Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Black Streaks Are Us

Escaping the grind of 12 hour work days in Manila, boat work seemed an attractive option and Crystal Blues has been ignored for some time.  Arriving aboard in Singapore twelve days ago, we were surprised how much attention she really needed.

 The acid rain here is (we think) the worst in the world - just one rain shower can have the boat looking zebra striped.


If the black is not removed quickly, it will eat into older gel coat and paint systems to become a permanent feature of the vessel.  

Our Awlgrip paint is five years old, but living in Manila for the past year we were simply not washing the boat often enough.  So we returned to a stripy hull and decks that resisted all attempts at conventional cleaning.

We really needed a solution.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Our Cruising Mantra - Retire Young - Retire Often

We first retired from our work in Australia in 2005, before going cruising.  For five years we stayed gainfully unemployed, before happenstance offered up a variety of interesting projects and challenges over the intervening years.

Since then we've been involved in making digital HD videos of beautiful villas in Bali and Thailand, project management at a zip-line ride and adventure park on Sentosa Island and consulting for a Singapore company, building an AV design team in Singapore and India.  These projects allowed us to experience the south Asia area in depth, and between the assignments we managed to continue our cruising life style.


Making Videos - Luxury Villas In Bali and Thailand
Project Management - MegaZip At Sentosa Island, Singapore
Building Systems - Axis Bank Mumbai, Video Walls & Multiple Meeting Rooms
Our latest contract has given us the opportunity to discover another country as we've been based in Manila for almost 12 months.  I've been working with a local company on a range of very large projects, including a museum, a luxury home and the largest temple in Asia.  Most recently I've been responsible for the design, implementation and commissioning of media systems for the new City Of Dreams Casino in Manila.

When the Fun Stops... Retire

Ley sends me off to work each morning with a consistent and clear message - have fun !  We both know that when the fun stops we will move on, returning to our cruising home.  

Retirement day now is now looming again.  On August 31 (in just one week), we'll be off again.  Yes, we are on a count down, there is water at the end of the tunnel and we are looking forward to sailing on it very soon.

Crystal Blues should depart Singapore in early October, calling in at Penang for a few weeks before hauling out of the water at Rebak in Langkawi (Malaysia) for some much needed under water anti-fouling paint. By January we'll be back to our old haunts around Phuket in Thailand.



Sunday, 17 August 2014

Barnacle Busting

Barnacles and a solitary oyster living on the inlet fittings.
Almost two years since we last applied anti-fouling paint, and the barnacles are starting to grow on our hull once again.


Frustrated with barnacles blocking our raw water intake, in April this year we installed an Ultrasonic Antifoul System on Crystal Blues (read more here & here).  Though the Ultrasonic System is marketed to control barnacle growth on hulls, we were really wanting the system to keep our water intakes clear.  

Since the installation, the inlet hoses and filter basket have been growth free.  One victory for technology.  However the jury is not 100% convinced (yet) on the system's effectiveness on the hull.  Four months after the last clean, diving on the boat we find a fairly regular covering of small barnacles (the boat has been sitting in a marina in Singapore for the entire time).  Would it have been worse without the Ultrasonic system ?  Cautiously, we believe the answer is yes.

Systems Rich Neil
High Tech Cleaning

Removing the barnacles with a paint scraper is an arduous task, so this time we tried using the WaveBlade tool.  

We had looked at these tools with some suspicion over the past few boat shows.  Its like a hand held electric chisel, waterproof, and powered by 12 volts DC.  Faced with several acres of nasties, it seemed worth a try.

I can say this is a wondrous tool !  In use, the best description I can give is that its like shaving the hull.  With a light pressure and low angle, the blade glides across the surface of the hull and simply explodes everything in its path.  The small barnacles don't even slow it down, they just fall off, and the few large critters we found disappeared in seconds. The wave blade isn't specially fast, but it does make removing the critters an easier task.

Shaun & Harrison Helping Out With Scraper & Scrubber.
Low Tech Cleaning

Of course an even easier method is to send someone else in to do the dirty work.

Isn't that what grand kids are for ?  

You can never start hull cleaning too young, and  three year old Harrison was very keen to help Poppa Neil.  

