Sunday, 20 October 2013

Tacking - Changing Direction Again

The Great Escape

Two months ago we thought our long standing love affair with Asia was about to end.  Crystal Blues and her crew were aching to go to sea.  Systems were in sensational order, the cellar was full, cupboards stocked with food and the freezer and refrigerator crammed with delicacies for a four month plus passage to South Africa. We dreamed of long distance sailing, anchoring in beautiful Cocos Keeling and then passage making to La Reunion via Rodriguez and Mauritius.

What Happened?

Neil was offered a decent 10 month contract with the client he had been part time consulting for in Manila.  Then Ley's son called with the news that he and his family were being transferred to Shanghai/Singapore for 2 years, from November 1.  With a new grand baby due later in November, Nana's help would be appreciated.  As Ley's mother is also turning 90 in December, we knew that we also wanted to be back in Williamstown to celebrate this wonderful achievement, so we decided to take the hint and stay put in Asia for another year.

We always said the hardest part of moving on to South Africa was leaving Asia.....looks like we have proven ourselves right.  So Crystal Blues is now berthed in Nongsa Point (Batam), a short ferry ride from Singapore. Neil is working a cycle of 2 weeks in Manila and 1 week on the boat, with Ley now joining him in Manila frequently.  We have a great apartment and car, provided by the client, and are just starting our exploration of yet another country.  South Africa will have to wait another year.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Dangerous Liferaft Servicing

Early this year we broke our own "boat rules" and could well have paid the penalty with our lives.

The Only Time We Want To Be Inside The Raft.
Our number one rule is to try to service and maintain every item on the boat ourselves.  Our number two rule is to always work alongside and supervise any contractor working on the boat.  

We broke both rules when we sent away our DSB / Secumar life raft for servicing in Bangkok. The last time the raft was serviced, in Singapore, we had watched the entire operation.

This time, under pressure to complete our refit,  we shipped the raft to be "serviced" by MSC, Marine Survitec Company near Bangkok.  What a dangerous and expensive mistake.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

The Foul Story - Barnacles, Ultrasonics & The Facts From Cousin Glen

Some weeks back I wrote (here) of the difficulties we had experienced with barnacles fouling the sea water inlets on Crystal Blues in estuarine waters.

Keen to find a solution, we started to investigate the new ultrasonic antifouling systems - these use a low power transducer attached to the hull, constantly exciting the hull with acoustic energy which (we are told) prevents algae and barnacle growth.  One leading manufacturer, Ultrasonic Antifouling Ltd., claimed that preventing algae growth also prevented barnacles, because the barnacles fed on the algae. I was somewhat suspicious of this claim -  I just didn't see how barnacles (which never move) could effectively feed on the algae on the hull.  See the story here, on their promotional email.

Cousin Glen at Wilson's Promontory, Victoria
So we turned to cousin Glen Burns, our oracle on all things related to marine biology.  His informative and generally hilarious response is presented here :

" answer to your question, barnacles do NOT rely on the slime/algae growing on the (hull) surface, they are (as you suggest) filter feeders. They don't actually suck water into the body as clams, oysters (ie bivalves) do. Barnacles are actually arthropods not molluscs, so they have legs like crabs. Their legs are hairy and  modified into filter feeding appendages. They open their shell and reach out with their hairy legs to "sweep" any organic particles in to their mouths. You can watch them do this... if you have the patience to sit and watch a barnacle. Who said marine biology wasn't exciting!  Lots of particulate organic matter in estuaries and harbours means lots of food for barnacles and therefore a pain in the bum for boaties, constantly trying to keep the little critters from fouling hulls, intakes etc.

Searching For A Mate - Scary
So what do you do about it? Antifouling paint, either toxic or ablative obviously works on the outside. Scrape them off, dig them out, regularly replace bits...there is no easy answer. I'd be really interested to hear how the ultrasonic system works. What's that saying about "Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a pathway to your door"...I reckon the same goes for barnacles...come up with a cheap, easy, environmentally friendly solution and boaties everywhere will be on bended knees in thanks!!    By the way, just another tidbit of information for you re barnacles. Being arthropods they practice internal fertilization. 

