Dec 28, 2013

Christmas-time activities

N 28° 28.042', W 16° 14.639'

We had a beautiful Christmas weather. Very sunny, calm and warm.

In Finland all the kids get their presents on Christmas Eve. I guess Santa Claus knows where we are from, since we had received a delivery in the evening while taking showers. We must have been good, we got just what we needed. Some underwear and flip-flops :)

On Christmas day we did some easy work. Nothing that would get our hands too dirty. Our dinghy has not been used for at least a year. The dinghy is not very old, but the outboard has maybe passed it's prime years. 

Anyway, the dinghy is holding it's air and the outboard started like always. It just needed a couple of pulls and there it was running like new. Some people talk about gasoline going old, but we don't really believe it. This gas has maybe been in a canister for a few years and there were no problems.

In the evening we had a nice Christmas concert right here in the marina. Local symphony orchestra was playing and there were thousands and thousands of people in the audience. Organizer of the event is the Port of Santa Cruz with other sponsors. This year was the 20th anniversary for this event. 

We had already planned on sailing to Las Palmas without our autopilot working, but we are always entitled to change our minds. We were not very keen on hand steering and couldn't trust the wind to be good enough for our windvane. So we decided to try to get the autopilot fixed here.

Yesterday at about noon we walked to the nearest chandlery "Nordest" which seemed more like a rigger. After a couple of phone calls he found us our hydraulic pump. After a few hours it was delivered to our boat. What an unbelievably good service! 

This morning it didn't take Timo very long to install the new pump. Even the previous pump was 20 years old, all the fittings and measurements were the same.

In the dock everything seems to look good. We believe everything works just great when we finally get to use it.

Now it looks like the wind is against us at least for the next couple of days. When it's not, we'll finally head for Las Palmas.

Dec 23, 2013

One of our self steerings is fixed


Today was time to take a look at our windvane.

The stern of the boat is not very easy place to work at, so we took the whole thing to our fore deck.

The problem was very small. It was the thing that I actually tried at sea, but there it was too difficult to see and fix. The bearing had, for some reason, moved a few millimeters. We hammered it back to it's place and remounted the windvane.

There it is! Rudder blade and shaft happy together :)

Dec 22, 2013

An attempt to fix the autopilot

N 28° 28.042', W 16° 14.639'

When I had slept enough I started to study our noisy autopilot. 

First I started reading manuals. Our system is quite new to me. Some stop cocks are transposed because of the lack of space, but my father-in-law's drawings were clear enough.

I tested the inside steering unit. I filled up the hydraulic liquid and released the air from the cylinder, after that it worked. However this didn't stop the banging.

I separated the pump and valve box from the motor. When running the motor the banging was still there. This was bad news, because the electric motor is probably the most expensive part of the whole system.

I was curios about what was causing the noise. I took the motor apart.

Bearings and brushes had nothing wrong with them and the coil seemed ok.

When I reassembled the motor I noticed that one of the four magnets was loose. It was glued to motor outer cover by magnetic force. Every time the motor changed direction it clashed to one of the bolts that were holding the pack together. 

There was some hope. By gluing the loose magnet back, the motor might work.

The loose magnet was the inner one, that was difficult to clean for gluing.

After the glue was fixed I trusted that the motor was ok and we had saved a thousand euros.

Luckily I didn't have time to spend that money. Motor started ok, but it was slow and started smoking. Smoke test failed!

At first when we got this problem, the hydraulic pump motor changed tune, before it started banging. It might be that the motor started heating and the heath caused the magnet's glue to soften and fail.

The motor has had moisture on it, because it was covered with thick rust.

Anyway we must order a new pump. (Or a drive unit as they call it.) Our current one is Robertson RPU150. The replacement is Simrad RPU160. (RPU = Robertson Pump Unit) 

We hope that Simrad has kept the good quality. Broken pump is now twenty years old.

Many brands have given up any quality at all. They are riding with the old brand and draining the money out for investors.

Well, I will write another blog about our new Lewmar windlass, when I get angry enough. That will be all about the quality.

Dec 20, 2013

One goal achieved

N 28° 28.042', W 16° 14.639'

We kind of thought that we left all the excitement to Madeira. So much did we know.

