Thursday, 30 March 2017

MAPS AND PHOTOS


We will no longer be using Iridium Go and therefore tracking services will cease. I will however update our position on the map and produce an icon showing our latest anchorage position. The link to Vessel Finder below will also be pretty accurate. 

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

GETTING GROUNDED 14th February 2017


Wintering in the Netherlands aboard Taipan was not a particularly inviting prospect so we decided to return to W.A. Australia, and our old home town, Albany.

Before flying out on the 23rd of November we spent a couple of days in Amsterdam. Blessed with perfect weather we were able to stroll the streets enjoying the history and architecture and managed a couple of landmark Museums. Still so much to see there.

We have a farm near Albany in need of TLC since the harvesting of the Eucalyptus forests early in 2016. The resultant destruction is heart breaking. Not a single fence line standing, and dams and water infrastructure are all destroyed. As a financial exercise is was also miserable. The paddocks which were painstaking cleared 70 or 80 years ago are now wall to wall tree stumps and rocks. The process of rehabilitating the property will be slow and frustrating as we wait for the stumps to rot enough to justify the cost of munching machines to mulch them. Meanwhile the cows will just have to walk round them.

First job on the list has been to commence house renovations and some improvements whilst assessing the process for re-fencing and providing all new water infrastructure for stock. We have been flat out building, tiling, painting and gardening. A far cry from the live-aboard life. Well especially the gardening and lawn mowing .

A very large bulldozer has been round the 5km boundary and cleaned up the regrowth and scrub. Strainer posts have been rammed, so we are ready to start fencing.

The next major undertaking will be the purchase and installation of a solar pump and panels at the river, in conjunction with the installation of storage tanks and several kilometers of underground pipe. Really not unlike boat stuff, just the scale is different!

Earlier in the season we had a couple of unwelcome visitors. Firstly a Crow insisted on waking us with his window banging antics at 5 am and then a couple of tiger snakes visited on separate occasions. Far too close to the house for comfort or safety, David made short work of them with a good wack with a piece of poly pipe. Effective snake dispatcher.

The summer weather has been lovely. Not too hot in this part of Australia. Rarely over 30 degrees. We have had some pretty cool days and even some steady rains to revitalize the pastures. Catching up with family and friends is the best part and we hope to do a lot more of that before we head back to Taipan.

Time is flying and we still have lots to do here but at the moment we think we are on track for our return to Holland on March 23rd.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

WATER MAKER OR NOT TO MAKE WATER? Dec 2016

When we left home aboard Taipan in 2004 we didn't have a water maker. We had a washing machine, albeit a twin tub wash spin arrangement which enables water recycling and therefor uses much less water than a conventional Automatic Machine. We saved the washing day until we were in a marina or within dingy access of a suitable water supply. Our onboard water capacity was 600 litres stored in one tank.

For 2 years we traveled extensively around Australia and were rarely in marinas. We filled the water tank when we topped up the Diesel tanks. This system worked well for us. The boat is our home and we expect to function within it, as much as possible, as we would in a house. Cruising doesn't have to be camping. We don't stint on electricity or water and we expect to enjoy almost the same comfort and convenience as our land locked friends.

In 2006 we decided to go offshore. Our first foreign country was Indonesia. The bad press on the water situation in Asia generally, had us reconsidering our options. A Spectra Newport 400 Automatic water maker was installed and away we went.

Trusty old Twin Tub removed.
Throughout Asia we regularly topped up our friends water tanks from our boat supply. The Spectra was not totally trouble free. We had a major failure of the Clark Pump in 2009. An expensive and heavy part which had to be returned to Spectra Asia for repair. This repair went awry when the agent died. It got very messy because our pump unit went missing in the resultant panic as people grabbed what they thought were their parts from his workshop. We ended up with a very old unit which didn't fit our system. Spectra were excellent. They had a new one on the shelf and gave it to us as a replacement and they instructed another agent in Phuket to supply any parts we needed to get the unit operational. This was done and we were soon making water again.

