Saturday, May 20, 2017

Catchup time, again.

Sunday 21 May.

Its been  a busy time of late, spending time with Denny, had a big adventure walking the Tongariro Crossing with a group she's part of.  Thats a big walk, my fitness tracker wristband showed 35000 steps for the day. Its a mighty climb up one side of the mountain, and a long decent down the other side. The scenery is amazing, the walk is very crowded though, there are often over 3000 people a day doing it so its hardly a wilderness walk. But its a good one, recommended. It was a good weekend.
We had a "little" adventure recently, we wanted to watch a particular boxing match and the SKY people wanted a lot of money to view it, and Denny being here that weekend suggested that we find a sports bar with TV showing it. After some enquiry we found one, used the money that would have been spent on the SKY viewing on a nice dinner and sat in front of the big screen and watched the match.
It was noisy in there, but the food was good, I had good company with me, and  “our” boxer won his fight. The outstanding thing about the evening was that someone had very kindly paid for our meal and drink.  Thank you Northern Union bar and restaurant.

Engineering work has taken up  a lot of my days, I do maintenance and repair on woodworking machinery in woodshops and school tech classrooms, and I'm in catchup mode there, it pays pretty well though so thats another catchup thats happening. Its usually fun, I had a job to do in a yacht interior specialist shop the other day and was watching while working, a young man putting together some intricate marquetry ( inlaid wood) on a big motor yachts saloon table. He's got a lot more patience than I have, anyone who says the old skills are disappearing hasn't seen this. Maybe those skills aren't as common but they're still around.

There has been a heap of maintenance to do on my old ship. Welcome to owning a 45 year old wooden boat,  she’s a constant project, and with an unusual amount of wet weather this year its been hard to keep up the sanding and painting so she’s looking a bit scruffy at the moment.
I’ve had issues with the paint on the hull, water getting behind it in patches and peeling some areas off.  I’d not completely sanded it back to wood last year, and although the paint I applied was the recommended system and was applied over a well sanded surface, the undercoat underneath seems to have failed in a couple of areas.
That plus a tiny, suspicious area on the side of the flying bridge turned out to be a major rot spot hiding under the paint, so that piece of wood has been cut out, the soft plywood ground away and sealed with low viscosity epoxy, and I’m about to fit a new piece in there.  The issue has been that the original piece had not been sealed where it stood on the cabin top to support the flying bridge side, and although it was mahogany it was possibly sapwood and has soaked up a lot of water, and rotted out.

I’ve done some rewiring of the lighting as well, and can recommend strip LED “warm daylight” lighting, it doesn’t look as nice as a “proper” light fitting, the LEDs just being stuck on in a strip, but the light that they give from 12 volt supply is really nice.  I’ve a 10 metre roll of them, and am gradually working through the ship to replace the tired old flouros, another benefit is that the LEDs don’t cause the phone or the radio to buzz plus they draw a lot less current. Recommended!

That fitness tracker was included with a Garmin GPS and depth sounder that was going on a very good deal from Burnsco, thats been fitted by the way although the transponder for the depth part has to wait until I can put the boat on the hard.  Its a magical little thing, has all the charts for NZ on it, and replaces two non functional depth sounders, one of which has to be as old as the ship, replaces all my charts ( I keep them though just in case) compass ( Same) and log, which the ship has never had. Technology is getting cheaper all the time.

I’ve got back to work on Long Steps again, fitted the next two stringers up, that’s two done out of four taped the inside seams of the lowest plank to the bottom, cut out and glassed the offcentercase sides, cut the end posts and begun building the ‘board.  I’ll have to scrounge up some lead to melt into the cavity in the tip of the core, that’s 11 kg, a small pour.  I enjoy doing this sort of thing.
I recall, being around 10 years old, making moulds from clay, drying them in the sun, melting lead on the hearth inside and pouring to make things.  I only got burned once, pain helps the learning process.
Its time for a lot of sandpapering, the framing and interior is being gradually sanded and coated, I’m using a very low viscosity epoxy from a supplier who no longer does that product, but its similar to “Everdure” but with a higher density, so two coats, scraped or sanded between, gives a glossy finish and the third ensures a really good coverage.
The ballast tank framing is in, the cockpit floor, at least the centerline piece has been cut from ½ in plywood and it’s a big space, I tried lying down on it with my head and shoulders in under the cuddy and it feels very cozy.

