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The Adventures of SV Mulan
Max first ever blog post
16/09/2009, Legoland

On Monday we went to Legoland. We went on lots of rides because there were no lineups. My favourite ride was The Dragon rollercoaster. Miniland was really cool.
The picture is me beside a giant pumpkin made from lego.

The arrival of the great unwashed
05/09/2009, San Diego

After 14 days at sea, Mulan rumbled into San Diego late on Friday September 4. Now we know why they call them the high seas. Showers were the first priority, although the siren call of pints of Guiness caused some hesitation among certain crew members.

It has been an eventful trip down, and all supplies: provisions, diesel, water, cross-word puzzles, and Chester's joke supply (3) were stretched to their limits. While most of Mulan's equipment survived the shake down, some became victims of breakdown - a torn mainsail, broken halyard/topping lift, and a ripped dodger will all require TLC, Otto the auto pilot went on strike (maybe needs recalibrating), and the battery bank likely needs replacing rather than expansion. Other aspects of the set up have been identified as needing modification, including reefing lines and fishing technique. Despite trolling some serious equipment, we can only speculate about the one that got away as the 100lb steel leader was bitten through.

Wild life was abundant, a first whale sighting north of Cape Mendocina caused much excitement, but later sightings of multiple pods of whales breaching in Southern California led to some complacency. Therefore our attention switched to other sightings - dolphins, porpoises, and after much discussion (it's a bird, it's driftwood) and a slight detour, a pair of seals having a mid-afternoon tryst. The phosphorescence in northern waters was incredible - especially when playful dolphins charge towards the boat resembling incoming torpedoes in the dark of night. And while the stars were brilliant, the meteorites stole the show - especially then one that broke into two during its trip through the atmosphere.

The weather (a lively topic for sailors) was not too bad. Leaving Cape Flattery was a challenging beat all the way to open sea (challenging enough that we over-nighted in Port Angeles), and then we endured five days of winds up to 25kts on the nose. Once we got over the hump, we had almost continuous north to north-west winds, with only the first night of gale force winds gusting into the high 30's to give us any cause for concern. Mulan rode the winds well, and for three days we sailed downwind with the third reef in and a sliver of head sail for balance. There were days where, despite the forecast, the iron genny was called upon to fill in for the missing 10 to 20 kt Nor-westers, including the last day's run into San Diego.

Our crew has been fantastic. Vern's five years on tall ships and a life-long passion for all things nautical has provided excellent instruction for us (and a ready supply of Guiness as we were penalized for using non-nautical terms on the boat). Chester has regaled us with stories from his seafaring days, and did I mention his three favourite jokes. Number 2 was our favourite. And Rob gallantly manned the galley and the technical manuals, providing for us in the early days when some of us did not dare to dwell too long below decks. Thanks guys for coming with us and imparting your knowledge, wisdom, and the three jokes.

The main successes of the initial voyage were Humphrey the hydrovane, who steered us admirably once we figured out the nuances of adjusting him, and the AIS system. The ship on our port quarter one night may have induced the need for a very challenging gybe, but the AIS confirmed that the 984 foot cargo ship would pass in front of us by a mile, so we hung tight to our course. We successfully downloaded weather forecasts, grib files, and sent some emails on the Ham radio, but did not master updating the blog from mid-ocean.

That's it for now. The boys and Grand-folks arrive Monday, so we have a couple of days to sluice out the salt encrustations from outside and inside Mulan, do laundry, and try to turn the boat into a family home. And go for a pint of Guiness.

D-Day minus one
21/08/2009, Semiahmoo

The past few days have been a blur. The boys are now with Grandma & Pa back East as we prepare for departure. Friday the 7th was very emotional - the boys saying goodbye to their best buddies, and also Steph. I suspect the boys didn't really realize the significance of the latter farewell, but after 3 years as our live-in nanny, Steph is very much part of the family and has been a big influence on key years in their development. Thanks heaps, Steph. We'll all miss you, but hopefully you will squeeze in a Mulan visit to Z-what.
Mulan is ready to go - or nothing significant enough to hold us back. We'll be learning how to operate a few things enroute, but the new AIS system works, and test emails have been sent and received via Ham radio. Have successfully send weather file requests via Ham, but haven't yet figured out how to get the data back again - user error no doubt.
First leg crew have been outstanding with their contribution of time to the preparation efforts. Rob and Chester have eased the stress levels with several installations - seemingly mundane things like the cockpit table, which instead of being a plug & play el-fresco dining enabler, became a head scratching configuration challenge.
Also in the kudos column are Debbie, Melissa and Sonia at the West Marine store in Blaine (you guys are great!), (for the stuff I couldn't get at West Marine, or wouldn't due to too big a price differential), and the folks at Hagens in Blaine - an outstanding service for receiving packages when shopping online. In the brickbats column is Toshiba direct. Their computers are great, but their questionable rebate offers, and lack of customer service and/or incompetence means we are departing without our second computer intended for navigation.
Several weeks of frantic planning, packing, storing, house repairs, yard projects and administrative stuff are almost a memory - or will be a memory until we get somewhere with internet and see which bills need to be paid. We've probably racked up enough points on the Mastercard for us all to fly to Mexico. But then sailing is about the journey, not the destination! A few things got scratched off the buy list to ease the financial situation, and only one managed to sneak back on - a last minute purchase of a Rocna anchor to provide a wee bit more peace of mind in a bumpy anchorage.
We've upgraded our sailblogs subscription, so we now feature on the map, and if you enable the Google earth gadget you will be able to zoom in and see they lay of the land (or sea) whenever we update our position. Not sure if we can post via Ham, but I'll check the help file.

