tide times in Norfolk.

It’s a strange feeling not having to book annual leave for the year, and no more shift work. I’m so excited about spending the season on Flamingo and the different places we can visit with no time constraints.

Preparing to join the night convoy through Amsterdam, hopefully it won’t be so scary next time!

We do have to get through the winter refit which isn’t quite so exciting or glamorous. My main job is anti-fouling the hull!

Heater, Navtex, VHF and Stern Gland

I had a really good day working on the boat on Saturday with lots of encouraging progress. I have re-fitted the VHF radio and the Navtex unit both of which live in the same housing. The VHF has the facility to automatically sound the fog horn when visibility is poor; when I originally fitted it I had omitted to wire this facility in so I have resolved that issue. We are not sure whether we will use to warn other vessels at full volume or whether we will use it at low volume to remind us when to sound the actual fog horn which is significantly louder.

Repaired Navtex

The Navtex receiver is a clever little units that receives and stores navigation warnings (named Whisky Zulu or WZ warnings) and weather forecasts. There are other ways to get this information but the Navtex has a huge range and stores everything that you ask it to save, and nothing else; it also works when you are out of radio or internet range. It’s a very old unit that may he even been fitted to the boat when it was new in 1994 and was not working correctly. Having been made in England by NASA (marine, not the moon landing guys) it was easy to post it to them for repair. It arrived with them on the Monday before Christmas, and on the Wednesday I got an email to say that it was fixed and the cost was £27! I love the NASA kit, it lacks a lot of the features of modern equipment but it doesn’t go out of date; it keeps right on working for years and when it does fail they fix it for pennies. Buy British. The exception to this rule is their masthead wind instrument which is hopeless, as a sailor though, if you can’t tell that it’s windy without an instrument you might be well advised to get a new hobby.

Stern Gland

The stern gland allows a flexible coupling between the very bouncy engine and the fixed stern tube (the grey tube on the left). it also tries to stop sea water coming in where the prop shaft enters the stern gland proper on the right of the photo, this is achieved by fitting rings of compressible rope into the stuffing box which is the section with two big brass nuts on it. The rubber tube that you see held by four jubilee clips has to be replaced periodically as it deteriorates with time, recommended between five and seven years depending on who you believe. The new tube came from T. Norris who were brilliant, emailing me to let me know that I had ordered the wrong sized clips (the tube was much thicker than the one I took off) and substituting the correct size for no extra charge, great service again. The tube that they have supplied appears to be really nice quality, much better than what came off.

To get the new tube onto the stern tube the prop shaft has to be separated from the gearbox so that the prop shaft can be slid back to fit the new hose over it. Getting the prop shaft out of its coupling was a half day nightmare because it was seized, but having persisted I have re-cut all of the threads and fitted new nuts and bolts so in future this should be a simple exercise. I also took the opportunity to completely remove the prop shaft from the boat to check it and the cutlass bearing for wear. Both are showing some small signs of wear but are well within tolerance, plus with the prop shaft coupling serviced future removal will be simple should I choose to renew the cutlass bearing. I have taken a great deal of care to do this work carefully because any failure in this area is likely to result in a sinking and because future maintenance will now be much simpler.

Webasto heater trial fitting.

After months or deliberation I have also starter the process of fitting the heater. Having test mounted the heater unit the next job was to drill the holes for the ducting. This involves cutting five 79mm diameter holes through bulkheads with a hole saw; this is a scary business!!! Two of these holes have to be cut blind as there is limited access to the void behind the galley. So far the process has gone very smoothly, we now need to clean up the edges of the holes and paint them before the final fixing of the ducting and its insulation. Test fitting the heater also revealed that the bracket that I have made is too tall so that will need to be modified.

After a frustrating winter so far where nothing much has got done Saturday has eased my mind a little, I’m also pleased that I’m tackling these jobs slowly and methodically. Teaching has taught me that everything has to be rushed and not finished properly, this is wrong, it’s not how I usually work and I need to fight it. Off into the garage now to service the Yamaha outboard which also needs a new impeller this year.

Chart Corrections

We use paper charts for most of our navigation, they have many advantages over electronic charts, for example you can fold out the whole chart and have a look at the ‘big picture’. Another big advantage is that they still work if you have an electrical failure or an equipment failure. One problem with paper charts is that they need to be regularly updated to reflect new wrecks, changing depths of water, navigation buoys (and oil and gas rigs) that have been moved and new wind farms etc. This is where chart corrections come in, they are published by the chart’s publishers (we use Imray charts on Flamingo) and it is up to you to transfer them to your charts, traditionally with a purple pen. These charts are primarily aimed at commercial ships so it is important that they are accurate. Chart publishers regularly issue new versions of charts which effectively renders the old version redundant, this can become expensive; not a problem for commercial shipping but a big deal for us. If we are able to keep our charts corrected regularly we can continue with an older chart confident that we have kept it up to date.

We have managed to get all of the charts corrected tonight, I love correcting charts in the winter, nothing much seems to change so there is less to do. We are going to try to correct monthly rather than quarterly from the springtime onward so that we don’t have to buy too many new charts. Below I have shown an example of some chart corrections published by Imray, and examples of how they are applied to the chart.

You may notice that it was not possible to “Replace Whis with Bell at RW safe water pillar Lt buoy knob as there was no Whis to replace.
Belinda has however inserted “Bell” at the appropriate location so we will know what to listen for should we find ourselves fog bound at the junction of Knock John Channel and Knob Channel.

This is serious stuff, grow up!


Big news (and big expense), we have finally made a decision and spent some money; we now own two very expensive boxes full of stuff labelled Webasto, that will hopefully fill the boat with lovely warm air if I can install it properly. The supplied instructions are for fitting a different heater into a lorry, and having found the correct instructions online I find that they are aimed a professional installers. Still in for a penny in for a pound, what could possibly go wrong (fire aboard obviously; wrecking the whole kit; Carbon Monoxide poisoning; etc!)?

This is a significant development but if we are going to use the boat for any length of time at the beginning and end of the season we will need to be able to generate some heat to make life comfortable. There is going to be a significant compromise as the unit will take up quite a lot of space in the cockpit locker, space that we don’t really have to spare. I am also quite concerned about the installation but given my capacity to over-analyse any problem I should probably make a plan and get on with it. I may have to take to heart some advice that I read yesterday pertaining to boat building, “we’re not building a piano”.

P.S. No progress with chart updates yet.

Flamingo’s Adventures

“I hate storms, but calms undermine my spirits.”

Sunset on Holkham Beach (Living the dream)

31st December 2018

New year’s eve, 2019 is just around the corner and we are beginning to believe that our adventure might actually be going to happen. We now have three months to get the boat put back together and into a state where we can live aboard for the summer. There’s a never ending list of jobs, not least of which are new hose on the stern gland and fitting some form of heating.

Servicing the stern gland (Living the reality)
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