Long may it last.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Another Gemini Birthday

Friday June 13, Lucky For Some

Time flies when you are having fun and it flies even faster the older you get.  Neil and Ley celebrated another birthday on June 13.

Neil's work mates had a surprise for him when he arrived at site, at the City Of Dreams Casino in Manila Bay.  It was in the form of a luscious, super rich, chocolate birthday cake.

After the candle was blown out and the cake cut and shared there was still plenty left over.  We left it at the office as we were flying out that afternoon to another birthday celebration in Singapore.

Ray and Jan Pitt, aka Crystal Blues part time "deckie and galley bitch" were coming to Singapore to continue the celebrations.

They arrived bearing gifts of bubbles and good cheer and quickly settled into their cabin and started to chill out after a whirlwind trip to Bali.

A little bit of Singapore charm was also added to the night as we had starters and pre dinner drinks in Tekka Mall in Little India.  

Then we rode the MRT to the Sands Casino and enjoyed fine dining, Italian style, at Osteria Mozza.

The Last Party for the Geminis

Just a week back, Neil's Pinoy work team joined us for fun at our local bar, Senore Paquitos.  Neil sang, we danced and all had a lot of fun.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Our Singapore Family

Shaun, Sarah, Harrison, Sam & Ley
Seems like we can't keep away from Singapore.

Now, our eldest son Shaun, wife Sarah and two grandchildren have relocated there. 

So we recently sailed Crystal Blues from her berth in Indonesia, across the Singapore Straits to the marina at Keppel Bay.  It has been a busy few weeks, helping the family with unpacking and house setup and enjoying the time with grandchildren - a luxury for two old sea gypsies!

The Job List


H helping Nana Ley
Our new Karcher pressure washer arrived, so with help from Harrison we gave the dinghy cover a good scrub.  Singapore is a great place for boat jobs, as parts and materials are so readily available.

First on the list was to repair the air-conditioning, which stopped working a few hours after we arrived in Singapore (of course).  

With some email support from Stephane of Siam Cooling, Neil was able to locate and repair the problem.  Stephane was spot-on with his advice - we found a burnt AC connection wire, under a cover on top of the rotary compressor housing - probably caused by the low supply voltages on the dock in Indonesia.  Lower voltage equals higher current - not good for the wiring, specially at the crimped terminations.  We replaced the crimp connection and  cool air was pumping around the boat very quickly - a collective sigh all round!

Second on the list was the completion of the Ultrasonic Antifoul system that we purchased a few months back.  We had initially set up a temporary install, but now all cables are loomed in neatly and the system is clicking away, hopefully keeping all critters from attaching to our hull.  We plan to report on the progress of this unit in the future.

Finally, soon after departure from Nongsa Point in Indonesia, our Comar AIS stopped working.  It had been operating faultlessly for 6 years. Robin Kidd from OceanTalk replaced the motherboard and all is up and running again.  Sailing visitors to Singapore should note that local regulations now require that onboard AIS beacons should operate 24x7 for the duration of the visit, even while berthed in the marina.  We have had to re-wire the switchboard supply to achieve this.

Three jobs down, plenty more to follow!

Marina At Keppel Bay



Crystal Blues has been snugly moored here for three weeks.  The staff are exceptionally friendly, and with many live-aboard cruisers around there is always a party somewhere. We think we are going to enjoy our time here.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Boating Therapy

We have visited quite a few boat shows over the past 20 years and on March 22 we added another one to the list. 

Sea-Ex Manila 2014 was held on the very muddy shores of pungent Manila Bay. There were 4 "big" boats in the water plus locally made large RIBs and an interesting array of canoes on the dock.

Once inside the exhibition space we meandered around and found a few stalls that held our interest.  We took a serious look at the new Sony HDR-AS15 and the GoPro Hero, but kept our money in our wallets.

We also spent time valuable time on the BLA stand. Luckily for us we met one of Mastervolt reps from New Zealand who helped solve a few questions that Neil had about their new smart engine alternator regulators. 
 
Retail Therapy

Our one and only purchase was a waterproof back pack.  Dinghy beach landings in surf, with electronics and wallets onboard are not a good mix, so hopefully our new Beyond Water will keep it all dry.

