11 July 2019 | Belfast, Maine
07 July 2019 | Belfast, Maine
06 July 2019 | Belfast, Maine
13 June 2019 | Belfast, Maine
01 June 2019 | Burnside Lodge
15 September 2018 | Belfast, Maine, Nova Scotia
30 August 2018 | St Peters, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
18 August 2018 | Bay La Hune, Newfoundland
10 August 2018 | Isle aux Morts, Newfoundland
04 August 2018 | Baddeck, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia
30 July 2018 | St Peters, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia
26 July 2018 | Spanish Ship Bay, Eastern Shore, Nova Scotia
14 July 2018 | Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia
06 July 2018 | Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
03 July 2018 | Carter's Beach, nr. Port Mouton, Nova Scotia
23 June 2018 | Shelburne, Nova Scotia
27 May 2018 | Front Street Shipyard, Belfast, Maine
11 May 2018 | Front Street Shipyard, Belfast, Maine
27 October 2017 | Yankee Clipper, Belfast, Maine
08 October 2017 | Buckle Harbour, Swan's Island, Maine
Biggles' mental breakdown
11 July 2019 | Belfast, Maine
I have been told by a retired commercial airline Captain that aircraft autopilots are traditionally christened 'Nigel' by the crew. The tendency to give names to items of equipment also applies to boat crews, especially when the items concerned perform crewing functions. Autopilots and windvanes certainly do that by taking care of the tedious and sometimes arduous work of steering the boat in a direction of the crews' choosing, allowing the crew to perform other vital functions when underway such as snoozing, contemplating the wonders of the universe and eating cake. They do this without tiring and without complaint, sometimes for days or even weeks on end - that is the windvane or autopilot steering the boat, not the crew eating cake.
In our previous boat, Montaraz, the windvane steering was given various names, ranging from some that can't be used in refined company when it played silly b.....s, to the favourites 'The Red Baron' and the less formal 'Hermann', both of which reflected its national origin. 'Hermann' needs no explanation, it was just a name, but 'The Red Baron' perhaps justifies something by way of explanation, especially for some younger blog followers. The Red Baron was the nickname given to Manfred von Richthofen, the most successful World War 1 German fighter pilot ace; a superb aviator, a great patriot and a fearless combatant who accrued an unparalleled string of air victories before his loss in action not long before the end of the Great War.
'Biggles', or James Bigglesworth, was a fictional contemporary of von Richthofen, and the flying ace hero of a long series of novels aimed at young boys of the time like me. Written by W.E. Johns, new books in the series were eagerly awaited and then feverishly consumed in the manner of the Harry Potter books which they pre-dated by several decades. In retrospect I believe the Biggles novels contributed in no small part to development of my reading skills, which I well remember needed all the help they could get. I am forever grateful that my state primary school library was never slow in acquiring copies of new releases. So, at least for the purposes of this blog post, let us refer to Kiviuq's electric/hydraulic autopilot as 'Biggles'.
As of my last post we were pretty sure we had identified the cause of Biggles' breakdown. The prime suspect was the resistive rudder feedback unit, a sensing device used by Biggles to determine the position of the rudder relative to the centred position. The data provided by the unit are a key factor in Biggles' decision-making when he determines which way, and to what extent, he needs to steer the boat to obey the system's electronic commands. Failure of the feedback unit was a very plausible cause of Biggles' apparent catastrophic mental breakdown, especially after an hydraulic airlock was all but ruled out. But, eventually, Marilou and I did what perhaps should have been done earlier, and checked the electrical integrity of the coil in the feedback unit that varies the voltage sensed by Biggles, and which is rudder position dependent. With the aid of our Fluke resistance meter, and multimeters don't come any better than Flukes, we quickly determined that the coil was functioning normally.
This finding shifted suspicion onto Biggles' brain. Had Biggles suffered a stroke, or was he in a continuing epileptic state? If the former, therapy would be fiendishly difficult at best and could have easily necessitated a total brain transplant; a complicated and costly undertaking even if a compatible brain were still available. If the latter, an ongoing epileptic state, might it respond to shock therapy? With nothing to lose at this point, and with some invaluable guidance from a retired B&G engineer in Florida, we decided to go for it. Biggles underwent a total electronic reset. Signs of recovery were rapid, excitement and optimism grew, and a dockside test of function revealed no fault.
A dockside test needs to be followed up with a sea trial to re-programme a number of parameters, such as the rudder midpoint, rudder gain, rate of turn, etc.. So it was that yesterday morning saw Kiviuq out on a sunlit, placid sea in Penobscot Bay making some very strange and unpredictable manoeuvres. Reprogramming was completed in an hour or so, and subsequent testing suggested Biggles had made a full recovery. It was a happy ship that docked again in the Front Street Shipyard in good time for coffee and lunch.
Before the sea trial we had already ordered a replacement rudder feedback unit, and this will be kept among our collection of spares. It could be needed one of these days. In the meantime we hope that our Biggles will survive and excel when the action hots up, and justify his naming after the wonderful hero of my boyhood.
