Friday, 31 July 2015

Sunshine now powering Our Dreamtime

July 31 2015
 
The last major upgrade on our to-do list before we cast off the lines and finally go cruising on Our Dreamtime was completed today. It was also one we have been looking forward to the most.  Thanks to three solar panels now fitted neatly on the cockpit roof, the majority of our electrical energy is now being harnessed from the sun.

 
Previously we had to rely solely on the two alternators hanging off the sides of our diesel engine to produce electricity once we left the marina. This is fine when motoring along but on nice sailing days when the engine stays off our batteries still need to be charged. Even worse, there is nothing more annoying than shattering the serenity of a beautiful anchorage by running the engine for a couple of hours morning and night solely to charge the batteries.

We were able to fit two Enerdrive 150watt and one 55watt panel very neatly on the cockpit roof and were extremely pleased that they blend in very unobtrusively. We really did not want panels hanging off all over the place spoiling the classic lines of our Whitby 42. They are fixed on mounts that provide an air gap between the panels and the fibreglass roof. That keeps both the panels and the roof cooler improving the efficiency of the system and our comfort.

 
We also included an Enerdrive ePRO monitor in the system which tells us exactly how many amps are flowing into or out of our battery banks, what voltage they are at, what percentage of full charge they are holding and how many hours of service remain available at the current rate of discharge. We won’t really know just how much of our power needs the solar will be able to provide until we try it in operational conditions when we set sail north in a couple of weeks but a test in the winter sunshine this afternoon with all our navigation gear, radios, and refrigeration running and our computers and i-pad charging, the battery charge percentage dropped by only about 5% over five hours which was very encouraging.

Our system was supplied and fitted by Electech Industries who are based here in Manly Harbour. We could not have been happier with the service provided by Daine Mulkeams and his team. On his first visit to our boat to quote on the job, Daine went to great lengths to understand exactly what we wanted to achieve rather than just tell us what he thought we wanted. His price was very competitive and we were able to achieve 355watts via three panels for only a few dollars more than others quoted us for just two 120 watt panels. We also took up his suggestion that we could save some money by doing some of the work ourselves such as running the cables from the cockpit roof down through the boat to the battery bank.

Now all we need is lots of sunshine.

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Sunday, 26 July 2015

What price Safety?

26 July 2015
 
When talking about our cruising lifestyle to non-sailing friends, the question we get asked most is “Is it safe?  Our reply is that there is some level of risk in every activity known to man and the key is to minimise that risk by how you do things, what safety precautions you take and what safety equipment you use. We sail very conservatively, avoid leaving port unless the weather forecasts are favourable and have equipped our boat as well as we can.

In addition to now being sailors, we have always been motorcyclists and have lived by the creed “If you have a $10 head, buy a $10 helmet. If you value your life more than that buy the best you can.”

However, every time you open a sailing magazine or walk into a chandlery you seem to come across a new, latest invention or new improved model of something touted as being essential to make cruising safer. If you bought everything on the market your boat may sink under the extra weight and your bank balance would look like Greece’s .  Many of the most expensive items are also those that, with luck, you will probably never actually use. Think life raft, EPIRBs, Personal Locator Beacons, grab bags and other EMERGENCY equipment. So how much should you spend on safety equipment? We wish we could answer that.  What price do you put on your life?

As we make final checks before embarking on a four month shake down cruise it's been interesting reviewing the work we have completed on 'Our Dreamtime' since moving aboard 17 months ago.
Now in the last days of preparing to actually throw the lines off and go cruising again we have started to look back at all the re-equipping and work we have done to Our Dreamtime since purchasing her 17 months ago. Here’s just fifty items on that list.

Coffee Machine (We are both pro-caffeinators and can’t do anything until we’ve had our coffee)

New fire extinguishers (existing were all out of date)

New fire blankets (Supplements existing)

New EPIRB (existing was out of date)

New gas BBQ ( Essential for any cruiser)

Fitted a transom table ( Perfectly complements the BBQ for dining on deck)

Gas Valve fitted in galley (to comply with Australian Standards)

LPG Bottles inspected (overdue for -recertification)

All sails removed and sent to sailmaker for checking and service

Complete masts and chainplates out replacement of all standing rigging (Existing well over ten year mark)

We elected to do a full, masts of re-rig rather than take shortcuts
All new through masts wiring

New tricolour and masts mounted work lights

New DSC VHF radio and aerial (existing old with no DSC and corroded aerial)

New TV Antennae (Rob loves his sport on TV when in reach)

New stereo (Cruisers have to have tunes)

All new running rigging and associated blocks, shackles etc.(Existing mostly over ten year mark)

We wish we'd kept track of just how many meters of new line we put on the boat. It would be big in total.
 