For once the weather forecast was near perfect, 15 to 25 knots side wind. It was also just a couple of days for full moon, so the nights would not to be very dark. This time all these predictions actually became reality, but...

After a couple of hours nice sailing, our autopilot started to make very bad banging noise. There was no way we could dare to use it like that. 

Well, no problem. We do also have a windvane. We haven't used it yet, but I know my parents used to use it a lot and it's just perfect for good and strong side wind. The actual reason we haven't used it yet is that we have improved our power production so much that we have had enough power for the hydraulic autopilot. Both of us have trimmed the windvane but it has always been my dad who has set it up in the beginning of a leg.

We had actually promised ourselves that we finally try it on the way from Madeira to the Canaries, but the storm changed our minds. When we left the partly destroyed marina we did not want to risk the rudder blade of the windvane. The marina was still full of floating debris and there was no way of telling how much submerged rubbish there was hidden below the surface.

But anyway, we slowed down and I went down to setup the rudder blade. There were still some other minor things we were not sure how to setup, but we decided to start from one thing and then work our way to the next thing.

I did get the rudder blade and the shaft connected, but I couldn't get the locking pin in. We thought that the reason for unsuccessful setup was the heavy seas. We did have quite a swell. So we motored for more than an hour to the lee of Ilhas Desertas. There it was nice and calm. Still no success, but now I saw what was wrong with it. The shaft did not go deep enough into the rudder blade. The bearing was moving a bit, it was not as tightly around  the shaft as it should be. I tried to bang it upwards, but everything just stayed the way it was.

We had to make a decision. One option was to go back to Quinta do Lorde and get the autopilot fixed there. We didn't know what was wrong with it so it could have taken a while to fix it and get the spare parts. And then we might have to wait for the good weather again. So in the worst case scenario we might end up spending an other 3 weeks there.

The other option was to go on and hand stear all the way to the Canaries, about 270 miles. This did not sound like fun, but we used to sail offshore races in the Baltic Sea so we did know that we could manage. And you know, we would not need to concentrate like we did while racing. It would be just enought to go about there where we were heading. 

So much did we know. It was probably the hardest 48 hours we have ever sailed before. When racing, we always had the crew to keep us company. Now we were just all alone in the dark. One was sleeping and the other one was stearing. The nights were definitely the worst ever, even though we had the full moon. Back in the old days I used to solo-sail a lot, but I don't think I've ever felt this lonely at sea.

We were so exhausted that we couldn't eat properly, we couldn't brush our teeth and for some crazy reason we still couldn't sleep well. All we did was drink coke and eat chocklad and salami slices to keep our energy levels up.

Notice the slices of salami in my hand :)

La Palma would have been the closest island to go to, but the wind direction was better for Las Palmas in Gran Canaria. And the difference was not that much. About 40 miles before Las Palmas the wind picked up and changed to head wind. We did a very quick decision to divert to Santa Cruz de Tenerife. When we arrived in Santa Cruz we were dead tired but very happy we did not go back to Madeira.

Our goal for this season was to reach the Canaries and here we are! Now we continue to do the boat work we did not finish in Finland, because we just did the things that were essential to get us here. And then we now have some extra work that came up on the way. 

But don't worry, we are not going to work too hard. We take it easy and  enjoy life while getting things done. If you go back and look at my blog that was written a year ago you see that we have everything pretty good now. We can actually go outside in shorts and t-shirts!

Dec 12, 2013

The storm in Madeira


N 32° 44.504', W 16° 42.709'

The amount of water in the air was something unbelievable. And this was taken sometime in the afternoon, and the worst was still to come.

This was the first pontoon that broke down, right after this picture was taken it was gone. It looked like the marineros were risking their lives trying to save this local tourist boat and preventing it to break all the smaller boats. 

Of course the pontoon didn't go anywhere. It just floated around the marina hitting everything that got in the way.

This was the end our pontoon when it was almost intact. There used to be one boat there, but now it was already moved to an other place. This was still very close to the breakwater and to the tons of flying water that was coming over in every splash.

Next thing we knew, we were packing our bags. The marina evacuated us all to the hotel and we were very afraid we would not be sailing for a while. We were sure that all the pontoons would finally give in and all the boats would be just one big mess.

The forecast was saying that the worst would be from 9 pm to midnight. After dinner, about 9 pm, we walked down to the marina. It was still very scary, but it looked like the boats might make it. 

