Monday 17 January 2022

Tall Tales but True - from the Our Dreamtime Crew

We were in the Mediterranean in August, 2012 sailing our Jeannaeu 43DS, Alcheringa, upwind along the southern coast of Mallorca in 18 to 20 knots.  The sun was shining and the day quite warm so it was fairly pleasant with the boat powered up, healing nicely and slicing through fairly moderate seas. We were all sitting back enjoying a beautiful sail as the autopilot steered. Rob was on watch while Karen lapped up some sun and crewmate, Marc, was deeply concentrating on finishing that day's London Times cryptic crossword.

We’d been underway for an hour or so when out of nowhere the boat did a hard turn to starboard, heeling heavily with both sails back sided. Rob quickly jumped to the wheel and steered us through a 360 degree turn to get things back under control with no damage done. Fortunately, the first thing we did when we bought Alcheringa was rig a ‘preventer line’ which stops uncontrolled and very dangerous swinging of the boom across the boat in this sort of situation. It really paid off in this instance, but we were at a loss to explain what had gone wrong. Our best guess was that someone may have accidently bumped the button on the binnacle turning the autopilot off.

With everything settled, including our nerves, we resumed our previous relaxed positions only for the boat to perform the same unwanted manoeuvre again about thirty minutes later. Now we were concerned. Once we had the boat back on track and the autohelm reset, Rob stayed at the helm ready to grab the wheel if needed, while we started working through the possibilities. We then noticed that that heading shown on the autopilot didn’t agree with the compass. Not a good sign. Maybe something was wrong with the GPS antennae or system itself.

 We checked the aerial connections, they looked fine. We checked the plotter, our position seemed right, but the bearing was odd. Think tanking what could be wrong, Rob speculated that something may be interfering with the system as it had always worked perfectly until now. What had changed?

The actual control boxes for the GPS are fitted in the back of Karen’s locker in the aft cabin and are clearly marked with a warning not to place anything magnetic near them. Had anything magnetic been put in her locker? Karen was adamant that no there were no magnets in there.

We decided to push on to our planned anchorage at Playa del Trench near the south-eastern corner of the island and see what developed. If need be, we could return to Palma the next day to find a technician to get to the bottom of things. The autopilot continued to give false readings and twice more suddenly steered us well off course. We continued racking our brains as to what the problem could be and what had changed to cause the problem leading Rob to ask Karen, Are you sure there’s nothing different in your locker?’.

To which she replied most indignantly, I have told you beforeThere are no magnets in there. It’s just my clothes. …………….All I’ve stowed in that locker that wasn’t there before are the electric fan and mini vacuum cleaner we bought in Palma last stop.

After a moments’ stunned silence, Rob quietly asked, Karen how does an electric motor work? …. Her answer will astound you. 

  With Magnets” 🙄

It’s child’s play really - as electric motors, such as found in vacuum cleaners and fans, contain very strong magnets in their electrical windings, both offending items were moved to the other side of the cabin and guess what, problem solved.

More importantly though, in between our autopilot dramas, Karen caught our first fish in the Mediterranean. There was much jubilation as she pulled in onboard. Rob then poured a bit of Gin into its gills to pacify it before Karen did her beheading and eviscerating trick . Marc was horrified at what he referred to as "a waste of perfectly good alcohol" but it is much less messy than having the fish flapping all over the teak decks spitting blood everywhere while you try to bash it into submission.  Marc seemed satisfied when Karen suggested we were simply "advance marinating the fish."

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Refurbishment of our 40 year old head (bathroom) on Our Dreamtime

It was time for an update to the Aft Head, but will it meet the Admirals expectations.

The bathroom or the "head" as it is referred to on a boat is one of the most used rooms onboard. It is not surprising that it is the most vulnerable to wear and tear. The head is also usually the smallest cabin on the boat, and it can feel mighty claustrophobic at times. If it is getting a bit dark and dingy it is probably feeling even more so and it's probably time to brighten up and refurbish. While you might be under the impression that your head is functioning fine, there are times that it sends you signals that it needs renovation.  Recognising these signals and acting on them will make your onboard life more convenient and pleasant. While Our Dreamtime's Captain may not have noticed any real problems with the decor and been happy to close the door and ignore, the Admiral certainly was receiving an SOS from our heads loud and clear and was keen to embark on an overhaul. Being a great believer in "Happy wife = Happy Life" Rob had no problem backing the project, which was not a huge commitment by him when Karen said she intended to do all the work anyway.

