Changing Lives at Sea – the MDL Sail Training Awards

Posted: 1st May 2019

On the 6th April six young people embarked on a life changing five-day sailing experience having won a place onboard the Ocean Youth Trust South’s flagship, Prolific, through our Sail Training Awards. Pictured are: top (L-R) – Alex, Millie, Ella, Josh, and below are Katie and Adam.

The awards were created to reward inspirational young people between the ages of 12 and 18 who have overcome adverse personal circumstances, or shown other exceptional accomplishments and achievements and rely on third party nominations from people who are in contact with young people, including teachers, guide or scout leaders, youth group leaders, friends and employers.

We’ve run the Sail Training Awards, in conjunction with OYT South, for over 30 years and the number of nominations has grown year on year.

Once the nominations are in, the hard work starts for our team. We go through all the nominations and choose just six who will be awarded the opportunity to go on the voyage. 

“All the children have their own story as to why they should be included, it is really hard to choose the final six,” says Hazel Craik who organises the Sail Training Awards.

This year’s winners, Josh Loman (14), Alex Salisbury (13), Adam Slim (12), Millie Nation (14), Katie Anderson (15) and Ella Plummer (15), completed the five-night voyage which took them from Ocean Village Marina in Southampton around the Solent and further afield to Poole and Portland.

The experience included night pilotage, a tour round Cowes RNLI Lifeboat Station and an impromptu man overboard recovery session when a bucket was dropped over the side. Each also earned their RYA Start Yachting certificate. This is a recognised qualification that can be kept in their Record of Achievement, used as evidence of transferrable skills or potentially lead to the start of a more enduring relationship with the sea and sailing.

In 2017, following a nomination from teachers at his school, Ciaran Robinson won a place on Prolific. Not only was this a ‘trip of a lifetime’ for Ciaran but has completely opened up a whole new side of life for him.

“The voyage taught me important tools for life like perseverance, communicating and teamwork. I enjoyed it so much that I have already been back as crew,” says Ciaran. “Gaining a place on Prolific has been the best opportunity that I have been given. It has definitely changed my life and shaped who I am today.”

Ciaran is now waiting to be old enough to undertake his RYA Day Skipper qualification and hopes to then volunteer for OYT South and become a member of their ‘incredible’ team.

MDL will host a presentation of the Sail Training Awards at the Southampton Boat Show where the young winners will receive their trophies and a memory book. This book is a compilation of photos from the trip coupled with the OYT South’s personalised sail report, detailing where they went, what they did and each individuals’ highs and lows from the journey.  The presentation at the Southampton Boat Show highlights how important it is to give children the opportunity to go sailing and possibly change their lives at sea.

“They come back off the boat as different people – we look forward to offering the opportunity to more children,” comments Hazel.


Prolific

The Big Bay Eco Challenge

On the 21st July 2019

Racing to raise money for the RNLI, join in, place your bets and WIN BIG. Wind, Electric, Pedal or Arm power, who will win!? The challenge where the winner takes all!

SAIL vs. PEDAL POWER vs. ELECTRIC vs. SUP.

Who will be crowned the champion?

Raising money for the RNLI in a race that will test the ultimate strength of Mike Smith, Torquay’s Marina Manager participating on a Schiller Water Bike, the speed of a Bavaria sailing yacht, the power of an electric BMW Bike, the arm strength from the SUPs and the electric power of a BMW i8.

Will the traffic be against electric? Will the wind be against sail? Will the SUPs fall off, will the bike get lost off road? or Will Mikes legs simply give up? It's anyone's race.

All we know is there can only be one winner and it could be you!

ONE LUCKY WINNER WILL WIN A LUXURY HAMPER, RIB RIDE, 1 NIGHT AT THE CARY ARMS AND DINNER FOR 2, A BMW FOR A WEEKEND, JET SKI SAFARI, ANNUAL CAR PARK PASS, DINNER AT THE ELEPHANT RESTAURANT, CLEAN TO GLEAM CLEANING KIT AND AN EXTERIOR BOAT WASH DOWN and a STAND UP PADDLEBOARD LESSON!