In 2009 we removed the Twin Tub and installed a 5kg domestic front loading Automatic Washer. We also removed the single 600 litre  water tank and replaced it with 2 tanks of 300 litres each. This has worked very well for us in combination with the water maker since then.

Several times during the past 10 years a feed pump has failed. Spectra acknowledged that this part was not satisfactory for the purpose and made it possible to, for a small fee, return the broken unit and they replaced it with a refurbished one. This system worked well and we were very confident with the machine and with Spectra's service ethics.
Their technicians were always available to talk on the phone and willing to spend what ever time it took to nurse us through any issues we may have had.
And the Automatic is installed.

In recent times the company has been sold. The new service attitude is very different. They have "moved on" and now no longer service and replace the feed pumps. A new improved feed pump is US$1500.
The last pump we sent to a different manufacturer for refurbishment, at Spectra's advice, cost us $590.US It replaced a pump which failed after just 8 months.

There are many water maker systems in the market place now and we know many happy boaters with less complicated and equally if not more efficient units for a lot less initial outlay. We know boaters who have switched from Spectra to other units and are very happy. Sadly, the industry had a great company started by a cruiser who  fully comprehended the necessity for service and was able and willing to expedite the repair of a water maker in even the most remote places.

Our unit is 10 years old. It has made a total of 110,000 litres to date at an approximate cost for repairs and consumables of 6.4c per litre. This accounts for repairs, replacement parts, filters, and an allowance for electricity. The cost of our water would rise to 14c per litre if we allow a reasonable amount for depreciation.

In hindsight a cheaper and smaller capacity machine which ran off solar panels would significantly reduce our costs and still satisfy our water requirements.


Wednesday, 9 November 2016

WINTERIZING TAIPAN 9th November 2016

Winter is coming John Snow!!!

The big Election of the year is over and now we need to get Taipan to bed. Here in southern Netherlands the salt water is not expected to freeze and we have decided to leave Taipan in a pen in Vlissingen. The storm doors at the entrance to the marina will be closed until April 1st. They prevent the storm surges from entering the marina and moderate the tidal range. The water still flows in under the gates but at a controlled rate. It is much more comfortable aboard now they are closed. 

Storm Doors in Open 


Minimum day time temperatures are getting down to the low single figures and the 220v Electric Ceramic fan heater is going most of the day. We also have a 600W, 110v inverter running a single electric blanket for a few hours at night. This has been my life saver and the current draw is very small and has even gone unnoticed by the in house ampophobic. 


Sentijn, John and Kara Peninngton of the Orca fame.

We said farewell to John and Kara our Orca mates from the US as they are off to haul out and fly back to sort out their country's woes.  The big storm doors had to be opened to allow them to leave in their new boat, Sentijn, a Koopman 42 aluminium cutter. We wish them a safe journey home and look forward to catching up on the water in 2017.
Take a look at the book. In their early 20's, they left home with a big dream and very little experience and ended up circumnavigating in a Cape Dory 30 sailboat  Link to the book. ORCA


Saint Nicholas day was celebrated yesterday with plenty of fanfare, horses, black helpers and lots of excited children.


David and Niels, a local software wiz kid, are endeavouring to connect a diesel fired Land Rover, Thermo Top C Cabin Heater but typically when you start these projects there are bits missing or pieces don't fit so its a lot of one step forward and two steps back. The unit came without a  fuel pump, a controller, exhaust bits or a wiring harness so theres a lot more to do to get it functional than we had predicted. Neils has been writing software and building circuitry to enable the pump to function and to provide on and off facility. The unit has a start up and shut down procedure which is usually built into the vehicles onboard  computer. All the peripherals are available online but knowing which one you need is the tricky bit. This project has ground to a halt because the clock is ticking.

One of the two huge storm surge gates on the marina.

