Bring Out Another Thou$and
For an organisation manned by volunteers the guys who attended our ‘rescue’ were very professional at what they did and how they managed their boat, themselves and their equipment. VMR – the auto-club of the waves, are like roadside assist and if you’re not a member you will have to pay for services. I’m not a member but at least we kept our call out until the last hour and the tow was only 6 miles. In truth I was surprised and happy at the reasonable rate they did charge.
They took us into the marina and put us alongside the first empty berth they came to and then a tender from the marina took us to a maintenance berth adjacent to the boatyard. Plans for the next day were made over beer and dinner at the pub. Sail repair, diesel mechanic and electrician.
Day 4: Woke to a really windy day: “Where were these winds when we were trying to sail yesterday???” First things first – check into the marina properly and get an access pass to showers and toilets better than those in the boatyard used by all the tradesmen and workers and to get the info on the best service guys to help us. In fact, there was only a shower in the male toilets so I had to stand guard outside as Michelle showered. Best mechanic is at the boatyard and they recommended an electrician so I got his phone number to call soon. But there are no sailmakers in Mackay, everyone sends anything they need by courier up to Airlie Beach – where we left from only a few days ago. Called in to the mechanic on the way back to the boat, they’ll get to us when they can and then I called the electrician – left a message.
Yachties are a little like farmers. They are often many miles from any qualified or experienced assistance so have come to develop a ‘can do’ attitude towards repairs or installations. On our boat familiarisation day ‘Mr C’ had tagged and labelled a few things for us and pointed out a few idiosyncrasies. Looking at the standard of some of the work ‘Mr C’ was one of those yachties who has left his mark.
Mechanic arrived promptly and got to work crawling into the engine space to check out the water pump issues. Seems the impeller may not have been doing its thing to the best of its ability. Access to the engine isn’t great – in fact there is no access to the port side because of the fuel tank so Jim is headfirst in the engine compartment reaching over to the other side and working by feel to change the impeller. Lots of swearing, knuckle banging and blood loss later Jim emerges with said old impeller in hand – it was a bit shabby and in backwards.
As Jim dives back in to put a new one in the right way, Charlie the electrician rings back. A few investigatory questions and then looking out the portlight there he is larger than life waving from the trawler in the next berth where he’s fixing a freezer. He suggested he’ll call over and have a look when Jim has gone. He has to let the freezer freeze and go into defrost cycle so can give us an hour or so while that happens. Looks like our ducks are flying in formation.
Charlie arrives and quizzes us on our needs. A quick look over the electrics and to see why the solar isn’t charging, check the refrigeration and we thought of some other things to look at as we chatted. Solar panels were old and not really giving their best anymore. We need to get a new solar panel and regulator and he’ll come back and install them when we get them. Fridge and freezer are old but working okay. Whilst the two house batteries were new, they weren’t quite enough for the needs of the boat – source two more exactly the same batteries and he’ll see they’re installed properly when we get them. “Why aren’t these 240v power points working?” we ask – ‘Mr C’ had just said they didn’t work. He probes them with his little meter thing and scratches his head. Earth socket is live – WTF!!!!!!! More investigating and he determines there may be an issue with the power selector switch. The one to switch on or off when plugged into electricity from the shore.
Access to the back of the switch is through the engine compartment. I switch off the selector and he dives in. Seconds later – ZAP!!! F@#K and Charlie is on his back on the saloon floor, shaken but thankfully alive. Turning off the shore power supply at the dock, more investigation and he finds out the wiring was all wrong. It was always live whether it was turned off, on or to the inverter. Some tradesman’s skill in re-wiring on the switch and inverter and things are all ok. We invited him back for a cold beer once he’d done the defrost thing on the trawler and he gratefully accepted the ice cold Carona offered.
Day 5: Woke to another windy day – no chance to try and get the big genoa (sail) off the furler again. We both questioned ourselves why we didn’t get it down when we were becalmed for three hours way back on day 3. Hindsight is such a wonderful thing. But we spent the day researching batteries, solar panels and regulators. Because ‘Mr C’ had sourced the cheapest batteries he could get the only place we could get them from was – Airlie Beach. And the supplier there would have to order them from Townsville – Faaaaark. A phone call to the sail loft in Airlie Beach to let them know a torn sail may be arriving in the next day or so – as soon as we get it down. He gives us the name and number of the courier to best use. More searching for solar panels and regulators and order two new batteries and organise the courier to collect them from Airlie Beach.
