Our Current Location Is Here :




Friday, 6 May 2016

New Coloured Sails

This morning conditions had settled enough for us to fly our latest set of small colored sails, hoping to add some boat speed to our meager 5.0 knots. Despite our prayers they didn't do much, which is doubly sad because our really big colored sail is no more - it exploded last night at around 02:00 hours and gave us a very busy time retrieving the pieces.

Jeessh - one minute I was sailing along beautifully at around 7.0 knots and then BANG. On deck I saw that the bottom meter of the sail, just above the tack, was still connected to the bow, but the rest was flying like a big ugly flag, and shredding itself further in the rigging. Oh, and then it started to rain, so we had a miserable time retrieving the mess.

So now we're down to using just old fashioned white sails, which limits our speed and means a slightly delayed arrival in St. Helena. Apart from that incident all has continued to be fine and comfortable on board. The air temperature has climbed into the "acceptable" zone, I gave up on shoes and socks yesterday, and today I'm wearing shorts for the first time in weeks. Water temperature is up to 23 degrees C., so we have officially arrived in the tropics.

We have also officially arrived in the Western Hemisphere, crossing 0 degrees of longitude that mark the Greenwich Meridian - we're exactly due south of London. This is a first for Crystal Blues, and it does take some practice to stop writing East in the log book. For over ten years we've gradually watched our "easting" decreasing, now we're watching the "westing" grow each day.

At14:00 hours UTC we have just 147 nautical miles to travel to St. Helena.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Blue Velvet Ocean

Today we felt a just a taste of what we hope is to come - sunshine and blue water. This afternoon the wave tops were more orderly, almost friendly even, the threatening nastiness left well behind. A cobalt blue tinge appeared when the sunlight hit the water, and even a few sea birds graced us with their presence. Things are definitely looking up. Our friend Chrome, back in Cape Town, has been talking to the swell gods about the nasty, quartering, South West swell, but he says the surfers must have got there before him! Nothing he can do now - we'll live with it, the frequency and severity is reducing.

In the afternoon we jibed over onto a more northerly heading, keeping us closer to the rumb line to St. Helena. The blessed winds have stayed with us, still at 18 to 20 knots, so we continue to make good time on our simple "mainsail only" no fuss rig.

On this starboard tack the galley works better, certain cupboards don't empty their contents on to the admiral when she opens the door, so the karma is good. So is the food - tonight I had venison (African buck) skewers with grilled vegetables, while the chef had Haloumi with her vegetables.

We'll stay on this line for a couple of days I think, until the wind reduces on Wednesday and we have to seriously think about the big asymmetric sail to keep the boat moving.

Crystal Blues is at 23 degrees 17 minutes south, 002 degrees 58 minutes east. Course over ground is 313 degrees true, and speed over ground is 7.2 knots. Only 659 nautical miles to St. Helena.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Another One Bites The Dust

Day 7 of our passage north west and we find ourselves prompted by yet another song title - yes, another one bites the dust. This time it's our HF/SSB radio that is refusing to function. So with Ley's help I've removed the control head, stripped and checked that (we had previous issues with a sub-standard repair), then removed the transceiver and double checked all the connections. No obvious issues found so far. Tomorrow, when the swell abates a little, I'll move into the back of the boat and check the antenna tuner and it's connections.

Crystal Blues is more than half way to St. Helena now, with (just) 825 nautical miles to run. Sea conditions have grown big again, with an objectionable 2.5 meter quartering swell hitting us on a 7 second period. This makes movement, day to day activity and even sleeping a little strenuous and tiresome. Ley is continuing to produce gourmet food, so we're eating very well. However we are definitely looking forward to some tropical sunshine and warm weather - four days of grey sky's and rainy conditions have taken the shine of the south Atlantic !

The shine has also been missing from our solar panels - on this north westerly course, with the winter sun already well to the north of the equator, our sails are blocking the sunshine even when the clouds are not. So we're getting very little energy from the solar system, and the Northern Lights generator is doing extra duty.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Shake, Rattle and Roll

Over the past few passages we have worked methodically at silent sailing. Lying in bed and listening to the ocean whooshing by the hull is music to our ears - until there this peace is interrupted.

We bubble wrap most glass jars and bottles, and discretely shove a tea towel into a cupboard to stop things dancing around when we need to. Grippy rubber and silicone pads stop things rolling around on flat surfaces. Then there is a clunk, clunk from a starboard cupboard. Could it be that last bottle of very fine South African Pinotage that was stowed at the last minute?

