Tall ship sailing: Liverpool to Dublin Regatta on the Brig Morgenster

When I saw that the Morgenster was taking part in the very first Three Festivals Regatta and was sailing from Liverpool to Dublin on the first leg I didn’t hesitate to sign up.  This was the first tall ship I sailed on back in Feb 2017 and I had such a fantastic time it was a no-brainer to join this wonderful ship once again.  I’d never sailed in a regatta before  so I had no idea of what to expect.

I joined the ship in Liverpool on Sun 27th May and it was great to meet all the crew again, and of course the new guest crew. There was quite a good mix of guests with a group from Dublin with Sail Training Ireland, a group of young company sponsored apprentices and the rest of us.  I was on white (wit)  watch with our first stint on Mon/Tue 00:00 – 04:00. By Tue we were making good speed but the sea was a bit rough and some of the guest crew were the worse for it with quite a few wee buckets being carried around.  By this time we were well ahead of  the other class A ships, Lord Nelson, Belem and Belle Poule with only one other ship in the race ahead of us, Maybe.  With the wind dying away it was getting more difficult to gain any distance North to follow our planned route around the Isle of Mann, but with a lot of tacking and the skill of our captain Jakob we eventually made headway and rounded the North of the island.  When we did eventually catch some wind we overshot our way point so had to backtrack a bit.  On Wed night we anchored near Lambay Island just off the Irish coast and watched a beautiful sunset.

It has to be said that this voyage was memorable for many, many reasons, not least of which were our musical entertainment, especially the force of nature that was Seamus, a hard act to follow, belting out such classics as ‘five fresh fish’ as never before.

On Thur 31st May we crossed the finish line in second place behind Maybe but first in our class and anchored just outside Dun Laoghaire harbour.  The next morning we headed off to motor up the Liffey into Dublin making a good show as we were the only ship to set our sails. Later that day we had RTE onboard making a film about the Sail Training Ireland crew members, so we had our wee bit of fame on Irish TV. Saturday was the big crew get together and awards ceremony, which were almost late for but we arrived just in time to hear our ship being declared the winner in class A

which involved a very large cup and one hell of a party afterwards. A great voyage to remember for so many reasons, good friends, great sailing, fantastic musical entertainment, beautiful weather and to cap it all “we won”!!!

Tall ship sailing: Schooner Oosterschelde Tenerife to Cape Verde

On my last three sailing trips I was island hoping, firstly in the Cannaries on the Morgenster then off the west coast of Scotland on the Irene and the Chimere. I wanted to experience a longer open ocean voyage to see if I was cut out for such trips and whether or not I’d enjoy it.  I found suitable trip on classic sailing on  the schooner Oosterschelde,  a Dutch ship out of Rotterdam.  Unlike the Morgenster which was a square rigger the Oosterschelde is a three masted  gaff rigged schooner with only one top sail and upper on the fore mast. So there would be much less sail on the yards. I joined the ship in Santa Cruz de Tenerife on Tue 2nd Jan 2018, met the crew and other guests then spent the night in port. We set sail the next day heading South for the Cape Verde islands.

This voyage gave me my first taste of the watch system, on previous voyages we were never at sea long enough to warrant it. The watches were split into red, white and blue, the colours of the Dutch flag. I was on blue watch and our first shift was 00:00 – 04:00  which wasn’t so bad. Unfortunately, probably on the flight to Tenerife I had picked up a virus and developed a very bad cough  which meant I barely slept for the next four or five nights. I felt like crap and coupled with the rolling watch system (00:00-04:00 / 04:00-08:00 /  08:00-14:00 / 14:00-20:00 / 20:00-00:00) I was only vaguely  aware of the times and on at least two watches I was completely flummoxed, one time getting out of bed convinced I had missed my watch thinking it was lunchtime only to find everyone having breakfast. The other time I was really struggling through my watch feeling really weak but I kept my spirits up by thinking of the breakfast I would have quite soon, only to find out it was nearing 04:00 and not 08:00 as I thought.  I slowly started to feel a bit better and finally got some sleep. I read a lot on this voyage as there was a lot of sitting round with not much to do on the open ocean. The captain, Maarten kept us amused, entertained and educated with a variety of ‘classes’ on the ships rigging, weather patterns and navigation .

On one particularly clear starry night he a gave a captivating talk on the constellations and the Greek mythology associated with each of them.