We had a very restless night in a 5 star hotel room. When the first light came in the morning we hurried down to the marina. Everything was nice and calm, and the boats were in the same places than the night before. It was not really calm yet, but it was not very bad anymore and we could go and see how our dear home was doing. She was fine!

Our pontoon used to be all the way to the pole and even more.

In the morning the marina was full of debris.

During the night the fishermen and the marineros had tied every bigger pieces of floating debris, so it would not damage the boats.

Even though they were working really hard, some boats still suffered some major damage.

The staff did not stop working after the worst was over. They have continued to work constantly ever since to clear the harbor. It will of course be a while after they get everything fixed, but we even got the shore power and water back to the docks this afternoon.

There's nothing they could have done to prevent this weather, but I'd like to thank every single person who helped to keep our boats safe. Marina made our evacuate time the best they could, we had a nice room, dinner and breakfast. At the same time these other guys were actually really risking their lives to save our boats.

Now we hope to leave this terrible experience behind us and head for the Canaries and new adventures. I hope they are not this exciting.

Dec 11, 2013

Storm on Madeira

N 32° 44.504', W 16° 42.709'

We believed that Quinta do Lorde is a safe marina. We are still safe, but it was a close call.

Yesterday morning it was kind of fun to watch the waves hit the breakwater and fly high in the air. In the afternoon all hell broke loose. Tons of water was flying over to the marina. When the big ones came, it started a little tsunami in the harbor. Quite a few pontoons broke down and some boats were in really big trouble.

We all got evacuated from the boats to the hotel. Local fishermen came to help the marineros and they worked really hard to keep all the boats safe. A couple of boats got some really serious damage, but all are still floating. What we heard is that in all the other marinas on Madeira they lost boats. The worst news is, that in one place a fisherman died while trying to rescue someone from the boat.

We had some tiny little damage, some broken lines and a broken navigation light. Our boat had hit the boat on the other side of the pontoon and there are some little scratches and bumps in the bowsprit, but since it's metal there's no real damage.

The wi-fi is not working anymore so we can't add any pictures. It was still working when we wrote our Finnish blog so you can go and see the pictures there ( This blog will be sent using our SSB radio.

We are back on board and we hope we never have to experience something like yesterday ever again.

Dec 3, 2013


N 32° 44.504', W 16° 42.709'

When we left from Porto Santo we had decided to go to Quinta do Lorde Marina. We had heard good things about it and then we also have this STW membership that gives us a discount of the harbor fee.

The marina has good facilities and also good shelter. The swell has come from an unusual southern direction, but it has not been a problem here.

The marina is a part of a new resort. The resort (and the marina of course) are quite in the middle of nowhere. The nearest little town Canical is some kilometers away. The marina offers free supermarket shuttle to Machico (about 10 kilometers from here) twice a day, which is a pretty good service.

The resort itself is very beautiful, but otherwise like a ghost town. There's no one to be seen. It's completely empty.

Last week there was some heavy rain. This is what the beach of Machico looked like on Monday morning. I believe that normally all these tree trunks get washed out to the sea, but now the southern swell had lifted everything onto the beach. 

The weather system on the Atlantic seems to be quite confused. There's a low pressure stuck near the Azores and it'd be head wind or no wind for us to go to the Canaries. We'll wait some more for a bit better weather window.

Nov 22, 2013

Cascais - Porto Santo

N 33° 3.721', W 16° 18.942'

When we left Cascais the weather forecast was 20 knots from north. We knew that it's just the average, but we were quite surprised when it was blowing 40 knots or more. We do not have a wind indicator so we can not be exact. But we do know that when we are going full speed with just about 2 square meters of genoa, it's really blowing...

After the first night, it was nice sailing for a couple of days, until the wind died completely. We knew that a low pressure was lurking around the corner, so we motored the last 24 hours before the expected headwind.

Empty, but beautiful beach of Porto Santo.

Marina from the nearest viewpoint. It was a good exercise to walk to the hill after 4 days of sailing. It was an easy walk on a road, not any real hiking.

Tomorrow we plan to sail to Madeira.

Nov 16, 2013

Getting there, but not far away yet

N 38° 41.439', W 9° 25.164'

I don't want to badmouth Galicia, it was great, but... It was raining a lot.

