Saving Floss – a lesson in how to repair a shipwreck

Fixing Floss, a story in photos…

On 5th October, 2019 we bought Floss from a private seller in San Antonio bay, Ibiza. She’s a Catalac 9m, small fibreglass catamaran, built in 1983 in Christchurch, UK. She lived in Poole harbour for many years before being sailed to Greece, where the previous owners bought her and moved her to Ibiza.

Floss was Dom’s dream boat… just about. A catamaran slightly larger than the Diamond 24 we co-own with some friends in Scotland, with just enough space for a family of 4 to live on in relative comfort, and fitting within our ‘non luxury boat owner’ price-range.

As a 36 year old boat, she was in need of some renovations, which the previous owners were part-way through. However, after she was torn from her mooring and wrecked on the beach during a week of storms in Ibiza just four weeks after we bought her, she was in need of a whole lot more.

A story that would break our hearts, break our bank accounts, and almost break our family apart…

 

OCTOBER 2019

Floss’s first sail… San Antonio to Cala Salada, at sunset. October 2019
Sunset over Conejera island
Finn Learning to row the dingy with Lily helping him and Ben photo-bombing! San Antonio Bay. Even in the first week of owning Floss she was already enriching our lives.

NOVEMBER 2019

I (Alex) leave for the UK for two weeks to look after my mother as she had a knee operation. Dom stayed in Ibiza to look after the kids, dog and boat… Strong winds were forecast and as I shut the garden gate behind me I suggested getting Floss into a marina for the week just in case. Dom said he’d think about it but it would be hard on his own and with the kids in tow, and in the end decided against it as the mooring block she was on was sound. A decision that we almost immediately came to regret.

The wind blew strong from the West tearing right through San Antonio bay for 7 days, whipping up 4m waves and Floss bounced around on her mooring with the other boats in the bay. Dom managed to get out to her to secure some extra mooring lines in the dinghy of a neighbour’s boat, braving the storm, but the day after she was found washed up on the beach along with several other boats from the bay. The constant movement of the waves had ripped three cleats from the deck, and she dragged anchor onto the beach, unfortunately via some rocks…

Floss on the beach, a scuba team attempting (and failing) to float her into the marina, 8th November 2019
High and dry. Phase one of boat salvage complete – Floss is moved up the beach out of the water…

In the end Dom found a ‘grua’ company who could move Floss to a boatyard. It was no easy feat as being a catamaran she was wider than the tow-truck and would require a police escort.

The kids enjoy watching the crane moving the boat
Planning how to lift her
Is it a bird…? Is it a plane…??
One hull gutted like a giant fish, entrails hanging out… 🙁
Once she was on the trailer we could really assess the damage. Unfortunately the process of moving her had enlarged the hole.
Arriving at the boat yard…
Removing a tonne of sand from the hull, and one large stone…

JANUARY-JULY 2020

We began the repair work ourselves, however the boat-yard stipulated that we must have an experienced fibreglass expert repair the hull and all their team were fully booked til Spring. So we asked around found a fibreglass engineer on the island who could work with us, fitting us in in his spare time as he loved that we were repairing an old boat to live on as our home. And then the work began in earnest…

Both hulls, the good and the bad, were cleaned back and prepared.
The jagged edges were cut away to prepare for a new fibreglass hull to be layered up from the inside out
A cast was taken of the good hull and the applied over the hole, and a new layer of fibreglass created

Building up layers of fibre to create a mould of the good side
Fibreglass
Marking up the mould
Cleaning up the holy side ready for the mould

Cutting away the floor inside to access the area needing fibreglassing
Putting the mould on wheels to move it over
The mould is bolted on
The fibreglass was layered up from the inside to create a new hull, and then the mould was removed
No more hole!

Cleaning inside
Repairing the cut-away floors

 

An old boat that has been wrecked doesn’t just need the hole repairing, there were also electrics and many other jobs to do.

 

Repairing the old rudders
Cleaning and sanding the hulls to prepare for copper-coat anti-fouling
Testing the batteries
Replacing the broken cleats
Cleaning the water tanks
Re-installing the solar panels after their frame was broken by the crane, and one panel was stolen whilst the boat was stuck on the beach.
The plastic work tent used to contain the fibreglass dust comes down.
More work on the electrics – the boat was completely rewired
The boat was also completely re-plumbed
More work on the inside of the new hull
Smoothing of the new hull and preparation for copper-coat
Waste pipes go in.
The copper-coat is applied
Ain’t she pretty!
Ready for launch… 🙂

JULY 2020

On the 7th of July Floss was relaunched from Ibiza town harbour, and we sailed all night in light winds, and by the light of the full moon, round to San Antonio bay to pick up a mooring not so far away from the one she’d been torn from the Autumn before. Only this time we would not be taking any more chances with storms…

Floss, San Antonio bay, July 2020

Ulefone Armor x5 Waterproof Phone – best sailing phone?

