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Watt sailing adventure
Family sailing adventure - circumnavigation of Australia with two children aged 16 and 14.
Sue Watt
12/28/2012, Batemans Bay

Sunny days and sleepy afternoons, where the hardest decisions I have to make all day involve what to wear and what to make for dinner! I love summer and holidays and Christmas most of all!

The last few weeks of managing on our own while Peter assisted in the delivery of a yacht to Albany are over. The yacht was successfully delivered, Peter learned a great deal and flew into the ACT on the morning we were due to arrive there ourselves to start a lovely few days of celebrating Christmas and catching up with our family there. What a happy reunion it was! I am sure that the man who stepped off that plane was somewhat different to the man I waved off a few weeks ago as Will Watch set sail from here. It was not all plain sailing for him as he had his first real taste of the relentless sea sickness that plagued Erina for much of our own journey. The yacht he was delivering had a very different action in the water to our own and was quite roll-ey a lot of the time. Still he managed fine and learned a few sea sickness tricks in the process. He got so much out of the trip that I couldn't complain for one moment about any of the tricky things we had to deal with in his absence - I guess it would be true to say that we all learned a great deal!

He has been asked to assist in another delivery - this time from Albany to Auckland - in March. This will give him enough hours to obtain his Coxswain ticket and after that he will be working on his Master Mariners 5. These licences will mean that he is qualified in his own right as a delivery skipper and will be able to launch out (sorry, no pun intended) on his own in a new business venture! Yes, the days of slogging over building may be drawing to a close for Peter - which seems like a shame in one way as he is just so good at it, but to be able to earn an income doing what he loves - well that's priceless!

Our electrical woes, encountered during his absence were not a simple Peter-fix as I had expected - but turned out to be our Heart-Smart interface giving up the ghost!

When we first got back here after our lovely Canberra Christmas, Peter took one look at the power display and went straight into the engine room. In between trips (when he had stopped in here briefly) he had switched off something he had thought unnecessary but realised as soon as he looked at the display that this is what was causing a problem.
Initially at least.

Alas, after a couple of days it became apparent that it was not quite so simple. In fact this was only part of what was causing our problem. We have a system on board that monitors our batteries, our shore power and how everything electrical is functioning. It has never worked quite properly but what is happening now, and had begun in his absence is that the display was dying - and has now ceased functioning all together. Our power is now working fine but we will need to replace this display in order to be able to monitor our system effectively. Not so bad.

So Christmas has come. Our second Christmas on board. It was very different being in a community which we were more familiar with and close to family and long term friends. The children and I enjoyed the local Carols By Candlelight, particularly that friends were performing at it and a big part of it. We had a lovely relaxing and delightful time in Canberra with our family and very special friends including a delightful stay at the heritage Rosebud Cottage in Cook.

Christmas will forever be a special time for me, partly because my childhood Christmases were often so hit-and-miss with many being called off at the last minute due to some inexplicable whim of my mother, and partly because when I first became a Christian it was in late November and I will never forget my first Christmas strolling through the shopping centres hearing the words of the Christmas Carols as if for the very first time - finally understanding the intent and depth of the very familiar songs. I take great delight in finding gifts that I hope will convey my love for those around me and love the sounds, gatherings and general sense of connection with others that seems to abound at Christmas.

Our yacht has also joined in with Christmas festivities again this year, proudly wearing a couple of sets of lights. Happily we were moved again to another spot in the marina and now the lights are visible from the road making her look rather grand and very joyous!

So Happy Christmas to you! We hope that 2013 holds many days of fun and adventure for you, as we hope it does for us.

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Lessons to learn!
Sue Watt
12/16/2012, Batemans Bay

You know - often I rave on to people about how I wouldn't go sailing with anyone other than Peter and it's so true. Not just the sailing bit though - it's the living on board bit where he is just the most amazing person.

For the last few weeks he has been away. Before he left we went through all the things I would need to keep an eye on, the ropes and lines, the bilges and how we sat in the water. I could do all that without too much difficulty. Before he left he checked everything he could and I know on the evening he left to return to Robe and complete the delivery of the yacht he had helped get to Robe, he was sure all would be well for me.

Ah. The best laid plans!

We have missed his presence in many ways but none more than his amazing capacity to just be on top of things. Little things become bigger things when you don't know what you are doing!

