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The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix

The range of skills you need to have to successfully maintain your boat is really quite broad. You need to be a rigger, an electrician, a carpenter, diesel mechanic, painter, sewer/seamstress, fibreglasser (or whatever a fibreglassing expert is called).  These are just the basic skills – then there are some specialist skills such as welder/boilermaker, fitter and/or  machinist.  The mind boggles – how do you learn all this stuff?  A lot of books on the cruising lifestyle suggest you go and do courses to learn stuff such as basic diesel maintenance etc.  On top of the maintenance skills, there are also the sailing skills which encompass sailing, navigation and docking.  You can then throw in a few other skills into the mix such as cooking and first aid.  A lot of people only learn a couple of these in their lifetime, let alone the whole lot.  To be honest, I don’t think a lot of boat owners have the whole suite either, although I do know a few people who come very close.


As for myself, I have picked up a few things along the way and have a lot to learn. I have tinkered about with petrol engines a bit in the past and learnt a lot of my mechanical skills that way, but not really had much to do with diesel engines, although my car, a Landrover Defender, has a diesel engine, it’s never broken down (touch wood) and all the maintenance has been done by the dealer.  I have yet to bleed my marine engine – mainly because I haven’t had to do it yet, but learning that is just around the corner.  The Yanmar is infinitely a lot more simple that the Defender engine, but at some stage I will need to learn how to bleed it also.  Surprisingly, owning motorcycles, is perhaps one of the areas that will give you the greatest range of skills to be able to do boat maintenance.  Granted a bike doesn’t have rigging or sails, and is petrol powered, but there is a heck of a lot of other things in common.  Fibreglass?  If your bike has a fairing and luggage you will need fibreglass skills.  It has an electrical system and  a mechanical system.  But really the main common factor is that self-reliance and the attitude of “having a go”.  Yes, there are lots of bike owners, who couldn’t adjust the mirrors without help, but there are a hell of a lot that can fix a lot of things that break, or won’t be afraid to have a go at fixing them.  I hear you cry that bikes are very technical these days and you need specialised training.  Yes, they are a lot more complex than they used to be, but underneath all those hoses and wiring and computer systems, they still function the same.  Boats and cars still function the same basic way they always have and the skills required don’t change.


I have just gone through a week of sorting bike issues to get it passed for its annual registration renewal. The Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) has been playing up and needed sorting.  In Just one week, I have learned how to remove the upper fairing sections and the instrument cluster from the bike.  Once removed, I opened up the instrument cluster to remove and replace the ABS warning lights.  And then put the whole lot back together again.  I also now know how to remove the ABS unit and replace it.  Bleeding the air out of the braking system is a fairly standard operation, and it hasn’t changed all that much over the last few decades.  Of course, I am not doing this blind.  I start off by trawling through the Internet forums for my model bike and can usually find instructions from someone else who has done this before.  Then there is the manual and of course, good old Youtube.  Spend a bit of time researching how to get to the instrument cluster and then the removal and replacement, and that’s half the battle.  The other is getting out there and getting practice.  I can imagine that attempting to repair something as complex as a BMW motorcycle can be really daunting for those that have no experience.  I don’t count myself as experienced but I have fixed other things and I know how to go about fixing it – even if I don’t know the ins and outs of a particular job, I know how to go about it.  Finding out what’s wrong and then finding out to fix it.  Is it fixable?  Where do I get the parts from.  Can I get parts other than that supplied by the dealer?  Are there other modifications or procedures that aren’t necessarily in the owner’s manual?  You would be surprised by what you find when you start researching your project.  For example, I discovered that you can buy LED kits to replace the instrument lights which are a vast improvement over the factory ones.  I have already made enquiries about getting myself the kit!