Place your bets at Torquay Marina's reception - open to both Members and the Public.

Raffle tickets are also now available from the marina office.

Sponsored by Ocean BMW.

For More Information
Call: 01803 200210
Email: Mike Smith
Website: https://www.bigbayecochallenge.co.uk

Winterising your motor boat

Posted: 21st January 2019

Despite the exceptionally mild start to the winter, the threat of a sudden cold spell may be just a forecast away. If we get another beast from the east, or even just a standard seasonal cold snap, is your boat prepared? asks Neale Byart, editor of Motorboat Owner.

Winterising is the act of protecting your boat, its equipment and contents from the ravages of the winter weather. Failing to carry out any preparation for winter can result in expensive damage to the engine, domestic water system and even your soft furnishings. 

While many marinas, such as MDL, offer lifting capabilities and boat yard services at heavily discounted berth holder prices to help keep your pride and joy in tip top condition with hull scrubs, anti-foul and other maintenance, there are practical steps you can take while berthed.

Here we break down the process of winterising your boat into three categories. First, there is the ‘must dos’. These are the jobs that you should carry out as an absolute minimum, and look after the areas most likely to be affected by a cold spell and most costly to put right. Next we have the ‘good to do’ list. These are jobs that it would be worth considering, as they will keep other parts of your boat fresh and undamaged by winter ravages. Lastly there is the ‘also consider’ list. These are jobs that are good to get done at this time of year. Possibly because they will give you an early ‘heads up’ if anything is wrong, allowing you plenty of time to get things fixed before next season, or maybe just because it means your boat will be in a better state of readiness to go in the spring when the weather finally breaks, meaning you can get back on the water with the minimum of work.

Must do

The most important, and expensive, item on your boat is its engine or engines. Seriously cold weather can cause water in the cooling system to freeze and expand. This in turn can crack any part of the cooling system, including the engine block itself. 

On a raw-water cooled engine you can choose to simply drain all cooling water, but if the water is salty, you will still be leaving behind a certain amount of potentially corrosive mixture. Far better is to mix up a solution of antifreeze and run it through the engine, either by pouring it into the raw water strainer, lowering the sterndrive into a container containing the mix or by using some engine flush muffs. 

Engines with an enclosed cooling system will still have some raw water inside certain parts of the cooling system, such as heat exchanges and raw water pumps. Again this can be drained or purged using the same method as above.

Even though engine blocks with an enclosed cooling system are protected by the antifreeze that the coolant should have within it, it is worth remembering that this should be changed every couple of years to ensure its efficiency. On an engine with an enclosed cooling system, you should, at least, test the enclosed antifreeze mixture to ensure it is capable of doing its job. 

Domestic water system

Perhaps the most common form of frost damage experienced is to the boat’s domestic water systems. The best thing you can do to protect this part of the boat is to completely drain it. You can simply run your taps until the tank runs dry, and this will remove most of the water from the system, but there will still be enough trapped water inside the pipe work and taps to cause damage. Once the tank is empty, take the supply hose from the tank and using a dinghy pump blow water out of the system by opening one tap at a time. Don’t forget any taps out in the cockpit or on the transom, as these are the most vulnerable. You can then leave all taps open to allow any remaining water a bit of expansion room, if required.

Don’t forget to drain your water heater. If you have a calorifier, just take off the lower hose. If you have a gas water heater, it should have a drain cock that you can simply undo. Check your owner’s manual for its location. 

If the worst comes to the worst and something does goes awry, many marinas offer boat maintenance and engineering. MDL’s network even welcomes outside contractors onto marinas with its open yard policy, plus for MDL members there is often substantial discounts from onsite tenants.

