Gigha Winds

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Our anchorage at the Isle of Gigha has good protection in most directions, except from east to northeast. The winds generally haven’t been in that direction since we arrived, but high winds with gusts to 38 knots blew from the northeast for several days during the fourth week of our stay, sending large waves are rolling through the anchorage. The boat was moving, but surprisingly little given the size of the waves.

This is the second major system to pass through since we’ve been here. The first brought 56-knot gusts, but from the southeast where we have better protection. Our snubber and anchor ball did not fare so well through the storms. The anchor ball broke twice and the snubber needed replacing after the second system passed through.

Other than the fact we’ve not left the boat for weeks, life has continued pretty much as normal on Dirona. We’re completing many boat and software projects, enjoying good meals, and appreciating the beauty of our anchorage here in Scotland. Spitfire continues to do well and enjoys the extra attention he’s been getting.

Below are highlights from April 17th through 30th, 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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We’ve finished the grapefruit and now are having fresh apples in the morning.
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Spare Cat
We found another “spare Spitfire” when we opened up the cabinet behind the TV. Whenever a new location is opened up, he immediately jumps in. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be all that new.
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Spring Onions
With the green bag and paper-towel treatment, the spring onions are stilling doing well after four weeks.
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Raspberry Pi
The Raspberry Pi that went into service back in 2015 on our Indian Ocean crossing needed replacement. It experienced the failure of a couple of channels. The rest of the system still works fine, but these systems are cheap so we just replaced it.
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26 Days
“Celebrating” the longest time we’ve ever been aboard without going ashore. The last time we were off the boat was 26 days ago, on March 22, when we we departed Portland. Our prior record was 25 days, on the 3,689-mile run from St. Helena to Barbados. This one is for an entirely different purpose, but both were enjoyable. One big improvement though, is that we’re not sleeping in shifts and the seas are calmer. :)
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Whenever we access a storage area, particularly to stow something new, we inventory the contents to determine if we still need everything. Here we’ve decided to discard an old Dish satellite TV receiver and remote, along with a Roku media streamer and some computer speakers. The receiver and Roku are over a decade old and probably are incompatible with current infrastructure. It’s very unlikely we’d ever sign up for a Dish contract again, as we had when we lived in Seattle and Hawaii. And were we to use a Roku again, we’d get a newer one. But even that is unlikely, as we’ve become pretty heavy users of the Amazon Fire TV Stick.
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Pole Star
The 169ft (51.5m) lighthouse tender NLV Pole Star heading south past the Isle of Gigha. This is perhaps only the second or third passing vessel we’ve seen since anchoring at Gigha a month ago. The waterways are really empty.

The ship, owned by the National Lighthouse Board, maintains the lighthouses in Scotland and the Isle of Man. We last saw the Pole Star off Cromarty Forth near Inverness Scotland in 2017.

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Signal Booster Test
Sometime back we bought a WeBost Cell Signal Booster and tested it carefully on the boat. We tried putting the phones in a low corner of the engine room to degrade the signal as much as possible and then tested the cell booster off and on. The signal booster made absolutely no difference across a wide variety of tests. Blog reader Chasm points out the issue is likely the device is only capable of handling North American cellular frequencies.

Read more …

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Plug Replacement
The plug on our Karcher Power Washer has an RCD that always is tripping. The outdoor sockets we plug it into all have RCDs anyway (in fact all sockets indoor and out on Dirona have RCDs), so we removed the faulty power washer RCD. The hinged door on the outdoor socket weather covers gets in the way of both plugs fitting properly, so we use the small pigtail extension at left.
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Garbage Day
Emptying the trash compacter for the first time since we left Portland a month ago. Our normal operation is to discard most food packaging as we stow it, and use the in-sink garbage disposal (garburator for any Canadians in the audience) for food waste. We keep glass and other recylables separately, so end up producing a surprisingly small amount of actual garbage. We store the compressed trash in a bow locker until we next have access to shore-side garbage facilities.

We don’t use the compacter when in port where we can easily get rid of garbage, but use it heavily when we are at sea or don’t expect to be able to offload garbage for a while. The compacter is standard equipment on the Nordhavn 52, and not something we likely would have specified, but we’re really glad to have it.

