Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The journey begins

The departure Tuesday 24th May 2011
And so the journey begins......well almost. We had been busy in Perth since we arrived from Busselton at the beginning of March. Last minute jobs were endless, lists were, however, slowly being whittled down and the boat was looking ready to go. We had helped Shae get into a unit of her own, sorted out Gaida’s place, got finances in place, organised direct debits for accounts and ticked off the myriad of things to do when you decide to leave a land based life. But, we were still waiting for the water maker to arrive from Trinidad and then we could go. A strange place you might be thinking for a water maker to come from but that was the truth and it was annoyingly delayed through a faulty regulator the factory could not fix. They ordered new regulators but it would all take time and we were getting to breaking point. When we at last had word from the dealer that it had left Trinidad and we had a tracking number we knew something was coming our way and that Fed Ex were onto it. Its journey was quite remarkable via the world wide routes of Fed Ex deliveries, Memphis, Anchorage Alaska, Taiwan, Singapore, Belmont and finally Shae’s place in Tuart Hill. It arrived in wooden box not unlike a small coffin and the quality of packaging was indeed reassuring. Grant arrived the next morning and began the tricky process of installing a lot of stuff into a pretty tight space. He managed well and it sits in its modular form mostly in the engine room but with the important control panel well within view in the galley. Grant happened to check the brushes before staring the motor and noticed a clip holding them in place was lying loose in the bowels of the casing. It was damaged and so began the hunt for a replacement before we could actually test the machine and get going. He spent a day driving around Perth from Malaga to Belmont, to Welshpool, Canning Vale and by a stroke of intuition, a hunch really he found 2 clips from  a Leeson motor and we were in business. All day he had been sending text messages, “ trying Belmont, looks good”.......” no luck, have one more idea” might have it this time on my way”. It was dramatic and when he finally came down below with the two clips in his hand I hugged him. Clips were inserted and the water maker started dribbling out pure crystal clear water from the undrinkable salt version, a truly remarkable event. This was Tuesday about 4 pm and our collective angst to finally getting going meant we saw Grant to the gate, rolled up the extension lead, threw off the lines and got the hell out of the pen. Rotto would do for a start, anywhere really so long as it was free of mooring lines. Nick McPherson, a good mate from Busselton waved us off from South Mole and The Doc made her quiet way across to Rotto and we “borrowed” a mooring for the night in Thompsons’ Bay.
We planned to get to Lancelin the next day, a good 70- odd mile sail so it meant an early start with brekkie on the way. Getting out of Thompsons with a fresh North Easter is always interesting and add to that a certain level of anxiety, apprehension and cumulative tiredness and it was a quiet boat for the first few miles. We had too much sail up and hadn’t accounted for the freshness of winds once you get offshore. The Doc likes a reef at about 20 kts plus but it was lumpy, cold and grey and nobody felt like going forward to do the deed. We hung in with the full main and a squeeze of jib and as the breeze eased around mid morning more jib came out and The Doc was flying up the coast. There is no better feeling than sitting under the hard dodger dry and warm and watching water whisk pass the boat at 8kts. The sun eventually crawled its way over the clouds that blanketed Perth but it was a winter sun and there was no bite of heat or comforting warmth in it. My anxiety levels were a tad higher than Diana’s and I remember the first half of the day sitting under the dodger grim faced, staring ahead at a lumpy white capped sea and thinking.........thinking....what will break first and is this really for me??? Deep and disquieting questions dear readers considering it was day ONE but as they say, every journey begins with a single step and this was our first sail away from familiar waters. We would need to get our sea legs back, our seasoned salty confidence that we had when we finished our last sail around Oz and it will come with time. At about 5.30 that night we turned in around Lancelin Island and dropped the anchor in flat calm water over 4m of soft white sand. The boat pulled back on her chain and off the stern was a winter sunset that burned and sizzled black and gold. We toasted our first day with a beer and a thought that yes.........our journey really had begun.