A Fair Wind, a Fine Day and New Sails!

August 10, 2012.

Bream Bay, NZ

By: Kerry

At last. Our new (repaired) mainsail arrived, along with the sunshine, which has been largely absent lately. We headed out into Bream Bay, and set sail for the first time since we’ve owned the boat. Woo hoo!

And don’t those sails look sexy???

(Click on the images to expand to a slide show).

The main and jib are carbon membrane, while the gennaker (the big headsail, a cross between a genoa and a spinnaker, aka a screecher) is made of Spectra, which is lighter and more suitable for a light-wind sail. The black edge is a sacrificial canvas strip to protect the sails from UV when they’re furled on the roller furling head stay and halyard.

So exciting to finally get out on the water!

~~~ ><(((°>  ><(((°> ><(((°> ~~~

Driving Lessons on the Banana Boat

August 5, 2012

Marsden Cove, NZ

By: Kerry

Stern boring.

It’s not a term we’d ever heard before, and the mind does boggle somewhat at the thought of it. But in fact, it’s one of the traits apparently unique to catamarans.

The day of our sail delivery drama got better, fortunately. We went for a walk in the afternoon, saw three baby seals basking in the sun on the rocks along the way (I think they’d just been kicked out of home to fend for themselves – they were looking small, skinny and lonely) and got talking to a mother and son (human, not seal) who invited us home for a cuppa. The Kiwis are friendly like that!

Turns out son Paul is a harbour master and knows a thing or two about driving boats – catamarans in particular.

“Ah, I love cats – they’re so easy to drive, aren’t they?” says Paul.

“Ummmmm, well…” say the two muppets on the couch, looking sheepish.

Then Pilot Paul – nice man that he is – offered to give us driving lessons! Very generous of him and invaluable learning for us.

The first day we took out his boat – an eight-metre aluminium (read: virtually-indestructible) power cat, with 2x120HP outboards on the back. We spent several hours in the canal that enters the marina, spinning it around, parking it against pontoons and generally understanding how a catamaran handles.

Our party balloon mooring bouy

Our party balloon mooring bouy

The next day we took our boat out – heart palpitations – and headed out into the river. Paul had brought along a party balloon with a bit of string and a lead sinker attached, which he dropped overboard to act as a ‘buoy’.

Then for the next several hours he had us (both of us, separately) backing up on it, parking next to it, spinning around it…. all quite tricky given tide and wind, but by the end of it we were feeling a million times more confident.

We headed back into the marina and he made Damian park the boat on the dock. And then he made me do it. And then Damian again…. you get the picture!

Then the next day, we took the Banana boat out again and did donuts and wheelies (well, donuts, anyway) and did reverse parks and practiced putting it into a marina pen.

Piece of cake! (Well, kinda. It will be quite different, I’m sure, when we’re on our own with a bit of wind – we have so much windage being so high out of the water).

Amazing the difference in confidence in just a couple of days. We were astonished at what the boat can actually do: tremendous power (it’s turbo-charged, after all) and it can spin on its own axis at speed.

Not bad for a tennis court.

And it stern bores: basically, if you tip one engine into reverse gear, the boat will sashay around until that hull is pointing rear into the wind and then it will just hang there, motionless and in balance.

Who knew?

~~~ ><(((°>  ><(((°> ><(((°> ~~~

A Saga of Sails

July 19, 2012

Marsden Cove, NZ

By: Kerry

One of the things in our favour – in fact, the main reason we could afford the boat in the first place – is the current strength of the Aussie dollar. Amongst other things, it has meant we could afford super sexy sails: instead of your Spectra or Dacron, we ordered ourselves a new suit of sails made of state of the art carbon membrane.

KerryKerry at KeriKeri

KerryKerry at KeriKeri

Of course, that involved delays, as the fabric is cut and shaped and shipped from South Africa, but that was OK. We went up to Keri Keri (like Woy Woy, a town so good they named it twice) to the sail loft to see the sails under construction and once again, like many things with this boat, we were rather blown away by the size. The main sail took up the entire floor space of the loft – if you look at the picture and squint, you can see me and Craig the sail maker standing at the far end of the sail.New mainsail in loft-0042

After all the hassle and dramas of the boat yard, and the months waiting for the new sails (the main alone took four weeks to build and cost several arms and legs), we were really excited about getting the new sails on board and – finally – going sailing.

The night before the scheduled sail trial, it blew 30 knots all night through the marina and we barely slept with creaking dock-lines and the anticipation of having to maneuver the boat the following day in really strong winds…

Fortunately, the wind died overnight, and Friday dawned sunny and calm.

Craig the sail maker arrived at 0930. We got the gennaker on, hoisted and furled – all sweet. Got the main onboard, battens in and dragged it up onto the coach house roof ready to get it onto the boom/mast.

