Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Departure Date Set for the 22nd of April Oh Yeah!

We are officially in the Sail Indonesia rally which departs from Darwin in late July. This week I paid the entry fee and filled out the entry form with all the official stuff required. Wooooohoooooo! We also have set a date to leave the marina. From today, there is 24 days left until we're out on the water again. Mostly I'm looking forward to the adventure. I know a lot more than I did when we first set out and I think we'll be OK. I just wish we had a shower on board!

We've continued to be very busy with preparations for our journey. It's pretty much just boat, boat, boat at at the moment.

Rene installed saltwater pump to use in the bathroom sink. This should help us to use even less of our freshwater when we're out cruising. It seems that many yachties that we meet have their own watermakers so they don't need to worry about obtaining water from the land (think about rowing a dinghy with jerry cans full of water back and forth for hours to till the tanks). We can't afford that luxury right now, so instead, we'll use as much sea water as we can (when it's clean). We'll also capture as much rainwater as possible with our cockpit roof.
Saltwater pump tap is on the right.
Rene and I both worked on repairing the cockpit table. It broke almost straight after we bought Ani, and I can't believe that we've not thought to repair it for all of these years! In June, we will have been living aboard for 4 years. Having the cockpit table will make it so much easier to eat, drink and play games. It wasn't until we left last May that I realised just how long we spend in the cockpit while sailing. HOURS! There's too much motion to be inside without feeling queasy, so the cockpit it is! This will help it be a bit more comfortable for those long ocean passages we have ahead of us.

At the repaired cockpit table for coffee!
The battery upgrade is continuing. Ren built the front wooden panel to house the vertical battery. He's still working out how to fit everything in and improve the set-up. This job will continue for some time still - probably even after we've left.

We installed a space-age touch-sensitive LED light above the chart table and have ordered more LED lights for the anchor and deck lighting. It's incredible how little power they require and yet, how bright they are!

I've continued to oil the wood on deck. I'm trying to soak at least two coats in, but am having to wait days in-between applications due to tropical weather (it's either too humid or raining). The wood is looking great though. It's so satisfying watching the dry wood soak up the oil and change colour.

After purchasing new zips from my favourite sewing supply store (so cheap and friendly) I sewed them in to the cockpit awning with great success. The awning makes me smile whenever I look at it! A great improvement from my first attempt which made me cringe whenever I looked at it! Photos will come soon - it doesn't look at good with the big silver tarp up while we're in the marina to keep the sun /rain at bay.

I totally cleaned out the pantry and am on the uppper hand in the moth vs human war. They keep appearing though and I don't know how. What are they eating? I've managed to contain everything they could possibly eat into plastic containers. I vacuumed some of them up and when emptying it, discovered that they'd started nesting inside the vacuum! I think these things would survive an apocolypse!!
Also I found a weet bix box that I'd bought a few months ago full of tiny mite-like creatures. I didn't get to take a photo as the mites started crawling up my hands so I freaked a bit and threw the whole box out up at the big skip bins far away from Ani! Rene might need to eat a different breakfast while we're cruising as all bugs seem to love weet bix.

I'm working on shopping lists for the big food stock up, my priorities have changed a little from when we first set out on this adventure this time last year. Powdered milk is much more economical than UHT and real milk doesn't last. Dried vegetables are far more reliable than frozen ones. Instant meals (like packet soups) are excellent for long days at sea. I need much more dried fruit and nuts than ever before and dried herbs and spices. I filled one trolley at the Woollies yesterday and only managed to cross off a few items from the list. I won't share how much it came to at the checkout. It's too depressing. I wonder if we'll have any money left before we leave?

Rene has grand plans to make power from the propellor while we're sailing using an alternator. Also we need a separate alternator for our engine battery as it's not connected to the house batteries. We went to a wrecker yard to look for some but the people there weren't very helpful. The search continues.
This is an alternator in our engine... for those like me who never knew.
We're trying to order in (buying online) the boat stuff we need so that it has time to arrive. We learnt that buying rope from West Marine looks really cheap until you get to postage (it was going to cost us $1000 in postage for just 2 jib sheets and roller furling rope!!). Postage costs seem to have risen lately.. ?
Rene lanolined the swages too - we need to care for these curious but integral bits of metal some more and Andy has suggested some effective techniques. Rene climbed the mast (people are starting to comment that they only ever see him up there!) and instead of re-wiring the anchor light as he intended, he inspected the rigging. It turns out that one of the tang's has a hairline fracture in it. He removed it, tied up the rigging with rope and now we need to replace it too. So as we cross off jobs from the top of the list, we add more to the bottom.

