What’s in a name?

As is well known most boats are given names. Often the name is a reflection of the owner. Sometimes the boats have good names and some, in my opinion are just ‘corny’.  I seldom use the name that has been given mine.  I mostly refer to her as ‘my boat’ or ‘the boat’.  It’s possible this is disrespectful to her but I plan to change the name so I am trying to not get used to it and so that everyone else doesn’t get used to it. As far as I am aware it is the same name she was originally given 25 years ago.   It’s not a bad name, I like it but it isn’t ‘me’ and there are a lot of other boats with the same name.

Changing the name of a boat is a contentious issue.  There are those who say ‘just change it’ and then there are those with a little superstition suggest it should have a proper name changing ceremony to avoid bad luck.  Based on my experiences to date I think I am going to err on the side of caution and do it ceremonially.   Maybe not so much to incur the wrath of the Gods but also for a lot of the fun of it.

It seems there are a few differing guidelines for a name changing ceremony but they all seem to have a few commonalities.  Everything I have read suggests striking the old name from everything on board.  They also call on the Gods to bless all those who have sailed on her, strike the old name from Neptune’s ledger and then invoke the Gods of the four winds for fair weather.  But why do we always seem to instantly recognise Neptune the God of the Sea?  Neptune is a God to the Romans but most other cultures all have their own names for their Gods of seas and waters.

With so many Australian indigenous tribes and territories I haven’t been able to find a local name and since I live in the Pacific region and is where I plan to do the majority of my voyaging I think I will invoke a Pacific God when I do change the name.  Tangaroa is used in the Maori culture and I guess is also recognised by other Polynesian cultures.  So it sounds good to me.

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At the moment ‘my boat’ sits patiently waiting in Mackay marina for me to get time off work to go back north and bring her all the way home.  Once home I will go through a ceremony and change her name.  More of that for another time…….

Are we having fun yet (part 2)

a.k.a.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Are we having fun yet?? (part 1)

About seven weeks ago I bought a boat.  It’s a nice boat, an old boat but a nice boat.   It’s a 43’ (13m) centre cockpit sloop that is now almost 25 years old.  I know it will need some attention over time and modifications to suit my needs but it is a solid foundation for a wonderful ‘Sea-tirement’.

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Now, about three weeks ago with a one-way hired ute loaded with all the needs for a delivery trip home we, Michelle and I, set off on the 10 hour drive north to settle aboard and sail it home over 10 days.  A nice easy trip south through the lower portion of the Great Barrier Reef stopping at island anchorages along the way.  A dream of a trip.  On our arrival in Airlie Beach we moved our stuff aboard and settled in.  Next day the previous owner (we’ll call him Mr C because he was the third owner) came down and went over the boat with us.  He showed us the in’s and out’s, what to do here and there, where the spares were and what they were for.  Then we ended the day with a lovely lunch with Mr and Mrs C.

Day 1; Sunday; full of excitement and eagerness we woke early, looked at each other and said – “lets’ do this”.  Cast off the lines and motored to the fuel dock to fill up and then well before 0800 we were off out of the shelter of the harbour at Airlie Beach with big grins and full of happy thoughts.  Sailing was easy but for the genoa catching on the inner forestay at each tack.  Heading south through the Whitsunday Passage we easily cruised over 8 knots.

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A good day’s sail was had eventually dropping anchor in the shelter of Thomas Island.  A sheltered anchorage all to ourselves in a little cove with another small island for further protection.

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Day 2;  another early start and heading off to the east of the island to continue south.  An early start followed by, again, easy sailing but as we were coming off the anchor I noticed there was very little water pumping out with the exhaust – our engine cooling wasn’t working properly.  Fair winds made smooth sailing but again at every course change the genoa caught on the forestay and around lunch time the headsail tore.  Minor panic erupted as it was hurriedly furled away and we began sailing on the main only until we put up the only other sail suitable – a storm jib, to assist us along.  The winds eased and our progress slowed eventually sailing onto anchor at Carlisle Island.

A brief inspection of the engine and there was nothing I could do at anchor.  The situation now was – a torn headsail, no engine for recharging batteries and the old solar panel wasn’t working to capacity either.  Limited battery power of course meant reduced refrigeration.  The decision was made to head in to Mackay the next day.