Haul out –all through hulls and folding prop serviced, hull cleaned and anti-foul touched up where needed

Hull painted (not planned but as result of damage caused by boat yard during a haul out)

Lovely new, shiny blue and ready to splash.
New fridge compressor (not planned but crap happens)

New ocean rated lifejackets and harnesses for Rob & Karen

New inflatable life jackets for guests (Existing were old foam style)

Complete refurb of the tender (See blog ‘Breathing new life into our ageing inflatable dinghy’)

 
Both outboards serviced

Made fitted sheet sets for forward berth and aft stateroom. (Anyone who has lived on a boat will know why)

Anti-slip treads with glow in the dark strips fitted to both companionways

New 240v inverter (unplanned but crap still happens)

Assemble a comprehensive First Aid and Medications Kit (No existing on board)

Source UP TO DATE First Aid Journal ( See blog ‘Stingray Strike tests our Emergency Plans)

Karen on the way to the ER after suffering a stingray strike
 
NEW personal AIS man over board beacons for Rob and Karen(our existing PLBs are still in date)

New LED cockpit lighting (White and red night vision)

Fan in cockpit (fitted over galley hatch serves as exhaust fan in use or cooling the cockpit)

Fan in Aft Cabin

Purchased Sailrite sewing machine for canvas and sail making and repair

 
Made new jackstays (none existing )

Made new mizzen sail bag (existing had broken zippers and UV damaged canvas)

Made bags for folding bikes

Made rope bag for cockpit

Made aft table cover

Made new slings for dinghy on davits (Yes we are getting value out of the sewing machine)

Fitted near-new just serviced life raft (existing was 1980s model not serviced since 2010)

New Chart Plotter with Navionics charts

Binnacle mount for I-Pad which mirrors new nav station mounted B&G Plotter via wifi

Existing PC based plotter updated with new CMaps software

AIS transponder fitted (no existing AIS onboard)

New Autopilot (Existing 1980s Brenmar Cetec wandered up to 20 degrees off heading)

New wind, depth and log instruments.

New Super High Holding Power Sarca Ex-cel Anchor

A new EX-CEL saw our old CQR moved from being our primary to our secondary anchor
Purchased Shuttlechef thermo cooker (Produces fantastic food while greatly reducing gas usage)

110 metres new anchor chain

New fresh water pump (Unplanned but what can we say. It’s a boat and crap always happens)
 
Cruising Guides obtained for areas we plan to sail

355 Watts of solar panels and monitor fitted

Scuba tank and kit added (In addition to recreation great for cleaning prop, hull and freeing stuck anchors)

So what did the list tell us? Firstly we quickly understood why we haven’t had the time to do anywhere near as much catching up with friends as we’d planned while at home. Next it reminded us why we’d decided we both needed to work a few days a week during the refit so the money flow wasn’t completely one way. Most significantly though, looking at the list demonstrated that the 20% or so non-safety related items on the list only amounted to about 5% of the money we had spent getting ready to cruise.

The VAST majority of the $50k plus we have spent post purchase has been outlaid to make Our Dreamtime as safe to sail in the years to come as we can afford. Minimising the risks of something going wrong creates the peace of mind needed to enjoy the cruising life. There is no fun in being out there worrying the whole time about things you know could have/should have been fixed or improved.

The price of safety may be high but, with the greatly increased peace of mind it provides, the return on investment is worth every penny and much, much more.
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Saturday, 25 July 2015

Would you trust your life to a 30 year old life raft?


July 24 2015

When we bought ‘Our Dreamtime’ she came complete with an Avon four man life raft. The bad news was it was 1980s vintage and had not been serviced since 2002. Our surveyor had one look and said  You’ll have to throw that away.”

 
However it did have a comprehensive list of contents of what was inside stuck on the canister. This included a small hand desalinator which the boat’s sellers urged us to retrieve if we were going to dump the raft.

We are the type of people who hate the modern throwaway society we live in and always rather repair or renew something if possible than simply discard it. So decided to do some research to see if the raft was worth saving before making any rash decisions. In the meantime the Avon stayed in place on the stern while we sailed locally in Moreton Bay learning the boat.

 
It turns out authorised Avon servicing agents are few and far between in Australia these days but we did find manage to one in Brisbane but the news wasn’t good. Their advice was that although Avon make excellent rafts, the type of inflating mechanism used on our vintage raft was virtually unobtainable at any reasonable cost making servicing it financially unviable. Their instant suggestion was to buy a new raft at a not inconsiderable expense.