Now, being cemented to the substrate,  barnacles obviously can't get up and go looking for a mate so the penis is actually capable of extending out and over to neighbouring barnacles to facilitate insemination.  Which means that if you're a barnacle, size really does matter!  The further you can reach with your penis the more individuals you can mate with and thus pass on your genetic information to the next generation. Which is why the humble barnacle has the longest penis (relative to its body size) of any animal on the planet! Depending on the species,  the penis may be 10 times the individuals body length. So Ley, thanks goodness Neil isn't a barnacle or you'd be dealing with a schlong nearly 20 metres long!!"

Thanks Glen ... I think.  Maybe too much information.   Anyway, I have noticed that the "algae is barnacle food" claim is not repeated on the company website.  Equally, the product may work really well, even if we don't really know exactly why.  So we'll probably try it soon - stay posted, and please feel free to add your comments or opinions to this post.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Things That Work For Us # 4 - Caribe C10x RIB Dinghy

Taking our Iban friends for a fast ride on Sungai Tulai, Sarawak
Explaining our cruising lifestyle to land lubbers, we say that we do own a "car", it just happens to travel on water!  We drive the dinghy to the shops, out for dinner and visiting friends.  With the Tohatsu 18hp engine we travel quite long distances, exploring rivers, coastline and small islands where we cannot take Crystal Blues.  Our first experience with inflatable boats was an almost-new PVC Zodiac that came with the boat. It self destructed quickly, slowly deflating daily.  At a boat show in Los Angeles we spotted the Caribe boats, built in Venezuela, and ordered one for delivery to Sydney in 1999.  It had proper Hypalon tubes and a double skin fibreglass hull.  We loved the dry and fast ride it gave us - fitted with lights and extra fuel tanks that boat covered thousands of miles.

Arriving For School On Sungai Tulai - Children From The Longhouse Rumah Lidam
 As my friend Jim Cate would say, it was always "ridden hard and put away wet", but it never complained.

On the rivers in Sarawak (Borneo) it worked incredibly hard for years, and I do remember 12 children (and more) being delivered to "school" on Crystal Blues on most days, for weeks on end.

We patched it when necessary, had canvas covers made in Thailand to protect the tubes, and it served us faithfully for 14 years.  Hats off and congratulations to Caribe.

This year it started to need more frequent care, and we found ourselves applying frequent patches - the Hypalon fabric was failing at last.  Contemplating a new dinghy was daunting.

A Cracked Anchor & Fake Rocna's

Cracking Up!
Planning an ocean crossing, early this year we sent our Bruce anchor and chain to Bangkok to be galvanised.  Tick another job off the list we thought ...... wrong.

Whilst the chain came back looking shiny and new, our anchor came back showing a significant crack above one of the flukes. The Bruce has been great, 15 years of sterling service for us and 8 years on the boat prior to that.  This crack was not evident before it was galvanised - but better to discover it now than when it inevitably fails under load.  Click on the photo at right for an enlarged view of the crack.

So the search was on for a new anchor.  After the usual wasted days of reading and research, we decided to buy a galvanised 33kg Rocna anchor.  It has a number of advantages over the Bruce and other more traditional anchors, including greater holding power, the roll bar for instant setting and it is self lauinching.  

Is It Fake Or Is It Real ?

Rocna anchors are readily available in Phuket, but we just couldn't work out which was an illegal copy and which anchor was the real thing.  We spoke with many resellers and came away more confused.....did a real Rocna have impressed lettering or raised lettering - we saw both types.  Each dealer claimed to have the real Rocna, and warned about fakes every where else.  With rumours everywhere, we found even the Rocna website warned of copies, and the variance in pricing was quite remarkable.

So we contacted the Rocna head office in Canada, first by email and then on the telephone, to clarify the situation.  How could we pick the fakes ?

