31 May, 2011

Maaate, where can I get some wheels?

Wheels while on board a boat? Your sailing or touring on land, why the wheels?  Well every landfall has a harbour and a hinterland that has to be explored, even the county side of France.
Arriving at Port St Louis de Rhone I was faced with the inevitable walk from the boat to the shops, chandler or just around this huge marina – my shoes like last year did not stand up to the miles upon mile of road I walked in the first few day so wheels became a must.
So find some wheel, not just your daily ride but something special – mate! light, good mpg, no rego, no upkeep, fast.  You got one, mate?
How was I going to acquire my wheel of my dream here in France?  There is no Parramatta Road here in the south of France but I hear there is a flee market just out of town on Saturday and Sunday where one can acquire anything even a set of wheel of your dreams – no questions asked.
Saturday, just as the sun rose over the horizon I was off on foot for the other side of town for the open road, thumb in the air asking for a lift to the local market.  Well the French may nor greet you in the street or even in the pub but they wont pass a thumb on the open road.  The first car that passed pulled open… bonjour Je vais au marche a Foss.  “ No problem, get in, I’m a local, I know where you want to go --- of words to that effect.  One hour later I was dropped off and told (in French) to walk a few meters to the market.  Thanks mate I’ll have my wheels to get home.  Market yes but fruit and veg but no wheels.  What had gone wrong?  Market in French is marche while flee market is marche au puces.  OK put it down to experience, and be more specific when translating.  So lets get home on the two shoes I have.  Out went the thumb but not a taker for three hours as I walked along the main highway between Marseilles and Avignon and the cars sped by at 120 km/h.  When I reached the turn off on the local road to Port St Louis de Rhone the first car stopped and gave me a ride right into town.
What went wrong? Another day, another location or may be another type or market.  After telling the story over a few beers in the pub that evening a very kind friend (who speaks French) explained the difference between market and flee market and offered to take me to the correct place the following day.
The actual flee market is a huge market set in a field just off the highway outside of Voss – must have passed it twice the previous day.  It had the feeling of a large market set in North Africa but did it have wheels – what size you want? – After a negotiation I got two sets of wheels – green and blue bicycles 24inch with derayler.  Man was I mobile.  Just the T.  They are the right size to fit the boat and are light and fast, mate, fast especially down hill.
Now I am free to travel every stop along the canal and up into the hinterlands of the French country side on a set of wheels any kid would be proud of.  Me too.

29 May, 2011

Staying attached to the ground

People in hot air balloons need to stay attached to the ground until all their crew are on board. Boats on the other hand also need to be attached to the bottom when they deploy their anchors. A good sandy bottom, the right type of anchor and the all important chain is all that a yachtsman needs to stop drifting off down wind. Over the years Malua has anchored in many spots from the muddy Derwent near Hobart to the corral reef of Tonga and as far north as the benign sands off Queensland. The anchor and chain has seen it all. Two extremes that the anchor and chain has seen was the mud in the lagoons near Venice and the rocks of Croatia. In Venice after two weeks, try as I may, I could not haul the anchor out of the mud in which it had become embedded The only solution was to dive down and scrape large handfuls of mud off the flukes of the anchor. It was all done by touch because as they say the water was muddied and I could not see a thing. Well after many scoops and a powerful windlass the anchor came free.

After washing the mud off the chain it was evident that it and the anchor had lost some of its galvanising. Not all but the mud had some substance in it that had blackened the chain and removed some of the galvanising. Not to worry our chain is mostly in the water.
After leaving Venice we returned to Croatia on our way south to Greece. Croatia has the worst anchorages in the world. They are deep, full of rocks and the bottom is covered in stone. As the wind changes direction Malua moves and the chain drags over the bottom. The little galvanising left after the Venetian lagoons was now rubbed off completely leaving a shiny steel chain. The problem with steel and salt water is it rust overnight. Brown rusty mass of steel at the bottom of the anchor locker. The next time we set the anchor the rust covered the deck as it went out. Then when you bring it in the rust again covers the foredeck. Not a pretty sight.
At the end of the season in Port Napoleon I took the chain out of the locker a layer it out on a pallet. Unfortunately on my return the travel lift had run over the pallet and ground the well oiled chain into the dust and dirt. Now rust, oil and dirt are not the ingredient of a clean boat...... Regalvanise the chain or purchase a new chain.

Second option was the best to I set about finding 10mm tested galvanised chain which was not made in China. Not a problem just the price was not right. After some scouting and some negotiation I purchased 70meters of French galvanised chain, a drum and had it all delivered to Malua on the hard stand at Port Napoleon.
No rust marks on the bow now, a new chain to keep us attached to the bottom. Only one doesn’t anchor in the canals of France. Well next year we will again let out bright shiny galvanised chain to stay attached to the ground.