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Meet Motley, the third member of the crew here on The Doctor. She came to us some seven years ago when we were sailing our previous boat, Norlee around Australia. She was a birthday present for me, for one of those significant birthdays. I must admit getting a cat on board had been a campaign for over a year and at last, because of that significant birthday Rob weakened. She was chosen from the RSPCA at Cairns and came on board on a rainy tropical day in a cardboard box via the dinghy and onto Norlee, anchored in Trinity Inlet. She would not have been Rob's choice as she didn't have that perfect Kleenex kitten look. In fact she was pretty scrawny, motley, colourless, and I must say a bit ugly. She was the last of the litter and was alone in a big cage, I suspect because no one could love her. As you can see though, she was the ugly duckling that turned into a swan. Well, maybe duck. Anyway she won my heart when she climbed on to my knee and looked deep into my eyes and said "Take me home." Since that day she has been a loved member of the family, has sailed more miles than many humans, and has willingly (well maybe not that willingly) been carted around the country side, between houses and boats.
Now that you know her history, I can go on to tell you how a great shadow was cast over our cruise departure. Departure day was imminent and we were only waiting for the shipwright to do the final touches to the water maker that we were having installed. Saturday night there was a big storm and Motley had been trapped down below because of the inclement weather. Last I saw her, or rather felt her was when she tried to snuggle down between Rob and I during the night. Finding the bed too crowded and the occupants not too amenable to sharing, she found other sleeping arrangements. I woke early on Sunday and was surprised to not find her in her usual cosy nest on the doona. I got up and went looking. She was nowhere. Gone. I searched all of her favourite nooks in the boat. Nothing. I was starting to panic and I remembered many years ago when we had arrived back in Fremantle on Norlee and she had finished up falling overboard. By pure luck at seven pm I had gone up to the shower and found her silently swimming around and around the boat vainly trying to get a hold on the slippery hull in order to climb back up. Anyway I told Rob and he leaped out of bed to join in the search. He combed the jetty, while I manned the surf ski to search the water, the other jetties and the breakwater. Hours went by and here was no sign of her. I thought I heard a cat's cry towards the shower block, but it was only the creaking and squeaking of the mooring lines. I was given false hope a few times when the ropes and shackles sounded so much like a plaintive cry. People on the jetty helped by searching boats and along the shore. I had a very bad feeling about this. I thought I had seen the last of our little Motley. I returned to the boat cold and distraught. Our friends on the jetty recounted stories of how cats had crawled aboard other boats and been tapped or lost, but came back days later. With our departure imminent, the thought of leaving with out her was inconceivable. I couldn't leave with out knowing what had happened to her. Is she lost alone and afraid? Is she drowned? I would rather find a body. There was no further point in looking for her during the day. She is such a shy puss, that there is no way she would come out in the day light with all the people about. We went on with our preparations. The last load of clothes to wash. The final provision. Do we buy cat food or not? We did, but it was not done with any certainty that we would need it.
Night fell and it was time to get out on the surf ski and search the boats and jetties again. I was paddling, calling and whistling. Sometimes I would get a wave of emotion and I paddled silently, but sobbed loudly. Amazingly I could still whistle between sobs. Still nothing. Friends on the jetty volunteered to keep her if she turned up after we left. Now that wasn't going to happen. Rob and I were both in a state and couldn't even eat a scrap of tea. It was about 9.30 pm and I decided to go up for a shower. A long hot therapeutic shower. On the way back, I paused to call and whistle one last time down a locked jetty. Was that a mew, or was I just hearing things? I called again. YES! There was a response! I called and called. The cry was so faint that I couldn't decipher where it was coming from. Right there behind me Motley tentatively popped up her head from under the board walk. I couldn't believe my eyes. Was I really seeing her? I scooped her up in my arms and hurried back to our jetty. She wouldn't be held any more. She knew the way now and ran back towards the boat. As we walked back to The Doctor, I could hear Rob still whistling and calling Motley! Motley! He turned around just in time to see her jumping back on to the boat. I was a mess, we both were, but this time tears of joy. She was back!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Thank you!