The Pinoy PT Team

In 2005 , as we were planning to leave Australia, Neil had surgery to repair a torn tendon below his right elbow.  He was warned that his left arm tendon would probably cause him problems in the future. It looks like the future is now!

So for the past month Neil has been in the hands of the very excellent Physical Therapy Team at De Los Santos Hospital here in Manila. With Ultrasonic treatment, massage and exercise, the pain has reduced and hopefully with time and rest, the tendon will heal.  If not he'll be visiting a surgeon again.......de ja vue!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

The Local Pinoy Scene

Singing with Chucky at Senore Paquitos, our local tapas bar.
Six months now in Manila, and we're still loving this city.

Most Friday evenings we walk down to Senor Paquitos. It has become our local tapas bar and we love the ambience, the live music and the food.

It seems to us that most locals we meet can sing and play and this venue is never short of audience participation.  Most Friday nights Neil manages a song or two with Chucky. Recently we donated a rainmaker bamboo instrument to the bar - a drummer has to have something to do with his hands!

Pinoy Cuisine

It has taken us a while to understand Pinoy food, with American, Spanish, Mexican, Chinese and local flavour it takes some time to get "into" to the local dishes.  Of course it doesn't help that most menus are written in Tagalog.  But with the help of Google and asking lots of questions we are now enjoying a great many different dishes.  Some dishes combine two different styles of cooking, with meat, mainly pork, firstly boiled then deep fried and served with a range of condiments and sauces that use a variety of oils, vinegars, spices and a large serve of minced garlic. Garlic Bangus, Adobo, Sisig, Crispy Pata, Bulalooften served with delicious steaming garlic rice, are just a few of the choices.

Garlic crab, delicious except for the oil    Mixed vegetable platter with pickled egg      Garlic Bangus, flattened fish 
Relaxing Down the Coast

Over the past few months we have managed a few weekend escapes to the south west coast of Luzon Island, staying at The Coral Beach Club at Matabunkay.  Hosts John and MJ and the delightful manager, Jennifer, offer a peaceful beachside escape from the noise, hassle and traffic of Manila.

With a pool, spa and excellent kitchen offering Pinoy and Western Cuisine, comfortable accommodation and this stunning sunset, whats not to enjoy.  John and MJ recently celebrated the completion of their new house, also on the beach, with a magic sunset party. An eclectic group of friends, both local and expat, spent a day sailing on John's catamaran and then partied on the balcony at sunset.  John charmingly referred to it as the "IPU" for his new house - "Initial Piss Up".  You can't take the aussie out of the boy.

Matabunkay Beach Sunset



Thursday, 20 February 2014

"Relaxing" at Nongsa Point

Drilling a hole to mount the new stern light.
Well, not really relaxing.  Our visits to Crystal Blues tend to be pretty focused - always a list of jobs to do, keeping the systems alive, running and testing major components, and upgrading where we can.

This last visit, with only three days available, was a busy one.
- Wash the top sides and all the sun covers
- Using the Powerdive Hooka, clean the hull (well half of it anyway)
- Test all the on board systems, including refrigeration, air con,  genset, main engine and computer back up
- Check and test all the pumps
- Install a new stern navigation light

The only relaxing job was mounting and wiring the new Hella NaviLED Pro stern light. The job went smoothly and was completed, surprisingly, in a very short time.   We like these new Hella lights, as they have a completely sealed precision optical unit.  We are now around 75% converted to LED lights including navigation, cabin down lights and cockpit lighting.

Back At The Coal Face

Neil has now been working with the EVI team in Manila for over 5 months now.  Designing, co-ordinating CAD drawings and schematics, managing the project, problem solving and passing on his knowledge.

The four audio, video and control racks have now been built, and custom software written, all off-site. All the audio visual equipment and miles of cabling are installed.  Now it is up to the onsite installers and programmer John White to finesse these very complex systems into a living and breathing environmental machine.  It has been an exciting project, with many challenges both cultural and logistical.

Preparing the racks for shipping                   Commissioning the systems                             The transport team  


Sunday, 19 January 2014

Floating Between Manila and Indonesia

Neil on a Skype video call to the team in Manila.
It didn't take long for us settle into work mode again....the boat became the home / office for Neil when he was not on site at Tandang Sora in Quezon City, Manila.

