Archive for the Fitting out and maintenance Category

Madeira part 1: getting stuff done and a few excursions

Posted in Fitting out and maintenance, Fun, Photographs, the Madeira archipelago, Walking with tags , , on June 22, 2011 by maidofmettle

Having had a rather tiring few days and created another rather long jobs list I spent most of the first few days in Funchal resting and sorting things out, with a few little excursions to stretch my legs and enjoy the benefits of being in port a bit more.

Funchal was as lovely and lively as ever..

..and the nearest park is very nice..

and also has great views across the bay of Funchal (you can just see Maid in the bottom right)

Despite that, I felt a bit flat a lot of the time for a few days – probably largely tiredness, but also being repeatedly reminded of fun things I did here with the others last autumn took a little of the shine off being here on my own.

I did get a fair bit done though, from routine cleaning and tidying to re-organising several bits of the boat, and also replacing the main halyard. This is the rope that goes up to the top of the mast and back down again to hoist the mainsail. Looking at it it seems in reasonable condition, but it’s certainly not new and had a fair bit of use and sunshine, and replacing it or substituting for it at sea would be very inconvenient indeed.

And we have been carrying the rope to do the job around since we left England…

So I stitched the new rope to the old one..

so it could go round the wheel at the top and into the mast and down again, and then pulled steadily and gently, keeping my fingers crossed till I’d got the new rope fully through.

I also completed a cockpit cushion project I’d begun in Las Palmas. I’d started working on the cover on the way here using some blue fabric Chris had from somehere-or-other that we’ve been carrying around, and some of the ship’s stock of velcro that escaped Chris & Caroline’s velcrophile phase.

The foam I bought in Las Palmas is very nice and thick, but the cunning bit is the plywood back…

..which means that you have a solid backrest much higher than Maid’s uncomfortably low cockpit sides – far more comfortable, and a very nice complement to the cushions Dave and Taryna gave me.

I had a very nice lunch with Hampus & Lotta on Ingeborg, who I’d last seen in Las Palmas several weeks before, and then they came round for dinner that evening – it was very good to catch up with them..

..before they left for Porto Santo the next morning.

That left the harbour feeling very empty, but happily I got most of the jobs finished the next day, and there was due to be a big firework display that evening. It’s part of the Festival of the Atlantic, but I think it also serves as a way of selecting who’ll provide the fireworks for the even bigger New Year’s Eve extravaganza come next January.

The seafront was thronged with people – all the restaurants had put all their chairs out, and there were people standing all along the promenade and harbour wall.

I’m sure a lot of people could see it from much further away..

and doubtless hear it too. There’ll be another display every Saturday in June (poor dogs..) – I wasn’t sure I’d get to see any more, but certainly wasn’t averse to the idea on those grounds.

With all the urgent-seeming jobs except sorting Horace out completed, and Sunday not being a good day for trying to get hold of his makers again, I went for a walk the next day.

It had a bit of a football theme to begin with – from a bus stop by the street named after the Funchal-born Maritimo, Porto and Portugal forward Artur de Sousa or “Pinga” to Camacha, a village east of Funchal.

Of course, Madeira is probably now more likely to be known as the birthplace of Cristiano Ronaldo than Portuguese football as a whole, but it was in this village square in 1875 that Harry Hinton, the Madeiran-born son of a British expatriate, started what’s regarded as the first organised game of football ever played in Portugal.

Starting the walk I couldn’t help wondering how many spare balls were needed to finish a game with this kind of landscape around..

It was very misty in the valleys at the start but cleared as I went down a steep cobbled path, but it cleared as the morning went on, and it was a beautiful day by the time I reached the small hamlet of Salgados.

The flowers were beautiful as well.

The path eventually descended to the Levada do Canico, and a much flatter path.

Though this tree seemed a bit confused by that, as though it expected the ground level to be a couple of metres higher. Unless it was just trying to look like a giant spider.

Having escaped Shelob, I continued along to Assomada to get a bus back to Funchal.

The next day I started by travelling westward, to the village of Paul do Mar, below some huge cliffs on the south coast of Madeira.

It’s quite pretty, but also notable for it’s very bizarre street names – or rather the lack of them.

There’s a ‘1st street of the church’, a 2nd, a 3rd, etc; about 5 ‘streets of the harbour’. I suppose in some ways it’s probably easier to find a place that way – if you’re approaching from the right direction you’ll know from four streets away that you’re on the right track, but it still seems rather strange.

The path zig-zagged up the cliffs behind the harbour and then up the valley of the Ribeira Seca – ‘dry river’, though it was currently sporting some fine waterfalls.

It was a tough climb, but the views both up and down the valley were well worth it – the next photo looks the other way out to sea.

And in places the cobbled path – not stepped so much as undulating – was absolutely carpeted in flowers.

Reaching the top there was a fantastic view down to Jardim do Mar, the next village along the coast. It looks beautiful, but I think I’d be slightly uneasy about living on the bottom of a landslip that’s also quite exposed to south-westerly winter gales..

I continued uphill to the centre of the village of Prazeres where I planned to get the bus home again. This had some tempting views up to the Paul da Serra – a large mountain plain that I’ve still not visited, largely because it’s rather tricky to get to

Rather than getting the bus from here I changed my mind and continued on along the Levada do Norte to Rapsoeira. This has been recently refurbished, and it definitely looks more modern than most, boasting trash screens to make removing debris easy and actual penstocks to control the flow of water rather than the traditional big stone and collection of rags.

It’s good to see that the old materials are still available for use in case of need though (but hopefully not for solving water distribution disputes..). Also note the rock placed under the penstock to keep it slightly open..

But apart from those minor details the levada is still much the same as those designed over a hundred years ago, though the larger ones now provide water to hydroelectric power stations as well as for irrigation. And the side benefit of nice paths for walking along..

Rapsoeira was beautifully decorated – probably preparing for processions for various saints’ days later in the month.