The boat is exactly the same as the motorcycle. Something needs replacing, so you go about it in the same way.  Work out what the problem is.  Research how to fix it etc etc.  It just needs a bit of confidence and to be able to see past the complexity.  A lot of things these days can’t be fixed at home of course.  Those mysterious “black boxes” full of electronics that seem to control things in the engine bay of your car or boat.  They are mostly throw away and buy a replacement – quite easy really.  Fixing them requires specialised diagnostic tools and specialised knowledge.  Although, after watching a few episodes of “Wheeler Dealer” on the Discovery Turbo Channel mechanic Ed China makes it look easy – he just opens up the black box in question and gets out the soldering iron and sorts it.  Ed makes fixing up old cars so easy, you sit there watching him and think “I could do that”.  And that’s how it starts.


I grew up building Airfix models of Spitfires etc – I personally think it’s a wonderful grounding for life – it teaches the patience needed to sit down and work out how to disassemble something and then put it back together. Fixing bicycles is also a good grounding.  They are simple and you start off by removing wheels to fix a puncture, then adjusting the chain, adjusting the brakes.  It’s not rocket science but it builds the necessary confidence to go onto more difficult things.  Pretty soon you will be like me and not be afraid to go at removing the instrument cluster on a motorbike, tearing down your sheet winches to service them.  Replacing wiring and wiring in new instruments for your boat.


Whether it’s got two wheels or sails it needs maintenance and it will need fixing at some stage or another. Do you do it yourself and thus learn those important skills, or do you pay a lot of money for someone else to fix it?  However, it’s easy being able to fix things in your garage with a nice workbench, good lighting and a vice, not to mention the internet close to hand.  Trying to fix it out at sea, a long way from the internet or telephones, spare part stores and even any sort of advice is a different kettle of fish altogether.

Interesting Times Ahead

Interesting Times Ahead

May you live in interesting times, the old Chinese curse goes, and events lately have certainly proved to be very interesting. As I write this, the world is going mad over the new President Elect of the USA, a Mr Donald Trump.  Well Facebook is certainly going crazy.  I have never seen a time where people seem to be so polarised over their particular brand of ideology.  Never has the gap between the left and the right been so big.  I won’t stoop to using the left’s renaming of the two opposing ideologies, “progressive” and “conservative” because the left certainly isn’t progressive and although the right could be considered old fashioned or set in their ways with a desire to retain their old values, I certainly wouldn’t call them conservative.  In truth, both sides are conservative and want a return to those values that belong to a period of the twentieth century from the 1930’s through to the 1960’s.  And yes, I have purposely spelt left and right with lower case!  This was when good old “Stalinist communism” was at its peak, along with the Gulag camps in Siberia and mass graves in forests.  This is progressive?  The right want a return to the same period where the nuclear family of Dad, Mum and 2.5 kids and the white picket fence life style of post war America.  It was a boom time of lots of jobs and opportunities – a golden age if you like, but certainly not a traditional lifestyle as it only lasted for a few decades – the eras before and after were quite different.  However, the world has shifted far too much in past few decades for these times to ever make a return.  The nostalgia from the music and films and automobiles is about all we can ever hope to achieve – the fashion certainly hasn’t made a comeback, apart from a few sub-cultures that wear the clothes of the 1950’s and dance to swing or jive music.  Do we ever really want to return to the past?

La Mouette was built in the golden age of Australian GRP boat building – the variety of brands from the 1960’s and 1970’s is quite amazing considering that Australia doesn’t really have a yacht manufacturing industry anymore. There are still lots of power boats being built locally but hardly any sailing yachts.  Things changed a lot in the 1980’s and a lot of the yacht builders went out of business.  When we bought La Mouette it was essentially a typical 1970’s family cruising yacht – designed for sheltered waterways and overnight trips.  Sometimes, when I look at the to-do list, the amount of “modernising” that we have to do is quite daunting (and expensive).  The temptation, is there to keep La Mouette rigged as a 1970’s boat.  Hank on sails, ice box, sail rigging etc all done at the mast and not in the cockpit.  I guess that we will eventually have roller furling but will the boat sail any better for it?  It will be easier to sail, that’s for sure.  It already has UHF and VHF radios, an EPIRB, dual batteries (but no solar charging) and an electric head (but no header tank).  However, the EPIRB, radios and batteries all need replacing.  Suffice to say, the boat really needs a jolly good refit plus some improvements along the way.

