I can talk about the albatross, night sky and other things that are really wonders of nature, but this blog report is about the "toys" I carry during deliveries.
Firstly, I have a laptop computer with a special charger that charges the laptop off a 12 volt DC cigarette lighter socket. The laptop contains all the software needed to type up reports, navigate via charts of the world (with a small GPS plugged in) do email whilst on land and do email at sea via HF radio or satellite telephone. It also contains the software for manipulating or re-sizing photographs taken with my digital SLR camera. Then it has a library of over 17000 music tracks which connects to one of my other toys, an Apple iPod - one of the most handy little gadgets that anybody can take sailing.
My digital SLR is quite a good camera and is now a number of years old. I carry two zoom lenses and have taken quite a few really remarkable photographs over the years I have been delivering yachts - on the other hand I have also take a hell of a lot of really bad ones as well! But that's the great thing about going digital - it costs nothing to view your photographs and delete the bad ones.
I am a radio HAM (amateur radio operator) and my fourth toy is an Icom 706 MkIIG ham transceiver that has been altered to be able to operate on both the HAM bands as well as the marine frequencies. As most boats I deliver have no counterpoise or earth plate, I simply trail a 13.5 metre length of heavy duty electric wire behind the boat as we are sailing. Likewise, most delivery boats do not have HF antenna, so I simply buy a length of ski rope and insert a further 13.5 metre length of electric wire into the centre of the rope and, with the one length attached to a small tuner at the stern of the boat, hoist the other end of the rope up the mast - the antenna only goes about halfway up the rope and thus is kept well away from the mast and rigging. Then, coupled with an SCS Pactor modem linked to the radio and to my laptop, I can send and receive email (and update the blog) at no cost - the Winlink email system is free to licensed HAMs and may be a good consideration to folk that intend to go long term cruising. Getting a HAM licence is also a lot easier today than it was a few years back - there is no longer a requirement to learn Morse code.
Okay, the above explains some of my "toys", but on a different subject, the delivery of this boat, we are now a day away from St Helena island. We were not going to stop there but have been told that one of the other delivery boats has left us a few drums of diesel. As all the delivery boats heading for the Caribbean have been experiencing light winds on the leg between the island and the Brazilian mainland, the company thought some extra diesel will assist us on those days where the sea looks like a mirror and headway is not being made. Nice of them.
Well, from Hardy, Andries and myself, we wish you well until the next blog report. John.
After we departed Walvis Bay, we had 20 to 25 knots of wind from the south-southwest, accompanied by a 2 to 3 metre swell out of the southwest. The wind has been giving us a good boost with good daily averages of 6.4 knots. However, the swell has made life a little "difficult", especially when our cook-of-the-day has to prepare our evening meal. Well, no meal has ended up on the floor as yet.
We have had one fishing line out but have had only caught a small Bonito, which was consumed in the form of fish cakes on Monday night with Andries doing the honours. It was his first time making fish cakes and he mastered the art quite well. Tonight we are having "Boerewors and Pap with Tomato and Onion Breedie". For the uninitiated, Boerewors is a South African sausage, mostly cooked on the coals of an open fire. Pap is maize meal which is cooked to a very thick consistency. Mmm, my mouth is watering!
As we have a new engine in the port hull, it needed it's 50 hour first service. First Mate Hardy is also our chief engineer as well as the smallest of the three of us aboard. He spent half an hour in the engine room yesterday, doing the service and came out with a handful of "treasures of the bilge" - screws, washers and nuts that were dropped by the factory staff and could not be found. We tend to collect a small bag of these bits and pieces during deliveries and keep them in case we ever need some spares. The photo above is Hardy doing his thing in the engine room.
For those who are not aware, on the right of this blog are some links which you can click on. There is one called "ShipTrak", which if you click on it, it will give you a map of the world and my last 60 days positions. I send in a position report at ships noon each day and you can keep an eye of our progress or lack of it.
We are finding this boat quite a pleasure to sail. As stated in a previous blog report, we are quite loaded with extra diesel and water and a good supply of provisions and other load gear. She is not a racing boat but we are managing to get some quite good speed out of her, which is helping us to get to our destination quite nicely. We should pass St Helena Island on Friday and let's see how she performs on the 1800nm stretch from the island to our next waypoint, located between the Brazilian coast and the island of Fernando de Noronha. More to follow as we progress. So, for now, regards from the crew, Andries, Hardy and myself, John.
You may be wondering what has happened to us, so let me explain. We departed Luderitz last Saturday with our new engine purring away. However, as we put on miles, motor-sailing due to very little wind, the engine started sounding a bit rough so we contacted our Cape Town office and were instructed to go to Walvis Bay, the largest port in Namibia. This we did, arriving on Monday morning.
