To ask about the boat’s conditions first: wintersailing in UK

Water is so beautiful when cold. Here, in the form of Norwegian ice
In the very end of November, just when the temperatures in the whole of Europe were starting to drop below freezing point, I set off to sail in the British Isles. The weather there was just as cold as in Scandinavia, freezing and sunny. I was to spend a few days out at sea, and get home in the beginning of December.

The setting was that there is a boat needing a delivery along the West Coast of UK, to South Wales. I was welcome on board to partake with my knowledge and competence. Fair enough - I flew to London and travelled further to the marina in the tiny unpronounceable off-the track city. The trip took a full day, by plane, 2 trains and 2 buses - and finally even a drive with a car.

Train stations across the UK can be rather thrilling
 As soon as we got on the boat, I realised I should have asked about its conditions first. It was a gaff-rigged 28-footer from 1967, dry in the keel but obviously needing a little bit of attention. The cosmetics are not a problem for the actual sailing, but such things are definitely a tell-tale about the overall level of boat maintenance, and how much the owner has been caring about the vessel. That did not discourage me – I am used to extreme environments and daredevil sailing. I’ve crossed the North Sea on a boat in a worse condition than this piece of junk! So I loaded the little luggage I had into my berth down in the ice-cold hull, and started getting ready.

The deck and the gear, a bit worn. Sign of age or of neglection?
 It was not too bad. She was pimped with new electronics, despite the lack of maintenance on deck. The diesel engine started after a bit of persuading. But after having it run for a bit - while going through all the gear on board – all electrical systems suddenly died down.

Most probably a fuse, thought I, but the only fuses located were intact. A dig down to the battery showed signs of exciting layman engineering, but still no explanation for the failure.

Me, together the owner of the delivery company, spent good two hours troubleshooting, with no result. When two people with fair knowledge about sailing boats and electronics on board cannot find the problem, it definitely is a firm sign that things are fishy. It was confirmed by the owner, who did not know what the problem ever could be.

Sailing a boat without electronics is plain stupid. At least lanterns, depth sounder and VHF should be functioning. In unfamiliar waters, offshore and at night there should be more instruments available. It's all about managing risks.

While troubleshooting.

A solution could have been to have an electrician come and assess the problem. That would have to be earliest the day after, so the best-case time for departure would be somewhere before noon. But there was another challenge - something that even I usually do not take into consideration.

We would be sailing across a bay that is used as an area for live missile firing. Yes, you have read correctly: there are shooting exercises involving firing live missiles into a large area of the bay. Because how would you train missile firing otherwise, yeah? Lucky as hell to have got hold of that information. Being in the middle of that firing zone would have been a bit of a surprise.

They do not shoot all day, mind you. The shoot from 10 am until some time in the evening. So to cross the bay, you better sail off at night. Or early morning (and then sail like a maniac, which is not highly probable with this very boat). 

Missile Shooting scheme at Cardigan Bay, West coast of Wales 
The first alternative would thus be to wait 24 hours, and then leave - given that nothing else on board will fail. The second would be to tack to the outer part of the bay, avoiding the firing area altogether. That would bring us to the faraway coasts of Ireland. But however pleasurable that is to sail the Irish waters - I have already done that, as a part of the roundtheworld trip - the detour would bring us to the final destination with the same ETA as if we were to stay put and wait.

The delay of another 24 hours would bring me to a situation where I would have to jeopardise my departure date from the country. Setting out with pressed time margins is one of the most unwise things you can be doing out at sea. Same goes for mountains, too. As soon as your focus shifts from safety to external time factors, you're done for. Venturing off to Ireland would not either be a safe choice given the boat's overall condition.

Decision: the boat will be delivered upon being fixed, that is some time later this December, possibly next year. I will definitely be out of UK by then. So, what to do? I came here for sailing, not sitting around and waiting. Time to make things happen.