Then there is the creaking on deck from the new genoa sheaves. As the wind fills out the genoa, a steady groaning on deck permeates the whole of the boat. We had these sheaves replaced by Associated Rigging in Cape Town. They had groaned all the way down and across the Indian Ocean last year and after inspection showed some cracking and lots of wear.

Armed with spanners and Harken One Drop, Neil sat on deck and lubricated the bolts inside the new sheaves. The groaning immediately stopped - you just have to love a product that lives up to its name. Back to silent sailing, what a joy.

We've had a magic sailing day, covered 165 nautical miles in the past 24 hours. Only 1133 miles to go to St. Helena.

Shake, Rattle and Roll

Over the past few passages we have worked methodically at silent sailing. Lying in bed and listening to the ocean whooshing by the hull is music to our ears - until there this peace is interrupted.

We bubble wrap most glass jars and bottles, and discretely shove a tea towel into a cupboard to stop things dancing around when we need to. Grippy rubber and silicone pads stop things rolling around on flat surfaces. Then there is a clunk, clunk from a starboard cupboard. Could it be that last bottle of very fine South African Pinotage that was stowed at the last minute?

Then there is the creaking on deck from the new genoa sheaves. As the wind fills out the genoa, a steady groaning on deck permeates the whole of the boat. We had these sheaves replaced by Associated Rigging in Cape Town. They had groaned all the way down and across the Indian Ocean last year and after inspection showed some cracking and lots of wear.

Armed with spanners and Harken One Drop, Neil sat on deck and lubricated the bolts inside the new sheaves. The groaning immediately stopped - you just have to love a product that lives up to its name. Back to silent sailing, what a joy.

We've had a magic sailing day, covered 165 nautical miles in the past 24 hours. Only 1133 miles to go to St. Helena.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Baby, It's Cold Outside

The South Atlantic Ocean welcomed us with very light winds, but cold weather and 5 meter swells when we departed Cape Town on Monday afternoon. After three days of sailing the water temperature has risen 4.5 degrees to 18.5, and the air temperature is becoming acceptable - just.

Crystal Blues was farewelled by dolphins, penguins and sea lions as we motored out of Cape Town Harbour, where we spent a frustrating few hours re-calibrating our two autopilot systems prior to setting a true course north and west. The big swell has us rolling uncomfortably for the first day or so, but that has all settled down and we're now scooting along nicely towards St. Helena Island. We've covered 392 nautical miles, and have just 1322 miles to go - this will be our longest passage since we departed Australia 11 years ago.

For the first two days we had a personal escort - a group of sea lions slip streaming in our wake, doing aerobatics and generally playing up, though they've now left us and we are content to watch the many albatross, petrels, shearwaters and gannets that constantly surround the boat, soaring over wave crests and zooming through the troughs.

All is well on board, though we picked up some kelp in the propeller departing Cape Town. Most of it was thrown off but something has lodged somewhere as the blades are not folding as they should, which causes the prop shaft to rotate when we are sailing. With leather gloved hands we've slowed the shaft down to a stop and then jammed a wooden block between the hull and the shaft coupling nuts - it's now locked, and I can wait until we reach St. Helena before diving to clear the problem. Ley has done her usual incredible job of provisioning for the several long passages coming up - we have over 5500 nautical miles to travel before the end of June. Already she's baking muffins and planning our menus well in advance. If the weather holds we should be in St. Helena in 8 or 9 days.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Lubrication 101 - Use Something That Doesn't Damage Things ....

More than 12 years back we were shown just how incredibly slippery McLube Sailkote dry lubricant spray really is. However the spray can doesn't detail the contents, and we didn't want to use anything with silicon on a painted deck, so we chased down the manufacturer for details.

Eventually, in a late night call from Australia, I spoke to an engineer in the USA, who explained that the contents were actually chemically milled, microscopic teflon ball bearings, floating in a propellant that evaporates completely.  When you spray on McLube Sailkote, the micro ball bearings stick to the surface using static charge only - sure they eventually get washed away, but they last long enough to be amazingly beneficial.  The great thing is that they don't gum up the works - ever.  There is no build up of wax or chemical gunk to attract salt, moisture and dirt.

Looks Pretty, But It Doesn't Roll Anymore
On Crystal Blues this means we spray-lube the mainsail track once or twice a year, and Ley can hand haul the mainsail almost to the top without even using a winch. It is amazing stuff.

We also used it on our Schaefer "Clear-Step" sheaves, that manage the furling lines on deck.

