SpazCat in North Carolina
Captains log 201403.20
We discovered a new entity after being woken by a light as bright as a million flood lights shining almost blinding us. Was it a ship headed in our direction? Maybe, but there was no noise. We jumped out of bed and looked at this wondrous sight. We pondered this amazing phenomena, lifted anchor and it followed us for many hours. Between the two of us we decided to call this new discovery, the Sun.
The day went smooth. No waves across the span of the Chesapeake and we got to Norfolk without issues. There were many fishing vessels berthed here. They must really like fishing in Norfolk. Big grey fishing vessels and they even had spotter helicopters and aircraft on deck to locate the fish. All the fishing boats were protected by little boats that had men armed with machine guns. Fishing is taken seriously here...
The auto pilot failed today. After many attempts at repair we resorted to rebooting the OS by reverse polarity jump. This blew the fuse but once replaced and put back in the correct polarity it started working again. Maybe it just needed a break to enjoy this new discovery called the Sun. The warp drive also must have had fond feelings of the Sun because as the Sun decided to leave us, the warp engine went off line. We were stuck on impulse power for over an hour. Yes, the Yamaha warp drive failed...again.
We decided to pull into a port called the Atlantic Yacht Basin. After refueling we decided to avoid the overnight fee and sail off to anchor. Unfortunately our friend the Sun was gone and we struggled to see and came close to running aground with both hulls. We got out, went back and paid the $27 fee to stay the night. I asked the dock master as a matter of interest, isn't there meant to be a free dock around here? He said it's across the river. So why didn't you tell me that "before" I paid $27 for the same service???
We decided at this point not to cook and eat KFC/taco bell instead. Much like the rest of the day I'm thinking my stomach might now decide to stop functioning in protest. Unfortunately our engine doesn't run on bad smells so it's time to go have a hot shower. We still have no water on the SpazCat because everyone has winterized their docks and that means getting water is a no go. 70 gallon water tanks sitting there empty. Oh well. I imagine once we get to Australia the weather would have warmed up enough where there is no more snow and ice.
Captains log Star date 201403.22
Things did not start well for us this morning. We tried to find a fuel dock. Berthed the SpazCat at the Gazebo in Manteo and looked around by foot. No fuel docks to be found. There was a pumpout facility but it was locked and there were no attendants. I figured this was a tourist town. Manteo has fuel if you look and we finally found the Shallowbay marina fuel dock. We berthed to it and with a great sigh of relief hopped out on deck only to find out that we were there at 8am and they opened at 10am. If you need fuel outside of hours you can call but they won't answer you. Anyway, tourist towns. You can always tell them because they hide the fuel dock and arrive late so you have to stay longer.
To the rescue comes Ray Townsend. Ray is a friend of Terry's who you will all know later. He offer's to come pick us up, take us to get fuel and groceries etc. What a gentleman. So we get fuel, some snacks and say our goodbyes as its now 10am and we want to get going.
The curse of the warp drive strikes again! This time we got about 30 feet from the dock when the engine died. Yamaha, seriously? If you want to make a f*cking outboard for a boat that's fuel injected then make sure it will handle some air rather than dying leaving you drifting headed for rocks. I can just imagine being in a storm and waves causing splashing because your fuel tank was only 99% full and that last 1% managed to stall your engine and now you're facing falling off the end of the World. You all know the Earth is flat right?
So we finally get the stupid engine going and we're off. 15 minutes to get it started. So far with this new Yamaha engine, yes I mean purchased brand new that we now have used less than 200 hours, I have spent many 15 minutes getting the thing started in various places like, mid channel, mid river, about four marinas and a few other places. My recommendation is :DON'T BUY A FUEL INJECTED MOTOR for a yacht. (update: motor is now fine).
Big rant coming: Yamaha seems to make engines for sissy boaters that don't go out if there is more than an inch or two of waves. Speaking of which, I filled the tank fully hoping to never have issues with air lock again and we went out. About 3 hours before night fall the waves went from the forecast 1 foot, which they kept repeating on the radio like it was gospel, all the while we were being tossed around in short period chop up to three feet head on. For all you non boaters, chop is the wind produced waves still in the wind that produced them. That means they are steep which means rather violent when they hit you. Nothing to worry about seeing as this thing is built like a tank but it is about as comfortable as having Mohamed Ali use your head as a boxing bag for a while. After the first few hits in the head you go kind of numb. No this is not a metaphor.
The waves kept coming and my mind started singing, "this is a tale of our castaway's...". Even though I showered yesterday I concluded that I must still smell and Neptune was sending waves over the bow and across the cabin roof to wash me clean. We finally found a small sheltered area where we are currently on the hook again. I made some fried rice for dinner and decided to update the log when I discovered that not only did Neptune think I smelled but he apparently also thought that my bedding needed a wash too. I will be getting rid of that stupid vent on the starboard hatch ASAP. This brought back fond memories of our trip up to Virginia when the wife was in bed during similar chop and the hatch was not locked. You can imagine about 3 gallons of water poured on wife and bed did not leave her in a good mood! At least I learned to lock the hatches.
There's no internet or phone coverage at this spot. It's called Hog's Island. It's very similar to Gilligan's except that it's a marsh, it's cold, cloudy, has no palm trees, has no lagoon, has brown water instead of blue, the water is cold rather than warm and there are no fun natives here. It is however an island. Time for me to sleep on the dry side of the bed and hope I can get warm because I was soaked in cold water and blown by chilly winds for the last few hours. We can't wait to reach warmer weather but the soothsayers are yapping about a big cold front coming possibly bringing snow. Yay. Can't get enough of snow on a boat. Brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it.
Oh look, our rain water collection device/water maker works!
Captains log 201403.22
Yesterday was officially the first day of Spring in the USA. It almost felt like it as well with a warm 65DegF day temperature and I even got to wear a T-shirt. We swapped the propeller today just before reaching the Albermarle Sound. I told Robin it would be a 5 minute swap. Why oh why did I say 5 minutes. An hour later we were running again. The propeller swap took about 5 minutes. Naturally the engine refused to start after that. This has been an ongoing issue since we swapped the 15HP Yamaha for the 40HP EFI version. About every 50 hours it just stops, splutters and needs the fuel filter cleaned and put back in a couple of times before it will start again. I put in a primary 10 micron filter inline with the fuel system to try to stop this but it seems to have made no difference. Latest suspicion is that we are getting air in the fuel line due to the splashing around on a boat. This makes sense since the 15HP never had the issue at all and it was a carburetor engine. With a carby engine the carb has a tendency to separate the fuel and air so if it gets air in the fuel it will keep pumping till the bowl is full. Problem averted. With an EFI engine even if we have 50% in our tank all it takes is a few good waves and air can get sucked up killing the engine. A Pretty bad situation on a boat. That's the theory anyway. (attendum: it does have a VST which is similar to a float bowl, more on that latter). The rest of the trip was pretty good.
We traveled from the Atlantic Yacht Basin to Manteo. The last 2 hours was in dusk/night conditions. There's something special about coming into an unfamiliar port at night. I hear that it's even more special coming in to an unfamiliar port at night in a storm. I just can't wait for that fun experience. We sailed into the night because the soothsayer's predicted 15-25 mph winds through the night and the next morning. What we got was 25 mph winds at the start of the Albermarle Sound and then it died down. The waves were still choppy till we got closer to Manteo. Then it went calm and we had the most quiet nights rest so far on the hook (anchor). Due to the predicted winds today being 15-25 mph we were possibly going to actually sail instead of motor. That was the theory. Looks like the reality is we might get almost 1 mph of wind but who knows, we may be lucky and that will change to a full on head wind at 30 mph and slow us down to a crawl positioning us in the middle of the Pamlico sound to await the next bout of winter storms expected to bring snow and ice into sunny North Carolina for the next few days.