And so back to Funchal, and another phone call with the makers of the wind vane self steering about getting Horace fixed. One problem ought to be easy to sort out, the other one would need a replacement part which would either cost a fortune or take a long time to get sent to England. It seemed better to try and get one made locally. The Hydrovane staff very kindly emailed me a copy of the drawing for it, so I just had to try and find a machine shop.

Happily, the first man I asked – working on one of the fleet of big game fishing boats – knew of one, and gave me the address. I then spent about another hour on the internet making sure I was definitely going to the right place, which was rather hard work – it was in the industrial park of Cancela, which is actually nearer Canico (not Canical). I wanted to be sure before getting on a bus…

With that all sorted it it was quite easy to get to the industrial park, but harder to find the machine shop. Happily I walked into a garage to ask for directions about a minute before a man from there, who gave me a lift and then sorted out getting the part made.

It was quite a busy place, making and repairing all manner of things..

Not a bad view for an industrial park either.. handy while I was waiting around.

So with that sorted out I was once again able to go when I wanted to. Which didn’t look like it would be all that soon according to the weather forecasts..

Dressing to kill and boat work to thrill (?)

Posted in Fitting out and maintenance, Fun, Music, the Canary Islands with tags on May 19, 2011 by maidofmettle

I failed to put up some photos of a dinghy sailing session with Paul and Hilary’s newly refurbished tender a couple of weeks ago.

We started off with Paul steering, Eddie on the sheets, and me dealing with the spinnaker…

..and then switched round for a second outing with Hilary and I taking shifts on the helm and with the spinnaker, and Beth and Bryn on the sheets.

As you can see the wind was very light but the dinghy sailed beautifully, especially with the spinnaker, making for a lovely afternoon.

At that time they hadn’t named her – it wasn’t till last Saturday that she was officially christened.

A while after that we all had to get into our costumes. They’d also decided to host  a final musical extravaganza before boats start dispersing, and not content with that, to make it fancy dress. The theme of ‘dressing to kill’ inspired quite a range of outfits..

I was quite impressed with how little papier mache was required to set a cereal packet bent into a mask shape:

though I really needed a clock to complete the Grim Reaper  (someone’s got to clean up afterwards, right?) effect. Big Dave’s costume, on the other hand, definitely didn’t need any further embellishments..

The ensuing music session was quite entertaining, with issues like people’s wigs trailing in your face, and the flame of Paul’s cigarette flying away (we’ve gone from fundraising to health awareness)..

Back home,I’ve been looking at weather forecasts regularly, as well as a fair bit of other stuff..

There’s a recently arrived boat on our pontoon which everyone agrees is very aptly named (for boats in general, that one in particular does look very nice).

Nonetheless, I have checked all the fastenings securing the floor in place, and fixed quite a lot of them..

..finished a painting as a gift to Paul and Hilary to thank them for all their hospitality, encouragement and advice at our music sessions over the last few months. Early stages (acrylic on hardboard):

and the finished article, with another circle of hardboard stuck on to help give the porthole framing effect…

..checked the navigation lights are working (okay, this isn’t the most exciting photo. Nor does it make them look like they’re working – colours not showing up!) ..

..used some perspex someone had discarded to make fronts to ensure everything in the galley shelves is secure. I wasn’t sure how I was going to secure them for quite a while, but ended up being very pleased with my elastic solution – they’ll quite happily stay in position either open or shut .

Of course, once I’d used the hinges that seemed overkill but we hadn’t found any other use for in 18 months so might as well put them to work somehow, I promptly did decide to do something else- hinging the panels under the bunks in the main cabin that give access to the tins underneath.

Previously this was a single panel you had to pull out a little bit but not too much and then tilt up, at which point something would get stuck and the whole panel would slip and fall on the tins….

I think I did it that way before to make sure that the weight of people lying/sitting on the bunk went onto the supporting beam directly rather than onto hinges, but now I figured out a way to achieve that with hinges. It’s definitely much easier to use.

And I made a thingit. Previously we’ve had a reflective foil sheet keeping the petrol cans from getting too hot, an old plastic box lid to keep that from getting damaged (which seems like it might trap a fair bit of the reflected heat..), and nowhere handy to put a mug down in the cockpit. So the thingit covers the back end of the cockpit, tying down to existing fittings, and includes a mug and bowl holder on each side.

It doesn’t look too bad considering the terrible quality of the plywood I found to make it from, and hopefully it’ll be useful. Note also the cockpit cushions Dave and Taryna very kindly gave me after commissioning Hilary to make them some lovely new ones.

Continuing down the cushion-related aside, I finally succeeded in my persistent if occasional quest to find cushion covers / pillowcases at less than 7 Euros each for some inside ones I acquired a few weeks ago.

..and, back on-topic again, cleaned and rinsed through both water tanks before putting the new filter in and putting everything back in the big galley cupboard, with all it’s handy new securing arrangements.

..borrowed Dave’s cunning mast-ascending device to inspect the rigging and fittings…

This has foot straps as well as a seat, so you stand up, slide the rope-gripping thing for the seat up while the weight’s off it, and then sit down and do the same for the foot-strap one.

And then you keep doing that, with awkward pauses to get around some of the rigging, and regularly tightening the safety line, till you get to the top. You’re not really pulling yourself up, basically pushing up with your legs.

Although I’m not really that keen on heights it felt surprisingly fine, even looking down

or across to the beach.

Very tempting… Still, I did check over all the fittings for the wire stays supporting the mast and all seemed fine, so I started coming back down again, which is quite fiddly. Dave kindly lowered me down most of the way.

Safely back down! Though I do seem to be holding on to things..

…and cleaned the dinghy and put it away.

And then I wrote a to-do list in about 5 minutes which covered an A4 sheet. Which doesn’t even include refilling the empty flour pot in that photo. Oops.

