Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Leaving The Safe Harbour

Peter, Andrew, Andy and Ollie waving us off from our pen yesterday.
We finally managed to leave the marina on Anzac Day. We awoke to the sounds of a choir singing the national anthem for the dawn service. Still so much to do! I raced about on deck with the fresh water hose washing off all the city dust and bird crap that I could find while we still had access to unlimited water. Once leaving the marina we'll have to make do with our 800 litres of stored water until we can find places to fill up. Rene was busy in the engine AGAIN! This time he was trying to solve a different problem – the oil was leaking out of a connector pipe that he undid last month while working on the engine coolant. He has since discovered that this particular connector is not designed to ever be undone. The simple act of unscrewing it, damages the thread and causes it to leak. Ollie came over to see us off but instead found us kind of stressing out about the oil leak and stuff still to lash down or stow away. He jumped right into help mode. Next Andy dropped over too, he also got right into helping and fixed the oil leak with Rene using an O ring. 

After racing about cleaning up and having our last showers (probably until November) we cast off with waves from just some of the lovely folk we've had the pleasure of meeting while staying in Breakwater Marina. Most yachties are incredibly generous folk – certainly, the majority that we've met have been amazing people. Living in a marina, surrounded by yachties is very different to living in an apartment building or suburban street. Yachties are much more chatty and willing to stop and share stories or share advice/skills/knowledge/sympathy about whatever problem their boats are having. It's a lovely community to be a part of.
Sunrise smiles at anchor in cruising mode again.
Ren doing wing chun on the foredeck this morning.
I'm writing this as we're anchored in what the locals call 'the duckpond' just outside the breakwater. We're all pretty exhausted. Before leaving we continued to be super busy preparing Anima for the journey ahead. Rog finished installing the HF radio and tuner. He also put the whole area back together so that the wires are contained by panelling. I helped him out by cutting all the wood to size with the jigsaw. Rene mounted the engine and put it all back together again. It's running really smoothly now – the stove doesn't shake like mad anymore! I filled every jerry can, tank and storage area available with fuel, water, gas and food. The boat leans over starboard from all of the stores we've loaded onboard. I put things back together and tried my best to clean up the mess that accompanies boat work and trip preparation. 

Last night we watched a fireworks display while eating dinner (Rene cooked for the first time in 6 months!!) which was pretty incredible. What a nice start to being at anchor again! Today is the first day I've had time to relax a little. There's still loads to do but hey, we're cruising! We don't have to pay to stay here. Rene is just running the engine now and it seems as though he might have finally fixed the oil leak. If so, we'll set off to Orpheus island tomorrow. 
Anzac Day fireworks as seen from our cockpit. It's so tricky to get a steady photo on the water at night!


Friday, April 22, 2011

We Didnt' Leave Today

Rene in the engine.
Ren angle-grinding the engine frame.
Well, we're still in the marina and Rene is still in the engine room. The positive is that today he managed to align the engine to within three thousands of an inch. He is now putting the engine all back together and we hope to be able to leave the day after tomorrow. There were more dramas with even more things going wrong. The short version is: mounts were too high at the front of the engine, Ren had to remove the steel support structure and angle-grind it back to be 3mm shorter (neighbours weren't very happy with the noise), went to install the new flexible coupling only to discover that Polyflex had sent us the wrong one. Have posted it back and installed the old one until new one arrives post Easter. To be honest, I'm a little tired of the whole drama. Rene can write the full story later on. 

Rene's mum, Jan, taught me how to use my pressure cooker to can meat. I'll write a special blog post explaining the process soon. Our first attempt had a 50% success rate and I'm hoping that my second attempt will be better (I have to wait until it has cooled down to know). It was nice to see Jan, Mishy and Marsh but I feel bad because we have been so busy with the boat that we were unable to do much with them. We managed to share a few meals and catch up with some relatives and friends. Roger helped out on the boat each day and is now staying onboard. He plans to sail with us all the way up to Horn Island.

This afternoon Roger got the unpleasant job of fixing our danbuoy with fibreglass. He has done a great job and now I just need to paint it and re-sew the brightly coloured flag. I was busy trying to reinstall the green plastic that wraps around our aft. It was quite tricky to get it to fit past all the stuff we have attached to the railing. Rog has had fun meeting and chatting to some of the locals here in the marina. There are so many stories to be told here.

