Shaking Down the New Boat

From agreeing the deal on the 29 June, it took a couple of weeks to sort out a survey, arrange insurance (subject to survey). transfer funds (subject to verbal survey report), arrange leave and acquire the most urgent bits of replacement kit including a new B&G V60 VHF radio with built in AIS receiver. The first trip would be a “Shakedown”, the main objectives of which would be:

  • Rummage Ship: Jeff had left White Knight with a very full inventory with lockers stuffed to overflowing. So, task 1 was to Rummage and clear out all the lockers moving tins of paint, spare sails and accumulated stuff to the van to give Jan the chance to do a thorough clean and make space for our dunnage.
  • Urgent Fixes: I needed to install the new VHF Radio, a USB charging point and a host of other minor stuff. We also needed to thoroughly check the boat and her equipment from the truck of the mast to the bottom of the bilges. The verbal survey had highlighted a few things that needed sorting out. This would take at least one day if not two.
  • A Shakedown sail: to test and understand how White Knight works, check over the engine etc. Then a few days going a bit further; maybe up the Firth of Lorne, around Mull, through Corriebwreckan. Maybe even a side trip to Loch Craignish and Ardfern before returning to Croabh.
  • Finally start pulling together the next “to do” list.

On Thursday 11 July 2019 I headed north with Jan & Elin for the “Shakedown Cruise”. All excitement as we crossed the Scottish border, over Beatock and down the Clyde valley through Glasgow. We pulled over in Dumbarton to download the survey and e mail it onto the insurers. They were happy, and we were insured. E mailed Jeff to let him know. Jan took over the driving, on up Loch Lomond to Tarbert then hang a left over the low pass to Arrochar then the long haul up and over the Rest & Be Thankful pass to Cairndow and the Loch Fyne Oyster bar. Last leg down Loch Fyne through Inverary to Loch Gilphead then over the isthmus by the Crinan Canal, past Dun Add  and on to Croabh, the new boat and dinner in the Lord of the Isles.

12 July

Jan & Elin set off early to Oban for victuals, etc.  Leaving the skipper un-distracted to start working his way through the ship and a long list of “maintenance” and fitting out tasks.

First on the list was to replace the antediluvian VHF radio. I found that the old radio was not working because the cockpit extension speaker would not work, something for the “not essential now so fix later” list. To get the old radio out I had to removed a shelf unit by the chart table to gain access, then feel for the fixing screws holding the old radio. Next the wiring had to be freed up. Three quarters of an hour later the old radio was out. The Furno GPS including the spare wiring for a laptop connection was far easier. I checked the wiring to VHF antenna, and signal strength using adaptors and a pair of handheld VHF radios. All seemed to be working OK.

Next to install the new B&G V60 radio with built in MSSI and AIS. I was not able to install it where the old radio was fitted as it clashes with chart table lid. So found a new home on the top of the instrument box. Re-routed the wiring and cabled up. Up to the chandlers again for zip ties to tidy up the cables,  then switched on. It powers up, whoopee. Programmed in MMSI etc. All seems to work OK, AIS proximity alarms coming in from other boats in the marina and out in the Loch.

Next I tried to find out why the anemometer was not working. Checked wiring to mast head instruments following Stowe’s instructions. No faults found. Found a loose screened cable in the instrument box with blue core. May this be the anemometer feed? Can’t be sure. Do without and move on. Something else for the “not essential now, so fix later” list.

I continued to rummage ship. Clearing space in the cabin lockers that Jeff had filled with spare sails, maintenance gear and all sorts of other stuff.

Knob on gas regulator loose. Back to the chandlers for epoxy glue. Fridge not working. Can’t find any reason why not. Do without. Yet another thing for the “not essential now, so fix later list”. Jan had left a pile of freezer blocks with the Marina.

Jan and Elin came back from their shopping trip surprised at how little I have managed to get done. Jan cleaned & stowed galley and generally tidied up below while I got started on the Cockpit lockers and hauled rummage up to the van.

Elin inflated cleaned and checked the dinghy. Inflatable floor does not hold air, leaking valve, but otherwise all seemed ok. The spare valve wrapped in PTFE tape was slightly better but did not seem to make a complete fix so yet another thing for the “not essential now, so fix later list”. A quick row round and a quick check that the outboard works. All fine.

I hauled Elin up the mast to check fittings and locate the source of rainwater coming down the cables. Elin hugely satisfied.

There was no petrol (or spare can) for the outboard so a 40 mile return trip to the nearest garage in Loch Gilphead to buy 5l of petrol, probably using more than 5l of diesel to get 5l petrol.

Late dinner on board followed by a game of Uno.

Overall the essentials seem to work ok. The “not essential now, so fix later” list is now covering 2 pages.

13 July

Time to go sailing. An early start with the mate and crew itching to get underway.

Filled the water tank, to overflow into the bilges. Bilge pump working. Filled the 25 l spare water carrier. Final stowage of gear from the car, food and the freezer packs into the cool box.