I've started trying to imagine worst-case scenarios in terms of the boat breaking. This is to try and figure out what tools and spares we would need. I've asked around to try and learn what we could expect to break... the answer is everything and anything! Oh dear! I'm hoping that because so many things broke on the journey to Townsville last year, that not so many things will break on our next journey... fingers crossed!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Empathy and Energy

This last week, I watched videos on youtube of the tsunami wreaking havoc upon the coastal communities of Japan. I bought the paper and read the horrible facts and tolls. I tuned into the radio to listen to the nuclear disaster unfold. I gave money to the red cross earthquake appeal and looked out for friends updates on facebook who live in Japan to see that they were ok. 

Amongst all of this, I realised why I have been reacting so strongly to the most recent natural disasters. Empathy. Yep, Cyclone Yasi may not have destroyed everything but the lead up (3 days of knowing she was going to hit hard and being told to expect the worst) changed me irrevocably. I know how devastatingly scary it is to be living through a natural disaster. I know that cyclones are very different to earthquakes but there's something similar in that feeling of being out of control. Of not knowing if you are going to survive. Of dealing with the chaos afterwards. 

With this new understanding, I'm feeling less like this is the end of the world. This most recent spat of earthquakes is what Dr Karl Kruszelnicki explained as 'clustering'. Basically he said that they tend to cluster together (in time). He made an analogy to flipping a coin 100 times. The total tally would result in about 50 heads and 50 tails but the way that they appear as you flip them looks different. They usually cluster together in groups - the maximum group being 7 of one type in a row. So, these recent earthquakes are clustering together and we can expect there to be more - the West Coast of America is due for one too (but it could arrive between now and in 100 years!). 

I figure with all of this uncertainty, it's best to just try and make the most out of each day.

Back in 2008 (while I was in Japan) Rene took Anima out for a sail in Moreton Bay with his brother and some other relatives. He had such a good sail in fact, that the floor of the bowsprit (extreme forward section of the boat that hangs out over the water) wooden floor broke off into the sea! For all the years since then, we've just been really careful while working / playing in that area as there was a great hole that you could slip into! We took advantage of having our bows over the jetty here in the marina, to build and paint a new, stronger floor. Rene got to use his new angle grinder to cut the stainless steel supports which was pretty exciting for him I think. Hearing the angle grinder makes me think of our crazy anti-fouling experience that we had last year. 
Rene happy at having just completed the new bowsprit floor.
I persisted with sewing our cockpit awning and am really happy with it so far. I did however, make a mistake with the zips - it was my first time sewing in a zip and I did them both the wrong way around! I tried to amend my mistake by cutting off the zipper start and re-sewing it back on further up the zip but it didn't work. So I unpicked one zip and cut off the other. I bought replacement zips yesterday but can't bring myself to take it all down again now because it looks so amazing being up! Rene helped me glue and attach the hooks onto the cockpit roof so that the awnings can be tied back securely and quickly. Now I just need him to help me secure the awning down on the other end with eyelets and stayputs. 
Zip fail. My attempt at fixing also failed. Learning!

Me happy with my new cockpit awnings!
Rene installed an LED light into our electrics board as an indicator of the fridge being on. The old system used incandescent lights which would always die. This is the beginning of a very big retrofit job - making the old electrical system new. This is one job that Rene will be able to whittle away at while we're cruising. He has a new approach which I think is pretty wise. Before we set off (in one month exactly!!!), he wants to try starting all of the jobs we have on our big 'to do' list. We've learnt that inevitably, each time we embark upon a new boat job, we'll discover that we don't have the correct parts/tools/knowledge. So, with Rene's cunning plan, we'll hopefully be able to at least get the tools and parts before we go. The knowledge we can work on! 

Rene also installed an LED light witch that comes on when we turn on the gas for the stove. This is to remind him to turn the gas off again! This job also requires more work to make it neater but it's a start. 

Rene climbed the mast to sand back the masthead plate that he installed there months ago. He looks so small up there on the top!
Rene up the mast again!
I installed anti reflective stickers to our laptops. This is to reduce the amount of glare we experience while trying to view the screen in a very sunny environment such as Anima. I bought two different types of screen and think that one company far outweighs the other.
Applying the anti-glare sticker to the laptop.