We sailed for 2 days from Bayona to Cascais (right outside of Lisbon). We have now been here for about a week and there hasn't been a drop of rain. Here are also a couple of other boats that have come the same way. We were just wondering with the others the other day how wonderful it is to have a nice blue sky.

The temperature is not very high. The water is about 15°C and that's about the same for night temperature. But during the day, if it's not too windy you can manage in t-shirt. But the most important fact is that there's no rain :)

But anyway, we have not found eternal summer yet, so we have to go on. Our goal is to get to the Canary Island for the winter.

Marina de Cascais.

Oct 30, 2013

We finally rounded the Cape Finisterre


N 42° 7.154', W 8° 50.682'

I don't think I have to find a roller coaster for a while, we just had our own for about 24 hours. We did not do a loop upside down, but I think everything else was there...

So, we ended up spending 18 days in La Coruña. It was a very nice city, but we are still very anxious to go on, so it was kind of a pain to be stuck there.

A kind of good weather window opened up for us yesterday morning. The strong winds were gone, but so were the winds all together. We motored almost all the way to Baiona, 122 nautical miles.

A couple of days ago a very big storm hit Europe. We didn't get the winds, but we got the waves. The day before we left the waves were 6 meters. The morning we left they were 4 meters. And yes, 4 meters does not sound much, but they were STEEP, something I've never experienced before.

Life on board was quite unpleasant, but we are happy we made it. Now we rounded the tip of Spain and are one step further down south. There was no telling when the next and maybe better window was going to open so just had to go. And we were not the only ones. There were at least 7 boats that left the same morning than we did. Some have waited for the weather window for 3 weeks.

I think the surfers have enjoyed these waves along the coast for a couple of days.

Oct 25, 2013

Stuck in La Coruña

N 43° 22.055', W 8° 23.148'

When we first arrived to La Coruña our plan was to stay here for a few days and then continue down the coast.

Well, that was two weeks ago. It's not that we are not eager to go on, but because of the constant low pressures that keep hitting the Cape Finisterre. Every morning we download the grib-files and every other morning we say "Hey, after two days there could be a weather window for us". And by the next morning it has closed down. 

But I don't want to complain too much. We are already in Spain. Our friends in Finland have hauled up their boats and are scraping the ice of the car windows in the morning. We can still go out wearing t-shirts. 

Now it looks like we might be leaving on Tuesday, but we'll see...

And looks like we are not the only ones to wait for the wind to be more favorable. If you go to Mini Transat 2013, you see that they were supposed to start on the 13th, and they are still postponing the start.

Oct 12, 2013

Bay of Biscay


I've heard so many stories about the Bay of Biscay. Usually they consist of strong winds and monster waves. We didn't meet either of these.

We believe that the main reason was our lack of schedule. We can wait for the good weather prognosis (and then hope for it to be accurate).

We were not alone with our plans, since quite a few other boats left Brest the same day. 

Swedish "Rose" leaving Brest

All the boats that we new that headed for the Biscay left during the day. We waited for the evening and high water so we had the advantage of the tidal current to begin with.

The first night and day we saw some fishing boats and other sailing boats. We also saw some dolphins, I just love to watch those creatures to swim around us.

The second night was pitch black and all we saw was stars. There weren't even any AIS targets on the chart plotter. Just for the reference, when we passed Rotterdam there were 421 AIS targets on our system.

On the North Sea and English Channel we also got quite use to the constant voices on VHF. Now there was no sounds for over 24 hours. It's easier to sleep when it's quite, but there's also sometimes funny things on the air. Like in the English channel when there were "securite" messages warning the traffic about cross channel swimmers. There were three swimmers at the time we were there.

On the Third night we got some AIS targets again, Spanish fishing boats, passenger ship and some cargo ships.

Most of the way we were only using our main sail. For the first day it was hoisted all the way, the second day we had one reef and the third day we had it down to two reefs. In the end we opened our head sail a bit (while the main was still reefed).

Crossing the Bay of Biscay took us 69 hours for the 357 NM. 

Sep 30, 2013

Dunkerque - Brest

N 48° 22.639', W 4° 29.302'

There was an incredible amount of ferries between Dover and Calais. On the background you can see the coast of England. We sailed very close to the French coast, but England was not very far.