God knows we haven't had enough of snow and ice on this trip. Realistically however we are probably going to get far enough South that the impact of the latest winter storm will just be cooler temperatures of about 55F. Which to us are actually warm temperatures when you consider the day we left was in the 20's (about -7DegC).
This is what we wanted, rain however is what we got.
Captains log 201403.24
We left our anchorage at Hog island N.C. and proceeded to go across the Pamlico sound. For the benefit of those like me had no idea what that means, it is one big span of water about 80 miles long and 40 miles wide. Please check the facts for yourself as my brain is still frozen and could be out by a few miles either side.
The journey started early in the morning, about sunrise. The water was flat and the wind was calm. We motored a long way before things started to pick up and this time we had the wind and waves going in the same direction we were. Before long we were dealing with seas to about 3 feet. Things on the boat were however much calmer. Still cold but not freezing cold. As time ticked over the land got further and further until we reached a point where the land could not be seen anymore.
Here we are in the middle of what looks like a never ending span of water anywhere the eye can see. No internet coverage, no phone reception and even the VHF radio that the coast guard uses was quiet. It was an eerie feeling. Time no longer seemed to exist here as we had nothing to reference it to, short of counting waves and that got boring after wave 10,543.
How long had I been out here? It was hard to tell.
I know it was a long time. I wondered if my wife would remember me.
Had I aged so much that she would not recognise me?
Did she remarry???
Finally after what seemed like an eternity we got cell phone coverage and internet again. That was a lonely grueling 3 hours. I thought how lucky we will be, sailing in the modern age when we cross the Pacific . Surely they will have internet coverage all the way across it or people would go insane.
We ducked inland at the end of the sound and found a nice little spot at the mouth of a creek to put out the anchor. A great thing about these boats is that they have a shallow draft so while the water was three to four feet, we had plenty of depth as all we need is just over 2 feet of water to float. We're on the hook and with internet coverage but too tired to do anything but go to sleep.
Captains log Star date 201403.24-2
Last night was windy but we were in a very sheltered area so while the wind whistled at over 30 mph through the rigging we hardly moved as there was no fetch for the wind to make waves. I woke this morning to more ice outside. Let me assure everyone that ice and boats do not make for fun times. That was the start of the cold. It seemed only to get colder through the day. The wind picked up to about 20-25 mph and the temperature was hovering slightly above freezing. I must have looked like some weirdo because I was wearing shorts, a thick jacket, neck warmer, hat and hood. I could have put on jeans but the thought of taking off warm shorts to replace them with jeans that were below freezing made sure that never eventuated.
We reached the Onslow swing bridge and I made radio contact on channel 13 VHF. A funny chap that answered tells us that he's opening at the half hour and if we are even a minute late we will have to wait till the next hour opening. Not sure why he mentioned that because I was trying to slow down my approach so I would not have to stop mid channel and have to fight to keep a boat steady in 20 mph winds. We get there about 2 minutes before the scheduled opening and the alarms start ringing on the bridge on the 30 half our mark like military precision. Unfortunately it takes the bridge a long time to open so we sat there in reverse trying to stay mid channel in gusty winds till about 5 minutes past the half hour. I was tempted to get on the radio and let the bridge operator know that if he opened a minute late that I would have to report him to the precise bridge opening police, but figured that might not go so well. Better to keep my mouth shut and have the bridge open.
We finally reach Terry's house. He has a place along the ICW and has his catalac 900 berthed there. Robin was steering as Terry got on the radio to let us know that we needed to get perpendicular to the dock and then swing hard for the dock with full engine power as it was low tide, and we needed to run the boat aground to get to it. At this point Robin looks at me and passes the vessel to my command and says, "I'm not grounding your boat". Fair enough. If anyone is going to ramming speed to ground this boat, it's going to be me!
Sure enough, we got grounded. Now grounding on a Catalac isn't like most boats. They are designed to be grounded. The boat rests on it's hulls and the skegs so nothing other than those four points are actually grounded and they are designed to take the load. Most of the load is on the hulls. Terry got his tender out and passed it to us where we loaded up the jerry cans and ourselves and he pulled us ashore. Terry hates this tender. Robin pointed at something or maybe he thought about pointing at something, and the weight distribution change from that action rocked the tender so badly that I almost fell overboard. Pretty sure I know why Terry hates this tender.
It was good to see Terry again. Had a few good laughs and some food. Then more laughs and food. I'll be making some meals for Terry and his wife that I used to cook at the restaurant. His wife Chrissy apparently loves spicy food. So probably stuffed habernero's will be on the menu at some point. We decided to get an early night as I was struggling to stay awake. Several long days and this cold weather have just worn me out. Terry hooked power to our boat so we also have a heater running for the first time in a week. Yes, we have been living and sleeping in the boat in sub zero temperatures with no heating. Cool eh. No, just really damned cold.
Captains log 201403.26
Yesterday we dropped off Robin at the airport, Terry took some pictures of us wearing Mike's Hawaiian shirts...in the rain in the cold. But we got those pictures! Mike was a guy who left this Earth way too early and is sorely missed.
We did some hardware shopping going via Radio Shack, which really needs to rename themselves to CCPFC (cheap commercial products from China). As far as radio gear goes they don't even stock standard PL-259 connectors used on radio equipment. Anyway, we got some 3.5 amp diodes for Terry to drop the voltage from 12V to 9V for some LED lamps he has, and paid $2 for the parts I used to get for 7 cents. After than we went to Lowes and West Marine.
Speaking of name changes, West Marine really needs to change their name to billionaire boys club marine. The same diodes we got at Radio Shack for $2, they wanted over $7. Really? $7 for a 7cent part???? I know there is costs involved in running a business but 100 times their cost is ridiculous.
After that we went to get the bimini repaired. The guy charged us $150 to fix a rip, restitch a few lengths and replace the plastic window. Probably a bit steep for the work that was done but he did it as a priority in about 2 hours. During the down time we went to a local pub and met up with one of Terry's friends, another military guy.
Now when you're in Australia you might meet people in the armed forces a few times in your life. It's the exception rather than the rule. In the USA, at least from my experience it's the other way around. I've met Marines, Navy, Army and Air Force many times. Special forces and army rangers. Pretty much the whole wide range in the last couple of years. Which is great from my perspective because I like people that know how to shoot. You can tell which ones know how to use a weapon and which ones don't. It's not in what they say it's how they say it. Anyway, we spent close to two hours at the pub, got a couple of burgers, the second one I ordered with an over easy egg but they had no beetroot and looked at me funny when I asked. Can't seem to find a burger with the lot anywhere. It was really good anyway. Beets would have made it superb. So after talking a lot of crap and having a lot of laughs we said our goodbyes and went to pick up the bimini.
I inspect the bimini and hand the guy the card. He doesn't accept cards...ok, time to ring the wife (she did remember me and didn't remarry which was cool) and got her to transfer funds to an account that I could take cash out of. Pretty easy but it's been a long time since I met anyone that didn't accept cards. We went to do some shopping after that for food since I was to make Asian food for Terry, Chrissy and their daughter. Fried rice as we make it in Oz and today I'm also making green Thai curry and the bread we served at the restaurant. That pretty much sorted my day as by that stage the tiredness caught up with me and I needed to go to sleep. Then the wind picked up and kept me up for a few hours until the desire to sleep overrode the banging and whistling sounds the wind was making. Today I'm going to see if I can get a few things done because we have fine weather...Only a sailor or a mad man can describe 48 Deg F with 25 mph winds as fine weather. I struggle to see the difference between the two at times.
