Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Power To Live

Eco Friendly Power
Here we are at anchor, with the new solar panels and wind generator putting amps into the boat systems.  Just as well, because our house batteries are DEAD, having lasted exactly 4 years and 7 months.  They were Trojan AGM batteries, admittedly not too expensive, but they didn't last very long. Our first AGM batteries, made by Lifeline, lasted 8 years....

Fortunately the sun is shining and the wind is blowing in beautiful Nai Harn Bay, so the wind generator and the Kyrocera solar panels are earning their keep. Life is fairly normal, electrically speaking, during the day.

However night time is a different story.  After the evening genset run to chill down the refrigeration system we turn into amp-misers, turning off everything that we can.  Fortunately the anchor light and cockpit lighting use low current LED lamps, and the Fusion sound system draws very little.  But other creature comforts (like fans) are banned.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Sailing at Last

Phagna Bay Sailing
We went sailing last Sunday - what a joy.  There was no destination in mind, just wherever the wind would take us.

It had been 9 months since we last hoisted sail, so the thought of silently moving through the water was enough to get us all motivated early that morning.

Neil and Ray checking out the sails
Ley and Ray raised the anchor, washed off the sticky sausage of mud that coated the chain, secured the anchor and then slowly we got ready to sail.  Oops the wrong sheet was tied to the genoa in our dash to splash, so that was taken care of.

Then the wind started to blow, sucking us towards a storm front in Phagna Bay - we gladly took what it offered.

Flying towards the storm front

Flat water sailing at 8 knots on our first sail since March, good company, what more could we ask for.  All systems working, we raced towards the storm enjoying the exhilaration.

The wind increased as the storm grew. Then it started to rain over the northen end of the bay so we tacked about and headed home, back to Koh Yao Yai.  By the time we entered the anchorage the wind had died, leaving us a sweet memory of our first sail this season.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Life on the Hook

Koh Yao Yai beach - not busy at all
We escaped from Boat Lagoon in Phuket last Friday, and Koh Yao Yai is a lot more exotic than the boatyard and hardstand ...

The jungle grows right down to the sand along the gracefully curving beach of Yao Yai.  The water is warm and aquamarine, gently rocking Crystal Blues.  A low key resort on the beach welcomes cruisers, with both meals and massages at reasonable prices.  This is a big island, predominantly Muslim, very friendly and peaceful.  We're anchored in 7 metres of water over sand and the beach is accessible at all times as there is no fringing reef.  Perfect !

Repairing the vacuum
All is good until the vacuum cleaner decides to stop working and the dinghy pump refuses to pump.  Nothing else to do but repair the broken bits.  Well,  we have to do something constructive, can't lounge around reading books in the cockpit all day, that would be slothful.

Placing the modular units of the water maker
So once again we are in work mode, after a brief day of R&R.  Next job is  planning the new reverse osmosis water maker installation - all the parts are laid out and then we place all the modular pieces exactly where we plan to install them.  We even take a photo to record the placement.  This time we're installing an ECHOTec water maker, manufactured in Trinidad.  Our 10 year old Schenker unit from Italy had given us good service for a few years, then it became problematic and unreliable.  We contacted Schenker direct to send the 12 volt energy recovery pump back to Italy for a service, but their reply was not what we wanted to hear, "we'll send you the parts, you can fix it". This attitude and the lack of a local dealer in Asia pushed us into junking the unit.

So we now have an ECHOTec 390 AML.  It is not fancy, a manually operated unit that is built strong and sturdy using "off the shelf" components.  Yes we'll miss the automatic functions of the Schenker, but we won't miss the foibles and problems.  Before we ordered the ECHOTec we spoke to many cruisers, read the online testimonials and then dealt directly with the man who makes them.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

She Floats !

