Isle of Gigha, First Ten Days

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With the UK in lockdown, we’re spending all our time on board Dirona. It’s a comfortable boat, we always have excellent internet connectivity, and there’s never a shortage of work to do. This has given us time to complete a few lower-priority projects that have been around for a while. Among the work we did in our first ten days at the Isle of Gigha were adding more connectivity options to our router software and fixing a configuration issue with our UPS that we discovered after the navigation computer went down during a brief power event.

Below are trip highlights from March 29th through April 4th, 2020. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at

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1046 mbar
The barometer is at an unusually high 1046 mb. It’s so unusual we’ve not setup our barometer graph at top left to even display that high. Strong winds are predicted in a couple of days when that starts to fall.
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We typically have a bowl of fruit before breakfast and currently have fresh berries from Portland.
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Working on some upgrades to our router software. We jokingly call working at our laptops like this “boxing”, imagining what Spitfire must think about his owners staring at those black boxes for hours.
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Adding a little more air to our Polyform F-8 fenders. As part of our third approach to fendering Dirona, we purchased two Polyform F-8 fenders for use in the highest load point at the center of the boat. They seem near-indestructible and have worked out super-well in conjunction with inflatable fenders.
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Making Water
This is the first time we can remember that we’ve made water at anchor since installing the 240V inverter (A More Flexible Power System for Dirona. We’re never at an anchorage long enough that we need to make water, and instead always make water underway where the water is cleaner. But it’s been a week since we last filled in Portland, so we need to fill the tanks.

We’ll run for a bit more than a week until we get down to below half tank (less than 200 gallons), at which point we’ll run the watermaker during generator cycles. It makes water at 25 gallons/hour, so the tank will be back to full (415 gallons) in a couple of days. Then we’ll freshwater-flush the watermaker until we need it again.

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Fluke Pro3000F60
Using a Fluke Networks Pro3000F60 tone generator and probe, we traced several unused wire in the pilot house to the engine room in minutes. The picture at left shows the tone generator attached to a wire inside a pilot house locker. The probe at right makes the sound generated by the toner audible when the matching wire in the engine room is touched. Without the probe, that might have taken hours, and we’d probably never do it. Now we know we have several unused wires that we can use for control systems.
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When James is working in the engine room, Spitfire often goes down to join him. Here he is getting a little frantic for attention and has climbed up on top of the engine. James put his hands out to form a platform and Spitfire climbed over for a head butt.
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Generator Coolant
A minor generator coolant leak. We initially blamed the radiator cap, but later discovered a very small leak at the overflow bottle lid. We found an appropriate-sized silicon washer to seal it up and pressure-tested the assembly underwater to confirm it doesn’t leak.
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Food-Preserving Bags
Containers of strawberries, blueberries and raspberries from Portland inside food-preserving bags with layers of paper towel. These kept well for over two weeks before we consumed them all.

Food-preserving bags keep fruit and vegetables fresh longer (we use Debbie Meyer and Evert-Fresh). The bags work by allowing the escape of ethylene gas, generated in the ripening process. The higher the concentration of ethylene gas around the produce, the faster it ripens. Moisture also is the enemy of extending produce life—to absorb any, we also put lots of paper towel inside the bags, or wrapped around items such as lettuce, spring onions and celery. We replace the paper towel frequently, daily in some cases, to keep the produce dry (we dry the damp towels and re-use them). Berries will last 2-3 weeks and lettuce 6-8 weeks using these methods.

A high-quality fridge with good humidity control has a huge impact too. We really noticed this between the marine refrigerator on our previous boat and the SubZero on Dirona. With the marine refrigerator we had, the green bag treatment doubled or tripled produce shelf life, depending on the product. With the Sub-Zero, the shelf life is quadrupled or more. When ordering Dirona, we’d considered replacing the SubZero with a more power-efficient unit that wouldn’t have had such good humidity control, and are really glad we didn’t (see On Refrigeration).