On the first night after he left everything was fine. The next night too. Then we noticed the toilet didn't sound right when we flushed it. Not too big a problem as we only use it late at night and when really necessary. But the next day I noticed the water pump sounded tired and I began to be curious. That night as we sat relaxing after dinner and I was trying to complete some hand sewing, I felt as if the lights were dim and growing dimmer. I wasn't sure - thought maybe I was a little tired and maybe this was a signal that I should head to bed - but it was true - the lights were dimmer.

A quick check of the little device that tells us how much charge the batteries are holding - which should have read 13 v while we are hooked up to shore power - sent me reeling. It was flashing the error message we get when we are on a mooring or at anchor to warn us that we have too little power to function.

I knew I couldn't deal with the problem at night. For starters I could barely see anything, but I am also not so good at logical thought when I'm tired so I decided to sleep on it and start fresh in the morning trying to figure out what was happening.

Peter calls every day, using the sat phone, just to let me know where they are - but the reception isn't so good and I knew that it would be impossible to try and hold a complex conversation about the electrical system with him, so it was us and us alone.

In the morning I set to thinking about things. What had changed? What thing that was different could have caused us a problem.....what would Peter do????

Just before he left he had been pottering about in the engine room and had come out, a little chagrined and said, You won't believe it but I've just found a switch that says hot water. I think we've got a hot water system that is independent of the engine.

We laughed. Up until now we have only had hot water on board if we've run the engine. This is what the previous owner told us to do and we never questioned it. For most things we boil a kettle to obtain hot water and use the facilities provided by the marina we are at for personal washing. Not having hot water readily available is something we have got used to and don't even really think about any more. To have had a hot water system all along just seemed laughable. But that's life we said and waited to see if the water got hotter.

It seemed to at first and then not so much and to tell the truth, after Peter left I don't think I really gave it another thought. Until now.

This was the one thing that was new and possibly causing a problem with the power.

The thing was, I had no idea where the switch to turn it off was, and judging by how long it went unnoticed I didn't have much expectation of finding it. All I knew was that it was somewhere in the engine room. And the engine room - well with no power it is like a dark and eerie cave - you can't see anything at all! The chances of me walking in and finding what I was looking for was somewhat remote! Never one to shirk from a challenge though I set off, with Liam's tiny torch to guide me and would you believe that the moment I got in there and flashed it around the FIRST thing I saw was the needed switch!

Once off, I began to hope. But nothing seemed to change.
I knew I would have to seek out someone who knew something about boat electrics and who might have a spare moment - oh and who wouldn't ask me for much in the way of payment seeing as it's just a few days before Christmas and my list is still long!

I found a helpful friend at the local sailing supplies shop who suggested googling the problem to see if anyone else had ever encountered something similar and if that didn't help, offered to have a little look.

Armed with that idea I set off home.

Google really is one of my favorite inventions. I quickly learned the names of the different components of our electrical system and read some interesting posts about the equipment. I didn't find anyone else with a similar problem but did come away with a little more confidence to push some buttons and see what might happen - well just a few anyway and none of the important ones!

I noticed, after being out that the power reading on the batteries had increased. Then Liam suggested we turn off all the internal switches - to the lights and nav equipment etc and make sure that there was nothing drawing any power. Within a few hours the power increased up to 11.55v - we felt like we were on to something. With a little fiddling I figured out how to turn off the incessantly flashing error code and things seemed at last to be settling down.

The following day it was the same - the power continued to increase very slowly and then Peter (yes, another Peter) from the sailing shop called by.
He patted us on the backs and told us that we were doing all the right things, the power was slowly coming back up and he thought that it really was that the hot water system had drained the batteries. Give it time, was all he said - it will keep going - and then reassured us that he'd come back if it didn't.

The thing is, we did get it sorted - but how long it took! If Peter had been here and not off sailing the oceans of the world (with my blessing I must add!) it would have been noticed sooner and never got so run down, of that I am certain. He would have seen the problem, known how to fix it, got it done and then had coffee with us!

So what is the moral of my little story?

Well it's not don't let your husband go off sailing another boat - though I have been tempted to call him a little hussy for running off with another boat! No, I think it is, be careful if you marry a capable person - they might just do everything and leave you clueless!

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He Is Off!
Sue Watt
12/04/2012, Batemans Bay

Just over two weeks ago I untied the last rope and waved as Peter set off for a sailing adventure without me.

Our lovely friend Mark from Southern Ocean Sailing had been looking at a boat a local Albany man was interested in buying, at Yamba on the northern NSW coast. The boat - a former Cray fishing boat refitted as a motor sailor - had belonged to the fellow at some former time and here it was for sale again. Mark checked it all out and advised the fellow that it was a good buy and then was contracted to sail the boat back from Yamba to Albany.