Now speaking of signals, of course the worst message to get from your head is when nasties don't disappear out of the bowl the way they should when you flush. Managing that issue definitely falls into the maintenance category rather than refurbishment but should still be mentioned here. We've suffered this problem a number of times in the past and have learnt that these blockages in waste pipes on boats are almost always caused by calcification build up caused by sea water reacting with urine in the lines. The best way to avoid it easily is by ensuring you flush well so that ALL urine and solid waste makes it completely out of the pipe into your holding tank or out through the through hull into the sea if you're offshore and underway. We have electric flush toilets in both our heads and hold the button down for a long 15 to 20 second count after every use. Adopting this practice, combined with a regular flush through with a fresh water/white vinegar mix, we have eliminated blockages for the last couple of years - touch wood.

Refurbishment doesn’t need to break the bank. Mostly the work is DYI with a little bit of elbow grease and, we might as well say it, some occasional colourful language in our case. Even without a lot of knowledge about, plumbing, tiling, painting and cabinet making you can easily bring the head back to its original beauty or even beyond.

We have two heads on our boat but, not surprisingly, Karen's immediate focus was on the aft head in our master cabin as it's the one we use most.  Firstly we stripped out all of the locker doors, mirror, hooks, heated towel rail and shower pan. Once all of this was removed a good clean of all surfaces with sugar soap removed body oils, soap scum and any other containments built up over the years. Next it was time to sand all painted and timber surfaces. We started with 180 grit ending with 240 grit. We used a combination of hand sanding and a cordless orbital sander. When everything was sanded it was time to clean all of the surfaces again. 

First coat of waterproofing 

To increase the ventilation a solar powered extraction fan was fitted in the ceiling. This was one of the dearer items bought for the project but not only will it save on power usage, but being totally self contained, it also eliminated some unsightly wiring that had previously run across the ceiling to the previous unit which no longer worked anyway. The current timber framed red/white fluorescent ceiling light became wall mounted by the lockers. This removed more ugly wiring that previously ran across the ceiling. To brighten the room further, a new, rechargeable LED slim line light unit was placed above the sink. It also provides great illumination for the mirror position.

These neat and tidy solar vents help keep the head ventilated 

Being a boat project, of course the weather turned on us and we faced a week of rain. Thankfully we are currently tied to the marina dock and could take all of the locker doors etc to Karen’s parents' shed. Here we were able to sand, paint and varnish with no chance of rain spoiling our fun…

Yep having a dry area to work in is always a bonus

The head door also gets some TLC. 

Leaky faucets or rusty fixtures are certainly not the aesthetics you want in your head. If a plumbing issue is not addressed in time, it can lead to rotten timber in joinery or in the substructures of your floor. A minuscule leak may not even be visible but if the water pump looses pressure occasionally or the bilge pump goes off every now and then, it's time to start checking over all your water lines and fittings. Tracking these tiny, hard to find leaks can be a nightmare. One trick we learnt along the way was to use teabags taped under fittings suspected to be but not obviously leaking. If the teabag is wet in a couple of days you have found the problem spot. Fortunately we had no real issues in this area and were able to just give everything a good deep clean.  To clean up the door hinges, stainless items and tapware, we used a combination of baking soda and vinegar. With a scouring pad we gently worked the years of corrosion, dirt and scum away. We then popped them into a bag containing olive oil and vinegar until required for refitting. We swear by this simple combination of vinegar and olive oil for keeping stainless-steel nice and shiny once it's clean.

A head is a room that gets that high traffic so you want materials that will last. The doors and timber trims were taped to avoid paint ingression onto the bare timber surrounds. The first coat of waterproofing, primer and sealer was applied using a soft brush and let to dry for a good 12 hours. We know the tin says you can re-coat in 3 hours but, like everything about sailing, that depends on the weather  ….. After a steamy, humid 12 hours, we declared that the undercoat was ready for another coat, after a sand with 240 grit that is …. Yes the tin said no sanding required but this is a high traffic, high wear area so, for us, overkill is just barely enough,  … after a good sand of 240 grit we reapplied the second coat of AquaBlock. (All product links are provided at the end of the blog.)