I’ve had a spectacularly unlucky year with broken phones, and finally came to the conclusion that, now I’m living on a boat, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get a ruggedised, waterproof mobile phone.

The Ulefone Armor range of phones are waterproof to 30m, provided you haven’t damaged the casing or left the access panels for the headphone socket, USB and SIM cards open. They come already equipped with drop-proof casing and an anti-scratch screen cover, and all that for under £150. So let’s see what they’re really like to use as a phone…

REVIEW:

Takes two SIM cards, and/or an SD card.

Reasonable built in memory.

Good camera and video, including advanced effects like panorama.

Good screen.

It comes pre-installed with a useful toolbox, including – spirit level, calculator, torch, notepad, compass, magnifier, plumb bob, alarm bell, and height meter.

Easy set-up.

I have to say, so far I’m really happy with this phone. I’ve had it a week and am really enjoying it.

Downsides:

It weighs like a brick!

There’s no back button, so you have to swipe left and right, which can be a little oversensitive, but you get used to it.

It could do with a wrist strap attachment so you don’t drop it when swimming/canoeing/sailing, etc… as it really won’t float!

Overall:

If you like to use your phone in all conditions – either sports, work, or like me – life – then this phone is definitely for you. Check out the photos I took with it below, and prices and availability to buy online.

See what you think, check out other people’s reviews on Amazon for this phone and other Ulefone waterproof phones…    https://amzn.to/36uOxT0

Ibiza by Boat

Floss – the story so far…

We bought Floss, a nine metre Catalac catamaran, in the Autumn last year and two weeks after buying her strong winds tore her from the mooring and left her washed up on a beach nearby with one hull gauged open from bow to stern, looking very much like she’d been attacked by a giant tin opener. The Winter flew by, the weeks marked by our sweat, blood and tears (and euros) fixing her. Then further delayed by strict Spanish covid-19 quarantine laws, we finally relaunched Floss the first week in July.

As I sit aboard Floss typing this, surrounded by half finished projects on the boat, it is very hard to believe that we have have been living aboard as a family for two months now. In some ways I was expecting to be more advanced with our non-essential boat repairs as well as our travels, but in other ways I wake every morning simply amazed and grateful that we are even here at all.

The weather this Summer has been distractingly balmy and the waters a divinely inviting crystal clear blue, Ibiza tunes drifting by on the breeze off the beach… Where I sit right now, Es Vedra – a large magnetic rock – rising majestically out of the sea, guarding the entrance to Cala D’Hort bay, and I have to confess that it is really hard to get any work done. I have over a 1000 photos and videos to share with you and countless adventures and stories to tell which I will endeavour to do so as I steadily get used to our new rhythm of life on the sea.

But for now, here are some photos of where we are right now to keep you going…

         To help paint the scene, Dom is working, the boys are off sailing on a friend’s proa and the (wet) dog is curled up by my feet having just got in from her third swim of the day, it’s 6pm and 28 degrees with a gentle breeze and we are anchored in the midst of around 20 other boats in the magical Cala D’Hort, situated on the south west corner of Ibiza.

Es Vedra
Vedra by moonlight

 

Test Diving the AKASO Brave 4 Action Camera

I just bought a budget action camera to take paddle boarding and snorkeling with the kids and am really enjoying testing it to it’s limits…

Check out my first swim with it on YouTube here:

Diving with AKASO Brave 4 and a Barracuda

You can also SUBSCRIBE to our channel and we will be uploading more homegrown family adventure, tech review and boat repair videos soon… 🙂

The AKASO Brave 4 comes complete with a large range of accessories to go underwater up to 30m, and to attach it to full face snorkels, handle bars, helmets and car dashboards. My gorilla tripod snuck into this pic but it’s not included with the camera kit, but the kit does include an attachment that fits a standard tripod fitting when both in and out of the waterproof housing. Good to know! One thing it DOESN’T come with is a harness or strap to wear it whilst swimming and a float which are useful, although after constructing our own body harness to swim with using paracord and a large fishing float we discovered the the camera in it’s waterproof case actually floats on it’s own. One final thing you’ll need to buy separately is a memory card. I put a 64GB card in and tend to reformat every time I’ve backed it up so no problems there.

 

REVIEW:

The Brave 4 is recommended by many tech review sites as one of the best value Go Pro alternatives and I have to agree.

Currently retailing for £70-80 on Amazon, compared to a Go Pro Hero 7, a really popular action camera, retailing at £260-360, but does not include accessories.

It really depends what you’re looking for. I hear the handlebar accessory for the AKASO which is included free in the kit breaks easily with hard mountain biking use, but you can always buy a Go Pro one which should fit the AKASO and take a few more knocks. I haven’t tried it myself so check before you buy…

Check AKASO Brave 4 prices – Amazon UK

Check Go Pro Hero 7 prices – Amazon UK

It is not the cheapest of the cheap cameras, but likewise does not shoot using fish-eye (though some above water photos and videos look a tiny bit curved, this doesnt’ seem to be a problem shooting underwater), I did not have to adjust or enhance any photo or video I’ve take so far.