Back to paint.  SEI had a water based semi gloss enamel paint on her, with three different undercoats to see what worked and what didn’t.  She sits on the dock alongside “The Ship” so  often gets a lot of rainwater in her, the intention being to test the paint system to its limit with sun and water.
It didn’t work, 18 months and the paint was falling off in places ( undercoat number one) checking in some places, ( undercoat number two) and sort of doing ok where I’d used International Prekote.
On sanding a few patches I found that the Prekote had stood up well, but the water based enamel was not lasting.
She was past scruffy, I use her for rowing on the estuary and doing my trash collection run on the river, so she’s often scraping the bottom, ( oysters in mud) or pushed into the mangroves, hard on paint for sure.
She needed it, so she’s been sanded off on the outside and a new full gloss water based exterior rated paint applied. Vibrant blue this time!

Its softer than the solvent based enamels, but so far seems to be surviving ok.

When I find my camera case with the charger in it, I’ll get some pics.

John Welsford

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Howard Rice, under sail in the far south.

The SV Navara came across a tiny yacht sailing in the Magdalena Channel in the far south of Chile, not a sight they'd expected to see so they took pics and posted this to their website.
Surrounded by mountains, the weather extremely unpredictable and biting cold, glaciers hanging in many of the valleys, snow on most of the mountaintops, its not the place where small boats go.  Unless of course its Howard Rice. He will tell you he's just an ordinary guy.  Hah!

Check out the larger story on

I'm posting progress reports there which, along with catching up with all the work I didnt get done here in NZ while I was in Chile supporting Howards expedition has meant that I've not kept the blog going like I should, but thought that you'd like this.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A good cup of tea.

A good cup of tea is very hard to come by when travelling.  Its not easy here in NZ either, the restaurants worldwide seem to revel in making the worst tea possible A cup of lukewarm water with a teabag on the saucer will at best make brown water that tastes like mud.  They say that they don’t sell a lot of tea, its not hard to figure out why.

I got home to my ship after being in Punta Arenas and Santiago Chile for 5 weeks, ( got a good cup of tea at the hotel Cabo de Hornos by the way, the manager there is a German lady and likes things done properly, well done ) and came home to find, no water. Plenty around the boat, but none in the taps.
All the usual noises when the taps were turned on but not even a dribble.

Ok, fill the tanks, I’d had guests on board while I was away and just assumed that they’d been generous with the shower, put the hose in for an hour, those two fresh water tanks are about 300 litres each so it takes a while.

Had water from the hot tap, none from the cold? Maybe I need a new pump.
The ship is 44 years old, quite a few things are close to their use by date so I just assumed that the pump had given up.
A day later, no water from the hot tap either!

The fresh water pumps are down in the engine room and that’s under the main cabin floor, I have to roll up the carpet and uplift the floorboards to get to Mr Fords home, so I left it for a couple of days while doing some other chores.

When I did venture down there “hola!” ( I’ve learned some Spanish while away) Water! Lots of it.  Ventured a taste? Fresh water!
The stuff outside being salty, it could only have come from the water tanks.

Ok, what next.  No the bilge pumps would not work. Plenty of current in the batteries, so off I went and bought a small Rule bilge pump and some hose, connected directly to the main battery bank, pumped her out, then had a look at the mess down there.  Oil everywhere, the water had been above the oil dipstick hole.

First job. Oil and filter change in the engine. That’s a fairly major job and involves pumping out, then replacing 26 litres of 30 grade diesel oil, not multigrade, so its not an off the shelf item.  Off into town, just made it on Friday afternoon before the guys closed, but then got stuck in rush hour traffic.  It took 2 hours to get home which did not see me feeling tranquil and serene!