Schengen Rules only allow non EU persons to remain in the EU or in Signatory countries for 90 days in any 180 day period. This is tricky to work out if coming and going from Schengen areas but we do know we have to be out by the 28th of November. Tickets to fly to Perth Australia are booked.

Heating, dehumidifying and anti freezing!

Now  it is time to focus on the antifreeze!

There are an inordinate number of services aboard to protect with antifreeze. It has been quite a revelation to count them up and work out the process. We have 80 litres of antifreeze sitting in drums on the dock. Ethylene glycol is toxic and should only be used in engines or heads and where there is no possibility of it being ingested, and propylene glycol which is not so toxic and is also used in foods such as ice cream and frozen custard. This is for use in the fresh water system and the water-maker. There are all sorts of measurements one can do to ensure the antifreeze level is reached. Below are a couple of graphs.


All the engine and generator oils and filters have to be changed. The thru hulls have to be back filled with antifreeze and the sea cocks closed. Coolant has all been changed because the  main engine was installed in the tropics and we suspect it is not antifreeze. Then the air intakes need to be blocked off, Impellers removed, greased, and the covers left off. 

The air-conditioning unit has to be flushed of its sea water and drained. Next the deck wash system has to be blown clear of water in the pipes and back filled with antifreeze to a closed sea cock... you get the idea?? There's the water-maker... now thats a bit more complicated with pressure side and non pressure side... fresh and salt water ... so now my head is spinning and thats before we start on the fresh water system and the heads, and lets not forget the toilet holding tank. What a disaster if that froze and burst!


So for now its a steep learning curve and the captain is up to his armpits in antifreeze and the cockpit is a war zone!!!

War zone. Not safe to enter.


Friday, 21 October 2016

SAILING THE DUTCH CANALS

Exciting plans in the pipeline for next sailing season.

Vlissingen is the southern gateway to a canal route through Holland called the Standing Mast Route. As the name implies, this enables sailboats to navigate the canals through inland waterways, lakes and man made canals right through Holland. The route is approximately 150 Nautical miles long and ends in Delfzil near the boarder with Germany. From Delfizl it's a short hop up the Ems, round the corner and into the Keil Canal. This canal is, 58nm long and yachts use it to travel still further north through Germany and into the Baltic Sea. Negating the need to tackle the unpredictable and potentially nasty North Sea route.

Part of the waterway at Middleberg

There are numerous locks and bridges on both routes which need to be opened so travelling is fairly slow. The idea is to spend a few weeks getting north thus allowing the season to warm up and to provide us with the opportunity to enjoy some of the Dutch countryside.

Once in the  Baltic there are endless sailing options, Germany, Denmark, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Sweden, Finland and potentially even Russia. Just how much we can squeeze into the 3 months allowed under the Schengen agreement, remains to be seen. Scotland, Ireland, Wales and the UK, not parties to this wretched agreement, will be our backstop and a hopping off point on the southern UK coast for a crossing to Northern Spain then a cruise down the coast of Portugal should take care of 2017.
New Awlgrip on the companionway stairs

Meanwhile here in Vlissingen we are still attending to cosmetic work aboard and honing our painting and varnishing skills. 

On the 29th of October the Battle for Uncles Beach is remembered here in Vlissingen with a parade and pipers marching through the streets. A comprehensive range of restored military vehicles follows the marchers. 



Vlissingen was an important strategic point on the Westerscheldt, the entrance to the port of Antwerp and during 1944  the island was the site of a fiercely fort battle for control of this waterway, by predominantly Canadian Troops against intrenched German lines, 



Antwerp and its port in Belgium, was retaken by the Allies earlier and there was a pressing need to use the intact port facility to improve the supply lines to the front. The British, in a controversial move, eventually bombed the dykes flooding the island and the Germans were defeated and surrendered at Middleburg but not without great cost to both civilian and soldiers alike. Over 12500 Allied casualties injured wounded or missing and 180 civilians in the flooding caused by the breaching of the dykes. Apparently not a house in Vlissingen was without bullet holes. There are several memorials and an excellent museum in Vlissingen.