Good news, and the gig for Gambian schools

Posted in Cancer, Fitting out and maintenance, Fun, Malignant melanoma, Music, Photographs, Skin cancer with tags , on May 15, 2011 by maidofmettle

Oops. I wasn’t meaning to build any suspense about the last scan I had, I’d just forgotten about it with the excitement of the gig etc.

I’d wondered if everyone else had forgotten about it on the day itself, because the whole floor of the hospital my appointment was on seemed to be deserted. I found the department I was meant to be going to, but the doors were shut and it was dark.

Fortunately a nurse was passing a few minutes later and ushered me though the neighbouring door marked ’emergencies only’, behind which lurked another whole maze of corridors and the Hidden Waiting Room. I’d put some photos in here to break up the text but I wasn’t sure if I’d be allowed to reveal its existence.

The scan itself was fairly straightforward. Apparently my internal organs are all the normal size etc – I guess this is a backup check to the sentinel lymph node biopsy to be very sure that the cancer hadn’t spread anywhere else.

I have a final discharge note now so everything is sorted here on the hospital front, I just need to have regular check-ups with a dermatologist in the future, at least for a year or two. I’ll have to find one in the Azores, and then another when I’m back in the UK.

Speaking of long-running sagas, I have finally got my a working hotplate again and restored pumped water to the boat.

Having the hotplate fixed involved going to two different service centres, as the shop I bought it from sent me to the wrong one the first time, and unfortunately went over the Easter weekend, causing further delay. At least going to the place that did try and fix it (I think they replaced it in the end) gave an opportunity for a nice detour through the Parque Doramas.

When Jon and I visited the fountains had largely been turned off, but they seem to be working again now.

The issue with the water pump was solved surprisingly simply. The pump still hadn’t exploded, and I thought I’d better check out any other issues before taking it to pieces.

The new water filter seemed another prime suspect, and proved very definitely guilty. I can only presume that the little water that made it through was very clean indeed..

Happily the shop was very happy to accept a return in part-exchange for a different make of filter. That works fine, so now I’ve been putting vinegar solution in both tanks and rinsing them through in the hope that the water will taste reasonable.

Now, on to more exciting matters.. The Saturday after the scan was a fairly relaxing day until it was time to go and set up for the gig, although the horizon to the north was looking ominously dark, especially knowing there was a big low pressure system somewhere north-west of here.

Still, we got everything set up fine at one end of the canvas awning outside the Sailor Bar, and the soundcheck sounded good.

You can guess what happened next, can’t you?

We’d planned to open with Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, but it was flung wide open before we began, releasing a deluge. Within a few minutes water was coming through the fabric above our heads, and we had to clear all the electrical equipment away again. While this probably made quite a spectacle, we all seem to have been too busy to photograph it.

We debated playing some songs unplugged, but it would have been hard to hear over the rain so we decided it was best to postpone and hope it was better the next day.

Sunday did dawn beautifully, and unusually remained clear all afternoon as well. It was a short trip to move all the gear from where Janice had let us keep it on Ladycat, moored near the bar.

There had been quite a few people there the previous night, but this time all the tables outside were packed. It was handy that this time we could move back to outside the cover of the awning, though the arrangements for the loudspeakers got a little more unconventional.

Paul had to fiddle with the settings a bit more this time round but it didn’t take too long to get everything sounding good again.

We even managed a relaxing drink before getting going without attracting a downpour…

..and so off we went. The stage wasn’t usually quite this crowded, but the bar stayed very full, though the wind probably carried the sound a long way down the seafront!

After the first set we had a break while Neil (who’d come along to the last couple of rehearsals) played Jailhouse Rock and accompanied the owner of the bar singing Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay to great applause.

It was particularly impressive since Pepe had a cigarette in one hand and the lyrics in the other- possibly fortunate they didn’t catch fire half way through!

Dangerous Dave kindly acted as cameraman for the night as well as being a part-time roadie.  Here’s a clip of Sloop John B, with it’s famous harmonica duet introduction.

The final count showed we’d raised over 16o Euros, which I’m told will fund about 2/3 of the cost of a primary school in the Gambia. Support for primary schools there can make a huge difference to people’s lives as only secondary schools are state-funded, and kids need to have primary schooling to take advantage of it.

And we had a very good time as well.

Besides that, and with the intensive rehearsals period out of the way, I’ve been doing a lot of other stuff on the boat, but having finally got the stage of putting all the tools away I need to get the hot melt glue gun back out to fix the memory card of my camera. So that will have to wait, since it would be exceedingly dull without any pictures.

I’ve been able to pinch some off other people from last weekend, when a group of us went on an outing to a Chinese restaurant on Las Canteras beach.

The setting is very nice and 6.50 Euros for all you can eat with an excellent selection of food, including dessert, is very good indeed, contributing to a lovely evening.

Surfing photos and preparations part 2: water tanks

Posted in Fitting out and maintenance, Fun, Photographs, Surfing with tags on May 5, 2011 by maidofmettle

Gig report to come when I have photos and possibly video. We had fun.

I did manage to get hold of these pictures of me surfing from way back in February, courtesy of

It’s not my favourite bit of beach – there’s a part further along with generally larger, less steep waves, but it was a pretty good morning, and the photographer was a nice surprise.

More recently, I’ve spent a lot of the last couple of days pumping water.

At least it’s fresh… (salt would be a bad sign).

As I mentioned a couple of posts back, I decided to install another flexible tank in an awkward space at the back of the boat. There’s a fair amount of room, but the ceiling is low and there’s generally a lot of things on top, including the dinghy.

The plumbing system was still there so it would be relatively easy to connect it up, and significantly easier to pump water out than removing all the stuff from the top to get bottles out (the other option for storing water in it).

Inevitably, this turned into a bit of a saga occupying several days..

The first significant issue was realising that though I had the old fitting for the inlet to the tank I couldn’t find the outlet one anywhere. I asked in the shop where I bought it, and they said they didn’t have any, and didn’t know when they’d get any more – they only get shipments from the manufacturer every couple of months or more. I did question how they expected to sell the tanks without the fittings, but given that I’d just bought one I didn’t really want to dwell on that point very much.