There are also sites that track boats positions via AIS, but I will test these before I share the links in a future posting. Another tracks positions via Ham Lat/long when you connect from the high seas.

The Short Strokes
01/08/2009, Semiahmoo, but not for much longer

Conceptually I understand a blog is a regular online rant. So far we can only confess to the rant aspect. With our aggressive timelines, getting prepared has been a higher priority than talking about getting prepared.
A self imposed deadline of completing all installations on Mulan by July 31 was more or less met. The last few days of July were rather frantic putting everything back together after significant dismantling required to install wiring, radio ground planes and other 'stuff'. For the past few weeks Andrew has been effectively living in a workshop, with the only available cushions still in place and available for sleeping on were in the V-berth, and those were shared by numerous other pieces of floor panels and other big items!
An interim challenge was the haul-out for painting. Upon changing the oil in the saildrive unit, it became apparent that there was salt water in the unit (not good). While a internet search found the website of the Danish manufacturer sand a few phone calls around North America found someone who could provide the required parts (actually a Kingston, Ontario company did a special order), nailing down someone to do the labour was the big challenge. Finally got a local marine mechanic to spend some time on it, and watched over his shoulder and determined that I could probably do it myself next time. To add insult to injury, I later found another set of the seals in the spare parts locker of Mulan, although as they were not labeled, I would not have had a clue what they were for had I not ordered a set! After a mere 17 days on dry land, with Andrew doing a daily commute to Blaine, Mulan was back in her element.
Now installed are the Ham radio (we can pick up WWV time info, so something must be working), the AIS system (but cannot yet verify that it is working!), a water maker (not yet tested), a shut-off valve for the exhaust (to prevent water being pushed into the engine in big seas), ports to close off the cowl vents on the transom (which first required some 'donuts' of plywood in order to give me something to put a screw into), and sundry other projects, which require parts prefixed by "marine" and therefore include an additional digit in the price tag. Working on a sailboat is ideally suited to a midget contortionist, not something I can claim on either count. Had some help from Rob and Chester (aspiring crew for the San Diego leg) in installing the inner forestay and halyard. Having extra bodies to help me up the mast was greatly appreciated.
On the home front, 5675 Marine has been a major stop for bargain hunters, as the "Free" sign has been a regular feature at out front gate. An amazing array of useful and some useless stuff has been carted off to a new life. Currently holding out for a new home are a pair of leather boots from Andrew's youth, last used for painting Tahi Too and other work chores. Maybe the splatters of blue anti-fouling paint lessen the appeal of free shoes.
The front room is the staging area for items to be stored. While it helps that we are renting the house fully furnished, there is still a pile of personal stuff to be dispatched. We sold Susan's Toyota RAV4 (Craigslist strikes again), with the proceeds going directly to the Mastercard bill! Fortunately most major purchases have now been made, with most items shipped directly to Blaine, and aided by the strengthening of the Canadian dollar. One frustration is that in ordering laptop computers from Toshiba, they won't accept Canadian credit cards - something to do with preventing the export of sensitive technology, although any aspiring techno-napper can show up at Best Buy and go crazy. While Toshiba have good computers, whatever you do, don't get sucked into their mail-in rebate deals. It is a quagmire seemingly designed to never have to actually send the applicant the money. In my case it was because the invoice was illegible - even though I was required to mail in the original copy. Duh.
Only three weeks to go to D-date. While installation panic is over, we now need to focus on administration (lists for Steph & Jon and the new tenants), provisioning, and figuring out how to actually use all the fancy technology on the boat. Fortunately they are all tools, not requirements, and we can set sail using the tried and true methods sailors have been used for yonks.