Rog fixing the danbuoy with fibreglass sheet and resin.
I'm feeling more positive about our trip now that the engine is looking healthier...tonight Rene put our outboard (freshly painted hot pink by me) onto the fixed dinghy and we took her for a spin around the marina. The outboard started up first try (hoorah!) and it felt great to be motoring on the flat calm water with the reflections of city lights playing on the surface. 

The new air filter.
Earlier this week (while Rene was slaving away at the engine mounts) I made a new air filter for the engine. Rene's mum started it off and I did finished it. I realised that I've really skilled up this year since taking leave from teaching. I know how to use all sorts of tools and feel confident in ways I'd never dreamed of before. I felt like a little diesel mechanic when I installed my new air filter! 

I have continued painting and gluing things. The new Aries windvane blades were given a green treatment while the outboard was painted pink. I glued velcro inside the dinghy to keep the cover on and also repaired the oars which also broke! For a few days there, it just seemed as though things were breaking constantly!

The broken oar, ready to glue back together.
Freshly painted Aries blades.

We seem to be on the mend now though. We've been able to cross off a bunch of jobs and it's looking more positive for being able to leave in the next couple of days. What a ride this has been lately! We've got so many more experiences to add to our ever-growing basket of tricks and knowledge.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Boat Work Boat Work Boat Work

Boat work is our reality. The"To Do" list is forever growing and only slowly, slowly getting crossed off. We keep discovering more things that are broken and require time and money to repair. It's likely that our planned departure date may be pushed back as the engine is still in pieces. Rene has been slaving away at aligning it for days and days.
Such a MAMMOTH job.
Despite the enormity of this task, Rene is for the most part, staying really positive. He still believes that we'll be able to set off this Friday... I'm not so sure!
Rene happy at work (sporting a few hand injuries).
Roger easing the conduit over the stay.
Rene's family arrived here in Townsville this week. Roger has been helping out daily on Anima - trying to prepare her for our voyage. He and I installed the conduit for the starboard stay that we replaced. In the end we bought two new stays - both made from galvanised wire embedded with grease. Most yachties prefer to use stainless rigging (it looks nice and is strong) but some swear by gal (as it's so much cheaper, doesn't snap suddenly and is available everywhere). Rene was keen to try out gal to make up his own mind. On the new port side stay, Rene treated it with linseed oil (which was annoyingly, very messy to clean up after) while the stay on the starboard side was treated with butylmastic. Over the top of this treatment went conduit - to protect the sail and our hands from the sticky mess. Already I prefer stainless!
While Ren was cutting the conduit to fit over the stay, he sliced his hand quite deeply and has had to wear lots of bandages since then. Luckily the knife managed to avoid any major nerves or muscles and he still has all feeling and function. In order to install the conduit up the entire stay, I had to climb the mast. I've only ever climbed it once before (back on Lady Musgrave Island). I remember finding it really difficult last time but this time it was dead easy! I'm sure that it's due to all the Ashtanga yoga I've done for the last 6 months - I actually have arm muscles and upper body strength now! I really enjoyed climbing the mast and have gone up for fun again since (to watch the full moon in the cool night air). 

We bought some marine-grade 6mm ply wood for the new (much cheaper) Aries windvane blades. Roger and I drew up the designs and have managed to get 4 blades of varying sizes from the one piece of ply. I cut the boards out easily using the jigsaw and have sanded them all in preparation for painting which I hope to do tomorrow. The board I'm sanding here in the picture is one of Roger's design - he's hoping it will fit under the mizzen boom. That cheeky boom always hits the Aries blades and breaks them!
Rog with the Icom automatic tuner installed (left)

Roger helped out enormously by wiring together our new (second hand) HF radio and tuner. This afternoon he installed the huge automatic tuner to our chart table area. He and I went out on lots of errands today - buying bits of tools and equipment for Rene and for the boat.
 I mastered the art of sewing with the easy-stitch. The mainsheet webbing is very secure in place on the boom now. This morning Rene and I hauled up the mainsail which is looking gorgeous! The cover needs repair/replacement but not now!
Me using the easy stitch.