Engine fired up and settled, then pulled off the berth in reverse. Always a heart in the mouth moment going astern for the first time on a new boat. Strong prop-walk kicked the stern to starboard, but at low engine revs the rudder was soon back in control. A slow turn onto fuel berth, manoeuvre successful, instructions whispered, no fuss. Relief. 15 l to “fill” the fuel tank, or at least blow back some fuel.   The watch glass (plastic pipe) was too crudded up to be legible. Another candidate for the “not essential now, so fix later” list.

Departed Croabh Haven around the south end of Shona and Luing. Strong tides carried us North through Sound of Luing, With the sails up we were carried sideways through the overfalls out of the North end of the Sound past Fladda. A red hulled Contessa 32 under spinnaker was just beating the tide heading south for Sound of Luing.

With the crew demanding food and the mate on the helm I nipped below and found the hot water tap running. The pump was not switched off. No idea how long it had been running for or how much water we had lost. Lesson 1 ALWAYS switch off the water pump when not in use. At least the water was hot so the calorifier was working.

Our first two attempts at tacking were not pretty, Lesson 2: With a large overlapping genoa the tack needs to be sailed through then held while the crew get the sheet in before easing onto the new course.

With Duart Castle abeam we started adjusting the mainsail trim to meet the exacting demands of the Topper sailor. At which point my treasured sailing cap flew over the side and sank before a MOB manoeuvre could be instigated, much to the joy of the Mate and Crew. 

Closing the Morven shore, we gybed around rather inelegantly, recovered and headed up into the Sound of Mull.  With the wind freshening as it funnelled through the Sound of Mull we worked on improving tacking the genoa. In the grove White Knight was holding 6 knots to windward without really trying. Her motion was sea kindly, slicing through the wind over tide chop.  Seals bobbed up as we passed Glas Eilean.

A quick check of the pilot book to confirm the leading marks as we made for the narrow entrance to Loch Aline. Dropped sail outside then made for the narrows. All the pontoons on the new marina were full, much to the distress of the crew who wanted a run ashore. Heading up the Loch we took the next to last visitor’s mooring, closely followed by a Nicholson 32 which bagged the last. The crew disappeared into the fore cabin to sulk while I launched the tender. I had a quiet run ashore, paid the dues for the visitor mooring and had a hot shower. £1 for 4 minutes.  Then a burble round in the tender and a chance to snap some photos of White Knight in the evening calm.

14 July

Ashore to use the facilities then an early morning walk into the village past the optical glass silica sand mine and the ferry landing then up to the village store which was closed being Sunday. Back at the marina people were gathering for the annual swimming race across loch.

We departed before the race blocked our passage and headed North West up the Sound of Mull into a light head wind. We motored the first hour to recharge the batteries, then started sailing. The Crew demonstrating all her Topper experience showing “how it should be done”. A better hoist on the main and resetting the genoa cars improved the trimming. Practice was improving our tacking, holding turn while the genoa was sheeted in.

The AIS alarm sounded regularly as we wove between yachts which were either motoring up the sound or running before the wid. Cal Mac ferries steamed majestically by, all in the clear sunshine between the wooded banks of the Sound capped by purple mountain tops. A light plane shattering the piece as it took off from the Mull airfield. Skimming low before heading south east.

The piece was shattered again a few minutes later “MAYDAY relay, MAYDAY Relay”: A light plane was reported as ditching in the Sound of Mull between Loch Aline and Glas Eileanan, some 4 miles back the way we had come.  Tobermoray & Oban lifeboats were launched. Yachts closer to the scene were diverted, then reports started to come through that plane had only skimmed surface then taken off again. Then reports that the plane was inbound for Oban Airport, then had safely landed. The lifeboats and Rescue Helicopter were stood down.

AIS CPA alarm kept pinging off regularly as yachts and ferries plied past us.

As we were approaching Tobermory we were able to FaceTime our daughter and friends in Shropshire, all fans of Balamory. So much for the remote Highlands.

Entering Tobermoray we managed to get a space on the Visitor’s pontoons next to another Contessa 32 Leyla. Hot showers then shopping for a Mackerel line for Elin, followed by dinner at the excellent Fish Restaurant on the steamer quay. Elin’s first Oyster and a shellfish sharing platter.

The day was rounded off with a digestive of cheeses and Tobermory whiskey, chatting with other boaters about the days excitements while the youngsters played Uno with Elin.

15 July

The morning was spent food shopping at the Co Op, including ice for the cool box, then onto the amazing Brown’s general store and off license for glue. A spare kill cord for the outboard was acquired from chandlers. Sandwiches & pasties from a small baker’s store.

Light winds and a tight reversing exit from the pontoons set the first challenge of the day, executed without problems.  We motored up the Sound of Mull to Ardmore Point where we found the wind, then sailed. Three dolphins passed close by heading into the Sound of Mull, just where the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust app suggested we were likely to see them.  

Elin, fishing, hooked a large fish, but as she reeled it in it got away.

Jan on the helm kept tweaking the sails in the light breeze getting closer to the Tradewind 35 ahead of us.  “I am not racing” she claimed, until we had clearly outpaced then passed Seriol.  