I took advantage of some sunny days to oil the teak on deck. This is not absolutely necessary to do before we go, but it's a job I enjoy. Also, the waste created from painting is easier to clean up and throw away while in port with access to bins.
Oiling the wood on deck & hoping it doesn't rain!

Millions of moths invading our hazelnuts - grrrr!
I'm waging a war on the pantry moths - they had been secretly gathering (breeding) their armies in the darkness of the pantry. I've had to throw out all of our rice, some dried fruit, some of our nuts, all of our flour and a few other small things. One night I managed to kill 20 that were flying about in the boat! After researching online, I've found that the only real way to get rid of them is to clean obsessively. So, I've been wiping out all of the pantry shelves and killing all of the moths. I hope I win this war - it's an expensive battle to lose.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Choosing What Thoughts To Listen To (trying really hard to anyway)

We don't have a TV on board Anima but I have found myself obsessively reading the news online about the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last week. I can't believe how big this most recent disaster is and the number of people affected by it is heartbreaking. My heart goes out to the many thousands who have been affected.

The earthquake came the day after I'd stayed up late finishing Ben Elton's book 'This Other Eden' which is themed around the end of the world. The book isn't serious but there are similarities with the current frequency and devastation of natural disasters that had me fearing for the end of the world. You see, as a little girl (picture a serious 5 year old with red hair, freckles and bare feet in the Australian bush) I was terrified of the end of the world. One of my earliest memories is of watching the sky for meteorites - I would check for them daily.

So as I scrolled through yet another article detailing this most recent disaster, I realised that I was starting to get swept up in the fear. I realised I was getting swept up in it and, in an effort for reassurance, I posted on facebook (I tend to use this site a lot because I live apart from most of my family and friends) asking if this was the end? Rene's wise step-sister, Sarah (from England) was one of the people who commented on the post. She had the insight to see that it must feel like it's the end to me, because almost all of the disasters we've seen this year have been directly or indirectly close to me.
I was in the Brisbane floods in January, grew up in Toowoomba (site of the flash floods) and was here in Townsville for cyclone Yasi in February. Then the earthquake in Christchurch happened and it felt close because it was the first city I visited overseas. We travelled there years ago and were struck by the charm of the markets that were held beneath their famous church. We have dear friends living in New Zealand and luckily they were all fine. Now, most recently is Japan. My sister-in-law is Japanese (currently living in Brisbane), my sister lived there for years and we have many friends and relatives currently living there. I've travelled to Japan twice and spent a beautiful day in Sendai - the place most severely hit by the tsunami. Sarah has made me realise that there are disasters happening all of the time - it's just bad luck that I've been close to all of the disasters we've had this year. I guess I've been very fortunate to have lived so unaffected by the troubles of the world for most of my life.
Rene in Christchurch, 2005.
 If I listen to the fear, I start to question... should we still go on our planned trip to South East Asia? Isn't there volcanoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, pirates, malaria......? What if we get killed by a tsunami while anchored somewhere in Asia? What if there are more disasters and they don't stop? What if....?

But as the flash flood in Toowoomba has taught me, safety is an illusion. No matter where I go or what I choose to do, there are risks. I just hope that the risks we're taking by sailing off into distant waters, won't be our last. 

This is how I will remember Sendai - a gorgeous bay of islands.
Sendai, December 2008
So, back to the preparations for our journey:
Rene had to fix a leak that sprung out from the fresh water pump in our bathroom (head). He ended up having to replace the pump which we've only had installed for 2 years. It's annoying when we spend so much money on boating equipment and it doesn't last. 
After solving the leak, Rene continued to work on the batteries. He completed the framework around the vertical battery and the wooden edging which will be a seat is well on it's way to being completed.
Rene perched on his half-complete battery seat.
We've both been jabbed multiple times with various vaccinations in preparation for our trip. I think we'll end up with the combined total of 10 needles. I didn't realise we needed so many!

I was given a wide selection of nautical charts from a fellow yachtie here in the marina who went on the Sail Indonesia Rally a few years ago. Now I need to embark upon a sorting mission (again) to catalogue, repair and organise these new additions to our collection. I'm very grateful for being given so many charts - a massive help (thanks Leanne from Seafarer's Gem!)

