Sunday, February 28, 2010

What a week !

This will be a quick one. Being retired and sailing around the world makes me very very busy.
This first week in Sydney went on at lightning speed.
First, there was the business on settling down at Gladesville Bridge marina. Organise Internet in a reliable way, find where the best and most convenient supermarket is, resupply the boat, try and get work started on the boat (failed so far).
On Friday morning, got up at 7:30 to find that Anne had already gone. Went with Debbie to the supermarket to replace most of what we had consumed during the passage. When we came back early afternoon, we found that all the personal belongings of Anne were gone, and there was a 3 inch paper note on the table with "Bye - A.F." on it. Obviously it meant that she had decided to leave, but I found it a little abrupt. Not too surprised though as I was more and more aware that she did not feel comfortable at all on the boat and I wanted myself to talk to her about that.
Anyway, let's move on. I will probably not look for a replacement and will continue with Olivier only. After all, I did most of Norfolk-Tahiti either alone or with Jean-Francois and this was not a problem.
On Sunday, I drove Debbie to the place where she had found some babysitting to do against free accomodation, which is a good temporary solution for her while she looks for some real paying work. She might rejoin us from Coffs Harbour to Port Headland if the circumstances are right.
Then there was the earthquake in Chile which among other impacts might result in the south american delegation to the World meeting of the Brotherhood of the Coast here be significantly reduced. And this happens so close to the event that it will be hard to plan the catering as accuretaly as needed.
I have changed my travel schedule to New Zealand and will return here on the 6th instead of the 7th as there are too many things still to do here in the coming few days.
Today, I am trying to prepare the boat as best I can as Bernard and Claudine are landing in Sydney on the 5th while I am away.
Looks almost like stress . . . .

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Settling down !

Finally, I found a marina not too expensive (still expensive) under the Gladesville Bridge and not set up to accept live aboard. So, no showers, no laundry room, no wifi, but still we get electriciy, water, toilets and easy access to the boat. My wonderful Vodafone USB broadband stick works sometimes and sometimes not. If I want to have a reliable connection for financial transactions or similar jobs, I have to go either to the municipal library or to a McDonalds or equivalent. It's better than no internet at all but I made the mistake of storing some important documents on the boat's computer and it complicates things a little bit.
Sunday morning, Gail took us to a tour of the downtown and of a shopping center not far from their home. Peter was not feeling well at all, having been hit by food poisoning, and barely making it through the day. In the afternoon, I went with them on their cruiser to go get a man named Jeff, aged 92, who had been racing the Sydney Hobart race in 1947 aboard Peter and Gail's ketch which had been built around 1930 and is anchored right behing where Papy Jovial is moored. I felt very privileged to be able to hear first hand the stories that Jeff was recording for a short documentary aboard the ketch.
Monday morning, I did a long internet session at Peter's home. Then Gail came to get me around lunch time to drive to Hertz and get the rental car that I will keep during my stay in Sydney. After that, I went do some shopping and came back home.
Tuesday morning, we sailed 1.8 miles to move in to the Gladesville Bridge marina and get organised. I found at the marina (which is a working marina) a technician who will try and take care of the leaks. Then Peter came to take me back to Tennyson Point where I had left the car. Then I drove back to the boat to pick up Debbie and go to the library for Internet and to the super market to prepare dinner.
This morning, the day did not start too well. I found the freezer switched off and I had to throw away all of its content, mostly fish that I had bought in Auckland. Also, it turns out that the forward hatch had suffered from being closed with a genoa sheet caught between the hatch and the deck. Hopefully it will not be too serious. We shall see.
Today anyway, I have to deal with income tax, driver license renewal, and so on. After that, I plan on becoming a tourist again.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


