04/13/2012, Bundaberg Port Marina
You can tell that the boat projects are behind us and we have time and energy for socializing again. We have celebrated with guests, cards and sundowner drinks twice recently and will be doing more of that tomorrow and the next day. Our dance card is filling up and the ball (i.e., cruising) hasn't even started this year!
Tomorrow, Cheryl and John will be coming over for drinks, cards and dinner tomorrow afternoon. They have just returned from spending 9 days driving around the state of Queensland. They had a great time and saw some cruising friends in Brisbane who have since buried the anchor. Mary Margaret spent part of the day making a yummy chili from scratch so we will have that with Cheryl and John.
The following day Lori and Ken will be returning to play some more Hand and Foot. Maybe Ken and I will be a bit luckier than the last time we played.
Since the boat projects are basically done, I had time to spend on cleaning parts of the boat that I have ignored. The plastic windows of our bimini enclosure have suffered through the summer here without being cleaned. They were filthy but now you can at least see through them. Tomorrow I hope to polish them.
Meanwhile, Mary Margaret armed herself with stainless steel polish and gave the galley a good going over. The stainless steel counter now sparkles! She also finished the gruesome task of emptying out all of our food storage areas, cleaning them, putting the food back and then inventorying them. By doing this, she now knows what additional provisions we need and how much space she has to store them. Plus, we have the benefit of a list of food items and where we can find them. This comes in really handy when we need to find something.
Techno-Tip Of The Week: Tap and Die Sets
When you go cruising, you many times find yourselves in exotic places that do not have any support facilities. In fact, you will find that you actually seek such places out. After all, you want to anchor in a quiet, secluded bay, with the white sand beach in front of you and the clear electric-blue water underneath you. However, even in such ideal places, those nasty, never ending boat projects sneak up on you. Sometimes, the little bugger of a project requires that you replace a bolt that pulled out since the sail over to your exotic anchorage was a bit rough. In such cases, you will need to drill out the hole and tap in new treads so that your new bolt can screw in and hold.
Thus, it is important to have a good tap and die set. Taps and dies are cutting tools used to create screw threads, which are called threading. A tap is used to cut the female portion of the mating pair (e.g., a nut). A die is used to cut the male portion of the mating pair (e.g., a screw). The process of cutting threads using a tap is called tapping, whereas the process using a die is called threading. Both tools can be used to clean up a thread, which is called chasing. A good set can usually be bought for under $50.
Along with a tap and die set, you will also need a good set of drill bits that are sized to support your taps. The best way to do this is to Google the phrase "Drill and Tap Chart" to see what size of bits you need for your taps. Then go out and buy the best drill bits you can. I recommend Carbide drill bits since they are the strongest and will allow you to drill through stainless steel without ruining your bit. They are bit more expensive but it will be worth it.
04/12/2012, Bundaberg Port Marina
The weather slowly deteriorated as the day passed by. It was windy all day but, around 1400 you could see the cold front moving in from the SSW. Up until then, the sunshine compensated for the 25 knots of wind and I was able to "tie up" some lose ends to some of the boat projects I had been working on. Actually, I was cutting and trimming the loose ends of a number of lines that I had replaced. By 1930 front had arrived and it was cold and raining.
Today was also the day that I made a sad realization. Despite my repeated attempts to patch up our shade tarp, I realized this morning that it was a lost cause. I found a number of areas in the tarp where I could just touch it and put my finger through it. The material was that rotten. Boo Hoo. I loved that tarp as it gave me many hours of shady relaxation. My favorite place on the boat is lying in the hammock, under the shade tarp, enjoying life in paradise. Now, that shade is gone...
We plan on going into town next Monday for our last effort in provisioning before we depart. At that time, I will try to find a temporary replacement to our shade tarp. I am not sure I will find anything that is wide enough and durable enough to last out this cruising season.
We had invited Karen and Frank of S/V Tahina over to play some cards this afternoon. They came over around 1630 and we played Hand and Foot until 1900. Mary Margaret and Frank were one team and Karen and I were the other. While we have had Karen and Frank over before for sundowners, this is the first time we played cards together. We had a ball and hope that we will get a chance to play some more. However, they are returning to the States in a couple of days to attend both of their daughters (twins) graduations. Thus, when they return to their boat, they will be a month behind us in their departure for Darwin. We will meet up again in Darwin in July since we both are joining the Sail Indonesia Rally.
This afternoon I was told that the service on my Yamaha outboard would be completed on Friday. There was some corrosion in the gear box that was causing the problem. It will all be taken care of and with the annual service the cost will be just $200. There are no rental cars available until Monday so that is when I will pick it up.