I was finally able to embark upon my massive sewing marathon of making the replacement cockpit awning. I'm not making the same mistakes I did last time. I'm being obsessive with measuring and planning. I've found that the 'she'll be right' attitude doesn't necessarily work with sewing. I wish my sewing machine was better behaved though. It has an annoying habit of sewing the under-side of the fabric very messily in a strange, wobbly way instead of in a straight, single line. This annoys me because I'm trying so hard to do a good job and the machine is making my efforts look unprofessional. The monsoonal rain is also hampering my efforts to complete this job as I need to check my progress against the cockpit to ensure that it all fits properly and can't do this if it's pouring rain (which it has been now for over 2 weeks).
Feeling slightly crazed at the mammoth sewing marathon ahead..
Annoying sewing machine - the bottom stiches are meant to be straight!
 We managed to escape the never-ending boat jobs for a few hours on the weekend to visit the Museum of Tropical Queensland. They have a massive recreation of the Pandora and we enjoyed seeing all manner of old scuba diving masks. Our friend Carden works at the museum as the coral specialist and she showed us her enormous storage room. i discovered that my favourite type of coral are the Acropora variety. In amongnst Carden's coral collection is the specimens that Rene's parents collected for her during their circumnavigation onboard their yacht, Hagar in the 90's.
One of the old-fashioned scuba diving masks on display.
Carden shows Rene a catalogue of some of the specimens his family collected for the museum.
A coral ball - it lives on the seabed and rolls around!
A gorgeos Acropora sample.
So I'm trying hard to ignore my thoughts that focus on fear about the natural disasters that have ocurred and potentially could occur. I'm practicing Ashtanga yoga daily and am grateful that in spite of the many disasters that have occured in 2011 (including health scares), all of my family and friends are still alive.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Itchy and Cold Feet

As we get closer and closer to our departure, my feet are feeling simultaneously itchy and cold. I'm eager to leave and travel again and yet at the same time, I realise that there will still be scary times and stuff will inevitably break and we won't be able to have showers or air conditioning or a car once we leave. I'm a little nervous about setting off overseas in our little boat but am also really keen to go!

Lots of little jobs have been getting ticked off the lists this week:

One of my ideas for improving our cockpit was to somehow cover the large emergency pump with a stool that could be used to perch upon or to serve snacks on. Of course, if there was an emergency that required the use of the pump, the stool would be tossed aside in seconds - but now, the area is less of a hazard. I think just about every person we've had on board Anima before this, has left with a bruise from that big pump!
The new cockpit stool.
 I installed a catch system so that our toilet lid will stay open while we're sailing and not fall onto the unsuspecting visitor (I keep it clean but there's something gross about toilet lids!).
The new toilet lid catch.
I devised and installed a simple method of securing the navigation laptop while it's in use inside. I think of it like the laptop's seatbelt!
The new navigation laptop 'seatbelt'

Rene about to dive into the marina..
I installed the hand-me-down BBQ that Rene's parents gave us from their cruising days. I had figured out that the best way to install it was to attach a stainless steel handle to the underside of the wooden railing that runs around the aft of the boat. Just as I was measuring where to drill the holes for the handle, it fell from my hands and sank in the water below! Rene bravely donned stinger-protection and dove to the bottom (about 5 metres) around 12 times but no luck. It had sunk into the marina mud and disappeared. I managed to buy another one and this time, tied it securely to the boat so that it wouldn't fall in. The BBQ is all ready to go now - I even cleaned it up a little with rustbuster to make it shiny. We're looking forward to cooking up some freshly caught fish on a fire of drift wood while anchored somewhere gorgeous. mmmmmm

The new BBQ
The cockpit awning pattern (made in January)
Me finally tracing and cutting the patterns.
The patterns were finally put into use for the cockpit awning. I had created very detailed diagrams and patterns a while ago using some old charts. The marina staff here allowed me to use the floorspace of a vacant building they have for lease and I got to roll out my special marine grade green canvas (ordered online through a company in Sydney) and mark out my patterns. Now I just need it to not be so windy so that I can double-check the cut-out canvas against the cockpit before embarking on another sewing marathon.