Day 3;   another early start on a glorious morning.  Sailed off the anchor in a light breeze and began a slow sail towards Mackay.  The winds eased further during the day until we were totally becalmed and the only headway we were making was with the 1 – 2 knot drift south on the tide.  With the tide expected to change in the mid-afternoon a radio call went out to VMR (volunteer marine rescue) about an hour before the change when we would be pushed back towards where we came from.  VMR responded promptly arrived and towed us the last 6 nautical miles to Mackay Marina where we berthed and connected to shore power to recharge batteries and cool down the fridge and freezer. Dinner and well-earned cold beer at the pub was had to drown our sorrows whilst we made plans for repairs and beyond.

To be continued…………. 

Getting started

I have a plan.  A plan to give up work and live on a sailboat.  After working for the past 45 years I have come to a point where I’ve had enough and want to get out and about and live a few more adventures while I am still physically capable to do so.

I learnt to swim at a young age and at school swam reasonably well in competition.   In my teen years a few of us got together and with the aid of a dad we made a kayak each.  Following that we spent a number of weekends out and about kayaking.  School didn’t suit me so the NAVY beckoned and I spent a few years there and whilst there got the opportunity to sail a little bit and learned to scuba dive. Lived on the Gold Coast and then worked around a swimming pool and in later years have come back to canoeing and kayaking, swimming and scuba diving.  The major influence and interest in my life has been the water so it seems almost natural that I find myself drawn to the thought of spending a few more years on the water living and touring on a sailboat.

For about the past four years I’ve been looking for the right boat.  If there is such a thing. Maybe it’s just the one that suits at the time and is within the current budget.  The journey up till now has been at times long and tedious and often frustrating.   Attractive boats have come and gone whilst I’ve bided my time waiting for the budget to get to the right place.   I’ve been a ‘tyre kicker’ going to inspect boats that I knew I wasn’t interested in buying. I am sure the astute brokers could see that in me.   But all those inspections helped in two ways.

A picture tells a ‘thousand words’ – not anymore.  With the aid of photo enhancement software photos can be touched up, brightened, darkened, cropped and doctored in many other ways to suit the story someone wants told.  Hours of looking through online boat sales sites and the myriad of photos attached to each listing coupled with actually seeing and touching the boats advertised enabled a better understanding of the reality of the condition of the boat being promoted.

Similarly all those hours crawling over, around and through boats has been enlightening by reinforcing  what it was I desired in my new home.  How a boat’s layout functioned, or where one fitting was in relation to the other. How easy it was to get at or over or around things to maintain engines or electronics or plumbing.    All of the different boats I inspected inspired different ideas and raised so many more questions.  Favourites were tagged, some well beyond the self imposed budget but still they made onto the ‘wish list’ in the faint hope that one day the price may be right.

Then one day it all comes together, all the planets align and a dream is within reach.  Living in a regional area there aren’t a lot of options in what I was looking for so the majority of inspections were always a few hours drive.  A ‘favourite’ came up and the budget was close to sorting itself out so there was the option of a long drive – a nine hour drive.  Call the broker, line up a couple of other boats to look at whilst we’re there, book accommodation and then the long drive north. Arrrghhhhh! All the boats are out sailing and the purpose of going was lost. But a nice weekend in a tropical holiday spot was appreciated.

Work has a horrible way of getting in the way of having fun or doing the things we’d rather be doing so it was a bit of a wait before a second opportunity to inspect the target of my affections came about.   So, organise a second trip, arrange all the same things – boat inspection, accommodation and on this visit so much more – a boatyard to lift her out, a marine surveyor to inspect it properly and then a test sail as she goes back in the water.    This time the weather intervenes.   The Summer monsoons bring flooding rains to the entire north of the State and the main highway is closed in two places.   Is this a sign I am not meant to have this boat or is it a test of my patience and resilience?

A third attempt at getting there, fingers toes, eyes, legs, everything crossed for her being still available.  This time it was a no holds barred situation and would be the last chance.  Again – boat inspection, accommodation, boatyard, surveyor and test sail. The weather looked acceptable, and it all came together.  The weather was okay, the lift went well, the surveyors report good, test sail went well.  Then afterwards negotiations over a well earned beer and I am now the proud but poor owner of a boat.

My ‘sea-tirement’ beckons.

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