Yearly Archives: 2012

Changeable weather

A couple more days of work were required to clean up and service the engine. I ran through the usual things on the engine, oil, fuel, and filters. The engine ran well but sounded a little loose under the rocker cover so I adjusted the valve clearances; which I don’t think had been touched since the engine was installed as I was breaking the paint seal as I removed the cover.

Partially blocked heat-exchanger stackI wasn’t 100% sure that the flow of water out of the exhaust was as copious as I expected so I decided to strip the heat-exchanger and found half the tubes full of calcification and various flora and fauna! It was a tedious job cleaning out all those little tubes but I’m glad that it’s done.

I have still not replaced the engine controller, mainly because of the weather and partially because I have been soaking it in WD40 to try and free up the throttle/shift lever which otherwise I am going to have to use force to remove. I’d like to take it apart gracefully so that I can restore it and keep the whole thing as a spare.

The partially blocked heat-exchanger stack


The first fitting for the new dodgerLast Friday a sheet of ply that I had ordered from Punta Arenas arrived and I was able to start work on restoring the dodger to a state where I can see out and where it will keep the worst of the waves off the companionway hatch whilst also providing somewhere to duck under for cover. It’s not going to be the prettiest dodger in the world but it will be functional and strong and will work until I replace it with a bigger shelter in the future.

Whatever the old dodger was made of has long since gone, all that remained was a rather bent sheet of ply on the forward face and the aluminium frame which is in good condition and will be painted and re-used.

The ply that you can see in the photo will have the corners rounded off and it will then be fibreglassed and painted before I bolt the whole thing securely to the frame. The windows will be 6mm Perspex. Apart from priming the frame I have not got any further with this little project as every time I start getting out the wood it starts to rain.

That rainy weather has forced me inside where I have done all sorts of jobs that have improved the living conditions in the interior. I’ve put cupboard doors on what used to be just a big deep shelf with a net over the front to keep the contents from escaping. The pots and pans locker has had the same treatment a few other off-cuts from the dodger project have found new homes as doors, shelves, a new top for the battery box etc..

Today was spent mostly with having a lazy Sunday but I did spend a bit of time rebuilding an old mast-head tri-colour navigation light with LED lights. That will save a lot of power over the course of a night as the old navigation light would have been a 25W bulb drawing a couple of Amps. The new LED one draws about one eight of that. I have added a LED anchor light to the top of the fixture too; which has a light sensor on it so that it automatically switches off when the sun rises.  The LED lamps came from a company called Bebi Electronics of Fiji, check them out their products are very well priced and fit for purpose.

Otherwise life in Puerto Williams goes on. Various friends from the charter yachts come and go as they go about their business and head off to exotic places. All that serves as motivation for me to keep working hard and to get the boat moving. Other people are also making repairs here across the dock Andres and Oscar are working hard to repair the engine of ‘Nemo of Sweden‘ and Wolf from ‘Santa Maria Australis‘ is building a new boom.

my friend Osvaldo of ‘PolarWind‘ is also preparing for a charter and I was able to help him out with a few IT gremlins, but I have borrowed his jigsaw so I owed him that at least. Greg and Keri of ‘Northanger‘ are here preparing for a trip to Antarctica and we had a very nice dinner on their boat last night.

The forecast is good for this week, well it should be less windy than it has been so fingers crossed that I make progress with the dodger and other work on deck.

Work begins

I’ve been in Puerto Williams, Chile, working on Morgane for just over two weeks now and apologise for not getting an entry online earlier but I have been working long hours to get things done. I sailed over here, from Stanley, with my friend Brice on his yacht ‘Podorange’ an ex BT challenge 67 yacht that he now charters down here in the SW Atlantic and Antarctica.

On arrival I unloaded the new sails that I had brought Quantum in Cape Town,  South Africa, and all the boxes of odds and ends that had been sent to Stanley for me and got to work. The first think I had to tackle was to clean up the galley and one of the bunks as everything was rather damp and smelly after the boat has been sitting for so long. I got the shore power connected and got an electric fan heater to work to help air the boat out.

The first job, other than the clean up which is ongoing, was to hook up the batteries and get the shore-power battery charger working. That gave me light to work with in the evenings. Another day was spent on fitting the new sails and pulling in the new running rigging; all seems ok but the ultimate trial won’t come for a little while yet when I get out to test them.