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Throughout the parks of the world, wildlife populations are increasing now that the people are mostly absent. Blog reader Bob Heselberg sent us the Scottish version of this trend, with the Loch Ness Monster Nessie moving downtown.
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Evening Calm
A lovely calm evening looking southeast from our anchorage at the Isle of Gigha.
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Our anchorage at the Isle of Gigha has good protection in most directions, except from east to northeast. The winds generally haven’t been in that direction since we arrived, but currently are blowing 20 knots from the northeast and are expected to pick up for the next couple of days. Yesterday’s calm conditions are gone and today large waves are rolling through the anchorage. The boat is moving, but surprisingly little given the size of the waves.
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Deere 6068 Inspection
Today we performed an important annual service check of inspecting the accessory drive belt and bearings on our John Deer 6068AFM75. Click the image to watch the video.
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Our Packless Shaft Seal (PSS) has been leaking since it was replaced in early 2018. We just inspected it closely with a bright light and noticed that it’s installed slightly crooked. The bellows on the left are tighter than those on the right.
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Adjusting PSS
When the PSS was replaced on the last haul out, the bellows appears to have been installed slightly crooked and the replacement propeller shaft is also slightly out of true. The two issues together conspire to wear the PSS seal aggressively.

We backed off the tension to reduce wear until the boat is next out of the water and the bigger issues can be dealt with, but backing it off seemed to make the wear worse due to increased vibration. And it definitely made the leakage worse. Here we’re tightening it back up to see if that will help the system perform better under these adverse conditions.

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38 knots
We’re seeing big northeast winds through the anchorage today, with gusts as high as 38 knots.
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In the strong northeasterly winds, large and tight waves are rolling through the anchorage. The swimstep is frequently awash, with water shooting upwards, as the boat lifts on the crests and falls into the troughs. The waves are pretty steadily in the two-foot range and occasionally as large as three.

It’s almost surprising that the anchor dragging never even crosses our minds in these situations. This always is a possibility, but having not dragged anchor in more than 20 years, we just don’t seem to worry much about it. Most of the reason we don’t see problems is we tend to anchor with large scope and test the set aggressively when anchoring.

For example, we arrived here on a beautiful sunny day without wind, but we anchored on nearly 8:1 scope (ratio of rode length to depth) and, although we wouldn’t have guessed it at the time, we actually have seen some pretty big winds here. A couple of weeks ago we saw gusts to 56 knots.

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Pitch and Roll
The wind graph roughly at center (click image for a larger view), shows how the winds are blowing steadily into the 30s. The boat moves remarkably little in anchorages, in fact, so little that we only deploy the flopper-stopper once or twice a year as needed. But even though it rarely moves, the 2-3-footers rolling through the anchorage are starting to kick us around.

Right of the wind graph is the pitch and roll graphs, with the maximum pitch and roll in the past 5 minutes of 4.6° and 4.3° shown below and slightly to the right. This screen shot is from our underway display—we don’t show pitch and roll in the moored display, as it’s a pretty rare moorage that would warrant it.

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Salt Spray
The winds have settled down a bit overnight, but still are blowing in the 20s at the Isle of Gigha. This morning, the pilothouse windows were covered in salt spray from yesterday’s blow.
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Golden sunrise lighting up the Isle of Gigha off our anchorage there.
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Bread Machine
The ingredients for another loaf ready for the bread machine.
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Gen Oil & Filter
Today we changed the oil and filter in our 12kW Northern Lights generator for the 29th time in its 10-year, 6,474-hour life.
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Jennifer enjoys monitoring the progress of the bread machine as it mixes, rises and bakes the loaf. Not only do we get a loaf out the other end, but we get some entertainment along the way. :)
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Local Support
The islanders come out to check on us every few days and to make sure we know that they are more than happy to bring us groceries if we need anything.
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The last of the radishes from Antwerp. But we still have fresh carrots and lettuce. Our biggest risk right now is running out of BrewDog Punk IPA :). We’re down to a three-week supply.
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Colorful sunrise over the Kintyre peninsula in mainland Scotland.
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The fan on our ThinkStation P320 Tiny navigation computer has been just wailing for the past couple of weeks, so we investigated it today. The CPU load was running a pretty steady 25% to 40% when it should be down in the 15% to 20% range.

We investigated the MariaDB database traffic and found that a few very common queries take 1/2 to 3/4 of a second to execute, when we expect them to be below 1/100th of a second. We addressed the long queries by changing a few and adding some database indexes.

The database, however, was still working harder than it used to due to increased load. It was still consuming 5% to 9% of the total available CPU. We tuned the database by adding a 100MB query cache and growing the buffer pool to 2GB with 16 partitions. The combination of both these changes took the database CPU load down to 0.5 to 1.0 percent of available. We’ve never seen it that good.

The computer fan was now fairly quiet but still emitting a slight hum as it slowly turned. Normally with the CPU load down below 10%, the fan would not turn at all. We then blew the computer fan and cooling fins out with compressed air. With this cleaning, the system can support it’s normal load with passive cooling only and the fan doesn’t turn.

