Posted by: Jo | 13 August, 2017

The real value of shore crew

It’s our summer holiday, we’ve made a 24 & 8 hour passage from Milford Haven round Lands End and Chula is currently moored in Falmouth. Lowenna, who on my last post was 2, is now 5 years old and Rowan, 2 years old, are colouring in together having played various games with little more than their imaginations in various parts of Chula. It’s raining, and has been raining for a few days, giving me plenty of chance to reflect on the last 3 years to get to where we are now.

The passage round Lands End was a stunning sail with just Joe and I aboard. Typically, the British weather was not cooperating so we had to scour the forecasts to look for a ‘window’ for the 120nm sail to Mounts Bay. We found the smallest of opportunities and went for it, sailing in F4-6 rather than F7+. We anchored off Mousehole at dusk, just in time for a quick pint, and continued into the Fal the next morning. In all we were away from the kids for 5 days, we have never both been away from them for so long.

When Lowenna was born we were living onboard and I would never have contemplated sailing without her. She spent the first 2 years of her life living on Chula, I had read the book about sailing with kids and felt confident she would adjust to sailing. However the realities of sailing in the UK with our home port on the Bristol Channel and making sailing holidays fit around 2 working parents has been rather different from the book. The weather is rarely ideal and the short sharp seas of the Bristol Channel are very real.

The first long trip we took Lowenna on was to Cornwall, she went by land and we joined her after a 48 hour passage, the intention was to make short hops to get back to Cardiff over 2 weeks. The weather wasn’t ideal and we had one very seasick baby! She ended up doing a few of the hops by land thanks to Grandma and public transport. A great trip in the end but we vowed to make sailing fun and not something to be endured.

Rowan was born a year later and work life necessitated a move to land so Chula was given a well earned respite out of the water for a year after 7 years living aboard (we also had a long list of jobs that she needed to be out of the water for).

Whilst she was out of the water we realised that we were no longer restricted to berthing her where we lived and some good friends won their campaign for us to explore the river Cleddau for the summer seasons. Again we sailed the 18 hour passages (each way) with the kids safely with our shore crew.

The Cleddau is a wonderful place, our mooring is 2 hours up stream in Llangwm. There is plenty of mucking around in boats to be had and pubs readily accessible by tender. 1 hour downstream is Neyland and Hobbs Point for provisioning. A further hour downstream is Dale and the amazing Watwick beach lie at the Heads of the estuary. Out to sea Skomer Island and Jack Sound are very worthwhile destinations. Being on the boat is fun here, we have great friends to share time afloat with and make adventures.

For the kids Chula is now an amazing play den, she visits the best beaches and we all go on lots of adventures together under sail and engine. The tender is absolutely adored by both, they are happy to wear their lifejackets and often play ‘tenders and beaches’ when away from Chula. I love watching them play like this and it makes me so happy to see their genuine joy at any mention of Chula. For us, sailing has been reduced to a few hours with the kids and probably under less canvas than before or longer passages without the kids. But as they grow in awareness and competence I can see them asking to join us for the longer passages. And this is what I’m really striving for, passages they want to be part of rather than needing to endure.

To get to Falmouth we enlisted the help of a majority of our shore crew so that the kids can just enjoy being afloat. Once here, Joe has had to go to Scotland for work and so the three of us are on a mooring exploring Falmouth and the Lizard. We take our tender to shore and the kids need to have enough boat awareness for this to be safe and not (too) stressful plus entertain themselves in Chula on these rainy days. I’m enjoying seeing how they play and going at their pace with minimal pressures of getting somewhere on time. In a few weeks we plan to sail to Scilly, with kids if the weather permits, but with the back up of shore crew if needed.

None of this would be possible without such supportive shore crew, not only do they have regular safety check-ins but they also embrace the kids during this time with the ambiguities of weather and logistics of transport and sailing. We couldn’t do it without you: Nanny Styles, Grandma & Grandpa Hare xx

Posted by: Jo | 24 March, 2014

Vagabond Owners Group on Facebook

We seem to have slowed down with our posts, largely because of a nearly 2 year old on board:-) We’re still sailing and continuing with jobs (at a slightly slower pace it must be said!).