Just as it was about to go up, I said, ‘What’s that?’.

And we all nearly cried.

As it was dragged up onto the roof, the sail must have snagged a sharp point on the corner of one of the solar panels and had torn a 60cm gash in the sail. We couldn’t believe it. Totally gutted – us AND the sail maker AND the sail maker’s assistant.

Turns out, there are actually several ‘grazes’ and small tears – luckily none have gone right through. On the up-side, it’s along the foot of the sail, which doesn’t bear as much load, and the carbon fibres themselves don’t appear to be damaged, just the top layer of sail cloth. But it had to be hauled off and Craig took it back to Keri Keri to be repaired: our brand new sail is going to have patches on it.

After Craig left and I’d cried a bit, we figured the only thing to do at that point was drink a bottle of wine.

So what if it was 11.30am.

~~~ ><(((°>  ><(((°> ><(((°> ~~~

We have Splash Down!

July 9, 2012

Marsden Cove, New Zealand

By: Kerry

So, a month or so later than we originally expected, we splashed down at 0800 on Friday as planned – except it didn’t quite go according to plan…

Before we actually shoved off the trailer, Damian had to squeeze a gland to create a dripless seal (don’t go there – it was on the prop shaft). But it kept dripping…

We motored down river for a bit to see if it would sort itself out, as advised, but it didn’t, so we anchored in the river while we worked out what we were going to do. In the course of that, our friend Derek, who was on board with us, noticed a link in the stainless steel anchor chain was eroded about a third of the way through: not safe to swing on, considering we were expecting 30 knots over the weekend.

We had little choice but to motor upriver to the Town Basin marina. Our plan had been to anchor out in the river for a couple of days, but now we were faced with reverse-parking the boat, between two other boats, in a tight fit in a tiny little marina, having never even driven our boat before, much less parked it.

Our 'tennis court' - from the top of the mast

To put this in perspective, the boat is 15.8 metres (52 feet) long and over eight metres (28 feet) wide – it feels like we’re driving a tennis court. Standing at the helm station you can’t actually see the bow diagonally opposite.

To make matters even more interesting, as we were heading up the narrow channel, we met the dredger coming the other way doing eight knots, leaving us no room to move. We had to do a three-point turn (Damian at the helm), while avoiding a submerged rock pin-pointed by an isolated danger marker

Needless to say, there were a few tense moments…. but no major damage!

So we got the engineer in and he said that, since the gland was below the waterline, he couldn’t fix it – we’d have to come out of the water again…

We called the yard and scheduled to haul out on Monday, but the weather was shite over the weekend, so we deferred till Tuesday and of course then the engineer wasn’t available till Wednesday. So we spent yet another night propped up on the trailer but next morning, off we went, on our own for the first time!

Cruising on milk crates-7We headed down towards the mouth of the river to Marsden Cove Marina, which is closer to the ocean and therefore enough room to do sail trials. We did some practice docking drills outside before heading in, but even so, parking the boat – which seems so huge and unwieldy – was totally nerve wracking (even though they had, on my begging, given us the easiest spot in the marina to get into!).

No-one appeared on the dock to take lines, which meant I had to jump…. Anyway, we did it, and didn’t hit anything.

Gotta count that as a win!

~~~ ><(((°>  ><(((°> ><(((°> ~~~

Cruising on Milk Crates

July 8, 2012

Whangarei, NZ

By: Damian

Truth to tell, the beginning of our adventure hasn’t gone exactly as we had imagined. If I were writing a book, I think the first chapter would be titled, Cruising on Milk Crates – after two months, we’re still up on chocks in the boat yard.

I want to preface this post with the message that this is not a tale of woe at all, it’s more a series of bumps in the road, a reality check so that we don’t get fooled into thinking the cruising life is all plain sailing.

I think the first thing we discovered back in May is just how little we knew about boats, despite the fact that we’ve both sailed an awful lot. Being crew on a boat, hopping on and off with little care or responsibility is so different to being an owner. Even though our boat was in good condition and presents very well, the workload we knew we faced before joining the boat quickly doubled, then trebled, then…you get the picture.

Needless to say, as the work list grew, so too did the expenses. As Kerry says, “BOAT is an acronym for ‘break out another thousand’.”

Before leaving Australia, we thought six to eight weeks should see all the work recommendations detailed in the pre-purchase surveyor’s report completed, with enough time to get us familiar with the boat and then it’d be first stop Fiji.

Looking back now, that seems ludicrous.

Hopefully this won’t be too boring (skip to the end of this post if you’re not interested in boat maintenance), but our work list so far has included:

  • replacing our rigging and changing it from Kevlar to wire
  • repairing and re-glassing the dagger board housings on both hulls
  • replacing the teak on the transom steps on both hulls
  • re-caulking one of the large coach house windows as well as filling a lot of smaller scrapes and dings in the hulls.