Vlissingen beach seen from the warmth of the glass solar train.

Today Zeeland is sometimes referred to as the Dutch Rivera. It has beautiful beaches and lots of holiday infrastructure. The season has closed for winter, however the unseasonal sunny autumn here in Vlissingen is still attracting day trippers, walkers and holiday makers in limited numbers.
We, on the other hand, are taking advantage of the sunshine to complete some deck painting. No rest for the wicked!!
More photos from Vlissingen.



Monday, 10 October 2016

GOING DUTCH October 10th 2016


First we had to go Belgium, an easy 56 mile motor sail across the surprisingly quiet English Chanel from Ramsgate to Nuiewpoort. We had heard stories of the masses of shipping in the  narrow, current affected channel. There were only a handful of ships, all with AIS, and easy to  avoided in the clear crisp autumn sunshine. We only made one course change. Singapore was far worse! 
The Nuiewpoort Marina has over 1000 berths, most vessels look well cared for and there were many out sailing when we arrived. We arrived in the marina comfortably before dark. 
Nuiewpoort Belgium

The following morning we pulled out and headed off to Vlissingen Netherlands. Being a Saturday it was as busy as we have seen it anywhere with many sailboats heading out to enjoy the last sunny sailing days of the season. There were boats going in all directions and what a beautiful day. Sailing just on the wind in 15 knots offshore and Taipan was frisky. We clocked great time but arrived way too early and had to cool our heels for a couple of hours before attempting to get into the marina.  As there was insufficient water we made two abortive attempts before successfully passing through the bridges and the very narrow door, (just 6 meters wide,) into our berth.


Michiel de Ruijterhaven Marina is right in the centre of a great little town. Everything we need just a short bike ride away. Two and a half hours to Amsterdam by train, Three and a half hours to Paris by train. What more could one want. Ah the price? Just 560 euro for the whole 6 months of winter. Looks like this is where we stop for now.


One of the first things we noticed in the Netherlands is bicycles. Everyone, young and old is riding a bike. The Dutch all look fit and healthy and the local fare is likewise, healthy and lean. Our trusty folding bikes are enjoying a revival here. Not since Asia have they seen so much action. It was a little confronting initially to not don the compulsory helmet but no one wears one here and they all seem quite normal. Bikes are the primary mode of transport round the city and the roads and drivers reflect their priority.


Vlissingen is  just a small town but has some interesting architecture.

The next outstanding feature is the architecture. The variety and creativity in design is evident in both domestic and commercial architecture. What a blessed relief after the US.


 
Taipan moored right on the Cafe strip.

There's lots of maintenance to catch up on. Its been a long and hectic sailing year with 9 countries visited in 7 months. We have many small jobs to keep us busy here until it gets too cold, then we will  bolt back to  Western Australia until the Northern Spring.


Vlissingen city square was once a dock.

First job off the list will be sealing the toerails. This is a job which we usually do every 5 years but its a little overdue. Not a particularly big job but we need to be alongside a dock to remove the stanchions and bases, remove all the old sealant, repaint and re-seal. 


Stainless rails round the whole ship!
Taipan has 600mm high stanchions with stainless rail around the entire ship. These were installed before we purchased her and although we didn't think they looked great, and we even considered removing them, we are very glad we didn't. They offer immense security when one of us is forced on deck in big seas in dark and dangerous conditions.

There is always the inevitable varnish, gelcoat and paint touch up to do. A boat doesn't do as many miles as Taipan without getting some knocks.


John Penningtons book Orca available on Kindle is an inspirational read.

Just after our arrival we heard a knock on the hull and it was Kara and John from Orca, with whom we crossed the Indian Ocean in 2012. They have just purchased another larger yacht here in this small harbour and flew in a few days ago to take possession. It never ceases to amaze us just how small the cruising world is, and how full of inspiring and interesting people.