We tacked for Iona and the wind died away to nothing. We were motoring the rest of the way with the tide giving a helping hand. Guillemots and their chicks were joined by Puffins as we approached Staffa

We anchored in Martyrs Bay Iona. For the skipper and crew to go ashore and visit Iona and the Abbey. Elin found a wishing font and wished for fair winds. 

Crossing the sound, we anchored in Bulls Hole for the night. Then the water tank ran out. With only 5 gallons from the spare canister plus 6l of bottled spring water, we washed up in sea water with a splash of fresh water to rinse.  Lesson Learned: always have spare water on board.  

16 July

A murky start. Grey skies above the mist. We motored round to Tinkers Hole then out behind the fearsome Torran Rocks immortalised by Robert Louis Stevenson in his novel Kidnapped as the “Stoneyard” where Davie Balfor and Alan Brech’s ship was wrecked. Balfour was washed ashore onto the island or Erriad. Stephenson knew the area well from his time supervising the construction of the Dubh Artach lighthouse designed by his father Thomas.   

As we passed out from behind the Torran Rocks the wind died, and visibility decreased. We remined in fog all the way across the Firth of Lorne, using the AIS to track nearby transmitters while keeping watch for other vessels.

Jura emerging from the fog, our first sighting of anything solid for 3 hours

The fog gradually cleared as we approached the Garvellach Islands. Stopped to fish and were passed by a porpoise and seals. Not a bite.  

Anchoring in between the rocks by Eileach an Naoimh, St Brendan’s Hinba (Islands of the Sea) monastery we had a lunch of hot pasties, before setting off again to catch the tide for Loch Craignish. Crossing towards the Gulf of Corryvreckan Elin’s fishing line caught in lobster pot buoys. Not a problem but an opportunity for MOB practice. With the fishing line successfully recovered we headed for the “Great Whirlpool and Race”

Arriving about an hour before slack water we were in time to play in the last of the over falls, much to the disgust of the rib ride jockeys with their customers hyped up for danger.  A family on a small yacht waving and following the same course through the standing wave rather blew their hype.

Pushing on through to the Sound of Jura against the last of the flood then onto the Dorus Mor to arrive bang on slack water.  From entrance to Loch Craignish I radioed Ardfern Yacht Haven for a berth (5 miles), a clear transmission, so a good test that the radio works.  

By the time we arrived, all the easy berths had been taken. The only berth remaining was tight in ahead of the fuel berth. A textbook slow approach and mooring, Lines passed (not thrown) to helpful bystanders. Elin rather enamoured with the hunk who made sure he took her line.  Hot showers, and a walk to the Galley of Lorne in Ardfern village for dinner.   

17 July

Rain Rain Rain.

Into the chandlers to pay the marina fees, search for more bits and to try on oilskin coats. Jan’s old oilskin coat is leaking. To some keep control of the cash flow we agreed Jan would wear my coat and I would use my old nearly waterproof crew jacket.

The engine was tricky to start. No obvious reason though the battery may be a bit low and the heater plugs were not given the full 12 seconds. A tight manoeuvre to get off the pontoon reversing against the spring to pull the bows clear, then a 3 point turn in the very narrow channel. Prop wash worked to advantage.

Rain Rain Rain Rain, beautiful rain

Tried to use the Genoa only at mouth of Loch Craingish but Elin wants full sail. Through the Dorus Mor overfalls on a broad reach, then a goosewing run to Shuna, and broad reach to Croabh. Wind 5 gusting 6 rain all the way. A lively restart of the engine off Croabh, roll genoa, and drop main. Then rigging warps & fenders, before coming onto marina. Slow textbook landing.

Rain Rain Rain. Unloading and cleaning in heavy rain, followed by dinner in Lord of the Isles to escape the rain and ahead of the planned early start for the drive home. It was not to be.

18 July

Rain, showers, finished clearing and cleaning the boat, loading car then found Jan had left her handbag in the Lord of the Isles. Not open until 11:30 so plans for an early start dashed. Elin started protesting over missing her breakfast at the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, So we went to the Post Office café in Killochmelfort for bacon butties. After collecting Jan’s handbag we started the long drive home.  Lunch at Loch Fyne Oyster Bar.  Home 19:00

Overall the Shakedown cruise went well. The weather was the best that Scotland can deliver. The boat performed above expectations and the “to do” list moved forwards from essentials to nice to haves. Jan reconnected with sailing in a boat she can enjoy sailing. Elin had her eyes opened to the wonders of the West Coast of Scotland and big boat sailing. 

2 thoughts on “Shaking Down the New Boat

  1. Thank you Chris for posting your sailing log-story, it is a fantastic read and i bet like me when you seen Fingal’s cave Felix  Mendelssohn’s overture the Hebrides played on your mind, fantastic experience, i cant wait to read your next book when you sail down to my holiday place Cape Verde where you will toss a coin as to whether you return home or follow the trade winds, Best wishes Capt. Bill   


    1. Hi Capt. Bill,
      Thank you, I am glad you enjoyed my scribbles. I will be bringing the story a bit more up to date over the next few weeks. Cape Verde is a bit further off in our plans.
      Best Wishes Chris


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