WABI’’’ real time : at anchor, Anse De Toulven, L’Odet-Fleuve.   Yesterday at anchor I was working on the blog post ‘the hygiene section’ in which I talked a bit about sun, sun protection and skin cancer…..this morning it’s cool, pouring with rain and I’m settling into my ‘hurricane-hole’ for a couple of days.  Yesterday when Jax texted me the weather forecast it was promising 40-50 mph of wind for about 12 hours in a days time so I need to be very securely at anchor.  My choice is the small sheltered bay just inside the Anse de Toulven and only a couple of hundred yards off the main river.   Here, I’m in a relatively shallow pool with a muddy shelf to windward and banks of high trees all around.  I might have to shift the anchor a bit at low water but so far it’s looking about right.  I have got my heaviest anchor down, on the longest chain and with the heavy, weighted warp on.  It’s raining now and was distinctly cool in the boat after my morning exploring the Anse de Toulven and the Anse de Ste Cadou as far as I could.

My work this morning was to explore both arms of the 2 creeks that feed into the pool that I am anchored in.  It was on a falling spring tide so I had to be a bit cautious but I did push up the delightful Anse De Ste Cadou within half a mile of it’s end , by then I had hardly any water under the board and had to do a 3 point turn to come out again. Now, iv’e lit the stove, I’m going to get down to drafting some blog posts and editing previous posts so that when I’m in wifi range I can get the next group uploaded.  I’m not going to tap away at the keyboard all day : a steady 3 hours work is plenty enough.  Aside from writing I have a shelf of books to be going on with and a few jobs to do.  A quick check shows me that I’m good for water, milk, coffee, biscuits and food !….I know iv’e got a fresh bag of charcoal because we bought some at the supermarket in Camaret.


For the main part of the post today I thought to talk about living aboard at times like this with bad weather ‘incoming’ or actually happening.  This morning I was a bit tempted to run back down the river and put alongside again at one of the marinas but I didn’t because I think it will be very uncomfortable there with a lot of tide running in the river plus a lot of wind.  So although I won’t benefit from being able to sit in the capitanarie and log on to the wifi I should be much more sheltered, comfortable and in a way ‘doing it properly’ ie at anchor in the near equivalent of a small boat ‘hurricane-hole’.

The last time I had to sit out really bad weather in the boat at anchor was , I think, 2 years ago, when I tried to make an early season passage from Calstock to Fowey or Falmouth.  I got down the river a ways and then anchored in the lee of high ground at ‘Dandy hole’.  There I listened to the radio 4 shipping forecast which I think gave ‘gales all areas’.  By that time the wind was already booming overhead and I had no choice but to hide out there for a couple of days.  It was March I think and very cold in the boat….my photograph from there is of me with a hat on and fleece on and under my sleeping bag.  That experience was one of the main reasons I started researching heaters for the boat.

So, this tiny space has been my home for 60 days so far and the actual living space isn’t much more than a 3 man tent.  Some sailing writers talk about the ‘misery’ of being stuck in a small boat in bad weather and to be honest I just don’t get it.  I have been more comfortable so far than in many of the big boats that I have sailed plus I’m not surrounded by and having to deal with moaning guests : I did actually have one guest crew one time who complained to me about the weather !.  I think that this boat is about as well set up for basic comfort now as it can be, except for the outside space which I am working on.  The slight parallel with camping is that although we most often sleep in a tent during our car-camping trips we spend most of our time under the ‘porch’ created by a tarp.    The actual set-up of the boat’s cabin is that I have the berth infill permanently in place as I use the spaces underneath that for my kedge and tools in one and my heavy larder under the next.  That means that we sit in the boat with our legs stretched out most of the time and that’s how I do my writing.

The limitation of the boat as a home is it’s cabin space though, or lack of it. It’s been ok for me on my own and because we’ve had years of camping together can be made to work 2-up. We can’t though, for example have bunks permanently set up just for sleeping or as ‘individual space’ which is what we had with the Frances. With that boat we each had our own bunk , one of the quarter berths, and then we had the whole of the front of the boat as a sitting area. Aboard the Liberty we sit and sleep in the same space which could be a problem when we are both on board. The real limitation of the space I think is the tiny galley area, I can and do cook properly every day but it needs excellent organisation to make it work.  I find it a quite friendly and ‘homely’ space though , certainly when I compare it to the larger space that another sailor I met was living in.  

