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Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The MegaZip Way

Zooming down a mountain at 60kmph, hanging by a single rope tether ...... flying over jungle, beach and ocean.  Landing on a tiny sand island and returning to the beach for a very welcome beer .... that's the MegaZip experience !  It sure beats hanging around in a boat yard.

Sandra Stonham and Neil videoing while zipping at MegaZip
MegaZip is a thrill packed adventure park on Singapore's Sentosa Island.  It has Asia's longest zip-ride plus three other action attractions - ClimbMax, Para Jump and North Face.  In July this year we were lucky enough to be asked to produce promotional videos for MegaZip, which was the start of a fascinating and ongoing relationship.  In the first few weeks we produced the video's originally requested, using volunteer talent and improvised "flying" aparatus.  The image above shows cruising friend Sandra Stonham acting out for the camera whilst travelling downhill at considerable speed.

Robert Goh and Neil on the North Face
Our Sony CineAlta HD camera survived the experience, which was a lot more energetic than filming luxury villas, our previous gig.   Another sailing friend, Robert Goh, a serious mountaineer, kindly played "talent" for our coverage of the North Face climbing wall.  You can watch one of our short MegaZip video's on YouTube here.  Or you can download a medium resolution version here

As the relationship grew we moved on to designing lighting and electrical systems for the park.  A range of project management and infrastructure tasks followed, which saw me commuting back and forth to Singapore quite a lot over recent months.

The MegaZip Adventure Park is now fully operational.  Its located on top of Mount Imbiah, the tallest hill on Sentosa Island - don't miss it when you're in Singapore.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Its A Long Way To The Top .........

If You Wanna Rock& Roll !   Aussie rock band AC/DC spoke the truth back in 1975 with their hit song (view it here).  Right now Ley and I feel we're close to the top after a very long climb - Crystal Blues is progressing rapidly.

In the past three weeks the life lines and deck fittings have been finalised and we've completed all the work in the forward hold (its a palace !).  David Samuelson, the rigger from East Marine, has built a new 12mm forestay and twin backstay setup for us.  The Cummins diesel fired up at the first touch (thank heavens).  Last Saturday the tent and frame were removed from the hull - for the first time in twelve months we had to remember to shut hatches and worry about the rain.  The new rigid bimini was also installed last Saturday, and the tent was removed from the mast.

Later that same day, one of the Phuket Boat Lagoon travel lift machines (they have four) lifted us up so that the rudder could be installed.  Its now in the right hole, but we can't quite get it in far enough to attach the shoe.....nothing that a hydraulic jack wont fix.  Thats a job for tomorrow.

Sunday was a significant day for us - we started putting things back on to the boat, instead of taking them off !  The storage shed is now starting to look empty - lines, life jackets and water toys are all cleaned and back on board.  The bitter end of the chain is attached to the samson post and we'll wind the chain and anchor on board  just as soon as the rigging is completed.

The mast is rigged and ready for installation, which will be at 8.00am tomorrow if the crane arrives on time.  After that we can focus on the internals, which are some way behind.  Our friend Khun Nhoon has completed re-finishing of all the cupboard doors and frames, and he's spray painted the bathroom.  His man Khun Jack is busy sanding and priming in the galley, which should get its final top coats this week.   Then our favourite carpenter and friend Yat will come back in and finish the new Corian bench tops. 

Launch date is set for December 4th, when we'll rapidly move around to Royal Phuket Marina to complete the commissioning and internal works.   Our aim is to get out of the marina and spend Christmas / New Year at Nai Harn Bay, then head for the Andaman Islands early in January.

Right now we have very little time for socialising - haven't had  a proper day off in 4 months - more on that in our next entry.  It will all be worth it when she hits the water next week.  Its rock & roll time ...

Sunday, 18 October 2009

A Flying Visit Home

Coffee with friends in Williamstown
Late September we flew home to Australia, to celebrate Neil's fathers 80th birthday. It was a great opportunity to catch up with family and also do a bit of shopping....   Melbourne's winter had been warm and dry, but all that changed the day we arrived.

A cold, wet wintry week greeted us, so out came our leather jackets, winter woollies and boots.  We cheekily suggested that maybe the Melbourne Weather Bureau should fly us home so that we can assure Victoria of more rain!