As I write this, Rene is still hard at work in the engine room. He has managed to install one engine mount per day for the last three days (one more to go plus putting it all back together). I'm finding myself slipping into feeling negative about the boat. So much has broken and requires repair. We've spent so much of our time, energy, life, love, sweat, tears and money on Anima over the four years we've owned her. Is it all worth it? Would we have been better off just buying an apartment/house like everyone else? Did we make a mistake by buying such an old boat? I look at my friends and family who have travelled the world (by flying) and am so envious. All we wanted to do was travel and yet all we seem to be doing right now is working on an old boat. I could have backpacked through Europe 5 times over using the money and time we've spent on the boat...
But then I notice the way Anima holds herself in the water. I look at all that we've accomplished to improve her. I realise that I wouldn't have found Ashtanga yoga if we'd simply flown overseas. I recall all the gorgeous places we've been so far and dream of the places we have still to explore and I snap out of my pessimism with renewed enthusiasm. Yes, we're working on Anima almost 24/7 but it will be worth it!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Getting There

We bought some new rope for the roller furling and in order to test it out (it seemed wider than we'd expected), we had to put up the jib. The wind picked up just as we embarked upon this venture (of course, cheeky wind!) but we managed OK. We both felt how Anima is so keen to get out sailing again. She was practically champing at the bit! The sail caught some wind and she strained at her mooring lines, keen to be free from her pen. We are both keen too! It has been gorgeous weather here this past few days and we can just imagine how perfect it would be out there on the water. The new rope fits fine and my cockpit bags work a treat!
The jib with Rene working on the furling.
 I finished painting the booms and masts up to where I can reach. I really want to paint them hot pink next time - will have to look out for a deal on that colour in the hardware shops later on. After the booms were painted, we were ready to put the sails back onto them. Not so fast, says Anima! The main sail required work - the reefing line winch was corroding the aluminium of the boom (it is made of bronze with some steel and metals don't really get along - they slowly eat away at each other!). So we took it off, cleaned the area, repainted and then reattached using butylmastic as a protection so the metals don't touch. Rene also decided that the block that holds our main sheet to the boom needed some TLC. He replaced some old rusty nuts with stainless (by the way - the Boltmasters store up here is fantastic. The staff are sooo friendly and helpful and always find a way to give us big discounts). Then he cut off the webbing that attached the block and we both worked at resewing a new, much stronger and reinforced webbing. We're still working at that one and so the main is still lying on deck, waiting to be put up.
Ren working on the main block attachment
The mizzen sail required quite a big repair job. It is still one of the original sails - which makes it 28 years old! I'm amazed it is still in one piece. I set to repairing it with my little sewing machine and had it all stitched up in one day - cover included. A new personal best!
Sewing the mizzen inside.
Mizzen sail with patches (white sections)
Rene treated and then painted over some rust patches in the engine room while the engine was lifted off its mountings. Today the new mounts and flexible coupling arrived and he realised that he needed a bigger drill to do the job. He left with a sparkle in his eye and came home with a big 240v drill! We'll only be able to use it while in a marina or with our generator on - but boy is it powerful!
Rene with his new drill :)
So much still to do!!! I forced myself to escape to yoga tonight and it was the absolute best thing I have done lately. I've been getting stressed out with all the stuff we have still to get done. Yoga reminded me to relax and breathe.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Will We Be Ready To Leave In 10 Days????

One of the jobs I had on the list of engine maintenance was to check the engine alignment. We'd never even heard of this before but now know a lot more about it. Ani's engine is seriously out of alignment :( Poor girl!
John helping Rene
Since this discovery, Rene has been contorting himself into the engine trying to remove the old engine mounts (two of which were broken). John has helped out enormously again. He pops in and provides Rene with wisdom and technical know-how so that he can  continue. I'll let Rene tell the full story about the engine alignment in another post. I'll just say that it is a massive job that we didn't factor into our departure time. There's a lot of work to do to make our engine safe again.

I have now successfully installed the cockpit storage bags which have the double purpose of holding the sheets (ropes) when in use and keeping water from getting into the little storage areas behind. I'm looking forward to testing them out when we go sailing again. 
One (of the four) new cockpit bags with another cushion I've recently covered.
 I took apart the battery box that Rene had built so that I could sand and treat the wood. All the wood is now oiled up and protected. There's a bunch of other little jobs like this that get done on a daily basis.. I won't bother listing them all here.