Crystal Blues is snuggly moored in Nongsa Point Marina on Batam Island, where she is under the watchful eye of our friend Acok. During the past few months we managed to remove the sails and most of the working lines and decommission the onboard systems.

Ley and Sam
In mid November Ley returned to Australia to spend time with her mother, Edie Worrall, who was recuperating from a hospital stay.  Ley's sister Sandra, who has been a rock of support to mum, was able to have a well earned break from being the primary carer.  Neil flew in to Melbourne in time to celebrate Edie's 90th birthday and spend time with our two grandchildren, Harrison and newly born Sam.

World Heritage Terraced Rice Padi At Banaue, Luzon Island.
Christmas and New Year were celebrated back in the Philippines, the first time we have been away from the boat in 15 years.

During the holiday break we loaded up the car with duvet, pillows, a freshly baked loaf of bread and a well stocked cooler box. We went on a road trip taking in Mt Pinatubo, Angeles City, and the Cordilleras region, covering just under 1000kms. Our last two nights were in Baguio, a hill station nestled in the mountainous pine forests, snuggled under the duvet as temperatures dropped down to 12 degrees each night.

This past week we've spent a couple of days in Singapore, and are now back aboard Crystal Blues in Batam for a short "vacation" - cleaning, hull scrubbing, running engines and generators etc.  All is well onboard. Wishing you all a peaceful and healthy 2014.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Tacking - Changing Direction Again

The Great Escape

Two months ago we thought our long standing love affair with Asia was about to end.  Crystal Blues and her crew were aching to go to sea.  Systems were in sensational order, the cellar was full, cupboards stocked with food and the freezer and refrigerator crammed with delicacies for a four month plus passage to South Africa. We dreamed of long distance sailing, anchoring in beautiful Cocos Keeling and then passage making to La Reunion via Rodriguez and Mauritius.

What Happened?

Neil was offered a decent 10 month contract with the client he had been part time consulting for in Manila.  Then Ley's son called with the news that he and his family were being transferred to Shanghai/Singapore for 2 years, from November 1.  With a new grand baby due later in November, Nana's help would be appreciated.  As Ley's mother is also turning 90 in December, we knew that we also wanted to be back in Williamstown to celebrate this wonderful achievement, so we decided to take the hint and stay put in Asia for another year.

We always said the hardest part of moving on to South Africa was leaving Asia.....looks like we have proven ourselves right.  So Crystal Blues is now berthed in Nongsa Point (Batam), a short ferry ride from Singapore. Neil is working a cycle of 2 weeks in Manila and 1 week on the boat, with Ley now joining him in Manila frequently.  We have a great apartment and car, provided by the client, and are just starting our exploration of yet another country.  South Africa will have to wait another year.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Dangerous Liferaft Servicing

Early this year we broke our own "boat rules" and could well have paid the penalty with our lives.

The Only Time We Want To Be Inside The Raft.
Our number one rule is to try to service and maintain every item on the boat ourselves.  Our number two rule is to always work alongside and supervise any contractor working on the boat.  

We broke both rules when we sent away our DSB / Secumar life raft for servicing in Bangkok. The last time the raft was serviced, in Singapore, we had watched the entire operation.

This time, under pressure to complete our refit,  we shipped the raft to be "serviced" by MSC, Marine Survitec Company near Bangkok.  What a dangerous and expensive mistake.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

The Foul Story - Barnacles, Ultrasonics & The Facts From Cousin Glen

Some weeks back I wrote (here) of the difficulties we had experienced with barnacles fouling the sea water inlets on Crystal Blues in estuarine waters.

Keen to find a solution, we started to investigate the new ultrasonic antifouling systems - these use a low power transducer attached to the hull, constantly exciting the hull with acoustic energy which (we are told) prevents algae and barnacle growth.  One leading manufacturer, Ultrasonic Antifouling Ltd., claimed that preventing algae growth also prevented barnacles, because the barnacles fed on the algae. I was somewhat suspicious of this claim -  I just didn't see how barnacles (which never move) could effectively feed on the algae on the hull.  See the story here, on their promotional email.

