Buying a Boat, Step One

Step one – fit a towbar to your car.

If I’m to buy a boat, I’m going to need to be able to tow it back from wherever I buy it. So, after getting a €615 quote from Finglas Ford, I decided to buy a Bosal detachable towbar (€180) and wiring kit (€60) from micksgarage.ie and fit it myself.

Well … “myself” might be a slight exaggeration … I actually went down to Waterford yesterday to my ould fella, made him cancel his Saturday morning golf and spent the entire day with him figuring it out.

Here’s a rough summary of the steps it took to fit it to me ’06 Ford Focus:

  1. Jack up the back of the car and remove both back wheels for easier access. Otherwise you’ll have to just work around the wheels.
  2. Remove most of the panels from the inside of the boot – the carpet, spare wheel, panel at the back of the car and soft panels on either side.
  3. Next remove the bumper – there are two screws underneath the car, another couple either side of the boot opening, a couple of torx screws in the rear wheel housing and, finally, behind the wheel housing cover there’s a small bolt. With all them removed, you should be able to pop off the bumper and detach it from the cables for the reverse and fog lights.
  4. Now detach the “bumper insert” – a big chunk of metal held on by three nuts underneath on each. You won’t need this again.
  5. In its place, slide in the towbar frame and fasten it with the four nuts and bolts supplied.

Here’s what the towbar looks like attached and detached.


Detachable Towbar

That’s the easy part, believe it or not. Now you need to fit up the electronics.

In the wiring kit, you get a black relay box, a length of 7-wire cable with a connector for the relay box and another length of 7-wire cable with a socket at one end which gets fitted to the hitch. The basic idea is that you need to locate 7 wires – left/right indicator, left/right park, brake, fog and reverse – and connect each the wires to first length of cable using snap-on connectors.

However, things are complicated slightly by the fact that the relay box itself needs its own independent power source direct from the batter. So, you need to take a feed from the fuse box, get it out of the engine compartment, through the car and into the boot.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Find each of the 7 wires – for the 2 indicators, 2 parking lights, fog, brake and reverse – by tracing the wires back from the bulbs to a convenient place to tap into them. We removed the sets of light holders on either side of the boot and traced the first 4 wires from there. The other three we traced from the bumper connector. Use a digital voltmeter, turn off all lights except the one you’re testing, find the live connector and trace the wire back.
  2. Once you’ve located where you’re going to tap into the wires, decide where you’re going to put the relay box. We put it in back left hand side of the boot, down low, behind the paneling.
  3. If you’re going to tap into wires on both sides of the boot – we took the left indicator and park from the left side and the rest from the right side – strip the first 7 wire cable back, split out the wires for each side, wrap them together in insulation tape and feed from the relay box to your tap-in points. Then use the snap-on connectors to tap into the wires.
  4. Next, bore a hole – above where you’re going to fit the wiring socket to the towbar – into the boot compartment. Fit the grommit to the hole and feed in the other end of the cable from the socket and wire that up to the other side of the relay box.
  5. Now locate somewhere in the fuse box to take a permanent (i.e. still live when the ignition is off) live feed. We took it from a “bus bar” in the auxiliary fuse box in the engine compartment next to the battery.
  6. Connect a wire from this point to the supplied little fuse box and from there feed it back out of the engine compartment all the way through the car to the boot. We removed the battery and were able to pass the wire into the car through the hole where a bunch of other wires went, out above the central fuse box underneath the glove compartment, tucking it under the panels below the doors on the passenger side and into the boot.
  7. Now connect the ground wires from the relay box and the towbar socket to a ground source.
  8. Finally … tidy up all the wires and put back the bumper and all of the panels.

Here’s a shot of where we took a live feed from the auxiliary fuse box.


Live Feed

Other notes:

  1. You need quite a selection of tools for this – spanners and sockets/wrench for 6mm to 19mm, torx screwdrivers, voltmeter, wire strippers etc. etc.
  2. Don’t forget to bring the “lock nut” for removing your wheels if you have one. Yes, I forget mine.
  3. Be careful not to assume that a certain colour wire means the same thing everywhere – you need to physically trace the wire – e.g. the wire in the bumper for my reverse light was green/black, but in the boot compartment it was green/orange whereas green/black there was an indicator.
  4. If you do disconnect the battery, you might need a code to get the stereo working again. Don’t expect to be able to ring your dealership on a Saturday evening and get it.
  5. You might run down your battery with all the messing about. That happened with me and we thought we’d seriously screwed something up when relays in the two fuse boxes started making awful sounds and the ignition often wouldn’t turn and, when it did, the engine wouldn’t start. In other words, have a set of jump leads handy.
  6. The relay box that came with the wiring kit makes a sound when a trailer is hooked up and the indicators are on. Don’t worry, this is just to give you peace of mind that the lights are working. It doesn’t sound when there isn’t a trailer hooked up.