Around five or six years later the Schaefer sheaves started to jam up, and no amount of cleaning or lubrication would get them to work under load.  I could spin them easily, though they sounded a little noisy - it was a mystery that even Schaefer themselves could not solve. This lead to us replacing them with an alternate product here in Cape Town, at reasonable expense to our boat budget (and that's another story).

Here in Cape Town we spotted a new McLube product called One Drop on the shelves of the distributor.  The technical representative there explained that the new One Drop liquid product was for "things that turned, including any product that used ball bearing races". The older spray product, he said, was specifically for things that slide.

He went on to explain that the original SailKote spray is just so extremely slippery that it can cause problems in ball bearing systems - the ball bearings actually skid along the surface, instead of rotating as they should (!).  This can lead to flat spots and failure of the ball bearing system.

Suddenly, we know what had happened to all our older Schaefer sheaves - all that fresh water washing and lubing with SailKote had actually created flat spots on the ball bearings.  We can see why the new McLube One Drop liquid product was developed - they needed a product that worked with ball bearing races.

We'll continue to use SailKote spray on our mainsail track, as the Antal track uses carbon faced fiber slides, rather than ball bearings.  But our turning blocks will all receive the One Drop treatment from now on.  Sailkote is ONLY for things that slide...

When A Gale Is Blowing, Watch The Marina Move



It was far worse at Tuzi Gazi Marina in Richard's Bay (story here), where many boats were seriously damaged late last year. But even the "good" marinas here in South Africa can suffer when it blows hard.

This is the main walkway at Royal Cape Yacht Club just when today's expected gale force winds started pumping.  The difference between here and Tuzi Gazi was however immediately obvious - management here were on the spot as it happened, observing and checking.

 All the local marinas are moored in place by heavy chains, tethered to anchors on the bottom - divers inspect and adjust the chains periodically.  However if the chain length isn't exactly right, you can get some surprising events at certain states of the tide.  After raising our fenders we also ran lines off on the port side of Crystal Blues, to haul her clear of the (now exposed) plastic marina floats.

Ship Causes Traffic Jam In Cape Town

AQUASHIELD II Being Delivered For Launching
They do build a lot of boats here in Cape Town - over 200 catamarans are exported every year by local builder Robertson & Caine alone.

This high speed patrol and supply vessel is one of four built by Nautic Africa for the oil industry in Lagos. 36 meters in length, she runs fast at 35 knots, driven by three MTU diesels. Yesterday she traveled much more slowly, stopping traffic at a leisurely walking pace for her 2 kilometer ride to the water.

This was her first voyage, from factory to launch, on the ship lift in Cape Town harbour.  The self propelled carrier is hydraulically driven and remote controlled, with the "driver" walking alongside.  No less than 64 big wheels spread the load on the road.

Our friends here at Associated Rigging, who recently re-rigged Crystal Blues, also benefit from these commercial projects - they supplied the swaged life lines and gates for these vessels, in 316 1x19 wire.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Family Memories - A Unique Anemometer

Ley's father, Ray, was a toolmaker, machinist and engineer - there really wasn't much he couldn't build or repair. My own father says that Ray had a tool for every task, no matter how unusual.

During our recent visit home we were given some tools and measuring instruments from Ray's workshop, among them this lovely anemometer.

Opening the wooden case I really wasn't sure what to expect, so the brass and alloy instrument was certainly a surprise. I think every sailor is habitually fascinated by wind speed - it is the one thing we dwell on for many countless hours of our lives.

Nowadays, the very latest wind instruments use ultrasonic measurements to track wind speed, however I don't think that even the modern instruments could match this one at the low end of the speed range.

I really only have to blow on it very gently to generate readings on those dials, which all seem to be working. An amazing instrument, though not one likely to survive at sea.  We'll keep it safe and dry on land.

In Cape Town, We're Preparing For The Atlantic

Table Mountain, viewed from the northern end of Table Bay                                           
Back in Cape Town we're been very busy preparing Crystal Blues for the passage north, up the Atlantic. New sheaves for the genoa cars are one of the items we are waiting for, and they just might be here tomorrow.  Additional Admiralty paper charts (for emergencies) and 25 liters of Jotun anti-fouling paint are also on the way.

With Rolf and Irene, eating our way around Cape Town.
We've had time to farewell many local friends, including Rolf and Irene Fricke of the cruising catamaran Ketoro (they have a nice blogsite here - check their cruising notes for the Indian Ocean) We first met them in Thailand some years back, and they've been great friends, inveterate tour guides and great information sources here in South Africa - we really look forward to seeing them again out cruising.