Cousin Glen at Wilson's Promontory, Victoria
So we turned to cousin Glen Burns, our oracle on all things related to marine biology.  His informative and generally hilarious response is presented here :

"Anyway...in answer to your question, barnacles do NOT rely on the slime/algae growing on the (hull) surface, they are (as you suggest) filter feeders. They don't actually suck water into the body as clams, oysters (ie bivalves) do. Barnacles are actually arthropods not molluscs, so they have legs like crabs. Their legs are hairy and  modified into filter feeding appendages. They open their shell and reach out with their hairy legs to "sweep" any organic particles in to their mouths. You can watch them do this... if you have the patience to sit and watch a barnacle. Who said marine biology wasn't exciting!  Lots of particulate organic matter in estuaries and harbours means lots of food for barnacles and therefore a pain in the bum for boaties, constantly trying to keep the little critters from fouling hulls, intakes etc.

Searching For A Mate - Scary
So what do you do about it? Antifouling paint, either toxic or ablative obviously works on the outside. Scrape them off, dig them out, regularly replace bits...there is no easy answer. I'd be really interested to hear how the ultrasonic system works. What's that saying about "Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a pathway to your door"...I reckon the same goes for barnacles...come up with a cheap, easy, environmentally friendly solution and boaties everywhere will be on bended knees in thanks!!    By the way, just another tidbit of information for you re barnacles. Being arthropods they practice internal fertilization. 

videoNow, being cemented to the substrate,  barnacles obviously can't get up and go looking for a mate so the penis is actually capable of extending out and over to neighbouring barnacles to facilitate insemination.  Which means that if you're a barnacle, size really does matter!  The further you can reach with your penis the more individuals you can mate with and thus pass on your genetic information to the next generation. Which is why the humble barnacle has the longest penis (relative to its body size) of any animal on the planet! Depending on the species,  the penis may be 10 times the individuals body length. So Ley, thanks goodness Neil isn't a barnacle or you'd be dealing with a schlong nearly 20 metres long!!"

Thanks Glen ... I think.  Maybe too much information.   Anyway, I have noticed that the "algae is barnacle food" claim is not repeated on the company website.  Equally, the product may work really well, even if we don't really know exactly why.  So we'll probably try it soon - stay posted, and please feel free to add your comments or opinions to this post.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Things That Work For Us # 4 - Caribe C10x RIB Dinghy

Taking our Iban friends for a fast ride on Sungai Tulai, Sarawak
Explaining our cruising lifestyle to land lubbers, we say that we do own a "car", it just happens to travel on water!  We drive the dinghy to the shops, out for dinner and visiting friends.  With the Tohatsu 18hp engine we travel quite long distances, exploring rivers, coastline and small islands where we cannot take Crystal Blues.  Our first experience with inflatable boats was an almost-new PVC Zodiac that came with the boat. It self destructed quickly, slowly deflating daily.  At a boat show in Los Angeles we spotted the Caribe boats, built in Venezuela, and ordered one for delivery to Sydney in 1999.  It had proper Hypalon tubes and a double skin fibreglass hull.  We loved the dry and fast ride it gave us - fitted with lights and extra fuel tanks that boat covered thousands of miles.

Arriving For School On Sungai Tulai - Children From The Longhouse Rumah Lidam
 As my friend Jim Cate would say, it was always "ridden hard and put away wet", but it never complained.

On the rivers in Sarawak (Borneo) it worked incredibly hard for years, and I do remember 12 children (and more) being delivered to "school" on Crystal Blues on most days, for weeks on end.

We patched it when necessary, had canvas covers made in Thailand to protect the tubes, and it served us faithfully for 14 years.  Hats off and congratulations to Caribe.

This year it started to need more frequent care, and we found ourselves applying frequent patches - the Hypalon fabric was failing at last.  Contemplating a new dinghy was daunting.

A Cracked Anchor & Fake Rocna's

Cracking Up!
Planning an ocean crossing, early this year we sent our Bruce anchor and chain to Bangkok to be galvanised.  Tick another job off the list we thought ...... wrong.

Whilst the chain came back looking shiny and new, our anchor came back showing a significant crack above one of the flukes. The Bruce has been great, 15 years of sterling service for us and 8 years on the boat prior to that.  This crack was not evident before it was galvanised - but better to discover it now than when it inevitably fails under load.  Click on the photo at right for an enlarged view of the crack.