There has been an excellent Facebook group set up in the last couple of months called Vagabond Owners Group.

It’s a closed group but very welcoming so if you’re a Vagabond owner or just interested in finding more information its a good place to go, just request to join 🙂

We’ll keep posting when we can, we’ve got a few jobs on the list this year and hopefully a summer holiday sail to Pembroke.

Posted by: Joe | 24 July, 2013

Replacing Porthole Glasses

After 30 years our glass has misted up due to water ingress into the interlayer film that is sandwiched between the  two layers of glass. Most of the portholes has a slight de-lamination around the edges but we had one in the aft cabin you couldn’t even see though! Some of the glass in the round ports are also cracked so I will be doing these as well.


My plan is to get the glass out and get a template made up and some new ones cut. Then they have to be re bedded into the frames using a sealent and while I am at it I might as well change the rubber seals as well!

Removing the glass

By far the easiest way to get them out was to smash them! But as a liveaboard with a small one this makes quite a dangerous mess.

Round Portholes

I spent a lot of time scratching my head over these as they have a screw in collar to hold the glass in. I did make my own tool:

(I will get a picture of this but it is just a bit of wood with some bolts at the right width)

Even though I tried to free it up it just didn’t budge. I found this was the only way to get the round ones out. As these are below the deck you can knock most of the glass outside and using a rag inside over the top you don’t get too much inside. Once smashed I picked out all the little bits around the edge with a screwdriver the collar just unscrewed!


Rectangular Portholes

For these I was able to get them out without making too much of a mess. First you need to take out frame collar. Remove the small screws under the rubber seal, then I used a bit of petrol on a brush around the edges that then dissolved the sikaflex type sealant that sealing the glass in the frame.  Then slide a sharp knife down between the glass and the frame, then gently bit by bit you can get the inset frame out:


Then I set to work with the petrol and a knife and got the glass out in one bit, minus a few chips.

Making a Template & Find Supplier

All the rectangular ports are slightly different. But I used a good piece of cardboard and got one just about right with enough clearance to stay in the frame. You might want to test your template in a few of the ports to be happy it will work for all of them. The round ones are a bit easier I found them to be 162mm diameter, this has a bit of clearance so you can get it into the frame but also enough overlap.

Finding a local supplier was a bit difficult as not many glass suppliers like the small hand cut jobs or jobs for boats! You could go down the expensive laser or sand cutting route but that would set you back a lot.

I had to put the bulk order in to get it through Glass Solutions in Cardiff, UK. We did have to get a couple remade as on the first one the put a stamp on it (required in the building trade) and some of the edges in the bulk order came out quite chipped and the tolerances where quite big. I suppose that’s what you get for going with hand cut glass though!?

They used two sheets of UK standard 6.4mm with a STADIP Bronze film for the tinting interlayer. 

Finding a Sealent
Now this took a bit of research as I wanted something I could remove again in future if I needed to. Currently a polyurethane sealent like sikaflex 291 was used but this would be tough to get out again.

Quotes from Boat US:
Think of polyurethane as an adhesive rather than a sealant.. Polyurethane is the best sealant for the hull-to-deck joint. It is also a good choice for through-hull fittings and for rubrails and toerails.
Sika 295 – Their solution to fixing glazing. But as with all skia products it is quite expensive! Plus this was Polyurethane based.
American industry leader in marine and building supplies suggest a Polysulfide caulk on this page. BoatUS suggest that Pulysulfide should not be used on Polycarbonate.

I found quite good info in this page about sealant suggestions for particular applications:

In the end I decided on 3m 4200. It is polyurethane based but medium strength allows for disassembly.. the real truth I suppose would be for me to take one apart after sealing it 😉

Refitting/Sealing Glass

This was quite straight forward. I cleaned up the frame with a wire brush then put the sealant around the frame and bed the glass in. Then you need to put the small screws back in the rectangular frames and clamp down the porthole. With the round I just put the sealant in the frame put the glass in then a bit more sealant and screw the collar back in (I used my handy tool I created to get them nice and tight).
Putting the sealent on

Putting the sealent on


With the glass fitted I then set to trying to source some seals to keep the opening porthole watertight when shut.