Dean's 80th Birthday


Neil's sister, Julie, and sister-in-law, Maria, did a superb job of organising the party.  Brendan and two friends played cool, live jazz and we had a wonderful time catching up with friends and relatives.

Peter Langford organised a very special surprise for Dean.  Midway through the party three members of  The Society Syncopaters  marched through the front door playing his favourite trad jazz.

Dean has been a long time follower of this band, so when the two bands joined for a great jam session it was smiles all round...  Topping all this off was the wonderful speech delivered by Laurie, Dean's eldest grandson.

We spent time with Nadia (Neil's niece) and Bonnie, (Ley's great-niece) - what a thrill to see the family expanding in all directions !  We are very lucky..






Singapore Stopover


On our way back to Phuket we stopped over in Singapore to catch up with the Shaw family.  Ethan, our godson, along with the rest of the family, is moving to Singapore in December.  We had an afternoon of fun at the MegaZip Adventure Park on Sentosa Island - one of our current work projects.

Ethan and Eli both rode the Megazip, while Carol Shaw romped around the ClimbMax obstacle course.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

The Gadget Boat

Crystal Blues has often been called the gadget boat.  Neil likes to collect unusual & useful objects - a digital infra-red temperature sensor, a solder sucker, an AIS system and an onboard PC network seem like normal things for him to have around.

Last year our dear friends Gordon and Miriam Zittel (SV Anwagomi) delivered a lime juicer "specially modified" to suit Crystal Blues - complete with its own circuit board and wires.  Are we really that wired ?  Guess so ... the tiny gadget we used most recently had been buried in the camera box for years, but was worth its weight in gold when we had problems inside our mast.  We really needed an endoscope ....

Endoscopes R Us

While re-building our mast we managed to get a halyard really neatly wrapped around the radar cable inside the mast.  To make matters worse, that same halyard also managed to jam itself under a conduit fastener (so we thought) further down inside the rig.  So now we couldn't move it anywhere, and we were not going to cut that radar cable - or the halyard.  We needed to see what was going on.


Out came two flat scrubbing brushes, a long plastic pole, one 9 volt battery, one fluorescent work light and one tiny radio transmitting mini pin-hole video camera.  Gaffer taped together, they slid gently into the mast - the brushes ensured smooth travel over pop rivets, bolts and miscellaneous obstructions inside the mast. Just like an endoscope, but up the mast instead of up the - well you get the idea..

It worked perfectly - with the wireless receiver sitting just outside the mast base we viewed the problem on another Sony camera screen - we could see the halyard wedged in between 2 conduits!  Knowledge is power, and it only took another few minutes then to solve the problem.  In the image at right  you can see Neil's finger pointing to the tiny camera, taped to the end of the blue plastic pole.

We then enlisted a few more hands to turn over the mast again, conduits facing upwards, and re-installed all the halyards (again), this time without any jams.  We lost a days work, but saved a heap of cash - that little gadget finally paid for itself.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

The Painting Blues

Okay, we have been very slow in updating this blogsite - but right now we're wondering just where did June and July get to ? It seems we've been working even harder, with only occasional stops to smell the roses.

The Painting Blues

After deciding to re-paint our decks, the painting crew faced many challenges right through May, June & July. The rainy season arrived early, high temperatures, strong winds and high humidity all contributed to repeated delays and failures as they repainted our deck.

But other issues were also lurking ...... contamination in the finish. The contractors (Pro Yachting) replaced the air lines, the compressor filters, the spray gun, insulated the tent lining and even brought in an air conditioner, but still no-one was happy with the paint finish. We went through the spray the paint on/sand the paint off cycle more times that any of us care to count.

The head painter (a Thai Buddhist) was so discouraged by all this that he decided to stop eating pork, on the basis that we were located on traditional Muslim land. Superstition runs deep over here.

In the end they purchased a new tin of paint - SUCCESS - really glossy paint on the deck, and no corruptions ! The painting team was so happy that after a really hard night celebrating, they all forgot to come to work the next day. No-one is sure how the original paint became contaminated, but it was an emotional and expensive time for all.

Visas & Birthdays Every three months we need to renew our Thai visas, which can only be done outside of Thailand (go figure) - so in June we flew to Penang to celebrate our birthdays and renew our tourist visas.