Captains log stardate 2014.03.27
In orbit North of Surf City North Carolina. Yesterday was a day of running around getting parts for the boat. It started with Terry making a hearty breakfast then off to stores to get the bits we needed. Then we went shoe shopping for me. As many of you know we set off in 6-8 inches of snow and were regularly pooped with waves. That soaked my quality Walmart shoes which promptly fell apart giving off some wild and vivid odors which I got used to as they started slowly to decompose, but now thinking about it I'm just glad the Kennedy's (where I've been berthed at since Saturday) didn't tie me up to their fence and hose me down!
We also visited Camp Lejeune, the biggest Marine base in the world. They aren't kidding either, this place is huge. It has several Burger King fast food outlets but I'm not sure why. I consider feeding the finely tuned fighting machines that the Marines are, junk food, to be a war crime. Obviously someone above my pay grade ($0 p.a.) disagrees with me. We went over the Onslow bridge to meet some marines. If you remember the Onslow bridge was the one where I was told if I arrived a minute late the bridge would close and I would have to wait 30 minutes for the next opening before I could sail through. I was yet again tempted to go there and let him now that he was 5 minutes late opening that bridge and that he ruined my impeccable sailing timing then tell him to give me 100 push ups. I figured I'm probably better off not doing that. Marines with guns might not get my humour and since Marines actually know how to use weapons, it probably wasn't a wise idea.
We chatted with two marines who stood by their vehicle. A big thing with guns, and propellers. I was told what it was a number of times but all I can tell you is that it had lots of wheels, guns, propellers and would make the best shooting vehicle when we go to visit Brendan and Sue for our regular hunting trip. I doubt if they would let me borrow it though so I didn't even ask. Kind of regretting that decision now as you never know...Australia is losing the war of bunnies.
We walked around the base, Terry and family got some supplies from the supermarket there and I wore my dojo t-shirt as there were many Okinawan's on base. No one noticed the t-shirt but everyone noticed my beard as they were all clean shaven. I probably looked like a pirate. Who knows. For a while there I also wore my mother inlaw's jacket that has Mickey Mouse on it. Mainly to honor the US as that is the international symbol of America overseas. Ok, sure. It was until Mc Donalds took over as the new face of America. No one however seemed to notice, or they were too touched to comment.
After that we came back and Terry and I fixed up his LED lighting on his boat. It should run years now without blowing up. I made Green Thai Curry for the family which was a big hit then went back to my boat and worked on the bimini. Not sure who designed that thing because it just doesn't want to get tight. Two ends pull it tight but lower it to suit a dwarf. At 6'1" I keep hitting my head. So I raise it and it goes slack. The two in between sections seem to do nothing other than make the middle sag and that's right where I stand at the wheel. I'm sure I'll figure it out after I hit my head the 1000th time.
I woke to a magnificent sunrise. Deep red sky, an island then water in front also glowing the same red. I was enjoying it too much to take a picture. While watching the Sunrise I remembered a dream I had last night. That I was working for Airport doors and some how managed to arrange to go to the Traditional MMA dojo for a few months . If I did that every day after work I might get my yellow belt. Weird dream. I'm one state south of the dojo and a continent and an ocean north of Airport doors. I guess I'm still regretting not being able to study the martial arts while here.
You just never know what curve ball life will throw you next. I'll find out what the spin is on that ball for today shortly. The plan is to fit the HF radio's in both Terry's and my catamaran and then test them out. That means we'll have a person who knows boats that we can talk to from around the world once we have that sorted. Oh, Terry arranged for us to meet two guys in Florida, Rick from the Catalac Catamaran site and his friend Marty, who is a sailing guru. We'll spend a few days there tweaking this boats sailing ability and tuning the rigging. They can show Lorianne and myself how to best sail this boat and I can show them how well I listen and drink beer in warm weather. That's the plan anyway.
Captains log 201403.27
Happy birthday sister! Technically I am on time since it's just turning to be the 28th of March in Croatia where you were born but I'm a day late because it's the 29th in Australia. So really it's your fault for celebrating your birthday a day early every year.
Today was work on boat day plus a little shopping to fix that damned fake pex to water heater line that has been an issue since the heater froze and burst a line. I soldered the burst pipe but then the plastic fitting failed. Since it's original English plumbing (well before pex line was invented) it's pretty hard to find the right fitting. I got a fitting that was sort of correct. It's meant to be a compression fitting but I can't find the correct style that converts to plastic pipe. The joint I made required lots of thread tape or thread paste. I used the latter. After letting it settle I find it still leaks but just a tiny bit. Enough to be annoying if left on for a long time but because we can shut the water off it should be ok. The rest of the day was spent putting Terry's SSB HF system together.
He has an Icom 802 and AT-140 antenna tuner. Now that everyone knows what it is I have no need to keep describing things...ok just kidding. We have to connect the antenna tuner to the main transceiver, make an external antenna, connect the transceiver to the power and the speaker and the remote head. Basically lots of wires everywhere and all manner of restrictions that limit what you can do and how you can do it. Icom normally brilliant in their planning, supplies only the pins and the connectors instead of a cable for the communications between the transceiver and the tuner, and they changed from the large 710 style to a tiny inline connector.
Really? This is a SSB for a marine vessel. There is no room for puny little electrical connectors. More to the point, supply the damned cable with the tuner. You charge enough for it. Sheesh. So anyway, after using an electron microscope which we happened to find floating by on the ICW and by chance happened to work, we managed to also find a small robotic arm to handle these tiny things and the robotic arm soldered it up while we used the electron microscope to guide everything. Ok, I lied. We had no robotic arm or electron microscope but it would have been a hell of a lot easier if we did! Icom, take note. Get rid of the stupid fragile tiny near impossible to use connectors or supply the cable. Preferably get rid of the pissy connector.
Thankfully on my Icom transceiver (M710) I have man sized connectors that I can hold with my fingers instead of SMD (Surface Mount Device) tweasers. No matter, after much swearing, mentally as Terry doesn't swear, so I try not to...shut up. Don't laugh. I didn't swear...much. It was done. If swearing gave you sailing points, I'd be the Captain of the QE3.
We hooked up an antenna, basically SS multi strand cable to the tuner, set up a loop and a caribiner and pulled the antenna up a halyard. We fitted it off at the lower end on a cam cleat and used a SS saddle clamp to prevent over tightening and stressing the tuner connection point.
Do you like all the terms that make me sound like I know what I'm talking about? It's cool eh?
I just wish it went together like I knew what I the hell I was doing.
After setting up the antenna we wired up the counter poise and tested the system. This is a setup that can communicate around the world when done right and we tested it by transmitting from his boat to my boat. A total distance of 20 feet. Yep, it works. Loud and clear. I'd be worried if it wasn't. We do however know it will transmit and mine will receive. Good enough for now. We're pretty confident it will work long distance too. We finished that just as it was time to go cook.
Today I cooked up some Tom Yum curry with prawns (shrimp). The paste itself wasn't the best but unless you've had the Penta brand you would like it and they did. I won't say it was bad but I really can't wait to get some Penta brand Tom Yum paste. That stuff even makes locusts taste good. Yes, I made Locust Tom Yum soup a few years ago and the wife even tried it. She didn't like the little legs getting stuck in her teeth though. I liked the crunchiness. Like little chicken drumsticks.
Tomorrow is the first warm day in the last oh, 3 or 4 thousand years. At least that's how it feels. It's also work on the SpazCat day. Working on Terry's boat is easy. It's got heating, cooling, it's insulated and sealed really well. Working on our boat is like working on a 60 foot tall external antenna...in Antarctica during a storm. It will be good to get a day where the temperature goes higher than the point where you wonder if ten layers of clothes is really going to be enough. For the record I'm still walking around in shorts all the time. I'm either insane or have acclimatized. Or both.