I almost became a close friend of customs in Newcastle, after seeing them that often. It took several trips to sort out the issue of "control permit" (read cruising permit), which has to be synchronised with the authorised stay of the owner/skipper as opposed to the valid visa.
Coming into Australia, you get a visa valid for one year but only three moths per visit. The boat can stay in Australia up to the expiration date of the "control permit", but the control permit cannot be granted beyond the expiration date of your stay, not your visa. Customs having to do the Immigration job but apparently not being very familiar with all the details of the regulations, had a hard time deciding what kind of control permit I was going to be given.
Now, I have it, valid until May 15th. Then, after I return from my quick trop to New Zealand in March, I should be able to obtain an extension of the control permit up to June 7th.
Having done all that, plus the usual shopping and looking for parts (like a replacement water pump so that I always have a spare on the boat), we were able to leave Newcastle on Friday.
It was supposed to be a stroll in the park sailing down from Newcastle to Pittwater. Instead, it turned out to be one of the most unpleasant passages so far, with no wind or very little wind from behind, and a strong swell from the ESE which was making the boat bounce and roll heavily. On top of that, we had to motor all the way at a meagre 4 to 5 knot because of the sea state. We got into Pittwater just before dark and instead of going all the way into the bay, we dropped the hook in front of Palm Beach for a quiet night.
Saturday morning, not too early, we went visiting the bay and sailed around Scotland Island before going out to head down to Sydney. Soon the wind picked up and we were able to enjoy a wonderful sail all the way to the entrance of Sydney harbour where Peter Smith and Tim Morris on Peter cruising boat Charika were waiting for us.
The scenery in Sydney harbour on a Saturday afternoon was just incredible and reminded me in many ways of the scenery in the Solent on an Admiral's Cup year during the Cowes week. Hundred of boats, of all sizes, racing inside the harbour. For safety sake, having to deal with so much traffic, I dropped the sails and went motoring to follow Peter into Tennyson Point where Peter had arranged a free berth for us at the back of a friend's house. I had to back into piles with the wind and the current on the beam and I made a good demonstration on how to mess up a manoeuver. However, after a while, we were in, having broken nothing, not even the windvane and after sorting out lines and other stuff, we went ashore for a nice dinner party with Peter, Tom and family (wives and sisters), and a four legged friend named Denzil.
On the berth, I have no electriciy, no water (although this can be arranged) and no Internet. At first it looked like quite a challenge. But Gail took me in town where I could purchase from Vodafone a USB stick for broadband, supposed to work wherever there is a cell phone service. It turned out that it does not work down there on the water, but I can work from Peter's house, and for a start, it will do just fine.
I now have to find my marks and organise some kind of work to chase and fix the various leaks. Other than that, all I have to do is to enjoy Sydney, and I will . ..

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Very wet, then dry, then skimmed, then safe . . . .

Just made it in time and safely into Newcastle. But this was certainly not a dull crossing. We've had 2 days of motoring, 2 days under spinnaker and six days of close haul or tight reach with quite rough seas. Very quickly the boat became more and more wet through all kinds of leaks always very difficult to identify and pinpoint. Some of it came through fittings on deck like stanchion bases, some came through along the mast despite a brand new Spartite system, probably water seeping between the plate on deck and the deck itself. Some more came through the rectangular portholes on the hull. Then there is probably the condensation on the hull.
Everything was so wet that the three crews rapidly reinvented the hot bunk system, the three of them sharing the two bunks in the main cabin. My very clever setting up of a bunk on top of the water tank obviously has not convinced anyone yet . .. .
And then, two days before arriving, we went dry on water with tanks half full, as this was the moment that the water pump chose to give up. Fortunately, I had installed (or rather Stew installed) a foot pump in the galley for sea water, and all we had to do was to connect the water hoses to the foot pump and we were back in business. I was not worried since I had taken the precaution to get a spare pump before leaving Virginia and knew we could easily install once in port.
Then we arrived in Newcastle. Everytime I spoke to the authorities, I made sure that they knew that I had no problem whatsoever going to the Quarantine buoy, since we were there after hours, and spend the night there. However, they instructed us to proceed to the marina and tie up there where they were waiting for us. And aboard came two customs officers and one health official. Customs was nice, professional and helpful. Health was not. For his visit and hauling out a small bag of vacuum packed garbage and a bag of foodstuff that we were not allowed to keep, he charged us 522 australian dollars, including 190 for overtime, although the invoice does not indicate those details at all. After years of cruising in all kinds of countries, I had never been hit with a charge that stiff. I could not help but mention to them that in New Zealand not only was the visit by the authorities, customs and health free of charge, but they gave us a welcome kit including a bottle of wine and two glasses to drink it, which I found a very civilized welcome.
Once they had left, we discovered that the fridge was no longer working. It was late, we were tired, and we ended up checking all that we could on the electric circuit in the wron places. So we moved the food to the freezer and went to bed.
Next morning, with a fresh mind, we found that all we needed to do was to clean the two fuses on the compressor unit. Philippe then installed the new water pump, reconnected the hoses, and we were back in business, at least for running water and refrigeration.
We can now, with the wind hauling at 25 knots inside the marina, look forward to our stay in Newcastle.
You won't get photos, even of the nice tuna that we caught two days before arrival, as my camera took an unwanted shower of sea water. I will replace it soon so be patient.