Casper the ghost - sanding copper coat anti-foulingWe had a ‘copper coat’ anti-fouling that was supposed to be good for 10 years, but it clearly wasn’t working very well. That, or it just wasn’t applied correctly. Either way we decided to sand it back and apply an abrative anti-foul to the bottom of both hulls. The sanding of the copper coat alone took four days!

We replaced both complete rudder assemblies due to heavy pitting on the rudder shafts (identified during the pre-purchase survey). These were flown in from France. In the process of removing the old rudders, it became clear the rudder bearing housings needed to be replaced. It took engineers two days to drill them out, then the new ones needed to be glassed and epoxyed in. Oh, and one of the rudder shaft arm brackets had to be drilled out, rendering its re-use impossible. This is something the yard forgot about until the day before we were due to go in the water… More on that later.

We’ve replaced one of the halyards and one of our three reefing lines on the leech of the mainsail and we’ve serviced all 10 winches on board. We’ve installed an internet wi-fi access point and had a stainless steel pole fabricated for it. We also bought two sea kayaks and had stainless steel frames made for them to be stored above the stern davits.

We had stainless chafe plates made for the mast; the autopilot linear drive was sent off for servicing; and the engines and generator were serviced. The engine servicing took 52 hours of labour and cost $5,500! Ouch!

We had new canvas awnings made for the cockpit and covers made for the cockpit table and both helm stations, as well as a new stack pack for the mainsail.

Ahead of going back in the water, we spent four days cutting and polishing the topsides, in the course of which we noticed water oozing from the caulking in the hull/deck seam, so we had to chip out all the caulking all the way around the boat and replace it, which led to several days delay launching.

polishing-3That’s a short list of the work on the outside!

Inside, we had to repair our saloon entrance door because it was sticking so badly Kerry couldn’t open it. That may not sound too hard, but it turned out to be one of the biggest jobs yet. They had to cut through the bulkhead to access the door and re-engineer the rolling system. That meant we had a loose bit of plywood keeping out the biting cold wind for about four days. It’s all back in now and working better than ever, but it took a lot of head scratching to fix it, not to mention some nifty cabinet-making and cost.

We also replaced all the European power points on the boat with Australian ones, and added more power points.

Finally, after delays that continued to snowball, we reached a point where we thought we were ready to go back in the water.

Our lift onto the trailer in readiness to go back in the water didn’t go very well. Actually, that’s quite an understatement! Firstly, the guys at the yard remembered about the drilled-out rudder arm only when they went to re-fit the rudders – this was the day before our scheduled splash down. This meant a new bracket needed to be machined and, consequently, further delays. At this point, we were up on the trailer (rather than resting on our milk crates) and we spent a wild and woolly weekend suspended by the bridge deck, with it blowing 30+ knots.

It turned out there was inadequate support on our hulls. Consequently, by Monday, big cracks had appeared in the gel coat at the top of the transom steps towards the bridge deck on both hulls. I stuck a bit of red tape at the edge of the crack to help you see it a bit easier (see pic).

crack in transom-1So back down off the trailer we came and another two weeks were lost while the yard did the necessary repairs.

Are you starting to see a pattern here?

As we’ve been doing all this, the days, then the weeks have rolled on by. Wherever we sail to offshore this year we have to be back in New Zealand by the end of November so as to avoid the hurricane season in the South Pacific – and to comply with our insurance policy.