So, I went hunting all through the boat looking for the remaining fitting, rapidly exhausting all the likely places and turning to the distinctly less probable ones (was it with the Madeira behind the vegetable boxes? No. Was it right in the bow in a bucket with sealants? No..).

Then on Monday I had a quick look to see if I could order it from the UK. And then as I looked at the price, two things occured to me:

1. about £19, plus P&P, seemed an awful lot for two plastic hose fitting adaptors with rubber gaskets

2. hang on, surely you shouldn’t have to buy these separately?

I shot back round to the shop, which of course was closed for lunch.

Later that afternoon, I explained that my tank had come without any fittings, and the man went and got some from one of the other boxes. I hope they don’t just sell that one to someone else…

So, I came up with a cunning multi-layered padding system to try and protect the tank, and put it in place.

Lots of layers..

While I was looking for a jubilee clip I dislodged the missing old tank fitting from it’s hiding place in one of the toolbox lids. Oh well, I needed another rubber gasket for the inlet anyway, so on with connecting it up.

Then I tried filling the tank, stopping and checking it wasn’t leaking occasionally.

But not often enough..

It was especially frustrating that lax checking meant I didn’t actually know why it was leaking significantly. At least it was a relatively simple explanation, if irritatingly avoidable – once I’d got most of the water out I found the tank outlet was screwed on cross-threaded.

So I finished getting everything out, took all the layers apart and hung everything up to dry. Then I went for a swim. The water feels pretty warm now – no cold shock as I wade in, and even at getting on for 7 in the evening it’s not cold getting out if the sun’s still out. Lovely and refreshing in the less chilly sense of the word though.

Then I had another go with the tank, which seems to have been more successful. So today I’ve been pumping water in and out of it to rinse it out ready to hold drinking water.

Tank outlet with additional padding. And no water outside it!

I’ve also been giving the other tank a clean with a vinegar/water solution and then a rinse, hopefully that and changing the water filter will make it tastes rather better.

Pumping water might not be quite like pumping iron, but it is proving quite an endurance workout. I’m wondering if the new water filter provides more resistance than the old one, though I’m darkly suspicious that my foot pump will explode in a shower of parts, making the new water tank rather less convenient to use.

Preparations part 1, and having a go with gofio

Posted in Cooking, Fitting out and maintenance, Fun, Music, Photographs with tags , on April 29, 2011 by maidofmettle

I’ve now finished installing the AIS system. This recieves signals from all ships with AIS transmitters – large ships or deep-sea fishing boats, and some yachts – and tells me where they are.

It uses the same kind of aerial as my VHF radio but I’ve added a separate one so they can both be used at the same time without having to swap cables around as soon as I get hold of the right adapters.

Here it is working. The visual display is centred on my boat, and the other icons are nearby ships. The information on the right shows the details of the ship I’ve selected.

It’s useful to see the track and the names of ships, but the handiest thing will be the ability to set an alarm when it picks up any ships approaching within a given range (say a couple of miles).

I had to drill a hole out a bit more to get the cable from the aerial into the boat but otherwise it went fairly smoothly, though I had to move a lot of things out into the main cabin which is giving the boat a distinct tilt to one side.

This makes it a fairly high priority to work out how to secure the AIS display box, as it currently swings half-open and obstructs the hatch…

While I have everything out of the quarterberth I am installing a water tank underneath it again. I’d got rather fed up of flexible water tanks and chucked the last one out when it failed rather than trying to fix it, thinking I just didn’t trust them enough.

I’m still not that keen on them, but I do regret it – eventually I realised that replacing it with bottled water just wasn’t going to be appealing when getting to it would require moving all the stuff I just had to move to deal with the cable, plus the dinghy.

So I bought a new one. Grr.

Replacing water tanks isn’t going to do that much good if the water filter isn’t working properly, so I’ll be replacing that too, as I’m getting quite a taste of charcoal at the moment.

This should be quite easy as I had everything out of the galley cupboard (yes, the boat is a mess at present) to do work in that. We’d been putting up with lots of things wanting to fall out of it if Maid was heeling to port or rolling significantly for quite a while.

However, going to the Azores is likely to entail one or both of those conditions the entire way, so I decided it was time to deal with it. So I now have nice holders for various food containers..

(hmmm, need to refill the flour)


and plates / chopping board.

I’ve also replaced the irritating bits of string for securing the hinged  worktop in bad weather with some buckles that won’t hang down getting in the way of the cupboard door below.

The tape round the handle of the buckle is to stop them from rattling when the boat rolls. As you can see the paintwork on the top edge needs redoing, but isn’t that high on the priority list. I have managed to sort it out in the seating area though, as the paint tended to sneak onto people’s clothes when they leant on it.

There’s still a bit more work to do, especially in the galley – not only are self-raising flour and lentils still a flight risk, but I’ve realised I should buy some containers for bread flour and gofio and incorporate those.

What’s that? What is gofio?

Tricky question, actually – it’s defined quite broadly. It’s basically a type of flour, made by grinding roasted wheat, corn, barley, fern seeds, rye, lupin beans or chick peas. I’m not sure if there is an equivalent available in England or not, but if it is I suspect it’s rather harder to find. This is the gofio section of quite a small supermarket…

There are even more uses for it than types of gofio. One I was intrigued by was making a bread-like dough that doesn’t need cooking. Field workers would often make this for their lunch in a bit of goatskin.

Mine wasn’t quite authentic, but tasted pretty good for a first attempt. The flavour was quite strong so I was glad I’d used smallish balls of it in my salad. Recipe to come when I’ve carried out some more trials.

It’s also very handy as a nutritious thickening agent that doesn’t seem to form lumps – for example making a red wine sauce (in different proportions that’s another a bread recipe, possibly for vineyard workers!)…

or a very easy white sauce with some cream that needed using up:

So, when you see it proclaimed as a ‘superfood’ by all and sundry, remember you read it here first!