I got fed up moving the box containing the new wind generator every time that it got in the way so mounted that and got it working. It only really works when the wind is in the south west here as we are so sheltered but at least yesterday I had a day of free power.

I had to remove the old wood burner and chimney (see the photo below) as it was in the way of all the following projects. I was expecting to find a horrible rusty hole in the coach roof when I pulled out the old chimney but instead found good clean solid steel. I fitted the through deck fitting for the new chimney so that the deck was weatherproof and so that the sealant would have time to cure while I messed around with things electrical.

I then got into a several day project which was to build a new 12 Volt power distribution panel and instrument panel alongside the existing chart table. All of this a temporary installation until such time as I get to some place where I will refit the interior of the yacht.

The old electrical panel

Here is photo of the old electrical panel which was a mishmash of several  different type of breakers, switches, wire, fuses etc.. The big tube up the right side of the picture is the chimney from the big wood burning space heater; which is no longer there – more on that later.

I got hold of some fairly decent ply from a packing case that I was given and made a plan to cover the front of the shelves that you see in the photo and mount the new electrical panels and instruments on the ply. I had two 12 Volt distribution panels and a battery monitor to mount on one side and a couple of instruments and the HF and vhf radios to mount on the other.

I laid everything out and decided that it would all fit and fired up the jigsaw to cut out the mounting holes.

The new power and instrument panelOne day to cut out and mount the panels and fit the instruments then another day spent connecting everything up and testing produced the result that you see on the left.

The right panel holds the battery status monitor and two 12 Volt DC breaker panels. One of those has two cigar lighter type outlets (handy for charging iPods and camera batteries).

The left panel is instruments and radios. From top left, clockwise, we have an electronic recording barometer, an aneroid barometer, AIS transponder and display, the Pactor modem for receiving weather fax and email over the HF radio, on the bottom we have the VHF radio, above that the HF radio, and a multi-function instrument display from Furuno.

The Furuno multi-function display (an RD-33) is connected to a NMEA 2000 network which connects to the wind instrument, gps, depth, speed, compass etc..

Above the laptop screen you can see an old but good Furuno GPS navigator that I’ll keep.

The laptop is running MaxSea’s TimeZero charting and navigation software and also connected to the NMEA 2000 (N2K) network via an interface that produces a USB output.  The AIS transponder is networked with the radio and the computer giving the ability to directly call approaching ships by selecting them on the AIS screen. Any DSC calls received should show up on the screens too.

Enough technical chat and on with the work! The next thing I tackled was to relocate the fuse and breaker for the anchor windlass which would otherwise have been difficult to reach behind the heater which I planned to install next.

A big milestone was getting the new Refleks diesel heater installed which was more or less a two day job, three including installing the through-deck fitting mentioned earlier. The day I lit the heater the outside temperature was just a couple of degrees with sleet and lots of wind so a great day to test the heater! It’s been in use for a few days now and I am learning where to set the control knob to achieve the desired cabin temperature.

Engine before and after a clean up

Today I moved onto putting the engine back into service. Apart from a full service I have a new smart alternator/battery charger to install and have to replace the Morse controller (the combined throttle and gear change lever that is located in the cockpit).

But, before I wanted to work on the engine it needed a massive clean up, and that little job took all of today. You can see the results in the photo on the right. I consider today’s clean up a first pass; it’ll take another day when I have the time to be more concerned with cosmetics.

Still lots to do but that is progress so far. It’s late and I’m tired so apologies for the bad grammar and spelling mistakes!


Fog on the approaches

I am writing this while we are about 400 miles out of Stanley. We are travelling slowly in light wind and thick fog at the moment.

Well in my last post I mentioned that we were about to make some tactical decisions about when to turn south. That became something of an issue as a couple of strong low pressure systems spun out of the River Plate estuary blocking our passage to the south. One produces hurricane strength winds in Uruguay where, we have heard, winds of 78 knots were recorded. That system caused us to run NW for a while as we didn’t fancy fighting it.

We did eventually manage to turn south and spent a couple of day making long tacks on whatever board gave us the best deal. We had a couple of problems caused by the strong breeze the worst of which was that our staysail blew out and is beyond repair, at least by us as it is quite a hight tech carbon/vectran job. There was only about 30 knots of apparent wind at the time it gave out but I suppose it has had a very hard five years of service which must be close to 100,000 miles – not bad!