We hauled Crystal Blues out of the water back in March, here at Boat Lagoon in Phuket. We initially intended a short stay on the hard, but this eventually turned into a larger commitment to refurbish the hull inside, in areas we had not previously touched.  Doing that refit work now, here in Thailand, was easier and less expensive than tackling it elsewhere in the world in future years - and we have great local resources here in Phuket.
Floating At Last, image by Dana Fowlkes

So the refit has been extensive (again), and Crystal Blues is better than new in many areas - certainly the hull, rig, machinery and electrics are far far better than they were when we initially moved aboard. In the seven months here we've tackled an awful lot of projects, discovered new ways of working and even found parts of the boat we'd never seen before.

If you're "into boats" you can check the partial job list at the end of the story.  In that same seven months we've managed two visits to Australia, a northern Thailand holiday and Neil has spent many weeks working in India.

On November 1 we re-launched - and what a great feeling it is to be floating again.  The travel lift picked us up at 8.30am and Crystal Blues spent an hour hanging "in slings" whilst we touched up the anti-fouling paint under the keel. By 9.30am the procession to the water began, and we splashed around 10.00am, an hour or so before high tide.  We spent the next 30 minutes checking for leaks in areas we had serviced, before giving the yard crew the all clear to remove the slings and move the machinery away.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Black and White

Today was all about black(antifoul) and white (sails).  We had applied antifouling paint back in May when we thought we were ready to relaunch, but this was not to be.

Our aft and forward bilges demanded some intensive attention, so here we are now "reactivating" our antifoul 5 months later.

Crystal Blues has been painted with Jotun Sea Force 90 for many years now.  We are very pleased with is performance as we usually manage at least two years of good protection between haulouts.  Following advice from Jotun Thailand, we pressured washed the hull and applied one additional coat of antifoul paint to reactivate the underlying coats.  Anodes will be bolted on tomorrow, we are almost ready!

Both of us ended up being splattered with antifoul and we provided much entertainment to the Thai workers around us......we don't think they have seen "farangs" antifouling their own boat here at Boat Lagoon!

Removing the Black

We have really enjoyed the life in Asia for over 7 years, but our sails have suffered as they are continually exposed to the black pollution streaks left by each rain shower - specially in Singapore.

Over the past two days Ley has been gently pressure washing the sails and then scrubbing them with Blue Dynamo laundry detergent.  Our sails, constructed from Dimension Polyant Hydra-Net are still in fabulous condition after 8 years - and with this cleaning became white again.  Today we enlisted help to lift the mainsail from the hardstand back on the boat - thanks Villa G, Blue Star and Sea Bunny.

When the wind dropped at the end of the day we fitted the Antal batten cars to the mast track then dropped the sail into the boom bag.

Three days to splash down!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Neck and Neck in the Patches Stakes

Boat Marooned, at Boat Lagoon, Phuket.
Six days till splash down!

Our bilge refurbishment is done and dusted.  Systems are rapidly being re-instated and commissioned, cupboards cleaned and filled, and sails being washed.

So much is going on, we resorted to creating a daily job list so that not too many things slip under the radar......

Finishing Touches

While the systems are being completed inside, everything outside is also being finished.  We have a great local team the hull polishing the hull and deck, and the hull is receiving its final coats of paint on the new steel sections.  We're taking bets if the patches on Neil's work shorts will survive to complete the refit - repairing them has become a weekly ceremony -  but they only have to last until Tuesday, and then they can be trashed !
Crystal Blues has red and yellow patches ....... Neil's shorts have a camel theme going!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Time Out Chiang Rai

Sunset over the padi, Northern Thailand

A few weeks back we decided to take a break from our refit work on Crystal Blues.  The last few months have been a hard slog and, although we are not quite finished, we can see water at the end of the tunnel.

Fortunately Neil was invited to a Kramer Technology Conference in Chiang Mai for three days, so we decided to add on a few more days and explore Thailand's Golden Triangle.

We collected a rental car and drove north from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai.  We were impressed with the infrastructure the Thai government has put in place here.  The roads, signage and telecommunications are excellent.  Navigating with Google maps via the iPad, we were never lost, even though we usually well off the beaten tourist track doing our own exploring. Click here to see our travel photos.