Now let me explain Namibia to you. It is a fairly large country which consists mainly of desert with diamonds producing a majority of it's income. However, it is rich in fish on the coast and the two main ports, Luderitz and Walvis Bay, have large fishing fleets that operate out of the ports. Both ports have a yacht club which consist of a few sailing boats but mostly being a social club with large bars. Cruising yachts do visit occasionally but the infrastructure for repairs to engines on small sailing boats basically does not exist and there is little help from the local marine engineers - they work on massive ship engines, not little yacht engines! So, we now have a local engineer with another (imported from Cape Town) giving "direction" in the correct way to tune and have the engine properly set-up, something I wish they had done whilst we were in Luderitz.
We have been so busy, it was hard to keep the blog updated but, we departed yesterday (Thursday) and are now heading for the South Atlantic island of St Helena and then on to the northern coast od South America. The South Atlantic sea state at the moment is very rough with the three metre swell hitting us on our port beam, making conditions rather like being in a washing machine and making the typing of this report also a bit hit-and-miss. In the next 48 hours we should have both the wind and seas more from the southeast, not from the southwest as we have at the moment.
I will attempt a further update in a couple of days to keep everybody updated as to our progress. Regards from Hardy, Andries and myself, John
On arriving in the small port of Luderitz, we had a local diesel mechanic, named "Duppie", come down to the boat to look at our port engine. The verdict was: "It's buggered" - basically the same verdict as mine, except I used different words to define my verdict.
Then the satellite phone started ringing with the message that a new engine was on it's way from Cape Town in a pick-up driven by Graham Kirk and accompanied by a Robertson & Caine mechanic. Now, let me explain to those folk who do not know - Luderitz is in a country called Namibia, which is just north of South Africa and prides itself as being independent. Luderitz is also a solid two day drive from Cape Town. When Graham arrived at the border post, he had all the necessary documentation to import the new engine into Namibia but unfortunately the mechanic was a Ghanaian citizen and, unknown to all, needed a visa to enter Namibia. He did not have one and was denied entry. Graham had to turn around and take the poor fellow back to the South African side of the border, find a holiday camp and he is now having an all paid-for safari on the Orange River.
Next thing the satellite phone is ringing again and I was informed that a new mechanic with the necessary travel documents was flying up on Thursday morning and work would start immediately with the engine replacement. Well, you all know when things go wrong, go wrong, go wrong. Eric, the new mechanic, arrived and was only given a 24 hour visa and refused permission to be able to do any work. So, all he could do was stand on the quay whilst Duppie, the local mechanic, and his assistants were busy dismantling the broken engine. Whilst this is happening, Graham was running around trying to get the customs inspector so that they can open the new engines box - it could not be opened without a customs inspector present.
Eventually it was out with the old and in with the new, sea trials and we are ready to go again. Neels is heading back to Cape Town with Graham Kirk whilst we wait for the wind to change from north west.
It is now Saturday morning and we have been up before the sun was, preparing to depart. We all went to the emigration office and were stamped out after paying N$80 for the service - we cleared with the port authorities and customs yesterday afternoon.
What caused our engine to fail is unknown but our thanks to the Robertson & Caine factory and staff who made the engine swap as fast as possible. So, as we head northwest, regards from the three of us - Andries, Hardy and myself, John.
It has been an interesting first few days at sea, with all of us, except Neels, fully getting our sea-legs. Neels, unfortunately, has not fully recovered from his sea sickness even though we have a relatively calm sea at the moment. However, his prayers may have been answered as we have lost the use of our port engine and are busy making our way to the port of Luderitz in Namibia for mechanical repairs. I think Neels will be departing the boat if he can find transport back to Cape Town - and I do not blame him as being sea sick on a small boat in the Atlantic Ocean is not what I would wish on my worst enemy.
We should reach Luderitz during Monday morning and hope that we are able to repair our engine with great speed as I have been to the port before and there is not too much to get excited about there. However, the rest of the crew will be able to explore the old German town with its unusual architecture and may even be able to visit the old "ghost town", a mining town just outside Luderitz which was deserted and is now mostly covered by sand dunes.
This morning I spoke to David Savage, the skipper of a Leopard 40, also en route to Annapolis. He had departed Cape Town a few hours after us and was only 20 odd nautical miles to the east of us. He and his crew were all well and were preparing to change course for St Helena island - we were busy changing course for Luderitz and would thus cross close to each other. Although we kept a good lookout and gave a few calls on the marine VHF, we never saw each other.
On Saturday we managed to catch our first fish, a small Yellowtail, which was just large enough to feed all four of us. It was really delicious and was served with baked potatoes and some gem squash. The chef of the day was Andries who did an excellent job cooking the fish. This morning (Sunday), Neels, although not feeling great, set out the line and managed to catch a fair sized long-fin Tuna. It is in the refrigerator and is our Monday night meal as this evening I cooked up an Indian curry, which appeared to go down well with all on board.
As soon as we know what is happening to our engine, I will update the blog and add a photo or two of Luderitz. For now, regards from Neels, Andries, Hardy and myself, John.