Monday, 13 October 2014

On Board USS Carl Vinson

We sail with just 2 crew most times, so it was amazing to visit a vessel with a ship's crew of 3000, plus another 3000 "passengers" being the various air wing teams deployed aboard.  That's 6000 people on a ship that is 1000' long, and displaces 192,900 tons. 

Crystal Blues neighbour at Keppel Bay Marina was a very smart Riviera power cruiser that is owned by the US embassy in Singapore. Commander Paul Harris Wilt runs the boat, whilst his real job is Assistant Naval Attache at the embassy. Paul invited us to a reception on board the carrier when the battle group berthed in Singapore. The USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) is the third United States Navy Nimitz class supercarrier and is named after Carl Vinson, a Congressman from Georgia, in recognition of his contributions to the US Navy.

Onboard, we moved through an honor guard into a massive aircraft hanger, dressed with flags, where the reception was held.  Military music, food and drinks of course, on an otherwise "dry" US Navy vessel. 

The real fun began after the speeches and formalities - we were invited to ride the aircraft lift up to the flight deck and inspect the various aircraft up there.  An amazing site, dozens of aircraft of many types, positively eerie on the darkened flight deck.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

We "Love" The Mallacca Straits

This was our eleventh Malacca Straits passage, and it turned out to be just like some of the others - a pain in the neck.  Keeping in mind that the boat hadn't been actively used for fifteen months, we started cautiously with a 40 mile passage from Singapore to Pulau Pisang.  A quiet night there was followed by a good 6 hours of sailing before the wind dropped and we started the Cummins diesel.  All systems were working fine and we spent some time on deck that day, completing the re-rigging - runners, preventers, down-haul and the like. The new Raymarine autopilot worked fine straight up and it was a joy to be at sea again.

With The Smoke Haze, It Felt This Black
That night things changed, with a decent 35 knot Sumatra (squall) coming in from the north west just after 21:00hrs.  It blew for a couple of hours and settled down gradually.  Our real issue was that I managed to receive a bad rope burn on the fingers of my left hand when releasing the traveler under pressure - substantial skin removed from two fingers and minor burning on the palm and others.  Yes it hurt like hell. After 52 years of sailing I felt like an amateur again - definitely out of practice.  We immersed it in ice water for 15 minutes, then cut away the loose bits, lathered it in Savlon and wrapped it (photo here if you're medically interested).  I have never been so glad to have good pain killers on board.  We call that Incident #1.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Bound For Penang, Smoky Haze

We departed Singapore this morning on schedule, clearing immigration just after noon and turning westward across the bottom of the island.  By 15:00hrs we should will be turning north west, up the Malacca Straits. 

The smoke haze from forest fires in Sumatra is very thick - visibility is down to about 3 or 4 miles.  The haze will clear as we head northwards, aiming to be in Penang by Thursday.  The past week was highlighted by a succession of send-off dinners with many friends, the final one was being last night aboard MV Alfa Nero (Robin & Dianna Enlund) at Kepple Marina.  Consequently we're a liitle slow today, but very happy to be at sea again.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Escaping Singapore

Crazy Curved Buildings At The Marina
That's us on the right, so keen to move, sitting here with our mainsail up in the marina. Only two days to go and we'll be away - north from Singapore to Penang, and then on to Langkawi for haul out and yard work.  

This will be our (count 'em) eleventh passage through the Malacca Straits.  Never again, we said last time....

Crystal Blues has been neglected for quite a while, so we're putting energy into cosmetic and systems work.  The mainsail has been bent onto the boom, tracks lubricated and sheets rove. Tomorrow we'll hoist and furl the staysail, and she'll be a sail boat again.  Ley has been busy stocking the freezer and pantry, while supporting me with the polishing, hull cleaning and the systems work. She's also been repairing damaged covers with the sewing machine we carry.

 We've hoisted the dinghy on deck for a thorough clean and minor patch job.  Still need to service the outboard engines, one more job. 

On the systems side, we always voyage with dual Autopilots fitted, with a changeover switch to select the "in service" pilot system.  This year the oldest Autohelm unit died (23 years is fair service), so it has been replaced with a new Raymarine ACU400 with the fancy new EV1 sensor core.  This of course meant running new cables from A to B and from C to D and so on and so on for several days, removing ceiling panels and drilling and painting yet more holes in steel frames - lots of fun for all. 

We've also completed installation of an AIS Man Overboard alarm system (more on that in the future), updated the voltage regulator for the engine alternator and many other jobs.  However the autopilot system was really the big one, as it meant introducing new data networks to the boat and finding ways for the older systems to share information with the new ones.  So we now (stupidly) have six (count them) different marine data networks on board, plus extensive ethernet and wifi systems. We'll talk more about that in a future post.

Sarah, Shaun, Sam & Harrison
Today we went to sea for the first time in six months, testing systems and tuning the new autopilot.  More importantly it was also to be our last picnic sail in Singapore, so we left the dock with family on board - Shaun, Sarah, Harrison and baby Sam, plus my brother Peter Langford who was in town this week attending a conference.  It hasn't rained for weeks, so of course the heavens opened just before our scheduled departure time.  We waited for the system to move through and then motored out of the marina - what a joy to be afloat and moving again. A great day, swimming, fishing and enjoying good food.  Four year old Harrison said the boat was "cool".

Singapore has changed regulations recently, visiting yachts now need to have a locally licensed captain on board - just to go for a day sail.  You can do an online license test, apparently a days swatting will get most people a pass. All private boats must also now lodge a voyage plan before every departure (only $20 at the marina office) and you must have AIS running as well.  Private boating is tightly managed here.  So today we had to hire a licensed captain to be on board for our daysail  ...  could not get a cruising permit without that.