Saturday morning,  the engines running again, check the oil several times while Henry rumbled away, no sign of cloudiness, same with the big hydraulic gearbox, but I did grease all the bearings on the driveshaft and the stern gland, just in case.

Next, the pump.  I took it out and aha! The fitting on one end had gone brittle and had cracked, that had let all the water in the two tanks, plus all that I’d put in since, out into the bilge.

Next, the pump had inlet and outlet spigots for 10mm id hose. The hoses that fed and received the water in that line were half inch, as were all the fittings for those hoses.  Whoever had fitted this little in line pump had made up some interesting little plastic adaptors, which had gone brittle and literally fell apart in my hand.

So, off to the boat parts shop, found a pump about the same size, shape and capacity, checked that it was the right voltage, got some new hose clips and went back to the oily mess in the engine bay.

No I couldn’t get the electrics to work, no I couldn’t get the old hoses to clamp onto the non barbed fittings on the new pump. So by then I was about done and went off to the hot pools over the hill for a long soak, got takeout Roganjosh and rice from the Indian restaurant along the way, no water in the galley makes cooking a chore.

Today.  Got the multimeter out, after several hours of messing around, found where the problem was.  It was automotive wire in a marine environment, there was corrosion for about 50mm in from the end of the wire, and of course with that clipped out the wire was too short.

Ran new wire, about 4metres of twin core, had to lift floorboard which meant moving two lockers, which meant moving the double bunk, then had to reach in under the galley bench to thread it through bulkheads and frames.
Got that working, tested it, then ventured back out to find some new hose that age had not made inflexible, and a pump with pipe fittings closer to the half inch hose fittings that make up all of the internal fresh water plumbing. Bear in mind that New Zealand saw the light way back in 1967 and converted to metric measurement so imperial measurement fittings are hard to find.

But I found a 12mm in line 750 litre an hour in line pump at the fourth place I called at, even found some 12mm pvc pipe and took a chance that if I put it into boiling water for 5 minutes it would stretch enough to make the difference.
I bought that plus the pump, damn the price, by then I just wanted the job done. Came back home to where the gale force winds blowing here at my dock had the ship bouncing around pretty energetically, bent myself up like a paper clip and got into the confined space to fit the new pump, wiring, hoses and clips.

It all works now.  The first thing I did with my now fully functional galley tap was to make a cup of tea.

It’s a good cup of tea, Twinings Irish Breakfast, made in a proper teapot, pre warmed, and brewed for three minutes.

I think I deserve it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Packing the little ship "Southern Cross"

We’re packing the boat today,  been at it for four hours now. Nearly done.

Remember that this boats hull is just under 3.60m long, that’s 11ft 11 inches.  Tierra del Fuego has a very challenging  coastline, arguably the most dangerous on this planet and there are no opportunities to stop and resuplly. Everything needed to sustain life, sail the boat, keep dry, cook and eat, communicate with the outside world and survive if things go wrong had to be fitted in there.  All that plus four GoPro cameras with a box of fully charged batteries, a satellite phone, GPS navigation system, and much much more. The pile of gear was huge, plus all the boats sails, the cockpit tent and the two main and two secondary anchors had to be stowed and and and!  It’s a long list!

Just beginning, Howard is  making a detailed list showing where each item is stored so he can find everything when he needs it.  Good idea, I once pulled my cruising dinghy up on shore and stripped every piece of gear out of it in an attempt to find a bottle of port that I knew was on board.  Found it, it was the second last item left on the boat. Thats not practical when hiding from a Southern Ocean storm and its snowing!  

The heavy bags go in the bottom of the midships lockers, that improves the boats stability and by keeping the ends of the boat light it helps her sailing characteristics.

I'd guess that at this point we had more than half of the gear and stores on board, stowed away, and room for what you can see here plus some space to spare.

Seat cushions in place, the secondary anchors being rigged in their bags, hiking footstrap in place and most of the canvaswork fitted.  The blue item is a folding seat padded too. Look comfortable? This will be Howards home for up to 3 months, and that in near Antarctic conditions!
( Technically Tierra Del Fuego is "Antarctic territory". Not solid ice but seriously south.)

