Tuesday 5 January 2016

Broken refrigeration = an unplanned visit to the City of Mackay

November 23-24, 2015

The refrigeration system on Our Dreamtime definitely qualifies as ‘Old School’ and consists of a very power hungery 12 volt electric motor belt driving a compressor similar to those found in car air conditioning which then chills huge eutectic tanks in both the freezer and fridge cabinets. We spent a fair bit of money and a lot more time resurrecting it when it failed in Brisbane twelve months ago and now it had stopped working again.

Anchored at Brampton Island with a freezer and fridge both packed to the top with lots of dollars worth of food it was about the worst possible time for it to fail so we needed to come up with a solution fast. As a result we decided to head for the City of Mackay where most services are available and look for the best option there.

It's always great to get the kite up and enjoy the sunshine.
We got underway early on Monday morning in light conditions but were happy to find enough following wind to turn the engine off and raise our asymmetric spinnaker to compliment full main and mizzen. This saw us getting along nicely at four to five knots across flat seas in the tropical sunshine. The sort of very relaxed sailing we really enjoy.

Rob on the bow

 Karen was working diligently on making sure the amount of food in the fridge was reduced. After producing a huge breakfast for us all, it seemed like no time before she appeared with more fresh coffee to accompany cream covered blueberry and apple pies she had baked. No sooner were they devoured than she disappeared below to start working on lunch. It was a good thing Mackay was not days away or we all would have exploded long before reaching port.

The way he's getting fed we're not sure Marc will ever go back to London.
Mid morning a catamaran appeared over the horizon on an intersecting course with us. As it drew closer Rob had the camera out and snapped off a few shots of it. Photos of your boat under sail are amongst the hardest things to get when you’re cruising so we take every opportunity to shoot other peoples’ boats when they’re around us. Many are destined to sit in a folder on the hard drive ignored forever but quite often we are able to get the pics to the boat owners.

Clawdette approaching.
She presented a nice picture crossing our stern - for a cat of course.
In this case we called up the cat ‘Clawdette’ on the VHF and found that her owner, Roger, had been doing the same thing as us. After a very sociable chat, we quickly exchanged email addresses and both now have more photos of our boats for our collections. You can find out more about Clawdette on their blog www.svlogbook.com/Clawdette Hopefully our tracks will intersect at an anchorage for sundowners one day.

One of the shots of Our Dreamtime under spinnaker that Roger sent us. That's Marc on deck sunning his English skin.
We may be biased but we think our Whitby 42 is looking pretty good for a 33 year old. 
The tide changed as we approached Mackay which turned the current against us and also produced some interesting overfalls along some of the shallower areas of our route. Regardless, we were able to fly the spinnaker and full sail virtually to the breakwaters at the harbour entrance before spinning and dropping the lot.

We were nicely snugged up inside the marina by noon which gave us plenty of time to wash the boat down, get all the laundry done and get on with our internet research and phone calls on possible solutions to our refrigeration problem.

Brampton Island to Mackay - 20.3 Nautical Miles - 5 Hours 08 Minutes
Average Speed 4.0 knots - Highest Speed 6.3 Knots

Despite being unexpected, Mackay Marina Village proved a quite pleasant stop
It soon became apparent that getting someone to either repair our current antiquated system or replace it with a modern danfoss alternative would both be very time consuming affairs and could see us stuck in the Mackay Marina for weeks if not longer. This lead us to explore a Plan C which involved buying a ready to go, 12 volt camping fridge/freezer to use for the rest of our trip south. We could then get the boat’s system repaired/replaced at our leisure once back in Brisbane.

The marina has a hire car available for $45 a day which seemed very convenient so we booked it for the next morning and headed into town on a mission. After checking all the available options we settled on a 90 litre Fridge-Mate combination fridge freezer which was clearly the best bang for buck. It was soon installed in the salon and switched on to cool down while we headed back to the shops to top up our fresh fruit and veg supplies along with essential beverages and wine. The trick was then transferring everything from our freezer into the new Fridge-Mate. With much jiggling and rearranging it did fit but left very little room for anything from the fridge.

With a table cloth over it our salon based refrigeration solution passes as a coffee table - sort of.
What we found though, was that the big eutectic tank in the boat’s freezer was still very cold and doing a good job of keeping that cabinet cool despite not having been running for over two days. The food from the fridge that Karen hadn’t already plied us with to near bursting went into the freezer with the plan to open it as infrequently as possible until we'd eaten down the contents of the new fridge/freezer enough to make space. Yep! Project Eatathon was still all go. Not that we were actually complaining but rather enthusiastic participants all taking ‘another bite for the team’. Those diets could start later.

The important thing was that we now had a workable refrigeration option, the boat was fully provisioned, topped up with water, wine and beer, and we were ready to get off the dock and back underway at first light next morning.

There were still a lot more islands and anchorages waiting for us.

Push a heavy trolley up there a couple of times at low tide and no gymnasium visits will be needed.

Berth rate was $51 per night for our 42 foot boat.

Mackay Marina Village is located behind huge breakwaters adjacent to the Mackay Harbour. It is very well protected from all weather. We spent two nights in the marina and found the staff extremely friendly and helpful. The berths were quite wide and easy to get in and out off. There is a huge tidal difference here which makes getting a heavy trolley of groceries or the like up or down the pontoons at low tide quite a workout. A small chandlery stocking a reasonable supply of essentials is incorporated in the marina office.

The laundry facilities are excellent and even air-conditioned while the shower facilities could be best described as good but not great. Along with apartment buildings, there is a range of restaurants, cafes and a hotel located in the marina. Shops, supermarkets etc are located in the city itself and not within walking distance. A cheap hire car is available from the marina office.

Boat yard facilities including haul out and hardstand are adjacent to the marina. The marina is also a Port of Entry for customs, immigration and quarantine.

Despite the brief and unintended nature of our stay, we enjoyed the marina and would happily recommend it.

Our berth was very easy to get in and out of which is critical for our full keel, no bow thruster ketch

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  1. If our fridge ever breaks, I want to have Karen on board so that she can whip up delicious treats from everything that needs to be eaten up right away. Those little pies look amazing!

    We didn't have a fridge on our first boat, but now that I have one, I could never go back. Fingers crossed that it doesn't ever break on us.

    Cheers - Ellen | thecynicalsailor.blogspot.com

    1. Thanks Ellen. Karen's pies tasted every bit as good as they looked. The big freezer and fridge on our Whitby were amongst the things that attracted us to the boat as we plan to spend a lot of time in remote areas soon. As you've probably worked out, Karen likes cooking and I like eating her food so the refrigeration is very important to us. We'll be going with a new generation danfoss system for both fridge and freezer which should be more reliable and use much less power. Cheers.

  2. Turning lemons into lemonade! Nicely done. We've used an Engel equivalent when our fridge died. Sold it after for same as I paid for it, but if I ever get another I'll save it and use for storage just in case!

    1. Thanks Lauri. Our plan was to sell the Fridge Mate to recoup most of our money as soon as the boat's refrigeration is fixed but it's been so good we're working out if we can keep it on board. Cheers!


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