Once the second coat dried after a few wines, beers, a movie and a good night's sleep, we sanded again. Now that we were at the topcoat stage we had some choices. There are a number of products on the market and it really depends on the final finish you wish to achieve.  In our case our head is the moulded underside of the cockpit. It is not a perfectly smooth finish. With a roller it wasn’t penetrating the surface and we were ending up with that crumbly sprayed texture ceiling look of the 1980’s … Yuk. Our beautiful lady may have been built in the early 80's but that's not look we were after. We opted for three coats of a crisp, clean white, semi gloss bathroom paint applied by brush. Sanded in between each coat of course. 

The timber door, trim on the cabinet doors, shower grate and grab rail were sanded and coated in Cabot’s CFP satin finish. The satin finish looks brilliant, just like modern production boats. It is also not as slippery as the gloss that was previously coated on the shower grate, so hopefully no more foot lose moments. This product also says no sanding is required… Wrong!  A light sand 240 grit really does improve the look and feel of the finished result and hopefully will also make it even more durable.

We could go on and on about how the finish of each coat appeared, how we sanded till it was as smooth as a baby's butt etc …. but now let’s skip right to the fun part…


To transform our head (bathroom) into one that would fulfil Karen's desired home magazine worthy look and still making it a totally functional part of our transportable home, was not the easiest. That beautiful, but flimsy three rung towel rail that looked so good in the display room had to be left there in favour of a more functional item. Trying to find functional beauty tested Karen. She poured over online catalogues trying to find the right designer look with the strength and durability required to stand up to the harsh elements onboard Our Dreamtime. We chose a very strong grab rail / towel rail combination unit which will stand up to our needs. With the boat heeling under sail in lumpy seas and your pants are around your ankles, you have to have confidence that your hand holds aren't going to tear off the wall. and land you in the shit - literally.

The combination of strength and good looks are sometimes hard to find
 but our combination grab/towel rail has plenty of both.

One of Karen's truly great finds was the tiles. Exactly, tiles on a boat? Well these have the look and feel of tiles but no weight, grouting or movement issues. Karen found “Stick on Luxury” products when we were converting our Renault van into our land yacht. (Campervan - see that story HERE).  With the van being even more weight sensitive than the yacht, these were the perfect option. We were so impressed with them on that project we immediately ordered some more for the head refurbishment. Again we were very pleased with the application. Our Dreamtime’s head has curved walls and at no time were we ever going to be able use real ceramic tiles. Following the directions provided, the Stick on Luxury vinyl sheets were a great solution and a very easy product to use.

We are extremely happy with this faux tiling system and highly recommend it

Karen found the nautical inspired hooks securing the soft rope baskets in the head, at our local IGA over a year ago, purchased a placed aside for this very day. Gone are the days of chasing the toilet brush around the floor. Finally we have found the correct sized brush in a wall holder, perfection. Gone to is the round plastic mirror and in it’s place we fitted a gorgeous porthole mirror which unquestionably completed the magazine look.

Karen loves the porthole mirror which she feels completes "the look"

When all was completed and refitted, we were very happy with the final look and functionality achieved by the refurb. We think it looks nice, bright and fresh. Please make sure you let us know what you think of it in the comments section.

Karen was actually so enthused by the results she wanted to start on the forward head straight away but it can wait until after we head off on our first big Land Yacht excursion to Tasmania ahead of the next northern sailing season.



All of the products we used are listed below. We do have an association with some of these links. If you purchase though them we will receive a small commission and in most cases you will receive a discount as well. We love a win - win.  Retailers may change their links and we endeavour to keep them up to date but apologise if any do not work at the time you visit. Cheers!

Porthole mirror -

Toilet brush holder -

Grab rail towel rail combo -

Solar powered exhaust fan -

Stainless Steel Sink -

Tap -

Tiles -

Paint - waterproofing/primer -

Paint - topcoat -

Timber varnish -

Hooks - local IGA

Canister - Kmart

Natural Mat - Kmart

Starfish - Spotlight 

Monday 3 January 2022

Wow what a roller coaster year 2021 has been!

 Life is never dull and this year had us on a major roller coaster. Arriving back December 2020 into Brisbane and civilisation from an amazing trip along Queensland's Great Barrier Reef and islands into the depths of reality and COVID had us reassessing our 5 year plan. No longer did we feel sailing overseas would be an option in the near future. 

The underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef

You really can’t describe this in words 

Perfect day on the Great Barrier Reef

Ok so let’s look at what we wanted to do in that 5 years. We wanted one big, final overseas sail, PNG, Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, maybe the Philippines and then returning back to Australia to settle down a bit. This settling down meant establishing a small land base to come back to whilst we took shorter sailing adventures within Australia. Now that we felt we were going to be contained for sometime to Australian waters, we might as well get the ball rolling. 