Experimenting aside, I’ve had a few people round for dinner – Dave, Sarah, Bethany and Bryn from Cape, and Hampus and Lotta from Ingeborg (on separate occasions, or that would have been a challenge!), and forgotten to take photos on every occasion.

I’ve also got to enjoy other people’s cooking as well – a very fine curry with Hampus and Lotta and another Chris who got in the other day:

and a very tasty barbecue cooked by Chris on his cob oven the other night.

On other evenings our music group have been practicing quite a lot, getting ready for tomorrow night’s charity concert at the Sailors’ Bar. We’ve got about 30 or so songs we’re happy with, and at least one other bloke is going to play a bit, as well as the owner of the bar singing a bit, so it should be a good evening.

Fingers crossed for the weather though, looks like there might be a depression heading this way..

Do dogs like helicopters?

Posted in Fitting out and maintenance, Fun, Photographs, Unfortunate events, Walking with tags on April 20, 2011 by maidofmettle

It seems the answer is yes. At least, more than they like being in rough water trying to climb up their owner’s lifejacket.

Every so often stories like this come up in the news about emergencies at sea. Obviously it’s not nice to read, but it usually feels quite remote – after all, I didn’t panic about my walk to work every time I read about someone being knocked down crossing a road.

It’s a bit different if the helicopter is going 15 miles offshore to someone you were having a goodbye meal (rabbit and chicken paella, very tasty) with in the Sailors’ Bar the previous night and airlifting him, and his dog, back to dry land after a dismasting and engine failure.

After the inital ‘haven’t you left yet?’ and hearing what had happened we were very glad to see them both safe and well. I won’t write much more here – it’s Mark’s story to tell (and Sheila’s, though her yaps are rather less eloquent).

We were all very concerned about his documents and things which were still aboard (he’d been preparing for a tow rather than an airlift), as we weren’t sure if the boat would be retrieved or not. She’s obviously worth a fair bit, but some of the bits of paper were probably worth more in terms of getting on with his life.

Even if you live in a nice solid house – if it burns down are all your qualifications and references replaceable, as well as things like photos? It’s very easy to make copies of things.. when you think about it. We all are now..

Rather like the hospital situation, it was very difficult to get information at times, and we were all very relieved a couple of days later when he heard the boat had been recovered.

After all that thinking about peril on the sea it was  a nice change to get up into the hills for a walk with Bjorn and Caroline. It a generally upward climb from La Culata, near the head of the valley of Tejeda, to the top of the ridge overlooking it.

As you may have guessed from me forgetting to mention it in the last blog entry, my leg is pretty much fine for walking now, so I was quite confident this walk wouldn’t be a problem.

You can just see some of the roads around La Culata on the bottom left of this picture, with the very distinctive Roque Nublo towering on the skyline above it, and the rest of a huge old crater wall stretching away into the distance.

The countryside is clearly beginning to dry out a bit, but there are still some beautiful patches of wild flowers.

It doesn’t show up too well on photos, but it was our clearest ever view of Mount Teide from Gran Canaria – mostly bare now, with just a little snow left around the top.

On the way back we stopped in San Mateo for a look around, and were surprised to find that Bjorn has a hitherto undiscovered talent for walking on water.

As you may well have guessed, this was actually an effect of heat haze on stone paving – quite impressive though, especially the reflections.

On Friday night Giorgio and the other Italians on the pontoon had decided to have a party  – I think it was at some point thought of as a leaving event, but they are having ongoing problems with their steering system.

Their cooking, however, was excellent – and in quantity as well, managing to make most people from ‘R’ pontoon and several others as well feel pretty full.

The night was capped off rather well by Mark making a surprise return from the south of the island in his now mastless boat – it will be considerably cheaper to keep her here, and probably better for selling her too, but we hadn’t been expecting him to make it this soon.

On Saturday the weather was beautiful, and unusually calm, so I was able to do something I’d been meaning to do for a while – hoist the mainsail, check over the stitching and wash any salt spray off it.

Maid is looking quite impatient in that photo. I’m not really sharing it at the moment – it still feels like there’s quite a lot I want to do on the boat before going. It’s actually quite good to have to stay till the 29th when I should be fully recovered and ready.

Work on the boat is certainly progressing though. I am gradually re-learning lots of things I used to know, like the easiest ways of working out where to drill, and cutting out reasonably neat holes.

Also, that the Drill Chuck Key Fairy does not exist, and despite the accumulation of considerable circumstantial evidence and laying of numerous traps I have still failed to prove that the Drill Chuck Key Imp does.

My first project was this – a box to mount a shiny new AIS set which will pick up signals from big ships and tell me where they are.

The other hole are to incorporate the burglar alarm, which didn’t have a good place to go otherwise. Fat fingered burglars need not even attempt to enter the code….

It’s quite nice to hide the white plastic as well, and I’ll re-route the cable to the alarm so it’s not as simple as it was to just rip it off the wall..

The box is mounted so that it swings out just below the handrail, so that I can use the AIS set from outside too.

It needed to be as close as I could get it to the handrail, or else it would restrict headroom above the toilet… ah, the challenges of designing things in small space..

On Sunday the weather was rather different – still clear, but some rather strange clouds heralded the arrival of an rare southerly wind, with some pretty strong gusts.

Happily this is a very well sheltered harbour – Maid was rocking a bit at times, but there was nothing to worry about.

Right, time to get on with work again, less than two weeks to the time when I could leave!

Celebrating, walking and waiting

Posted in Cancer, Fitting out and maintenance, Fun, Malignant melanoma, Photographs, Skin cancer, Walking with tags , , , on February 27, 2011 by maidofmettle

It’s been quite a busy time…

On the first Thursday of Lent we had a late Shrove Tuesday party on Heymede (if anyone can guess why a boat might be called that Dave would be interested to know). Dave claimed to never have made pancakes before but is evidently a quick learner as well as keen – he’s now cooked about 30! – and the ones I had were extremely nice.

