25 September 2011

A well earned G&T

I'm settling down for the evening with a movie, a cat and a well earned G&T after a busy weekend.

First order was sailing out the heads and up to Bird Island and back on Jeff Taylor's Nemesis.  We didn't do as well as I'd hoped in the race, probably due to a number of factors rather than any individual one.  The things to improve on from my point of view, in hindsight, were:
  • Although conditions were heavy at start we had a good tailwind and could probably have flown a number 2 genoa rather than a number 3.  The first leg downwind was very fast though and I'm really not sure how much time this would have saved us.  Jeff did advise prudence rather than all out speed at the start of the race, the boat having just come off the hard stand, and probably that swayed our thinking towards the number 3.
  • Coming back, I made a call to stand out from the island a bit based on the expected wind conditions.  Given that the prediction was for the wind to stay more southerly than it did that was probably a gamble that didn't pay off rather than a bad call.  I think when you're handicapped down like that sometimes you have to make those calls and see if they pay off -- if they do and nobody else picks it then you win the race, but if not then not.
  • I think everyone agreed we could have flown a number 2 genoa earlier on the homeward leg.  Probably should have peeled the number 3 in favour of the 2 at the start of our upwind watch rather than the end of it.
  • The trim wasn't optimal.  I noted at the start of our upwind watch that the mainsail was trimmed for close hauled, but the genoa was not, and we were on about a 60 degree close reach.  We couldn't maintain that course (it was a collision course for Terrigal Point in fact, the previous watch having not adjusted the scale on the nav station to spot this) so I had us harden up but due to the fact that we'd blown a couple of blocks on the previous watch we were unwilling to trim the genoa on hard in case we blew them again.  That cost us maybe a knot over about 3 hours before we could bear off to Sydney heads.
  • The wind didn't really favour us as much as it did the fast boats.  The fast boats were home before the wind eased, we were not and so we got stuck in it.  That was probably the biggest single factor, out of our control really.
Anyway, we didn't suck but we didn't do brilliantly either.  More to think about for next race.  The crew were good -- some attention to focus on the task at hand required but everyone was willing to pitch in and work hard during the race when needed.  Being an overnight race in fast conditions mean we didn't get much sleep, and bringing a boat home over the line without sleep can be tricky at best.

Today was spent finishing the wiring on the new anchor windlass.  Avid readers might recall that I blew the windlass motor on my old windlass about 9 months ago, and ended up having to replace the entire windlass because a new motor could not be sourced (or even a motor of the same capacity that could be modified to fit).  So reluctantly I purchased a second-hand Muir 4000 which also proved to have a dodgy motor (wouldn't reverse) but fortunately replacements for that brand were easy to come by and with a bit of slow-going on the part of the electrician supplying the replacement the new windlass is now fixed to the foredeck.

Since I needed a new windlass anyway I treated myself to some more electronic goodies, being an AutoAnchor 710 with a wireless remote control that I can activate from the cockpit.  No more running up on foredeck to deploy the anchor and hoping I've gotten the chain vs depth correct -- I can just read off the depth from the instruments in the cockpit, program the correct amount of chain to deploy on the 710 remote, push the down button and it's all done.  So I spent most of today wiring that in to the Muir solenoid, and configuring it (it has a sensor in the chain gypsy and needs to be told how much chain is deployed by one rotation, it figures the rest out for itself).

Lastly I finished some painting under the floor of the side-bilges, either side of the main engine bilge under the floor of the pantry and companionway.  A bit of rust had crept in which needed fighting off.

11 July 2011

Radios and Call Signs

We have two VHF radios, which have a range of line-of-sight (effectively about 30nm from land).  We also have an HF radio which has round-the-world coverage.  We normally maintain a listening watch on channel 16 on VHF but only on the HF emergency channels at sporadic times of the day.
  • Radio callsign VJN3212
  • We are registered with Coastguard, and have a coastguard call sign of ENA2012.
There is also my mobile phone on board but this has limited range, and we have a VoIP phone on board which only works when we're within wireless or 3G internet range.


We have 2 of these on board.  They are satellite tracking devices that can be used to alert the authorities if there is a serious problem (boat sinking, man overboard, etc):
  • Del's personal locator beacon (carried by whoever is on watch unless they have their own): 3EF623163F81FE0
  • GME 401FF automatic EPIRB in float free housing (auto launches at 4m depth) BEED40E8A80022D

What you need to bring

A list of useful things to bring on an off shore voyage:
  • Your own wet weather gear, if you have some.  I have very limited spares, check with me first.  Depending on the voyage, you may be able to get away with a good spray jacket, but for offshore voyages you will probably want true nautical "wet weather gear" available from somewhere like Whitworths.
  • Your own lifejacket, if you have one.  I have several spares, check with me that they aren't all taken (we must have one lifejacket on board per person at all times, even when just sailing around the harbour).
  • Your own favourite snack food.  You will need to stand night watches at some point so having your favourite brand of snacks stashed away to munch on will help make the time pass.  Ditto your own form of entertainment, whether that be an iPod or a deck of cards or whatever.
  • You do not need to bring your own EPIRB or PLB but really a PLB costs around $400 - $600 depending on the model, and they have the potential to save your life if you go overboard.  If you're sailing a lot I would buy one.  You can also use them bushwalking -- if you get lost then you turn it on and the rescue authorities will find you.  The MT410G is the model I have, it's a pretty good buy, it has an inbuilt GPS so when you turn it on the authorities will know exactly where you are.  http://www.whitworths.com.au/main_itemdetail.asp?cat=144&item=74527&intAbsolutePage=1  I have a spare one for anyone who's on watch that does not have their own, so it's not an absolute necessity, but then again is your life worth $600 or not?  If you are going to buy one then you need to buy it well in advance of any trip and register it in your name (with your emergency contact details, etc) using the forms that you get when you buy it.