Visiting Penang is like going home for us - its like putting on an old (well worn) coat. We rent a motor scooter and ride everywhere, enjoying breakfast in Little India and lunches in our favourite Chinese vegetarian restaurant, where lunch is self-serve from fifty plus trays of delicious curries and mixed vegetables, with "chicken", "beef", "prawns" and "eggs". There are many of these Buddhist vegetarian restaurants in Penang and all the protein served there is made from tofu.

Penang must be the greatest food city in the world - sorry Singapore ! So many choices - and we shared Yum Cha with Bruce and Audrey from SV Envy. Neil chose dinner from trolleys stacked high with bamboo baskets of dim sum - translucent rice pastries filled with scallops, prawns, pork and vegetables.

If you would like to see where our favourite eating places are in Penang, click here.

Downsizing Way back in March we imagined that our boat would be near completion by the end of June, so we found new tenants for the house we were living in. Wrong move ....

Of course Crystal Blues was not ready by the move out date, so we had to downsize from a house with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and garage to a very small one bedroom apartment plus a four metre square storage shed, both located close to Crystal Blues here at Boat Lagoon, Phuket.

In typical fashion, our Thai friends all helped out with the move - "Aon" loaned shelving for the shed and a desk for the apartment, whilst "Ai" stored a pile of clothing and the barbeque in her spare room. "Kaew" fed us countless times during those frantic weeks - its the local people that make Thailand so special.

Recycling As part of our re-fit we replaced the genoa furler and some rigging, plus the pushpit and pulpit railings.

Gradually our stockpile of old stainless steel and aluminium built up.

Neil eventually cut all the metal into smaller bits, loaded up the back of the truck and we went out to haggle with the local junk yards. The dealers here are pretty tough - they use super strong magnets to asses everything you offer them - the small amount of residual magnetism in our old rigging wire was enough for them to say it was not stainless - sure was news to me. We tried several places but they all played the same game - in the end we managed to dine out for a few nights on the proceeds.

Our boat work is now proceeding at a great pace, and we can see the changes every single day. The freezer box had been re-installed, the mast is almost completely rebuilt and another two days will see the reconstruction of the forward hold completed. We're also still juggling our time between the boat and our video work, which we'll tell you about in the next instalment.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

The quote above (from Matthew 6) provides food for the soul, however real bread is more than soul food - in all it's varieties it has provided sustenance and joy for generations. As you can see at right, the kids at the Longhouse Rumah Lidam in Sarawak sure enjoy it.

Shortly after we bought Crystal Blues, Ley (having read mountains of cruising books), decided that bread making was a must-have boat skill. Back home in Williamstown she had access to a great range of the Simply No Knead bread making products - so, armed with bread flour, black bread tins, yeast, bread improver and the bread making bible, she started baking.

Ten years later that skill is providing great bread for our table, and is also a valuable social tool, allowing us to share a craft that is creative, beautiful and downright tasty with friends and acquaintances.

Wherever we travel, people want to know how to make real bread - not the sugary fluffy preserved stuff served up by many modern bakeries. So bread baking lessons have become a regular occurrence aboard Crystal Blues, and more recently ashore here in Thailand. At right (above) is 18 year old Charlotte Harris Neeve, obviously pleased with her new skill, baking on board last year.

This past year, Ley has taught our Thai neighbour Kaew to bake (top left), along with Filipino friend Maryanne (at left), who is housekeeper to our friends the Stonhams in Singapore. More recently it was Maryon from SV Nimbus II who tackled the task and ended up looking very happy !

For the real bread recipe that everyone seems to love, click here.

Haven't got an oven ? Too hot on board for baking ? Then try this recipe for English Muffins (or bread rolls) cooked easily in a pan on the stove top - just click here. And if you really love your pizza (like we do) you can have fun with our favourite piza recipe - we've even cooked these on the BBQ - just click here. Links for all these can also be found in the recipes section in the column at right.

Friday, 29 May 2009

From Little Things, Big Things Grow

Crystal Blues pre fit-out in NZ
Back in 1980's, New Zealander Murray Yeoman dreamed of a yacht that would take him to Antarctica. Murray turned that dream into reality, launching Crystal Blues (then called Aslam II) in Auckland early in 1988. We're very glad he did.

Inside Crystal Blues pre fit-out
The hull and deck were professionally built at Greenhithe, then shipped to Murray's home where the fitout was completed by a shipwright Murray hired from Ireland. She was designed by fellow New Zealander Dennis Ganley, who had made a specialty of metal yacht design (Dennis was tragically killed in a car accident the year we purchased Crystal Blues). We tracked Murray down in Auckland in 1998, and he kindly provided photographs of the construction (above and at left). He also spent a weekend sailing on Sydney Harbour with us a couple of years later, and had some great stories to tell.