You can get the next AKASO up in price-range (EK7000 Pro) which has touch screen but as I’m mainly using it for underwater in it’s housing for me there was really no point. And it’s still shoots at 60fps in 4k, with built in stabilisation and a choice of lens width including wide angle (170). I shot my first movie above in 110. It also comes with a wrist band remote control, but this is not suitable for underwater. You can however connect to your phone with WiFi and have someone controlling the camera from somewhere dry.

The only downside for me is the sound quality is not very good, and there is no way of adding an external mic… However, if you are into your video editing you can always record audio separately and add it in afterwards, or simply add some rad tunes over your footage instead, as let’s face it, who wants to hear someone talking whilst they’re doing extreme sports? Unless they’re screaming, which is always entertaining (as long as they’re not badly injured), and the AKASO will pick up a good scream no problem.

Using the 5x zoom for photos…
Best in clear waters.
Good in strong lighting.
Captures colour underwater quite well.

 

Moving Day – Leaving our flat to move onto a boat…

I will miss the neglected but well walked woodland that flanks the dirt car park outside our balcony window. The the wind whispering in the pine trees. The dappled light, filtering green down through the dense aromatic branches, that dances on the closed curtains like a delicate shadow puppet show. The myriad of wildlife on our doorstep, and sometimes inside the threshold too.

Today, I’m lying in bed listening to the daily ecstatic dawn chorus – ever more raucous during the peace and solitude that a spring and summer without tourists the covid-19 quarantine has gifted this small yet notorious Mediterranean island. Common or garden blackbirds, robins, yellow wagtails, warblers, wood pigeons, and the humble Spanish sparrows discuss the morning news with the elusive and exotic looking pink hoopoe. Summer visiting swifts and sand martins wheel and scream, high up in the endless blue expanses, in feeding frenzies catching mosquitoes for their growing offspring, while the amorous local sparrows are speed-dating, and re-feathering their nests in the recently pruned palm trees, preparing for their second, or even third broods this year. Giant dragon flies hover between relays from sun to shade and back again, their brilliant colours flashing and changing with the light – vermilion, azure, emerald and cyan. Green pitiusic lizards laze on rocks and walls, warming their scales and contemplating the day or perhaps meal ahead, whilst avoiding the non-native snakes that in recent years have invaded the island from the mainland, sneaking in on olive trees disguised as bark. Sleepy brown butterflies, likewise, select sunlit flowers to stretch their wings, whilst the hummingbird moths lie-in, waiting for evening to make a high-speed circuit of their favourite flowers – verbena, hibiscus and jasmine.

I soak up the last few hours of these experiences, all five senses full to brimming over, trying to bottle them to keep in my box of most happy and delicious memories. My eyes scan over the almond tree design on that fills the wall in front of the bed. The boys and I spent several days painting woody patterns on paper and cutting shapes of trunk, sticks and leaves. Every size and colour of blossom and butterfly, and happy smiling bee adorn the tree, and my eldest son Finn made his own almond sapling to rest in the shade of the mother tree. I can hardly believe, nor want to, that it is time for us to go. So many happy memories this house holds, inside and out, from just a fleeting two year stay. Through the window I watch the pepper and passionfruit plants growing in their pots on the steps. They are far from fruiting so will make good parting gifts for our friends and neighbours to remember us by. It is safe to say that in this short stay, we have really put down roots, and Mediterranean life has hooked in deep under our sun burnished skin.

The tiny studio flat is waist-deep with boxed up belongings, most of which we will not need during our summer on the boat, nor perhaps ever again if the wind takes us away from the island towards a Winter in Italy, Croatia or beyond. Or if ever more common summer storms, with the unpredictability of climate change, return us to shore sooner than expected, clinging to the safety of bricks and mortar once more. And if that shore should be Ibiza, Spain, England or Scotland – our ‘home’, or at least it used to be, and may have to be once more when impact of Brexit takes full force at the end of this year, and a second Scottish referendum broods on the changing skies of potentiality. So we are attempting to prepare for every eventuality. There are boxes for the boat, for the campervan and to store in a trailer ready for future home-making on land, whenever and wherever that piece of land turns out to be. My head reels from the multitude of variables presenting us right now, and my heart aches and longs for the security of a simple, static life. How ever did we get ourselves into such a fix?

But Floss is launching in two days time and needs a crew to care for her, and guide her through unknown waters. The hours of packing and preparation tick on unrelenting, leading us onward and outward to new horizons.

The Sunday morning bell tolls, as it has done for over 500 years, ringing out from the little church on the hill – calling “all is well”. No pirates today. Only an empty Sunday mass that you can view online from the safety of a screen at home. The bells, and the fortified church with it’s two metre thick fortified walls, are frozen in time, but life moves on.

Dom sat having a quiet coffee amidst the packing carnage