21 September 2010

Bird Island Race this weekend

Heading off 7pm Friday night.  No, I don't race in my boat, it's not really set up for that, I'm crewing/navigating on a friend's boat called NEMESIS so look for us.

I guess if you lived in the area around Budgewoi and were prepared to head for the beach around midnight on Friday and into the early hours of Saturday morning, well probably late Saturday for some of the smaller boats, you'll see a line of yachts rounding Bird Island just off the shores of Budgewoi beach.  In amongst those will be us.

After 4 trips up the mast ...

... the masthead lights are finally all working.  I needed a replacement lens for the light, the old one crumbled to death when I touched it.  Also new bulbs (LEDs) and a couple of shims under the contact block to lift it up off the masthead plate a little bit so it made better contact with the points on the bottom of the light.

17 August 2010

up we go

Replacement LEDs for the spreader light and masthead lights arrived today, so it's up the mast I go again this weekend.

15 August 2010

successful work day

  • Went up the mast to the spreaders.  Found that the dodgy spreader light had a blown bulb, so found some LED replacements at Marine LED Solutions.  Bought two because the other one is too power hungry (and will probably blow soon anyway).
  • Went up to the top of the mast.  There aren't any actual signs of corrosion or faulty connections up there but it doesn't look 100% good either.  The plastic cover for the lights (tri-colour sailing light, and all-round white anchor light) is salted and semi-opaque, so will need to come down for a wash, and then be stuck back into place again.  I'm considering rescue tape.  The tri-colour still doesn't work despite me wiggling it each way to sunday, so I have ordered a replacement LED bulb (Marine LED Solutions again) and another for the anchor light, so I will make another trip up there next weekend.  Tools to take: lanolin spray, screwdrivers, small wire brush, multimeter, replacement bulbs, tape.
  • Chipped all of the rust off the top deck, except a bit of stuff I couldn't get to behind the LPG box.  Started on some of the rust around the forepeak, although I might need to get a grinder to some of it under the gunwale rails at the bow.  Started on some of the rust on the walk bar at the back of the windvane, although the rest will need doing from in the dinghy.
  • Re-mounted the windvane although one of the mounts is missing and the other has a broken spring pin, so I'll need to get a new mount made and replace the spring pin from in the dinghy.  I might just remove the one good existing mount and ask the marina to make me a new one in their workshop.

14 August 2010

Electrical problems on boats

Rule 1: It's probably a loose connection.
Rule 2: If you're sure it's not a loose connection, check the connections again, it's probably a loose connection.

12 July 2010


A few weekends ago I replaced the two "courtesy" LED lights in the cockpit that were failing with a string of 7 of these LED lights from Jaycar:

I was pretty impressed with the result. There are 3 LEDs on each stick and they come in a "string" of 10 sticks per pack for about $24 per pack. You can cut the cabling between the sticks anywhere so you can mount them in strings up to 10 abreast.

So last weekend I replaced the 2 failing lights in the head, one near the door with a string of 5 sticks (15 LEDs) and one near the seacocks (good to have that area lit up) with 3 sticks. It's nice and bright in there now, and wasn't before, which lead to shaving being a hassle.

According to the blurb on the Jaycar web site they are waterproof and submersible, and the cabling appears to be the good tinned stuff. I'd want to epoxy over the cut ends of cable for wet area use, and pretty much anywhere on a boat counts as a "wet area" so I'll be going over them next weekend to tidy that up. They came with this double sided mounting tape which I didn't trust for marine use, so they are in fact mounted using epoxy.

Now I'm considering whether to mount some more out the front of the dodger to provide a bit of light on the foredeck for sitting around on summer evenings, and perhaps replace the spreader lights with a string of these.

02 June 2010

Jessica Watson and all that

Another photo I dragged out of the lost files, I had my photo taken with the (now famous) Jessica Watson at the Spit Marina before her sail around the world. Sorry about us squinting into the sun, it was the best angle I could get.

