The Voyage


Andy and Melissa are sailing around the world on their 48-foot sailboat, Spectacle.

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Archive for the ‘Boat Maintenance’ Category

Getting Back to Normal Means Boat Work

Posted by: melissa

We said “Goodbye” to Ryan yesterday evening, and then went out for pizza and beer with Jason.  He stayed on the boat with us last night, and was off to the airport early this morning.  And so Andy and I are left by ourselves with our thoughts.  We both still don’t really know what to think about the passage.  Every time we tell the story, some new detail comes out or some new emotion bubbles to the surface.  It doesn’t help that we both still feel very tired.  It’s hard to sleep soundly after a passage anyway because you’re so used to sleeping in 3-4 hour increments depending on the watch schedule, but adjusting this time is proving especially difficult.  I think we are both suffering from an adrenalin hangover of sorts, and coming down is a real bitch.  The whole experience feels quite surreal.

One way to shake such a strange feeling is to get back to normal things, and for me, that means boat work and check lists.  First on the list is dealing with the head sail.  It needs a new shackle for the halyard, but unfortunately, the halyard and furling drum did not come down the forestay when we dropped the headsail at sea, so someone will need to go up the mast to retrieve it.  The furling line is looking a little haggard as well so I’ll look into replacing that while we’re at it.  The staysail blew out completely.  It seriously looks like it was shot with a shotgun, but the sail loft thinks it may be repairable and will pick it up later today.

I’m also going to find someone to service the autopilot.  If you’re a boat person, or if you follow our travels or the travels of any other cruiser, you realize the importance of the autopilot.  During the crossing, poor old Otto was working really really hard against that huge, following, Tasman swell, and he was making some pretty sad noises.  It was also making a “thunk” noise as if it was slamming into something when turning sharply and completely to port.  Whatever’s happening, it can’t be good.  The loss of the autopilot was a secret fear for the entire crew, but never articulated out loud in an effort to keep everyone’s stress level as low as possible.

At some point during the crossing, a loose jib sheet was whipping around and whacked a big hole in the plastic window of the dodger.  The boat trim guy will come by later this week, and I’ll probably get a quote to re-do the bed cushions as well. 

Additionally, we have a ton of exterior lights that are burned out – anchor light, tri-color, starboard deck light, and starboard running light.  Other than that, I would like to hire someone to help me scrub the deck, work on rust removal, polish all the metal, and sand and oil the teak.  Bayswater Marina in Auckland was a stickler on not allowing exterior boat work, so much of the deck desperately needs attention.

Going Up the Mast

Posted by: melissa

As I mentioned, the furling drum did not come down the forestay when we dropped the halyard on the headsail, and as such, someone needed to go up the mast to retrieve it.  I suspect there’s something wrong up there since theoretically, it should be weighted enough to slide down on its own. 

Going up the mast is a boat task that is simultaneously mundane and terrifying.  You attach a seat, called a bosun’s chair, to the mainsail (or spinnaker) halyard, and use a winch to lift the seated person just as you would raise a sail.  Intellectually, it’s easy to understand that the load on a huge sail, in big wind, involving a 69-foot mast, far exceeds your body weight.  But you just can’t help but wonder if this might be the one instance that the shackle fails.  I was especially thinking this since I was going up the mast because of a failed shackle, but whatever.  And yes, I volunteered to go up the mast because in a way, running the winch is far more nerve-racking … the ascent isn’t that bad as the winch does all the work and there’s a brake preventing the line from feeding out should the winch fail or slip.  But, on the descent, that brake is open, and the line is manually let out.   

I’m not afraid of heights and I didn’t find the whole experience particularly scary, but the very top of the mast is fairly unnerving.  Past the highest set of spreaders, there’s nothing really to hold on to except for the big tree trunk of a mast that I wrapped my legs around.  And it’s weird to see the halyard, with which you’re being hoisted, become so short and then feed into the mast. 