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Ugly Raw Water Blockages - A Fouling Story

We're spending quite a bit of time in marinas these last few months, as I'm doing some contract work and Admiral Ley needs a safe home while I'm away from the boat.  

This means that our sea water cooled refrigeration and airconditioning systems are running frequently in estuarine waters with a very high fouling capability.

Coming from a relatively cold water background (Melbourne, Australia) I'm still amazed at how quickly an anchor, or chain, or in this case a raw water inlet, can become completely fouled by marine growth in these warm water areas.  The image at right shows the problem - the hose tail at left is almost closed with barnacles, and the hose tail at right has a decent oyster growing - just what we don't want.  
When we look at the hose, the situation is obviously worse. Large clusters of barnacles and yet another oyster are almost completely blocking the inlet hose.  Note this is 1.5" (40mm) hose, that feeds a manifold with multiple outlets for refrigeration, air conditioning, deck wash, genset etc.

To counter the problem we now place a chlorine tablet in our raw water strainer every other day, when we're in a marina.  We use standard swimming pool chlorine tablets, that dissolve in just a few minutes after placement.  These do a great job of stopping the growth from the strainer basket onwards.

Special Note :  You MUST NOT use chlorine tablets on a seawater inlet that feeds your R.O. water maker - it will destroy the membrane(s) !

Chlorine tablets also clean up the hoses really well,  but they can't help with the hose and fittings that are in the line before the strainer.  So now we replace that hose every twelve months - a half day boat project that keeps the systems running and my back and shoulders in fine trim (its a b**g*r to get at), and my knuckles suitably skinned.  Boat jobs.

Along the west  Malaysian coast, from Singapore to Langkawi and northwards into Thailand, this type of fouling is all to common.  In Kuah Harbour (Langkawi), the long term cruisers know that you must lift your anchor chain by 4 or 5 meters one day, and then lower it back again the next day, in a never ending alternating sequence, to stop the aggressive growth there from fouling the chain that is between the water surface and the muddy bottom.  This really does work, though nothing will stop the change to the chain galvanising caused by the very special mud in Langkawi.  But that's another story.....

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Singapore Straits - Sailing From Malaysia to Indonesia

The Brightly Colored "Lego Barge" Came Over The Horizon This Afternoon - At 2 Knots
We departed Puteri Harbour in Johor, Malaysia at 11.00am this morning, and arrived at Nongsa Point in Batam, Indonesia, at 6.00pm this evening.   Its only 47 nautical miles by sea, but a world apart in many ways.  Our AIS target identification system was kind of busy - over 2000 targets (vessels) tracked in a single day must be some kind of record.  

Our Track Is The Black Line, With Destination Nongsa Point At Lower Right
You can get a very sore neck trying to keep track of all those ships from the cockpit.

Right now, from our berth in the marina we can identify over 420 discrete vessels in the Singapore Straits, all individually identified and tracked on the plotting system.  

The straits are very busy, and we find the AIS system essential for safe navigation here (see our AIS technology primers Part1, Part2 and Part3 for background).

Puteri Harbour had very few visitors, and lacks any useful services except fuel supply, though it is safe, clean and inexpensive.  But I've never been in a marina that was so ....... soul less.

When the wind came up we managed to sail for just two hours today, roughly a quarter of the 8 hour voyage, which is about average for this part of the world.  But the sailing was a delight, a reminder of why we chose this life style.

Here at Nongsa Point the welcome and atmosphere are completely different to Puteri Harbour.  Staff are more competent and confident, and there are active sailors and cruisers on many of the boats here.  The place has a nice buzz about it, with sail training yachts and dive charters moving about the harbour.  The attached resort provides a pool, bar and meals, and the local ferry terminal has regular services to Singapore.  We're impressed.  We'll be here for a few weeks whilst we prepare for the next phase of our cruising life.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Things That Work For Us # 3 - The Powerdive Hookah

Did Somebody Lose Something ?  Malacca Straits Midnight Dive
As cruising  sailors we are definitely not professional divers, but we do enjoy the underwater world.  

More importantly, we often also need to work under the boat for cleaning, maintenance and clearance jobs, when bad stuff happens.  Which it does ...