Beautiful Chiang Rai
Wat Phra Kaeo, Chiang Rai

Chaing Rai is our kind of town - great food and very friendly locals, all surrounded by interesting history and wonderful scenery.

Wat Phra Kaeo is just one of the many beautiful temples in Chiang Rai.  It is over two hundred years old and has a fascinating history, with the discovery of a beautiful 5th Century  Jade Buddha that was masked in clay to disguise its beauty and value.

Making friends in a Hill tribe Village
We drove for miles each day, exploring Chinese villages, tea plantations and so many stunningly beautiful temples. The mountainous terrain and fertile river valleys were lush with emerald green padi and golden tasseled corn. Every square inch of farming land was cultivated, even road side verges are planted with swaying tall corn.

Driving off the beaten track we saw the Hillside tribes, some dressed in their traditional clothing, farming their new cash crops of padi, tea, coffee and corn, which have replaced opium.

Walking through the villages, chatting and watching the children play gave a small glimpse into their lifestyle.


The Kramer Technology Conference in Chiang Mai whizzed by with a series of tech presentations, product launches and fun evenings.  It was good to be there too !

We headed back to to Phuket after 8 days away - our mini break was over and we had more refit work ahead of us.

Monday, 6 August 2012

The Birds

A Welcome Bird Visitor.
Our Thai carpenter Nhoon, brought his baby parrot, Goldie to Crystal Blues when he was installing the new cupboard bases.

Many men bring their pet birds to work in Phuket. Mostly they are carried by motor cycle in bamboo cages, covered in blue silk.  The cage is usually hung up around the work area where the birds sing and socialise.

Goldie decided to spend his visit on Ley's shoulders, happily perched there while the jig-saw was nosily cutting away.  Ley climbed up and down the ladder, mixed paint and he only squawked at us (unhappily) when we put him back in his cage.

Dragging The Birds Nest From The Boom
During the past week we noticed a pair of Indian Myna birds hovering around our bimini.....and twice Ley saw one fly out of the boom.  As we don't plan on staying here for too much longer we thought it was better to put a halt to their nesting plans.

Armed with Ley's fishing gaff hook and a torch Neil sat on the bimini top and peered down the boom.  He then fished out a mess of twigs, leaves and plastic nesting materials.

The two Mynas perched in the rigging, squawked loudly at us then flew off.  Their eviction was permanent as we taped over the aft end of the boom and sail bag. 

The Crystal Blues zoo has now been visited by 3 snakes, a ring tailed possum, a water dragon and 2 Indian Mynas.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Welding Day

Grinding sparks
Yesterday we closed the hole in the aft bilge.  We prepared the area very well, wrapping all cables and hoses, sealing all holes with masking and gaffa tape and covering all our new paint work with core flute sheets, and damp towels.  The team arrived from Luck Engineering and the fun started.

We should add here that Ley finds this work quite stressful, whilst I enjoy it !  I love improving the boat and I guess I'm not so concerned about the process itself - it is just welding and grinding.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Monsoon Madness

The daily flash flood on the hardstand.
It is monsoon time here in Phuket and it is pouring!  With the high tides flowing back up through the drains, the hardstand here at Boat Lagoon has often been flooded.

Often we climb down the ladder from the deck and have to wade through ankle deep water.

So much water flows across the land that we've seen quite large fish swimming across the dock yard - life is never boring here.

Just What Are They Doing?
Crystal Blues Gymnastics
Okay I guess many are wondering just what we are doing..... delving into the bowels of Crystal Blues requires a lot of effort.

Working upside down with power tools, then sandblasting, cleaning up and painting.....not so easy.

We hope never to have to revisit these areas again - except to inspect and admire their glorious clean whiteness.

With A Little Luck....
Welding in the starboard plate
Luck Engineering are a very fine marine engineering company based in Phuket, and they're our favourite contractor right now.