I think my impressions at the time was that she'd probably make it. I'd had the chance to have a bit of a look around the boat and it seemed pretty well set up for the journey, and being an S&S 34 they were a good sea boat and several of them had made the trip before. Making the trip around the world on the clipper route in one piece is as much about the boat as it is about the person.

I was a little amused by the press releases saying how this "tiny little girl" was going sailing around the world. She's not that much shorter than me in fact, and I'm not a short guy. She has the slight build of youth but has that wiry muscularity that comes from getting out there and doing stuff. She didn't seem to me to be someone who would have any trouble hauling on a halyard when required, and the boat was relatively well furnished with winches and the like. I would have added a boom bag and lazyjacks for the mainsail, I find that single handing is much easier with them than without, especially when it comes to dousing the main.

In summary, though, I think she did get lucky. Out in the southern ocean from time to time there will be winds, swells and seas that will knock out any boat. Many highly experienced sailors in good vessels have lost either ship or life or both out there. She seemed to have a pretty good shore team and a weather router that navigated her past the worst of the weather she would otherwise have encountered on the trip, so there was probably as much technology involved as luck. Also, it should be noted, she was not racing and therefore not tempted to push into the worst of the weather zones to gain a bit of extra speed.

I'm reminded of a story from The Coastal Passage issue 41 (click here if you want to read it of a boat that was found sailing along by itself in the southern Indian Ocean, its dead skipper still tethered to a harness, still in his wet weather gear, and being dragged along behind the boat. He had obviously been hit by a heavy wave, washed overboard, and been unable to make it back on deck. That sort of thing does happen at sea -- the shortest lack of concentration at the wrong time or simply bad luck and it's all over.

So I'm glad she made it, but don't try this at home children.

Sailing downwind

From sailing

Here is a photo from last year, on the return leg coming back from Lord Howe Island. I was going over some old albums with the view to uploading them into Picasa when I found this photo, which I was sure I'd taken but thought I'd lost.

We had a tailwind behind us, a pretty steady 15 knots or so, without changing much for about 2 days. So we doused the mainsail and poled out the genoa to leeward, and the staysail came up from down below. I have the genoa on a furler but the staysail is hanked on and normally lives downstairs below the forepeak, we pull it up on a halyard when we need it.

It was two days of the most pleasant sailing possible, giant sea spiders notwithstanding. By the end of it on my night watch I was considering hauling the crew up from downstairs with the call "we've had a wind shift, time to change sails" about every hour so they could experience what ocean sailing was really like. However at the end of 2 days we really did have a wind shift, it moved around to the north a bit so we got rid of the staysail and took the pole off the genoa -- 12 hours later it was peaking around 35 knots, still behind us and with only a 1.5 - 2m swell, so no major difficulties.

12 hours after that we were back in through Sydney heads, having covered the 420nm from Lord Howe Island to Sydney in a bit over 2 1/2 days.

01 June 2010

test post

test post from the android blogger app

30 May 2010

I win at AC

Inverter just had a loose output socket.  Opened it up, tightened a few screws and it's working again.

29 May 2010

I fail at AC

I should have checked that the new inverter had a working outlet socket before I bolted it all into place.

Off to Jaycar tomorrow for a replacement.

26 May 2010


Main cable up forward repaired.  Water had seeped into one of the joints, corroding it.

Batten back in the mainsail.

I have a full holding tank.  I'm not sure how that happened, it hasn't been used on board.  I suspect that a lot of seawater got into it over the weekend through the air vent due to the heavy seas & pounding we were getting.  There's no smell from the tank so it's either holding up well or it's just full of water.  Either way I'll need to take the boat over to Rushcutter's Bay for a pump out on the first fine weekend we get.  Anyone up for a drive?

20 May 2010

Electricals again

Ah bother.

The lights in the head have stopped working.  The multimeter shows 0.9v at the ends of the main cable carrying current up there.  That means there must be a break in the cable, and probably some corrosion.  Since it's one of the few remaining original cables that I still have from when I bought the boat, probably a whole lot of corrosion.

On Saturday I'm off to Wollongong but I guess that on Sunday I'll be pulling and replacing cables.  Joy.