Now the question comes over what material to use to seal the Bronze portholes!?

Reading forums and speaking to Seals Direct a natural rubber recovers after compression much better then a synthetic rubber like EPDM. The natural rubber that Seals Direct sell is a emi soft natural rubber (45°sh) is flexible and semi compressible which but does not come in quite the right sizes so we had to get some cut which was costly at £5 per meter!

The spaces we have to fill are:

  • Rectangular Portholes = 7mm square. Seals  Direct were happy to cut the 6mm natural rubber sheet into 7mm strips which should work ok as these ports have a nice lip on the porthole body to seal against.
  • Round Portholes = 4mm square. As the natural rubber is so hard to cut they would not cut the 4mm sheet so they suggested a solid 5mm neoprene cord. Not as compressable but the next apparently the next best thing.

Glueing them in we used a waterproof contact adhesive.

To test these properly under pressure you need to heel the boat right over. Which we will be doing in a couple of weeks so will let update as to how well these seals are working.

Other ideas I had:

In future I might have to try the EPDM rubber and see how compressible it is. I did get some commercial rubber samples from a local company but it was not compressible at all. The hardest thing I have found is getting the size we need and finding time for all the calling around. The next UK supplier I might try in future would be Nufox as they do a 4.5mm square and 7mm square by the meter online.

Another solution would be silicone as Polymax do a silicon rubber square section that us available by the meter. The only problem with silicone is I don’t think it seals that well on an application where you are opening and closing the porthole. We tried making our own silicone seals by filling the space with fresh silicone then using a circle cake tin bigger then the porthole (with lots of washing up liquid on it) we were able to flatten off the top leave it to dry and cut some neat edges. Healing the boat over to test these though they did leak 😦 So as I said I don’t think silicone would work. 

Posted by: jhare | 28 June, 2013

Vagabond 47 Owners Guide

We were given a photocopy of this from Chiquita, some pages are missing but I’ve scanned it in before our version disintegrates!

v47 Owners guide

Posted by: Jo | 23 April, 2013

The one that makes it all worth it.

I meant to send this off to see if anyone wanted to publish it but I ran out of time and it’s now nearly 2 years out of date! I’ve posted it here to capture it before it gets lost on my pc..


The one that makes it all worth it

Waiting to lock out

Waiting to lock out

It was ten thirty on Friday evening after a day at the office. We had just stowed our crew’s gear and were locking out of the Cardiff Bay Barrage to catch

the midnight tide out of the Bristol Channel. The furthest we had been so far was Milford Haven so our aim of the Scillies was ambitious but we felt it was achievable. We had twice attempted a passage to the Isles of Scilly two years ago but both were abandoned. The first time we had to turn back, barely making it past Flat Holm after 2 hours of battling the wind and waves. We went back to work feeling very despondent but re-booked our leave for July –unfortunately the weather meant we didn’t even make it out of the Bay this time, instead opting for a climbing holiday in Italy!

So here we were, my husband and I on our Vagabond 47, Chula, with my parents, brother and mother-in-law as crew, all very excited that we might actually make it to the ‘S’ word. The Scillies are an important place to my family and marked the start of our journey with Chula. In 2007 my partner and I decided to buy a boat, we took a trip to St. Mary’s, where I had spent 3 seasons as a dinghy sailing instructor, so see a CT54, Taloa, which I had sailed on six years previously.  Taloa is owned by the local sail maker and my previous boss, so we had a good chat and a nosey around her. We realized she was just too big for us but she was based on the smaller Vagabond 47 which might be more suitable.