For the last few days we have had the genoa and yankee set on the poles wing-and-wing as we head for the Falklands with light northerlies; unusual but we’ll take it 🙂

Our friends on “Paradise” are somewhere in the same part ocean heading in the same direction and we have been exchanging daily position reports we are withing 20 to 30 miles of each other so the race is on.

Bread and Gremlins

Latitude: 30 27.5 S Longitude: 028 048.4 W

No more luminous whales have been spotted but we have seen some non-luminous Minke whales, a turtle, some flying fish, a few old buoys and fishing floats, plastic bottles, plastic bags, and the usual odd collection of rubbish floating past!

We have been dealing with a few gremlins in the machine that is Pelagic Australis over the last few days. There has been an ongoing issue with the generator failing to start occasionally and I think we finally tracked that down to moisture in a junction box (quite a lot of moisture), we found a loose bolt in the steering whilst investigating a strange knock in the lazerette, a strange intermittent noise in the engine room turned out to be a pulley slightly loose on an alternator shaft, etc. etc..

The last of the Cape Town bread was consumed the other day and I have turned my hand to baking some bread. I first tried to use one of those bought bread mixes, it failed to rise even a millimetre, but it had gone out of date in 2010! So I reverted to my tried and tested recipe for plain white bread which worked fine. Bread is such a fickle thing to make, just changing the brand of flour can cause a tried and tested recipe to fail, but this batch turned out fine so now I can vary the recipe to make wholemeal loaves etc..

The species of birds we are seeing are changing as we get further west; for example today for the first time on this trip we saw greater shearwaters.

We caught another fish this morning no idea what it was, need to get myself a book on ocean fish, it was too small to feed us so we let it swim off to grow bigger for next time.

Our bananas are ripening quickly so it’s time to start using them in as many recipes as we can. We have had baked bananas stuffed with shards of dark chocolate for dessert the last couple of evenings.

We have been making good progress to the west for the last few days sometimes motoring sometimes sailing as we are now. The wind has been very variable in direction and strength today and during my last watch I think we made five or six sail changes.

We are at the part of the voyage now where we have to make some tactical decisions on when to head south for Stanley. We could turn at any time now, but right now if we head south we’ll put ourselves in front of developing low pressure system that is forecast to bring wind of F10 so we are maintaining our westerly heading for the moment hoping that we can pass to the north and west of that system.

luminous whales

Latitude 29d 28.77m S Longitude 003d 55.55m W

Tuesday 11th September 2012

We are now motoring in a westerly direction more or less along the line of latitude 30 degrees South. We had one good day of fast sailing but have mostly been motoring or motor-sailing; which is normal on this route where we are trying to avoid the strong westerlies to the south but not make too much northing which increases the distance we have to travel.

We hooked a nice little tuna the other day which made us two very nice main meals. We tend to cook one main meal a day with everybody helping themselves to snacks and left-overs in between. I’m cooking today – ostrich sausages and pork spare ribs with whatever vegetables look like the need to be used first when I go to forepeak to make my selection. Ed cooked a couple of different vegetable curries last night, I cooked a morrocan vegetable stew one evening and we had a couple of variations of tuna roasts by Kali so we are doing well on the food front.

The moon has been rising later and later and is well into the last quarter so the nights have been very dark. Dark nights are good for watching all the photo luminescent creatures in the sea objecting to the boat’s passage by flashing their warning lights at us. Ed was treated to a spectacular last night when he was outside watching the light show and noticed a large patch of light starting to appear about 50m off the beam. He was just starting to wonder what it was when it shot skywards giving him quite a surprise. It seemed that a fin whale had surfaced and blew just alongside the boat. Since then we have all been hoping for glimpse of a similar luminous whale blow!

mustard and meat

So we are sailing at last. We departed Cape Town at 11am on Thurday 5th Sepember 2012 on the good ship “Pelagic Australis”. The crew are Magnus Day, Kali Khan, Ed Hewett and myself.

The last week or so in Cape Town was a bit of a blur for me as I had a severe bout of flu and my concentration was definitely well below par! I was trying to tie up some loose ends related to my own projects for “Morgane” and not to drop the ball on the “Pelagic Australis” project as well.

We had planned on leaving on Wednesday but discovered a small fuel leak in a fuel line in the starboard corridor which involved dismantling some framing and removing a pump which services a black water tank. The pump should have been clean and dry and appeared to be so when Kali dismantled it however a time bomb was contained within and very old turd came slopping out into the spotlessly clean bilge. Luckily I had been away getting a tool at the time and was out of range of the explosion of ancient poo. Once the poo had been cleaned up we dealt with the leaking flange as best we could and reassembled everything ready for a morning departure.