When we left Dunkerque we thought about stopping in Cherbourg. The wind was so good that we just gybed near it and went on.

Going down wind was rolly, but going the other way really didn't look like fun...

We almost had good wind all the way to Brest. The wind died completely after 300 miles of good sailing. We motored for a couple of hours and anchored in total darkness right before the entrance to Rade de Brest

This is what we saw in the morning when we motored about 15 miles to Brest.

And this. For some reason, when I see lighthouses like these I remember the books "The famous five" written by Enid Blyton.

We'll be staying in Brest for a while. We are waiting for a package from Finland and then we've also ordered some more electronic component for Timo to play with.

When we get our stuff from the mail, we start to look for the good weather for the Bay of Biscay.

Sep 28, 2013

Finally some good sailing

N 49° 44.455', W 1° 58.480'

While writing this I see the lights on Guernsey. Once we thought we might stop there, but now that we finally have good wind we want to go on.

We are on the second night at sea. We left Dunkerque early yesterday morning. First we thought of stopping in Cherbourg, but the wind and current was excellent so we continued. The current was so good that it kind of shot us out of the English channel at the speed of 4 knots. Our GPS was then showing 11.6 knots.

Our life on board is quite easy. The wind is from behind so the boat of course rolls a lot, but it's so much better than beating and banging to the waves.

Our watch system is very simple. During the day and in the evening the one who is more tires gets to rest. When the other one feels more tired than the other we switch. During the night we both usually wake up about once in an hour to ask a couple of questions. What time is it? Is everything ok? Do you still want to go on or do we switch places? We actually switch places about every 3 or 4 hours.

So Timo is sleeping now and I'm on the watch. Let me tell you what being on watch on board Iiris is like. Autopilot is doing the actual driving. I sit on the couch and look out the windows. We have this deck saloon, so there is no need to be outside. We only go there to trim the sails. And while going down hill, there is nothing to trim.

We are hoping to get to Brest on this wind, but we'll see where we end up.

Sep 25, 2013

Two new countries in two days

N 51° 2.610', E 2° 22.389'

We ain't in the hurry, but we still got two new countries in two days :)

We were too eager to head for the open sea, so we didn't wait for the wind to turn, only waited for the wind to die. We motored from Roompot to Zeebrugge, Belgium. But we did it in the right time of the day, and got a good current that helped us.

We were still very eager to continue so we only spend one night in Belgium. The next morning started out very foggy, we could barely see the breakwater. We watched very closely at the radar and AIS and off we went.

The fog was not too bad when we got out of the harbor. But it was enough so we didn't see any of the Belgium coast even though we were only 2 miles from it.

The current helped us again and we reached the French city of Dunkerque in the late after noon.

That was yesterday. Now our plan is to leave early tomorrow morning and according to the grib files we might actually have some wind from a right direction for couple of days. Let's see where we end up next.

Sep 22, 2013

RFI problems

N 51° 35.564', E 3° 43.165'

Previously I wrote about our first installation of SSB radio with Winlink. After a great struggle we were happy that it was at least working somehow.

It wasn't that easy, as you might have guessed.

I was requesting a GRIB file while sailing and Simrad autopilot steering the boat. When the radio started transmitting, the boat started spinning. I was alone at night watch. It was good that nothing bad happened.

At the next marina we found out that RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) was making the rudder angle sensor to report ridiculous angles.

There are two ways the RFI can get to rudder angle sensor. Through air or through 12V electricity.

Wire to the sensor was long and the shield was not grounded. I changed the wire, added a ferrite bead and a 0.01?F capasitor parallel to sensor wires. It helped, but not enough. Angles were still changing about 10 degrees when transmitting.

Next I checked the 12V system. When not transmitting it looks like this:

Some of our battery chargers are making the nice figure.

When transmitting it looks this:

Icom IC801E is really causing trouble. It is taking about 30 Amps and it has bad decoupling.

Eliminating RFI is not easy. I added a ferrite bead to SSB power input.

After that the angle changes were only 1-2 degrees.

I also put 0.1?F capasitor parallel with 0.01?F capasitor connected to ground at both sides of this inductor, making it as a ?-filter.

Problem is now solved. No problems with autopilot. As long as we are transmitting higher than 7 MHz. We are not expecting to have good connections below 7 MHz at sea anyway.