23 May, 2011

Patching some holes and removing antifouling

Every year one applies anti-fouling to keep the marine growth from the bottom of the boat.  It cost a fortune and is washed off during the seasons sailing.  Over time the gum that contains the toxic substance builds up, layer upon layer until one has to either sand it off or more effectively scrape the lays off.  The antifouling also hides the minor scrapes, bangs and scratches one get while sailing near to rocks.  At the end of last season I noticed a damp patch on the keel and remembering that one evening we did get a bang as Malua swung with the wind in very shallow water.  With a bit of scrape and a prod a small hole opened out to show a void in the aft section of the keel.  Not a feature, not a design fault but poor workmanship by David the builder who should have filled the space with resin when he placed the lead in the keel cavity.  The fibreglass had cracked at the join of the keel and the hull and, as is always the way the water enters every hole.  I had opened up the void and let the water evaporate over the winter so on my return at the start of summer I was able to address the next item on the To Do list.
Hole filled with glass and resin
Fill the void and patch the crack.
I had purchased some polyurethane resin and brought some glass and mat from my store at home so it was an easy job to mix up the right quantities, fill the void with resin and push the chopped mat into the hole to make a nice strong section of the keel.  I also applied to resin and cloth to the end of the keel which had taken the hit on the rock.  Like most of these types of repairs the end result turns out stronger than the original.  It just makes me mad that a builder could have done such poor quality control and that type of construction occurs.  Oh well I guess that was why Malua was finished in Canberra and not in Cardiff.
Next item on the To Do list.
Scrape off the build up of antifouling on the rudder stock.
Antifouling gone Epoxy on
Not an easy job.  It is time consuming, your muscles get tired, the antifouling get on your skin and generally it is a job best done by others.  Thankfully I only wanted to do the two square meters of the rudder stock.  With protective glasses and a good face mask to keep out the dust I set about removing the build up of antifouling layers.
I can only last about three hours before I have to quite for the day and take a hot shower.  Three days later all the antifouling was off and I was down to the epoxy paint I had applied in Canberra before the antifouling went on.  To make a good job of the opportunity I applied four coats of epoxy over the original, applied some undercoat and the rudder stock was ready to take the antifouling again.  Well that section of the boat wont need scraping for another ten years.
Next To Do item please.

To start the To Do list

At the start of every season the list of jobs on the To Do list is long if only it includes those jobs to get the boat seaworthy.  This year the list is quite short for seagoing job because we are not going to sea.  Simple, no running the halyards up the mast, no running the sheet and lines for the sails, and no bending on the sails to the mast and boom because the mast is coming down and is to be transported to Le Harve for collection when we reach that port at the end of our travels through the French canals.
One does not realise how long it takes to prepare a boat for sea if, like us, we pack Malua away for the winter here in Europe,  This year non of that is necessary however the To Do list is not any shorter because I have add a number of items that have failed to make it on previous lists.  Not that they have only now come up but I failed to want to add them.
Bearing about to slip on
The most serious is replacing the cutlass bearing in the propeller shaft.  Not an easy job but one that has to be done after several years under power.  After the cruise in the Pacific a good friend at the Bay made for me a set of pullers, pusher and the correct size collars.  I used then at River Quays in ‘06 to replace the bearing.  They worked a treat so when that item on the To Do list was addressed I knew it would be easy BUT is anything easy when salt water corrosion has had an effect.
Within minutes the shaft was disconnected from the Yanmar motor via the flexible coupling, the dripless gland was slid off the end of the shaft and the propeller had been pulled from the shaft.  All done before lunch without the use of a hammer.  Next came the puller for the actual cutlass bearing.  On went the parts and I started to turn the nut at the end of the long threaded bar which forced the bearing out of its housing.  As smooth as a skate over ice, it came out of the housing, next the opposite direction with the new bearing.  Again it went in without trouble.  Would the shaft fit in the new bearing? – a problem last time – with a liberal amount of lanoline the shaft slid back in the bearing and onto the end of the motor.  What is happening…… nothing going wrong, I’m not working on a boat.  The propeller went backing on the shaft, the flexible coupling connected and the dripless gland in place and I was available for a cold beer well before the sun was over the yard arm.  Now that was easy with the right tools!
Next item on the To Do list?
The final product. New bearing and paint