The weather gods were kind to us for the departure from Table Bay and we were also treated to fine display from nature; whales, dolphins, seals, penguins, etc.. Who needs to go all the way to Antarctica? We settled into passage routine quickly, assigned watches and chores etc. We had a minor drama when a sea water pump in the engine room decided to split it’s casing and squirt water all over the place. The others got the boat sailing (we had been motoring at the time) while I got the spare pump. tools and necessary odds and ends to change the offending unit for a spare. Half an hour later everything was back to normal.

Kali cooked a great piece of roast beef with roast vegetables for dinner.

When I offered Ed some mustard to go with his roast beef last night he came out with the quote of the day “if God had not meant us to eat meat he would not have given us mustard”.

The painters beat the weather

Pelagic Australis' masked for painting

The weather hasn’t been an easy obstacle to overcome but with some good timing and working a public holiday and a weekend we managed to finish the painting job on Pelagic Australis. The photo shows all the masking still in place after the final coat of grey was sprayed.

While the painters were busy on deck Gcobani and I were busy down below putting the heating system back together after a complete overhaul. I have all the below deck electronics updated and ready to go.

We now just have to fit the new satellite antenna and it’s radome for the Sailor Fleet Broadband 500 system. I have also installed an Iridium Openport system, and removed some obsolete equipment.

the contents of the forepeak strew over the foredeck for sorting.We have also been going through the accumulation of spare parts and things that have been kept just in case they come in useful for something one day. Some of the spares in the lockers are for obsolete systems etc., the same for the big box of instrument manuals.

One day I sorted out the odd bits of spectra and rope covers (that we use to cover working parts of ropes as chafe protection) and assorted bits of cordage, string, bungee etc.. I got rid of about half of what had accumulated. On Friday we emptied the forepeak onto the foredeck and sorted out all the odds and ends stored in there – see the photo, left – There wasn’t much in the forepeak that I could bring myself to throw away but a good selection was earmarked to be stored in our storage container in Stanley. Missing from the photo are a couple of anchors, some dive tanks, and two Bombard C4 inflatable tenders that also normally live in the forepeak.

On Wednesday I visited the Quantum sail-loft to check out the new sails for ‘Morgane’, they look very nice and were copied directly from the old ones with just a few small modifications so hopefully they’ll fit just fine – fingers crossed.

This coming week we’ll get “Pelagic Australis'” genoa (a foresail) back from the loft and by Tuesday or Wednesday should be ready for some sea trials. The weather looks pretty grey for the first few days of the week but from Wednesday on-wards looks nice and clear on the long-range forecast.

Red spray at midday

Gamje sprays the red

A week of more or less good winter sunshine has helped the painters progress well with the work on “Pelagic Australis'” pilot house. The saloon and pilot house have been redecorated and all sorts of odd jobs ranging through all of the systems on the boat have been knocked off by Gcobani, Matt and myself. The photo at right shows Gamje and his gang spraying the red part of the pilot house. Gamje is the guy in the in the red cloud; I think that he has spent so long in a cloud of paint that his lungs only function in a rich  paint/air mix!

I have been hunting down a few supplies for “Morgane” and had a session with my friend Manuel Mendes this morning going through my shopping list. He gave me lots of pointers about where to go to get the best deals on a lot of things and then gave me access to his junk bins where I found a few blocks and some jammers that will work nicely after a little TLC.

The Sun nicely lights Devil’s peak behind the house in the mornings. Unfortunately the weather forecast for tomorrow, Sunday, and the early part of next week doesn’t look so good.

New sails and Geocaching

Well it’s the weekend! Time to relax and not have to do anything to anybody else’s schedule for the first time in a couple of months. This evening I’m going to cook myself a proper meal for the first time in months too. I’m totally fed up with eating snacks and restaurant food.

This week was mostly concerned with getting settled back into Cape Town life. Finding the best route for the morning drive to work; which I still haven’t found as each time I have tried a potentially new track the journey has been disrupted by an accident or something else slowing down the traffic. Probably better to stick to the main drags that I know fairly well even if a little longer.