The first new plate was welded in a few weeks back. We are almost ready to have the second plate welded in place and Crystal Blues will be whole again.

The forward bilge is also begging our attention, so we are still a little while away from launching. Messing around in boats, getting bruised, dirty and covered in paint, what fun!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Having A Blast Of A Time

Marine Archeology

Crystal Blues was built in New Zealand over 20 years ago.  Along the way she's had four caretakers, who have all stamped their personalities on her with complex and often challenging refits.

Right now, we're cleaning up some of the mistakes of the past caretakers (and the original builder).  We're making sure that bilges do actually drain properly, and that limber holes exist to carry water away - where ever it comes from !

Most of our work is in the aft bilge area.  Access to this area was non-existant previously, so we cut the base out of cupboards and wardrobes to get to the hull.  What we saw we didn't like.  So Luck Engineering came down and cut two holes in our hull - it almost broke Ley's heart to do this!

For the past two weeks we've been grinding, cleaning, sandblasting and finessing with our trusty Dremel.   Sand blasting really is a dirty word - you can see the proof in Neil's face after a session with the sand blasting gun, a few bags of grit and a powerful compressor. With it all cleaned up we've started re-coating with Jotun paints, and the team from Luck have re-instated the starboard side already.

Affirmative Action

Seeing that our aft bilge created this problem, we decided to remove it and change the way the the lazarette would drain.  We had to drill new drain holes in the steel tank wall and re-plumb that area. This lead to us removing our aft Turtle Pac fresh water bladders and a whole lot more.

We are still on the hard stand, still with one hole in the hull but we are making progress.  Plan is to do it  properly and never revisit this space again.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Sailing 101

Sailing is all about Teamwork.    Last week Neil was an invited guest speaker at Space Matrix management conference in Singapore.  His topic was the power of teamwork, using Sailing as the example.  Sailing 101 is the title - what a buzz. The event was held at One Degree 15 Marina Club, our old home in Singapore.

While introducing sailing skills he challenged the audience with knot tying skills - and the results were hilarious.  How many architects does it take to tie a bowline ?  Actually quite a few got it right !

Of course our cruising anecdotes became vivid examples of teamwork in action, and the one hour presentation concluded with a marina tour.  The audience were able to inspect the classic cruising boat SV Sunrise (thanks to Robert Goh) and the hot shot racer Yoo Zoo (thanks Ludde Ingvalls) before admiring motor yacht MV Blue Steel (thanks Rod Steel).  25 people from Singapore, India, Thailand and Dubai had a hell of a time, and the party after the conference wasn't bad either.  Need a team oriented motivational talk ?  Call us !

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Wi-Fi Onboard

Staying connected to the internet is important these days, and most cruising sailors have exactly the same needs as their land locked brothers.  We all want web access and email, and then there are Facebook & Twitter, online shopping, video downloads, chart updates etc etc.

Some years back we wrote about a simple hi-power Wi-Fi transceiver that worked well onboard Crystal Blues, but things have now changed.

Rogue Wave Wi-Fi Transceiver
There is a new kid on the block - the Rogue Wave from Wave WiFi - and it is a significant improvement over previous technologies for those who live on boats (or RV's, camper vans, etc).  We learned about the unit on the great Panbo website, but have only recently purchased and installed, once we had committed to leaving Singapore.

Using this thing is a revolution - imagine turning on the wi-fi connection and finding more than 50 hotspots to chose from (thats not going to happen everywhere, but you get my drift ...).  Or imagine connecting reliably to your favourite hotspot from more than 3 kilometres away ....while the boat is swinging at anchor, with no fancy directional antennas or complexity. Finally, think about one transceiver providing internet to all your on-board devices - from notebook PC's to iPads, smart phones and internet TV's. That's the promise, and (mostly) the reality delivered by the Rogue Wave.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Boat Marooned Again

To me, it only seems like yesterday that we were on the hardstand at Boat Maroon, oops Boat Lagoon, in Phuket Thailand.  We had great "welcome home" from the marina staff and all the locals, from supermarket checkout chicks to Mumma, our favourite lunch time chef.   Even the yard sweeper welcomed us back in her halting Thainglish!