Sep 21, 2013

Sailing through the Netherlands

N 51° 35.564', E 3° 43.165'

A long time ago (a month or so) we were looking at the chart of the coast of North Sea. We then thought that if the weather is good, it's not very long way. Back then we were wondering if we'll stop in the Netherlands at all. Now we have been here for more than two weeks.

The weather has not been what we wanted. Strong winds from the wrong direction.

So we took the inland route. Here is this wonderful Standing mast route that you can take through the country.

Here we are in the first lock entering the inland sea "Ijssel meer". We have had about half a dozen locks after this one.
Sailing to Amsterdam was nice and easy over the two inland seas.

Amsterdam was busy on the canal.

We enjoyed the city for a couple of days at then it was time to move on. We made plans to go through the city. The only time you can do it is in the middle of the night. After all the trains have stopped for the night they open the railway bridge right next to the Central railway station.

Here in the country of canals and bridges you can not make too precise plans with too tight schedules. The railway bridge was broken. Luckily there's an other route down south. So we took a detour through the city of Haarlem. It only costed as about 15 more miles. but we didn't see Amsterdam by night. We are not sorry about that because we didn't have to stay up all night and we saw other wonderful things. 

The city of Haarlem had 8 bridges that opened for us. Here we have passed one of them.

There were a few of these funny lifting bridges on the way. So you do have a limit of how high your mast can be (about 20 meters).

Even though we have passed about 30 opening bridges we haven't disturbed any freeway traffic. They all go in the tunnels under the canals.

What a great country for kids when you can have your own water slide in the back yard.

The weather has been quite cold and rainy. We should be getting south pretty soon...

We have now traveled about 150 miles through the Netherlands. We have nothing but good things to say about the Dutch people and marinas. Everybody has been very nice and helpful to us and the facilities in the marinas have been very good.

Now we are in Roompot and there's only 1.5 miles to the lock that separates us from the North sea. When the wind changes so that we don't have to tack we'll continue our way.

Sep 3, 2013

Installing Winlink 2000 with Winmor and ICom M801E

N 53° 52.456', E 8° 42.350'

We finally got our new ICom M801E SSB radio working with ham frequencies opened. Our first QSO to Finland from Cuxhaven, Germany, was successful.

Besides marine radio and ham station we were naturally interested in receiving email and weather reports. Most of the people use Pactor modem for this, but we decided not buy it unless it was absolutely necessary. It looks like it's not. Good, because it's very expensive, more than 1000 euros. 

ICom M801E user manual is just for the marine radio, it's very limited and also contains some errors. The radio has a AF/MOD and a Remote D9 connectors for the external modems. 

Knowing that M801E is almost the same device as the American version M802, I was able to find more information.

There must be other ways to do it, but this is how I got this working.

Remote interfaces baud rate is 4800. I am using RS232C interface and no handshaking. This means 3 wires for the radio remote handling. You can use a normal PC to modem cable. Pins are one-by-one.

AF/MOD interface has pins 1-2 MOD pins to radio input and 3-4 AF pins to radio output. These can be connected to a sound card. AF to line-in or mic and MOD to headphone or line-out.

So far this is quite simple. The problem is with the PTT (push to talk) handling. Icom controls the radio frequencies by using the remote interface, but it doesn't handle the PTT. AF/MOD has pin 5 for PTT. If pin 5 is grounded, it puts the transmitter on.

Pactor has a relay for this purpose. RMS express has a feature to use rs232 RTS or DTR pins to control PTT.

I don't need a relay, because the currencies are minimal. Just one transistor is enough. 

I just happened to have one small device stored, that was not working, which had one npn and one pnp transistor and 10Kohm and 220ohm resistors. I used the npn transistor 1N 3904 as a switch. 10Kohm resistor somehow limits the quite high RTS voltage in base. Because I didn't have anything else to use there was no need to make any Ohm's law calculations. 

Collector is connected to AF/MOD pin 5 and emitter to ground. 

As it happened, it worked very well.

First version of the junction circuit.

The full documentation, but better than Icom manual :)

The Creative X-Fi usb sound card we use for the purpose (because we had it) and the necessary cables including the hi-speed and lo-speed NMEA for the radios and navigation.

The settings we are using.

I don't say this is the final settings, but at the moment it's working all right.