After 6 days at sea we caught sight of Sal, where I would leave the ship. Sal was as featureless  as I’d expected and my only reason for leaving the ship here was the international airport for flights home.  When we arrived in the port of Palmeira we performed the ‘where can we moor’ dance after first being told to move by the harbour master, then by the harbour police and once again by the harbour master, before finally being allowed to stay in one place. Many of us were due to leave the ship the next day so in the morning the first mate Jan-Willem took our passports off to the airport to get our visas. This also proved to be a bit of a to and fro when he was told at the airport he had to get the visas at the port then at the port being told to go to the airport, then they closed for lunch.  Eventually Jan-Willem returned and we each made our way ashore.  Antoine and I grabbed a taxi bus heading South to Santa Maria and I parted with him at his hotel. I then spent the best part of a couple of hours trying to find my hotel which was hidden away on one of the back streets.  As I said before Sal is rather featureless and there’s not a whole lot of things to do, If you like beach holidays then it’s fine, but not for me. Luckily I was only staying a couple of days.

The day I left the island I had another bit of a hiccup when the border guard at the airport wanted to know where I got my visa, why I didn’t have a receipt etc. etc. for a brief moment I thought he wasn’t going to let me leave.  If I go back the the Cape Verde island then I think I’ll join the ship in Sal and sail around the other islands which have much more to offer and well worth a visit according to the crew of the Oosterschelde…next time.

Tall ship sailing: Sailing ketch Irene

Having now sailed in the square rigger Morgenster and completed my RYA competent crew training I was on the lookout for another voyage when I Ketch Irenespotted a trip on classic sailing on a smaller ship, the ketch Irene. The ship was planning a voyage from Oban around the small Isles and Skye, a part of Scotland I love, so I signed up. I joined the ship on Mon 5th June 2017 in Oban.  Early next morning the skipper, Ieuan told us there was a storm predicted for later so we headed for the shelter of Tobermory bay under engine power.  Spent the day waling around Tobermory, it was a bit wet and miserable but Tobermory is always a nice place to visit we even had the treat of seeing the paddle steamer Waverley in port as well as a most fantastic sunset that evening. Most of us eventually congregated in the pub to warm up and dry off. We were reliably informed by Ieuan that the storm did arrive in the middle of the night although most of us slept right through it and didn’t even notice. The morning was beautiful when we set sail for Eigg this was great sailing with fantastic sunshine, we launched the dinghy to buzz round the Irene for a photo shoot. After a night anchored at Eigg we set off for Skye on another glorious sunny day, dropping anchor in Loch Slappin we went ashore for a wander around and a coffee at the local cafe. There were some great views of the Cuilins and the ship at anchor. The next day was another glorious sunny day but with light winds so we eventually had to use the engine to get us to anchor in Loacaline where we went ashore to the local pub in the evening. the morning of the 10th June was not promising and we had very heavy rain for the first part of the day. I learned to very important lessons that morning hoisting sails in heavy rain, firstly make sure the cuffs of your waterproof are pulled tight otherwise the rain just runs up your arms, and secondly a pair of deck Wellies is a very good idea , my feet and arms were soaked. The weather cleared later and we had a very sunny afternoon,  some of us even went for a swim.  It was good sailing back to Oban and I took the helm all around Kerrera and into Oban harbour but Ieuan took over when we had to play dodge the ferries when looking for a mooring buoy.

Tall ship sailing: Competent crew training

After getting the sailing bug during my first voyage on the Morgenster I was keen to learn a bit more about sailing so I enrolled on a RYA competent crew training course being run by BritSail out of Kip Marina. This proved to a memorable trip, but for very different reasons from the Morgenster.  We sailed in some of the most beautiful areas of the West of Scotland, leaving Inverkip we sailed up towards Colintraive practicing anchoring  and maneuvering techniques. Then onto Tighnabruiach mooring to a buoy, launched the dinghy then off for a well earned pint. Next day we sailed the beautiful Kyles of Bute then across Loch Fyne to Tarbert with more mooring practice and man overboard drills.  We then headed back through the Kyles on onto Gare Loch dodging nuclear submarines and eventually mooring at Rhu marina. Our final sail was at night where one of the other crew who was going for his coastal skipper accreditation had to navigate with only the information we at the helm gave him, depth beneath the keel, heading etc. It was tougher than I thought, trimming the sails, looking out for marker buoys whilst learning what all the different lights and sequences meant, keeping track of headings, depth whilst trying to stave off the cold. But we made it safely back to Kip, cold and tired but well worth the experience.