Captains log 2014.03.28
"Today is forecast to be Much Warmer than yesterday." That's a quote from the soothsayers. We'll see how it pans out over the course of the day but I think that they may be right this time. Even a broken clock is right twice a day, which is a better average than weather forecasting when you think about it. Today is all about getting the SpazCat ready for long distance voyage. That means fitting the solar panels, fitting the LED flood lights, getting the furler to work smoothly. A furler is a device that rolls and unrolls a sail rather than lowering the sail as conventional sail setups are. The original on this boat was like most sloops, a roller furler on the front and a slab based reefing on the main. The SpazCat has been modified by a previous owner to have a behind the mast roller furler for the main sail as well. Like everything on this boat, it did not work correctly when we bought it.
While I've slowly fixed things bit by bit, the furler is one of the main things to get right. At present its hard to roll in/out and during a storm that is a problem. Not that this boat would care less since they are notoriously stable even with the slab reefed main which is bigger than the roller main. So technically we can't go as fast. Having less sail area than the original already undersized sail means it isn't in any danger of lifting a hull. Even the original that had more sail area than ours couldn't lift a hull. After that I hope to get the steering finalised.
As some of you may know I had replaced the rusted out steering system with a Stainless Steel (SS) design of my own. The difference in design meant that I needed to reroute the control lines to the motor which I didn't get the opportunity to do as hanging off a boat that has 6 inches of snow and ice during high winds isn't my idea of an easy fix. The only major thing after that is to fit the second fuel tank. We have one 27 gallon tank fitted in the starboard (the right) hull. The other identical tank needs to be fitted in the port hull (you guessed right, that's the left hull). At that point we'll have a sailing vessel that can sail, has long fuel range, steers well under motor and sail, and has more room since we can put things where they belong instead of carrying it all as cargo. The rest is mainly cosmetic and some electrical stuff. I need to run heavy gauge cable to the SSB transceiver and the power inverter. It's a 1000 Watt inverter so should give us enough power to run the microwave. The solar panels will give us enough power to be able to run a water maker that I still need to make. Basically an evaporation system run off batteries. Free water generation. Can't get better than that!
So within the next day or two the SpazCat will be fully equipped to take a short sail over a small pond we call the Pacific Ocean. The trip from Galapagos to French Polynesia will take about three weeks maybe a bit more depending on weather. We're in no hurry as we have to take 180 days after leaving Panama to get to Australia due to quarantine restrictions in Oz. Panama to Galapagos is a week. The Bahama's to Panama is a week after we leave the Bahama's but we'll be travelling across them for at least a week or two. Once we're in the Pacific we will be going very slowly and we're playing things by ear as to when we get where, and where we will visit. Follow the wind is going to be a literal decision making process for us. And at 8am, its already feeling warmer than 2pm yesterday. Time for my day to begin. Let there be warmth.
Original mast stay bracket
The new and improved bracket. One for each side in stainless steel made by Greg Forde in Virginia.
Great guy that lived 5 minutes up the road from us and is a New Zealander.
He also made the new rudder system in stainless as well. I'll miss his company and hopefully he visits Oz one day
Today started off warm. I was in t-shirt and shorts. It reached almost 70F and I started sweating and wondering how I was going to survive this heat wave. Thankfully it cooled down rather quickly and brought soothing cold rain to help me decide to work inside the boat instead of outside. I did a lot of work on the SpazCat today. I managed to fit the second fuel tank into the port hull but needed to also get fuel line and valves to plumb it up. I never got that far however as the weather wanted me working indoors. Terry and I went to Lowes to get some stuff as well as Autozone.
Add Lowes to the list of "you have got to be joking" on prices. They wanted $7.35 for two wire lugs. They are the Radio Shack of the hardware world. I told the sales guy that I'd buy them if they were made of solid gold but since they are not there is no way I'm paying those prices.
Instead of plumbing up the fuel tank in the rain, I decided to fix some of the electrical systems. They are seriously in need of rewiring but I don't have the time to do it all just yet. The final rewire will probably be in Australia. I decided to do this because I noticed on our trip that the AIS wasn't reporting boat/ship positions on the GPS. An AIS is a device that comes in two flavours. It stands for Automated Identification System and basically large ships must have a functioning AIS transmitting coordinates which are picked up by radio by other AIS units which are also transmitting their own coordinates. The second type is a receive only so it can locate all the ships around you but it doesn't transmit your location data. Turns out its just that it wasn't turned on, but in the mean time I looked at the wiring and decided that it must get tidied up to the point where even though it looks like a birds nest it can be traced easily.
If anyone has seen how I rewire things you'll know that lots of cables just get ripped out and I just run things again from scratch. This time I had to compromise and leave some of the wiring but what I did was organise it into sections so that there weren't terminals that had five wires of different sizes being stuffed into it. Most of the wiring now is one wire per terminal and the redundant wires cut out or removed. Still looks like total crap but I can now easily diagnose faults if I need to and wire in new things where required. I also managed to fix the leaky port water tank. Now at least when we fill it we can use it instead of just wasting it. Overall a good day. I removed the auto pilot but haven't remounted it. Still lots to do. Terry earlier in the day ran a hose around the windows to find leaks. We found a couple but nothing major. Typically, now that it has rained I have leaks on my bed again. I'm just going to do a shotgun approach to this and get like 5 tubes of silicone and put a thick bead on the inside of the windows. It worked last time but I haven't done it since I removed the carpet and I should have.
Now I have to design parts so I can print them out on the 3D printer in the morning. No matter how bad the weather is I can do that...unless there is thunder and lightning which is very very frightening, in which case I sit here and wonder where on Earth can I find weather that I can fix this boat in. Tomorrow the wife will get here with the MIL and the two cats. I have so much left to do yet. And it's 9:30 and I'm crashing. Might just have to call it a night and get an early start. I've been waking up before sun rise every morning anyway. Ah sleep. That sounds like a good plan. Plotting a course for it now.
Captains log star date: 201403.29
Even though I write this log daily I still have to check the date for some reason. I've never been good with dates. I still remember a time years ago when I was asked how old I was and I couldn't remember so I asked what year this was. It was in June or July of some year. See what I mean?
The reason this is relevant is that it's going to be April soon and we need to get the hell out of here. Still stuff to do on the boat but more importantly we're still waiting on the USCG documentation. For those who have no idea what that is, and no need to be embarrassed as only an international sailor really needs to worry about it, its official international registration. So while we have a state title and state registration this doesn't mean anything internationally. To travel overseas you need national registration and in the USA that's handled by the USCG (US Coast guard). We sent the paperwork years ago. Ok, it was about a month ago but I can't remember the date. I know it was in about mid Feb or so because it was still snowing...
Monday we are hoping to go to the USCG nearby and see if we can get something done about it because it's getting pretty late now and we marked it priority (as they requested us to do). Not sure why its not done yet but I'm suspecting its because everyone in the USCG has decided to go to Florida to do some snow sking courtesy of global warming.
Today the wife leaves Virginia and drives here to North Carolina with two cats and the MIL. That should be a fun trip. Two screaming cats in the rain. Did I mention it's raining? It's not so bad but I have realised that if we need water during this trip all I have to do is wring out the mattress since it's collecting plenty! The rain started last night and hasn't stopped. I thought it would rain enough to flood houses and I might drown but then I remembered I was in a boat. Good planning right there. If it's going to flood, a boat is the place to be. A boat that didn't leak on the bed would be better but I'll take what I can get. It's currently 60 DegF and I'm sweating in a humid boat. So today I have the motivation to fix the leaks in this thing and the perfect opportunity to do so. And that's the start of the day.
The bimini collapses overnight and I sleepishly bump my head on it as I walk out the hatch. it's meant to be three feet higher!
Notice it's below the hatch level. That's the plastic window you see right there that is meant to be about 6.5 feet high.