Instead we found a near new Zodiac four man life raft for sale that was just past its due service date so decided it would be a better option to buy it for just a few hundred dollars and have it serviced. This entailed opening the case, inflating the raft with a compressor and checking it over. It was good to be able to personally have a good look in and around the life raft and gain a good understanding of its construction and contents.
Our new (to us) four man life raft in for servicing
 
Thankfully almost everything inside including an EPIRB, flares, ration packs etc were all well in date and didn’t need to be changed. The only things replaced were the batteries in the flashlight and the sea sickness tablets. We did take the opportunity to vacuum seal a couple of weeks supply of our regular medication, spare eye glasses, copies of our passports and ships papers in bag and have it included in the rafts contents. At just over $1,100 dollars for the service we hope the batteries are gold plated and the tablets magically effective. Imagine how much the bill would have been if we’d needed everything. Considering the printed sticker now on the canister shows the next recommended service  just twelve months away, life raft servicing appears to be a lucrative business.

All this was pre-packed into the life raft just in case

Anyway, we now had the peace of mind of knowing everything was right with our new (to us) life raft should we ever have the misfortune to need it. The thought of being hundreds of miles from shore wondering if the old Avon would work was not something we wanted to experience.

Rather than just opening the old Avon to retrieve the desalintor, we decided to POP it before disposal as a full gas canister could be extremely dangerous if punctured in a landfill considering the high pressures involved. Life rafts also contain pyrotechnic flares which need to be disposed of safely.

 OK, we also thought it would be cool to see it inflate. We loaded it into a trolley and headed to a corner of the marina car park next to the dumpsters and away from anyone else and pulled the cord. We almost hoped it would fail to launch and further justify our expenditure on the replacement. But no. It popped, inflated perfectly and seemed in excellent condition other than a little mould on the exterior. All the contents inside were totally dry and also appeared perfect. Everything useable was removed and now reside in our ditch bag as a back up to what’s in the new raft.


video


video


Deflating the raft and putting it in the dumpster seemed such a waste but we couldn’t help thinking back to our original question. Would you trust your life to a 30 year old life raft?

 
Deflating before the short trip to the dumpster.


 We love to receive comments on our blog from readers. If you do leave a comment and you also have a blog, please leave a link as well. We'd like to click over for a visit and leave you a comment too.

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Monday, 6 July 2015

R.I.P. Dora the Explorer.

July 5 2015
 
When we arrived back in Oz after nearly three years sailing in South East Asia and Europe, we had visions of just getting by with our motor bike for transport but soon decided we really did need to buy a cheap car. Karen found us a 1998 Ford Explorer on a Facebook garage sale page for just $2k. Quickly christened "Dora" for obvious reasons she has been an integral part of the family for almost two years now. Not only has she transported us all over the place, she has been a fantastic shed on wheels as we have done all the work getting “Our Dreamtime” ready to cruise and our rental property sold.

 At different times, she’s been loaded up with anchors and chain, full wardrobes of sails, outboard motors, pallet loads of line, all sorts of assorted parts and provisions and towed trailer load after trailer of ‘stuff’. In fact her back seats have rarely been in the up position as she was normally to packed to allow that luxury.  In all that time she just kept on keeping on and never required anything more than two new tyres.

Dora’s version of air conditioning may have been to wind the windows down, her armrests may have been replaced with unique pine versions hand made by the old farmer who owned her previously and she may have been a bit noisy but she really has provided outstanding return on investment through her loyal service to us. Karen became quite fond of Dora and despite the fact that in our pre-cruising days we have owned a number of ‘nice’ cars including Porsche, Nissan Z car, Range Rover and HSV Commodore, came to describe her as the best car we have ever had.

Then last Friday, just weeks before we are due head off cruising the Great Barrier Reef and Dora was due to be given a well earned rest she broke her heart. A loud noise indicated a problem which was followed by a fairly rapid loss of power. Karen was fortunately able to will her to keep going a short distance longer and made it into a nearby  shopping centre car park where she was left for the night.

Starting up the engine the next morning revealed absolutely ZERO oil pressure and awful noises under the bonnet. No doubt about it. Dora’s condition was terminal. It took quite a while to actually empty everything out that she was carrying and cart it back to the marina in a small hire car. The next task was where in hell to put it all on the boat.
Sadly she’s headed for the wrecking yard where she’ll be an automotive version of an organ donor and hopefully parts of her will live on in others.

Thank you Dora for your awesome service. We would of loved it if you’d just kept going for another four weeks and why couldn't you blow up just before we filled your fuel tank with $100 worth of fuel instead of just after.
All is forgiven though. We'll miss you.

Dora's final parking spot. So sad!



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If you have only recently discovered our blog and would like to read how it all started, or work through our previous adventures, click the link to go back to our first blog entry. Stuff it. Let's just go sailing anyway.  We hope you enjoy reading the previous posts to catch up on our story.