Our long term plans, apart from the refit, is to sacrifice the port quarter berth with a chart table, along with a station for all the electronics, ie radios, switch panel, music player etc.  Set the boat up for blue water cruising with the usual goodies, arch/solar panels, dodger, self steering etc etc.  plus a few luxuries such as a small fridge and one of those stern mounted BBQs.  We already have a new mast and rigging, plus the engine re-build currently in progress.  Of course, we know that by the time that all of this has been done, we will be a lot poorer, the boat will be a lot richer, but not worth the money we will have pumped into it.  But that’s the way of boats.

Hopefully, we will have “our” boat, not a 1970’s icon, nor a modern plastique French weekender, but something that we can be comfortable in and be able to take places. So when the world has it’s meltdown, we can sit anchored in a snug bay sipping out gin and tonics, with no Facebook and enjoy life.  When the grandkids ask us “what did you do in the great meme war of 2016 Grandad?”  We can truthfully, say that we spent more time watching sunsets than we did on Facebook.  That’s really something to aspire to!

As you may have gathered by now, the prospect of Donald Trump in the Whitehouse isn’t that scary a prospect for us. Unfortunately, for Australia, we don’t really have anyone for the populace to protest with – Pauline Hanson is too much of a minority to actually get anywhere and on the equally nutty left side of politics are the Greens.  I think most people have seen through their deceptions and realise how utterly incompetent they will be – so they won’t gain any power.  Instead, it’s the Tweedledee and Tweedledum of the More of the Same Parties, representing no change whatsoever.

Can’t wait for the boat to be made shipshape and loaded up with gin and tonics ready for those sunsets in some far off foreign bay, away from everything. Just can’t wait.

A Snowball’s Chance…

A Snowball’s Chance…

What started out as a dodgy gearbox in the Yanmar soon escalated. As previously described, we removed the engine from the Gull and dropped it off at the diesel workshop, Minards Diesel up in Newcastle.  I had a really good chat with Neil, the guy who would be working on the old clunker and he really knew his stuff.

Neil also recommended getting some head work done. Apparently you have to change the head gasket every five years or so, so I said, “sure, go ahead”.  Might as well make the most of it while the engine is out and I drove off with high hopes.  However, those hopes were soon dashed upon the rocks, and then giving a good pounding by a couple of rogue waves.  After being left high and dry, what was left of those hopes ended up dried and shriveled like a piece of seaweed in the sun.

A few days later Neil rang with the bad news. It looked like that at some stage the gearbox had had water in it with the result that everything was rusty.  The gears, bearings, clutch and flywheel.  And not just a light coating, but really rusty.


I seem to dimly remember some documents that came with the boat mentioning the gearbox being flushed a few times to get the water out. I wonder what happened and how water could possibly get from the outside of the boat to inside the gearbox.  It turns out that the spare motor someone gave me a few months ago, wasn’t a YSE model but in fact a YSB.  They have an alloy gearbox casing and bell housing compared to the cast iron of the E model  so I wasn’t able to do a straight swap with the gearbox.  Not looking good.

A week later Neil rang again. It was like one of the phone calls you get notifying you that a family member is now deceased.  The rear thrust washer on the crank was dodgy and there was a deep score mark on the rear crank journal.  This basically meant that the crank was knackered.  Cranks for the old Yanmars are now as rare as the proverbial hen’s teeth.  If you can’t get one, the engine isn’t much better than a boat anchor.  Meanwhile, the dollar signs were flashing before my eyes.

