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.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

The Onan Genset Blues / 2812 Hours

Fault Code 41 - It's a slow blues in E, with a fat bass line and lots of open space between the notes.....those open spaces represent the quiet times when the generator doesn't work.  OK, so I'm really really cynical..... but the music stopped at 2812 hours, as you can see on the meter reading at left.

Onan MDK-AU Installed
10 years ago we bought a shiny new Onan generator, model MDK-AU, and (stupidly) paid to have someone else install it in the boat.  Whilst the installation problems were sorted out eventually, the inherent defects in the generator were beyond repair.  Just twelve months later the good folks at Cummins Power Generation (who had recently purchased Onan worldwide) agreed that we had a lemon and gave us a new unit !  To their enduring credit they paid for everything - berthing, labour, cranes, technicians etc.  So, nine years ago we started again with a new unit .... the only problem was this unit had most of the same problems the old unit did.  Last month it finally stopped producing power, again.  The great Kubota engine is willing, the alternator is willing, but the Onan control board is faulty.  Should we spend over A$2000.00 on a new control board ?  No way.  We decided it was time to say goodbye.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Sailing Is In The Family

NS38 Moneypenny On Port Philip Bay
I learned sailing from my father Dean, as did my brother Peter.  He sails his North Shore 38 Moneypenny from the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria, in Williamstown.  This great photograph was taken during Geelong Race Week over the Australia Day weekend.  Peter tells me the snazzy red hats let him find the crew in the bar after the racing ....

Friday, 8 March 2013

Things That Work For Us ..... Turtle-Pac Flexible Tanks

Whilst we aren't happy about the demise of our Onan genset (more on that in the future), we are rewarded when we see other systems that work as advertised .... and keep on working.  We're also pleased when we get great manufacturers support.

Turtle-Pac Water Deck Tank

Eleven years ago we installed four Turtle-Pac flexible water tanks inside our re-finished steel water tanks.  They're still going strong, and were recently expertly serviced by Turtle-Pac in Queensland.  In 2004 we added two more tanks for fresh water and in 2007 one more as a black-water waste tank.

We also have two deck tanks - one for fuel and one for water - of 200 litres each.   These are filled and tied down under the boom for long passages, then rolled up and stored away when not required.

That's First Mate Ray Pitt stowing away a 200 litre water tank at left.

They're very lightweight and easy to stow.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Double The Crew, Double The Fun

A couple of weeks back we were joined on board by good friends Ray & Jan Pitt, veteran Crystal Blues holiday sailors and determined thrill seekers. As you can see from this photograph, they're very comfortable onboard.

That is Ley and Jan at left, having fun at the Hippy Bar on Ko Phayam.

What a time we had - a week at beautiful Ko Phayam and then a slow cruise south to Phuket, including Ko Ra, Ban Tap Lamu and the Similan Islands.

Ray has become a great First Mate on Crystal Blues, whilst Jan continues to perfect her role as Galley Bitch Extrordinaire - when they're not sleeping of course. 

Check below for images from our cruise with Ray and Jan.