Friday, February 12, 2010


We had been told that we were going to enjoy the ideal crossing, with
favourable wind all the way. Well, it is true that we enjoyed 2
continuous days with the Gennaker, more than I ever have so far. But
before that we had this chaotic crossing across the area north of North
Cape. Then the spi came down because the wind had died and we motored
for a full day. And when the wind came back, it eventually settled from
NNW at 20 to 25 knots, which mean close haul on a rough seas. With a lot
of water going over the boat, strong squalls and everything that goes
with rough weather, leaks started to appear almost everywhere,
especially in the forward cabin and along the mast which had been fitted
with a new spartite system. Good news, but only for me, no more leaks at
all in the aft cabin.
Debbie is holding up, Anne a little less and we have to convince both of
them to eat as tomorrow is likely to be a little more difficult with
winds possibly gusting at 35 knots.
I have decided to call in into Newcastle, to clear customs and
immigration and to wait for the weather to settle before proceeding to
Sydney. We only have 283 miles left for Newcastle and we should get
there by Monday late morning. So far we had been experiencing current
against us (25 miles in all since we left Whangarei), but it looks like
it has turned around and we are doing half a knot more over the ground
than thru the water.
Once alongside and after clearance, we should be able to lick our
wounds, dry up, shower, sort out the mess and have a wonderful dinner on

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The iron sail

Alas ! The wind died of us, as expected unfortunately, and at 2:30 this
morning we had to hoist the Yanmar sail. This is where the stress
starts. I can never feel comfortable whenever motoring. The slightest
abnormal sound or vibration and I imagine the worst.
This time round, the culprit was the intermediate bearing. Because they
could not find replacement parts to reinstall the shaft the way it was,
with a copper sleeve between the bearing and the shaft, what is in place
is an SKF bearing with a locking device to lock it to the shaft. Because
it is a new installation, I kept checking the shaft, the bearing and the
whole damn lot and felt that the bearing was a little too warm for my
taste. I can still keep my hand on it. so I am not burning it, but I am
not comfortable with that temperature. So, I reduced the engine to 1600
rpm from 2000 and then decided to add some grease to the bearing. It
took me all morning to figure out why the grease gun was not working and
what to do to make it work. I also sent an email to the mechanics in
Whangarei to get their advice on how hot the bearing can get safely.
Now, I can only wait and watch the crew enjoying the calm weather to the
point of making cookies and pies.
We have 562 miles to go and hopefully should be able to get back to
sailing tomorrow.

Monday, February 8, 2010


I keep using the word Gennaker, but I must confess that I don't really
know what it is. What I see is a flat spinnaker with one point marked
tack and the other one clew. Setting it up like a spinnaker works well
for me and we have been doing since we set it up on a spinnaker pole an
average of 6.08 knots. I take it.
Everybody is telling me that I am about to lose the wind. Fortunately,
so far, the wind is staying steady at 10 to 15 from ESE. If I look at
the Grib files, indeed it should weaken seriously but leaving us enough
to keep moving.
Life aboard has not quite settled down yet, but it is coming slowly.
Breakfast at 8 when we change watch, lunch at noon, so far mostly pasta
salads and vegetable, then cocktails at 6:30 (so far I am practically
the only one drinking), and then dinner after 7:30. Last night was pork
chops in white wine and cauliflowers "au gratin". Tonight chicken
"basquaise". Yesterday was lamb chops green beans "a l'italienne" (go to :-)).
After tonight, we will be left with one meal of lamb chops and two of
eggs. After that, we can switch to fish without fear of donating too
much to the australian health authorities.
We started fishing yesterday morning, but no success. At least, we have
not lost any lure yet.
I still believe that we could be in Sydney by next Tuesday, February 16
during the day.

News Flash : As this blog entry is about to go away in cyberspace, we
just caught a small bonita but I can't release the weight as it got
cooked and eaten before I could weigh it.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

In the Tasman sea

This is it ! After a lot of pain, we finally got out of the North Cape
area, which is definitely a bad one. Yesterday, we managed to fly the
gennaker for the last two hours of the day and today, we set it up at 9
this morning. I am very happy to have purchased a real spinnaker boom.
We set the gennaker almost like a spinnaker, with slightly different
settings, and it works fine, even with 20 knots of wind and Firmin has
no problem steering. The boat is well balanced, and of course, it makes
a world of difference in the speed. Our weather router tells us to be
prepared for almost no wind for two days starting the day after tomorrow
so we better concentrate on getting as many miles as we can under the belt.
As far as crew is concerned, to be out of the North Cape area made a
huge difference, and except for Debbie which is still fighting to get
some sea legs in (but she had enough energy last night to prepare
cookies). Philippe has no problem whatsoever and being a skipper himself
with lots of experience, he is a major contribution to me. Anne has
almost totally recovered, but probably needs now to learn the ropes a
little better.
I hope that we will be able to keep the Gennaker all day and even to
fly it tomorrow. I will change the rythme of the watches so that we can
set it up at daybreak, i.e. 6 in the morning instead of 9 this morning.
We still have some 920 miles to go and we cand stand still.
This morning, I also put out the fishing line, but just for the sake of
it. We need a keen fisherman on the boat and don't have one yet. But one
never knows, There might be a fish out there stupid enough to bite on
the lure that I put in. Anyway, if we don't want to benefit the health
authorities of Australia, we still have to eat all the meat in the
freezer, the eggs, the dairy products and fresh fruits and vegetable.
Extra fish will do fine, but just as extra . . .