Lately

What’s the most common mistake made by bloggers? Starting out with a flurry of posts and then letting them dwindle until there’s only one in a blue moon. Yeah, well …

Skiing

Early in March, a group of eight of us went skiing in Söll, Austria. As usual, we had a great week. Lots of skiing, lots of eating, lots of drinking and lots of laughs.

I’d only ever been skiing in Meribel, France before, and I found I didn’t enjoy the skiing itself in Söll quite as much. The Ski Welt area (of which Soll is a part) is pretty huge, so there is plenty of opportunity to explore. Our main problem, though, was that it took us ages to figure out the piste map enough to get out of the immediate Soll area and across towards Scheffau and Ellmau. We weren’t the only ones confused.

Most of our group did group lessons nearly every day, so Marie, Paula and I spent most of the week exploring together. Steve, the owner of our Hotel, the Gansleit, also took us out a few times during the week, which was pretty cool. Nice to have someone in the know guide you rather than having your nose buried in a piste map the whole time.


Me and Marie

As for the apres-ski part … well, we didn’t go too mad this year. Most days we came straight back to the hotel where there was a really nice sauna, steam-room and solarium to chill out in. Much more civilised than heading straight to the pub. Some nights we stayed on in the hotel for drinks after dinner, other nights we headed down to one of the bars in the village. One night we found ourselves in a low-ceilinged bar, heaving with locals, singing “The Irish Rover”. Bizarre, but good craic.

On our second last night, though, the “craic” ended with a “crack”. Messing about with Derek, I found myself flat on my face, with mild concussion, a fat lip and a sore hand. I still went skiing the next day – even leading the whole lot of us around the place – but by the end of the day, from the pain of dragging my gloves on and off, I realised things weren’t right with my thumb at all, at all. Back in Dublin, at hospital, it turned out to be broken. Dammit.


FAIL

Hiking

Needless to say, with a cast on my hand I couldn’t get up to much for a few weeks, but Catherine and I did manage to go for a few nice walks.

One of those was the Great Sugar Loaf, which we’d passed so many times on the N11, but hadn’t explored. We took the route suggested by our Lonely Planet “Walking in Ireland” book, going up from the north side and coming down the east flank. On the way up, we met only a small handful of people until just below the top where there was crowds and crowds of mainly families coming from a car park on the south side. We couldn’t wait to get down off there again and away from people.

Another weekend we went back to one of our more regular walks, the Tain Way and Slieve Foye in Carlingford. Living on “de northsoide”, it can be much handier to get up there than across the city to Wicklow. That day was a funny ould day for the weather … you can’t beat the Irish mixture of gale force winds, blissful sunshine, hail, sleet and rain all mixed up together. It’s definitely a walk we’ll do again and again, though. I love emerging from the forest towards the end with a view of the lough, the village and, across the water, the Mourne Mountains.


Top of Slieve Foye, Carlingford

We’ve lots more hiking ahead of us this summer as we’ve just booked ourselves in with UTracks to do the northern half of the GR20 in Corsica this September. The GR20 is supposed to be “the most difficult long distance walking trail in Europe”, so we’re in for a bit of a challenge, but it sounds like it’ll be excellent. I just can’t get my head around the fact that a Mediterranean island, 10% the size of Ireland, has mountains up to 2700m. When we’re done with our weeks trekking, though, we’re going to spend another week chilling out near a beach. I’m almost looking forward to that as much as the first week …

Sailing

Since I enjoyed the dinghy sailing courses in Sutton Dinghy Club so much last year, I’ve started the process of looking for a boat. Hugh Gill, club manager, was really helpful one lunchtime when I went down there looking for advice.


Hugh in a Pico

There’s so much to think about, it’s not funny. What type of boat? A Laser, an IDRA14, a GP14? If a Laser, then a full rig or a radial? Buy an old boat for a couple of grand, or spend twice that on a newer boat that would last you longer? If the boat doesn’t have a road trailer or trolley, where to pick those up? Where to store the boat out of season? Towbar for the car? Insurance for driving with a trailer? Insurance for the boat? Joining the club? Getting a boat parking space at the club?