Pelagic Australis at the East Pier in front of Table Mountain

Work on ‘Pelagic Australis’ is progressing well. We have Gamje’s team of painters at work preparing to re-spray the pilot house, the windlass is away getting new bearings, the Refleks heater has been taken out and given a new burner pot and coil, a lot of interior paintwork has been touched up, all the radiators have been taken out and cleaned out, a chest freezer has been installed in the forepeak ready to contain some ice-cores from a project on South Georgia next season, the old Fleet 77 satellite comms antenna has been removed along with an old radar and a Sat C antenna to make way for the new FB 500 satellite antenna and Iridium OpenPort systems, the Bombard C4 tender that was eaten by a leopard seal last season has been to the inflatable boat doctor and declared a right-off so a replacement is on the way etc. etc. the list goes on.

I paid a visit to Quantum sails on Wednesday to discuss the requirements for the new sails for ‘Morgane’. Quantum’s Warren and I looked at the old sails, which had been brought over on ‘Pelagic Australis’ and discussed a few slight modifications and finalised the choice of cloth, batten pockets, slide system, reef points etc.. Work has already started on the new Main sail and the two headsails that I am having made will follow.

View across Cape Town from below Devil's PeakThis afternoon I decided to have a look at what geocaches might be located around Cape Town, that I could visit. I found four on Table Mountain withing a 500m radius of my apartment so went out and found two of those this afternoon. If you are a hiker or otherwise out and about, wherever you are, and have not discovered the activity of Geocaching yet check it out. It can add an extra dimension to an afternoons hike or actually give you a reason to go somewhere new. There are many types of caches to look for some are easy to find, some have cryptic clues, earth caches will teach you something about the environment you are in.

Piriapolis to Cape Town

I arrived in Cape Town today, Monday 23rd July 2012, just after 1pm. Skip picked me up at the airport took me to my apartment for this season where we dropped my bags and then straight down to the Shozalosa dock to see the status of the work on Pelagic Australis. The hire car was waiting for me outside the Aquarium and after a quick visit to Woolworths in the V&A Waterfront to pick up some basics for the fridge I headed home to crash.

I departed from Piriapolis, Uruguay, around 3:30pm on Saturday after a quick lunch with Laurence and Eliza from Imperial Yachts and Henrick the skipper of “Oya”. The restaurant was busy, and service slow, and we were worried that we wouldn’t get served before I had to leave but Piriapolis being a small town it turned out the the bus driver’s wife was our waitress and she called him to find out exactly what time I had to be at the terminal and gained me 15 minutes grace.

I had booked a seat on the Buquebus service direct from Piriapolis to Buenos Aires. The buses converge on Montevideo from various parts of Uruguay just before the sailing times for the ferry. Emmigration from Urugay and immigration to Argentina are completed at the same desk and the ferries seem to be treated as Argentine territory with prices for snacks etc. all in Argentine Pesos and grudgingly in Uruguayan pesos if you ask. At 40 knots the ferry crossing only takes about three hours.

In Buenos Aires I got a taxi to my usual hotel, a cheap place near the port, it is really a short walk but I had heavy bags so grabbed a cab for which I obviously paid too much for such a short trip. Sunday morning I took a stroll along Ave. Florida to see what had changed since my last visit a year ago; not much except that there are many more beggars, whole families of beggars in some places, and many dodgy characters offering black market rates to change US dollars – a sign that CFK’s economic polices are not all she says they are perhaps? I browsed a book shop and saw a recently published geographical atlas of Argentina so had a flick through it to see what it said about the Falklands. It was surprisingly free of BS, of course the Falklands were marked on the map as “Islas Malvinas (ARG)” and there were some stats on populations, imports, exports etc., but what caught my eye in the commentary was the statement “The recent discovery of indications of hydrocarbons in the area has heightened tension between Great Britain and Argentina” – no shit! Oh and the book shop had a large display advertising “Fifty shades of Grey” seems to be quite a bit of fuss going on about that around the world!

After lunch and a much longer cab ride, for not much more money than the previous evenings short one, and I was at Eizeza airport checking in. There has always been a small memorial to the Argentine servicemen who fell in the Falklands war there just outside security but that has been revamped a bit with a bunch of fabric banner posters depicting images from the war and various propaganda.

Not much to report on the SAA flight from Buenos Aires to Johannesburg, there was a short delay in Jo’burg which I took advantage of to pick up a new SIM card for my mobile, then a short two hour hop to Cape Town.

Time to catch up on some sleep.