And thus our weather window to head north to Fiji has been getting smaller and smaller and smaller.

~~~ ><(((°>  ><(((°> ><(((°> ~~~

Surviving Sea Survival

May 26, 2012

Warkworth, NZ

By: Kerry

The purpose of a Survival at Sea course, we have decided, is not so much to teach you what to do in the case of an emergency (because, let’s face it, your chances of survival aren’t great anyway), but to scare you so thoroughly that you will do everything you can to avoid ever getting into an emergency situation in the first place.

In preparation for heading off-shore, we signed up for the STCW Safety at Sea course – a one-week ordeal that forms part of the RYA Yachtmaster Certificate.

In addition to showing us scary movies of boat fires (zero to inferno in 30 seconds) and sinkings (afloat to Atlantis in 60 seconds), we had some ‘practical’ sessions.

First up was fire fighting. Damian looked cute in his fireman’s outfit and I channeled my inner pyromaniac, but it was pretty full-on, nonetheless. We learnt about all the different sorts of fire extinguishers…and what sort of disaster you can create if you use the wrong one.

Next day, they put us in full fireman’s uniform (mine was a men’s XXL, so I felt like a fire-fighting seal), including breathing apparatus, and sent us in teams of three into a pitch-black, smoke-filled, sound-filled, on-fire shipping container that had been divided into compartments like a ship, with a huge, heavy fire hose and the objectives of us pulling out a dummy ‘body’ and putting out the fire.

Here’s a picture of us in the shipping container:

Sea Survival-5Suffice to say, if the situation had been real, nobody – least of all, the dummy – would have made it out alive.

The second stage of the course involved life raft exercises, which meant actually getting submerged in the briny: four different exercises, four different ‘dips’.  The weather on the day was cruel: the water temperature in May is not exactly tropical, and there was a cold southerly wind blasting us with intermittent squalls.

Sea Survival-9First we had to jump in and swim 50 metres to prove we could actually swim – brrrr.

Sea Survival-15Secondly, we had to swim 50m in an immersion suit (think orange tele-tubby).

Thirdly, we each had to dive in, wearing Mae West-style life vest, swim out to an upside down, 12-man, inflatable life raft and single-handedly right it, get inside, wriggle through and get out the other side, and then swim to shore.

Sea Survival-16Fourthly, all 16 of us in the group had to jump in together, form a huddle in groups of four, then all 16 clamber into the slithery 12-man raft, and flounder around inside (a new definition of ‘cosy’), then try to disentangle limbs, find bailers, paddles etc and paddle our way to shore.

It was total chaos, compounded by a strong tidal current and wind whipping up white caps, and with a degree of difficulty multiplied by the chill factor – it was SOOOOOOOOOO cold!

I admitted to being a wuss right up front and got myself a wetsuit (albeit about five sizes too big), but even then, with all the standing around in between exercises in the wind and cold (the first three each had to be done by all 16 of us, one at a time), it was bitter.

Sea Survival-6Damian decided he was tough enough not to need a wetsuit… but he was blue by the end of it.

Once again, it was a perspective on the odds of survival should one ever end up in a life raft: they’re not good.

Lesson of the week: Prevention is way, way preferable to cure.

~~~ ><(((°>  ><(((°> ><(((°> ~~~

Not Quite the Riviera

May 6, 2012

Whangarei, New Zealand

By: Kerry

It was insane getting out of Sydney. So much to do, so little time…. and so much stuff! We packed up all the stuff we wanted to take to the boat and sent it to the shipping company with fingers crossed it would cross the Tasman safely and somehow find its way to Whangarei, all intact.

Our house was going to be rented out and Damian was adamant we weren’t going to pay for storage of any stuff left behind, so we had to get rid of it, one way or another. What we couldn’t sell on eBay or pass on to friends and family went into the monster garage sale. We had over 100 people through, and the living room, dining room and front yard were piled high with books, kitchenware, furniture and clothes. What didn’t sell there went to Vinnies or council clean up.

On the last day, we were still delivering furniture to friends, wine to the auction house (around 400 bottles from Damian’s cellar), clearing out the pantry and packing the last of the stuff we were sticking under the house.

Years ago, I’d had my backpack stolen in Barcelona and spent the next several months travelling around Europe with all my worldly possessions contained in a plastic shopping bag. It had been wonderfully liberating, and I thought that getting rid of all my ‘stuff’ this time around might feel the same.

It didn’t. On the one hand, it was one step closer to freedom and adventure, on the other, it was a huge wrench – like falling off a cliff, with a terrifying drop below.

Having never felt homesick or any real sense of attachment to ‘home’, it was unnerving. But, at the end of the day, (I kept telling myself – and Damian kept reminding me) it is just STUFF – and we don’t need it!

We finally closed the door at 1.00am and drove to Damian’s friend, Kevin’s house for what remained of the night. Up at 6.00am, we drove to the airport. Waaaaay too much luggage, but fortunately I have friends in the right places and we had our excess waived and… an upgrade!

So we settled ourselves into business class, the nice lady handed us a champagne and the adventure officially began…

We arrived in Auckland, picked up a hire car, drove to the hotel and, after two gin and tonics, decided dinner was overrated. Woke up 15 hours later and drove two hours north to Whangarei, where Sel Citron has been waiting, out of the water, in a shipyard, since we did the survey and sail trials back in February.

Despite her sunny yellow hulls, she looked pretty forlorn, propped up on wooden piles, out the back of the yard, with views over old derelict hulks, puddles and piles of rusting junk.

View of the 'trailer park' - from our aft deckNot quite the French Riviera…

In fact, living aboard is more like camping, or being parked in a low rent caravan park: we’re nowhere near the seaside; it’s several hundred metres to the ‘amenities block’ (we can’t use the shower or loo on board while we’re out of the water); and we access the boat via a ladder.

We do, however, have a two-car garage…

Our Two Car Garage

Still, it’s only temporary, we’re excited – and after another two 10-hour sleeps, we’re feeling almost human!

~~~ ><(((°>  ><(((°> ><(((°> ~~~