Sunday, May 27, 2012

Still Looking

Cabin sole by chain plate
After removing mattress
The trouble with “obstacles” – if, unlike me you believe in “signs”, or in the ability of the Universe to be able to tell you something, - is that you still have to make your own decision about whether or not the obstacle has been put there to make you turn back or is just a test of your faith , the strength of your comittment and your determination. I say this because so far looking at “progress” one would be tempted to say the Universe is telling me something, because I seem to be going backwards. Yesterday I decided to start looking for particular places along the toe rail where there may be leaks – and found two quite spectacular ones, and a few other suspicious places as well. At the two worst places  corroded parts of the toe rail 6 or 8cm long had been filled in with “Bog”, or some marine equivalent of that material you mix as a paste that then sets into a solid that can be smoothed off to shape and painted. To look at all one noticed was paint that seemed a bit cracked but the whole chunk of “Bog” was loose and underneath it was all mushy and crumbling wet. Underneath were 4 bolt holes through which my screwdriver tip passed into the interior of the boat. I gleefully cleaned both defects all out and scraped back to bare metal and dry fiberglass deck. It was baking hot so I was happy for it to dry out and air for a bit while I cycled back to the motel for lunch – baguette, cheese, coffee, half a pear and juice. My return was delayed by an hour or more by an unexpected – and massive – downpour, the significance of which I didn’t appreciate till getting back to the boat. Water was streaming in through the exposed holes, in one place tracking across into the battery compartment, half filling it and shorting out the battery! Elsewhere it was just more water and dampness, but some reached my books!
Not a good look
 Since then the weather has been quite wild with strong winds from the NE, heavy showers and high humidity as a low approaches from the NW,  so other than plugging the holes with BluTack I haven’t made any further progress on the toe rail. Instead Ive been emptying out shelving and storage areas and trying to get the moisture and mould out of everything but with no sun and high humidity even my washing on the line at the motel is refusing to dry.

This morning I went to the boat for a brief check before going to the shops to buy weekend supplies, just to make sure rain overnight was not doing any more damage. Being Saturday, the yard is closed so I used my key to let me through a small door in the main gate, and left my bike nearby. I returned after 15 minutes to discover the bike had been stolen!

Unfortunately Monday is a public holiday so there wont be anyone there to consult with but my plan at the moment is to fix what I can – ie coat everything in silicone or “sikaflex” - and get the boat back in the water at the end of the week. Once the electrics are all sorted I shall go for a sail and see how that feels. We haven’t received a quote for shipping back west yet, but I expect that will be prohibitively expensive, so eventually I am going to have to chose between selling or sailing. Lately sailing has had its nose in front on occasion but at night listening to the pouring rain and strong wind, and thinking about the state Sapphire is in, it’s a sell.

Friday, May 25, 2012

What next :Insect Pests!

This is where I am staying....its tough
Looking over the boat today I found three wasps nests inside the Hydrovane gearing, which had been wrapped tightly in a large polythene garbage bag, but the weather had made it brittle and splits had provided entry for the nasty looking insects. The only thing at hand at that moment was CRC so I gave them a good squirt and the wasps went crazy, but they didn’t find me. Eventually they flew away all confused and I quickly scraped the nests off before they returned.

Its going to need a bit more than a squirt of CRC to get the motor tidied up. I finally lifted off the engine cover today to find mould and superficial rust on the unpainted bits, especially the pulleys, and the belts will need replacing I think. But I won’t be able to test the motor till she’s back in the water, which will have to happen before too long even if I do sell her. ..speaking of which I checked on the internet the asking price for a nice EC31 in Australia. At present it is a little less than what I paid for Sapphire about 6 years ago, though of course with all the upgrades I have spent considerably more, at least as much as her original price but probably not twice as much. Nothing surprising there – no-one expects to do anything but lose money on a yacht – its not an investment but an indulgence, and I feel for my relatively modest outlay (as far as outlays on yachts are concerned, which are usually massive and for less actual sailing than Ive done) I have already had phenomenal value. Without doubt I have had the most extraordinary  challenges, experiences and rare adventures in the last six years with Sapphire that any landlubber new to yachts could ever hope for. My original dream was to learn to sail, and then sail solo from Sydney to New Zealand, and that took just over three years. Ive now surprised myself by sailing the big loop out to French Polynesia, and like some dumb kid who climbed higher up a tree than he ever intended I am looking down and getting a scary feeling, seeing how far it is to get back to the ground!