Our connection to those early days in the boat's history became a little stronger this year. During this refit we demolished the lining of the forward hold, where we found a tiny pine cone wedged in the steel frames up forward. This is clearly a blow-in from the trees in Murray's front yard. Though banged about and marked a little by primer and high-build paint, it sits safely on the desk beside me as I write these words, a tiny link with the past. Besides entering Australia illegally on many occasions, that pine cone has travelled to some wondrous places !

Just a few weeks ago we shared a lunch table with a recently arrived cruising couple, at the local Thai cafe. An hour or so later they were crawling over Crystal Blues with some joy - the world is a very small place. Our new friends are Garth and Janine Ganley. Garth, brother to the yacht's designer Dennis, had sailed to Phuket in another of his brother's designs, a Tara 39. That's Garth and Janine (on the right) with us in the image at right.

So, for the past few weeks I've been trying to track down Murray Yeoman, without much success - if you know where he is, I have a tiny little pine cone I'd like to send him.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Borneo / Sarawak Cruising Information

We're still planning to visit Borneo this year, but for those who will undoubtedly be there before us, some of this news may assist.

New Check-In Procedures in Kuching

Anchoring at Santubong is always a delight, it is a very special and beautiful place (that's Samsara II in the anchorage in the image at right). However in the past the check-in procedures were always a little daunting.

I'm pleased to say that things have improved, with the Harbour Master now re-located to a building on the new Express Wharf, right where the high speed ferries berth. Unfortunately it is on the other side of the port boundary fence from the Immigration office, but it is a lot more convenient than before! To help with Check-In, Ian Robertson of SY Kumang in Kuching, has updated the procedures document for visiting yachts.

You can download the guide here, or from the Borneo Cruising Information area, lower down in the right hand column of this site. Of course if you're travelling as one of the rally boats to Borneo this year you probably won't need the guide, but then you also won't see the Santubong at its most peaceful .... I just can't imagine 40 boats anchoring in that place. The very shy and rare Irrawady Dolphin can usually be seen there, which leads me to our next story....

Dolphins In Sarawak Waters

There is a UNIMAS team doing a survey of Dolphins in Sarawak coastal waters. Ian Robertson has been in contact with the survey team and offered the services of passing yachts as dolphin spotters. Ian says the more people we can get involved the better. Nothing too strenuous just note down when / where / numbers / species etc. If possible with photos, then relax having put in a hard day's spotting for a good cause!

Information about the survey and response forms are available here. There are both online and downloadable forms for recording details.

Borneo Cruising Resources List - Updated

Over the last month we've updated and re-loaded all the major Asian marine resource directories that can be downloaded from this blogsite (check the right hand column).

If you have an earlier version of the Borneo list, or haven't seen it yet, you can get the new one by clicking here. Remember these are .pdf files, and are designed to be searched to find the resource you're chasing. If you type say "heat exchanger" into the search query box, the Adobe software will pop up with all the service options we've found and included. All of the updated guides, country by country, can be downloaded from the table in the right hand column of
this blog.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Go Backwards To Go Forwards - Refit Week 34

Rugby is a football code where going backwards, away from the goal, is an accepted part of play. Despite the glossy hull and newly applied signwriting, this week our boat refit feels like rugby. "Bum" & "On" our painters from Pro Yachting, have started power-sanding off the brand new non-skid deck paint.

Two weeks ago Ley & I started re-installing the deck fittings and the new railings on Crystal Blues. Whilst screwing down all those turning blocks, jammers and line organisers we noticed a few defects in the new grey paint areas - and another defect in the white non-skid. It turns out that a thunderstorm moved through the area not long after the grey paint was applied. The winds blew dust onto some areas of the paint, whilst the moisture in the air caused the gloss to diminish. After discussing the situation with Jill & Pro they made the logical decision - to sand it off and start again. This was a fairly serious decision - linear polyurethane paint is wildly expensive.

However Pro has shown his dedication to quality by taking the hard road this time. So the guys started, initially hand sanding the grey with 400 grit and then power sanding the non-skid. What a job .... we expect they'll respray the grey sometime next week, and the non-skid a week later. Looks like we spend another few weeks in "paradise" .....