The new bookshelf
Me vs. Jigsaw
More wood-work. This time I did the whole thing on my own (and have the blisters to prove it). A relatively simple job of cutting some wood to fit the starboard bookshelf (the existing shelf was made from 2 under-sized planks resulting in a very wobbly situation). My first time using the Jigsaw. Rene was too busy working to help so I tried to do it alone. The first cut was easy and I thought 'yeah!' and then the next cut was agony. The jigsaw was jumping around crazily and making a mess of the wood (and my hands). I tried changing the battery thinking it was being so violent due to lack of power. Upon cutting again, it was just as bad. Eventually I realised that I was hitting the concrete (of the jetty) with the saw blade! I didn't have the wood elevated high enough! I realised this just as one of our neighbours came out, beer in hand, to tell me that it sounded like the blade was hitting the concrete (It had been making a terrible racket). I was quite embarrassed! But, after sanding and oiling it, the wood looks alright and the area is much more stable now. Another job done!

The second AGM battery in place
Rene pulling apart the boat.
Rene is still working on the battery installation. He is being very thorough (as usual) and is improving the system as he goes. The second battery is now secured in place. Because these batteries are AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat), they can be installed on their sides (even upside down if you are that way inclined). Rene then pulled apart the bulkhead, cupboard and desk to get at the wiring. It meant having to pull out the battery he'd already installed last weekend too! The wood panels were re-cut and I re-stuck the wall vinyl to their new shapes. The wiring is now more easily accessible and won't require us to pull apart the boat in order to work on it. There's still plenty to do with the battery job. I'm wondering if it will ever end?

We're starting to tick off some of the purchases we need to make before leaving too. I love my new inflatable life jacket. I put it on after it arrived and an hour later, realised that I still had it on! The one I used to wear was so uncomfortable that I'd take it off at every opportunity (not always safe). I'm excited too about our new binoculars as the old ones were all so old (they were hand-me-downs from our parents) that the lenses had grown some strange fungus over them and could barely be seen through.
The new lifejacket
Upon arriving back from our short trip south, we discovered to our dismay that our $20 air conditioner had died. We suffered through 4 days of constant sweat. Any skin-on-skin contact was torture! I used the local newspaper to buy another second hand one. It works better than the old one and we're so happy to have it. I want to smuggle it with us when we leave here but know that (a) there's no room and (b) we won't have the power to make it work. When we get to Singapore, we will definitely get another one. I am totally into aircon in the tropics!! Of course, when we are at anchor (and not tied up in a marina) the boat is much cooler as the wind channels down inside....

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

2011 has so far been quite dramatic. We were in Brisbane for the floods and then Townsville for Cyclone Yasi. This last week another stressful event has befallen us. One of my very close family members is quite unwell. They went into hospital for a planned operation, complications ensued and they ended up in the Intensive Care Ward. It is now 11 days since the operation and there are small improvements but also further  complications.
Rene had a planned business trip to Brisbane for work and I accompanied him, but spent the time with my family trying to bring a little sunshine, love and laughter into an otherwise extremely stressful and scary situation. 

As such, I have not managed to achieve many boat jobs this past week. What we have managed to achieve in the way of boat maintenance, follows below. 

Engine work
Rene managed to successfully finish his work on the radiator. It has been emptied, flushed, cleaned, a new pipe fitted and filled again with fresh, good-quality (and apparently eco-friendly) coolant. There were a considerable number of hiccups along the way to finishing this seemingly simple job. All part of the process of learning how to care for a diesel engine built in 1972!
Rene refers to his bible in moments of confusion - Calder's 'Boatowners Mechanical & Electrical Manual'

The final step - refilling the coolant.
We measured, cut and prepared a hole in our plastic cupboard for one of the batteries to live inside. The battery itself fit in nicely. The job of securing it properly for being at sea was time-consuming. It has to be snugly secured in place so that no matter what motion Anima makes, the battery doesn't budge. We bought new cables and lugs and Rene managed to recycle one of them by cleaning it out. This weekend, he plans on installing the second battery.
Working on the supports.
Pushing the battery into its little home. It is VERY heavy!
I successfully completed a ripstop cover for the outboard fuel container. For all my procrastination (I really really didn't enjoy sewing that blasted dinghy cover back in September!), this cover turned out to be a simple job. I had it finished within an hour. The cover will help the container last while out in the elements so we will not need to replace it for many years (we hope).
Dinghy fuel container all dressed up ready for life outdoors.
 I better get back to it all - we have a busy weekend of boat work ahead of us!