About us and our boats

As you have got this far,  I thought I would tell you about us and the history of our boats.  Roger and I had never owned boats in our previous lives. We live close to the sailing mecca of the UK but it just didn’t cross our minds.

Every year the River Hamble hosts a regatta at Bursledon. Each year has a different theme and in 2005 it was the  bicentennial of the Battle of Trafalgar. The afternoon consists of a flotilla of small boats dressed to reflect the theme. We thought it would be fun to celebrate one of our finest Naval battles, so we set out to find a small boat.

Dijon Cuddy Cabin

We bought our first boat for £800 from eBay. A little Dijon cuddy cabin with an outboard. We lovingly repainted her and replaced the windows. I made some cushions for the cabin. we had a glorious summer pottering around the Solent. By this time we are both smitten and decide to upgrade the size so we can sleep overnight on her. We sold her for £2000

Shetland 570

history of our baots
Two Can

Our next purchase is a Shetland 570. She was also a bit of project but we had her looking smart in a season. At last we could sleep & cook onboard. We had 6 years of amazing fun sailing inland and coastal waters. But…. I was getting too old to keep cooking on my knees and I wanted hot water and more space.

Shetland 4+2

history of our boats
Two Can II

I now had my creature comforts. But Roger was unhappy as the heads were too small for him to comfortably use them. We had further cruising distance, more comfort, more space but still something was missing. we compiled a ‘bucket list’ of our our ideal boat.

  • under 30ft
  • heads that Roger could get in and use
  • diesel inboard engine (the last 3 boats had petrol outboards)
  • separate cabin so I didn’t have to pack away a V berth everyday

Hardy Seawings 277

history of our boats

Finally we get to play with the big boys.  Jessica ticks all the boxes.

Nelson – Salty Sea Dogs

Admiral Lord Nelson is still one of our most outstanding and brilliant Naval officers of all times. One of our greatest salty sea dogs.

Horatio Nelson
Horatio Nelson

Horatio Nelson

(29 September 1758 – 21 October 1805). A British flag officer in the Royal Navy,  Nelson is noted  for his inspirational leadership. His  superb grasp of strategy and unconventional tactics resulted in a number of decisive naval victories, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars.  Wounded several times in combat, losing one arm in the unsuccessful attempt to conquer Santa Cruz de Tenerife and the sight in one eye in Corsica. He was shot and killed during his final victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

“Salty Sea Dog” is nautical slang for experienced sailors who spend much of their life at sea.

The “Sea Dogs were English pirates at the time of Elizabeth I of England and were also known as Elizabethan Pirates.

Our Salty Sea Dog……

Admiral Nelson

(14th November 2014). Our  rescue labrador noted for his complete lack of any discipline and selective deafness. Chocolate labradors are renown for being as thick as a plank. He has an obsession for all things ball shaped, toilet rolls and odd socks. He possesses unconventional habits such as drinking from the toilet and howling at the moon.  This has resulted in total devastation wherever he goes. I will shoot him if he chews the TV remote again.



Being a labrador, he adores water. Any water. Be it muddy, stagnant , smelly or salty. He is not fussy.

salty dog
salty dog

 So  it is completely natural that he loves the boat. Being on it, trying to jump off it or just snoozing on it.


Our latest crew member and complete pirate

Repairs and Renovations

Repairs and renovations make up a big part of being a boat owner. Apart from the glaring obvious that cars don’t float, Boats are not like cars in the fact that they age much better than cars. A 20 year old boat is still very serviceable where as a 20 year old car is likely to be a rust bucket.

But like anything that gets old everything tends to date and show their age. We bought JESSICA a year ago and she is a 1998 build making her 18 years old. Like any teenager she was in need of a cosmetic make over.

Before I go any further you need to know an important fact. That is this……  BOAT stands for Break Out Another Thousand.

Marine retailers think we boaters are all minted  and they  have a nasty habit of adding an extra zero to all prices. Go to a caravan/motorhome retailer and the prices are not so eye wateringly obscene. Same products though.

Cabin Carpet

First to go was the cabin carpet. It was minging. Salty, sticky, smelly, just plain revolting.