In reality there were 28 months between our launch and our haul out a few weeks back. A lot of water has passed under our keel during this time and along the way we started an underwater farm on the propeller.

So now we're "hauled out on the hard", lavishing Crystal Blues with loads of TLC and hard yakka, lubricated with rivers of sweat. We have had a start-stop-start-stop time on the hard.  Start - the hull is wet sanded down.  Stop - our contractor is too busy, so we start on painting the starboard side of the saloon ourselves.  Stop -  back home to Williamstown for a quick family visit. Start - finish painting the saloon.  Stop - our contractor is still too busy to work on the hull.  We will get there .....

Chasing Our Tails?

Ley is teaching H how to play the drums on the iPad.          The boys enjoying french fries from McDonalds
Our Melbourne visit was hectic, charged with emotion and filled with family joy.  Ley's father's sudden heart attack and subsequent hospitalization caused us all a bit of worry, but a week later Dad emerged from the hospital feeling better than he had for the last 12 months.

Our gorgeous grandson, Harrison kept us all on our toes.  With his help we shifted yards of soil, built storage shelves and a work bench, baked bread, cooked for family dinners and enjoyed special early morning cuddles and Shaun the Sheep videos on YouTube.  Neil then flew to Dallas, via Singapore, Tokyo and Chicago for a specialist conference with AMX.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Our contractor finally turned up yesterday. Armed with our trusty Dremel we attended to five tiny little painted areas that required a little warranty work. He managed to get two coats of epoxy paint on the work areas and then the sky opened up. At sunset it was all fine again, so another coat of Jotamastic 87 was applied.  Hope someone turns up tomorrow?

 It appears that the monsoon is changing now, a little early.  The wind is prevailing westerly, and gusting to 20 knots at times.  If it moderates we'll anti-foul the boat next week.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

The Lushlife

Last December, long time friends Ray and Jan Pitt flew from Australia for a ten day break in Phuket.  It was their first visit to the island and they must have liked the place, because they came back again in January.  This time they stayed for a month, exploring Phuket by themselves and then joining us onboard Crystal Blues for a slow sail down to Langkawi.

What Happened to our Guest Cabin?

Over the past 2 years our back cabin has become "the shed", loaded with boat projects.  Four solar panels,  20 metres of fabric for new shade covers, various other parts, Neil's Indonesian drum, his guitar and lots more.  So we moved the goodies off the boat to our Thai girlfriend's house (thank you Kaew and Brian), so that Ray and Jan had a cabin to themselves.  They had a few days to get their "sea-legs" in the comfort of the marina, then we provisioned, Neil arrived, and we cleared out.  Let the fun begin!

Saturday, 31 March 2012

!ncredible !ndia - The Golden Triangle

Our January visit to India finished with a whistle-stop tour of the Golden Triangle in Rajashtan. We travelled by rail, air and road between the three points of the triangle - Delhi, Jaipur & Agra - and we did come away with a different view of India.  Frankly, we love it even more.  Our travels culminated with a visit to the majestic Taj Mahal, in Agra, and we have to start our story there....

The Taj Mahal

Waking just before dawn, we walked through the foggy back streets of Agra to the Western Entrance Gate of the Taj Mahal, among the first visitors to arrive, silently queuing for our tickets.  Men and women queued separately, quiet and subdued, waiting for the daybreak gate opening.  Security is tight, and all visitors were searched extensively before entry.  Still dark, we entered through a forecourt providing glimpses of the Taj through the arched entrance.  The Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal Emporer, Shan Jahan,  and is a beautiful white marble mausoleum to the memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal.

We've all heard of this wonder, and sometimes you expect a lifetime of hype to over-shadow reality.  Here, this is not the case.  The Taj is sensational.