Initially we were excited about the prospect of a visit - and of the opportunity to share all of the many stories told in part over the phone since we had parted from Mark on that slightly scary but thrilling morning we finally untied our ropes at the Albany Waterfront Marina and set off ready for whatever would come our way as we began this cruising life.
Then Mark put out a call for crew - anyone interested in sailing with him - to which Peter happily put up his hand. Early the next Friday morning I watched as he boarded the bus heading for Sydney where he would join Mark on the Sydney to Batemans Bay leg and beyond that as far as Eden or somewhere nearby.

It was a happy sight to see the mast round the corner and pull in to the marina a few days later and Liam and Erina and I were ready to catch ropes and help them tie up, cheering and waving delightedly all the while. Peter was home and Mark had come to visit!

A day or two later and they were off again and the decision made that Peter should sail as far as Robe with them and from there return home via bus or train.

For Peter the next few days were a little unpleasant as, after rounding the southernmost tip of the mainland, near Wilsons Prom, they slammed into big messy seas and he became sea-sick. What a different experience for him from when we travelled this journey - no more day sails and week long stops - it was go go go all the way, day and night, until they pulled into Robe harbour - believe or not - exactly one year to the day when we had arrived there ourselves on Argos!

Mark, having business in Albany then flew back, leaving the boat in Robe for a week, ready to return and complete the journey a little later.

Going back this way has resulted in Peter gaining many more hours of sea-time and valuable experience which will be very useful for him - and me too - in the future when we hope that this will mean he too can generate some income from delivering boats.

After a successful few days it was then decided that if the house Peter is going to build down here is not about to start, that Peter would go back with Mark when he returns and sail with him back across the Bight and into Albany before flying back home.

I can't say that we are glad to see him go - though we managed fine without him - addressing several small issues in his absence, keeping the boat afloat and all systems functioning fairly well - but we are all thrilled that he has this opportunity. It meets that longing in him to be sailing - that beckoning of the horizon, that itching he has felt to be on our way - and when he returns and has the house to get started on I feel that he will be more able to do it knowing that he has had this time.

Meanwhile Erina, Liam and I soldier on!

We expect him back shortly before Christmas, which we will be spending in Canberra. And while we are hanging stockings and switching on fairy lights suspended from the masts, and getting excited about all the delights of Christmas time he will be revisiting all the places we went to - Port Lincoln, our friends Kerren and Daryl at Coffin Bay and of course arriving back in Albany where it all began!

There is a little jealousy for me - wishing I could go too - who would have thought that I would ever feel like I was missing out on crossing the Bight again!

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The End of Ratty!
Sue Watt
11/22/2012, Batemans Bay

The crisis it seems has been averted! Hurrah - we declare ourselves victors in the battle with Ratty the unwelcome Rodent!
We are daring to hope so anyway.

It has been three days now since we saw any evidence of his presence, three days of holding our breath hoping he's not playing a trick on us - lulling us into a false sense of security, waiting to pounce the moment we put the fruit basket back out on the table!

It feels as though we have been a town under siege. As if it wasn't just one small but unpleasant rodent who has been out there, but whole army of the things!

This, I would have to say, has been one of the least pleasant experiences for me as a live-aboard cruiser.
Still I feel that we have come through it with more knowledge, and more skills and are better prepared should we encounter a rat situation again.

We have discovered that a two-fold approach is necessary when dealing with rodents.
Step one is that you must engineer the right conditions to catch the rat - you must the starve it.
This is where we really went wrong, right back in the beginning when we first became aware that we had been infiltrated. We were not nearly as vigilant about all possible sources of food for our stowaway as we became in the end. We were, for the first two weeks or so of its sojourn with us, unwittingly laying on the red carpet treatment - not only were we providing a lovely place to set up its home - but we were supplying all it could have hoped for with fruit, packs of wheat-bix, bread, muslie, the occasional tit-bit that went unoticed on the floor - crumbs, the odd grain of rice etc. Rats are incredibly persistent creatures and hunger will increase their persistence no end.

We learned that you must eradicate all sources of food - for us this meant checking every food storage space on board - we were amazed at how he found his way into this cupboard and that. There can be no room for little mistakes in this - as long as he is finding food he will stay. We were basically offering 5 star accommodation with free food thrown in!

You must be vigilant with cupboards but also with disposing of your rubbish. Early on in our ordeal we began putting rubbish outside at night - thinking that getting food off the boat would deter him, not realising that this would just encourage other rodents. Ratty of course came from somewhere after all - now we had his friends and relations to deal with as well!