Good to Do

Make the most of winter offers which are offered by marinas like MDL and get ahead of the game with a quick lift and check for hull damage, scrubbing and anti-fouling. Plus, your marina manager or onsite chandlery will be able to tell you which anti-foul you should be using in the local area. 

Soft furnishings can take a bit of a beating in a cold and potentially damp environment. If you can, take them off the boat and store them at home somewhere dry. If you can’t take them home, or have nowhere to store them, you need to ensure the boat remains as dry as possible. Fix any leaks, ensure all covers are in good condition and all cover fixings are in place. You could consider running an electric dehumidifier for a few hours a day if you have access to a reliable source of power. If not, you may be better off ensuring good ventilation through the boat by leaving a hatch or porthole or two open. Just make sure that they are ones that won’t let rain in. 

The boat’s exterior is fully exposed to the worst of the weather so consider giving the boat a final wash and then apply a generous coat of a good quality wax. You don’t have to polish the wax off until the spring, when doing so should reveal a nicely preserved and shiny boat beneath. 

If you have any grey or black water tanks, have them pumped out and flushed through, leaving them empty and clean ready for the next season. Don’t forget the little grey water shower sumps. These should be emptied, which also gives you an opportunity to clean the filter to ensure another year of trouble-free service.

Using a good corrosion protection product, give the engines, mechanicals and any exposed electrical items a good spray. While you are working in these parts of the boat, perhaps also grease any movable linkages and squirt some grease into any grease points.

The subject of fuel tanks is a thorny one. Our recommendations would be to leave petrol tanks as empty as possible and diesel tanks full. A full diesel tank will ensure there is minimal internal tank surface left for condensation to form on, keeping your fuel as free of water as possible. Petrol, on the other hand, does not keep well, particularly in a vented tank, so you would be better off starting the new season with a fresh tank of fuel. Adding a fuel stabiliser to any petrol that does remain in the tank should help ensure it keeps it fresh enough to start the boat in the spring and get you to the fuel berth.

To ensure that your batteries make it through the winter, check the electrolyte levels, top up if required, and ensure that they are fully charged. If possible, give them a trickle charge, or a sporadic short charge, during the winter to keep them in top condition.

Also consider

These are not really winterising jobs, but are good to do now for a number of reasons, but mainly because it means that, come spring, the boat should be in a ‘ready to go’ state with no nasty surprises lurking.

Change the engine oil. Old engine oil contains contaminants that can harm the internals of your engine. If you change the oil now, the clean fresh oil will coat and protect the internal running surfaces. It will also provide an early ‘heads up’ of any problems such as water or fuel contamination.

Change your sterndrive or outboard gearbox oil. It is not uncommon to find water contamination here, so you don’t want to leave that water in contact with your gears all winter. It will also give you a few months to get the source of the problem fixed, making use of a quieter time of year for most marine engineers. If you leave it until spring, you may find yourself at the back of a very long queue.

Check your props for damage. Like good engineers, the people who refurbish propellers get very busy in the spring, so get the prop off and in for repair early, if required.

Lastly, check your safety equipment. Items such as lifejackets, liferafts, PLBs, EPIRBs and firefighting equipment all have service requirements and/or expiry dates. Winter is a good time to get these items serviced, or hunt out some well-priced replacements.

If you’re berthed at a great marina, you can always ask for advice from the marina staff. MDL’s marinas offer members a a 30% discount on boat yard services and have 13 boatyards across the UK network – with lifting capabilities for all types of boat. The company offers inclusive storage ashore and with 500 tenants across its network, MDL always knows someone who can help.


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Top tips to enjoy winter boating

Posted: 1st November 2018

Chatham Marina


There’s no need for the end of the summer to be the end of your sailing season says Jake Kavanagh, yachting journalist. If you follow these top tips, you’ll be comfortable whatever the weather brings.

 

Why put the boat ashore when there is so much great cruising to be had during the winter? Many berth-holders are now opting to keep the boat afloat from November onwards, and only have a brief lift out in early spring to scrub-off and change the anodes.