We went and got quotes for marine carpeting. “How Much” we shrieked indignantly after picking ourselves up off the floor in horror

I’m thinking – It can’t be that  hard. So off we trot to the Carpet Warehouse. We find exactly what we want at a fraction of the price quoted. eBay produces the carpet binding. So far so good. We cut a patten from the old carpet, use paper clips to pin the binding in place and whip out the sewing machine.

Carpet Binding
Carpet Binding

I have to stress at this point that my sewing machine is from Tesco’s, not an industrial flat bed. We also see that the dinning room table is not big enough to swing large pieces of carpet through. So in the spirit of DIY  we move everything to the conservatory floor were Roger helps to feed the carpet around.

It was  a labour of love to say the least. a few domestic arguments later and we have a lovely new cabin carpet.

My thoughts move to the upholstery…..


Upholstery and Staples

Boat upholstery takes a real hammering. Constantly exposed to salt, damp air, damp salty people and our case damp salty dog.

Jessica’s cabin upholstery was actually in quite good condition but it was tired and dated. So I thought I would take on a task on monumental proportions and tackle the upholstery myself.

Staples and more staples.

Resourcing the material and replacement foam on eBay was simple.  I begin with the 2 beds/cots. Easy peasy as the mattresses are rectangular in shape with no piping.

Cot Upholstery
Cot Upholstery

Feeling very pleased with myself I turn to the cabins V berth. This consists of 3 squabs, 3 back panels and a table infill. My idea is to deconstruct each piece and make patterns for the new material. Easier said than done.  I have never seen so many wretched stables. It takes me 5 hours to take apart just one backboard but I am rewarded with perfect patterns  a few blisters and a couple of missing finger nails.

old upholstery
old upholstery

My next headache is make sure that the stripes all run the same way. Why did I not choose plain material and make my life easier?

Nearly There
Nearly There

Piping is a complete mystery to me but I have managed to sew it on in all the right places. Now came the really tricky bit, getting the contours on the seats and backs right. This requires about 8 pairs of hands and a load more of the damn staples. After stuffing the squabs with foam the fruits of of my labour are finally coming to light.
The hard wood trims were easy in comparison, I just set to with a hot glue gun. Finally the whole ensemble was sprayed to an inch of its life with waterproof fabric protector, red wine can be a killer to upholstery.
Would I do it again? Watch this space.

Windscreen Wipers and Wrecks

Jessica posses windscreen wipers only on the captains side of the boat. Being mere crew I have to stare out of a rain and salt smeared window. Spotting cruise ships, ferries and the odd errant yacht is becoming a pain so Roger being Roger has decided to fit a set of wipers to my side.

Scrap yard

I find myself on a sunny Sunday morning in Hampshires largest scrap yard, Silverlake. I live such an exciting life, never a dull moment.

We split up and  start wander around various wrecks and write offs looking for a certain windscreen wiper. We need two. One needs to be a left hand mount the other a right hand mount. Don’t ask as I have no idea why.

A shout goes up  and I find Roger with a large grin on his face. He is standing in front of what can only be described as a rusting skeleton of a car. Out of his pocket he produces a very large screw driver and a humongous pair of mole grips and starts attacking  the rear boot with the finesse of a butcher.

"Fingers" Parsons
“Fingers” Parsons

Me thinks he has done this before. Obviously signs of a misspent youth but you didn’t hear it from me.

Finally the windscreen motor parts company from the boot lid and we have a right hand mount. Whoopee do!

The hunt continues for the left hand one. I am slowly losing the will to live. Half an hour later we have what we need. We saunter back to the main office where we part with the princely sum of £15. (New ones would have cost hundreds).

Roger is going to fit the new wipers and motors  when Jessica comes out for annual maintenance in January. I will let you know how we get on.

The Final Frontier – Vinyl and Foam

The cockpit upholstery is the final frontier of an epic task. This upholstery takes the most punishment, open to the elements when the canopy is down and to the sun and heat when the canopy is closed. The original vinyl is grubby and there is a tear to the back of the captains helms seat.


old seat
old seat

So it all has to come off.