Captains log star date 201404.01
Last episode we had the wife and MIL and two cats bound for the S/V SpazCat and were expected late at night. Well that didn't go according to plan. Is anyone here surprised? The wind they were driving through was high and raining. There were tornado watches and warning through some of the areas they were expected to travel. So they decided to stay at a motel for the night. Good move as the night here was cold, raining and very windy. It would not have made for a good nights rest and the cats would have freaked out. So they arrived in the morning while I was half way through programming the marine HF set.
When we ordered the HF tranceiver it was meant to arrive in about 5 days. It took two weeks and that's after having to remind the guy to send it. He was meant to reprogram the system to have the same channels as the Icom802, that was a selling point, but it had the old channels in it still. Many which were no longer in use. Now when I say I was programming it, it has 160 user channels and for each channel the receive frequency, transmit frequency, mode (USB, LSB, AM, FM etc), and the name of the station has to be entered. This involves either a computer cable which I don't have or manually programming by the HF interface. Seems pretty easy but this is designed for ease of use not ease of programming. To program the receive frequency takes about 10 key strokes on a little keypad. Same for the transmit frequency. The name is a combination of rotating the group channel dial to select one of 7 positions and the channel dial to go through the alphabet and symbols for that channel. Needless to say the whole process takes a lot of time and it would have been nice if it was already done. As luck has it though, I now can use the keyboard in the dark as its not illuminated and I can program the new channels by muscle memory alone. If I was ever attacked by a HF pirate I could easily whip them into shape with my new keyboard skills.
Anyway, they arrived half way through that fun job and due to the crazy wind the night previously the boat was pushed as far as it could go from the dock and then low tide came in and set us on the hard. It has never had a high enough tide to get us off this grounding since. Needless to say there was no way the MIL could board the SpazCat and we had to get Terry's tender to bring the wife on board. She made it without falling overboard mostly due to the low tide level and the tender bottoming out. The cats were released from their cages and Gracie found instant contentment just getting out of the cage. Spaz however was totally freaked out and found the most inaccessible place in the boat to hide. Took us a long time to find her. We have played hide and seek many times since then as she explores all the nooks and crannies of this boat. There are many too so it's not exactly an easy game for the seekers.
The MIL left within 20 minutes of arriving as she had a long drive back to Virginia. Due to the rain there was no way I was going to take our old outboard to the car. The original plan was to either ship it to Australia or sell it here. They are worth between $1000 and $1500 on the market and I was not too keen to take such a loss. Cruising is all about budget and we're on a tight one. Not sure what we'll be doing with it now. It turns out to be too big and awkward to carry as a spare so that plan failed miserably. It's also too big for the tender at 175 pounds. A nice late model 15hp Yamaha 4 Stroke. If anyone wants one or knows anyone that wants one make me an offer. Nothing wrong with it other than a rusty tilt motor that still works. I really liked it too. Reliable and very efficient. So because the MIL couldn't come aboard we also have no finished curtains. We decided to put them on board and sow them up ourselves. The girls also loaded up the car fully with stuff that had to get on the boat. More food, clothes, supplies etc. The car was jam packed. It took many trips to get the stuff to the boat walking over a water logged lawn then traversing the 4 foot gap horizontally between the dock and the boat. Note also that the boat was about 5 feet lower than the dock and if the railing is taken into account its about 8 feet lower. Fun times getting on and off the boat.
Once we loaded up the boat I wondered how we were going to get everything stored. Having it in the cockpit of the boat and the cabin is one thing but we could barely move with it all there. That little adventure took the all day yesterday to almost resolve. By almost we still have 1/3 of the cockpit with stuff and 1/3 of the cabin space still to find places to store. Luckily this boat was built for carrying stuff and has loads of room. Once we organise the tool area there will be plenty of storage available. Though we haven't finished provisioning yet either. Six bags of kitty litter and five bags of cat food plus some stuff for us. Food wise however we are now stocked for about 8 months. We just need to get semi regular updates of flour and rice. Also we need to get a lot more water. I intend to fill the two bilges with water bottles. It'll keep the weight low and also uses the available space well. Today we have to get some supplies, Make some photocopies of our registration as each port will want a copy and I don't want to carry the original in every time. That can be shown only when requested. We also have a Sailing Vessel SpazCat stamp with the hull number on it so we look "official" in those places where a $2 stamp makes you a respectable and legitimate vessel and captain as opposed to being some yahoo scum bag sailing the high seas. Don't ask me why but apparently it makes a big difference. I discovered this bit of trivia while researching all the entry and exit requirements for different countries.
Last night we made spaghetti bolognese, or just spaghetti to Americans. Though it was actually rotelle not spaghetti so technically it was rotelle bolognese. We made it with our freeze dried stock. The only things that weren't freeze dried were the tomato sauce and the kalamata olives. It took about 8 minutes to make, 20 minutes to boil the water and cook the rotelle. I love freeze dried food. The stuff we got was from a company called Thrive. We investigated a lot of other brands but these guys offered a lot of variety in meats, vegetables and fruits. others were more about ready made meals. While ready made meals are good there is no substitute for being able to make up meals from scratch. We have 12 types fruit, 8 types of veggies and about 6 types of meats. All those figures are about because I can't rightly remember. The result is we can make just about any meal we want to other than fish and cheese/yogurt and that won't be a problem because we're going to have fresh fish on this trip and we're not that into cheese. The yogurt is a bit of an issue because our fridge has a leak in it. The plan was to have a yogurt starter and make fresh yogurt along the way but I need to fix that before it can happen. Also it looks like we get to have sashimi on the day we catch it but dried fish the rest of the time. Well, this has been a long log, so I'll cut it short now. We still have the solar panels to mount, the hatches to fix, the LED flood lights to fit, the stern light to fit, the radar to wire, the HF to wire and a few other little things to sort out.
Captains log Star date 201404.02
We started our morning yesterday with some breakfast. I made some bolognese the night before so we boiled some pasta and ate that. Then it was time to move the boat back along the dock. We have been floating only at high high tide and some high tides didn't get us off the water bed. Good for the cats as its very stable but as we load the boat it gets harder and harder to launch it and we were pushing the boundaries of that friendship a bit far. So when Terry came over to take us to do a shopping run we decided to wait a little longer so high tide would make moving the boat easier. It took a while and considerable effort pulling the mooring lines but we managed to move the boat back out to deeper water. The only thing left to do is to swing it around so it points to the middle of the channel instead of pointing to the shore. That will make the departure from the dock a much easier thing. We went shopping after that.
Needed to get cat food, kitty litter, toilet paper, pasta, bottled water etc. Now when you guys go shopping it's sometimes what you want for the day and sometimes what you need for the week. Few people shop for a month. When we shop we've been shopping for 8 months. I just want you all to think about that for a little. Everything we need to eat, drink and use has to last 8 months bar things like water which we can't carry that amount of. Pasta, rice, etc is bought at store depleting quantities. It took two shopping carts full and we've already done over 90% of our shopping before hand. Apart from fitting what would look like half a semitrailers's worth of provisions on the boat we also have to balance it. Heavy items low and middle. Light items top. Then you also have to prioritize things so not just weight but frequency of use comes into play. But that's not all, with this setup you also get to organise things so that emergency stuff is available first hand, fire extinguishers, bilge pumps, buckets and tools. Organising a boat taking all that into account is not easy when you have to plan for such a long trip. Then you have to consider garbage. The best solution is to unpack as much stuff as you can from their bulky plastic packaging and put it in storage containers if you can't find it in appropriate containers to begin with. Appropriate in this case is cans. Specifically freeze dried and dehydrated food as its light and actually provides reserve boyancy. Handy if they fall overboard too since they float rather than sink like most caned foods. Stuff in paper/cardboard is bad. It attracts bugs and won't stay dry. Moisture ruins them so anything in cardboard or paper needs to be put into water tight zip lock bags. Much fun not only having to buy so much supplies but now having to also pack them yourself to keep it fresh.