That rope I'm holding at left caught around our propeller in the Mallaca Straits back in 2006.  Not surprisingly it stopped the drive train and the Cummins engine in a flash.  

Drifting powerless at night, in a busy sea lane, is not our idea of fun, but we were able to clear the propeller and get underway again in quick time, using the Powerdive system.

Hull Cleaning Is Much Easier With Endless Air
Basically its a simple 12 volt powered compressor that provides low pressure air, via a hose, to a regulator worn by the swimmer.  It's incredibly easy to use, and we've had great success introducing people to the underwater world using the Powerdive.  The fact that they are tethered to the boat by the hose is a positive thing ....  even beginners feel comfortable.  The Powerdive compressor also keeps people at shallow depths - go beyond about 5 meters and it just won't pump air to you - so you tend to come up again !

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Cruising Buddies

Selecting dim sum at a local cafe in Penang
Mike and Sue Powell, good friends from Australia and long time cruisers, visited Crystal Blues in June.  They have sailed the Pacific for the past 17 plus years on SV Yaraandoo II, a well proven Naut 40. After meeting first in 1998 we shared many anchorages in Pittwater and along the Australian coast for the next 7 years.

We parted ways in 2005, us to Asia, Mike and Sue later on to circumnavigate the Pacific, via New Zealand, Hawaii, Canada, USA, Mexico and back to Australia.  Our love our Asia tempted them to fly over for a visit.
Showering on the back deck after under water cleaning

 After first visiting friends in Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Mike and Sue flew to Penang.  For 8 days we explored temples and feasted on local food from our base at Straits Quay Marina.  We also managed a road trip to the cooler Cameron Highlands on mainland Malaysia.  We left the marina for a couple of days to test the new Northern Lights genset under cruising conditions anchoring overnight behind Pulau Jerajak on the south east side of Penang Island - an excellent anchorage that is close to a major shopping mall.

During the day Mike gave Neil a hand by diving on the hull, giving it a clean whilst Neil used the hooka to clean the propeller.  Unfortunately the scraggy long tail "killer" jelly fish were swarming around the boat so the boat scrubbing was quickly curtailed.  Neil escaped, though Mike was not so lucky, with one long sting across his foot.  The joys of working on a boat in exotic locations.

Crystal Blues and crew are now in Puteri Harbour, Johor, Malaysia.  We're very close to Singapore, but missing the fine food and culture of Penang.

And for testing purposes only, here is a link from other cruising buddies Rolf & Irene in South Africa.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Penang To Johor Baru - Heading South

We departed Straits Quay Marina in Penang at 07.30 Sunday morning, motoring south through a sticky haze.

Day One - The Fishing God Speaks

Penang wasn't going to let us go easily though - after 2 hours of travel we pulled up with a fishing net caught on the skeg.  So into the water I went, once again the little Powerdive Hookah system earned its keep. Less than six inches of visibility, but I found the net had caught on the skeg, so the clearance was simple enough. 

By noon we had cleared the inshore nets and traps and were at 05deg 09.38 North and 100deg 12.84 East.  

We're testing the new Delorme inReach satellite communicator on this passage, so you should be able to track our movement by selecting the "Where Are We" tab at the top of this page, and clicking on the link provided.

Late afternoon the south westerly has "freshened" to 15 knots, despite a local forecast of 5 to 10 knots.  We plowed on (literally) through lumpy and confused seas, with a lot of water over the deck.  Beating to windward in the Malacca Straits is a very frustrating exercise - up to 2.5 knots of adverse current means that at times we seemed to be going backwards.   We settled in for a longer than usual trip.

Day Two - The Weather God Shouts ......

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Northern Lights - Reliable Onboard Power At Last

If you follow this blog you'll already know that early this year our Onan generator died, with a frustrating control board fault.   We decided to ditch it, as it was probably the most unreliable piece of kit onboard. A month later it had been removed, and sold.  Amazing.
We selected a Northern Lights unit to replace the Onan, though pricing in Thailand was steep.   Looking further afield we found we could save 15% by buying in Singapore, or even Australia.  Then we contacted the reseller in Taiwan and received an even better quotation, for delivery into Penang, Malaysia.  