Day 6: As I lie in bed and look up through the aft cabin hatch I can see the Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Club burgee on the hoist. It’s not moving. Michelle and I look at each other – “Let’s do it”. We spring out of bed and at 4am in light rain we get the genoa down and bundled up into my little red trolley. Looking at the dock there is barely enough room to walk side by side let alone fold a huge sail. “Let’s fold it up in the shed in the boatyard.” There are two enormous sheds up there with very, very expensive boats having work done and neither of them are locked at night.
As we spread the sail out on the dusty floor beside a million dollar yacht we expect security to be watching on their CCTV and turn up and arrest us or at least kick us out very soon. This was the first time we got a good look at the tear. About 2 – 3m long just above the bottom of the sail and it looks repairable.
5:30am back to the boat feeling rather chuffed as the wind starts to freshen again and think about coffee and the day ahead. At an appropriate time ring the courier and start our story “Took the sail down at 4am in the rain this morning……….” “Stop right there!,” she says, “I’m not taking a wet sail with all my cardboard boxes.” Aaaaaarrrrrgggghhhhhh!!!!!! The marina has hire cars for marina patrons to use so a half day car hire and we drive back to Airlie Beach with the sail in the boot. Sail loft guy inspects it and says we can come back in two hours. That was a pleasant surprise as I hadn’t expected a while-you-wait service. A nice lunch in Airlie Beach, a spot of shopping to stock up on fresh supplies then back to the sail loft just as he’s finishing the repair. As I help him fold the sail on the nice clean loft floor he says, “No guarantee – you should think about a new sail soon.” Drive back to Mackay and leave the sail on deck.
Day 7: Another early morning dozy look up through the hatch and the SICYC burgee is hanging limp. “Let’s do it!” we spring forth again at 5am and get the sail back on the furler just as the winds begin to freshen for the day. Michelle is struggling to hold the sail from flapping too much as I haul the head of it home and secure the bottom on the roller. Then quickly furl it away as the winds pick up even more.
Another half day car hire and off to get a new solar panel and regulator and a few other bits and pieces. It’s Saturday but we let Charlie know we’ve got the stuff and he can come do his thing next week. By now the south easterly winds have set in and there is no chance of sailing into them for the next few days.
That evening on the way back from our little journey to the showers we’re greeted by two boatyard guys who inform us that they lock the boatyard at weekends so we’ll have to walk the long way, the very long way round to get anywhere.
Day 8: Sunday. Another windy day – off to the marina office and see if we can shift onto a normal marina berth. Easy done they say and we do a little shift across the marina to a regular berth closer to showers and facilities – nice J
Charlie called on Tuesday to say he’d be around on Wednesday (Day 11) to do the work – new solar panel and regulator installed and two new batteries to make a house bank of four. All the winds have been way too strong to even think about sailing south so the time was spent cleaning lockers and stowages and getting to know where things are.
Strong south easterly winds and seas are obviously going to continue for some time so there is no way we can sail into them to get home to Bundaberg on schedule. We had to make the decision to get a hire car and drive home on Friday.
Day 12 – Thursday. Day spent packing things away and sorting out what can stay aboard and what can come home. ****It’s important to remember now that 7 weeks ago when I had the boat surveyed pre-purchase, the surveyor and I only sighted four sails – the main and genoa in their rigging and the spinnaker and storm jib in the spare cabin. I mentioned to ‘Mr C’ that the sales specs said there were more and he said there was only what was on the survey. Also please note that when ‘Mr C’ and I were in the forward V-berth he showed me all the tools and spares for plumbing, electrical work and rigging and what they were for before we left the V-berth. When Michelle and I arrived on board a week ago we stowed all the things we used to transport stuff up to Airlie – empty crates, esky, bags etc, in the V-berth. Now as I emptied the V-berth of said crates, esky and bags I decided to look under the bunk and check out the storage space. WWWWWTTTTTTTTFFFFFFFFF!!!!!!!! – all the spare sails on the specs. A #2 genoa, jib and trysail. Faaaaarck we had spare sails all that time, we could have swapped sails and left over a week ago and got the solar and batteries installed here at home.
But in hindsight we are so much more aware of the idiosyncrasies of the boat and if we had used that power point we may have been a six o’clock news item and not writing this story now. The boat is still in Mackay Marina awaiting available time and better weather to bring her home. The friendly attitude and service we received from everyone in Mackay and the sail loft in Airlie was fantastic. Despite things not going anywhere near to plan and only getting the boat a quarter of the way home we did have a good time and learnt heaps.