That first time I had to sit-out bad weather in this boat taught me that I would benefit from a source of warmth, that I needed to have several days of food, water and fuel and that I needed other things to occupy the slack time with.  At the time I don’t think I had many books on board, didn’t have the laptop to work on and wasn’t in the habit of writing notes for post outlines. I did have my little AM/FM Sony radio for weather forecasts but if I remember it I had a thorough rant about radio 4 which was truly abysmal I thought.  Here…I tuned into a French ‘music’ station just once : sorry guys but France really cannot do music !.  

Now, I have a shelf of books behind me : I’m currently trying to work my way through Brian Cox’s “The Quantum Universe” and I’m not doing very well with it.  The subject, although fascinating to a science geek like me is deeply mathematical and that level of maths I really struggle with. I don’t mind equations when they largely have numbers in them , like for example doing drug calculations but Cox’s book not only has equations that are all letters and symbols but many of those symbols are squiggles and triangles….or Greek !.  I did joke once that maths is a bit like Vogon poetry and to really understand it I need to be strapped into a chair, bound, gagged and lightly anaesthetised .   Later on I’ll indulge myself with a few pages of Jack Aubrey, Stephen Maturin and the crew of the HMS Surprise instead.  That’s todays occupation summed up, by the way : ‘readin, ritin an ‘rithmatic’ !

If some of the above sounds familiar, well it is, : most of it is the stuff that I was writing about last year when I concluded that “we’ll need a bigger boat” !.  I said then that the Liberty isn’t powerful enough and stable enough for Channel sailing….and yet here I am ! Nor is she big enough to live on except here we are 60 days later and not totally bonkers yet.


There isn’t a lot I can do to improve the Liberty for what we are doing now although there are a couple of things coming to the head of a list of priorities,  For this blog post I took the question “what if we were to cruise on this boat long term….what would we need to improve or change”.  Straight away there are a couple of things that come to mind.  The first is that I really need to get ashore more often, not for shopping and stores but to get exercise and explore around a lot more.  A walk to the supermarket once a week just isn’t enough exercise.  I really need to find some way of storing a small dinghy on board and then I need to find the small dinghy !.


The other thing is that I need more power or more exactly more electrical power.  I don’t use very much except for when I am doing the longer passages on the tiller pilot and have the GPS running.   After the channel crossing it took the battery about 5 days to show full charge again.  While I do have a large battery for the size of boat ( 160 Ah) I only have a 20 watt solar panel to charge it with and no other source of charging.  I could say that iv’e been very successful with my minimal use of electricity and the blog work for example because I can only charge the MacBook from the ship’s battery and iv’e managed to do that so far but…..big but coming up.  All I do with the MacBook is write posts, download the photographs from my camera and then edit and upload the posts when I am near wifi.    Because of the time that takes I can usually get 2 or 3 posts uploaded , checked online and scheduled per session.    I haven’t been doing any video work at all because I don’t think I have the storage capacity or the software on board.  Aside from that I know that it takes about 3 hours to upload a 5-6 minute video at home, iv’e no idea how long it would take out here on poor wifi.  The simple writing and editing I do per session takes the Mac’s battery down to about 80% at which time I usually put it on charge. I try to charge when iv’e got direct sunlight on the one panel and I will move the boat so that the one panel is in the sun but I’m aware that I really need more charging capacity.

One possibility is to carry a French cable and plug set-up and put the ship’s battery on charge when I am alongside in a marina.  I don’t like that idea because it’s the slippery slope towards marina dependance.  I could buy a French charger for the MacBook except that iv’e never been anywhere so far that has had mains sockets available. I’ll have to think about a better solar panel set-up because there’s little point in trying to add a charging circuit to the 6Hp motor.   For the first time I can see why an internal diesel engine might be useful ! 

 On solar power and other peoples set-up : I was watching one of the Free Range sailing video’s just before I left, really missing their stuff now, and I note that they were adding solar panels…I think Troy was up to 3 x 120 watt panels….and I think even he was saying that they need more power but there again they are doing much longer video’s.  I might start filming again because I recently bought a spare SD card so I could practically do a load of filming and then do the editing and production this autumn and winter as a winter project.


1 Comment

  1. Would be great to see some films Steve. As for solar PV panels there are some great semi-flexible ones out there providing you can find the space for them of course, — imagine what 100 watts and an MPPT charge controller would do for you! You might also want to look at small “solar generators” as a back-up if you have to hide out beneath the clouds in a river hurricane hole:


    They’re just big lithium battery power packs with a selection of outputs that can be charged via a solar panel. Some even have fold-able panels that you can hang to suit the sun with the right connector as part of a kit — just steer clear of anything made by Yeti as there are much cheaper brands that do the same thing and are as well built (as linked above). A couple of hundred quid could see you set.


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