Tall ship sailing: Morgenster Feb 2017

MorgensterTowards the end of 2016 I was reading Facebook posts from a friend who was sailing on the Bark Europa tall ship heading for Antarctica. I was not only amazed at the voyage she was on but also intrigued as to how one gets on board these tall ships, so I followed the link she posted to classic-sailing.co.uk where a whole world of possibilities opened up with numerous ships and a huge range of voyages available. Setting the sailsHaving never sailed in a tall ship before I felt that heading off to Antarctica was probably too ambitious for my first voyage so I opted for a trip to the Canary Isles, which I’ve visited a few times in winter. The ship I signed up on was the square rigged Morgenster, (Morning Star) a Dutch ship built in 1919. I joined the ship in Santa Cruz de Tenerife on 4th Feb 2017. We set sail for La Palma, then La Gomera then finally back to Tenerife. This was a fantastic introduction to tall ship sailing, great crew, great guest crew, fantastic weather and absolutely awesome sailing on a beautiful ship. I learned so much on the voyage about rope work, sail work tall ships in general but mostly I had one of the best experiences of my life, I was hooked!

How to get a Raspberry pi to use WiFi to connect to eduroam on a (UK) University Network

This is based on a tutorial from the University of Southampton (YouTube)

To enable eduroam
Open a terminal and type;
sudo leafpad /etc/network/interfaces
This will open the interfaces file in leafpad, edit this file to look something like below where we have set wlan0 to use wpa_supplicant
# interfaces(5) file used by ifup(8) and ifdown(8)
# Please note that this file is written to be used with dhcpcd
# For static IP, consult /etc/dhcpcd.conf and ‘man dhcpcd.conf’
# Include files from /etc/network/interfaces.d:
source-directory /etc/network/interfaces.d
auto lo
iface lo inet loopback
iface eth0 inet manual
allow-hotplug wlan0
iface wlan0 inet manual
wpa-roam /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf
iface default inet dhcp
Next, in a terminal type;
sudo leafpad /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf
Edit this file as below
ctrl_interface=DIR=/var/run/wpa_supplicant GROUP=netdev
Reboot the pi and check that wifi is working and you’re connected via eduroam

Setting up SSH and VNC on a Raspberry pi 3

This is based on my experience with a Raspberry pi 3 running Raspbian Jessie.

Setup SSH
In Raspbian Jessie ssh may already be enabled by default but if not open a terminal and type
sudo raspi-config
select 7 Advanced Options
select A4 SSH
You’ll be asked if you want enable SSH Select Yes.
To find the IP address of you pi open a terminal and type:
hostname -I
On another computer open terminal(Linux) or command line in Windows, I’m using Ubuntu and type;
ssh pi@<YOUR Raspberry Pi IP ADDRESS>
It will prompt you for your password. NOTE: the default password for the user pi is raspberry, you can now change this.
Now install VNC Server on the Raspberry pi
Open Terminal, and type:
sudo apt-get install tightvncserver
To start VNC Server, type:
You’ll be asked to set a password to access the pi. You’ll need this when you try to access the pi from another computer.
To run VNCServer at Startup
You will normally want the VNC Server to run automatically after the Raspberry Pi reboots, open a terminal and type:
cd /home/pi
cd .config
mkdir autostart
cd autostart
Create a new autostart file for TightVNC by typing the following:
sudo leafpad tightvnc.desktop
This will open the default text editor (leafpad) with a blank file called tightvnc.desktop Edit the contents of the file with the following text:
[Desktop Entry]
Exec=vncserver :1
Connecting to Raspberry Pi via VNC
On another PC open Remina (or other VNC Client)
server address is IP-Address-of-Your-pi:1 (note :1 which defines display 1)
Username is pi
Password is: whatever you set for Tightvnc
You should now have a VNC connection to your pi.
This is all fine if you want to run the pi headless and administer it remotely but, if like me you want to run a pi with a monitor attached as a display sign for example then you will need to be able to display the same monitor output on both HDMI and VNC. Remember from above the pi was displaying session :0 and VNC displayed session :1
To achieve this I used X11VNC rather than TightVNC
Install X11VNC
Open a Terminal and type:
sudo apt-get install x11vnc
x11vnc -storepasswd
As with TighVNC before we need to set X11VNC to autostart in a terminal type:
cd /home/pi
cd .config
mkdir autostart [You can miss this step if you’ve already created the directory]
cd autostart
sudo leafpad x11vnc.desktop
Type the following text into the x11vnc.desktop file:
[Desktop Entry]
Exec=x11vnc -forever -usepw -display :0 -ultrafilexfer

Note: If you created an autostart file for TightVNC as above, then remember to either remove this file from the autostart directory or delete it, otherwise when you reboot your pi it will try and start both TightVNC and X11VNC.