I finished sewing a navigation station cover for one of our neighbours. It was trickier than I had anticipated but I think it looks pretty good. Hopefully it will keep the water out of Sea Temple's instruments! 
Navigation station cover for Sea Temple.
More food shopping - all available storage areas are crammed full now (and there's still more on my lists to get!). I'm still so grateful to our friends from Sula Sula who lent us their car. It has made the stocking up so much easier! I can't imagine having to carry all of this stuff on the bus!
Just one of the many trolley's I've filled lately
The eyelets are finally in place on our cockpit awnings. Josh at the Sewing Trade Centre kindly put them in for me for a great price (only about $1 per eyelet). This saved me loads of money as I didn't have the correct tool for putting them in myself. Now we just need to screw the stayputs into the steel of the cockpit. I think we'll do this later on after we've left. There's just too much to do right now! I realise that Coke zero is pretty bad but it was on special. You know how supermarkets make you go crazy and buy stuff simply because it's 50cents cheaper than usual? aaah!

We made a costly mistake with aluminium. Our Aries autopilot requires a new board and we stupidly thought that instead of using wood (which always breaks) we'd try aluminium which would be stronger and still light. Wrong! 6mm alloy is really heavy! Far too heavy for the wind vane. Bugger. At least Ollie has said he'll have the alloy (he's on an aluminium boat). Back to the drawing board with this job.
Old and new tangs on top of the aluminium mistake.
The replacement tangs were made (thanks to Les for organising this for us) and one of them is now installed (yep, Rene climbed up the mast again!). We've ordered two new stays (metal wires that hold the mast to the boat) to replace some which were really showing their age (they were originals, having been installed back in 1983). Rene will need to install them before we depart.

Dinghy dramas have occurred too! The simple (so I thought) job of unwrapping the dinghy from its cyclone cover to clean it turned out very differently. As Rene and Andy flipped it over, one of the oarlocks fell at my feet. A sign of worse to come. We discovered in horror (poor dinghy!) that all of the handles, the transom and the oarlocks have come away from the body of the dinghy. The glue (not being designed for hot climates) has melted during this hot hot summer. This special glue is very expensive and we had to organise the dinghy to be fixed by the experts. In Townsville, this means one company - I had to beg them to 'work some magic' to squeeze us in to the front of the queue (there are over 30 dinghy's all awaiting repair!). A huge thank you to Andy who helped me get the dinghy over to Wiltrading for the repairs. This repair job is going to cost us about $500. OUCH! But at least our dinghy will be fixed up and ready to take us safely to shore while we're anchoring again.

It has finally stopped raining for a few days in a row and so I've been preparing and painting the booms and lower masts while the sails are still off. The paint was starting to flake off and the aluminium has corroded very slightly in some areas. This job is satisfying but I wish the paint was a more interesting colour like hot pink (instead of grey).
Me sanding back the main boom before painting.
While Rene is waiting for replacement parts to arrive from Brisbane for the engine job, he is retrofitting the electrics board with new switches. He is replacing the old, very outdated switches (which used to blow their fuses regularly) with circuit breakers that we got at a bargain price from West Marine (Nick, we must have channelled your super power for a moment as they were only $2.54 each ~ usually they're about $30).

There are so many more jobs still to do before we are meant to depart in 10 days. I hope we manage to do this!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Stories About Looking After A Diesel Engine and Other Things

Rene went to Brisbane for a few days one last time for work. He had to show his replacement "the ropes" (hehehe). While he was away, I sorted through our first aid kits and filled a big box with extras (and out of date bandages) to give to those more needy that we're bound to meet along the way.
Just some of the first aid stuff we've accumulated.
I also re-organised some storage areas to make more room for food. And, annoyingly, discovered beetles (really tiny ones) had ruined a bunch of the spices I had in storage. Grrrr! Luckily they didn't get destroy too many things. I'm taking on board (oh! another pun!) the technique of putting food in the freezer to kill the bugs and their eggs. I really hope it works! I also spent ages sorting through my files on the computer and making a back up of everything. I plan to send one hard drive home to be stored at my parents place.. just incase! I'd hate to lose all of my photos. 