Once I was up to the spreaders or so, I pulled extra slack of the headsail halyard out of the mast, and swung out to the forestay to inspect the furling drum.  That was a pretty strange sensation, but really, holding onto the forestay really freaked me out because it’s pretty loose, that is to say, definitely not as rigid as the mast.  The furling drum was definitely stuck, and no amount of muscle or slack in the halyard would budge it.  One of the connecting points on the forestay’s sleeve appeared to have some bolts sticking out that have loosened themselves. 

I reported down to Andy that the furling drum would not come down, and that I didn’t have the tools to try to fix it.  As such, he lowered me slowly down, and I was a snit for the rest of the day because he forgot to take my picture while I was up there.  Dammit!

Getting Ready to Say Goodbye

Posted by: melissa

We’re working hard to get ready to leave Sydney, and it’s very difficult since we like it here so much.  I could easily live here.  But we’ve got a good weather window coming up, so it’s time to get going.

After checking three different chandleries, I finally located a shackle for the headsail that will probably be acceptable.  It’s not perfect, but it should do fine.  This shackle attaches the top of the headsail to the furling drum.  The shackle needs to be sufficiently strong; the pin needs to be small enough to fit into its slot in the furling drum; and it needs to be big enough to contain the loop of the sail which is quite bulky.  Unfortunately, gusty winds are forecasted for today and tomorrow, so we’ll have to delay hoisting and refurling the headsail until we get some lighter conditions. 

The sail loft was successful in repairing the staysail, and will be returning it on Monday.  I don’t know how much it will cost since the secretary has “gone crook,” which in Australian English means that she’s sick.  Two cultures separated by a common language, as they say!

We hired a rigger to go up the mast and follow up on the furling drum that I was unable to retrieve.  He tightened the connections on the forestay sleeve, and the furling drum just slid right down exactly as it was supposed to.  He also removed and brought down the burned out bulbs of the tri-color and anchor lights so I could buy new ones.  He also confirmed my suspicions that the forestay was a bit too loose, and he tightened up the backstays.  Unfortunately, the backstays are adjusted as tightly as the adjustable backstay can be tightened, so if we need to tighten more in the future, a more significant rigging change will be required.

The refrigerator guys have dropped the ball so egregiously that we’re beginning to think that they just didn’t want to take the work in the first place.  This happens in areas where there are a lot of really nice yachts.  Apparently, the refrigerator job is either too small, or not small enough.  It might be too small in that the opportunity cost of delaying a job on super yacht is too high.  Or, the complexity of our refrigerator problem makes the job not small enough … they don’t see an easy 3-billable-hour solution so they don’t want to waste time figuring it out, especially when I will resist paying a guy to take it all apart and stare at it like it’s from outer space.  Hopefully, we’ll find someone more motivated and less expensive by the hour to take a look at it somewhere up the coast.

I was a little disappointed in the trimming guy as well.  I see him around the marina very frequently and he’s always walking fast and frantic as if he’s late for a big deadline.  He said that he would have a quote for me weeks ago, and he finally delivered it yesterday.  I would see him in passing and he would promise to meet me in an hour or first thing tomorrow morning or whatever, and he would never show up.  So, too bad for him.  I’m not going to beg him to take my business if he won’t show up when he says he’ll show up.  Well, for cosmetic work anyhow.  If I need a diesel repairman, I beg.

Otherwise, everything is fairly cleaned up and ready to go.  We just mailed a huge box of books home which freed up some storage space.  I purchased paper charts from Port Jackson to Brisbane.  I made a reservation at the marina in Newcastle.  I need to return our borrowed space heater and extension cord.  Pay the marina bill.  And that’s about it.

So Long Scarborough, Hello Mooloolaba Surf Club

Posted by: melissa

Finally shoving off from Scarborough was a wonderful feeling … even if we were only motor-sailing in light wind a couple of hours to nearby Mooloolaba (pronounced muh-LOO-luh-buh).  We grabbed our good buddy, Graham, and headed out with a case of Toohey’s New for the uneventful passage.  Graham is a born-and-raised Queenslander and frequent visitor of the Sunshine Coast, yet he has never seen that stretch from the water and was mightily impressed. 

