Thursday, 17 February 2011

Boat noobs!

Donvale, Melbourne. 27C, humid, sunny, but possible thuderstorms later
It’s a pretty intense time for us as we try to downsize our lives and make some big decisions. We spent four days over the weekend with BV in Adelaide which was completely awesome, and kinda disastrous at the same time. OK, disastrous is a big exaggeration, but we did have a number of unforseen issues (one that seriously risked the boat!)

First, the autopilot was held up in customs and didn’t arrive on time for us to fit it, which was the main reason we went to ADL in the first place. Oh well, no biggy, just means yet another trip to ADL before the great adventure back to Melbourne in mid March.
Second, it absolutely POURED in Adelaide on Friday. Real rain. Like, Queensland rain. All day. That never happens in Adelaide! Well apart from absolutely soaking us to the bone as we tried to remove the sail bag so that it could be repaired (and making us realise that we have to invest in some decent wet weather gear sooner rather than later i.e. $$$) it exposed some serious leaks (and a few minor ones) mainly in the pilot house of the boat. We knew the leaks would be bad because of the amount of damage on the soon-to-be-replaced roof lining, but I wasn’t expecting mini waterfalls pouring in. I have no idea how the previous owners put up with it, especially as they were living on the boat full time. I guess Adelaide has been in drought for the last decade though!
The rain also meant postponing installing our new gorgeous latex queen mattress in the main cabin. Annoying, but no big deal. We got it in on Saturday.
Sunday was a comedy of errors. Talk about boat-noobs!
It was a gorgeous sunny day and my sister, her boyfriend (Michael 2) and Michael’s dad came down early to come out with us on our inaugural sail as new owners. Everything went really well – Michael 1 (my Michael) did a masterful job of backing BV out of her berth and steering her out of the marina. We had no trouble hoisting the mainsail (I did it by hand, with only a bit of winch-action as the sail reached the top of the mast. Not bad for such an enormous sail!). When we tried to unfurl the genoa sail however it kept getting stuck halfway out. No manner of furling, unfurling, pulling on the ropes helped, in fact it just made it worse. Why did this not happen when we took it for a test sail with the owners two weeks earlier???

Finally, after much struggling and swearing by M1 and M2 we managed to get the sail completely unfurled. And we were sailing! ... for all of 3 minutes, before the wind completely dropped off. I have to say that those 3 or 4 minutes were fabulous though. The boat didn’t heel over nearly as much as the Hunter 39 we sailed in the Whitsundays – thank god for heavy displacement steel boats with cruising keels! And best of all we were moving along happily at 3 or 4 knots, not bad for a big heavy boat in light winds. Very promising.
Once the wind dropped we found ourselves bobbing around in amazing, practically glass-out conditions. This didn’t fuss us too much as it gave me a chance to potter around in the galley and prepare lunch, after which everyone just lazed around on the deck. Michael 2 jumped overboard for a quick snorkel and Michael 1’s dad John actually fell asleep! After an hour or so of lazing around Michael 2 said "I can see what the problem with the head sail was – the halyard is wrapped around the top of the mast!" A double-check with binoculars (yes, the mast is that tall!) confirmed it. The two Michael’s spent the next little while trying to loosen the halyard and furl in the sail but the halyard wouldn’t budge an inch.

Finally Michael 2 offered to climb up the mast and see if he could un-jam the works. Crazy idea. Just looking up at the mast from the deck and imagining climbing makes my knees go weak, and I'm not even afraid of heights!
Anyway, fearless Michael 2 put on a harness and proceeded to climb. He made it over half way, as far as the spreaders, before deciding that it was just not going to happen. I am seriously impressed that he made it that far!!! (Side note: on Monday the sailmaker came back and nonchalantly scampered up the mast like a little monkey to rig up the lazy-jacks that hold up our newly repaired sail bag. Show off!!)

So, the only thing for it was to manually wrap the sail back around the furler and motor back to the marina with our tails between our legs. On the upside, Michael 1 once again did a masterful job of bringing BV back into her berth, with only one loud “crack” as we bounced off the pontoon bumpers. Steel hulls are perfect for boat-noobs like us.

Now you would think we'd done enough breaking of the boat for one day, but no...

Our truncated sailing expedition left us with an unexpected half-day to spare, so we decided to fix the badly seized valves on the marine toilet only to realise once the valve came off and seawater began to flow in that they had been seized up in the off-position and we didn’t have the right tool to reattach the hoses and stop the flow. This was a serious problem... potentially a ship-sinking problem ... at 4:45pm on a Sunday afternoon ... in ADELAIDE! Total noobs!!!! Michael ended up having to dive under the boat and stuff a stopper into the hole which slowed the leak to a trickle. We had to get up and check on it a couple of times during the night, but it was fine. Next morning after a trip to the chandlery and hardware store we had the whole system fixed up nicely, and learned a very valuable lesson – absolutely no starting tasks that could potential risk the boat without the right tools, and definitely not on a Sunday afternoon in sleepy Adelaide!!

It wasn’t all bad, we did get some important jobs done including installing the GPS and remodelled the aft cabin to fit our new mattress.
And, the next morning Michael and I manually unfurled the headsail in light winds at the marina, loosened off and then tightened up the halyard and refurled the sail, as good as new.

t was just great to be on the boat. I got more exercise and fresh air in the 4 days we were there than I have in the last two years I reckon! Despite the hassles it was a wonderful trip, so much so that we now have this crazy idea to quit our jobs immediately and go back to Adelaide to prep the boat! Like I said, crazy!

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