Phew.

I’m leaning towards getting a Laser with a full rig, since it’s single-handed and there’s a fair few adults racing them in the club. I’m right on the recommended weight limit for a full rig, so I’ll probably have a tough time controlling it in strong winds, but maybe that’ll just get me down the gym more …

Now, if I could convince a certain other person that we really wants to take up sailing too, then maybe the slightly more sedate two-handed GP14 might be a good option. We’ll see 🙂

Mountain Running

With the cast off, and some fitness regained, I’m getting back into running again and doing some hill/mountain running.

A couple of weeks ago, I went along and helped out with the registration at the Wicklow Way 22km and 44km races. It was good fun to go along, meet up with some IMRA folks and “do my bit”. No question that all IMRA runners should volunteer regularly since so much work goes into each race with course marking, registration, timing, marshalling, website stuff etc.

Still, though, it’s good that no-one expects too much from the organisers of each race – at Johnnie Foxes, I was given a list of names and told to give a “finishers mug” to anyone registering who had their name on the list. Next thing, Mike and Lindie had disappeared off to set the ultra runners on the way and I was left with a queue of the 22km runners looking to register. “Right then, how does this registration thing work?” was all I could say before getting the folks in the queue to help me figure it out … 🙂

Best part of the day was when Mick Kellett came up to me to register for IMRA for the year and I realised this was someone almost in the M70 category about to run 22km across the Wicklow Mountains. Can I grow up to be like him, Mammy?


Mick Kellet – taken by Forrest5000

Wednesday night in Bray saw the start of IMRA’s Leinster League – 12 races, of which your 7 best results count. I was looking forward to it because it sounded like a nice, straightforward little race to ease back into things – 5km with a 275m climb? No problem.

Except, when I arrived in Bray – yeah, I’d never been to exotic Bray before! – it didn’t look so easy. That cross up on the Head looked like an awful long way up. Once we got going, though, it wasn’t so bad after all … I took it easy on the way up to the cross, not wanting to kill myself early on, and then pushed hard to keep on the heels of my nemesis-to-be, Tommy the Tumbler, across to the second hill and back. On the way back down, I managed to pass Tommy and a bunch of others, but I got my comeuppance back down on the seafront when I totally faded on the last 200m, and had to watch them all go past me again.


Thumbs up No. 92 – taken by Darragh Sherwin

I think that’s what I’m going to enjoy about these IMRA runs – I may have only come 95th out of around 220, with a finishing time 145% of the winner’s time, but it was still great fun “racing” against similarly-paced others. Mediocrity can be fun too!

Next week is in Howth. My home ground. Watch out Tommy!


Racing – taken by Darragh Sherwin

(Poor Tommy if he reads this … I’m sure he’ll wonder “who the hell is this guy?”)

Dinghy Sailing

Over Saturday and Sunday this weekend I did the Irish Sailing Associations “basic skills” course at Sutton Dinghy Club and this morning I’m shattered, battered and knackered. I’m stiff all over, I’ve got matching lumps on either side of my head from the boom, my hands are red raw from the ropes and my knees are truly knobbled from scrambling around on the plastic deck of the pico.

Brilliant fun, though. Definitely the highlight was finishing up yesterday by heading out to sea – tacking upwind – into the waves that were breaking over the sand banks at the end of Bull Island. Incredible feeling to be keeping the boat close hauled, leaning out over the side, straining against the force 5 wind with your last bit of energy while waves come crashing over your back and the boat’s deck.

From talking to people, it sounds like the next step would be to buy a secondhand Laser, join a club and start racing. These boats don’t come cheap though, so we’ll see! 🙂

Dinghy Sailing

I’ve just finished the Irish Sailing Association’s “start sailing” course for dinghy sailing at Sutton Dinghy Club just down the road from me. It was all pretty basic stuff – rigging the boat, tacking, reaching, gybing – all in single-handed, plastic, laser picos. A brilliant introduction, though. I’m really looking forward to doing the second level next month.


Hugh Gill

Hugh Gill demonstrating a gybe

I can really see why people love dinghy sailing. They might look like puny little boats, but the feeling of speed when you’re tacking into a strong wind, waves splashing over the bow, hanging out the side and varying the boat and the sail’s angle to wind … excellent fun. I can imagine how exciting racing must be …