Fingers crossed that the YSB engine at home has a crank that is useable. I am not a gambling man and I couldn’t even make a start on guessing the odds on this.  All I can do is say a little prayer to the god or goddess.  Would you say a prayer to Neptune or Poseidon?  After all they are the gods of the sea, not diesel engines.  Is there a god or a patron saint of diesel engines?  A quick visit to Doctor Google revealed that Saint Catherine of Alexandria is the patron saint of mechanics but no actual saint who looks after diesels.  Well then, I will still say the prayer, and maybe sacrifice an animal or two as well as a few libations – possibly when the moon is full.  With no actual god, goddess or saint to look after the old Yanmar engines, it’s no wonder that these engines are difficult to resurrect.  All the resurrections in the Bible were done by various gods, and without your deity, you are basically up the creek, with no paddle, nor engine – drifting at the mercy of the currents and tides.

Did I mention that the head wasn’t in good shape either, necessitating a replacement, as well as the cylinder liner being glazed and a new piston also on the list of replacement parts? In other words, a total rebuild.  Not what the doctor ordered.  I was hoping to get it going again with minimal parts, and maybe get a year or two out of it before repowering with one of those shiny red Beta engines.  A newer more powerful engine to push against all those tides and currents.  Anyway, if the old clunker can get a new lease on life, I should be looking at another 4 or 5 years, or even more, before I need the Beta.  In the meantime, I can get in the fix up the engine bay.  It was quite a mess, with lots of grunge, grime and mould.


All of the above makes the engine sound like it shouldn’t have been going as long as it has. That’s the big mystery.  Up until the gearbox started slipping in Paddy’s Channel, it was a really reliable engine.  It always started as soon as you hit the starter button – and that’s the big thing with diesels.

They don’t start easily if there are problems in the top end, and this one started easier and quicker than my BMW motorbike. To go from a reliable engine, even if it didn’t look as clean and shiny as it should have been to a total basket case is one of those mysteries that ranks up with the Loch Ness Monster and Bermuda Triangle.  Maybe that afternoon in Paddy’s Channel was its death throws.  It just faded away instead of dying with a bang and a clunk and a puff of smoke.

Will the spare crank turn out to be in a useable condition? Will Neil find anything else wrong with the old clunker? More on that next time.



Out With the Old and Back In With the Old

Out With the Old and Back In With the Old

The last blog was about time and how it seems to slip through our fingers like sand, or alternatively, there isn’t enough of it to hold in your hand. But we seem to be through the tunnel and are now able to devote weekends to La Mouette.  After a hectic couple of months with work commitments, a holiday, Pipeband stuff, Deb’s Mother being in hospital as well as moving out of my flat, things have stabilised somewhat and we can now spend some of that precious time on La Mouette.  This weekend saw us actually spending two nights on board and we achieved some big things.

It’s always a big event having the engine removed from anything – the car or the motorcycle.  The boat is certainly no exception.  We woke up on Sunday morning with the feeling of expectation.  Today is the day!  By the time we go to bed that night the engine will have been taken out of the boat, come hell or high water (hopefully no high water in the bilge).  Over the past few months, I had stripped of a lot off bits such as the alternator, starter, exhaust elbow, water pump, crank handle assembly and fuel tank (the Yanmar YSE8 still had its original red 5 litre fuel  tank sitting on top of the engine) – mainly to lighten it up somewhat so as to make it easier to hoist out.  All that remained now was to remove the engine mount bolts and disconnect the propeller shaft.  One of the scariest things through this whole process was the fear of rusted nuts and bolts.  When heaving on a tight nut or bolt there was always the fear that shaft would snap due to the threads being rusted in solid, but fortunately, everything came out with no dramas.  I had been pro-active and sprayed everything with various penetrating fluids.  I was recommended a product called Reducteur – which came in a spray can.  It was readily available from Bunnings, a big chain hardware store here in Aussie.  It was expensive at thirty bucks a can but it did the job.  Not one rusted in bolt and nothing snapped or broken.  Only one screw refused to come out, and that was on the throttle linkage but I could still get the linkage out and will drill out the pesky screw later on and replace it.