More sewing - this time, creating storage bags for the cockpit. I wasn't planning on doing this job until we had set off, but Rene suggested I do it earlier because water is getting into the little cupboards. My design will hopefully stop the rain getting inside the wood. And it also means that the ropes can be stowed away while we're sailing which will mean less stuff to get tangled up in! They aren't installed yet - been too wet! But here is a photo of what they look like anyway.

I finished oiling the wood on deck just today (it finally stopped raining after what seems like an eternity). I've noticed plenty of the wood requires some TLC. I tried applying Sikaflex to bond some of the cracked wood together but am not happy with the finish. Instead, I plan Epiglue to bond as many of the cracks together as possible. I noticed that one of our cleats has fractures along it. Rene and I worked hard to remove it - another thing to replace. sigh. Speaking of replacements - Ren has realised that we need to replace at least two (probably four) of our stays which are showing their age (probably as old as the boat). Big, big sigh and worried expression... will we get everything done in time?

One of the jobs that I'd read had to be done to the engine was checking the alignment of the propeller shaft. To do this, Rene would have to defeat an ancient enemy. The dreaded thrust bearing. The thrust bearing had previously foiled the attempts of three strong men with a car jack and a number of other large metal tools to shift it from it's stuck position on the propeller shaft. After talking with local expert, John from Water Frontier, it became apparent that it may never move - as stainless steel tends ball up against objects that are fastened on to it and such objects are regularly cut off with angle grinders when they can't be shifted.

(what follows is Rene's account of an entire day spent tackling this mammoth task)...
Despite my emnity with the thrust bearing, I respected its ability to hold the prop shaft in place and stop it oscillating, heating up and potentially sinking us by allowing water through the stern gland. With respect in mind, I began to gently attempt to once again to wedge it free. To my surprise, after tapping with the screwdriver as a wedge, a lot of WD-40, then turning the prop shaft while it was under pressure, the bearing snapped forward with a loud "SPROING!" and much cheering (well, inside my head, but cheering nonetheless!).
The initial thrust bearing having just "sproinged"
However, before checking the alignment and catching up on some rust bustin while the bearing was off, I thought it would be sensible to quickly see if the bearing could be moved back into place easily. Not so! It seemed even more stuck than before, no matter how much WD-40 or force was applied. After attempting a number of obscure and fruitless techniques involving vice grips and coming dangerously close to breaking the so called 'flexible' coupling. Why was I doing this again? When in my life did I decide to invest so much time and effort into solving problems that already have been solved more adequately by other people and newer technologies?

Cerae convinced me that it's OK to ask people for advice. While posing the problem to some other yachties a number of theories were formulated, with the best one seeming, sadly, to be the 'angle grinder' technique.

Just as I was about to touch the angle grinder to the bearing, John popped by to inspect my work and patiently clarified for me exactly how the "taper" aspect of "taper lock bearing worked - there is no way it would move backwards, no matter how much force was applied, but it could still move forward. The news was refreshing, but there was no room left on the shaft to shift it forward - the locking nut was jammed up against the shaft coupling. I took off the nuts on the flexible coupling and figured out that I could take it off completely by turning it to turn the nut on the end of the prop shaft - this gave me an inch of play, if I stuffed it up a second time, I really would have to cut it off!

Thankfully, logic reigned, and it "SPROING"ed forward again. This time I worked the taper sleeve backward while it was free and experienced immense satisfaction. At this stage I was awarded 1200 XP and went up a level. I assigned my extra skill points to "boat mechanics". I have now cleaned up the rust that was being hidden by the bearing for many years - the next installment will be the engine alignment.
Rene with the removed flexible coupling - FINALLY!
With so little time left before we leave and so much engine maintenance still to do, I volunteered to help out too. My job is to scrape, sand, clean and paint over the corroded / rusty parts of the engine. It's very dirty, cramped and smelly work but I'm hoping to be proud of how clean Anima's engine will be by the end!
Cerae getting greasy in the engine.
It looks as though we'll have crew accompanying us for much of the journey ahead. We're very excited about Rene's Dad coming with us for the first leg. Now, Penny (a family friend) is coming along for the leg from Darwin to Indo! We're excited because one of the things we kept saying while sailing up here last year was how much we wished our friends / family could be with us to share such amazing places.