So we sent the money, they shipped the generator.  We arranged for trans-shipping to Langkawi in Malaysia and craned it on board without any duty or tax. Brilliant.  

Sunday, 16 June 2013

When Stainless Steel Isn't

On any sea going boat corrosion is a constant companion, but a dangerous one.  Like a sore tooth, it will flare up sometimes with no warning.  We use grade 316 stainless steel fasteners whenever we can, to reduce the impact of corrosion, however every now and then we are reminded how even the 316 has its problems - namely crevice corrosion.

When removing the old Onan generator a while back, we found one bolt head sheared completely (a real knuckle skinner !) as it was loosened. On bolts like this the thread is usually roll formed, while the head is forged, a process called "rolling and heading". Its a cold formed process, and it can clearly lead to problems, specially if sea water collects where the metal is deformed and stressed.  316L stainless steel in an oxygen deprived environment can and will corrode.  Fortunately this bolt didn't cost a lot to replace, but in the past we've had to replace an entire propeller shaft due to crevice corrosion.

The Hidden Cost Of Piracy

The Admiral is busy planning our crossing of the Indian Ocean as I write this - she's counting and calculating everything from courtesy flags to bread flour, from tissue boxes to lube oil, so we have plenty of provisions on board.  But it's the southern Indian Ocean we're looking at, not the easier northern route that would have lead us through the Red Sea to the Med.  Piracy is still a real problem in the northern areas, so we need to head south and travel via the Cape Of Good Hope into the southern Atlantic. That's an extra 5000 miles of sailing to reach Gibraltar.

MV Sea Bird Fitting Slings For Loading
For others, the option of shipping the boat to the Med is proving attractive.  Many yachts travel as deck cargo on ships, transiting the piracy zone quickly and in relative safety at 20 knots or so.  Our good friends Steve and Carol on MV Sea Bird shipped to Turkey back in March on-board the transport ship MV Thorco Svendborg, and are now enjoying the delights of the Turkish coast.  Rates for shipping from Phuket to Turkey start at around US$1,000.00 per foot, and this year there were three ships loading yachts and motor vessels in Phuket for the trip west.  It is big business, and it is a hidden cost of piracy.  Five thousand miles or fifty thousand dollars ?

Sea Bird Lifting
Ley (the Admiral) and I have spent several years here in Asia, hoping the piracy would diminish - but it is not safe yet.  Some are saying there hasn't been a yacht taken in the past year, but then again no yachtsman with any common sense would enter the northern Indian Ocean or the Arabian Sea at the moment.  Further, the military folks charged with policing the "bad zone" are saying that yachts are more at risk right now, because the shipping is better protected and the pirates are looking for targets of opportunity.  See the information provided by the Ocean Cruising Club here.
Sea Bird Joins The Cargo On Deck

Consequently, this year around 40 boats sail from Asia via the Cape and South Africa, commiting to that extra 5000 nautical miles.  We estimate another 50 or so will book places aboard the several ships that are offering to carry smaller vessels through the troubled area.

What ever path you choose, it is now costing much more to travel from Asia to Europe and beyond.

Information on the voyage of  Sea Bird is on their blog here.

For more information you should review the information provided by the Ocean Cruising Club.  That page also includes a number of other useful links, plus details of some shipping schedules for next year.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Penang - Its All About The Food

We arrived in Penang just over two weeks ago, with plans to complete our new generator installation before moving on south towards Singapore.  Here we found our good friends Dana and Susan onboard Villa-G.  A few days later Larry and Peggy arrived on Blue Star, so the gang was complete.

Food, Glorious Food

There are many reasons to visit Penang, stunning Buddhists temples to photograph, a cable car to ride, Botanic Gardens, World Heritage restored buildings, art galleries and many cultural events and religious celebrations....but for us, Penang is all about food.