Winterising Taipan will be a new experience for us. We have been informed that Vlissingen harbour, in which we have chosen to leave the boat, doesn't freeze as its salt water and there is very little snow in this area of southern Holland. We will however take precautions with the fresh water system, including boiler, engine coolant, WC's and of course Water-maker.
So now the weather is holding and the work proceeds.



Friday, 23 September 2016

FAREWELL OL' ENGLAND. 23rd September.


 
Beachy Head Lighthouse.

Portsmouth faded into the quiet misty horizon as we dropped anchor on the  coast just to the west in flat calm conditions. Steering repair is good and after a restfull night at anchor we set of early for New Haven, skirting in close to the coast we were able to take in some of the coastal scenery. 
 
Brighton
Brighton came and went with its amazing new 450 foot spire,  up which travels a pod offering 360 degree views. It looked gorgeous from the ocean and another place to go back for.
 
Check out that spire. The pod is near the bottom but goes all the way to the top!
The coast after New Haven and on towards Beachy Head was spectacular in the clear early morning light. The distances sometimes giving a painterly effect to the photos.


The history along this coast line is amazing and is matched by the majesty of the beautiful chalk cliffs. 

Beachy Head.
Bosham in west Sussex claims to be the site where King Canute set his throne by the sea and commanded the tide to halt, and when it didn't he hung up his crown saying. 'Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws.'"

Sailing on past Hastings where the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and the death of King Harold by an arrow in the eye, marked the end of Anglo Saxon rule over England. 


Then Dover and there's Richborough, the impressive ruins of the Roman Township mark the point from which the Romans launched their successful invasion of Britain in AD 43.

Eastbourne Pier.

During the afternoon we were shadowed by a Border Control Vessel for quite a while. Eventually they launched their big RIB and came over. Politely requesting permission to board they went on to check the interior of Taipan and then to ask a million questions. All of which we had answers to. Not always the right answers however. 

Hastings Fishing boats and the The East Hill Cliff Funicular Railway with original wooden coaches.

Border Force.
It seems we had once again been given conflicting information. In Ireland we were advised that it was not necessary to check into the UK as we were already in the EU and nothing further was required. Well even now we are not too clear but the Border Force officers were very helpful and smoothed the way to us having the "proper" paperwork. This was all achieved on-line after the guys went back to their office and set the ball rolling. We needed to complete a GMRC Form to comply with immigration rules in the UK. 
Contact the National Yachtline on 0845 7231110 and they can do both your Immigration and Customs checks. There's a website for information for cruising yachts is at Border Force UK


Look! No Guns!
In Dover we anchored and caught up with some friends from the ol' home town, visiting in the UK. Deb and Kevin had been tracking us. 

Next stop Ramsgate, a bit shabby and the worst Greek food ever. Nevertheless it offered a sheltered haven in some windy weather and we were grateful.
Dover Castle.

Next day with clear skies and barely a breeze to bless us, we nosed our way out of Ramsgate Marina  The forecast was going to hold for just another 2 days. Not long enough to get to Southwold and make it in over the treacherous bar to see some very old and dear friends. Yesterday we got a taste of what just 20+ knots against current in the channel can kick up, and being cruisers, and not in need of any excitement, we elected to pass on the forecast conditions and make a dash  across the 56 miles of English Chanel to Nieuwpoort Belgium while the going was good.

Farewell Ramsgate.
 So next stop Netherlands! 
More photos from the UK East Coast. 

Monday, 19 September 2016

THE SOLENT, SAILING CAPITAL OF THE UK.

 
The Clipper Fleet resting after their circumnavigation this year.

Portsmouth, Cowes, Southport. all names synonymous with sailing and boating. The Isle of Wight just offshore is a major attraction for the boating populace. Around every bend and behind every breakwater there is another enormous marina bursting to the seams with boats of every description. Just like most places around the world though most of them don't appear to leave the dock. Many just provide an easy income for the Marina within which they reside. Boating seems like a grand idea to many but the hard work and dedication required to actually make it happen is mostly lacking. The result is marinas and moorings choked with forgotten dreams.
Yarmouth, a quaint little village on Isle of Wight.