 

As one sailing instructor remarks: “With modern clothing, great insulation and blown-air heating systems, there is no real end to the boating season.”

 

Extending the boating season is one of MDL Marinas’ specialties as its extensive network offers some really attractive winter berthing packages, with fully serviced pontoons allowing a boat to be ready to go at a moment’s notice. Dry stack customers are particularly good at making the most of a sunny winter’s day, as one phone call has the boat afloat and waiting for them as soon as they arrive at the marina.

 

The speed of service means that when settled weather arrives, those crisp, sunny days can be exploited to the full, even though the daylight is relatively short. It’s been known for UK boaters to go sailing in T-shirts in January when a clear sky allows the sun’s radiant energy to warm the decks, with perhaps a gentle southerly breeze wafting up from the Sahara. As winter boaters cruise along the coastline, they will find popular summer anchorages largely deserted, harbour moorings plentiful, and vast expanses of water with not another boat in sight.

 

So although daylight hours are shorter the spirit of exploration and adventure can remain the same, especially if owners take advantage of schemes like MDL’s Freedom Berthing. This offers complimentary stays in over 120 marinas in the UK, FranceItaly and Spain allowing passages between marinas during the short hours of daylight before enjoying all the comforts of home at your destination.

 

Here are some top tips to get the most from your boat with off-season cruising:

 

1: Have the right clothing

 

Most boat owners already have a good set of wet weather gear, but it pays to invest in a layered system underneath. Many manufacturers have their own dedicated system of breathable fabrics for maximum effect. Several thin layers beneath a fully waterproof outer layer are much better at trapping heat than a couple of thick ones. Most heat is lost through the head, so don’t forget a comfortable wooly hat!

 

2: Keep a well-stocked galley

 

Winter sailing requires regular hot food and drinks, especially on a longish passage. One-pot meals are always popular, and usually comprise of tinned ingredients that can be poured into a pan, heated quickly, and served in a bowl so it stays warm in an exposed cockpit. There are plenty of good cookbooks that suggest these instant meals.

 

3: Switch to propane

 

Boaters who cruise all year round – or who are planning a blue water adventure - often change their cooking gas from butane to a propane system instead. This is because propane has a higher calorific value and freezes at a very respectable minus 40oC, whereas butane succumbs at just minus 4oC. If there was an overnight frost, the butane in the regulator would freeze and there would be no gas until it had thawed. Propane, however, will still light easily, even if the sea itself has iced over! Most cookers will happily use either gas, although a different regulator will be needed. Long range cruisers often carry both types of bottle and regulator to cover their options.

 

4: Keep those fingers warm

 

Cold fingers stop working very quickly; not good when it comes to handling ropes. Invest in a good pair of gloves, and keep those extremities warm. Fingerless gloves are a sort of compromise in summer, but ideally the finger tips should be protected at all times in cold weather. A mitten works well, as you can still steer, throttle and wind winches, but the hand can be easily slipped out of it for tasks requiring more dexterity.

 

5: Embrace the hot water bottle

 

The hot water bottle is a major asset afloat. Choose a fleece-lined one, and keep it tucked under your jacket to warm the inner core. Also great at night – as the thicker the bottle’s coat, the hotter the water you can use and the longer it will stay warm. They are great around your feet under the duvet if you haven’t got a heating system.

 

6: Why not fit blown air heating?

 

Talking of which, why not fit a blown air heater? Arguably the safest way of heating a boat, it is free from potential carbon exhaust emissions within the cabin. (Running the gas stove all night is highly dangerous, unless there is excellent ventilation, which rather defeats the object.) A blown air heater burns small amounts of diesel from the boat’s main tank, with the combustion gasses exhausted over the side. A small electric motor then drives the hot air from a heat exchanger throughout the accommodation. A good tip is to insulate the heating duct between outlets, and to reduce the diameter of the duct as it travels further from the heater to maintain velocity. (The duct can be left un-insulated as it passes through hanging lockers to help damp clothing to dry). Check out products from manufacturers such as Eberspacher and Webasto, to name just two, with prices highly competitive due to the volumes made for the trucking and RV industries.