Monday, 26 March 2012

All Things Change

Regular readers will notice the change in appearance of these pages.  We loved the look and feel of the old style, but have been forced to update so we can use some of the new Blogger features.

First up you will notice that there are tabs near the top of the page, that provide direct acces to some of the information most frequently searched on this blog.   Secondly we can now use the "Read more..." function to mask additional text and images on lengthy stories.

Please let us know if anything can't be read or is not functional, we'll be working on more updates and improvements soon.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

!ncredible !ndia - Goa

Calangute Beach at sunset, where we dined each evening - very nice.
Neil's Consulting work for Space Matrix takes him to India for two weeks every month. Occasionally Ley travels with him and on the free weekends we get to explore. Our last visit together saw us traveling along the south west coast.

Going to Goa 

Goa is a magical, mystical place, its variety and appeal to all travelers is extremely powerful.  With its beautiful beaches, sunsets, feral back packers, aging hippies and Portuguese old world charm. It is really hard not to relax and chill out here.

After breakfast on the beach, we walked into the main street and hired a motor bike to do a little local exploring.  Armed with Google maps in the iPhone, dressed for the beach, we headed off.  The only request was that we wear a helmet if we ride on the "big" road.  We discovered beautiful sapphire blue bays, gorgeous rain forest gullies, local villages with old men sitting around drinking cups of chai, a sunburst of beautiful sari clad women and dusky children playing naked along the roads.  We also saw a lot of very chilled out old hippies, either riding "Harley" type bikes or wandering around the small villages and of course back packers of all ages.  But overwhelmingly was the number of Indian tourists here.

 It was a wonderful day, riding around with the wind in our hair, something we would never do in any other country in the world...Goa really gets into your soul!

Monday, 5 March 2012

How Time Flies

Christmas, New Year and now it is March.  What happened in between?

Holiday Time
Nai Harn Bay in Phuket is one of our favourite anchorages - many cruisers gather here to celebrate Christmas.  We partied at the beach-side cafe at Ao Sane Beach on Christmas Eve and sat down to a long and sumptuous lunch on the aft deck of MV Mandella 11 on Christmas day.  With us were the crews from SV Sandy, Catchastar and Sea Bunny and we enjoyed a fine traditional Christmas.  With strong trade winds and sunny skies we really felt like we were "cruising" again.

SV Sea Bunny and Crystal Blues motored away from the building trade winds to the quiet anchorage of Panwa Bali to see in the New Year.  Phuket really knows how to light up the sky on New Years Eve and we were blessed with a 240 degree panorama of fireworks.  We love watching the beautiful Thai lanterns that grace the sky and float on the wind over the colourful flashes and booms of the beach side fireworks.

Work Time
Neil at work
Neil's break was all too short as his clients, projects and the AV design team in India continued to work between Christmas and New Year.  Each day Neil would set up office in the cockpit, using Thailand's cheap, reliable internet access and tethering his laptop and iPad to the iPhone hotspot.  Conference calls, emails, budgets and design work carried on as usual, just in a very different setting.

Our Tohatsu outboard also chose this time to play up.  The engine was revving out and only put-putting around slowly.  Once we hoisted the engine up on our high tech work bench the problem was discovered.  The bush in the propeller was sheared and a replacement propeller was found in our spare parts stores and fitted.  No more put-putting, we were back to zooming!

Turtle Time
Photo from Phuket Gazette
In early December a sick turtle was seen at Yacht Haven Marina.  Concerned cruisers called the Phuket Marine Biological Centre and an ambulance arrived to catch and deliver the ill Green Sea Turtle to the Centre, see the full story here.

A few weeks later it was announced over the local radio that the turtle had made a full recovery.  It's illness resulted from digesting a plastic bag, mistaking it for a jelly fish.  Jelly fish are abundant in these warm tropical waters and are a major food source for  the turtles.

Really, only here in Thailand would they send a regular human ambulance, to rescue a stranded turtle !  Its great being back here.