You should now be able to connect to your Raspberry pi using your VNC client with the IP address of your pi (without the :1) and it should display the same output as the Rasperry pi HDMI monitor.


How to get Google Play music in the UK for Ubuntu & Android

Update: Google Play is now available in the UK. Here’s how to use it in Ubuntu. And here’s  a guide to tweaking the desktop app Nuvola.

Google Play, formerly Google Music is only available in the US at the moment presumably for licencing reasons. But it is possible to get it outside the US in a variety of ways. Basically you have to trick the Google Play site into thinking you are actually in the US so you can register with your normal Gmail account. There are numerous tutorial on the web detailing how to do this so I’m not going to repeat everything here, I’m just going to recount what I tried and what eventually worked for me.

I wanted to be able to access my music from my Android mobile with Google Play and upload my music to the cloud from my Ubuntu PC. To do this you’ll need the Play Music app for Android, but since it’s not available outside the US the easiest way to get it is from the xda-developers site, download to your phone then install the apk file following this method. To upload your music you need the Google Music Manager, there was a copy on the xda-developers site  but this was the Windows version so I decided to wait till I’d registerd with play.google.com and download their Ubuntu 64bit version.

The simplest thing I tried first was some free proxy services like Hide My Ass and TunnelBear which effectively allows you to surf anonymously so web services cannot detect your true IP address. I tried a couple of these services but didn’t have any luck. I then followed the tutorial on  Engadget.com which recommended using the Tor Browser Bundle. Tor sets up a secure internet connection for you and by using the browser (a modified version of FireFox) included you should be able to connect with play.google.com. Unfortunately everytime I tried this approach I got suck on the T&C agreement stage and the browser just seemed to hang there.

Finally I found an approach that did work, TunnelBear have just released an Android app to allow you to set up a secure connection and select whether you’re in the UK or US. By selecting US all sites you visit will believe you are actually in the US. next thing to do was open a browser and go to  play.google.com and sign in with my usual Gmail account details, agree to the T&C and bingo I had now registered .

Back on my PC and using my normal WiFi connection I logged into play.google.com and proceeded to download the music manager which you’ll need to upload your music to the cloud.

So now all I have to do is spend ages uploading music to the cloud as it is by all accounts a very slow process.

Download music from Amazon in Ubuntu without using the Amazon Downloder

I’ve bought downloaded MP3s from Amazon on many occasions but was always annoyed to have to use their downloader so I was interested to find an open source alternative called Clamz in the Ubuntu 10.10 repositories. First install Clamz through Synaptic or sudo apt-get install Clamz if you prefer in a terminal.

Next, buy your MP3s on Amazon as you would normally, you will then be directed to a page telling you to download and install their downloader, assuming you don’t have it. Skip to the bottom of the page and look for the phrase “If you have already installed the latest Amazon MP3 Downloader, click here to enable it for use with this browser.” Click the link and now your browser should save the Amazon file in your Downloads directory.

As Clamz is a command line program you need to open a terminal and run the following command where ****** is the number sequence of the Amazon file.

clamz -d ~/Desktop AmazonMP3-******.amz
This will unzip the MP3s in the download to your Desktop.

Get an additional 1.7Gb Storage Free from Dropbox

I, like many people have the basic free version of Dropbox which provides a very useful 2Gb of cloud storage but with a few clicks you can increase this to 2.7Gb. Read the Lifehacker posts here and here. Recently the Dropbox team launched a scavenger hunt offering up to an additional 1Gb storage for free although this does require a bit more effort, unless you want to follow some of the walk throughs already posted.

If you don’t have a Dropbox account yet head over to Dropbox and sign up for the free 2Gb account then follow the Lifehacker tips above to get an additional few Mbs with a few clicks. Once done you can start the scavenger hunt by heading over to https://www.dropbox.com/dropquest2011 There are twenty nine steps in total and you cannot skip any unfortunately. have fun.