We looked at a few yachts based in the UK and 2 months later we took a flight to Florida to see a Vagabond 47 alongside



many other yachts that we thought might be suitable. It was a bit of a gamble as the broker would not guarantee that Chula would be there when we arrived –they wanted a deposit to secure our viewing! We asked many questions through email and double checked to see if there was anything we should know before coming over ‘no, no, I’ve told you all you need to know’ came the answer. Chula was the second boat we saw –immediately we found why she was still on the market –she had been hit by lightening and patched up by her previous owner. Why the broker decided that was not worth us knowing I have got no idea!

We saw about 12 yachts in our week in Florida. In hindsight, the trip was very well timed, the recession had hit the States but not the UK, everyone we spoke to was concerned about mortgage payments so there were lots of boats for sale. We made an offer on Chula as soon as we got back to the U.K. and after a little negotiation it was accepted a week later. She needed too much work to sail her back so we had to budget for the cost of the boat, decommissioning, road haulage both sides of the Atlantic, shipping and VAT. My husband did a sterling job organizing her to be de-masted and made ready for the trip to Miami and then Southampton. We used a VOIP company (Rebel) so that our phone bills were manageable! Joe was constantly on the phone to both haulage companies and Chip who decommissioned her.

Emotions were strong when we finally met her in Southampton after her trip across the Atlantic. We followed the haulage company back to Cardiff where she was lifted into the boat yard. It was a real reality shock –we had actually bought a 47ft boat and the realization of the work involved was quite daunting!

We spent 9 months working on her while she was out of the water. The main job was to treat the hull for osmosis & repair the lightening damage, luckily we have a GRP expert in the family who advised and helped throughout. On top of this we replaced the American sockets to British, replaced all the rusted stainless steel tanks, removed all the skin fittings and completely washed the bilges.

We were ready for launch in July 2008 –we managed to pick the wettest day, but luckily it was not too windy –we had to hire a site crane as there are no cranes in Cardiff that will hold her weight!

Our first sail in Cardiff Bay was an amazing experience –it did make us appreciate the skill involved in handling a boat of this size. We were both experienced dinghy sailors and have crewed on other yachts but never skippered a yacht of this size! For the first few outings we made sure we had an experienced skipper aboard, we managed Swansea in 2008, but ripped our stay sail off the choppy Nash Point.

Cardiff Bay is an excellent place to hone your boat handling skills –throughout the winter months we took Chula across the enclosed Bay to Mermaid Quay with its almost deserted pontoons. Doing this in all winds was an excellent way to practice, at the same time I started driving the local party boat and worked towards a commercial Boatmaster’s License. In between these trips we were able to see what works and what needs further work both for cruising and to make her comfortable. So in 2009 we had our first trip as our own skipper –we had an excellent sail to Portishead and into Bristol. 6 weeks later and we were on our first solo trip –just the two of us over to Watchet on the North Somerset Coast. We had managed to get Chula well balanced under sail so Joe joined me up on the bow spit, where he got down on one knee and produced a ring! It was an ideal trip to choose, our first on our own so it was a very momentous trip and extremely satisfying when we got to Watchet to celebrate!

Work never really stops on Chula, she had been sitting untouched for around 5 years in Florida and not much had been done before to keep her up to date. We have carried out a majority of the work ourselves, first aiming to get her in the water, then sailing, then short hops but the final aim is to get her back to her bluewater cruising potential. After the trip to Watchet we shrink wrapped Chula to start work on her teak decks, nearly 9 months work! We unwrapped her just before our wedding in July 2010. Chula is very much part of our lives, we have spent a long time working on her around our ‘normal’ work but we are rewarded by knowing her inside out.

So, four years, a trip to Florida and plenty of work later we found ourselves proudly sailing Chula bound for Land’s End.

The start of the voyage was tough. The Bristol Channel has very short, steep seas which just seem to stop Chula’s 23 tons in her tracks, this time we were lucky, the wind was just enough to continue her momentum through the waves but still gave us a very rough ride. It was a north westerly, wind against tide.