Yup you got it, millions of staples. and they all have to come out.


more staples
more staples

Only when we get all the staples out do I realise it is them that hold the whole seat together, no wonder there are so many.
Finally we expose the  plywood and its all rotten so Roger cuts me some lovely new pieces. The foam is shot so back to online foam shop to get some more. I discover the joys of sewing pleated foam backed vinyl. The foam jams the needle several times and the pleats stretch. Deep joy.


Getting the seats (captains and crew) back together is a bit like a krypton factor challenge. We need 8 pairs of hands. After all my moaning we put back as many staples as we have taken out – the shame of it. But they look great

new seat
new helms seat before I staple the bottom edges down.


The remaining cockpit cushions are a piece of cake in comparison. The old foam was so wet it left puddles on the garage floor! Didn’t smell too good either. This time we have encased the foam in a waterproof membrane.

seat squab
seat squab


With hindsight I would not have used pleated vinyl as it does trap dog hair and dirt in the grooves but I think all plain would not have looked quite right. Put it this way, I am not taking out all those damn staples again to find out!


Sinks, Showers and Heads

Sinks showers and heads are not normally uppermost  in peoples minds when it comes to buying a boat. That prize  goes to galleys, cabins and in the eyes of the men, the engine room .

For you non boaty people “Heads” is the nautical term for the toilet.


The heads were at  the top of our bucket list when  looking at buying Jessica. Our first boat was very much a “bucket and chuck it” job. Our previous boat did have a built in toilet and shower but it was built for a 4ft oompa lumpa with the physique  of a racing snake. Roger who stands 6ft 2 and is slightly larger could not get in and close the door. Showering became a spectator sport. Hence my obsession of finding a boat with bigger heads.

Jessica ticks all the boxes. Light, airy, easy to keep clean and Roger can shower with the door shut. I immediately removed the curtains and put frosted film on the windows. Soggy curtains? No thanks.

Jessica's Heads
Jessica’s Heads

We knew we had a problem the first time we used the shower. it is one of those pull out and attach hose to wall type. Problem is that the hose is too stiff and so flies off the clip when too much water pressure is turned on. Not very funny when your eyes are full of shampoo and you are trying to pin down a snaking torrent of water. I quickly  changed this to one of those chrome hoses that bends. Sorted.

The other slight modification we have made is the  sink. Why Hardy think we need  10 inch deep sink is beyond me. Fill it and you empty the water tank, put a small dribble in it and you can’t get your face in to wash it. Useless! So out it came to be replaced with a delicate shallow bowl. Much more usable.

new sink
new sink

Our Poop Deck

Most marinas provide excellent showering facilities, some of them on par with 5 star hotels. But its no fun walking half a mile down a pontoon in the pouring rain after a warm shower. We love and use our little heads.

So much so we fondly call it the “poop deck”.

Sea Toilets – Why do they smell so bad?

If you think I am obsessed with sea toilets, you are right, I am. Read my last post and you will understand why.

Why do sea toilets smell so bad and stink the boat out especially when she’s been left for a week or two? And as we all know, the longer you are away from the boat, the worse it gets.

Its all so embarrassing.

It’s happened to all of us at one time or another. You invite your friends for a weekend on the boat ­ they arrive full of expectation ­ but as you unlock the cabin door, everybody recoils at the smell!

Truth is that nobody’s really worked out why it happens. Until now!

Everybody thought it’s what goes into the toilet that causes the problem. Fact is that it’s the water you’re flushing the toilet with that’s the main problem!

Sea or river water is full of living organisms, like, algae, plankton, microscopic bacteria, etc.
When these organisms go into the inlet pipe of a marine toilet they’re starved of oxygen and light, so they die and decompose.

That’s the smell!

Even if you flush with fresh water you can have the same bacterial problems in the  hoses and still end up with a smelly marine toilet because of smelly  hoses running through the bilges. Trouble is that marine  hose is porous and minute bacteria can actually penetrate the structure of the hose itself.

So how to combat this with out resorting  than a shed load of environmental unfriendly chemicals? One piece advice I was given was to use bog standard fabric conditioner – yes you heard that right.

The conditioner prevents solids from sticking as much to the tank and lines.

Don’t ask me why But it does seem to work. Thank god for Comfort


Holding Tanks. The trials and tribulations.

Holding tanks stink! In more ways than one.

Those of you who have lived in a house with a cess tank will understand exactly where I am coming from.