Other things you might like to read:


Rules on board

There are a limited number of rules:
  • Keep your wits about you.  There are no second chances at sea.  If you're about to try something, and if you think it's a bit foolish, then don't try it.  If you need to do something on the foredeck or aft of the cockpit and think you need someone else to help or watch out while you do it, then call someone else up from below to do that.  There is no need for bravery or stupidity or whatever you want to call it.
  • Look after yourself.  If you need to sleep, then sleep.  I will usually schedule watches so that everyone gets enough sleep but occasionally there are times when you can't sleep and are too tired to stay on watch -- in which case get someone else up.  Drink plenty of water, and eating regularly staves off sea sickness.
  • At sea, nothing goes on the navigation desk that is not for the purpose of navigation.  Chocolate is a useful navigation aid and will be eaten by the navigator.
Having said that, a good well fitted out sea boat is a remarkably safe place to be if everyone does their job and looks out for themselves and each other.  There are many more aeroplanes at the bottom of the ocean than there are submarines in the sky.

Going Offshore -- Prep list

A useful prep list for crew who are about to go off shore.  I can't remember where I pinched this from originally but it's been adapted fairly heavily.

It pays to keep someone who you are familiar with (family member, etc) ashore informed of:

  • When and where we are leaving from.
  • Where we are travelling to.
  • Estimated date of arrival.
  • A picture of the boat.
  • How many people you are travelling with.
  • Information about the EPIRBs as mentioned below, as well as our radios and call signs.
  • URL of this page which I will update with our route plan immediately before we leave.
Be aware that travel times under sail at sea can be highly variable -- there are days when I have covered 180 nautical miles (approx 350km) and there are days, due to wind and current, when I have traveled 7 nautical miles in the wrong direction!  So if we are approximately +/- 20% late over a sea passage this would not be unusual (I usually plan to cover approximately 100nm per day).  If we are much later than this, however, there may be cause for concern.

I always have a shore contact alerted to the route plan, planned arrival date, EPIRB details, etc, but it does not hurt to have your own.

Chiara Stella has pretty much every piece of electronic gadgetry known to man -- in addition to the EPIRB and my PLB (personal locator beacon), all of which alert the rescue authorities via satellite if there is a serious problem, we have VHF and HF radios, 3 separate GPS systems, navigation system, radar, depth sounder, wind gauge, water temperature gauge, speed through water and speed over ground, etc.  It's unlikely we would be lost at sea without something going off that would alert the authorities.

07 July 2011

Some lettering

This got posted to facebook recently, but I just put some new lettering on Chiara Stella.

What you need to know about the boat

This page is mostly for ocean going voyages but is useful for everyone coming on board.
  • I only have a limited 240v electrical system on board (1500W max, approximately 6 amps). So any major appliances that run off AC probably won't work. Most of my gear has "car chargers" that run off 12 volt cigarette lighter style plugs of which there are several around the boat.  You may be able to bring your mobile phone charger but if you have a car charger that runs off a cigarette socket that would be preferable.
  • There is only limited hot water on board (boil a kettle). There are shower facilities but the hot water is very limited. So don't expect regular hot showers.
  • There is a toilet on board which has a holding tank. I prefer not to use the holding tank unless we have to (e.g. in a lagoon and you have to go). There are toilets at the marina. Out at sea it's not a problem.
  • There is a ship's cat. Her name is Bandit. As a result there are no ship's mice or rats.
  • Everyone chips in for cooking, cleaning, taking watches, and general sailing duties. I don't take passengers, only crew.

How to get there

If you're coming by public transport, the best way is to walk from North Sydney station.

Coming out of the station, up the stairs onto Blue Street (don't go into the underpass which leads into the Greenwood shopping center), turn right and walk down Blue St.  Alongside the Harbourview Hotel you will see a set of steps leading up.  Follow these and walk alongside the hotel, eventually you will go over the carpark and end up on Walker St.  Follow Walker St down, cross at the crosswalk and you will end up next to the Indian restaurant on Lavender St.  There is a set of steps and path leading down to the waterfront from there, it goes under the old railway line.  When you reach the waterfront, turn right and you will see the Sailcorp marina and wharf.

Sailcorp run a tender service from 9:30am to 4:30pm every hour on the half hour (so 9:30, 10:30, 11:30, etc).  Tell them you want to go to Chiara Stella aka the red boat and they will know which one it is.  The tender is a fairly large electric powered barge that seats about 8 or so maximum.  If you're coming on New Years' Eve then tenders need to be booked and cost $10pp (so probably what will happen is I will collect people from the beach at Quiberie Park in my dinghy).