The crews of Villa G and Blue Star enjoying the flavours of Penang.               

Indian roti canai and mango lassi or fluffy, soft pau filled with char sew pork for breakfast, Indian Biryani platter for lunch topped off with dim sum for dinner?  Then there is our favourite Buddhist vegetarian lunch stalls and the fabulous seafood from the Shade Tree Restaurant on Weld Quay and ever so much more.

If you would like to visit any of our favourite local restaurants click here to download our Georgetown food map.

Tanjong City Marina
Sad remnants of Tanjong City Marina

Over the past seven years we have spent quite a bit of time exploring Penang.  For us, the demise of the Tanjong City Marina is a very sad affair. This marina was within walking distance of Little India and China Town, covering many of our favourite restaurants and the old buildings that have made Penang a World Heritage Town.

The marina started to deteriorate just after it was built in 2005.  Through lack of maintenance, storms and ferry wash all that remains today are a few poles and a walkway that leads to the murky, muddy shallows....though there is talk that it will be rebuilt!

Straits Quay Marina

Crystal Blues along side the service dock and sea wall at Straits Quay
Fortunately for cruisers a new marina in Penang has been built, with a solid sea-wall protecting the 40 floating pontoon berths. Straits Quay Marina is professionally run by John and his magnificent team.

The berths, power supply, amenities and cruiser's room are managed on world best practice for marinas, so don't miss visiting here, though you certainly need to book ahead as spare berths are very scarce.

There is a large shopping mall with Tesco as its main tenant, and access to public transport all within walking distance, it is a delight to stay here.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Welcome Home To Yacht Haven - Animal Farm

Fish, Lizards, Snakes & Rats

After four weeks away it was good for both Ley and I to be back on board.  It had been a stressful month.  We arrived home to find rat poop on the deck, so the marina provided rat traps and bait, and sure enough we caught the culprits by the nearest rubbish bins (one reason many marinas don't provide bins on the docks).

As usual the propeller, shaft and thru-hulls needed cleaning.  The shellfish growth here is incredibly fast - it took 2 hours to scrape clean the propeller and shaft, which had last been cleaned only 12 weeks before.

Crystal Blues has a single large (1.5") thru-hull that delivers sea water to several services, including the water cooled refrigeration and the air conditioning system.  The constant flow of warm, nutrient filled water means we also need to clean the intake pipe and hoses quite regularly.  It doesn't seem to be a problem in cooler climates and clear water, but here in the warm silty water at Yacht Haven the little devils grow thick and fast.

Whilst cleaning I had constant company from a growing school of beautiful tropical fish, all chomping on the growth I was removing.

What I didn't see (until later) is that there are larger creatures in the water here, like our friend at left.  This water monitor was resting on our fenders yesterday, oblivious to us watching through the port-light from our navigation station.

Last night the critter was even bigger - we stopped and watched a 3 meter reticulated python cross the road at the marina entrance and disappear into the trees above our pathway home. 

What next ?   If only we could get the lizard to eat the shell fish and the snake to eat the rats for us .... but lets not go there, we've had three snakes on board Crystal Blues over the years, and three is enough.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Vale Ray Worrall, 1921 - 2013

My father in law Ray Worrall passed away on April 16th. That's him in the yellow jacket, sailing aboard Shamrock back in 2006. 

He loved boats, loved sailing, and really loved his fishing.  Ray was a glorious man who helped others and gave endlessly.  In his retirement he eventually worked part time in the workshop at my business, where he was best mates with my father Dean, and a friend to all our team.  Ray encouraged us to always do the best job, never to accept second rate, and to value our own work and contributions.  He brightened our lives at work.

Ray treated me like a son from day one, and welcomed me into his family.  It is a privilege to have shared in his life.  Neil.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Whitby Harbour - Living Sailing History

The River Esk, Whitby Harbour
In Whitby, the locals say there are three ways of doing things - the right way, the wrong way, and the Whitby way.  The latter way seems to be enthusiastic, friendly, and sailing mad !