Yat lining out the forward hold
Meanwhile, work continues on other parts of the refit, where I've completed the overhaul and re-build of our steering system. This involved new bearings and sleeving for the bronze axle in the binnacle, plus a new sprocket, chain and wire. Ley is now working on the paint trim for our deck hatches, whilst I'm completing the priming and finishing in the machinery space and lazarette. "Yat", a carpenter from Pro Yachting, is almost finished re-lining the forward hold and locker area. Next week we'll start putting fittings and rigging back onto the mast & boom, whilst Yat will move into the galley to re-install our freezer and galley cabinets.

Holidays In Paradise

This is the hottest month of the year in Phuket. After starting work at 8.00am we're usually dripping by lunchtime and very glad to spend most afternoons at home, compiling and editing video for our "other life" (see the story here). The impressive website for Private Homes & Villas has now been launched (click here to link), so all 25 of our Bali villa videos can now be viewed online, along with the first few samples from Koh Samui. Next month we'll be filming more properties here in Phuket.

Our good friend Danny Kildare, a pro photographer from Sydney, stayed with us for almost two weeks last month. I worked with Danny years back, and he hasn't changed a bit. Still food crazy and an expert on fine wines. It was inevitable that he'd love the local food, but be disappointed with the ice we liberally add to our wine - both white and red. Its a Thai thing ....

Also staying with us this month was Robert Goh, a sailing friend and mountaineer from Singapore. Robert was in town to scout locations for his wedding to Elaine, later this year.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Now Its All Crystal Clear .....

Forgive the play on words, but our new video enterprise finally has a name - Crystal Clear Video. OK, its not even registered yet and it doesn't have a website, but we are churning through some work, and may even pay for some of the refit to Crystal Blues here in Thailand.

We're recording everything in a very high quality, high definition digital format - our new camera has taken a while to get used to but is proving its worth. We do all the post production, video editing, titling and sound mixing on a Hewlett Packard notebook computer, linked to 4.5TB (terabytes) of online network storage (still working out where I'm going to mount all that when we move back onto the boat). The video files are huge - it takes 30 minutes to simply load a project from one disk to another, across the network.

So far everything has been working smoothly, and we've completed production on 23 of the 25 short video films we recorded in Bali. We've uploaded some of these to the YouTube video service, so now you can see some of the early edits (though at much reduced quality). Thanks to Jon Stonham (whom many of you will know from SV Tui Tai), CEO of Private Homes and Villas, for permission to post these.

My favourite place was Villa Pushpapuri, in Sanur Bali - watch that video here. The very modern villa style can be seen at Villa Asante, close to the famous Echo Beach in Canggu, Bali - watch that video here.

For those interested in the technicalities, the original video was recorded at 1440x1080i PAL format, and the files uploaded to YouTube were 720x576p PAL format. I absolutely promise to film some sailing video as soon as I can, hopefully to make this dry topic a little more interesting to our world of cruising friends. You can also expect some nice images to come out of Borneo this year. We just have to get the boat put back together ....... in the interim we leave Phuket today for two weeks in Koh Samui, filming nine more villas there.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

The Brightest Star - Ali van Os

Ali van Os, the daughter of Lex Silvester and Joanne van Os, died last week, five days after receiving terrible injuries in a tragic marina accident. Lex, Joanne and Ali had anchored their yacht SV Malaika (website here) at Chalong Bay in Phuket. We had planned to share dinner with the family when the accident occurred, and were shocked when Lex called to tell us that Ali had been hurt.

Whilst visiting friends at Yacht Haven Marina, Ali went to watch the berthing of a large (50 metre) super yacht - the motor yacht MY JeMaSa (image below). I've been told that the JeMaSa berthed perfectly, and was stationary with all lines firmed up on the dock when the accident occurred. Apparently the master had berthed the vessel using remote controls on a wing bridge on port side. After berthing he left the wing bridge, however the engines were not shut down. A crew member then came along to replace the weather cover on the controls and pushed the throttles forward as was required to fit the covers (!). It apparently took some time for the engines to surge to maximum revolutions, during which time the onlookers on the dock were desperately trying to raise the attention of the crew on the vessel. As the tension increased people started to move away - someone tried to warn young Ali but the cleat on the dock failed first, releasing the loop in a heavy spring line that whipped past Ali and threw her many metres along the dock. Other people were also injured, with one man suffering a broken leg.

