Living ‘off-grid’ with solar panels

The title of the this post is a little misleading as clearly life on a boat is “off grid” but the system we have on-board is the same as if you wanted to work off-grid in a house. That is, 12V batteries charged by solar or wind. You can then run 12v appliances or 240V ones via an invertor.

Strangely, most appliances in a house are in fact running from 12 volts or less which is why laptops, lights, cameras and other appliances come with bulky adapters to convert them down from 240v to 12v or less. On our boat the only thing that needs 240v is actually our water-maker (desalination unit).

Irish sun, Rum and Cola…

It’s been a while since our last blog post, mainly because we had a few weeks of some necessary distractions which unfortunately did not really involve much sailing or exploring.

But, woven into our first full month of sailing were a combination of very wonderful things. From a cheeky seal stealing our fish dinner, to getting a replacement anchor delivered, to putting together Elsie and Gyro¬†to explore some of the Game of Thrones series sets ūüėõ (we couldn’t resist!)

Upon leaving Dublin, we had the great sunshine follow us north, up the east coast of Ireland as we tracked our way up towards Ardglass, Carlingford Lough, then to mystical Strangford Lough¬†(‘loch’ in Scottish, both pronounced to rhyme with ‘lock’). We only anchored a couple of times in light winds using our spare Fortress anchor (it performed really well for a lightweight anchor, given that loaded Shadowfax is 18-tonnes!)

Carlingford Lough and Strangford Lough were both pretty magical. Strangford Lough, with its narrow mouth, is known to have some of the fastest currents in Northern Ireland Рwoe to those who are caught in it. Watch your tide tables and plan well! The disturbed water eases out on to a long, wide, and calm lough  peppered with small islands, where time seems to stand still.

Tim swinging off Shadowfax into the cool waters of Strangford Lough!
Kara and Tim enjoyed a little bike ride around Strangford, visiting a few of the Game of Thrones film sets.
Our fish dinner (Whiting)…we had 3 fish but a cheeky seal stole one of them! Haha!
Kara went out for a short ride along the coast and discovered some great circular routes around Castle Ward, Strangford.

We met some really great people at Ringhaddy Cruising Club, who invited us to join them for an impromptu club barbecue. Little did we know that this was going to end up in a crazy, boozy, sing-along and mini party on board Commodore Gibby’s sailboat, where the rum and cola were flowing freely (as far as supplies lasted, at which time we got new supplies from our boat). ‘Auntie’ Lynn was completely head-over-heels with Tim, and Pat couldn’t resist showing off to her friends on Facebook that she was with ‘Captain Jack Sparrow’.

At about 2am, we staggered across the pontoon back to Shadowfax – and I can’t really remember how I managed to get into bed, but surprisingly woke up without a headache the next day.

With good winds ahead, we decided to make the jump for Scotland, having said our good-byes to our new Irish friends, and apologising for missing out on the big party the following week Рbut there were waters to cruise and some miles to make.


Changing a boat anode whilst still afloat

An anode is a sacrificial piece of metal that corrodes more quickly than the other metal it is attached to. This little piece of chemistry means that we can use Zinc on our propeller shaft to protect our propeller, the shaft itself and the engine from corrosion since the zinc ‘anode’ wastes away first. They are generally replaced once per year but since they are underwater, can be a pain in arse to both check and replace without the boat being lifted out. That is costly and boring so this is how we do it!

Sailing Shadowfax: Week One

Ahoy there from Dublin!

So far, so good. We have made it through our first full week! We lived on board for about 8 weeks prior to sailing away from Bristol, we are really overwhelmed by the great support everyone is giving us, by commenting on our Facebook Page, and following us on Instagram.¬†We haven’t really got ‘into the groove’ of things just yet, mainly because in between sailing, Tim and I still have some work commitments to attend to…hopefully there will be more activity soon!

So, you might ask – what has it been like?

Well to be fair, the first week was potentially a breeze (excuse the pun) compared to what we might be facing in the future. The sun has been out, winds generally good. We had a few mishaps; like anchoring on a lee shore* on the first night because we had no choice – and raising a BENT ANCHOR the next day (oh and some sea sickness thanks to ‘Queasy K’* making an appearance).

We met up with some of Tim’s old kayaking buddies at St. David’s, enjoyed a lovely anchorage¬†over two days in Porthlysgi Bay…and even gathered enough courage for a little dip in the cold, cold, British waters.

The conditions were right for crossing¬†the Irish Sea on Sunday, 29th May,¬†into Arklow – a small town south of Dublin with a safe harbour. It was great for a night to be on a pontoon and re-provision with some basics…and of course, have a pint of GUINNESS! (Tim’s first!) Too tired to cook, we decided to eat at Darcy McGees, upon recommendation by local sailors.

With the wind turning North-North East over the next few days, we thought a hop over to Dublin before it got too strong was a good idea. However, it was a bit of a surprise coming out of the sheltered harbour of Arklow; even though we expected choppy waters with wind-against-tide conditions, some of the swell and chop got up to just under a metre with the wind blowing up to 30knots.¬†Thank goodness Queasy K did not make an appearance this time, and better yet – Shadowfax was up for the challenge. We needed to use our motor in these conditions to get us to Dublin in good time. Just when we thought it wouldn’t improve, after motoring for about 14NM (nautical miles), the wind fell to about 15kts which was a more pleasant blow that carried us into Dublin Bay.

Copyright Kara de los Reyes @chasingcontours

We are grateful to the Royal Irish Yacht Club for their hospitality, where we are moored up for the next few days. The club is well-located in¬†D√ļn Laoghaire¬†(when the English were around they called it¬†Dunleary, which is how the Irish name is also pronounced), within 5 minutes’ walk from a DART train station, from which it is about 15-20 mins by DART into the centre of Dublin.

Living on Shadowfax has been fun, even with its challenges. In the next couple of days, we will be putting Gyro and Elsie  together to explore some of the hills surrounding Dublin.

If you’re curious about learning more on living on a sail boat, the technical bits, or everyday life, we will be starting a YouTube channel soon with some quirky videos, and sharing them here. I will also be sharing some recipes of the food we make on board.

Thanks for reading!



Lee Shore Рa shore exposed to the oncoming wind; this is a more dangerous place to anchor because the boats can get blown to the shore if the anchor gives.

Queasy K – my (Kara’s) name for when she gets sea sick.

Why are we sailing away?

Reactions towards our trip are mixed…most people we speak to are excited for us, maybe a little jealous, some are frightened, and say we are either brave – or stupid. That said, Tim and I try to remember why we are doing this; why we have decided to leave the comfort of our home, our work, our friends, and families.

Being in our early-to mid-30s, while most of our friends are getting married, starting families, and buying houses, we decided it was time to try a different lifestyle and see the world. We don’t belong to the ‘Quit Your Job, Follow Your Dreams, See the World’ genre; we don’t believe in just letting go of everything we built up over the years, and this goes true for work relationships, friends, and other connections that keep us rooted.

It was Tim’s lifelong dream to set sail and explore, while my dream always involved travel and making a difference. Together, we change this perception of a ‘trip’ into a ‘lifestyle’. We challenge ourselves to live a life where we will feel more connected to the natural environment, because we feel a responsibility towards it.

We are excited to see how we handle living in close quarters over long periods of time, catching up on unread books, unpractised hobbies, learning new skills, and honing old ones. We are excited to take you with us on this journey, keep in touch and let the adventures begin!!!