In the end, as well as ensuring all food was stowed away in places that were completely rodent-proof, taking the rubbish with us every time we went off the boat and especially before bed each night, we kept the floors and surfaces meticulously clean.

We learned that once all sources of food are eradicated the rodent will be forced to eat whatever baits you put out - whether that is setting traps or using poison.

If the rat is starving he will take the bait.

This is step one.

Step two is for it to take your bait.

We did not have any success luring the rat to our traps. Our little Ratty was lured to poison and this became his undoing.

What we learned about traps though is that rats are unlikely to take anything that is placed out in the open. When scavenging for food they will choose to hug the walls, stay close to possible hiding places - so putting anything out in the open will be futile.
Placing traps immediately adjacent to walls, with the bait facing the wall is recommended. Placing more than one trap is also recommended - and if placing multiples, place them right next to each other. Our logic was exactly the opposite - we placed traps with the bait facing away from the wall, and while we had more than one trap we scattered them singly all over the place - this apparently has a low success rate. It certainly did for us.

Rats are such resourceful creatures, we learned that they will nibble bait and somehow not set off traps when we of course set off the traps all the time while setting and placing them!

Several sources suggested that one way to counter this was to wrap dental floss around the bait. The rodent nibbles at the bait and then its characteristically large teeth become caught and they are forced to tug and then set off the trap.

And as for the best food to bait a trap - most agree that cheese is rather passé in the rat world! We tried a variety of things, but peanut butter seemed easiest to use and recommended by many.

As I have said, our particular little rodent evaded our traps and in the end we were forced to put out poison. We were reluctant to use this fearing that we would end up with the lovely scent of dead rat on board - but in the end we concluded that this scent beat the scent of live rat any day.
As far as poisons go we found the wax blocks utterly useless. There was rarely any evidence of nibbling. But pellets were consumed with gusto - we ended up placing these in a variety of places - oh and we also learned that if you put the traps and baits in the same place all the time, the rat just avoids that place - for little animals they are very canny - so we moved the baits and traps every day.

It seems that rats are not an uncommon feature of life on board a boat - perhaps the older wooden marinas are more prone to them. One final thing we learned is that having successfully dealt with this rat our goal is to keep all future rats off our boat.

We have considered two main ways we can deter rodents in the future.
The first one is to be thorough about closing the boat at all times when we are not on board, and at night when they are more likely to be marauding. Fortunately we have screens which we use most of the time - now we are using them ALL the time.

We have also made a careful assessment of potential entry points other than hatches and windows. We found a vent for the engine in our cockpit which is quite narrow but rodents can squeeze into the smallest holes, and a tube from the engine blower that vents to the deck. We taped these up for the moment as we are not travelling, of course this would not be advisable if we were running the engine! But securing these kinds of possible entry points is essential in keeping future rodents away.

One other deterrent we have heard of is snake poo. Seriously!

Apparently rats, who are of course not at all fond of snakes, will smell snake poo and keep a wide berth of anywhere it is. We have a zoo nearby and are considering the idea of asking for their help. Placing the poo in discreet containers, on deck and near us on the marina jetty may, we hope, have the effect of sending a loud warning to all friends and relations of Ratty to keep away.

It has been a tricky and sometimes awful ordeal, but hopefully, as with any learning curve, having gone through this we are better prepared to deal with the problem should it arise again. Hopefully too our experiences can be of some help to others.

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Ratty Part 2
Sue Watt
11/15/2012, Batemans Bay

Have you ever watched that movie, Mousetrap? You know the one - where the one mouse in the old mansion so eludes the owners that in their obsession to rid themselves of him they end up destroying the whole building?

Oh my gosh, we so understand their frustration!

When we first talked about living on board a yacht the issue of rodents never really crossed my mind, which is kind of funny, because one of the first things I remember thinking, when we decided to do this, was what Ratty says in The Wind in the Willows, Is there anything so lovely as messing around on boats?

The Wind in The Willows was such a favorite with my two oldest children that for many years they referred to each other as Ratty and Moley! And yet despite that I never thought about the possibility of us getting a rat on board the boat!

Ratty is, sadly, still residing with us and has become exceedingly unwelcome!

We have tried everything we have read about - we have set traps baited with peanut butter - no success.

We have wrapped dental floss around the peanut butter-bait so that if Ratty nibbles at it his teeth will catch and he will set off the trap to get them out - no success.

We have tried putting the trap exactly where he last ate food he stole from us - no success.