16 May 2010

This weekend

This weekend became a work weekend, after last week's offshore sailing trip.  Conditions were somewhat bumpy so there were a few things broken that needed fixing, and some other jobs that had been waiting around for a while.

  • Major clean up.  Muck scraped off cabin sole, vacuumed, washed, mopped.
  • Fetched a new battery for the clock.  Neil had gone to Dick Smiths with the battery model number, and been assured by the staff that no such thing existed, so I went up there this afternoon and picked it off the shelf (fairly clearly labelled with the other batteries, in a 2 pack).  Also treated myself to a new pair of Harken deck shoes, most comfortable and less slippy than my current ones.
  • Hosed off all outside surfaces.  After a few days of high winds and seas almost the entire top deck was crusted in salt, which needed hosing off.  I still need to get at some salt accumulation in the mainsail boom bag, but the wind was up a bit high today to tackle that.
  • Also a batten has popped out of the mainsail, that needs putting in.  I spent most of the weekend waiting for the wind to drop, it finally did around 5:15pm today so I got up on the doghouse roof and got the boom bag unzipped only to be greeted with another wind shift and pick up in the wind speed, so had to zip the bag up again and abandon it for another day.  Because I'm on a berth and not a mooring I have to wait for the wind to die away to bring the main up otherwise the wind pushes it sideways and it jams in the lazyjacks.
  • Quite a bit of water came in through the leaky porthole in the heads and had accumulated in the main bilge and under the cabin sole.  So I pumped all of that out, jury rigging the main deck shower pump as a suction to save having to fetch my manual pump from storage.  Then mopped out the rest and set my electric fan heater to dry out the spaces under the sole.  There is still some water in the main bilge, I'll have to get the long handled mop down to dry that out.
  • The connection from the navigation laptop to the NMEA interface (for GPS etc) had given up, but a tightening of a few connections seems to have solved that.  Similarly the power connection to the hull transmitter (connected to the depth sounder and speed sensor) had fallen out at some point, which wasn't obvious initially because the transmitter has a battery in it and can run off that, but when the battery ran out we lost depth & speed reading.  The autopilot needs the speed reading to be functional, and without the depth sounder working I couldn't drop anchor, which is why we came back to Berry's Bay after getting back into the harbour, rather than dropping anchor at Nielsen Park or some other good vantage point.  Plugging in the power connection solved that of course.
  • Dinghy hauled out, hosed and bottom scraped.  I left it upstairs to dry, it hasn't entirely dried yet but I'm hoping the rain will ease off later in the week and I can pack it away in its new bag and tie it up on the foredeck for the winter season.  I don't like to put the dinghy on deck without being in the bag because the non-slip coating on the deck damages the PVC of the dinghy, so it's been sitting in the water for a while waiting for a new bag to be made after the one it came in disintegrated in the sun.
  • Food cooked, ate, caught up on much lost sleep.
Given that we were in fairly rough seas for 2 days or thereabouts, the fact that nothing important broke was reasonably reassuring.  The laptop picked up the spare GPS when the main one lost its connection, and apart from some shennanigans from the autopilot when it lost its speed reading, all was good.  The main & genoa sheets are on their last legs and will need replacing over the winter, and a few of the halyards could use replacement as well, but apart from that all held together pretty well.  The engine ran well and the engine electrics are behaving themselves after receiving a bit of attention earlier in the summer, although I'd still like to get that entire wiring harness replaced (but I'm unable to source the flexible housing that it goes in).  I'm beginning to think that the wiring harness will have to stay in place for a few years yet until I'm ready to replace the entire engine which will no doubt happen about then.

So it's the second weekend in May and I'm assuming that it's about the last chance before next summer to sit around on deck in shorts and t-shirt.  I've got a fair task list of things to do over the winter, which list I'll get to sorting out and organising into priority order over the next few weeks.

No doubt this will become a pretty boring blog of repairs, replacements, upgrades and servicing until next summer.


Some people asked me if I have a sailing blog.  So now I do.  This is it.

I'll get the various linkages set up and then hopefully post some stuff.

In the meantime it's here:  sailchiarastella