So the search was on for a new anchor.  After the usual wasted days of reading and research, we decided to buy a galvanised 33kg Rocna anchor.  It has a number of advantages over the Bruce and other more traditional anchors, including greater holding power, the roll bar for instant setting and it is self lauinching.  

Is It Fake Or Is It Real ?

Rocna anchors are readily available in Phuket, but we just couldn't work out which was an illegal copy and which anchor was the real thing.  We spoke with many resellers and came away more confused.....did a real Rocna have impressed lettering or raised lettering - we saw both types.  Each dealer claimed to have the real Rocna, and warned about fakes every where else.  With rumours everywhere, we found even the Rocna website warned of copies, and the variance in pricing was quite remarkable.

So we contacted the Rocna head office in Canada, first by email and then on the telephone, to clarify the situation.  How could we pick the fakes ?

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Ugly Raw Water Blockages - A Fouling Story

We're spending quite a bit of time in marinas these last few months, as I'm doing some contract work and Admiral Ley needs a safe home while I'm away from the boat.  

This means that our sea water cooled refrigeration and airconditioning systems are running frequently in estuarine waters with a very high fouling capability.

Coming from a relatively cold water background (Melbourne, Australia) I'm still amazed at how quickly an anchor, or chain, or in this case a raw water inlet, can become completely fouled by marine growth in these warm water areas.  The image at right shows the problem - the hose tail at left is almost closed with barnacles, and the hose tail at right has a decent oyster growing - just what we don't want.  
 
When we look at the hose, the situation is obviously worse. Large clusters of barnacles and yet another oyster are almost completely blocking the inlet hose.  Note this is 1.5" (40mm) hose, that feeds a manifold with multiple outlets for refrigeration, air conditioning, deck wash, genset etc.

To counter the problem we now place a chlorine tablet in our raw water strainer every other day, when we're in a marina.  We use standard swimming pool chlorine tablets, that dissolve in just a few minutes after placement.  These do a great job of stopping the growth from the strainer basket onwards.

Special Note :  You MUST NOT use chlorine tablets on a seawater inlet that feeds your R.O. water maker - it will destroy the membrane(s) !

Chlorine tablets also clean up the hoses really well,  but they can't help with the hose and fittings that are in the line before the strainer.  So now we replace that hose every twelve months - a half day boat project that keeps the systems running and my back and shoulders in fine trim (its a b**g*r to get at), and my knuckles suitably skinned.  Boat jobs.

Along the west  Malaysian coast, from Singapore to Langkawi and northwards into Thailand, this type of fouling is all to common.  In Kuah Harbour (Langkawi), the long term cruisers know that you must lift your anchor chain by 4 or 5 meters one day, and then lower it back again the next day, in a never ending alternating sequence, to stop the aggressive growth there from fouling the chain that is between the water surface and the muddy bottom.  This really does work, though nothing will stop the change to the chain galvanising caused by the very special mud in Langkawi.  But that's another story.....

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Singapore Straits - Sailing From Malaysia to Indonesia

The Brightly Colored "Lego Barge" Came Over The Horizon This Afternoon - At 2 Knots
We departed Puteri Harbour in Johor, Malaysia at 11.00am this morning, and arrived at Nongsa Point in Batam, Indonesia, at 6.00pm this evening.   Its only 47 nautical miles by sea, but a world apart in many ways.  Our AIS target identification system was kind of busy - over 2000 targets (vessels) tracked in a single day must be some kind of record.  

Our Track Is The Black Line, With Destination Nongsa Point At Lower Right
You can get a very sore neck trying to keep track of all those ships from the cockpit.

Right now, from our berth in the marina we can identify over 420 discrete vessels in the Singapore Straits, all individually identified and tracked on the plotting system.  

The straits are very busy, and we find the AIS system essential for safe navigation here (see our AIS technology primers Part1, Part2 and Part3 for background).

Puteri Harbour had very few visitors, and lacks any useful services except fuel supply, though it is safe, clean and inexpensive.  But I've never been in a marina that was so ....... soul less.