Despite the best efforts of local doctors and emergency services, Ali never recovered consciousness. After exhaustive medical testing, her family and consulting doctors turned off life support five days later. Ali's organs were donated via the Thailand Red Cross, and we know that one 15 year old girl who was close to death now has a new heart- and what a great heart it is ! Ali was one of the world's enthusiasts - a very bright star. She loved what she did, and tackled life head on with great enthusiasm. You always knew when Ali was in the room. As her mother Joanne observed, she was doing what she loved.

Since the accident Joanne and Lex have received many messages from friends, and some from people they didn't know - people that Ali had befriended in towns, anchorages and marinas over recent months. She was unforgettable.

Ali was cremated yesterday after a beautiful Buddhist ceremony at Wat Rattiwanaram here in Phuket. Some of her ashes were spread on the Andaman Sea today, and the remainder are heading home with her family tomorrow, for a further ceremony in Darwin, Australia. The owner and crew of MY JeMaSa, and the local agents Seal Superyachts, have been incredibly supportive since the accident, arranging medical services, travel and accommodation for the family and completing all the funeral arrangements.

For more information on this tragic accident, see the Sailing Anarchy web site, the Northern Territory News and The Australian newspaper.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Refit Week 25 - Glossy Paint At Last !

The team here at Pro Yachting are doing a very good job .... despite myriad delays (all caused by us) they remain focussed on the main game, which is to put a high quality paint system on the outside of Crystal Blues.

It took five guys almost a full week clean and mask the deck before they applied the Grey deck paint - an incredibly detailed masking job, with every square inch of the deck either primed and cleaned (ready to paint) or covered with tape and garish pink (but effective) vinyl flooring. After the grey was sprayed they settled down to cleaning and masking over all of it again, for the application of the white non-skid surfaces (see the photos). The new non-skid paint is really grippy, quite a change from the ineffective surface we've lived with for ten years.

This week the deck was completed, and they'll now move onto the topsides of the hull (above the waterline), which are primed and waiting. Then they have the mast and boom, plus all the hatch covers and loose fittings to paint. However by the end of this week we should have access to the boat again, and will be able to start replacing all the deck fittings and fitting out the forward hold. Onwards & upwards ...

Bush Fire Commentary

People here in Phuket often ask us about the terrible bushfires that have ravaged our home state, and taken so many lives. For many it is difficult to comprehend how a fire disaster of this magnitude can occur. The Age newspaper (who provided the amazing little images at right) has an excellent site devoted to the fires - you can access it here, and we've now added two impressive files to our public storage site that say it all. Bushfire Images is a compact .pdf file containing a powerful collection of photographs. Written by an acknowledged fire expert, Anatomy Of A Firestorm is a fascinating and detailed news story on how seasonal climate, geography and localised weather conditions combined to set the disaster in train.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Recipes From The Squiggly Line

You just never know where life will lead. Twelve months ago I had no idea that I'd be back working this year. Never the less Ley and I were surprised when good friends Jacqueline and Malcolm Holt of SV Aeolus XC announced they were selling the boat and returning to Canada. We had met them on Sydney Harbour many years ago, and shared many strange (and wonderful) experiences in Australia and Asia.

Not ones to muck around, they made the life change happen in rapid time, then set about building new careers and a new home on beautiful Vancouver Island. Then Jacqui announced that she'd written a book (in her spare time no doubt), which was duly published. "Recipes From The Squiggly Line" is a cruising, cooking and recipe memoir, in which Jackie shares food reminiscences, recipes and travel memoirs from her nine years and 25,000 miles afloat.

From personal experience I know what a fantastic cook she is, and we were thrilled to see one of Ley's recipes included in the book. Check it out on their new website here.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Refit Week 23 - Life After Sand Blasting

We're very glad that's over - for 15 days my world consisted of a hand held light, a small sand blasting gun and a tangle of airhoses. Hooded and fully clothed I worked in a confined, noisy darkness, constantly bruising myself and getting smothered in grit. Ley sat on deck, controlling the sand flow. She was sitting next to a huge (& noisy) extractor fan, staring into a vortex of sand and making sure the sand supply was working. For her it was both mind and bottom numbing - over 40 bags of sand went into the hold, and then were shovelled out again.