04/11/2012, Bundaberg Port Marina
The highlight of our day was when Lori and Ken of S/V Trim came over around 1630 to play the card game Hand and Foot. Lori has been back in the States for the last 4.5 months and just returned two days ago. Poor Ken has been here by himself for all of that time.
We had stopped by his boat a few times since we returned from exploring Australia but his boat seemed to always be shut up. As it turns out, he was there but had the boat closed up since he was running the air conditioning all of the time. The back of his boat is facing the predominant wind direction so he doesn't get the benefit of the great breezes that are here and his boat heats up. Oh well, Lori is back now and all is well in the world of Ken!!!
Ken and I were partners and quickly took a 2000 point lead in our game. The girls came back in the 2nd game and cut our lead to just 900 points. Then they really stuck it to us poor guys in the 3rd game. It was so bad that Ken and I declared defeat and did not even add up our points. Those girls sure can be brutal sometimes! They take no prisoners and give no quarter. Oh course, neither do Ken and I when it comes to this game... Maybe next time the card gods will take pity on Ken and me and let us win one. Then again, we are playing against the girls and they are really, really good!
The weather is changing a bit. For the last few days, it was predicted to have thundershowers and then a couple days of rain. There is a huge High pressure system to the south of us, with its center over Melbourne. Its winds are bringing some unsettled weather up in our area. However, the unsettled weather is only arriving now instead of coming a few days ago. The winds have been blowing 20 to 25 knots all day and the skies actually spit at us a bit. The forecast for next week does not look encouraging but given how inaccurate the weather predictions have been this week that does not mean very much in my book!
When we start cruising, we want our first stop to be Lady Musgrave Island and reef. However, it is not a good anchorage when the winds are 20 kts and above. Right now, the weather reports are forecasting winds well in excess of 20 knots for the first part of next week. Bummer!!!
04/10/2012, Bundaberg Port Marina
I rented a car today and drove our Yamaha 15hp outboard over to the Yamaha Service Center in Bundaberg. The yeoman's effort in trying to break it down and service it that Jerald (S/V Spirit) and I did a couple of days ago failed to produce the results I wanted. The Yamaha service guy said that they would not be able to get to it until Friday. With luck, it will be done either that day or Monday. If so, then our departure date of Tuesday, April 17th looks pretty good if the weather cooperates. We both are getting a little moldy after sitting so long in the marina.
While in town I did a little shopping and brought back a roasted chicken from Coles. It was yummy! Unlike in the US, they stuff their roasted chickens that they sell in the supermarket so we got a nice little bonus with the chicken.
Mary Margaret hoisted me up the mast a couple of times today. She wanted me to replace the halyard I installed last year with one that is a little bit thinner. Thus, I installed a 12 mm line instead of the 14 mm line that was there. The thinner line is plenty strong and it moves through the various pulleys and fittings a bit easier, putting less strain on the winch.
I finished a bit early today so I retired to the hammock with an ice cold beer and lounged the late afternoon away. Man that was nice! I could get used to doing that again. Once we start cruising, that is a daily custom which I relish.
04/09/2012, Bundaberg Port Marina
I am sorry that I did not post a blog yesterday. The truth of the matter is there just was not much to write about so I decided to take a break. The day was spent adding patches to our shade tarp. It is now over 4 years old and we have used it exceptionally hard. It is showing its age by forming small tears that widen when the wind blows hard.
I had not realized it but the big wind storm we had right before we left to tour Australia last month caused a number of tears to form before I was able to get the shade tarp down. The cloth is simply wearing out and it is time to replace it. However, we are hoping to get one last season out of it before it gets tossed. We are thinking that we will buy more material when we return to the States at the end of this season and then have a replacement made in Malaysia. That way we get the quality material we want and benefit from the cheap labor market in Malaysia. We are not sure the tarp will last that long but we have our fingers crossed. Meanwhile, just called me Patches Leu...
Today Mary Margaret spent much of the day cleaning the inside of the boat. It is an endless and thankless task. It is especially difficult since I go in and out of the boat so much, chasing after tools, supplies and parts that I keep in the forward cabin on the port hull. This is my storage area on the boat. Each time I come in, I track something into the boat. It seems to me I had this same problem when I was a little kid and my Mom never was pleased with the amount of dirt that I brought into the house. Poor Mary Margaret has inherited this problem. I am glad that I did not have to withstand an investigation of my poor track record when she decided to marry me. I am afraid if she knew what she was getting herself in for, she would have chosen someone else. Thank God love is blind...
While she was cleaning (again) I spent the better part of the day running our reef lines. I had to remove them when I took the sail down soon after we arrived in Port Bundaberg last November. Since we had reconfigured the boom and the reefing system last year in New Zealand, this was the first time I had to run those lines by myself. I had the rigger run them in New Zealand and I did not watch how he did it. That was a mistake because now I had to carefully inspect the inside of the boom and figure out a way to run the lines. I seceded but it took me 6 hours in the hot sun. A lot of that time was undoing mistakes I made. However, I now know the various tricks that are needed so the next time I do it, it should take less than three hours. At least I hope so.