The propeller shaft bolts came undone very easily, considering the amount of surface rust over everything. That was it – everything disconnected and undone.  The engine could now come straight out.  I had bought a chain block lifting device from Flea-bay and I rigged that up to the boom.  The Compass 28 has a key-hole hatch on the cockpit bulkhead.  They didn’t come with the sliding hatch in the cabin roof, so it’s not a direct lift upwards for the engine.  The chain coming off the boom and down in the engine compartment was rubbing against the top of the hatch, but a bit of carpet was placed there to protect the gelcoat.  A couple of friends, Dennis and Andrew came over to help and with Andrew in the engine bay, Dennis on the chain block and myself in the companionway to guide the engine we started.  The engine has to come up, across a bit and then up again before it’s in the cockpit.  It all went smoothly, in less than 15 minutes we had the engine sitting on a couple of bits of wood in the cockpit and after readjusting the boom sling etc a few minutes later it was sitting in a wheelbarrow on the wharf.  I just can imagine how difficult this would be with anything bigger.  Whilst the YSE8 engines are old and made of lots of cast iron, giving them a weight of approximately 140 kg, it’s still a struggle.  But we managed to get it out and into the carpark by ourselves, a job which would be damn near impossible with a large multicylinder engine in a larger boat.   Who said larger boats are more comfortable – try man-handling a 4 cylinder diesel around!


With that job done, I can now clean out the engine bay, replace bilge hoses etc and generally clean it all up. The engine will be taken up to Newcastle to get the gear box fixed and then I can put a lick of paint on it and do a few other things such as clean out the waterways etc.  A previous owner had disconnected the hand cranking mechanism, but I will be re-installing it.  One of the advantages of a small, simple engine is that it can be started by hand cranking.

With the engine out and ready to be sent off the get the gearbox fixed, it was time to turn our attention to some of the exterior woodwork, the washboards and hand railings. We got busy scrapping off the old coatings which were a mixture of Cetol and Penetrol.  A combination that had been slapped onto the highly weathered woodwork to make it presentable for sale.  It didn’t look to bad originally, but 12 months later the coating(s) were peeling off and the wood starting to grey.  It became a race as the weather had been pretty terrible all weekend with rain predicted for Monday (a public holiday).  As we scrapped and sanded away, we kept one eye on the approaching storm clouds.  The surrounding towns of Woy Woy and Ettalong got the rain but fortunately Booker Bay didn’t.  By the end of the afternoon we had one coat of Cetol on the washboards and handrails.  The next 3 or four coats will go on over the next week or so.


All in all it was quite a productive weekend. Going from not being able to spend any time with the boat for a month or so, to getting quite a bit done.  Once the gearbox is fixed, the next major hurdle is actually getting the engine back into the boat, then we have to get it going.  The learning curve is steep and we haven’t stopped climbing.  We will have to learn new skills such as bleeding the fuel system – a skill that every sailor needs to know.


But more on that next time.







The List Goes On and On

The List Goes On and On

Every Boatie has a to-do List – I think I mentioned in a prior blog that mine is on an Excel spreadsheet, colour coded and ranked in priority. There are big jobs and lots of little jobs, ranging from removing  the old antifoul to hanging pictures.  We will get there, it’s just a matter of time!

When we first bought La Mouette, it was pretty much a blank canvas, basically a 1970’s family cruising yacht which hadn’t been updated. The only concessions to modernity were the EPIRB (out of date!), a solar panel which used to sit on top of the coach house with the wires coming out of the gaps in the washboards, and wired to a controller that sat on top of the quarter berth cushion.  The other end had the spring loaded clamps around the battery terminals.  A previous owner had installed dual batteries and there was an electric bilge pump and an electric muncher thing connected to the head.  Oh, and a VHF and UHF Radios, both of which were once white and now in that yellowed tint – funny how white doesn’t fade, it gets darker!  That was it!  Everything else was 1970’s pure and simple.  Hank on sails, everything controlled from the mast, original analogue depth sounder, analogue sum log for the speed (actual gauge missing from the cockpit bulkhead).