Now you'd think loading up a boat with that much supplies would have it really low in the water and ruin its sail-ability. In the case of our boat you'd be wrong. The boat we have is an 8 metre Catalac made in England in 1984. It's a solid safe cruising vessel that has hulls which were initially made for the 9 metre version which is 2000 pounds heavier. The 9 metre version has twin diesels which weigh in bout 400 pounds each and it has a higher cabin thus more fiberglass. Those differences yet being on the same hull means that we can carry 2000 pounds of provisions and only then are we at the same water line as the 9m as it would be empty. I've heard arguments that people would rather sail in the 9 m over the 8 m because it has more room for provisions. I disagree. Ours is an outboard, weighs less and has room for almost 8 months of supplies and we can still put in positive flotation in the hulls to make the boat unsinkable. That's an advantage that's hard to beat.
Speaking of safety a number of people are concerned about us on this trip. I'm not sure why. Maybe you can email us and let us know but if it's a fear of water or isolation you have to understand that doesn't apply to us and isn't a safety issue, its a fear of the unknown. Safety wise we have a vessel that was renowned for its stability and safety record. That's the best place to start. Second we have a catamaran. Two hulls means higher safety factor flotation wise. We are filling about 240 cubic feet of those hulls with foam. That makes the boat positively buoyant when the freeze dried cans are factored in. We have a JSD (Jordan Series Drogue) made for this vessels size and I've oversized the mounts from what was recommended even though they were fully rated. If you've never heard of a JSD follow the link. It was designed by an aeronautics engineer to be a fail safe device to protect a boat in survival storms, iow, cyclones/hurricanes in strength. Developed in conjunction with the US Coast Guard and is all put in public domain so anyone can just make one themselves. After than we have a radar, and AIS (Automated Identification System) that tells us where the big ships are, a VHF radio, a HF SSB Marine radio that can communicate around the world, a chart plotter, several GPS's from wired to battery operated. An EPIRB/PLB which is a distress device that also has a GPS inbuilt and when activated sends a signal to satellites that records our position. Our tender is plastic and will be foam filled so it will be unsinkable as well. It's also a tri-hull design so it's very stable. We have plenty of fuel and we have sails. Food to last 8 months, water to go without rationing for twice the longest leg we need to travel and the ability to make twice that again. We also have 450 Watts of solar panels, a 3D printer to make spare parts if we need to. The printer can even print out a propeller if both of ours fail which is going to be pretty unlikely. We have 8 life jackets etc etc.
What we'd rather you think about is the isolated tropical islands we will be visiting. The fishing we'll be doing and all the sashimi we will be eating. It's a long trip but we're planning on having fun while we're doing it. Remember this: if people on a small day fishing boat can get blown across the Pacific for 9 months and survive with no provisions then we can do it in a boat that is fully stocked and designed to travel oceans. On a final note, I just can't get over how much this boat can hold. The bonus is that it's all pretty light because of the choices we made so we're now fully stocked (apart from fuel, LPG and water which are all about 1/2 full). I have to wire up the radar, the engine steering stuff, the HF radio and antenna and the lights. At that point we're pretty much ready to move on. Terry however drove his car full of our shopping to the dock yesterday and unfortunately ran over and broke the septic line. I'll be helping him with that fun job today as well.
First Mate's Log 2014.04.03
Fear is a funny thing. It's a part of all our lives. It's useful for self preservation. It's something to fight when things need to be done. There are both rational and irrational fears, and we don't always define those the same way. Most of the people reading this wouldn't think twice about getting on an airplane and trusting their lives to a total stranger. Most of us wouldn't think twice about getting into the car and driving from place to place. Yet most of you reading this are terrified of the idea of sailing across the ocean on a boat. You're terrified for us. Many of you think I'm crazy for trusting the Captain. Yet, statistics show that car accidents and plane crashes are far more likely than the chances of us running into a storm and perishing on our boat. This doesn't change the fact that the unknown is still quite scary. I began this journey due to a fear of my own. My cat, Gracie, is turning 17 in July. While it is, in fact, unlikely that any given commercial jet I decide to fly on will crash, the reality is that many pets die on airline flights every year. I found it impossible to trust the airlines with my precious friend. I didn't always feel this way. When I first married my husband, Gracie was only seven. But back then, she had a brother, and that brother was bonded to my mother. I was already moving halfway across the world, and I didn't think it would be fair to take Gracie and her brother away from Mom. I was also loathe to separate them, so I left. Crazy as it sounds, I was able to maintain a relationship with Gracie over the Internet. She not only hopped up on the computer chair to chat with me, she would try to drag Mom over to the computer to initiate chats. Here we are, ten years later, and Gracie no longer has a brother, but she's older and now air flight is dangerous for her for more reasons than incompetence. We didn't set about this trip lightly. We've been discussing, planning and researching it for seven years, and the Captain has been researching and planning for a trip like this since before he met me. Thus, what we have is a mixture of desire and necessity. His dream works as a solution to my fear. Which brings us to the crazy situation we now find ourselves in. Sail to Australia, on a tight budget, but maintain health and safety the whole way. Some of the things that have gone wrong have worked to our advantage. Originally, we intended for the boat to be fixed before we left. The weather made that impossible. Our first back up plan was that the boat would be fixed before I arrived with the cats. Again, the weather wasn't on our side. As a result, the cats have now now been on the boat for almost four days. And they've been on a boat that is grounded, so they haven't experienced much wave action at all. This has worked to our advantage. Gracie, the seventeen-year-old cat that we expected to completely freak out, has made herself at home. She's really enjoying herself and doesn't seem to mind that she's been removed from her home and put on a boat. Spaz, the feral cat that adopted us almost three years ago, has had a very difficult time adjusting. When we let her out of the cage, she found the first hidey hole she could. It happened to be in the bedroom, in a shelf against the wall where the bed is located. For the first two and a half days, she would only come out to use the litter box, drink a bit of water, and do a bit of exploring in extreme slow motion, Last night, I finally managed to turn the bed into a bed. Until now, it's been more like a camping set up, with two sleeping bags and a few pillows. I found it very uncomfortable, and, as it turns out, so did Spaz. Yesterday, I retired the sleeping bags, put fresh sheets on the bed as well as this gorgeous comforter. It's made up of rich autumn colors traced throughout with lines of gold. It really classes up the joint, and Spaz has always liked fine bedding. The Captain decided to retire to the bedroom early after a hard day's labor, and Spaz decided to crawl out of her hole and keep him company. The bed is very soft and comfy, unlike the fiberglass shelf in which she had been residing, so she chanced it, and slept with us all night. Disaster didn't strike, and this morning, she was back to her old self, tribbling to get my attention, loving all over me, and showing great interest in the door that leads to the cockpit area - a door she will not pass through without the lovely harness I purchased for her before leaving. We are behind schedule, but we've decided not to let that stress us. We want this boat in a specific condition before leaving - safety and comfort are of paramount importance. We hope to have everything finished today or tomorrow, and then we will reschedule our departure based on weather. Stay tuned!