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Stonewall Noise Orchestra
While in Stockholm last year we came across New Age, a song by the Swedish band Stonewall Noise Orchestra (SNO). The rest of that album was a little too Metal for our tastes, but we do like the song New Age.

Back then James had run a Google search to learn more about the band and, even though that was nearly a year ago, Google popped a mobile phone notification today that SNO had released a new album album, Deathtripper.

We elected to purchase the album on Amazon and, probably because of that activity, YouTube offered us the video for New Age. The video is unusual in that all shots of the band are from inches to only a few feet away, but it kind of works. Click the picture to see the video.

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Dusk falling over Gigha on a windless and clear night.
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Spitfire licking his chops after getting a small handout from our lunch of shrimp-salad pita pockets. He’s turned into a real mooch recently. :)
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Fog Bank
A fog bank rolling north along the Kintyre peninsula.
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Cooking chicken wings on the barbecue on a beautiful calm evening. We’ve hardly had any rain since arriving here, and most days, even the windy ones, have been clear and sunny. It’s probably some of the best weather that Scotland has ever seen, and everyone has to stay home.
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We found one more grapefruit hidden behind the lemons.
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Anchor Ball
We replaced the anchor ball line a couple of weeks ago, and it parted again after the several days of big winds we recently had. It appears to have failed from twisting in the wind rather than chafing. The small fishing swivel between the leftmost white line and the anchor ball had seized (click in image for a larger view). Instead of the anchor ball spinning in the wind, it would twist the black bungee section around and around, eventually breaking it.
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The lettuce is holding up well after five weeks with the green bag and paper-towel treatment.
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We noticed our snubber is nearly worn through at the bow roller and about to part due to the 56-knot winds and waves we’ve seen over the past few weeks. (A snubber is a length of line between the boat and the all-chain rode to give some elasticity to the rode. It also tends to make the boat quieter at anchorage by isolating the boat somewhat from the noise of chain scraping across rock on the bottom.)

We’ve lost two snubbers over the the last ten years due to high winds causing abrasion: once in Vanuatu in late 2013 and a second in Australia in 2015 the night we rolled to 69.1 degrees attempting to cross the Big Bay Bar.

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The length of anti-chafe we use on the snubber to protect the rope completely wore through, and the snubber line was soon to follow.
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New Snubber
We’ve been using an Ultra chain grab on our snubber for the past decade. They have performed well, but are expensive. While in Australia, we built two new spare snubbers using locally-available RWB chain claws, recommended by David Fincham, then owner of Nordhavn 57 Speedbird. The RWB chain claws are high quality, half the price of what we were using previously, and have a deeper chain link pocket. We’ve not had a snubber fail since building these spares, so this is our first time putting the RWB into use. So far we’re happy with the product.
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Anchor Ball
We’ve rebuilt the broken anchor ball, replaced the seized swivel, and it’s back in service. (An anchor ball is a day shape indicating a vessel is at anchor. At night, a white light is used.)
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986 mb
The barometer has been parked below 990mb for past day or so. Normally we’d expect big winds to follow when the barometer shoots upward in a quickly-passing system. But the weather models show calm weather with a gradual rise in pressure as the system slowly moves away. Nice.
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 “Gigha Winds
  1. Ed van Zadelhoff says:

    Hi James,

    Always like to watch your videos to see if I can learn something new. You mentioned that you close the drain valve at the engine but, in the video ,you didn’t do that when you put the sound shield back on . Maybe it got edited out but I thought just to let you know.

    • Thanks for the comment Ed. On closing the valve, you’re right that I didn’t mention it and didn’t close it off until close to the end but it did get closed. You can see it closed just before the cover goes back on at 31:11 in the video.

  2. Erik Reid says:

    James and Jennifer,
    Glad to see your stay on the Scottish coast is going well. I had a question regarding your systems display. You stated that you view the underway display as the moored view does not show pitch or roll (understandable). Yet both the display views say underway in the bottom right corner. I was curious as to the reason for the two different underway views. Stay safe. :)

    • Yes, good question. We have a moored display and an underway display on the logic that different data is interesting. We don’t run the main engine at the dock or at anchor and we don’t run the generator underway for example. It seems like a useful organizational approach.

      You’ve noticed that both screens appear to be called underway. Good observation. Mareton N2kview has a great feature that allow one to have different alarms and warnings underway, at the dock, and in several other supported modes. We don’t use this feature using the same alarms everywhere. So we don’t change modes and its these alarm modes you seeing at the bottom of screen. Our always says underway since we never change it. It’ an alarm mode rather than the name of the screen.

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