On Friday I went to the hospital for an examination – nothing calamitous, but I found I had to come back again the following week to see the plastic surgeon. This got me pretty worried as it sounded like it might delay everything by a week, since my next appointment was after their regular specialists’ meeting. Fortunately I was able to get confirmation that it they’d still talk about it last Tuesday rather than next, and the operation will normally be scheduled within a fortnight of then.

Saturday morning was quite productive – I washed a couple of sails and some more ropes. This makes them a lot easier to handle by getting the salt out of them – some of the mooring ropes had developed very strong ideas about how they wanted to coil.

Drying the sails

With that done I started work on the boat electrics switch panel, though I got quite distracted from my original intentions by the fact that a lot of the labels were coming unstuck from different wires – definitely best rectified before it’s too late, in the switch panel and behind the cabin sides and ceiling. It definitely helps to have refitted the boat ourselves – otherwise I think this kind of sight behind the panelling would definitely inspire panic!

That evening we went to the carnival – or one evening of it – it’s a huge event here, with festivities spread out over 3-4 weeks. This one was the final of the band competition, with groups from different villages and organisations putting on 30 minute shows. None of us were that keen on the first one, though they certainly had the crowd going, but the second band were excellent – several short songs, all fast and catchy, and what looked like a pretty good stage show from what we could see standing at the back.

The staff were giving out free bubble blowers – chaos ensues. Dave looks concerned..

Los Chacho Tu – possibly to be the first band in the main parade?

It’s a huge event – the main stage in the pictures is in Santa Catalina park which is something like 20 minutes walk from the marina, but there are going to be a couple of parades through the city, and there are lots of associated events at clubs, bars, the yacht club.

I got up again at 3am to see the end of a spectacular fireworks display – the golden finale was probably even better than the New Year’s Eve ones. Later in the morning I headed to the bus station to go up to Artenara, where I’d finished my previous walk. It’s a seemingly strange quirk of the bus timetables that there’s only an evening bus back to Las Palmas from there on a Sunday, and this time I wanted to do a longish circular walk visiting a flat plain I’d seen the previous time – the Vega de Acusa.

The village of Artenara is on the right, and the elevated plain Vega de Acusa in the far left

The journey there was quite entertaining – the bus drivers are usually a bit crazy, but that’s probably just a matter of meeting their timetable on the windy mountain roads. It had clearly ceased to be a challenge for this one, so he parked up for a few minutes at the Pinos de Galdar viewpoint and the church in Juncalillo to let everyone have a look around.

The view to Las Palmas from the Mirador de Los Pinos de Galdar again – this time a slightly clearer day

I seem to post a lot of long-distance views, so here are some closer-up shots to prove that I do look at things nearer to hand (and foot) as well, though my continued survival in such a hilly place should probably count for something there.

Down and further down, but at least it’ll be cooler when coming back up later on

Still descending, but at least it’s not quite as steep

As you can see it’s looking very much like spring has come here. It might be remote but a lot of areas were surprisingly noisy – almost reminiscent of the background hum of the M25 on Reigate Hill. The cause was rather different though.

On the subject of wildife, this fella seemed very confident that he was inconspicuous like this, but was extremely shy about unfurling his beautiful red butterfly wings long enough to get a picture.

Actually, looking up can seem almost as important to safety round here as looking down at the ground. Having passed one big rock the other day that had clearly hit the road and bounced a couple of times before denting the crash barrier I didn’t like the look of this one.

It actually looked worse from the bend below it, but you’ll have to take my word for it as I didn’t hang around there

The Vega de Acusa itself is a rather strange place – it looks almost like a small English farming landscape plonked down in a land of huge ridges and lush valleys.

From a distance

and close up

There are several cave villages built into the sides of the plateau. It sounds like it was it’s own little world at one time, separate on most sides by the topography, with a rich farming community on top and lots of grain storage chambers and dwellings in the sides. Some caves apparently have old paintings in them, ranging from fertility symbols to starry skies, and quite a lot are actually still inhabited.

They must have been hard work to build, but they’re very practical here – apparently the rock keeps them at a steady 18-20 degrees throughout the year. Some kind of verandah is quite common – obviously much easier to construct, and lets you enjoy the warmth of the day.

View from inside an abandoned cave – a nice cool spot on a hot day.

Since the last bus was due quite late on I had plenty of time to relax on the way back up to Artenara, and even fiddle around with the self-timer on the camera, with mixed results.

Normally I just delete terrible photos, but this one really made me laugh. Not only does my posture look very weird (I think I must be leaning backwards slightly), but Roque Nublo is growing right out of the top of my head. How many tries would it take to deliberately achieve that? Oh, and the top right corner is obscured….

Oh dear – can anyone spot anything else wrong with it?

A bit better

Another benefit of the late return was still being on the western side of the island as the sun went down over Tenerife

Sunset from the bus – Mt. Teide in the far distance on the right

Among other things on Monday, I rowed round to visit another boat. Carolyn invited me to go to a walk with her and a group of Swedish friends on Tuesday, from Cruz de Tejeda to Artenara (yep, been there a lot lately). People with excellent memories will note that I had already walked that path once, but why not do it again? Especially in good company, and on another nice day.

Carolyn at Artenara

We passed some mountain bikers on the way. Any Reigate and Leith Hill regulars reading will be disappointed to note that they’d been driven to the top of the hill – but then again I don’t think any of us would want to go up it, especially not in all the protective clothing and padding they were wearing to try and make it down again safely!

Walking the path was much more relaxing though – it’s fairly hard work, but certainly not so much you can’t chat and enjoy the view. I discovered some new things this time as well, like the short-cut to the cave chapel at Artenara I’d had to go the long way round to visit before.

