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Easter Weekend and a first dip in the salt

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Our first proper weekend away on the boat was a bit of a shake-down, and also taster for my Mum and Dad who are accompanying us on the London trip. As we haven't all shared living space on Secret Lady before, and neither Mum or Dad have been out to sea for a long time, it seemd the ideal opportunity to give it a go! Pity the weather wasn't kinder, but we learned a lot!

Thursday evening we got to the boat about 8:30 and unloaded the clothes and food from the car. The pub beckoned for a pint or two, where we had an enjoyable couple of hours with Gav and Annie (MY Pastie). It was a very cold frosty night, so we were glad we'd left the heating and leccy blanket on!

Good Friday

The majority of the day was spent with maintencance chores. The most importand was to carry out oil and filter changes on the gearboxes. I had been concerned the previous week to find no oil on the dipstick of the port gearbox, and decided to do a complete oil change rather than just top it up. In the end there was about 2.5L in there (should have been about 4) so not a complete disaster, but worrying all the same. We then replaced a coolant pipe that had a leak and did a few other jobs.

Heading down to Oulton Broad, we managed to moor quite well (almost looked like we knew what we were doing!) had a spot of dinner and then met up with Col and Lou (HJ3). A most enjoyable evening at the Flying Dutchman was had, rocking out to "Walkway", a very talented young rock band. The walk/stagger back to the boat took in a detour to the kebab shop and so to bed!


Sue felt a little groggy, having got outside a bottle of wine the previous evening, but was soon sorted by a mug of tea and a bacon sarnie.

We tidied the boat and then met the aforementioned parents from the train station and got them settled on board. Mum is hampered in her movement quite badly by arthritis in her knees, so would not be much help as deck, crew (but great at making tea!), but Dad's help was invaluable as we left the mooring to enter Mutford Lock for the first time in Secret Lady. A quick wave to HJ3 and Job Done who were circling like vultures for out mooring spot, and it was all concentration getting into the lock with a bit of a cross-breeze. We managed to lock through with no problems, and so down to Haven Marine to fill up with Diesel. The drizzle that had been falling finally stopped and a bit of sun popped through the cloud.

360 litres later, and lunch done, we headed down to wait for the 2:30 bridge lift before popping around into Hamilton Dock. A quick trip into town to pick up a couple of leccy blankets for the parents from Argos, and a nosey at the visitors pontoon at RNSYC (which was empty apart from a lone Sealine "Escape") prompted us to change plans of spending a night at Hamilton in favour of the nicer surroundings of RNSYC after all.

Back at the boat, we wanted to head out for a quick play at sea to see how Secret Lady handled. A bit of a chop on top of a small swell gave us our first taster of how she handled, and also our first time on a flybridge at sea. She seemed to have remarkably good manners, and so after a 6 mile circular trip, we headed back in. When we got to RNSYC, the previously empty visitors pontoon was now full of Dutch yachts! The only place to moor was to raft alongside David (Alfresco) on Escape, but this meant my poor mum was boat-bound as there was no way she could clamber between boats. After a bit of discussion, we asked at the club and were told we could moor on the fuel pontoon, so we accomplished this with no drama, and spent a pleasant evening in the bar. The food was very good and the beer a reasonable price!


The wind had picked up as promised, and after some deliberation and a look a the sea-state, we decided we would make an attempt at Southwold. It was a bit of a 50/50 decision, but we thought we would probably have a window to get back on the monday with a following sea, so we headed out of the yacht club.

The sea that greated us at the harbour entrance didn't look too bad, and we managed to get on the plane, but did take a couple of face-fulls of salt-water from the sea that was on our starboard beam. My Mum was not too impressed by that! As we reached out first waypoint and turned more southerly, we had the swell and chop on our bow, which wasn't too bad, but gradually deteriorated. The further we went, the worse the sea got, and at a point just south of East Barnard, we started taking green water over the bow, which then rolled nicely up the boat and soaked us on the flybridge. At this point, we were down to less than 8 knots, and the thought of spending the next hour in those conditions didn't appeal. We were faced with the biggest sea I have been out in, with holes opening up 2-3 metres deep and feeling like we were in a washing machine. I picked my moment, and turned around, and headed back. Miraculously, with the sea following us, we were back up on the plane and the return trip became really quite enjoyable! We even had time to test out the auto-pilot, which worked billiantly!

We were pleased that we had been out in some pretty poor conditions, but much more pleased to be back in calm waters once we entered the harbour! Although the predicted swell was only 1m from the south, we had gone out at the peak of the flood tide, with wind against, and the result was a very confused sea indeed. At least we had a bit of experience now of how we and the boat coped!

The rest of the day was spent locking back to the broads and heading up to Beccles for the evening. Upon arrival, Sue set about washing the salt off everything! We have also discovered that the forward hatch seal needs replacing, due to a slightly soggy and salty bed!


After I had cooked us all a full-english, a wander into Beccles and a coffee followed a departure in the drizzle. We had to lower the radar to get under the road bridge, but had plenty of clearance, so we know that is not a problem even though Secret Lady is considerably taller than Serenity.

Whilst underway, I wanted to have a look at the prop shaft seals to see how much water they were letting in. After out trips at sea, we had a couple of pints of oily-water in the previously dry bilges. A quick inspection showed them dripping about a drop every 30 seconds at river speed, which is fine by me. I think this accounts for the water in the bilge and I believe the oil is just from the crank case breathers. A check on fluid levels the previous evening hadn't shown any of them to be low.

We also seem to have a slight issue with the electronic throttle controls on the starboard engine, where at river speeds, the engine revs hunt up and down by about 100 revs. I took the cover off the control unit, and sure enough, the servo is pulling the throttle cable in and out, so we now know that it where the issue lies. Unfortunately, when putting the cover back on, all of a sudden an alarm sounded and we had no starboard engine! A quick survey of situation showed the starboard engine in neutral with no throttle control at all. Whilst Sue continued helming on one engine, I went back to the control box and quickly found a broken wire into one of the connector blocks. Once repaired, full control was established, but still hasn't sorted the hunting issue. Thank heaven the wire didn't break the previous day at sea!

All in all an enjoyable and fruitful weekend. We gained quite a lot of experience in just a couple of days, and a bit more confidence in the boat and ourselves. Some sounshine and calm seas would have been nice though! Sorry for the lack of photos, but we were too busy!!

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Sounds a good shake down Mark and probably a wise decision to turn back from Southwold with more bashing about who knows if the wire in the connector block could have gone in those conditions :?

Sounds as if you are logically and methodically working your way through the issues and putting them right before an extended passage, eminently sensible.

A good weekend all in all it seems.

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Thanks Guys. The main aim of the weekend was to get out and give her a try at sea before our planned trip to London in May. It was good to see how she handled in less than ideal conditions, and to put the new nav equipment through it's paces. I am certainly now going to check ALL the wiring to the Microcommander throttle controllers! cheersbar

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Hi Mark

Nice to see you came back safe and sound. BWs to yourself and the family. Hope Mum had a smile on her face as she came back in :o Glad to see you are getting around the whole boat. Shan't be at Oulton next w/e. Hockam Admiral will explain.

Gutted :(:(


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