When the wind came up we managed to sail for just two hours today, roughly a quarter of the 8 hour voyage, which is about average for this part of the world.  But the sailing was a delight, a reminder of why we chose this life style.

Here at Nongsa Point the welcome and atmosphere are completely different to Puteri Harbour.  Staff are more competent and confident, and there are active sailors and cruisers on many of the boats here.  The place has a nice buzz about it, with sail training yachts and dive charters moving about the harbour.  The attached resort provides a pool, bar and meals, and the local ferry terminal has regular services to Singapore.  We're impressed.  We'll be here for a few weeks whilst we prepare for the next phase of our cruising life.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Things That Work For Us # 3 - The Powerdive Hookah

Did Somebody Lose Something ?  Malacca Straits Midnight Dive
As cruising  sailors we are definitely not professional divers, but we do enjoy the underwater world.  

More importantly, we often also need to work under the boat for cleaning, maintenance and clearance jobs, when bad stuff happens.  Which it does ...

That rope I'm holding at left caught around our propeller in the Mallaca Straits back in 2006.  Not surprisingly it stopped the drive train and the Cummins engine in a flash.  

Drifting powerless at night, in a busy sea lane, is not our idea of fun, but we were able to clear the propeller and get underway again in quick time, using the Powerdive system.

Hull Cleaning Is Much Easier With Endless Air
Basically its a simple 12 volt powered compressor that provides low pressure air, via a hose, to a regulator worn by the swimmer.  It's incredibly easy to use, and we've had great success introducing people to the underwater world using the Powerdive.  The fact that they are tethered to the boat by the hose is a positive thing ....  even beginners feel comfortable.  The Powerdive compressor also keeps people at shallow depths - go beyond about 5 meters and it just won't pump air to you - so you tend to come up again !

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Cruising Buddies

Selecting dim sum at a local cafe in Penang
Mike and Sue Powell, good friends from Australia and long time cruisers, visited Crystal Blues in June.  They have sailed the Pacific for the past 17 plus years on SV Yaraandoo II, a well proven Naut 40. After meeting first in 1998 we shared many anchorages in Pittwater and along the Australian coast for the next 7 years.

We parted ways in 2005, us to Asia, Mike and Sue later on to circumnavigate the Pacific, via New Zealand, Hawaii, Canada, USA, Mexico and back to Australia.  Our love our Asia tempted them to fly over for a visit.
Showering on the back deck after under water cleaning

 After first visiting friends in Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Mike and Sue flew to Penang.  For 8 days we explored temples and feasted on local food from our base at Straits Quay Marina.  We also managed a road trip to the cooler Cameron Highlands on mainland Malaysia.  We left the marina for a couple of days to test the new Northern Lights genset under cruising conditions anchoring overnight behind Pulau Jerajak on the south east side of Penang Island - an excellent anchorage that is close to a major shopping mall.

During the day Mike gave Neil a hand by diving on the hull, giving it a clean whilst Neil used the hooka to clean the propeller.  Unfortunately the scraggy long tail "killer" jelly fish were swarming around the boat so the boat scrubbing was quickly curtailed.  Neil escaped, though Mike was not so lucky, with one long sting across his foot.  The joys of working on a boat in exotic locations.

Crystal Blues and crew are now in Puteri Harbour, Johor, Malaysia.  We're very close to Singapore, but missing the fine food and culture of Penang.

And for testing purposes only, here is a link from other cruising buddies Rolf & Irene in South Africa.


Sunday, 7 July 2013

Penang To Johor Baru - Heading South

We departed Straits Quay Marina in Penang at 07.30 Sunday morning, motoring south through a sticky haze.

Day One - The Fishing God Speaks

Penang wasn't going to let us go easily though - after 2 hours of travel we pulled up with a fishing net caught on the skeg.  So into the water I went, once again the little Powerdive Hookah system earned its keep. Less than six inches of visibility, but I found the net had caught on the skeg, so the clearance was simple enough. 

By noon we had cleared the inshore nets and traps and were at 05deg 09.38 North and 100deg 12.84 East.  

We're testing the new Delorme inReach satellite communicator on this passage, so you should be able to track our movement by selecting the "Where Are We" tab at the top of this page, and clicking on the link provided.