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Automatic Repair
We had a major power event this morning when the shorter member of the team, intending to switch the ship’s service selector from the 240V inverter to the generator, accidentally switched the charger service selector from Auto to Gen while the generator was running and charging at full load. The ensuing power event caused a momentary outage on the 120V inverter, but as far as we know didn’t damage any equipment.

Unfortunately, the UPS protecting our nav computer dropped the load and when we tried to bring it back up, the system just sat at the Lenovo splash screen. We cycled the power and it sat there again for many minutes, eventually showing a spinning donut, but still on the Lenovo splash screen. After several minutes, Windows gave up the boot process and went to the Automatic Repair screen shown here. We selected Repair and the system went to work for 15 minutes before coming back up. Whew. We do have a spare computer, but recovering to it would be a big job.

We’ve just replaced the UPS protecting the nav computer, so it’s a little disappointing that it dropped the load like that. These are among the most unreliable components in high-scale data centers,so it’s no surprise that consumer products are unreliable too. In this case, we later learned that the UPS wasn’t at fault.

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43 knots
The barometer is falling as the first of several big systems rolls across Scotland, bringing gusts to 45 knots through the anchorage. The winds are from the west, and we have good protection in that direction from the Isle of Gigha. (The missing section of the wind graph was caused by the nav computer outage.)
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Spare UPS
After the navigation computer struggled to recover for more than 15 minutes following a power fault, you’d think the last thing we’d want to do is put it through that again and risk it failing completely. But the computer should be able to deal with a power fault better than that, and if the UPS really can’t carry the load, we’d rather find out now than in the middle of a passage. So we tested the UPS by unplugging the power and it again dropped the load. Fortunately, this time the nav computer booted up without issue.

The UPS is new, and has more capacity than the previous one, so it should have had no problem with this outage. Here we are testing our spare UPS to make sure it can carry a high load. It did, so we plugged the current UPS into this one and the spare was able to carry the full load from the navigation computer and peripherals. So possibly the current one is defective.

Further investigation of the issue yielded two problems: 1) when cleaning up some wiring, we’d inadvertently plugged the navigation computer gear into a surge-protection-only outlet and 2) the NMEA200 data source for the navigation computer was not on the UPS, so even if the computer had stayed up, it would have lost NMEA2000 access for the duration of the outage.

After correctly installing the nav computer and the NMEA2000 multiplexers on the UPS, the whole system is able to ride through power failures without problem. You never can be sure a backup system will work unless you test it.

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Spitfire has taken to sleeping in the tray above the engine whenever the door is opened.
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14 Days
Celebrating fourteen days of good health with a a special dinner of Moroccan-Spiced Chicken Brochettes and a bottle of one of our favourite red wines, a Barolo. We last were near other people two weeks ago at the Lidl grocery store in Portland. We’ve been pretty careful for the last month, so didn’t really expect a problem.
Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at


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6 comments on “Isle of Gigha, First Ten Days
  1. Doug Miller says:

    Hi James and Jennifer. Hope you are surviving the lockdown. Signs here in the UK that there might be a relaxing of the rules soon. I had no idea (and I’m Scottish) that Gigha is pronounced Geea.
    Hope you are both well

    • I’m a few generations descended from Scotland and didn’t know either. We’re enjoying great weather and are looking forward to the UK opening up over the next month or so.

  2. Steve Richardson says:

    Wow! 1046 mbar translates into 30.89inHg. That’s pretty high. Did you look at any weather charts to see how tightly wound the pressure ridges were on that High.

    • Good point. We should have had a look at the longer range isobar spacing. A couple of days later we did see over 40 kts and a week later, the winds were blowing 55 kts through the anchorage.

  3. Mick Taylor says:

    Pleased to see Spitfire enjoying his global adventure still. He must be the world’s most traveled cat. I get a kick out of seeing him! You May have guessed I’m a cat person and we have Freddie who is also black. Did you know it’s been proven that black cats are the best in terms of temperament and character? I guess this comment is a little different to some you may get ?. Enjoying following you!

    • Yes, Spitfire is a lot of fun. I’m typing on the salon table and jennifer is a bit further around with Spitfire sleeping in between. He’s been boating for nearly 17 years now.

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