On one of his famous Queensland driving tours, Graham has taken us to Mooloolaba twice already, so it was already old hat when we arrived.  We were also pretty hungry.  During the passage, I tried to light the stove to prepare our lunch and the propane tank is dry.  Grrr … if it’s not one thing, it’s twenty others — we just got the stupid refrigerator going!

Caloundra from the sea on the quick passage from Scarborough to Mooloolaba

Caloundra from the sea on the quick passage from Scarborough to Mooloolaba

We parked the boat in Mooloolaba Harbor in the mouth of the Mooloolah River which is well-sheltered in the lee of Point Cartwright.  Immediately we saw a familiar boat and sure enough, we were greeted by Cutty Wren, who we haven’t seen since Moorea (and Fatu Hiva and Cartagena before that).  We checked in with the marina, walked the beachside trail to town (complete with turkey vultures and magpies), hit the Mooloolaba Surf Club for some beers and shrimp cocktail and sat on the verandah watching the surf life-saving club train in their red swimsuits. 

With so many examples from popular culture like Baywatch and the Beach Boys, most Americans would probably be surprised to learn that the beach lifeguard culture was born in Australia around 1907 as a response to several drowning accidents at Sydney-area beaches.   Surf lifesaving clubs are a very popular tradition throughout Australia with some 305 clubs patrolling over 400 beaches with 24,968 members as of 2004.

A “Lifeguard” is a paid employee patrolling the beach.  A “Surf Lifesaver” is a volunteer who provides additional support during periods of high beach traffic (summer, unseasonably warm weekends, public holidays, etc.), organizes community programs such as swimming lessons, and sponsors festivals and competitions.

Established in 1922, the Mooloolaba Surf Club is one of the oldest surf and life-saving clubs in Australia.  It’s the epicenter for the town’s social calendar and even publishes an annual report.

Rosslyn Bay, Queensland

Posted by: melissa

The last couple of days have been fairly quiet … lots of reading, cleaning, sleeping in, relaxing, etc.  Rosslyn Bay is pretty sleepy, and I’m diggin’ it.  Keppel Bay Marina is really great … nice people, calm water, reliable power, public transportation, cheap rental cars, clean facilities with good water pressure … we’re enjoying it.

Spectacle happily tied to the dock at the very nice Keppel Bay Marina in Rosslyn Bay.

Spectacle happily tied to the dock at the very nice Keppel Bay Marina in Rosslyn Bay.

The Rosslyn Bay resort is just down the road situated on the very picturesque Kemp Beach.  I’ve had the entire beach to myself several times this week.  The resort has a restaurant with pretty good wood-fired pizzas. 

Andy went to switch over the propane tanks and found a bigger problem than a mere empty tank.  It’s clear there a leaky hose/connection in or around the place where the tank connects to the boat.  Unfortunately, I just bought a ton of groceries, many of which are perishable and require stovetop preparation. 

We are thinking of getting a hotel room at the Rosslyn Bay Resort to watch the U.S. versus Algeria match.  Access to the kitchenette is another argument in favor of that otherwise frivolous plan.  I mean really, who gets a hotel room down the street from their house to watch television?  I just hate throwing food away … such a waste.  But we’ll watch the match, cook dinner, Tupperware some meals for later this week, boil the eggs, swim in the pool, etc.

But the best part of this marina is that the restaurant is fantastic!  The Waterline Café wins all kinds of restaurant awards, which, frankly, isn’t saying much here in Queensland, but at least it shows some effort and pride.  Between the culinary wasteland of Scarborough and the busted propane line rendering the stovetop useless, we really appreciate the Waterline Café!  Poached eggs and grilled toast for breakfast, chef’s special Panini for lunch, and braised short ribs for dinner … lovely!

Yesterday, we jumped on the ferry to Great Keppel Island which was a fun daytrip.  An easy 45-minute hike deposited us at one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.  We sat there all day completely by ourselves … a fantastic afternoon.

One of the many gorgeous and secluded beaches on Great Keppel Island.

One of the many gorgeous and secluded beaches on Great Keppel Island.