Purchasing a block of land on Russell Island close to a good mooring field took place relatively quickly. Building our “Container House” was going to take some time. However this could be completed in stages. Having an off season for cyclones each year would allow us to build for 3-4 months a year. With the first stage being foundations and lock up completed before we set sail again in April 2021.

Well all of this sounds great until you invite council to join in on your dream ….. mmmmmm … well if we tell you every roadblock they put in our way we would now be to chapter 99. The straw that broke the camels back was a security bond the council requires for owner builders using removal houses or containers as a base. This was projected to be a paltry sum of $65K until we completed the build which in our case could be up to 5years away. Money we certainly didn’t have to tie up in the hands of council. 

One of the two containers we transformed to be our planned land base 

When Rob was diagnosed with prostate cancer our world took a ride on the giant drop. SELL was what Rob screamed saying we don’t need the stress of dealing with bureaucrats. And that was exactly what we did. We completed the two container pods that were to form our “Container House” and we sold them in record time. Container House walk through here

While awaiting Rob's surgery, we discussed many options for our future life of exploration.  One thing was certain. We were not giving up our wandering lifestyle. We were still going to sail, but in the off season we want to be out doing stuff. Karen has been following a number of #VanLife YouTube channels enjoying their freedom of exploration of the land. So a new project was hatched. “Project Recovery” keep the mind and body busy and it will recover with the enthusiasm to live life to the fullest. 

Dreamtime Van

“Project Recovery” has turned out well. We have built ourselves a lovely campervan and now have a land yacht that we can explore this wide vast land in whilst the sailing season is at a standstill due to cyclones. You can read about the van build and see lots of photos on the new Dreamtime Van page of this blog.

Then it was back to Our Dreamtime to complete a couple of jobs that we wanted to do coming into her 40th year afloat. Yep that's right. Our lovely lady was launched back in 1982. It was time to look to the timber soles and the refurbishment of the aft head. We still wanted to maintain her classic look so in went the newly refurbished, sanded and stained hatches plus new flooring to replace that which had delaminated over their years of service. The aft head was dismantled, sanded, waterproofed, primed and then two coats of gloss top coat. New fittings were installed along with the “Stick on Luxury” tiling system. We love this system, we used them in the van conversion and will also be revamping the galley with them in coming months. If you want to know more about them and receive a 5% discount follow this link

Revamp of the 40 year old bathroom 

The floors refinished 

In 2021 it hasn’t been all that bad, we have really enjoyed spending the time with family especially being around our fast growing grandchildren this past year. Watching them in their many activities has provided us with much pleasure and these memories will be treasured forever. 

Our Family 😍

Teaching our little ones to sail

We also have the wonderful news that in 2022 we will be great grandparents if you say it fast enough it doesn’t sound all that bad lol and we had the surprise marriage of the parents to be on New Years Eve, Congratulations Chloe and Caleb, what a great way to end a roller coaster of a year. 

Happy New Year everyone and we hope you are safe, healthy and surrounded by loved ones in 2022.

If you would like to be part of the Dreamtimesail Crew in 2021, consider becoming a Patreon. Becoming a Patreon helps us to continue producing Youtube episodes and write blogs which we hope you get enjoyment from. To find out what being a Patreon is 👉 thank you for taking a look 

Following is information about products we used in the refurbishment of the Aft Head. Some of these links we have an association with, that means is if you purchase through the link we will get a small commission however looking and researching is free 😊

The finishing touches went in today on the Aft Cabin Head new porthole mirror 😍💙😍 The fabric baskets are from Ikea and the hooks we picked up at our local IGA.

Finally a nice toilet brush holder. If you are like us and have been searching for one just like this here’s a link 👉 the mat and the canister are from Kmart, the starfish dish is from spotlight and the loofa is from our daughte'rs amazing garden. Thank you Felicity.

Yep still no new toilet seat, it can wait 🙄 but the new grab rail and combined towel rail is a great addition. We found it difficult to find quality stainless steel in this combination as most towel rails didn’t give the strength you really needed as a grab rail, essential on a boat. This one has good fixtures through the wall so will be structurally sound when needed.

We are very pleased we used “Stick on Luxury” tiles for the splashback. We used their system in the van conversion and loved the effect. We plan on a revamp of the galley and we are looking forward to using their product again. If you want more info check out this link and get 5% off 😊