Whitby Yacht Club Pontoon
Captain James Cook earned his apprenticeship here in Whitby, serving on a range of vessels in his early sailing life.  Cook's later voyages of discovery were remarkable, including the charting of the eastern Australian coast.  His early masters residence is now the Captain Cook Museum in Whitby, and it was this connection that brought the traveling Langford clan to North Yorkshire.

Whitby Yacht Club View
My father Dean was keen to see the port and the museum, so on we came. Whitby Yacht Club (who have the best harbour view in town) gave us a very warm welcome, as did the friendly Port Controller and marina staff.  This place is tailor made for sailors - and for fisherman. We enjoyed their hospitality.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Sailing Tradition

 Peter & I In The Model Room
In London for a family reunion, I'm staying at the Royal Thames Yacht Club.

The club house is located in Knightsbridge, adjacent to Hyde Park, and is full of history. 

Among the many canon, flags, trophies and paintings that decorate the club, the main bar has a large half-model of Australia II, Alan Bond's revolutionary Americas Cup winner.  

Of course today is the 30th Anniversary of that great victory.

My father Dean, sister Julie and brother Peter have also made the trip, a chance for the Langford clan to visit with distant relatives in England & Wales. Ley has stayed with Crystal Blues in Phuket. Today we move on to Cambridge and beyond.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Super Yacht Neighbourhood

There go the neighbours - at 213 feet (65 meters) Callisto is an incredibly beautiful motor yacht.  Built in 2006 by Feadship in Holland, she cruises at 15 knots, driven by dual Caterpillar engines totalling 4000 horse power,  and carries 128,000 litres of fuel.  Sixteen crew keep the guests happy and the vessel on course.

Its all very different to the way Crystal Blues functions, but I think we're fairly comfortable just the same.  Callisto was berthed right adjacent to us on "A Dock" here at Yacht Haven Marina.

At over 1,300 tons she dwarfed our mere 22 tons, but she did keep us shaded for several hours each morning.

She kindly shut down her port side generator for us, so we wouldn't have to live with the noise.  Hats off to the Callisto crew, who also offered assistance and tools when we were removing our Onan generator.  From our Rogue Wave wifi bridge I could count eight (8) wi-fi hot spots onboard Callisto, with 3 dedicated just to the audiovisual systems - my sort of boat !  On departure she pushed out from the berth sideways, against a 1.5 knot tide, with absolutely no effort.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

The Cruising Life At Yacht Haven Marina

The Admiral Is An Expert Painter

After four months of cruising we berthed at Yacht Haven Marina two weeks ago and immediately started preparations for our next voyage.  One big job was the removal of the old generator, but (as always) there are many on the work list.

We've cleaned and refreshed the hull paint where the old generator was, and we're now working on the support base and fuel tank for the new generator.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Paper Navigation Charts - A Disappearing Story

With The Admiral away in Singapore on a visa run, I was tasked with reviewing our huge collection of paper charts, and disposing of those we don't need to carry.  However, as I sorted through the first of many chart packs, I had a real panic attack - how could we get rid of these ?  They're a treasure trove of information.

For me, they're also an instant connection to the past, rightfully carrying the names of often famous cartographers and navigators.  Many of these charts are beautiful works of art - the land mass is carefully drawn, shaded and defined, not just filled with a color wash as we see on our modern electronic systems.

Onboard Crystal Blues we keep a paper log and an electronic log, so we have a trail of position fixes available if needed.  For years we've told ourselves that if the electronics died we'd transfer those position fixes to paper charts and work from there with conventional navigation tools.  But would we really ?

Examine the images at right, then compare them with the old paper chart image at the top of this screen - its the same area - there is so much more information readily available in the modern electronic systems.

Fact is that we have have four full functional electronic chart systems on board - two computers that run Transas Navigator and Open CPN software, plus two iPads running Navionics HD and various other charting or mapping apps.  How much redundancy do we need ?  What could cause all four of those systems to fail at the same time ? Nothing short of a nuclear holocaust or perhaps a major meteor strike I think.