One way down is to get the boat shipped back, as Dominic suggested yesterday. He is going to get a quote. Another is to sell Sapphire and today a broker looked her over and despite the filth and mess was impressed, and felt at the right price (of course!) it would be easy to find a buyer. But don’t they always say that? He mentioned millions of francs! (but its 83 to the dollar!) The other is to sail her back, even with leaks.

For now I shall continue the tidy-up and sort through what I can do myself, and try to find my mojo again, as advised. Thanks Martin.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

What now?

I think Ive lost my mojo.  I tried to prepare myself for what might have happened to Sapphire but when I finally got back to her yesterday, I was depressed by what I found, to the point of feeling it was all too much. Clearly those leaks that troubled me on the way across last year are as equally accessible to rainwater as the sea , with the result that the interior seems to have been taken over by mould,  there are rusty streaks on electrical fittings and powdery mildew on every single surface, and the interior smells like a disused cellar. The canned and other unopened food that I thought last year I should chuck out but then decided not to – well I should have! They hadn’t exploded exactly – as one person later told me happened to someone else – but they were rusted and leaking, fortunately mostly into a plastic bin. The clothes I left in a plastic storage bag were all stained gray and brown with mould, and emitted a curious ammonia like smell and in the not quite overflowing bilge a sponge had grown into something extra-terrestrial. The books were mostly OK though damp and powdery on the outside, and I think it would possibly be dangerous to lie or sleep on any of the sponge mattresses and squabs, so impregnated are they with powdery mouldy fungus.

Outside things didn’t look so bad – there were rusty streaks down the side of the hull and the antifouling was dried and cracked.

So I have thrown all these ruined bits and pieces away and sweated in the intense tropical heat wiping away mould and stains from absolutely everything. Ive only done a preliminary clean up as there is no water or power to the boat. Its horrible in there at present.

Dominic the Boss at the Carenage caught up with me this morning – I had wanted to get the leaks fixed by taking the toe rail off and resealing it, because last year in Opua one of the guys pointed out the numerous rusty bolts holding it on , saying they are clearly leaking. There are other possible sources of leaks as well . However Dominic was not keen – its such a big job he said and in his experience there are usually many possible problems with regard to access, potential damage to the existing toe rail…and so on. He advised against re-sealing the toe-rail but suggested trying various other approaches. We had a long discussion. It was depressing.

I thought  we would just fix the leaks and then I would be on my way. But that seems unlikely – though they could perhaps be improved. But as well there are now the insidious effects of all that moisture and mould on the wiring and the radio and the Pactor modem and so on…leaves me feeling its one bridge too far. The lifestyle of  sailing a few months then leaving the boat unused for 6 to 8 months is obviously less than ideal when it comes to maintaining the boat.  I want to be dry and I want to feel I can trust the boat but at the moment I am finding it hard – which is why I said I feel as if Ive lost my mojo.

I’m thinking about selling Sapphire and going back to work. Like a normal person.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Story so Far

I think this is a great map of the Pacific because its got everywhere Ive been in Sapphire on it. My solo ocean voyaging began in 2009, in Sydney but I left the Australian mainland from Newcastle, going to Lord Howe Island, then the rest of the way across the Tasman to New Zealand where I arrived on November 30th . If you look closely you will see Tubuai in French Polynesia, and of course Papeete, but Raiatea is not marked :  its one of the little dots under the "n" of  "Society Islands" I sailed there last year, having left NZ on May 18th and it took 24 days to landfall at Rurutu. From there it was 115 nautical miles to Tubuai , and from there I sailed to Papeete, Moorea, Huahine  and Raiatea. I left the boat hauled out in Raiatea, with a plan to return after the cyclone season and continue west. This time I hope to reach Fiji.