By sun rise we were off Hartland point, we had a lovely sail down the north Devon and Cornwall coasts. We sailed past Padstow in blue skies and under full sail with a strong sense of satisfaction. Approaching Land’s End we passed under a front and into dusk. Due to the NW winds we were aiming for the southern approaches between St. Mary’s and St. Agnes, we were under power by now and took the tide down the Lands End side of the TSS before crossing it, letting the tide take us south. We crossed the TSS at night, which was advised by the guide book and we felt happy doing so, the only cause for concern was some fog that was due with the front. In fact it was more reassuring seeing the shipping traffic, when we couldn’t see anything we didn’t know if it was because of fog or just no traffic! We saw two ships on each side, all well spaced and easy to cross. We approached St. Mary’s at dawn with very low visibility, just enough to poke our nose into

View from King Charles' Castle -Chula in foreground

View from King Charles’ Castle -Chula in foreground

Porthcressa and drop our anchor before a well deserved breakfast. We had spent 32 hours at sea and arrived at 6am, in fact exactly as the passage plan had predicted!! We normally sail Chula on our own so it was nice to have a full crew to help with the passage and feel the excitement of reaching land.

I spent the rest of the day shell shocked that we had actually achieved our dream of sailing our own boat to the Scillies. We were all immensely proud of Chula and she looks great after the four years of hard work we have put in, not only in preparing her but also in learning how to handle such a large boat.

We had an absolutely amazing holiday, we moved to The Cove on St. Agnes, then St Helen’s Pool before New Grimbsy Sound. The weather treated us well and bought back lovely childhood memories. We returned to Cardiff via Padstow and Lundy.

The whole trip felt like all the blood sweat and toil was definitely worth it. Next is to start the list of jobs to enable her to go further offshore and plan our next trip!!

Posted by: Joe | 19 October, 2012

Cabin Conversion

With the arrival of a new crew member we decided to make better use of what was the generator room and general storage room by taking out the cupboard divide and putting in a flat base for a small berth.

01_Room Overview

The blue box shows the area we wanted taking out. Quite a simple job but would require some finishing touches to the edges and general carpentry to fit in with the rest of Chula’s interior.

We had seen quite a few other boats that had had either bunks or single beds in the space. Here is an example from the other V47s (Black Swan and an unknown one):

black swan 3849827_-1_20120213141951_40_0

The best thing would have been to bring out the base of the bed into the cabin, like they have done above. This would have added considerable cost so we opted for the smaller berth which is fine as a pilot cabin and a lovely cot for the baby.

To have the work done we went to Tommi Nielsen’s yard in Gloucester. They did an absolute fantastic job and came in under quote as well!

Here is the final result:

Posted by: Jo | 18 August, 2012

Sail to Gloucester

In July 2012 we went on our first sail with Lowie, she was 9 weeks old 🙂 We decided to do the trip in three smaller hops: Cardiff-Portishead, Portishead-Sharpness and Sharpness-Gloucester.


This is a trip we’ve done many times and we felt confident doing it despite not having a third crew member to help with Lowie. In the end we found that Lowie enjoyed watching the sails and being out in the cockpit with us and the Bristol Channel was kind to us with perfect conditions 🙂 The passage plan was done around tides and feeding times! We fitted the car seat with webbing straps to the cockpit so Lowie would be safe when we put her down.

DSC_0622 (2)

Portishead-Sharpness (under both Severn Bridges)

We had heard that the passage upriver from the Avon was quite hairy! So the passage was planned meticulously. We used guidance notes from the web along with Reeds Almanac and a phone call to the Sharpness Canal. It is a relatively short passage but when the tide runs so strong with so many hazards the passage plan is worth getting right!