Late afternoon the south westerly has "freshened" to 15 knots, despite a local forecast of 5 to 10 knots.  We plowed on (literally) through lumpy and confused seas, with a lot of water over the deck.  Beating to windward in the Malacca Straits is a very frustrating exercise - up to 2.5 knots of adverse current means that at times we seemed to be going backwards.   We settled in for a longer than usual trip.

Day Two - The Weather God Shouts ......

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Northern Lights - Reliable Onboard Power At Last

If you follow this blog you'll already know that early this year our Onan generator died, with a frustrating control board fault.   We decided to ditch it, as it was probably the most unreliable piece of kit onboard. A month later it had been removed, and sold.  Amazing.
 
We selected a Northern Lights unit to replace the Onan, though pricing in Thailand was steep.   Looking further afield we found we could save 15% by buying in Singapore, or even Australia.  Then we contacted the reseller in Taiwan and received an even better quotation, for delivery into Penang, Malaysia.  

So we sent the money, they shipped the generator.  We arranged for trans-shipping to Langkawi in Malaysia and craned it on board without any duty or tax. Brilliant.  

Sunday, 16 June 2013

When Stainless Steel Isn't

On any sea going boat corrosion is a constant companion, but a dangerous one.  Like a sore tooth, it will flare up sometimes with no warning.  We use grade 316 stainless steel fasteners whenever we can, to reduce the impact of corrosion, however every now and then we are reminded how even the 316 has its problems - namely crevice corrosion.

When removing the old Onan generator a while back, we found one bolt head sheared completely (a real knuckle skinner !) as it was loosened. On bolts like this the thread is usually roll formed, while the head is forged, a process called "rolling and heading". Its a cold formed process, and it can clearly lead to problems, specially if sea water collects where the metal is deformed and stressed.  316L stainless steel in an oxygen deprived environment can and will corrode.  Fortunately this bolt didn't cost a lot to replace, but in the past we've had to replace an entire propeller shaft due to crevice corrosion.

The Hidden Cost Of Piracy

The Admiral is busy planning our crossing of the Indian Ocean as I write this - she's counting and calculating everything from courtesy flags to bread flour, from tissue boxes to lube oil, so we have plenty of provisions on board.  But it's the southern Indian Ocean we're looking at, not the easier northern route that would have lead us through the Red Sea to the Med.  Piracy is still a real problem in the northern areas, so we need to head south and travel via the Cape Of Good Hope into the southern Atlantic. That's an extra 5000 miles of sailing to reach Gibraltar.

MV Sea Bird Fitting Slings For Loading
For others, the option of shipping the boat to the Med is proving attractive.  Many yachts travel as deck cargo on ships, transiting the piracy zone quickly and in relative safety at 20 knots or so.  Our good friends Steve and Carol on MV Sea Bird shipped to Turkey back in March on-board the transport ship MV Thorco Svendborg, and are now enjoying the delights of the Turkish coast.  Rates for shipping from Phuket to Turkey start at around US$1,000.00 per foot, and this year there were three ships loading yachts and motor vessels in Phuket for the trip west.  It is big business, and it is a hidden cost of piracy.  Five thousand miles or fifty thousand dollars ?

Sea Bird Lifting
Ley (the Admiral) and I have spent several years here in Asia, hoping the piracy would diminish - but it is not safe yet.  Some are saying there hasn't been a yacht taken in the past year, but then again no yachtsman with any common sense would enter the northern Indian Ocean or the Arabian Sea at the moment.  Further, the military folks charged with policing the "bad zone" are saying that yachts are more at risk right now, because the shipping is better protected and the pirates are looking for targets of opportunity.  See the information provided by the Ocean Cruising Club here.
Sea Bird Joins The Cargo On Deck

Consequently, this year around 40 boats sail from Asia via the Cape and South Africa, commiting to that extra 5000 nautical miles.  We estimate another 50 or so will book places aboard the several ships that are offering to carry smaller vessels through the troubled area.

What ever path you choose, it is now costing much more to travel from Asia to Europe and beyond.

Information on the voyage of  Sea Bird is on their blog here.

For more information you should review the information provided by the Ocean Cruising Club.  That page also includes a number of other useful links, plus details of some shipping schedules for next year.