The day ended with a number of us cruisers getting together at the bar next to the marina office for beers. Karen and Frank of S/V Tahina had come in yesterday and Lori (of Lori and Ken on S/V Trim) returned today from an extended stay in the States. We were joined by Sue and Craig of S/V Serendipity and Dave and Sue of S/V Stand By Me (not the correct name of their boat but close). Ken had asked Dave and Sue to join us and share their local knowledge of anchoring and swimming spots along the Great Barrier Reef going north. Dave was full of great information and we are getting really excited of starting our cruising season.
We all are looking to leave the marina in a week or so (for each of us it depends on how our respective boat projects go). Thus, there could be a mass exodus starting next week.
Warning! Warning!! Warning!! If you have a bad case of Arachnophobia (fear of spiders) do not read today's blog.
When we returned to Leu Cat last week, after exploring Australia, we discovered that our boat was covered with the dead remains of these tiny mosquito-like bugs. The first thing I did was wash down the boat to remove these little suckers. Since then, every evening when it gets dark, these bugs come out and are attracted to the lights in our salon. They are so small that they find ways to come in even though we have our hanging screen door on. We have since made it a habit to close the sliding door, which is behind the screen. This has worked to keep the bugs out of our boat but they congregate outside of the door, in our stern cockpit.
During the night, they die and fall to the floor so in the morning, I have to take our vacuum and vacuum them up. However, they seemed to have also attracted spiders onto the outside of our boat. I have tried to wash the spiders down from their webs that they spin and flush the spiders into the water. Unfortunately, this has been a losing battle. When we went shopping the other day, I bought two large canisters of bug bomb so I could spray the outside of the boat to get rid of them. However, the last couple of days it has been too windy to use the spray.
This morning, the wind had died down so I grabbed the canisters and went outside. When I did, I felt like Frodo, the main character of the movie, Lord of the Rings, when he entered the lair of Shelob, the huge spider. Soon I was covered in webs with spiders dancing all around me, licking their chops. I was the biggest dinner they had seen since Sam recued Frodo. I had visions of a black mass of spiders marching down the deck of the boat, getting ready for their feast.
Fortunately, I had brought my 3 foot long machete with me and hacked clear of the webs before the moving mass of black spiders reached me. OK, OK, so I am exaggerating a little bit but you get the idea of how bad it was. Yuck!!! I methodically sprayed down the deck, the safety net that covers our lifelines (which were truly covered with webs) the dock lines and the fenders. It took both large canisters and by the time I was done, the place was littered with dead and dying spiders. There must have been a couple of hundred of them. Double Yuck. I then spent the next hour washing down the boat and flushing those nasty things into the water.
I just can't figure why Mary Margaret decided to stay inside the salon all day but I suspect that it might have something to do with the screaming and yelling I did while battling those nasty little critters...
As I worked throughout the day on some of our minor but time consuming boat projects, I would spy a spider or two that have escaped my morning battle. I took great joy in individually killing them. I know that I will need to spray down the boat a couple of more times before we are fully victorious in our battle with the Arachnids since I killed a number of nests that contains hundreds of babies but I am sure that I may have missed a few under the bridge deck between the two hulls. However, it is a 1000 percent better and I am determined to win this battle. Fortunately, we have not found any inside our boat so we sleep well at night.
04/06/2012, Bundaberg Port Marina
After working on more boat projects today, Mary Margaret and I went over to S/V Spirit to have sundowners with Jerald and Anz, our Dutch friends. We first met them in Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador in 2009. Since then, we have bumped into them in the Marquesas and Tahiti in 2010 and last year in Port Villa, Vanuatu. They have just returned their boat to the water after keeping it on the hard here during their trip back to Holland.
It was great catching up again. They speak very good English and we enjoyed their company very much. Mary Margaret had made a guacamole dip and Anz made a salty and crunchy Dutch taco like chip that was delicious. The last time we had such a chance to get together was in Ecuador since each of the other times we bumped into each other, either we were just leaving or they were. Such is the life of a cruiser.
They too will be sailing to Darwin and then Indonesia; however, they probably will not join up with the rally. They plan to end the cruising year in Thailand and may end up staying there the next year also. Like everyone else, they wish to continue on to the Mediterranean but are not yet sure how to get there. The pirate situation around the Red Sea and Indian Ocean has everyone evaluating various options.
Tomorrow, Jerald will be coming over to Leu Cat to help me service our Yamaha 2 stroke 15hp Enduro outboard. Except for minor maintenance I have never worked on it and he will show me a few tricks that he has learned.