Captains log Star date 201404.05
Happy birthday Alex and Michelle in Australia! It's been a while and while I've got a lot to catch you all up I also have little time to do so. You see we're running late. We're trying to get the boat ready to go to Florida but the windows needed to be redone and this time we decided to pull them out completely and do it right. It seems the biggest problem is not the window seal itself, its the aluminium frame they drilled screws into to join the inside to the outside. This is a 1984 boat so they didn't realise at that stage that the window sealant they put on would hold the thing without screws and the only way the frame would come out is by having positive pressure on the inside of the boat. Short of one of my cooking projects going drastically wrong that's not going to happen. In any case, those windows are a nightmare to do. The removal of each is a hard 2-3 hour job using a couple of screwdrivers for leverage and a long curved blade to cut a little bit of the old sealant out then move the screwdrivers and repeat. Once that is done on the outside you do the same on the inside and remove the inside frame. When that's out of the way you cut the sealant again on the inside now that you have access and go outside to see if you can get the window to pop out by carefully prying and cutting. By the end of it your hands feel like they have been run over by a car. I can't squeeze my right hand very much at all in the mornings and have to stretch it out for about an hour before I can continue again. Typing helps get the blood flow going so writing the log is a good thing. You all have to pay the price because of the length of the exercise lol.
Yesterday apart from the window I also went up the mast to see if I can fix the steaming light and work light (mid mast) as well as the tri light (right at the top). We have four separate lights on the mast and they all have a specific function. An anchor light to let other vessels know you are at anchor, a tri light that lets other vessels know you are under sail. It has red, green and a white stern facing light. A deck light to light the deck at night, a steaming light when you are under way on steam power...ok, that really needs to be renamed since no one uses steam power anymore. So now it's on when you are under engine power. The boat also has red and green lights on the bow and a white light on the stern. The red is on the port side (port is red in colour) which for all you non sailors/boaters that's the left side. The starboard light is green and is on the right side. These are used to provide visual cues at night so that vessels can know what each other is doing. If you see red and green and a white centered between them the vessel is pointing straight at you. If it's only red you see then the vessel is traveling from your starboard to your port, green is traveling port to starboard etc. It's not the instantaneous colour pattern you see that is the important cue, it's the change in colours over time that tell you if you are on collision course or not. Unless you've been sleeping for hours and see red and green high up in the air and centered. At that point you have to wonder why you were sleeping out at sea and now that freighter is coming right at you! This is why we take shifts at sailing the boat.
Apparently it's mandatory for every sailor to go up the mast at some point.
So here I am!
I couldn't get high enough to change the tri light cover or globe so we'll be rigging things up again today to do it. I'm much happier about this plan as yesterdays was really windy. Being 40 feet up on a mast in windy conditions is pretty entertaining. The view is great but doing work is not easy. One hand on the mast and the other to work. When I let go of the mast to work with both hands the wind tended to blow me around enough that it was too difficult to work. Hopefully today will be better. I gave up on removing the two remaining windows on the front. We did one the previous day but ran out of time yesterday to get both out. The window in the head is now just sitting there and I have the second window in the bedroom to get out today. Then the big clean and reseal. After this we'll decide when we wash our sheets instead of Neptune. No matter what we will be able to get into a warm bed at and that's a really important thing on a boat. No one wants to be out in a storm getting covered in water and then have to sleep in it too. I did that on the way down here and it wasn't much fun. While I was up on the mast I also checked the rigging. Turns out some of the skills I picked up from work are handy. Since I dealt with high tensile cable I know how to check it. We have no problems with the rigging at all. Not that I expected that we would since it is a relatively lightly used vessel, the rigging is over rated and sails under powered. I'd be surprised if it didn't last another 30 years. Today is also looking to be almost perfect for working. 72F clear and 5-10 mph winds. So off to work I go. Hi ho. Hi ho. Its off to work we go...
It takes two to haul me up. I better lose some weight.
The professional, Terry's daughter Hope, shows me how its really done.
Captains log 201404.07
We had a pretty action packed couple of days. Never got to go up the mast again due to high winds. Did the windows instead. All three front windows are now sealed and let me just say that the "professional" grade window sealant is both expensive and a real pain to use. Literally. It requires the grip of an ape to squeeze the stuff out. Could explain why the pro's use an electric caulking gun. If I did the rest of the boats windows by the end of it I should be able to perform fun party tricks like crushing coconuts with one hand. That job took pretty much all day and that's with Terry's help in dissembling the frames after I removed the windows. If you own a Catalac and the windows leak the odds are on that its through the screw holes that clamp the outside frame to the inside one. Most of mine had obvious corrosion and leakage paths from the screw holes into the inside frame. From there the water would run down but it could be any screw leaking. Even the opposite corner. Makes finding a leak to stop it pretty hard. I replaced the frame to fiberglass seal with silicone as that window sealant would have destroyed my hand as well as running out of it in short order. Actually the main reason I didn't was because removing the frame for any reason later would be a nightmare. As it turns out we are expecting a day and a half of rain and possible thunderstorms so we'll see how this little adventure went.
Yesterday was a cold windy day. The temperature dropped significantly and neither of us was in the mood to do outdoor work. My hand was still recovering so that was a good thing. Lorianne went to do some more shopping. I stayed and worked on the 3D printer to get the hatch plugs made up. That was a fun experience as the printer failed so I had to sit there and diagnose what went wrong. Initially I suspected the x-axis driver but after swapping things around it turns out it's the x-axis stepper motor that failed. Very unusual as those things are almost bullet proof. I contacted Colin at MakerFarm where we purchased it and he replied in minutes to let me know he can ship one to Florida where we can pick it up since we can't stay here for a week waiting on a part. I'll have to get Terry to contact Rick from the Catamaran site and see if we can ship it to him. That put a damper on the day as I wanted both the hatches and the mounts for the solar panels printed. I sat up at night designing these things for the most part and want them and want them now!!! lol Anyway, if you want a 3D printer I recommend them based on the fast response. No big deal on the solar panel mounts as we won't need them running just yet anyway but I may have to purchase parts from highs...Lowes. Ah Lowes, the place millionaires go to shop for handyman jobs.
For our readers in Australia Lowes is like Bunnings. It started up cheap and good (so I'm told) then when all the little guys couldn't compete they pumped up the prices and stocked up in China for things to sell. Basically paying top dollar for cheap crap. If you don't believe me, check the quality of their marine ply. Anyone building a boat out of that stuff would have the worlds most expensive boat that won't float. After that little drama I started on the HF radio side of things. Getting software sorted, programming more channels on the HF. I knew that all those hours of programming the HF would come in handy. I can program Rx,Tx, mode and name in under 60 seconds. If I want to just put in a new frequency in simplex (receive and transmit on the same frequency) it's about 15 seconds. Duplex operation (receive on one frequency and transmit on another) takes the same time. Not as fast or convenient as a proper HAM radio but its pretty good and does 200W with marine channels. Anyway, got all that done, made a quick dodgy antenna, hooked it up to the antenna tuner and tuned it. Got a SWR (Standing Wave Ratio) of 1.6 (anything under 2 is acceptable, 1 being perfect). I wrote a test email and found an empty HF frequency that does HAM email. Hit connect and first go it connected and transmitted my message! Woohoo! The message was, "This is a HF test". Those five words took 7 minutes and 31 seconds to transmit. Mainly because the connection was pretty weak and I was transmitting on 20W. It was a test after all. I'd say it will take a minute or two in future with a good connection but I wasn't willing to risk more than 20W into an antenna that was simply strung up and could short any time. With that we went to bed at about 9:30.
Woke up this morning about 4am because I was tired of the boat bumping the dock. The wind had picked up overnight and was blowing us into the dock. Cat's woke up, wife woke up. I was out in the wind at 4am in my underwear trying to secure the boat. That must have been a sight that it seems everyone thankfully missed. I set up a bumper on the dock and went back to bed. Up at 5am again this time we stayed up because the tide came in, our sanctions were rubbing on the dock making this almighty screeching. Nothing bad but noise though I tried for a good 15 minutes to set something up to stop it I couldn't do anything due to the high wind. So figured time to get up, write a log, have a coffee. I'll put up some temporary seals over the front hatches so the wife doesn't get rained on sometime today then work on the motor and whatever else I can depending on when and how bad the rain hits. I will also test the new email forwarding via HF radio. The idea is that I send a message from the HAM email account to the SVSpazCat account and it automatically emails everyone on the list. So if you get a small email that says something about HF radio test, you know it all worked and came via our HF radio to a second station hundreds of miles away and then got onto the internet. It's possible for us to send from anywhere in the world with this set up. We won't however be able to read any emails until we get to a shore based internet site. So if you respond to any emails just remember that we can't read them till we get a proper internet connection on land. Bonus, the wind just died down. Probably the calm before the storm.