Today we topped off our petrol stocks for the outboard motors, and tomorrow Ley will shop for fresh fruits and vegetables. We have full diesel and water tanks, and most systems have been tested while sitting here at the dock.  Now we just need a weather window.  We are very late in the season, with lighter trade winds and the winter lows starting to roll in from the west, complicating the weather here down south.  So we may need to motor north for a day or so, to escape the influence of the cape and pick up the trades - we'll see.  Departure may be this coming weekend, with luck.

It is 1700 nautical miles to St. Helena, then another 700nm to Ascension Island, before we start on the bigger passage of 2900nm to the Azores.  By the time we reach Europe, hopefully in late June, we'll have sailed around 6,500 nautical miles.  A lot of ground to cover...and yes, we have plenty of books to read !

Do You have One Of These ? It's A Ronstan RF879...

This foot block is a "venerable" Ronstan RF879, proudly made in Australia until several years ago. It is a double sheave version that on Crystal Blues we use for a couple of important tasks around the deck.

Do you have one of these for sale ?

If so we'd like to hear from you - I'd like one to install and one as a spare, if at all possible.

You can contact us by simply commenting on this blog post, or by our email address in the top right corner of the blog home page. Let us know!

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Family Time In Australia

Back in Australia we were fortunate to stay with our good friends Ray and Jan Pitt, who are regular visitors to Crystal Blues. We lived with them in Williamstown and at their holiday home on the south coast at Fairhaven, near the start of the Great Ocean Road. The image above shows the view across the inlet to the lighthouse, from their balcony. 

We were also able to spend time with our families, specially sweet with grandchildren Harrison and Sam, who with their parents have now relocated back to Melbourne following two years living in Singapore. Harrison is now at school in Williamstown while Sam is still learning to cause a commotion like his big brother. Splashing in the bath isn't half of it ...

Ley and I also visited my brother Peter's holiday home at Blairgowrie on the Mornington Peninsular, right on the edge of the vineyard country that has blossomed south of Melbourne. Yes
we drank some wine, but we were also able to spend a morning with Peter onboard his classic timber fishing boat.

Back in Melbourne I was able to crew onboard Peter's very competitive A35 race boat Moneypenny (see the Moneypenny stories here & here).  Did I say crew? I was more like slow moving mobile ballast - it's amazing how fast a well tuned race crew can move and work. Completely opposite to the slow and steady approach we adopt when short-handed cruising. The good news for the Moneypenny crew was a series win in the Wednesday night club racing, which draws a big fleet from around Port Philip Bay. Ley and I were there for the prize giving dinner after the final race, sharing a table with the very happy crew.
That's Peter in the back row, looking bearded like me, getting fresh with his "Other Wife" - partner in Moneypenny, Tony Spencer.














Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Vale Edith Worrall


Seen here on the aft deck of Crystal Blues, Ley's mother "Edie" was always an enthusiastic visitor and loved her fishing - she spent countless hours on board trailing a line in the water.

Married to husband Raymond for  an impressive 65 years, she was cheerful, optimistic and delightfully opinionated.

Edie and Ray traveled widely around Australia, often meeting up with Ley and I in Sydney or on the Gold Coast when we were sailing the Australian coast.

Advancing years did limit her mobility, yet one of my fondest memories is of Edie boarding Crystal Blues in her own unique way. Standing on the dock, she rolled her body under the life lines and ended up flat on her back on the side deck - mission accomplished, she said it was easier than climbing over the wires. The tricky bit was getting her vertical again !

Following Ray's death some three years ago Edie continued to live at home alone.  A little frustrated with life and the world, if anything she became more opinionated, but continued to enjoy her grand children and growing numbers of great grand children.

She passed away on March 10th at 92 years of age, after a short illness, with both Ley and her sister, Sandra, by her side. She's finally dancing with Ray again.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Cape Town Clean Up - We're Traveling Home

We're leaving Crystal Blues in the marina at RCYC here in Cape Town and traveling to Australia to be with family for a few weeks.

In fact Ley is already home in Melbourne, and I fly on Qantas tomorrow.

I have been shutting down systems, pickling the water maker etc, and have removed most of the lines from the deck.  These have all been laundered as you can see in the photo here.

Cape Town has very clean air, except when the South Easterly blows, bringing with it the dust and dirt off Table Mountain.