We have sort of stalled ourselves since Poole, with David and I both getting flue separately. We had also postponed some repairs which we needed to catch up on. Not to mention Weather! 
After a week spent in Poole replacing domestic pumps and fixing sail slugs between heavy rain and squalls, eventually the weather cleared and we left for Portsmouth, stopping in Yarmouth on the Isl of Wight for a night. Its a cute little village and has some nice walking trails. We didn't get to see much of the island however as we need to keep moving. 

The remains of the Mary Rose and some clever graphics

In Portsmouth we went off to the Mary Rose Museum located in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. The Mary Rose was built on the orders of King Henry VIII and launched in 1511. It was refitted in 1536 after service in wars against  France, Scotland and Brittany. While leading the attack against a French invasion fleet, she sank in the Solent, the straits north of the Isle of Wight. The reason for her sinking remains a mystery as there is insufficient documentation available today to determine the true cause. Conjecture has it that during the battle, with sails hoisted in almost no breeze, suddenly there sprung up a wind and with all her lower gun ports open she healed and filled with water rapidly taking with her a crew of sailors, archers, gunners and an assortment of other specialists, surgeon, trumpeter and officers from the gentry.

Part of the Galley. Rebuilt using all original pieces from aboard.

The Mary Rose remains were re-discovered in 1971 and  recovered from the Solents mud in 1982. About two thirds of one side of the hull was recovered. Other finds include weapons, sailing equipment, naval supplies and a wide array of objects used by the crew  The bones of a total of 179 people were found during the excavations of the Mary Rose, including 92 fairly complete skeletons. Analysis of these has shown that crew members were all male, most of them young adults. Some were no more than 11–13 years old, and the majority (81%) under 30. Loads of cannon, a dog and several rats. Even a flea! How thorough and painstaking was the recovery!!.?? It took years to stabilize the timbers. And 2 years ago she finally went on display. It's a truly amazing effort. Lots of clever projection work showing life aboard. Forensic science has pieced together the lives and faces of the bodies found and we even got to hold a piece of anchor rode which still smelled of tar! It was all buried in an anaerobic mud so was extremely well preserved. The excavation and salvage of the Mary Rose was a milestone in the field of maritime archaeology.
More from Wikipedia on the Mary Rose.
 
The HMS Victory some of the 104 guns aboard.


The HMS Victory also resides in Portsmouth's Historic Dockyard. She is best know as Lord Nelsons battle ship and the one on which he died in the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. She has  been the flagship  of the First Sea Lord since October 2012 and is the oldest naval ship in the world, still in commission. They think it might sink if they put it in the water though! The Dockyard is very big comprehensive and impossible to get round it in the day. At 38 quid each it is expensive so 2 days was out of the question.



Steering repair.
Emergency Tiller
Steering problems surfaced as we attempted to leave Haslar Marina and head to Cowes with friends. The 8mm Stainless Steel steering cable had started shredding itself and threatened to foul the whole shebang! Luckily we had some warning when the steering didn't quite feel right so we picked up a mooring and checked!  Well we then had to set up the emergency tiller. Disable the cables and remove them so as not to foul and limp back to a dock. Jeananne and Ray, English friends we met in Perth (I went to Uni. with Jeananne). We ended up going driving with them to Bosham and lunched in Chitchester, then they drove back to London and we went back to Portsmouth on the train.
On Monday morning David found a rigger and he had cable and the swageing tool so he was back with all the new gear within a couple of hours and several hours it was all rebuilt. We left Portsmouth at 5 pm and anchored of the south coast in very still conditions with a benign forecast, just a little rainy drizzle.


 The season is drawing to a close with Autumn approaching and we would like to be across the Chanel by the end of the month. The destination is loosely Amsterdam.
Well that's about it from the Solent! 


 More Photos from the UK South Coast.