We have resorted to ratsak - but still no success.

He is amazing at finding the one item of food we hadn't thought he could get to.
He is amazing at finding the rubbish we carefully removed from the boat and dragging it back on board.

The thought of him being around, sunning himself on deck when we are out, wandering around at night when we are sleeping fills us with revulsion. Each morning I clean everything - floors are disinfected and all surfaces cleaned.

Eeeeek - when we will be free???!!!

Tonight we are going to mount a major assault. We are going to put all the traps in new locations, fully baited and ready to spring. We are going to remove every crumb available for him to feed on and clean up everything he just might try and eat. In all the places he has ever found food we are going to place a tray of ratsak and in the morning we are going to remove his dead body and dispose of him - we hope!

Meanwhile, when we haven't been dealing with our unwelcome visitor, Peter has been getting ready to go sailing. He leaves first thing in the morning, bound for Sydney where he will join our awesome friend Mark McRae who is delivering a yacht from Yamba on the NSW North coast to Albany. Peter will sail with him back down here, to Batemans Bay and then after an over-night stop, head on until maybe Port Fairy in Victoria. We are so excited! Peter will get so much out of doing this journey, not just doing a bit of sailing - which will be great - but also because he will have such a great opportunity to learn as he goes from a man we really respect.

While he is gone the children and I will manfully carry on without him - making sure the boat doesn't sink (LOL) and doing everything else he usually does. I think we might cope! We will eat sushi for dinner every night and make as much noise as we like whilst also trying to watch TV - all the things Peter hates! Hahaha! In truth we will notice his absence in many ways, but will be happy in the knowledge that he is having a great experience and will come back to us with knowledge and skills you only get by doing stuff.

He, of course, hopes that when he returns the fruit bowl is back on the table, the cookies on the shelf and Ratty definitely gone!

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Meet Ratty!
Sue Watt
11/03/2012, Batemans Bay

We see, to have collected ourselves a small and unwelcome visitor - Ratty as we call him - reminding us that he isn't a rodent of unusual size (like in The Princess Bride) but is a relative of the lovable and delightful Ratty in Wind in The Willows.

We first spotted him just a couple of weeks ago. One night as we sat watching TV, Liam said, oh I think I saw a mouse. We were unsure at first - had a hunt where he thought he'd seen it, could see nothing - but then Peter saw it too just for a second and said, That's no mouse! It ran into a hard to access corner and disappeared.
So the hunt was now on.

We have set traditional traps - but the cheeky blighter just helps himself to the tasty morsel we bait it with and eludes the jaws of the trap completely.

He took up residence under the engine at first - in the bilge - what a tricky place to set a trap! But somehow Peter got it done.

He set off both traps one night and then there was no evidence of him around for a week and we thought, hurrah - he got too scared here and found a way out.

Then yesterday as I was cleaning in a cupboard in the kitchen, to my horror I moved something and found - thankfully not Ratty himself, but evidence that he had been there. Urk!

Peter thought it didn't look recent, but still we didn't want to take any risk that he might still be alive and about somewhere.

So last night the traps were all re-set - including the you-beaut one we got when he eluded us with the traditional snap-shut variety.

As the first one up I had prepared myself to say our final good-byes but sadly what I found when I got up was that Ratty had eluded us once more, eaten all the food he must have thought we had put out for him on the traps - weren't we kind? - set off nothing, and quietly retreated to wherever he has made himself a home.

The problem we have of course is greater if he is not Ratty himself but the wife of Ratty and - eeek - eeek - eeeek with child Can you imagine?????

We are loath to use ratsack - a dead rat decaying somewhere below, in a bilge or beneath a floor would be disgusting - but we are at the point where we have little other option. A dead rat, no matter how smelly has to beat a live rat running about the boat! He's only little right now, the size of a large field mouse, but this can't go on!

We have been living on board for more than eighteen months now and happily this is the first creature we have had to deal with - oh we do get the occasional ant - once, in Port Lincoln a spider must have been carried by the wind into the rigging and we woke one morning to find spider webs with tiny baby spiders everywhere! That was fun! But other than the very occasional sea-gull poo and once or twice bat droppings where a colony of bats took up residence in Batemans Bay - that's about it.

What our little stowaway leads me to think of again is the question of a cat on board. Some say a cat would be a great addition to our crew - others say it would be such hard work - we are divided - but having been a lover of Burmese cats all my life - well I do have this deep desire......and now Ratty's presence stirs up thoughts and feelings......maybe...just maybe!

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