19 May, 2011

Big Bird to Paris

The time had come to take the big bird to Paris for the start of summer.  I fly Emirates usually direct to Dubia but this time it was via Bangkok which had just one more ineffective security check.  I don’t understand why they do it because they miss all the things that could be used to hijack a plane.  Well anyway the food was Ok, the seats great and I slept most of the way.  Caught up on the film I missed in OZ.
After a short stop in Dubai we were off again for another six hour to France.  A walk through the passport control, no stamps or even a check on the computer.  How they follow where people are I don’t know.  Then collect the tickets for the TGV and the local metro and off to the hotel.  The antenna at two meters long posed a challenge entering and exiting the Metro doors and also the walkway to the exits but after a few tries I was able to do it with out poking someone in the eye or knocking a light bulb out of a socket.
Hotel was Ok and centrally located near the Square of the Republic.
A short walk to find a Café with Wifi and I was back in business in Paris France.  Google earth told me where I was and Google translation help communicate with the locals.  I purchased a French SIM card but it takes two days before it works.  Great help if you are in Paris for a weekend!
The following day I walked towards the Seine to find the local marina at the Arsenal.  Very helpful people, said there would be lots of room in August but should book for July.  Just imagine on your own boat in the heart of Paris, almost as good at the old days when we camped in the Bois de Boulogne when we where in Paris in 1974.  Times have not changed, we have just moved a bit upmarket.
After a days walking around le Marais and visiting the Pompidou Centre I stoped in at a local Café and had a great steak before turning in for the night… still jet lagged and waking at four in the morning.
Next morning up for breakfast, a short walk to the metro, a change in metro and a walk to the trains a Garde de Lyon.  On this occasion I was travelling in style, yes First Class.  Not that I noticed the difference except there are defiantly a better class of passenger – old ladies who insisted in talking to me even if I didn’t understand them.  Two and a half hour later I had travelled the full length of France as I was drawing into the station at Arles.  Now on this occasion I did not have to change trains, just enjoy the ride.  For those who don’t remember (will I ever forget) on my last trip south on the TGV I had to change trains at Avignon to get the connection to Arles but my train arrived late and in my hast I boarded the train to Arle, A small error of just one “s” but a great distance from Arles.  When I realised I had made a mistake the conductor informed me I would have to go to the end of the line then  return to Avignon and take a later train to Arles.  I now know the French train notice boards don’t have a difficulty spelling, it is only me who don’t know the difference between Arles and Arle.  Well on this occasion the train arrived in Arles and I was able to catch the bus to Port St Louis de Rhone after only waiting an hour.  On arrive at Port St Louis I decided to take a taxi rather than wheel my two bags 45kg down the road to the marina.
It was great to back in the swing of sailing again, to walk into the marina and see Malua just as we had left her last years.  All that was required was a few days work getting her ready to put in the water but that is another story and always expect the unexpected regarding boats.

09 May, 2011

Time to fly north for the summer

Its time to fly north again to the summer.  Here in Canberra the nights are cold, as low as minus 4 degrees celcius, the trees have lost their leaves and the mornings are white on the ground.  We have not had a great summer which started with too much rain.  In fact up north in Queensland they had the worst floods in living memory.  The only upside was the garden grew and grew.  You could almost not stop it.  I spent my time clearing the undergrowth and mowing the lawn.  The tomatoes grew but somehow did not produce as much fruit as last year.  No bottles tomato puree for next year.
The grape vine turned white then withered to a dry couple of leaves.  I hope next year will be better.  The Back vintage will have to wait for a few more years! May be a trip to give some advice.
My time with the new Marine Rescue did not change from previous years with the same crony antics although I was able to highlight their methods and some are now on notice to improve.  The new boat, a lovely craft was delivered but required significant modifications to meet a standard of usability any qualified mariner would expect.  We can only wait to see if that size is justified in the bay.
Over the past few months I have purchased the “must have” items for the boat, a new EBIRB, two PFDs, leather spreader covers, clever pins and split pins and the inevitable parts for the freezer.  This year I am going to study the wiring diagram with more care and not connect the wires in the wrong order.
Our friends Sundancer are currently in Port Napoleon and say Malua is very dirty after the winter and consequently I have had her moved to a site with electricity and water.  I spend a week of so getting her ready for the water then take the mast down to go through the French Canals.  It is going to be quite different to the past couple of years in the Mediterranean but at least I won’t have to worry about the anchor dragging.
Frost on the sun lounge!
Well the last sleep is over, pack the computer into the hand luggage of 8 Kg and roll the case of 28Kg (thanks Emirates for the 30Kg allowance) to the bus and off I go for my ninth summer in a row.