We picked up Mike in Portishead for the trip, he was excellent with Lowie and really interested in spotting the many transits along the way. Mike took a time-lapse of the journey, skip through to 1min to watch the tide whisk us under the bridge:


The trip was lovely, we had a calm day with good visibility and arrived into Sharpness Basin exactly to plan 🙂

Once locked-in we went through two bridges to moor just before the Purton Bridges, which we had been told is the only deep water place where we could go alongside with our draft.

boating6661 068


This took about 3 hours, the dual carriage way swing bridge needed to be booked 24 hours in advance, so this was our only time constraint. Navigating Chula on inland waters felt very strange! The bridge swinging system on the canal is excellent with a traffic light system and each bridge ‘keeper’ phoning on to the next warning them of our arrival! We ended our journey moored up at Tommi Nielsen’s yard next to a lovely Bristol Pilot Cutter ready for the yard to start the interior work the next day.


Posted by: jhare | 2 June, 2012

Arrival of a new crew member!

Lowenna was born on May 11th and has settled in well to life afloat 🙂


We are looking forward to taking her sailing -probably short trips this year to Bristol/Watchet/Ilfracombe… We’ve got a couple of cruising books to help guide us in sailing with babies:

Kids in the cockpit by Jill Schinas

and All in the same Boat by Tom Neale

We’ll see how we get on!

Posted by: jhare | 6 March, 2012

Webasto -servicing

During the cold spell our Webasto Airtop 5000 decided it would stop working 😦 It was showing error F02: the burners is failing to light. It would go through 5 cycles of sounding like it was starting up but then nothing.

We took the unit to an specialist who deals with the burners but mainly in trucks and campervans (so not to pay the excessive price of getting someone to look at it in the marine market!). The best guys in Cardiff are an excellent friendly company (Tanners Electrics) who replaced the burner unit inside the box for around £400. Rather frustrating but apprently the same part for a Eberspacher would have been three times the price!

The cause, we think, is the UK’s bad supply of Red Diesel that has a high sulphur content causing the burer to soot up. So we will be installing a dedicated white diesel tank for next winter (luckily we hadn’t actually got round to fully installing it into our main diesel tank yet!). This was our third winter with the Webasto & we worked out that we had run it approximately 1000 hours which is what some people note they have to do if running it on red. I found a good forum with lots of discussion of red diesel:

Would it have broken if it was an Eberspacher (I think they are maybe more forgiving on red diesel) or have we decided well with getting the Webasto with lower parts costs? I’ve no idea, but I definitely appreciate the lovely heat it produces 🙂

Posted by: jhare | 27 January, 2012

Update on headlining

Progress so far: templates for the saloon, fore cabin and aft cabin have been trialled in position and adjusted to fit where needed.

We were then ready for the next step: to apply the foam backed vinyl which I mentioned in the last headlining post. We went for a lightly textured white and bought a whole roll.

The glue (a contact adhesive) for sticking the foam to the plywood is particularly nasty stuff so we decided to make use of the workshop in Bickleigh which gave us space and better ventilation.

We decided to just do the saloon and fore cabin initially. The foam was delivered straight to Bickleigh. First of all the foam was cut roughly to size, the boards were wiped clean and left to dry.

foam cut to shape

The foam was cut roughly to shape each board

Then came the time for glueing. Due to the toxic nature of the glue, Joe did a majority of the glueing with all the doors open. I went in only to help position the boards in place on the foam. The glue was applied to the plywood with a spreader to help get it evenly coated. We then placed the board on top of the foam, keeping as much tension in the foam as we could to avoid bubbles.

Applying the contact adhesive

Once complete, the boards were left for a few days to set before trimming the edges and taking them back to the boat.

As said in the last post, the plywood that we were attaching the headlining to had also degraded. We didn’t want to reattach new ones with screws as they had when the boat was constructed and our first try with glue had failed after a few months.

So we decided to try CT-1, this might be overkill but we really don’t want to repeat this job! We held up the strips of ply with supports whilst the CT-1 cured (only took around 20mins) and then let it set over night before screwing into it.


We propped up the plywood strips whilst the CT1 set

Once this was complete we were finally ready to put up our new headlining. The result is amazing -it’s funny how you can live with something for so long! It’s made our saloon and fore cabin so much lighter and more comfortable, it just feels more ‘finished’!

Before the headlining goes up -you can see the plywood strips we have replaced where the headlining panels meet.

The completed fore cabin headlining!

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