Therefore, the to-do list is a list of requirements to drag to boat into the 21st century and turn it into a blue water cruiser.  Having said all of the above, it sounds like we bought a project boat – we haven’t really.  It’s quite a solid unit – yes there are a few blisters on the hull that need grounding out – the engine is old but has seen a few rebuilds.  Ground tackle is ground zero – meaning it needs replacing and there are dings, divots, stress cracks and gouges galore in the fibreglass that need sorting also.  No leaks!  When it rains, the water doesn’t come in – stern gland has new packing so it’s pretty good.  Although the hatch seals should be replaced, they are still doing their job.  La Mouette still looks good.  From the end of the wharf you can’t see the imperfections in the gelcoat – only up close.  Interior is good and we have replaced a few cushions and oiled the woodwork.  Exterior timber needs doing as it’s starting to go grey in places and that’s another job for summer.

So it’s no project boat, but one that still needs lots of cash to be thrown at it to bring it up to spec for what we want to do with it. Another $20,000 Aussie dollars will get us a lot of the big ticket items  we need, such as a dodger, arch for solar panels,  wind vane, porta bote dinghy, a rebuild on the bow roller, and a Jordon series drogue.  A new engine is inevitable (another $12 to 15 thousand).  Lots of things need rebuilding or restoring and by the end we will have a very nice boat indeed, one ready to sail out of the heads into parts unknown.

Our philosophy tends to the simple side of things, so the price won’t be as high as it could be. Plus the fact that at 28 feet, we don’t have a lot of room for luxuries and that can only be a good thing,  More gadgets = more breakdowns = more things to replace or repair.  We might go down the route of buying a small fridge unit to keep the milk cold but no big freezers or anything like that.  Navigation will be paper charts, hand held GPS, and I-pad based chart plotters.  We are really keen to learn the old fashioned way of doing this stuff.  I don’t believe in watermakers.  We are going to keep the old metho stove, but might go for a newer Origo, however, we will definitely not being putting in a gas cooker in the saloon.  Getting a Magma bolted to the pushpit rail will do as a an oven and additional cooker – yes, it’s LPG driven but that’s all outside and fairly simple.  I originally wanted lots of gauges all linked into together but apart from the depth sounder, what else do you really need?  You mobile phone/hand held GPS unit will tell you your speed.  Oh, and we need to buy a compass!  That will fill the hole in the bulkhead left by the removal of the sum log very nicely.  It sounds like a more labour intensive life style, and in some ways it is, but then we won’t be wasting time tuned in/out with a television set. Theoretically, there should be more time to get things done, and once we are live-aboards , we should save commuting time also.  This lifestyle really is swings and roundabouts.

Unfortunately, we can’t give up our day jobs just yet as the above has to be paid for. I have often heard/read that it’s better to buy a more upmarket boat where all these things have already been done, rather than to buy a boat where you have to pay for it, and never see a return on your investment.  I reckon the return on your investment is the experience you gain and the satisfaction you get.  Plus you don’t have to go through and fix up someone else’s mistakes.  I don’t really believe that buying a turn-key boat or no more to pay/sail away boat is really ever that.  There is always something to fix.

So I had better leave my keyboard and go and start crossing off items from the to-do list.



Who Knows Where the Time Goes

Who Knows Where the Time Goes

Entropy is one of the laws of the universe and it most certainly applies to boats – the more you don’t use them, the more they fall to bits. The reverse doesn’t apply however, if you do take them out and use them, then they wear out!  There is no escape.  The only part of your boat that these immutable laws don’t apply to, is of course, the “to-do list”.  If your boat sits out on the mooring, or in its berth for weeks on end, the to-do list just gets longer, and if you boat gets out to your favourite anchorages on a regular basis, the to-do list also gets longer.

Only two things can change the length of your to-do list. Time and money.  Throw enough time and money at your boat and it not only gets cleaner and shinier, the to-do list shrinks somewhat.  Money, of course is a finite resource.  There is only so much of it left after all the bills and living expenses have been paid to go toward boat maintenance and boat enjoyment.  Paradoxically, the more we work to earn the dollars to fix the boat, or to improve it, the less time we have to actually spend aboard fixing things, or enjoying the boat.