Now we have to finish the painting - we already have two coats of Jotamastic 87 epoxy on everything in the hold, applied with a small 1" brush, making sure we get in and around all the frames and stringers, without missing any small areas. Of course we hand sanded between each coat. The next three coats will be sprayed - I bought a mini spray gun this week and our contractor Pro-Yachting has no shortage of compressors.

Back at home, our house guests Jon & Pam Choate, SV Tweed, were a great help in keeping us fed, watered and (reasonably) sane. We celebrated Pam's 60th Birthday with a big night out at Nai Yang Seafood.

Then it ended - for the first day of no blasting or grinding we walked around the house in a daze, really feeling like lost sheep. Normality returned, and Ley has settled down to varnishing our cockpit table, bread making and turning out a great batch of Green Mango Chutney (get the recipe here, or from the download panel in the right hand colum). She also finished servicing and re-building our big primary winches. I've started editing and compiling the video from our Bali travels last year.

My bruises are slowly fading, I have a very painful trigger finger and Ley never wants to look into a bag of sand again! We both agree that this project was the toughest job we have ever tackled on Crystal Blues. With us (finally) out of the way, Pro yachting have sprayed the final primer coats onto Crystal Blues hull and deck, and are now doing the final sanding and masking. Their attention to detail is amazing - lucky for us as both Neil and Pro are very fussy! We expect the AwlGrip gloss top coats to be sprayed over the next two weeks.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Refit Week 19 - Nothing Ever Goes To Plan

After a slow recovery from Dengue Fever we celebrated Christmas with cruising friends at Nai Harn Bay here in Phuket. Then our good friends Jon and Pam Choate brought SV Tweed onto the hardstand here at Boat Lagoon, and we had house guests. We all spent New Year's Eve aboard SV Taipan at Panwa Bali Bay, with Chris and David, plus Chris's parents Edna and Colin. It turns out that Chris's mother's maiden name was Langford, so she and I spent hours searching for family links. From that very calm anchorage the midnight fireworks and floating lanterns were brilliant.

Pro Yachting, our painting contractor, was closed for 10 days over the New Year break, so Ley and I caught up on painting projects inside the boat. Ley completed painting all the saloon lockers and lids, using 2 pack polyurethane inside and out, and they now look spectacular. Meanwhile I finished blasting and priming in the aft machinery space, where the heat from welding had blown the paint off the inside of the metal. Then I moved to the forward hold and chain locker, expecting to do some more touch up work.

Unfortunately I found some decent corrosion sites where salt water had come into the boat, before we fixed all the leaks during our last refit 8 years ago. I first cut out some small inspection panels in the lining of the hold, and then decided the strip out the entire thing. The carpenters from Pro Yachting ripped it out in 3 days, and then I spent a whole week angle grinding all the dirty bits and cleaning off as much paint as I could. This was VERY MESSY work, and I resorted to using our Powerdive hooka (an underwater breathing system) to supply breathing air. Try chewing on a diving regulator for 7 days straight - your gums and teeth get really sore.

Then, for the last 8 days, we've been sand blasting all the frames, stringers and adjacent hull areas, taking it back to that lovely dull grey colour before priming with 2 coats of Jotun Jotamastic 87. The team at Pro Yachting have been kind enough to provide all the compressed air we need, and they've obtained over 40 (!) bags of sand for us to throw at the steel. Each day the guys lift 5 fresh bags onto the deck and then shovel out the 5 bags of sand sitting in the bottom of the hold from the day before .... then I dispappear into the hold, which is now fitted with a mega extraction fan and disappear under full covers. With a small hand held fluoresscent light I can see what I'm doing, and so we start. Ley keeps the suction tube clear and sand feeding to the gun - she pulses the power to my light to communicate in primitive code. After 4 hours we stop, clean and vacuum the surfaces, then paint. Another 5 days will see us complete, then we'll spray a third coat overall and put the lining back in.

I had planned to be editing video for all of January, whilst the painting team finished the deck preparation. Of course that hasn't happened, and I now have a backlog of editing to get into as soon as we finish the priming. We're looking forward to some clean work for the next month or so, and the video will fit the bill perfectly.

Thanks to all the people who've emailed, called and even visited the yard to see how we are going. Between the Dengue Fever and the steelwork our web updates have had to take a back seat, and some folks were worried about us. We do appreciate your concern - fact is we are both fit and well, and several kilograms lighter.