 

7: Indulge in a luxury sleeping bag

 

Warm bedding will make a big difference to your comfort afloat, so look for winter sleeping bags or duvets with a high tog rating. This rating is a measure of thermal insulation, and the higher the number, the warmer you will be. A lightweight summer duvet, for example, will have a tog rating of between 3.0 to 4.5. A spring/autumn-weight duvet will score between 7.5 to 10.5tog, and the one you will want for mid-winter will be between 12.0 to 13.5. 

 

8: Run a dehumidifier

 

Condensation can be a problem in the winter months, especially when the warm air inside the boat meets the windows. With little insulation from single-pane glass (although you can make insulated covers) the cold air outside promotes condensation and can cause annoying runs. The same thing can happen on uninsulated headlinings. 

 

If you are taking advantage of MDL’s Freedom Berthing, you can expect to connect to shorepower every night and run a small dehumidifier. These inexpensive machines strip all the excess water from the air and transfer it to a built-in reservoir, whilst some can drain directly into the galley sink. It is best to get a reputable make, and keep an eye on it, as some cheaper ones have been known to burn out if used excessively. Even a relatively small unit will make a big difference aboard and some 12-24V versions are also available for use at anchor.

 

9: Get the most from Freedom Berthing

 

MDL’s complimentary berthing scheme allows you to check out marinas in the UK and participating marinas in southern Europe with a series of free visits. In addition, some of MDL’s marinas have partnered with hotels ashore, such as Southampton’s Ocean Village and the 5-star Harbour Hotel within the marina complex. If your partner is reluctant to sail in the midst of winter, then a stay ashore in such luxury should make a chilly sail worthwhile.

 

Plus, when you use MDL’s network, you’ll benefit from 24/7 marina staff and security, and great onsite restaurant and bars. All the marinas are experienced with looking after off-season cruisers, and offer warm showers, warm clubhouses and a warm welcome.

 

10: Don’t forget to take pictures

 

The winter offers some dramatic seascapes, with brooding skies, glassy reflections and spectacular sunsets. For those who hate getting up early, then the late sunrise is rarely missed. Keep your phone and camera handy, as the winter offers some excellent photo opportunities. If you are into astronomy, then crisp clear winter nights reveal the magnificence of the Milky Way and other northern constellations away from the light pollution of towns and cities.

 

11. Keep the tender available

 

The downside of a winter cruise is that some of the summer services, such as a water taxi, may not be available. Make sure your tender is accessible and easy to deploy, as this will allow you access to the shore when you have no choice but to anchor off. However, such will be the lack of crowds that some quayside pubs and restaurants may also throw in alongside overnight berthing even through they usually have strict time limits during the summer. The dinghy is also a great way to go creek crawling, and explore those places you missed during the season. But if you’re staying at an MDL marina you obviously won’t need a tender as you can step straight from boat to pontoon.

 

12: Take a course

 

Many sea schools do a brisk trade off-season as students like being able to practice their skills in empty harbours and anchorages. There are very few onlookers, and plenty of room to manoeuvre. Another big advantage is the short daylight, allowing them to practice night navigation for several hours and still manage to get back in time for a leisurely pub supper. Prices are generally cheaper, too, and will allow new boaters to gain confidence and skills before the busy summer season. MDL marinas always has a list of approved RYA sea schools available, with many operating out of each marina. Ask the dockmaster who they can recommend. Or visit www.mdlmarinas.co.uk/services-directory

 

And that’s it. You’ve invested a lot of money in your boat, so make the most of it by enjoying every fine day during the winter. 

 

Check out all that MDL has to offer with winter offers, Freedom Berthing and much, much more.


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