It's time to move to a new berth for the winter, but it's not all plain sailing for Jonty Pearce

Jonty Pearce: Aurial looked lonely when we arrived at the marina. All her usual company had deserted her, and she had nobody to talk to. Where once the upper basin had held nary an empty finger, the opposite now held true and only a smattering of boats occupied their berths. We all have to leave by the end of the year when Neyland Yacht Haven’s upper pool has to be emptied to clear the way for the dismantling of the pontoons, fingers, and walkways before the piles are extracted and the dredger is brought in to do its work.

Our weekend task was to move Aurial out of Neyland, down the Haven, and through the lock into Milford Marina. With a moon just past full and the shortest day looming the daylight hours limited our options, so the alarm went off at 0630hrs to rouse the sleeping dragon into activity. We slipped our lines in the dawn light on a clear, calm, windless morning; one of those mild bright winter days that makes me question why I take the sails off for winter.

Aurial purred out of Neyland, cracking the mirror-like finish of the water, and we stemmed the incoming tide as we hung a right for Milford Dock. Enjoying the peace and early light as the sun rose into the sky, we turned off our navigation lights as the dark departed. After a quick conversation with Milford Pierhead on the VHF radio we traversed the entrance lock on the last of the free-flow period. The gates close at high tide to maintain the level – a lock failure with the day’s 6m tidal range would leave the marina high and dry. We were moored up in our new berth just after 0900hrs and ready for breakfast!

Sitting in the sun outside The Crow’s Nest cafe, we enjoyed an excellent fry-up while reading the Sunday papers before getting a taxi back to Neyland to fetch the car. Only a few minor things to sort and we’d be on our way home by midday. Some hope. Carol asked me to plug into shore power; it had worked perfectly at Neyland but we were voltless on our new berth. Being a reasonable man, I immediately blamed somebody else. Marina reception denied any reports of a problem but lent me a tester. True enough, their supply was fine – it was my lead that was at fault. I tested the ‘Meter Maid’ that I had brought with me. Odd; power, but no earth. I opened its socket end – true enough, a loose earth wire. A re-test showed still no earth. I checked the plug end – and the earth wire was bent back, obviously never connected! I re-wired it, cursing the manufacturers in the town of Bangemoutfast in the country of Cantbearsedtotestit. I had used the meter for ten years unaware that it was not earthed despite my own tester confirming that all was well. Now to test the tester! The moral of this story is to check all electrical equipment after purchase and before plugging it in.

After all this, Carol still complained of no power. I took apart the plug on the end of my shore power cable. What a rubbish design! Three spring loaded ‘guillotine’ wire grips held the bare wires rather than reliable screws, and a neat ‘clamp’ to stop tension on the cable was totally ineffective. The result? Any tension on the cable was transferred directly to the guillotines which immediately chopped through the wires… Unbelievable! I repaired it, but have already sourced a replacement with a clear cover; the old one will soon be skip fodder.

It was now 1400. I quickly flushed the raw water cooling on the Bukh engine with 30 per cent antifreeze, set up the mooring lines to my satisfaction, and checked the frost heater and dehumidifier.

We left Aurial content amongst her new neighbours, and all tucked up comfortably for the festive season. And on that note, may I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a merry New Year!

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