Living the Dream
30/06/2009, Vancouver

As Susan puts it, I am now 10 days into living the dream. That also means 10 days without a paycheck.
Mulan tasks planned included a quick haul out for bottom paint in Blaine. As with all plans, they are subject to change - it this case the quick has not been so quick, as upon draining the oil from the saildrive unit (the bit with the propeller attached to it for the novice sailing readership), there were all the telltale signs of saltwater intrusion. Therefore Mulan is still out of water, but some Google sleuthing found me the seals required for the unit, and they have now arrived from Denmark. In the meantime I have been commuting to Blaine most days, and have now installed an additional cockpit drain and the Hydrovane self-steering unit. Hopefully we will be back in the water tomorrow (Canada Day) and I can start sleeping over on the boat to avoid the commute, and to squeeze in a longer work day.
The other curve ball was the need to take down the wind generator in order to get the hoist correctly positioned for the haulout. Once you are at the facility it is difficult to consider rescheduling at a different yard, who usually book time slots several weeks in advance.
Other tasks are progressing, with the house rented from September 1 and the boys school materials collected. Must say we weren't expecting 8 cartons of stuff. Maybe they will be on a Readers Digest version of their respective curriculums next school year.
The boys have now finished their regular school years - Sam 'graduated' from Eagle Harbour Primary, and Steph (the boys' nanny for the past 3 years) put together a DVD to celebrate the graduating grade 3 class. Judging by everyone's comments, Sam was Mr. Popularity!
Susan finishes work this week (paid work, anyway), so in 8 weeks we'll be leaving, ready or not (sounds like we are playing hide & seek!)

Mulan: The story behind the name
16/06/2009, Vancouver, B.C.


SV Mulan came to us already named. As sailors are somewhat superstitious about changing a boat's name, and also given the boy's enjoyment of the Disney movies about Mulan, we decided the name was a keeper. The previous owner's wife was of Chinese origin, and we believe this is the reason for the original naming.

The following is an edited version of the Wikipedia entry on Hua Mulan. For the complete entry see and for the entry on the Disney movie see

Hua Mulan was a heroine who joined an all-male army, described in a famous Chinese poem known as the Ballad of Mulan. The poem - a ballad, meaning that the lines do not necessarily have equal numbers of syllables - was first written a century before the founding of the Tang Dynasty. The original work no longer exists, and the original text of this poem comes from another work known as the Music Bureau Collection, an anthology of lyrics, songs, and poems, compiled during the 12th century. Whether she was a historical person or whether the poem was an allegory has been debated for centuries - it is unknown whether the story has any factual basis.

The time setting of the story is uncertain. The earliest accounts of the legend state that she lived during the Northern Wei dynasty (386-534) but there has been no proof. However another version reports that Mulan was requested as a concubine by Emperor Yang of Sui China (reigned 604-617). Evidence from the poem suggests the earlier interpretation. The story was expanded into a novel during the late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Over time, the story of Hua Mulan rose in notoriety as a folk tale among the Chinese people on the same level as the Butterfly Lovers.

The Ballad of Mulan (Translated from Chinese):
Tsk, tsk, and tsk tsk,
Mulan weaves at her window.
We cannot hear the shuttles sound,
We only hear the girl's sighs.
"Now tell me girl, who's in your heart,
And tell me girl, who's on your mind?"
"There's no one in my heart at all
And no one on my mind.
Last night I saw conscription lists,
The Khan is calling troops everywhere.
The army's rolls were in twelve scrolls,
And every scroll held Father's name.
My father has no older son,
Mulan has no big brother.
I wish to go buy horse and gear
And march to the wars for father."
In the east mart she bought a fine steed,
In the west mart she bought blanket and saddle.
In the north mart she bought a long whip,
In the south mart bought bit and bridle.
At dawn she took her parents' leave.
By the Yellow River she camped at dusk.
She did not hear her parents' calls,
She heard only the sad whinnying
From the Turkish horsemen on Mount Yan.
She went thousands of miles to battle,
She flew across fortified passes.
The north wind carried the sounds of the march,
And cold light shone on her armor.
After many a battle the general died,
After ten years the stout troops went home.
She came back and saw the Emperor.
The Emperor sat in his hall of light,
Her deeds raised her rank by twelve degrees,
He gave her a hundred thousand and more.
The Khan then asked her what she wished.
"I've no use to be grand secretary.
Just loan me a camel with far-running feet,
To carry me on its back to home.
When her parents heard that their daughter had come,
They came out of the town, leaning one on another.
When her sister heard the big sister had come,
At the window she made herself up with rouge.
When the young brother heard that the big sister had come,
He sharpened his knife and got pigs and sheep.
Then Mulan opened the door to her room in the east,
She sat on the bed in her room in the west.
She took off her buffcoat and armor,
And put on the skirt she used to wear.
At the window she combed her wispy locks,
In the mirror she put on rouge.
Then she went to the gate to see her companions,
And all her companions were struck with surprise.
"We marched together for twelve long years,
And you never knew that Mulan was a girl.
The male hare's legs have a nervous spring,
The eye of the girl hare wanders.
But when two hares run side by side,
Who can tell if they're boy or girl?"

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SV Mulan
Who: The Parr Family
Port: Vancouver, Canada
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