Captains log 201404.08
Well, the time to leave North Carolina is here. We've been here far longer than expected but managed to get a lot of stuff done in the mean time. Weather again has caused delays as it's going to rain all day today and did all night last night. The window repair was mixed success. The main bedroom window over the bed is fully sealed. The head window has a small leak and the second window in the bedroom has a small leak. Turns out the silicone I used didn't dry due to the rain. Even though it is rated as 2 hours dry time it didn't dry before the rain and now is still soft. Guess I'll be pulling out the windows and using a different silicone. The 3hr rain ready stuff I ran out of worked well. This other stuff I bought as an emergency sealant and isn't worth the phenomenally high price I paid for it, being $2 per tube. Yesterday we got the davits installed, put portholes in the front hatches (which don't leak and look great) to replace the cheap crappy plastic junk someone installed previously. Much thanks to Terry as he had both davits and the portholes just ready for us to use. He's had them for years and I guess was anticipating our arrival well in advance to us actually knowing him.
Lorianne totally did her clutter clean up yesterday. Which when you get down to it is easy in a house but not when you have to do the same in a boat that's fully provisioned every thing you find a place for requires moving three other things to a new place. This took all day to do and while it's not complete we can both now sit down in the cabin area. The cockpit is still a mess. The solar panels are just strapped to the bimini and we have plastic crates we used to haul everything in from Virginia.It does look far worse than it is though. I fitted the engine steering which looks like a spiders web in the back but it works. I'll work out a solid rod control sometime later which will be a lot neater. For now we just needed to get it working. Likewise with the HF antenna. That one I already have plans for by making use of an old wire spool to wrap the cable around and some caribiners to make fitting easy. I'm thinking of running it via one of the backstays and some insulators to displace it from the stay. I was going to mount the rest of the downlights on the port side as we have no lights there rith now. The downlights in the kitchen work great. Of course the rain soaked the wood I was going to use as the mount so that will have to wait. Terry and I fixed his windlass (an electric motor that pulls up the anchor) which he was happy about. Luckily I had water proof switches marked up/down that were used with the old motor and I no longer needed. Worked perfectly for the job.
When low tide hits today I have to go and unhook the temporary line we have been using to keep us from smashing into the dock while here. It will be a lot of fun now that the ground is soaked from the rain. I see muddy feet in my future. The only things we need to get done are the tri-light and the stern light. The latter being easy. The former requires getting to the top of the mast. I can't see that being completed anytime soon as the weather just won't cooperate. I need to hook up the fuel vent line on the port side which is easy and then fuel up the tank. This will require a single trip to the service station as I have 25 gallons in jerry cans which we will need to dump into the tank then go back to refill them. Initially I was going to just give away these jerry cans but with 27 gallon tanks and 25 gallons worth of jerry cans it means far less trips to fuel up saving us a lot over marina fuel prices. Oh, I need to mount the table. We lost the clip that the table clips into on the bulkhead so now I have to make another one. Easy with a 3D printer, harder when that printer doesn't work. Time to make one out of wood I guess. Still need to secure the headliner. It's held up with one screw and some wedged wood at the moment. looks terrible just hanging there and no trim but it works and is better than just the fiberglass. We've both enjoyed our stay here but it's definitely time to move on. Speaking of which, Terry's daughter has just left for Peru on a missions trip that will see her away from her family for a year and a half. She left this morning. A pretty emotional time for the family here.
Captains log Star date 201404.09
After a late night sorting out all sorts of things, fueling up etc, we got to bed after midnight and had to get up at 6am to catch the high tide so we can get into the channel just outside Terry's dock. Since we're heavily loaded now with all provisions, full fuel tanks, water tanks we were expecting issues getting into the channel because the water depth is pretty low there. In the last two weeks we had high tides that didn't even get us off the ground. Luckily we had no issues at all in the launch. I should have known that something else was now going to go wrong and sure enough it did.
We had a weird vibration that we couldn't find until I looked a lot deeper. Turns out when I had to do 'ramming speed" to get onto Terry's dock and sliding over the ground we had a mechanical failure. I heard the noise said, "what the hell was that" but we figured it was some shells on the sand. Unfortunately, it was the sound of the bolts holding port side rudder being sheared off. It also took off the lower hinge that connects the rudder to the skeg. So basically we had a rudder that was just held by the upper two bolts. What the hell do you do when that happens? Well, you call the Marines!
Terry to the rescue, drives over a marina we organised to meet at and drive us to the store to get 12 bolts (we needed 8) and replaced them. While we were at it we got some decent silicone. They didn't have what we wanted but the stuff we got was what worked on the main bedroom window. So we say our goodbyes again and head off. Terry gave us a list of places we could stop at for free to dock overnight and we looked at the first one. Checked the coordinates but unfortunately it was 25 miles or so past Southport NC and we were expected to get into Soutport about 7pm. Since it gets dark around 8pm we figured its best to find a place closer. According to Terry he gave us a place on the list just past Southport but either we missed it or he forgot to write it down. I haven't checked which yet but we're happily on the hook in a very nice little area. Deep water surrounded by shallows.
Both Lorianne and I love being on the hook so it all turned out well. The water is calm and the wind is down to a gentle breeze. Pretty good actually. Far better than the first three hours, cold raining and blowing about 30mph. I was not impressed. The temperature was about 58F or 14Deg C and in those conditions on a sail boat the wind chill feels like minus one or two million. It all started to warm up after about 12pm and the rest of the run was warm, smooth and just relaxing. So that's Lorianne's first day of the trip. Started bad but with the help of the Marine's it was made really good. Speaking of which, we knew we had to go but our time with Terry and family was just a pure joy. We had fun, laughs and got work done even in some miserable weather. It was really sad to leave. Last night while I was talking with Terry, Lorianne just disappeared. I asked later that night where she went. Turns out that Terry and Chrissy's daughter left for a mission trip to Peru that day and naturally Chrissy was emotional. This reminded Lorianne that she is leaving her mother as well and just needed a good cry. She left because she didn't want to cry in front of a Marine and me. Good thinking really because Marines sort problems out by destroying them and I just have no clue what to do with a crying woman other than get fascinated by how much water women's eyes can produce. Then I'd think, if we run low on water on the trip maybe I should squeeze onions in front of the wife and get a bucket... I'm sure women will all think I'm being an insensitive ass and all the men would be thinking, maybe you could use an eye dropper because a bucket is really awkward.
S/V SpazCat on the move again.
Captain's log 201404.09 Supplemental
I was too tired last night to give coordinates for our position. So here they are in glorious 25 foot accuracy courtesy of the Garmin Etrex which I've had now for years. Coordinates are: N 33 55' 49.2" W 77 58' 38.8" Speaking of GPS's I think we have, at least five on board in various forms. Heading out to the spot we anchored at we did about 5 knots. Just prior that we had to go upriver of a narrow channel. We got a peak speed of 2 knots, minimum of 0.8 knots and averaged about 1.2 knots for the same engine power. Some viscous current there. Lastly, thank you to all the gents that responded that an eyedropper would be a bad idea and that surgical micro tubes would work better and could also be marketed as a fashion statement. We'll call the product, No more tears...oh damn that's already taken. I bet that's what was originally invented and they found they could get more sales if they used the same name with a shampoo.