This is just a quick note to say that we are safely moored at Port Denison, near Dongara. We are pretty knackered after three days of sailing. (We are so soft! Not sail hardened at all yet.)
Thank you everyone that sent such encouraging messages and best wishes.
We will have a few days here waiting for mail and the right weather to get over to the Abrolhos, so we will get on to the blog. Promise! We have a few stories to tell. Diana

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The refit.....early days

After our welcoming party at Challenger Harbour themed appropriately as Doctors and Nurses, The Doc was beginning to feel like home. Our early sails on her were tentative and were more a matter of just feeling our way into this very new sailing experience. The centre cockpit was fine and the helming position was such that you could sit on the aft cabin top and steer with your foot. If you tired of that whip on the Course Master auto- pilot, and lounge along the teak cock-pit seats, lifting your head every now and then to check ahead and to count the number of S&S 30s, 34s or 39s you happen to be passing. We were used to 6kts and the occasional 7s on Norlee but this brute was idling at 7 kts and 8s were becoming the favoured cruising speed. Even with her tired old headsail, hideous wire halyards and corroded blocks and sheaves we could see this was going to a fun boat to sail. And so we proceeded to have some fun for the first year with sails down to Busselton,  Rotto and Garden Island taking up our weekends and holidays. What about the refit I hear you say. Well, it’s coming. We ended up building a house on a block on the canals in Port Geographe, initially for investment but the idea of living away from the city and sailing Geographe Bay was something we often thought about. When a Head of English position was advertised in the West for a school in Busselton it seemed too good to say no. We arrived in Busselton at the start of 2008 and lived aboard The Doc for the first 6 months while the house was being finished off. Once we were comfortably land dwellers and work was more or less under control, Diana decided to retire and apply for the position of Boat Refit Project Officer. There was only one application so, after a gruelling interview at a restaurant in town she had the job. The first thing you do on a refit is to write out a list and we had two: one general and one electrical and they went into the little blue book. Looking at them, turning page after page I suddenly had a thought, why don’t we just buy a new boat? There were a few must dos but there were also a lot of “ extras” that from our previous cruising experience we knew would make our life more comfortable. I’m going to write out the lists now just to give you some idea of the scale of the project and to give anyone considering a refit what it might involve:
Fly screens
Window coverings
Cockpit cushions upholstery
Perspex windows replace
HF tuner get working
Storage hatch/dinghy wheels
Wind generator
Solar panels
Service winches
Re-veneer  table
Replace cupboard latches (34)
Battery covers
Recondition propeller
Led lights down below
Re-rig standing rigging
Mast repaint and refurbish replace running rigging, sheaves...
Deck wash bow and stern
Cover anchor well
New hatches plus fit new hatch over saloon table
Pressure water
Hot water system to fit
Fit new solid boom vang
Fit double sink
Replace canvas dodger with fibreglass
Build bimini shade over wheel and get covers
Build davits and solar frame
Repair rot and cracks in deck, then bog, fair, bog fair bog and fair before priming
Paint deck including gloss on trim and coach roof
Remove eutectic fridge and replace with 12 volt isotherm system
Repaint old fridge for freezer use
Replace all batteries
Fit freshwater shower on swim platform
Replace all instruments with Raymarine ST 60
Replace anchor chain and buy 2 new anchors
Sand and revarnish interior teak
Check existing life raft and replace if necessary
Recondition fresh water cooling system
Fit new exhaust muffler
OK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! enough I hear you say.....well that covers most of the biggish jobs but along the way you do a myriad of smaller things that all add up. Now, onto the electrical list.......are you ready????
Fit 12volt sockets
Replace all nav lights with led
Rewire all electrical appliances and re-route tinned wire to a new switch board
Wire up solar panels, wind generator
Fit new cabin lights
Fit new 240 volt sockets
Wire deck wash and pressure water system
Fit new mast head lights
Wire dodger speakers and lights
Fit new v-berth reading lights
There was more done but I think you are getting the idea of the what a list of jobs really means when you come to refit an older boat that has not had quality TLC for a large part of her life. Needless to say, we have crossed off almost every one of those jobs and are now waiting on the arrival of our water maker and it to be fitted and then we are gone dear readers, gone, gone, gone and gone. To tell the detailed story of the refit, the moments of despair when the boat looked like an amateur shipwright’s experiment to the moments of joyous hysteria when hot pressure water flowed through taps would take pages and pages and probably be of interest to those who suffered their way through so I’ll spare you the saga. Special mention needs to be made to a few people who were with us all the way. Project manager D Neggo excelled in her position and definitely earned her bonus (unlimited brekky in bed). She researched everything, coordinated workers, refitted both heads, sanded, drilled, designed and help build the dodger and was driven by an energy that was staggering. Our shipwright, Brian McRae, was an elusive tradesman you are lucky to get hold of. He doesn’t advertise his services and if he chooses to help you, it’s a blessing. He chose to help us with this massive job and over a period of about 2 years together we slowly chewed through the list. Our sparky was another quality tradesman by the name of Kevin Smith and I’ll never forget seeing him up the top of our 20 m mast with soldering iron in hand wiring up a new mast head light, then heat shrinking the connection just to finish off the job. We have been blessed to have quality tradesmen who, in retirement, did not charge the usually prohibitive rates most marine trades hit you with. Total cost of refit and I know this is probably the most interesting bit:...... approximately 70,000. Add that to the 130,000 for the boat and you’re looking at a very comfortable live aboard yacht that will be our home for years to come. 

So, I’m sitting now at the nav station and when I go up on deck I see a stylish hard
dodger, new windows, a solid, freshly painted deck, a davit frame that holds a dinghy, solar panels and a brute of a wind generator, new stainless hand holds, a new bimini, new life raft and a cover over the anchor well that somehow finishes off the boat. What is not so obvious are the 12 hour days when the boat was on the hard in Bunbury and we had drive back in the dark, the hot sweaty days of sanding, bogging, fairing and priming. The waiting for tradies to get jobs done so other jobs could go ahead, the endless trips to Bunnings, Whitworths, Bias and the discovery of West marine online chandlery service. The dust, dirt and mess that greeted us every time we went down to the boat. But, it all comes to an end at some point. We have been living aboard in Challenger Harbour since early March finishing off the list and getting ready to throw off the mooring lines to a new life. It’s now the 15th of May and we should have been gone but the water-maker has had delays in getting here. It will be here on the 18th and hopefully fitted by the 20th and, dear readers; we will be gone on the 21st..,..weather permitting of course.
 Next report will be on route to anchorages north, stay tuned. Rob