Into 2011 – Finally living the dream…and the reality

17 Jul

Hogmanay with the fireballs

2010 drew to a close with a fanatastic family Christmas at home and a trip to Stonehaven to watch the fireballs for Hogmanay. However, it also marked at massive watershed for us. After 37 years of working in the offshore oil industry, PT finally hung up his coveralls and retired in December. I was mostly looking forward to becoming proper liveaboard cruisers, rather than being rushed from one port to the next and fitting in with a work schedule. PT, on the other hand, had pretty mixed feelings about giving up his identity, not to menetion the income. So for us, although 2011 was to be a new year and a new life, in so many ways we were stepping into the unknown, with huge adjustments to be made.

One of the big dilemmas that we had to ponder and decide on was what to do with our house. Sell it, leave it empty and available to return to or rent it out? In the end, we came to the conclusion that leaving it empty wasn’t a great idea, given the severity of the winters in our neck of the woods. Selling wasn’t really an option either with the current slump in the housing market. So preparing the house for letting and finding a tenant via an agent became our priority.

We decided to leave the house part-furnished (simply because we couldn’t get the sofa out without removing the windows!) but we still had 30 years-worth of “stuff” to sort out, so much of it imbued with memories and associations. Eventually we whittled it all down to a crate and a half for storage; some other bits and pieces going to family and friends for safekeeping and umpteen trips to charity shops and the recycling depot with the clutter from which we’d managed to emotionally disassociate ourselves. The biggest coup, however, was selling enough on ebay to cover the cost of a year’s storage! “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!”

Apart from emptying the house, we also had to tackle the predicament of our ageing central heating boiler. It was still working but needed increasingly frequent repairs. The last thing that we wanted was a call from the letting agent in the depths of winter when we were thousands of miles away informing us that the boiler had broken down and was irreparable. In the end we bit the bullet and agreed that the time had come to get a new boiler before we left. The only problem with this plan was that it meant re-locating the new boiler and ripping out half of the kitchen units. Only one way to go then!…Not only pay for a new boiler but also cough up for a new kitchen as well… with the clock counting down to departure very swiftly!

Hard at work on the new kitchen

Somehow or other though, we managed to meet our deadline for handing over the keys to the letting agent on 24th March with the house looking fantastic…..hmmm? I’d quite like to live here myself 🙂

After a few days staying with Matthew & Sarah, on 31st March we finally headed of to Malta to return to Two Choices and the real start of our new life aboard. The boat had been lifted out and antifouled in our absence. We had also arranged for a new stainless steel radar arch and solar panel to be fitted to help with our power requirements away from the luxury of marinas. We arrived with a list of minor jobs to be done on the boat but didn’t expect any major outlay at this stage. How wrong could we have been?!

Despite having someone keeping an eye on the boat while we were away, she still sustained damage due to the incredible swell that is regularly experienced on the north east coast of the island. The powerful surge in the marina had ripped a fairlead from the toerail. Not a major repair job and it was soon as good as new, but it was a reminder of the power of the sea. We realised that Portomaso is particularly vulnerable to surge because the marina basin is so small, but even in the relative safety of Grand Harbour, one of the largest natural harbours in the Med, boats have sustained considerable damage from surge. Msida seems to be the safest place to berth on the island, but getting a place in there is nigh on impossible.

Our outlay continued with the purchase and fitting of new portlights. This was actually a planned expense, PT had tried several times to cure various leaks from the windows but to no avail, so we hoped that new ones will solve the problem. So far, so good.

Out with the old portlights…..

…and in with the new 🙂

Next on the list of unexpected kit purchases was the batteries. When John & Sally came to visit in September 2010, they had found sleeping above the battery bank to be pretty warm and had moved into the other cabin. We hadn’t really thought much about it but it seems that the batteries were on their way out at that time and 6 months of doing nothing hadn’t helped them. There was nothing for it but to replace the lot – only the old ones were American (4 x 90A) and the replacement batteries with the same dimensions to fit in the available space were less powerful (4 x 75A), giving us less battery capacity overall. The shopping continued…. Two days before we were due to leave the marina we decided to go for a shake-down sail, just to check that everything was working. ‘Twas a good thing we did, because after only a mile it became clear that there was something very wrong with the autopilot display 😦 Some enquiries to the manufacturer and advice from a local marine electronics person revealed that we needed a new autopilot head and computer, but luckily the actual hydraulic kit that drives the rudder was ok. Nevertheless, a huge outlay again that we hadn’t planned for. Once we left the marina, we spent the next week at anchor whilst waiting for the electronics order to arrive and, with no shore power and reduced battery capacity, we found ourselves having to run the engine to charge the batteries more than we would like. A crew conference was called and an executive decision was made to acquire a wind generator. It made sense to do this in Malta before we became truly itinerant for the summer in Greece, when sourcing equipment was likely to be much more complicated.

Fitting new equipment is never straightforward….it would be so easy just to close the locker!

Sooper-dooper new Superwind wind generator, affectionately known as “Whizzer”

So we finally left Malta on our journey to Greece (via Sicily & Italy) on the 19th May, several thousand euros lighter! No one ever said this was going to be easy! 😉

Memories of Malta

The view from Fontanella, Mdina

At anchor in Rinella Creek

Sunset over Grand Harbour

My alma mater

The red rain’s a-comin’ to St Julian’s Bay!

Blessed prepares to fire!


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