When you buy a boat you get a handover just like buying a new car. This is make sure you know where all the seacocks are and how everything works. On our JESSICA handover we were shown the mysteries of our sea toilet and holding tank. We were told that the tank was empty  and that the tank was closed off and we were pumping  straight out into the sea. Before you all scream about the environment, this is allowed in some places. Never eat fish caught in a Marina!!!

However, never trust a sales man. A month into using JESSICA we noticed that she had a slight list to the starboard (right) side and when we used the toilet there was a bit of a pong. We had no idea just how critical this was.

Stinky Goo.

The smell got worse and worse.  Roger described it as “chewy”. Meanwhile I had shares in Airwick air fresheners!!

We tried everything to fix it. Bottle loads of bleach and disinfectant down the head (just how good is that for the marine environment?) and loads of flushing – all to no avail. In fact the list to starboard increased.


Finally we discovered that the holding tank was full to dangerous overload. level. It holds 80 litres of black waste and in 3 weekends there was no way we had filled it so  that meant we were carrying a tank full of the previous owners poo. Bear in mind that before we bought the boat she had been in a marina for 6 months not being used. It was fermenting right under our noses.


We made an emergency dash for the nearest pump out station situated in the next door marina. “Just in time” management does not even begin to describe how close to an environmental disaster we were.

Nor am I going to attempt to describe the gungy sticky goo that we pumped out. It was a full bio-suit hazard looking for somewhere to happen.

Normality resumed. The starboard list was resolved and although I can’t say everything smelt of roses , it was a million times better than before.


Grab Bags

Anyone who knows me, recognises  I have a bit of a Mary Poppins handbag. Enormous, bottomless, full of impractical  “crap” and completely useless in an emergency.

No one wants to abandon ship, but knowing what to pack in  grab bags could one day make a short stay in a life raft more bearable and might even save your life

You need to chuck out the sticky fluffy boiled sweets, the crumpled tissues, odd loose change, leaky biro and pack these essential items instead. Remember you will never ditch in a warm mill-pond calm sea under cloudless blue skies. It will be dark, cold, blowing a hooley and hissing down with rain.

Essential Items

Handheld VHF
Essential to communicate with the rescue services.  A DSC-enabled VHF with integral GPS would be a great help. Waterproof and floatable is useful Cold wet hands drop things so add a lanyard to hang round your neck.
Navigation tools
A handheld GPS will let you communicate your position accurately to a potential rescuer, as well as work out your drift rate.  A hand bearing compass is a good back up. Cold wet hands drop things so add a lanyard to hang round your neck.
Reading glasses
Essential to peer at the tiny buttons on the radio in the gloom – Cheap, flexible plastic ones will do. Poundland do a nice range. Cold wet hands drop things so add a lanyard to hang round your neck.
A good torch is important. Something waterproof and powerful. Essential to illuminate tiny buttons on radio. Pack spare batteries, cold water is notorious for draining power.. A strobe function is particularly useful. Cold wet hands drop things so add a lanyard to hang round your neck.
Make sure it’s sheathed or is a safety knife . One of those multi tool knifes are useful. The type boy scouts use to get stones out of horses hooves. Cold wet hands drop things so add a lanyard to hang round your neck.
Hmmm. Remember they are classed as EXPLOSIVES. A decent strobe torch or one of the newer LED flares are a better idea. Not a good idea to hang them around your neck.
Some sort of high-energy food, like chocolate, as well as something that releases energy more slowly, like a fruit/nut mix, is good for keeping energy levels and spirits up. Keep them in the bag. Hanging them around your neck will make them go soggy.
Foil blankets
You may look like a ready basted turkey but they are essential for helping cold people warm up. They are not expensive, but could keep hypothermia at bay.
Personal effects
What is the point reaching terra firma if you can’t drive home, unlock the front door once you get there or being unable to call a taxi due to lack of funds and phone? Include your house/car keys, wallet, credit cards and mobile phone in the bag whenever you set off somewhere. Common sense but I guess most of us forget. I know we do.
A small pack-towel to dry off with, a hair brush and decent lippy, well have you seen some of these hunky lifeboat men??
Last but not least, a neck brace, you have some considerable weight around your neck.