So, should we continue to carry around hundreds and hundreds of paper charts, most of which are inevitably out of date and not corrected ?

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Things That Work For Us # 2 - The Rogue Wave WiFi

Almost a year ago we wrote about the Rogue Wave - a WiFi bridge built for cruising sailors (read that story here). At the time our only issue was the chrome plated antenna base, which looked pretty tacky after six months of salt air.

Some months later Randy from Land and Sea WiFi wrote to us saying the Rogue Wave was now shipping with a new stainless steel base.  He promptly sent a unit to us for testing, which has now been installed for over six months and still looks perfect.

Randy  also pointed out that a "pro" version of the Rogue Wave is now available, with a complete stainless steel body.  So now there are two models .... I'll be buying the stainless steel unit next time.

Here at Yacht Haven marina in Phuket the Rogue Wave is giving us amazing connection speeds.   Our friend Dana Fowlkes from SV Villa G reported that at Boat Lagoon marina, where connectivity is ALWAYS flaky, adding a Rogue Wave to his system clearly improved the stability and the connection speeds.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Just Cruising - The Boat Shack At Ko Phayam

Cruising Sailors Enjoy The View At Ko Phayam.  The Crew Includes Fellow OCC Members Gordon & Helen MacKenzie (Mantra of Glasgow),  Aussie Cruisers Mark Ainscough & Cathy Charlick (Catch A Star) And Our Newly Minted First Mate, Ray Pitt.    Photo By Jan Pitt
It did take us seven years to discover the place, for which we are kicking ourselves, but this year we've spent seven weeks at Ko Phayam.  The island is beautiful, the people are friendly and the pace of life is oh-so laid back.  No cars, no AC power distribution, but lots of small independent resorts right on the beach with basic facilities and great food. 
Tony & Pen - Photo By Mark Ainscough

Then of course there is The Boat Shack, a dreamy thatch roofed pavilion right on the beach in Buffalo Bay - the northern bay on the western side of the island.  Its run by Tony, an expatriate Aussie, and Pen his wife of over 30 years.  They've traveled widely together but settled on Ko Phayam 20 years ago.  Now they run a small guest house plus The Boat Shack, from where they rent out paddle boards, small boats, wind surfers etc.

Tony and Pen welcome cruising sailors to the island, providing local knowledge, advice and logistical support with many of the things that cruisers need. I should add that Pen is a mean cook and her Thai food is delicious.

As long term cruisers, its the people we meet who make a difference in our lives - thanks Tony and Pen for treating us as old friends - you're special people.

For Buffalo Bay & Boat Shack location & details, read on.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

No Tears Were Shed For The Onan MDK-AU

This morning at 8.30am we finished the job.  The Onan is gone.  Local mechanic Graeme Eaton arrived with a chain hoist and simple scaffold arrangement.  It lifted straight out, then we slid it down on to the dock using our timber barge board plank.

AME picked it up at 2.00pm and it disappeared on the back of a motorcycle sidecar.  Good riddance.
If you type Onan into the search field on this page you'll see why no tears were shed.  We promise not to mention it again.

Eventually we'll talk about the unit that will replace it, but that's another story.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Fish Traps In Paradise

A common hazard in Thai coastal waters, fish traps create differing reactions among cruisers in the region.
Onboard Crystal Blues we work hard to avoid them, though it is common to be sitting in the cockpit and see one slide past only a metre away.  Oops.

The flags are often poorly maintained and they can be very hard to see subject to daylight conditions. Of course at night we have no chance, so our coastal navigation is almost always in daylight.

The dark fish trap flag in the photo above, a good boat length from Crystal Blues, is easy to see against the sky, but difficult against the darker water.  We pass many hundreds of these in a coastal day sail, and they are prolific north of Phuket, between Ban Thap Lamu and the Myanmar border.  One sailor I spoke to says he has given up worrying about them - he just ignores them.  Others I know have spent frustrating hours hooked up to traps, working to clear lines from rudders, skegs and propellers.  We value our paint job, so we do everything we can to avoid them.