Friday, February 5, 2010

Under way

Finally the last part (a block for the main sheet) arrived on Thursday
morning and we were able to leave Town Basin Marina shortly after noon.
Unfortunately too late to expect to clear customs that day. So we got to
Marsden Cove early afternoon in a very fresh easterly wind, tied up, and
had a last (very nice) dinner at the restaurant of the marina.
Up at 7, we went to the fuel dock to fill up, went back to tie up and
wait for customs which arrived at 9:00 on the dot.
After clearance, started the process of extracting ourselves from the
area. We have had quite a few days of strong easterly winds which had
died but had left behind rough seas. The combination did not suit my
valiant crew. Philippe was a little uncomfortable at first but recovered
well, Anne was less comfortable but managed to keep up more or less, and
Debbie unfortunately could not cope with the jerky movements of the boat.
This, unfortunately, will last at least until we round North Cape
enterely and enter the Tasman sea, which will happen hopefully tomorrow
I tried to go wing on wing, but the sea state makes it impossible as we
can fill both sails and the genoa is flapping hopelessly. Se we went
back to broad reaching, with the wind 150 degrees and the genoa on the boom.
Other than that, the weather is not bad with easterly winds 15 to 20 and
a bit of sunshine.
Maybe by tomorrow Debbie will have recovered and we can fully enjoy the

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pre departure stress

Back from the south, it was going to be a mixture of more touring and final preparation of the boat, including restepping the mast. So much has happened in those 6 days that I could not take the time to make entries into the blog.
Once back in Whangarei, I learned that I had to delay restepping the mast until the 28th as the mechanics could not find the seal for the raw water pump of the main engine and had ordered it from abroad. Eventually, they found that blasted seal in Auckland, but it was too late. So, while waiting I went with Anne to visit the Kauri museum in Matahoke. Very interesting museum, mostly dedicated to the logging of the kauri trees that leave over 1800 years and from w
hich peop
le harvest the gum famous for many different applications, including jewelry. The museum also shows how the first settlers were leaving in New Zealand.
We did not have time to do the whole tour that I had planned, including visiting the forest where mo
st of the remaining kauri trees are, as I was anxious to get the work going on the boat.
We then went back to the boat and on the 28th at 6:00 in the morning, I left Riverside marina to go downriver to Dockland 5 where I got at 6:30 to get the mast stepped up. This was done at 7:15 and we sailed back to the Town Basin marina, waiting for the rigger to complete the work of tuning the mast and installing al
l the various fittings including reconnecting the radar, instruments and lights. I had taken the opportunity to install a tricolor light at the top of the mast. This was done mostly on the 29th. On the 30th work contin
ued somewhat and in the af
ternoon, Philippe arrived from Vanuatu. We had dinner at the local chinese and early morning next day, we drove to Waitangi, site of the house where the treaty between the Maori tribes and the crown of England was signed on February 6th, 1840. This treaty would guarantee Maori their land possession, whether private or as a group, and in exchange, the Maori agreed to place themselve under the authority of the Queen of England.
After the visit, we went back to take a ferry to Russell, which used to be the capital of New Zealand and is also the location of the next national boucan of the New Zealand brotherhood. We had lunch there and then drove back by way of the very nice coastal road to Whangarei.
Next day, it rained all
day. Bertrand flew back around noon and we went twice to the airport t
o meet him, but he himself kind of flew to Whangarei, then flew back to Auckland, then again to Whangarei and landed when we no longer expected him and went to the marina by his own means.
We had dinner with Bertrand on Papy Jovial and next day started the provisionning while waiting for Debbie to arrive in the afternoon.
Wednesday (today) was supposed to be the day of the final preparation and shopping for fresh products before leaving Thursday morning for Marsden Cove where we will top up the fuel tank and clear customs. Unfortunately, we are still waiting for the second block (the one with a cheek) for the main sheet and we have to delay the departure until tomorrow late morning and the customs clearing on Friday m
orning. Half a day won't make that much difference on a 10 days crossing. Actually, it might guarantee us an arrival on a working day rather than a week end.