And so here I am, back in French Polynesia after a flight lasting less than 5 hours from Auckland, during which time I enjoyed red wine and a beef casserole while listening to Ella Fitzgerald and then I watched a delightful  interview of Australias greatest living artist , John Olson, a man with an extraordinary  imagination and creativity, and a huge fascination with everything in the natural world about him, now approaching his mid 80's and wonderfully alive.

I mention this for two reasons - firstly because it - the journey here - was so effortless and pleasant and quick, a stark contrast to my last trip in that direction between New Zealand and Tahiti. But also because that interview with John Olson  reminded me of how extraordinary and wonderful  is the living  natural world . It was a stmulus I think I needed after the shock of Motta, Ethiopia and then the negativity and self obsession of current political discussion in Australia, which I am pleased to have left behind. I am going to have a bit of "me time" and some sailing adventures in the South Seas.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

NZ Stopover

Northland Coastline, New Zealand

Ive done my volunteer work and Ive finished working for money for a while, so now with my Boat Fund topped up, I'm on my way back to Raiatea  Carenage and Sapphire in French Polynesia after a couple of weeks visiting friends and family in Sydney and in New Zealand. This has involved far too many restaurant dinners and beer and (mostly NZ) wine, and complete abandonment of the diet I started on after a long chat to a dietitian in Darwin about why the kilos I lost in Ethiopia were piling themselves straight back on. It was actually a very useful exercise to record every single thing ingested each day and count up the Kilojoules of energy consumed, and thereby discover how little there are in a rice cake with some low fat cottage cheese on it compared to say a chocolate biscuit, or indeed,  an avocado which though  containing no cholesterol never-the-less has lots of energy.

A curious Leather Jacket

The camera I took to Ethiopia  got dust in it while there and I was told it could be cleaned  but instead I bought a new one that is waterproof to 12 meters underwater and dust and shock proof. I tried it out a few days ago, along with new flippers and mask and snorkel when I went snorkelling off a Northland beach up near the Bay of Islands. I was with someone who described me as his oldest friend - by which he means the friend he has had longer than any other friend - and in fact by that measure he is also MY oldest friend - we met at school in 1966. He now lives only a mile or two from that very school, part retired after making his money in Real Estate, and indulges at every  opportunity his enduring and infectious passion for fishing and diving and for the marvellous Northland Coastline, whose every nook and cranny that might contain a crayfish Hilton knows like the back of his hand.

Hilton and a Puffer Fish
I am looking forward to seeing Sapphire again. In the past whenever I have been away from her for any length of time I return expecting to find her a mess and be disappointed, but invariably - to date at least - when I get back to her I feel a rekindling of great affection, and I am again impressed by her lines, like I was when I first saw her in Pittwater near Sydney in August 2006, nearly six years ago. At that time I was still learning to sail, but I asked the Broker, Jason, if he thought Sapphire was the sort of boat that could cross the Tasman Sea., because that was what I was learning to sail for, and what  I needed a Yacht for. "East Coast 31's are great sea boats" he said, somewhat diplomatically, and it was something I was to hear again and again,and now have discovered for myself. Never-the-less I am allowing myself at least a month to get sailing again, because I am sure to find things that need sorting  in addition to the ones I already have on my list, and these jobs never get completed on time.I dont want to feel under any more pressure to get going than I soon will be looking from Sapphire over the pacific ocean to the north western horizon where in plain view sits reputedly the most beautiful island in the world, Bora Bora. My next port of call!