The group winding down towards the chapel

It was built (hewn?) in the 18th century, though the altar, pulpit and other furnishings (all also carved from the rock) are much more recent. The figure of the Virgin of the Little Cave was an anonymous donation (the sign outside speculates that she might have American origins), but the locals seem to have taken her very much to their hearts, and hold a big fiesta in her honour every year – especially the cyclists (she’s their patron saint).

Inside La Cuevita

Since I’ve been to Artenara so much lately I thought I should probably post a picture of the town centre before changing the subject. Actually, I just couldn’t resist the caption.

Sayonara Artenara (for at least a few days)

On Thursday it was time to go back to the hospital again – handily my appointment was later than the previous one, and this time I knew roughly how long the journey would take, so I could leave at a much more sensible time in the morning, and not sit around in the hospital for as long. I got to speak to the plastic surgeon who’ll do the operation, and ask lots of questions about recovery time etc, but still don’t have the one answer I really want, which is when the operation will actually take place.

The probable date at the moment is the 9th of March, which is right at the end of the time period I was hoping for (a fortnight from last Tuesday). But that’s not definite yet, and I may not get confirmation until the day before, though they’ll try and tell me as soon as they can, and I’ve seen on the form that the ‘high priority’ box is ticked. From the sound of it getting the anaesthetist is probably the trickiest bit – presumably they work with various surgeons throughout the day.

So, I suspect the next few days, or week or so, or whatever, are likely to be a little frustrating. At least I’ll have plenty of time to translate the explanation and consent form for the operation…

I’ll probably call the insurance company again tomorrow and try and figure out if there are any options we haven’t thought of yet, but that’s probably going to be an uphill battle unless the date is definitely put back, rather than just remaining uncertain. I’ve considered going back to the UK, but that would very likely be slower – the system sounds similar in terms of timing but I’d be taking two steps backwards (GP then referral to specialist) by going from the Spanish system to the UK one.

I suspect I will be continuing to keep myself busy…
speaking of which, there are fireworks outside.

Happy New Year

Posted in Fitting out and maintenance, Fun, Photographs with tags on January 18, 2011 by maidofmettle

Starting with the rest of Christmas day, having put the Smurf flags up and moved Maid round to a new berth it was already time to head to the beach and join the beach party. Despite only knowing Dave and Taryna the group was pretty easy to spot, the cricket pitch being a bit of a giveaway. Good weather for lounging next to it in the sunshine, and then for a refreshing swim before a Gents v.s Ladies cricket match.

It has to be said, bowling, and consequently batting, on a surface of soft sand is quite difficult. The Ladies team scored a respectable total of 11 with some impressive hitting from Sarah. With some quick scoring at the start we were feeling confident of our reply but then slowed down a bit towards the end. I came in with us one behind and a couple more batsmen behind me. I hit the first ball…into the sand about a metre away from the bowler. But I was able to level things up with one run from the next ball, and then get a rest from a no ball. The next one I hit, and ran, and back again – victory for the men : ) and time for the spirited debate on scoring to begin, though it didn’t achieve the controversy of the potato and spoon race later on.

The next event in the festive sporting calendar was kayak racing – though Chris and Caroline’s inflatable was back in England the combined resources meant that three kayaks were available for competition. This didn’t work out as a good number for Marilyn and I in the first race, with us getting somewhat sandwiched before Dave (on the left) powered to victory.

I teamed up with Caroline (no, another one) in the second race and we learnt the lesson of the first one – roaring away at the start we could take it rather easier on the way back from the green buoy while our rivals got in each others’ way.

Later on it was time for Christmas dinner with Dave (no, another one, yes, there are too many to keep track of, there’ll be another one along in a few paragraphs) and Taryna – Taryna cooked a lovely roast and I provided the Christmas pudding and brandy butter – before skyping Mum and then drinks with everyone else back on their boat.

Taryna and Dave

All in all a very nice day, and well worth the sail from Fuerteventura.

The Spanish generally seem to love fireworks, so we were expecting a good display to welcome in 2011. We hoped to have a barbecue on the outer wall of the marina but weren’t allowed, so people kept disappearing and reappearing with food. We certainly weren’t disappointed in the fireworks – there were a couple of displays pretty close and around 20 others visible in other parts of the city.


At some point during the evening I got talking to Dave and Scott, who turned out to be have left Gran Tarajal an hour or so after me before Christmas and rapidly disappeared off into the distance. I did in fact beat them in to Las Palmas by a few hours, but then they had spent the night tied up in Morro Jable rather than sailing…. keeps the cost down though : ) We enjoyed quite a few meals together on Maid or Dave’s boat.

Other than social things, one job it was very helpful to have assistance for was taking the outboard engine on and off – though it was surprisingly easy with a line taken from the mast to the other side of the pontoon to support a vertical rope holding the engine. Much easier than predicting when the man would arrive to collect or return it, or indeed find him in the first place – that day involved a lot of walking around Las Palmas, as the address on their website led me to a shut office. A committee of men in the frozen food place next door said they reckoned it was one way, but redeemed themselves when I’d ruled that out (half an hour later..) by deciding it must be in the opposite direction and even insisting on printing me out a map.

I was surprised to find that the 25th wasn’t the focal point of the Christmas celebrations here. Santa Claus has in fact only been delivering to the Canary Islands for the last 15 years or so, and he often only brings token presents, deferring to los tres Reyes magos – the three Kings or Magi. Their presents are opened on the public holiday for Epiphany, after a big carnival parade on the evening of the 5th.

There are times when I wonder about my tendency to want to sample local ‘delicacies’, and I think it is probably exacerbated by writing a blog, fun though it is. I also had the example set by Caroline – my partner in the second canoe race – declaring that she had something good to put on the blog while being given a birthday dunking in the sea – to think of. And I was feeling hungry. So I decided to try the, erm, pressed squid, sliced into strips and roasted on hot coals – you can see one hanging up in the top left and the result in the foreground. It was probably quite similar to pork scratchings, tough and quite salty, but edible. It doesn’t really compare to Pan de Higo (fig bread) though….