I have reached the stage of life where money isn’t the big issue that it used to be. The credit card is still a bit of a thorn in my side, but it’s not the mill stone that it once was.  The cruising kitty is steadily getting fatter and the bigger projects on the to-do list such as a spray dodger or solar panel arch will be definitely be achievable when the time comes.  It’s funny that you when you have the money, you don’t have the time, or you have the time but don’t have the money.  At the present time, I don’t have the time and I am sitting here scratching my head wondering why.

The big project at the moment is to get my gearbox fixed. The old Yanmar YSE8 is 40 years old, and whilst it starts first go, everytime, the gearbox isn’t so good.  A few months ago, we took it out for a weekend on Brisbane Water and on the way home going up Paddy’ s Channel, we started losing weigh, despite the engine thumping away.  Increasing the revs made no difference and La Mouette just ended up drifting along with the tide.  Central Coast Marine Rescue ended up towing us back to the marina, and subsequent investigations revealed that the clutch cones were slipping.  The telling factor was that the propeller wouldn’t go in forwards but everything worked ok in reverse.

I made the big decision to pull the engine out of the boat to get the gearbox sorted. Whilst it was out, the engine bay could be cleaned up as it is quite grungy at the moment with mould, oil and dirt everywhere.  It is also time to clean up the engine bay wiring as it was a mess also, just barely held together with poor crimping.  A coat of paint in the engine bay, replace anything that resembles a hose, a coat of paint on the engine plus a service and we would have a near new looking engine bay.  That was the plan.  Somehow, just trying to find a few weekends in which to get this done is near impossible.  So far, I have got a lot of the removable bits on the engine out, such as the starter motor, exhaust elbow etc and it really just needs the prop shaft to be disconnected and lifted out.  The gearbox may have to come off to lighten it a bit to get it out of the boat and up onto the dock but that won’t be a big issue.

If we get a free weekend, the weather is so bad that nothing can be done. Did I mention a free weekend, whatever that is.  Somehow, the Gods, or Goddesses are amusing themselves by stealing my diary and loading up the weekends.  You look ahead to the next month and it looks clear but by the first week of the month all the weekends have been booked out with stuff.   It’s time to get ruthless and learn to say no.  it’s the only way that the boat is going to get the attention it deserves.  Either that or give up work so that I can spend all this glorious time with La Mouette, but then I won’t have any money to get that pesky to-do list shorter.  Reminds me of those scams that was going around a few years ago, send $50 for a fool proof method of cutting your electricity bill in half.  You send off your fifty bucks and they send you back a pair of scissors!



What They Don’t Tell First Time Boat Buyers!

What They Don’t Tell First Time Boat Buyers!

There’s no doubt about it, if you are a first time boat buyer, especially a boat that lives in the water permanently, then the learning curve is steep. We bought La Mouette in March 2015 and sometimes I can’t believe how far I have come in the last 12 months in relation to boats and boat systems. When we were looking around at buying a boat and going aboard various boats with brokers, we looked at all the usual stuff – condition, sail inventory, engine, electronics, rigging etc etc. But somehow, now that we actually own the boat, we had no idea about how much knowledge we would have to acquire to maintain the said boat – and that’s before you leave the marina!

It starts off with simple things like tidying up the wiring for the bilge pump – replacing the manual bilge pump. By that stage you have your “to-do” list up and running. Mine is an Excel spreadsheet, colour coded and everything and as I work my way through the list, I keep adding things to it. But as I work my way through the list, I keep on learning more and more. Stuff I had never even dreamed about before, such as Sikaflex-ing holes when screwing things to the fibreglass – now I know I could even use butyl tape. Wiring should be tinned and you seal it all up with heat shrinking or even heat shrink your connectors, if you use crimped connecters – some people say you should solder everything. When you buy your new electrical thingy, you look at the packaging to see how many amps it draws to put into your power usage equation.

