13 February, 2007

On Board Securing Malua

On board the ship the Master organised the securing of Malua. The cradle was welded to the ship and eight straps used to tie down the yacht to the ship. I re-connected the back stay, removed the genoa halyard and used the main halyard as a backstay. The anchor was placed in the locker, the fenders put away and the lockers masked up to keep the water out. I then closed all the through-hulls, turned off the power and closed the companionway for the last time. The loading and securing was complete. I could relax.

We waited around to watch the other yachts being loaded. There was a 40 ft racing machine, a Swan 45 and finally a 83ft Oyster called Darling. While being long it was also heavy at 65 tonnes. The ship required two cranes to lift it on to the deck. As it was raised out of the water the ship listed to starboard under the weight. Slowly the yacht was lowered onto the deck and secured.

The Erasmusgracht will complete the loading on Friday and leave on Saturday for Tauranga in New Zealand then on through the Panama to Palma de Mallorca in Spain arriving some time towards the end of March.

The next chapter of the adventure will then begin.

Loading Malua on Erasmusgracht

Steaming towards the Erasmusgracht secured along side Darling harbour in the dawn light I realised we had finally arrived at the end of the Australian chapter of the Malua story. It was so exciting. The next time I would be sailing Malua it would be in Europe on the Mediterranean and that would be only 40 days away!

We arrived alongside to find a 43ft yacht already on the vessel and the stevedores struggling to load a power boat. They did not have the correct loading equipment and it appeared as if they did not have the experience with loading vessels from out of the water on to a ship.

The Australian water front has been plagued with industrial and demarcation issues. Only certain groups of union staff are permitted to do designated tasks. This was evident today. The Master of the Erasmusgracht and the load master from Sevenstar had to hold their tongues as the P&O crew struggled to load the powerboat. We stayed alongside the ship waiting our turn to be lifted out of the water.

The mast of Malua and the temporary backstays appeared to pose a problem for the stevedores. They asked me to remove the backstays but I refused and suggested that the current lifting rig should be change to a more suitable arrangement for yachts. There was a long delay but after more than an hour the correct lifting rig appeared attached to the ships cranes I was relieved. The stevedore crew came aboard and with the help of the divers and my marks on the hull we soon had the slings in the correct place. The crane slowly lifted Malua out of the water as we tested the weight distribution and how secure the rig was. It was time to leave Malua as they hosted it up over the side of the ship. The fourth time Malua has flown from the end of a crane’s slings (in and out of my yard in Canberra during the fit-out phase of building).

Last Days in Sydney

Denny arrived from Canberra to assist with the final preparations and the loading. We had anchored next to the Sydney Fish Market which provided us with the wonderful Australian ocean produce. I wonder if we will again see the quality and range of fish and shell fish available any where else in the world. We feasted on fish (red snapper), oysters and prawns over three days as we prepared the boat.

Last minute purchase where made: Tilley hat for Denny, scanpans, digital camera, Asian sources and additional cloaths suitable for the marinas of the Med.

Preparation for Departure

The final touches have been completed, now all that was required was to stow some equipment and remove the halyards, sheets and lines from the vessel. I understand the outside of Malua will be covered in oil and grime after the ocean transportation especially with the passage through the Panama Canal. The halyards were removed and in their place I ran a light line so they could be pulled back into their original locations. It is amazing the length of line one has on a yacht when you stack then on the deck. Most of these lines have not been removed before and now require a good wash which I will do before re-running them when Malua reaches Palma.

I changed the oil and filters on the engine, filled the diesel tank and pumped the bilges completely dry. The hatches and cockpit lockers were taped closed and the RIB and outboard stowed.

To load Malua on to the ship I will have to remove the back stays and place temporary lines to hold the mast up during the crane lift. This is always a tricky business because Malua has two heavy roller furlers forward of the mast. The side stays are abeam of the mast and any movement will push the mast forward. This happened to me on Alibi when I was on the hardstand. The crane touched the mast which fell forward, crashing over the side and bent the stantions. Thankfully on that occasion nothing major broke and the mast was not damaged but I would not like that to happen to Malua’s taller mast.

The news arrived that the Erasmusgracht was due into Sydney harbour on Thursday evening and we would be loading at 7:30 on Friday morning.

Over the Bar

The day to load Malua on the vessel was set for the later part of February but some how it came forward. Unfortunately the tide and water over the bar did not make a similar adjustment. The last high water at the bar that I could cross with safety was on 6th February thereafter I would have to wait more than ten days. This did not coincide with the loading date in Sydney of 13th February. I had to complete all the preparation tasks and cross the bar on the high tide on Saturday 5th February. This took no account of the weather for the trip to Sydney. I have always said I would not sail on a timetable but when the weather was suitable. Two days before the shipping company advised that the loading date had been brought forward to the Thursday 7th February – not much time to reach Sydney and a schedule.

Stephan joined me for the sail to Sydney and the weather forecast turned out favourable. We crossed the Batemans Bay bar on Saturday morning and headed out to sea with a forecast of southerly wind to push us to Sydney.

The wind did not come through as predicted so we spend some time motor sailing towards Jarvis Bay where we anchored for the night. We had a great pre-prepared meal and a restful sleep after the excitement and pressure of the departure.

At dawn the follow morning we set sail and the southerly rose to a convenient 10 knots. We raised the spinnaker with its new snuffer and sat back in the sun to enjoy the run north to Sydney. We arrived just as the sun set and anchored inside the north head in Quarantine Bay.

Monday saw us motor under the Sydney harbour bridge and into Blackwattle Bay next to the fish market. I then settled down to prepare Malua for its departure and wait for the instructions to load.

The Final Touches

A yacht is never finished. That can be taken a bit too far and I am guilty of that. When Malua was launched there were still many little wood working tasks to be completed. The vessel was seaworthy and the systems worked but the final finishing touches still had to be completed. Over the past month I have tackled these by installed the fiddles around the bench tops, fitted doors to almost all cupboards, panels to the bulkhead and cover strips where needed. The final few days in the marina in Batemans Bay was spent in a frantic rush to pull all these together.

New cockpit cushion covers were delivered, the dodger had new canvas attachments and the sunscreens around the bimini had to be adjusted for the new dodger.

Two days before I was due to sail the final touches where finished. Denny came on board with the storage containers filled with all the odds and ends one needs on a vessel when you are far from home. The storage spaces were cleaned and the junk accumulated during the Pacific cruise was removed or just thrown away. The containers were stowed and everything put in its place – ship shape and Bristol!