A perfect moment - July 2010 - Scawfell Island

Reflections on Townsville

We've ended up staying here in Townsville for about 7 months. I'm grateful for the times we've had here - as my friend Natalie said, 'it will be an experience'. Living in North QLD has been like living in another state! It's really quite different up here compared to South East Queensland, which is what we're accustomed to. For starters - the people are more relaxed. They talk more slowly (my brother paid me out on the phone the other day because I must have picked up a bit of the Townsville drawl) but also things get done slower. But funnily, no one drives slowly! I've never once seen a cop out on the roads doing speed checks... and hence, no one follows the speed limits (except, it seems, for me!). The quality, communication and speed of workmanship can sometimes be a bit less than what we're used to in a capital city. Townsville seems to be trying to be a bigger city than it's people and infrastructure are ready for.
Townsville street - post Cyclone Yasi
There is a lot more tropical fruit available and I've enjoyed trying out all sorts of delicious foods that grow so well up here in the warmer climate. My favourites have been star fruit (Carambola), Mangoes (of course!), Persimmons, Achacha and Dragon Fruit (Pitaya). 
The downside is that almost all groceries (apart from locally grown fruit and veg at the markets) is much more expensive. People tell me it's because of the crazy systems we have in place. The food is grown up here, is sent down south (as far as Sydney), packaged and then sent back up here again. So we end up paying more because of the many miles the food has travelled. What a waste of fuel!
Me enjoying a red Dragon fruit!
The weather is much more intense up here. It has been super hot and humid - I don't know how we would have coped without the little window aircon unit we bought second hand. Of course, there is the ever-present threat (and sometimes reality) of cyclones. I've already written at length about Cyclone Yasi. There is still the very real threat of another cyclone forming before the season is through. Fingers are very very crossed that this won't happen!!!! Surprisingly, I've become used to living by the beach but not thinking about ever swimming in it. The stingers annoyingly frequent the waters here over summer - just when you want to swim! I haven't seen any crocodiles yet but I'm sure that will change. I've loved hearing and seeing different bird life - peaceful doves, black cockatoos and herons abound.
These signs line the beaches.
We've met some lovely people here in the marina - friends I hope to stay in contact with for many years to come. Almost everyone here is pretty friendly.. but then, I think I'm learning how to get along with more varied people too. Cruising does that to people (so I've been told). I'm definitely a lot more outgoing with meeting new people. Which is just as well really, because otherwise I'd have been pretty lonely!
A gorgeous sunset in the marina - full of lovely salty folk.
What has also been fantastic about staying here is that many of our family were able to visit! We miss our family and friends dearly - so it was very special that they could visit and share some of the beauty of this place.

Practicing at home :)
What I've loved so far about cruising is that doors have opened up that I never thought of before. My most favourite thing about staying in Townsville is that I discovered Ashtanga Yoga. I absolutely love it. It is my bliss. I've been learning the Primary Series at Live and Breathe Yoga above the mall in the city centre. The teacher, Allison, and her partner, Harry, are lovely people and the classes feel very comfortable. They are genuine, unpretentious, giving people. I probably laugh a little too loudly at my body when it does curious things (last week, Allison ended up with my feet landing on her shoulders... not where they were supposed to go!). But I'm having fun learning and getting stronger. I want to continue practicing but am worried about my ability to hold postures that require a lot of balance while we're anchored in places that aren't flat calm.. or while we're sailing! If it is too bouncy out there on the water, I plan on learning the Sanskrit names for each of the postures.

I've spent most of my time preparing Anima for our journey further north. This process has also meant that I've been preparing myself mentally and physically for the coming months. Our first cruise up to here was very challenging for me. I flipped between liking it and being so scared that I wanted off. I think I'm going to be a bit less afraid this time. The boat is better equipped and I'm more certain of what I want to achieve. My goal is to make it to Singapore.. from there, we'll reassess what to do next. I know we'll need to work and make more money. We won't have much (if any) left by November. Rene would like us to keep cruising - to sail the world. I'm keen to continue travelling too... but I also have other things I'd like to do. So, we'll see.