A forty year old boat is going to have a few battle scars and so you start learning about fibreglass and gelcoat, polyester resins as opposed to epoxy resins. How to deal with those pesky blisters and so on. A limited budget means that because you can’t afford to pay someone to fix your boat, you have to do it yourself, and so you spend hours reading books and doing internet research. I have lost count of the number of Youtube videos that I have watched showing me how to bleed a diesel engine, fibreglass stress cracks, service a winch, and how to calculate your power usage.

I suppose that I am more fortunate than a lot of people as I have always had motorbikes and was a bit of a petrol head in my youth, so working on engines and mechanical things comes fairly naturally to me as I have had a lot of practice.

When you climb aboard a prospective boat, the Broker is quite happy to explain how the survey process works, or the process for obtaining a mooring.   But what he doesn’t tell you is that you have to become a diesel mechanic, a carpenter, painter, rigger, electrician, fibreglass expert, plumber. I even know about Sailrite sewing machines!

One of the Youtube channels I have been following and enjoying is Sailing Nervous. Vin and Amy have decided that they want to live aboard and go cruising. The early episodes were learning about what sort of boat they wanted – then they went looking for a boat and finally ended up with a 30ish year old Moody 34. Having been twelve months down the track from them, I could see what was in store for them, and now they are on the same learning curve. It is fun seeing them following in my footsteps. But as most of us know, we can buy pretty much any boat and it’s the same – the never ending to-do list, even on a boat a couple of years old.

Currently I am learning about clutch cones and how to get the engine out of my boat – once it’s out I will clean out the engine bay, replace a lot of hoses and rewire the engine compartment. Then it’s get the engine back in and get it going again – after learning how to get it, and the prop shaft into perfect alignment.

I am just beginning to realise that I am only at the beginning of my apprenticeship – and only on the first rung of the ladder. I have long ago left the shadow of the Boat Broker behind me, and am now almost on first name terms with the guys at the engine shop and the local chandler.

Nigel Calder

My Nigel Calder book on boat maintenance has a few greasy fingerprints now – hey I even know who Nigel Calder is!

If I could write an email to a 12 month younger self and explain the next 12 months of boat ownership, would I do it? First I have to work out a method of charging my my laptop from the boat’s power supply!


The Dangerous Business of Going out of your Door

The Dangerous Business of Going out of your Door

Well I guess that it’s no good setting up a blog site and not posting any blogs, so here goes!

When we originally bought La Mouette last year, we didn’t have any long term plans for cruising or anything like that. Didn’t even really think about such things. It was more along the lines of weekends away around Pittwater and the Hawkesbury and maybe even up the coast a bit to Lake Macquarie or Port Stephens.

As kids on Mum and Dad’s yacht we spent weekends away on Lake Macquarie and the overnighters were just as much fun as the getting there by sail. I can remember the raftings up and group sails. It was all fun – but then life was more fun back in the 1970’s, however let’s not go there just at the moment.

Was buying La Mouette a desperate bid to try and capture a chapter of youth long gone? I wouldn’t say that, but more probably, the yearning to go sailing is still there. Packing the Landrover up with the tent and cooking gear is part of the same yearning. So is the motorbike. Especially the motorbike. A BMW K100LT is not just a tourer, it’s a full fledged gypsy machine, built to cruise the highways and take you, and your luggage to far away places – and also La Mouette. The open road or the open sea, it’s pretty much the same thing.  Bilbo, in J R R Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings, is talking to Frodo the Hobbit: “He used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary. ‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,’ he used to say. ‘You step onto the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.'”.

I think It’s started. The road, or the current has swept us along already – Youtube hasn’t helped much either – too much information and too many people following their dreams is setting a dangerous example!  They say that the horizon at sea level is only 4.7 km, but we can see a lot further than that. Of course the horizon is only as far as your imagination. The hard part is turning those dreams into reality and thus the real journey begins.

Welcome Aboard!

Welcome Aboard!

Welcome aboard!

Take your shoes off and come aboard!  Don’t forget the golden rule, one hand for you and one for the boat.

Take a seat and I will put the kettle on and make a brew, or would you prefer something a little stronger.