Almost done, just a couple more bags the water ( one of the lockers is dedicated to fresh water bottles so there is space for them too) and the bags you can see up there past the bow.  

But its all in there, a place for everything and everything in its place!
There is still space, the three lockers aft have not been filled yet, yes there is a bit more to stow but the boat has capacity to spare.  Amazing to watch it all disappear into the spaces under the cockpit, under the seats and into that big space forward.

The truck with the crane comes tomorrow, will take her out and swing her into the water alongside the museum, and all going well there will be sailing trials the next day.

We’re beginning to watch the weather forecasts!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

January 1st 2017. All the very best to everyone.

Blog for Jan !st.

First of all, happy New year to all.  Its been a year of ups and downs, but arent they all,  so make the best of the opportunities that 2017 offer, grab them and enjoy yourself rather than letting your commitments and fears weigh you down.
This can be a great year, but its up to you to make it that way.  Good luck everyone.

We've had a little time to go sightseeing, here's Denny up on the lookout above the town, weathering the gale!  Its an interesting place, some great old buildings with ornate and highly decorative styling, houses that are quite tiny by our standards sitting on very small lots with no gardens, although I have to say we did find a few lovely exceptions to that, and a combination of wide streets and very narrow alleys. Its a picturesque place, I'm glad to have been here long enough to get to know it a bit.

Here in Punta Arenas we're steadily working our way through the tasks that need to be completed before the good ship Southern Cross heads on down the Straights.  We can see the end of those tasks, and they’re achieveble within the timeframe before the truck with its crane turns up on Tuesday to take her down and puts her in the creek alongside the replicas of the HMS Beagle, Magellans ship, the James Caird and the others there at the Nao Victoria museum on the edge of the water a few km from town.  It’s a very appropriate place from which to set sail, the sense of history there is wonderful.

Today the last of the woodwork will be glued and screwed onto the new mizzen mast, we had a small modification to do yesterday, the gaff jaws were a little tight so we eased the slightly obloid secion just above the boom collar and recoated it, today there will be a glue fillet applied to that collar and several small items fitted, tomorrow the varnish will be applied and ‘whew” its done.

Howard in our "workshop".  This is the shipping crate, 16 ft by 6 ft x 5 ft headroom, its a bit tight and working bent over all the time gets tedious but really its serving us well,  in this pic he's fitting the boom support collar to the new mizzen mast, we'd run out of the usual nitrile gloves and couldn't find replacements so those garden gloves are having to stand in. 

Stores sorting goes on, you have no idea how big the pile of stores and gear is, SCAMP has very capacious lockers, and it takes a lot to fill them to the brim.  When laid out on the spare room floor it’s a huge pile! Wow!

Part of the gear sort is selecting the clothing.  This is himself trying his brand new high tech drysuit, I'll get the brand and model when he wakes up, but can testify that it is without a doubt the best sailing drysuit that I've seen. It has two modes,  the top and head cover can be rolled down and stored within what looks like a red jacket but which is part of the "system" , with a draw cord sealing the suit at the waist, or rolled up and covering the whole body and head. 
One of the outstanding things about it is that it is easy to get into and out of, not like the usual drysuit!

Sunday today,  it’s a quiet day here apart  from the church bells, I suspect that there are more than a few hangovers and sleep ins after last nights celebrations, but they’re missing a lovely day.  10 am, the breeze is gentle ( yes that’s not always the case) and the sun is shining. We’re having another cup while awaiting our hosts arrival to unlock the area where the crate with tools and gear are stored, and are feeling very happy about our new years eve celebrations.

Our friend Mauricio, the proprietor of El Bodegon café and bar had invited us to a late night supper at his house, after working late and a false start  which lead us in precisely the wrong direction ( don’t press the wrong button on a borrowed GPS) we arrived in time to see the new year in, had a great meal, wonderful conversation, and when we got home, a good sleep.

Thanks Mauricio, Son Nico and Mama.  You made what could have been a night when we were lonely and wishing we were home, a night of companionship and celebration.