The parade itself was spectacular, and incredibly loud, I was glad I was stood at a junction rather than in between rows of buildings. My favourite entry was probably the fish, ‘swimming’ from side to side across the street on tricycles, though think the Spanish kids enjoyed the myriad cartoon characters hurling sweets at them, and the Magi themselves were magnificently dressed.

So, a belated happy New Year to everyone reading the blog, and a big thank you to Caroline for accumulating all those readers over a year and a half of very fine blogging : )

I have a new mobile number now while I’m in Spain – probably expensive to call but I’d hopefully be able to Skype back fairly soon afterwards – let me know if you want it.

Food Glorious Food

Posted in Cooking, Fitting out and maintenance, Fun, Photographs, Walking with tags on March 15, 2010 by maidofmettle

Us on the bow

We are currently still in Gibraltar, waiting for post (we could be waiting a while), doing a few jobs and trying to decide what to do next. In amongst all that we have had some more time to explore, enjoy a definite improvement in the weather and well, eat…a lot.

Given that Gibraltar is a bit like a mini England it has all the things you might miss food-wise. We have been very cultured, throwing ourselves into the Gibraltarian way of life as much as possible…

We have enjoyed a Pizza Hut buffet

A huge carvery.

A nice drink outside a real (not one of those fake French/Spanish bar places labelled wrongly) pub! Shortly before this was taken my phone took a swim in a pint of coke but survived…until now at least.

Not forgetting a wonderful trip (or two) to the legendary Morrison’s that has provided us with all the things we have been missing. St Morrison did well with his arrival in Gibraltar. Spot the items we did not aquire there.

Treasures from Morrisons

After all this eating we were lucky to find out that one of the local swimming pools runs free swimming most days so we have taken advantage of that as well as taking a few more walks, this time to the Great Seige Tunnels (from when the Spanish tried to take back Gibraltar around 1779), St Micheal’s Cave (which was spectacular) and a Moorish castle halfway up the rock. All these places were of course good for catching another sight of the famous monkeys.

St Michaels Cave

The Spain/Gibraltar border town La Linea was worth a visit for it’s impressive beach and the novelty value in walking across the border. On the way out noone really took any notice of us, on the way back in to Gibraltar our passports were checked twice at least. There were loads of people queuing just inside Gibraltar trying to get hold of duty free to take back to Spain presumably.

The rock's not that big...see!

We now have a gang plank to enable us to get on and off the boat (thank you Pete). I’d say ‘easily’ at this point, but to be honest it is taking some getting used to and is a bit tricky whenever the boat is moving back and forth due to the fact that we are now quite far back from the pontoon. Anyway, for the most part it is working well and at other times we rely on careful timing. The photo below shows it in it’s ‘up’ position before anyone wonders how we climb off without falling in.

The scary gang plank

As well as taking a very long trip up the mast to fit our new tri-colour (red, white and green light) to the top of it, Chris had the unenviable task of trying to sort out our leaking toilet. It’s not as bad as it sounds and fortunately the leak was between the two sections and nothing managed to get out and cause any havoc elsewhere.

Speaking of things causing havoc, I’m hoping to keep the mossies at bay if and when we find them with some bespoke netting crafted using a hot melt glue gun. I remember using them at school when we made little elastic band powered cars and had to glue the axels on. We are yet to work out how to fit netting to the main hatch but at least so far they hopefully won’t get in the dorade holes.

mossie net

We also said farewell to our friends Michelle and Guido who have gone towards the Canary Islands. Hopefully their latest attempt to leave Gibraltar has been more successful than the last.

They're off south

Cooking with M.O.M part II

Chocolate Blancmange
(courtesy of Caroline’s mum)

A useful way to use all the cornflower you brought with you and still haven’t used because you don’t know what to do with it.

1.5oz (42g) Cornflower
1 pint of milk
One large spoon of cocoa (more if you like, I just guessed)
1 oz (28g) sugar

Mix a small amount of milk and cornflower into a paste,
Add the rest of the milk and cocoa
heat up and boil until the mix thickens then leave to set (preferably outside on a rocking boat so you get a blancmange with a jaunty angle)

We served ours with chocolate on top.

Port de Bouc…we love you…

Posted in Fitting out and maintenance, Fun, Photographs on January 10, 2010 by maidofmettle

We’re hoping to move off again just as soon as the weather looks in our favour to go anywhere.  The forecast has been either extremely windy, rainy or a combination of the two so we are holding out for a good window to leave Port de Bouc.

getting homely. Some nice welcome back flowers 🙂

We have managed to have some fun though.  Pete has a vast collection of board games including one that involves an awful lot of camels.

Pete glueing camels

There are still a few bits to do before we go but we found the floor again yesterday so that was good.  I was beginning to wonder where it was to be honest.  Not having the best weather forecast has been quite useful as it has meant we have had lots of time to do some important jobs such as fixing things down into their final places,  making sure they cannot leap anywhere unhelpful at sea.  I also had my first trip up the mast today in the bosun’s chair which was interesting…the mast was freezing cold but the view from the top was good.

'scuse me, but there's a girl up the mast

To carry on with the food theme of the last post Chris and I tried out a Morroccan restaurant here and were very impressed.  We weren’t 100% sure what we were ordering but we managed to avoid the dreaded meat on the bone that had put some of us off trying Morroccan in the past.  Instead we had the fluffiest couscous known to man, and a lovely mix of meat and vegetable dishes with an optional (and tasty in small doses) blow your head off firey chillie sauce that thankfully came in a separate pot.

There are advantages to being in Port de Bouc, showers, nice food and close proximity to the shops but I think it’s about time to see somewhere else now…


That sort of depends on the wind.

Chris has found a website that we can send our tracking position to so people can find out roughly where we are.

*We will update this occasionally but DO NOT intend to update it at any specific time so we don’t have people worrying about us…*

Anyone who is interested in following this please email us (or leave us a message on the blog) so we can give you the details.