OCC Fleet Map
07 July 2019 | Belfast, Maine
For anyone interested in Kiviuq's whereabouts we do occasionally post a position on the blog Map and Tracking page (link at right). However, there is another way to follow Kiviuq's travels that will much of the time almost be in real time. This is on the Ocean Cruising Club (OCC) Fleet Map. The link is https://oceancruisingclub.org/Fleet-Map
This relies on the detection of vessels' AIS broadcast positions that are detected by a worldwide network of coastal receiving and reporting stations. We almost invariably have our AIS on when we are on the move and quite often we keep it on even at anchor. So Kiviuq broadcasts her course and speed every few minutes, which serves as a very good anti-collision aid. But the shore stations report all vessels in their range to an online system known as Marine Traffic that is available to the general public, and of course to national authorities. The OCC extracts from this the information only on vessels owned by the club's members and conveniently posts positions and movement details on a global map viewable on the link above. I don't think all OCC boats are yet signed up for this, but more than nine hundred are, including Kiviuq.
The whole thing of course depends on detection of vessels's AIS signals by shore stations and AIS is VHF short range radio-based. Therefore position signals are generally detected over distances of up to several tens of miles, depending on conditions. When coastal sailing in many parts of the world, vessels are usually within range of one or more shore stations. When this system doesn't work is when vessels head offshore and thence out of shore station VHF range. So it doesn't work for vessels out on the ocean.
On the map, vessels on the move show as a boat icon. Those that are stationary show as a dot. And crucially the map is searchable by vessel name or location.
When viewing positions it is important to note the time and date associated with positions which are viewable by clicking on the vessel icons. The last reported position is the one shown, and it could be quite some time prior to the time of map viewing, for example when a vessel has been in port for a while, or laid-up for the winter.
Still in Belfast
06 July 2019 | Belfast, Maine
If everything had gone exactly as we would have wished we would probably have been sailing in Penobscot Bay, not too far from our 'base', this weekend. The purpose would have been primarily to shakedown Kiviuq, and ourselves, before cruising towards eastern Canada. As I mentioned in the previous post, there were only a couple of systems remaining to be tested while we were still at the dock. One of those was the autopilot. It failed the test.
At first we thought the problem was an airlock in the hydraulic ram mechanism that might clear by repeated testing, which involves putting the pilot through its paces at the dockside. It was thanks to persistence with the tests that the real problem eventually became apparent. The culprit appears to be a failed rudder feedback unit. This relatively small electronic device is mechanically linked to the rudder stock and tells the pilot's brain the position of the rudder relative to the centred position. Without this information the pilot literally doesn't know which way to turn to move to, and maintain, a desired course. And when that happens the pilot alarm makes a good attempt to wake the dead and the crew turn the air blue with their expletives, such as 'Bother!', 'How inconvenient', and 'That is mildly annoying!'. (Even failed electronics are entitled to a 'safe space' these days apparently.)
We can of course be thankful that the fault was discovered while we are still in Belfast rather than out on the big blue wavy thing.
OK, a part fails, and then the fun really begins. A new one is required, but of course it went out of production a few years ago. In this regard the marine electronics industry is a serious competitor with mobile phone and car manufacturers in the game of replacing perfectly good products with the 'next thing' to keep the wheels of their business sectors turning (at ever-increasing speed).
Thankfully, our friends at Echomaster Marine in MacDuff, Scotland, who so ably supplied and fitted all of our electronics, quickly identified an alternative rudder feedback sensor that they are confident will work in our system, and it is available in the USA. With luck we will have the part next week, and fitted not long thereafter.
It goes without saying however, that the dimensions of the replacement part, even though made by the same electronics group that made the original, are slightly changed, and .... positioning of the sensor relative to the rudder stock is absolutely critical. In consequence, to achieve the correct positioning some of the woodwork and supporting structure in the lazarette will need to be altered. Bother!, and thrice Bother!
Ah well, it's Sunday tomorrow and that means breakfast in Chases Daily. Being delayed in Belfast has its compensations.
Back on board
13 June 2019 | Belfast, Maine
I write from Kiviuq following our move back on board on Saturday after three nights at the Yankee Clipper. The travel back to Belfast went as planned and was quite straightforward, and we didn't even have to wait long in queues to get through immigration in Boston. Previously we have endured long line-ups. Without doubt the least pleasant part of the journey was the transit of Edinburgh airport, which during recent years has evolved into a shopping centre with a large population of itinerants. And part of the price of visiting this disaster area is the need for a small mortgage to pay the parking charges if there for more than five minutes. We sincerely hope our good neighbours, Geof and Anne, who so kindly drove us to the airport, managed to get through the exit barrier before their five minutes in the drop-off zone expired. If successful they will have got away with a modest, but still irksome, £2 charge. Somebody is on a gold mine there.
When we came down to the yard the morning after our arrival in Belfast it was to find Kiviuq back in the water, in her regular berth, with her newly painted decks. I am pleased to be able to say we are very happy with the job that was done by the Front Street Shipyard. It was not a minor task to sand off all the old deck paint down to the metal and then re-prime and paint. Much of the work had to be done under the winter shrinkwrap because of the poor weather here in May, and it must have been pretty unplevasant work, especially during the sanding process, requiring one-piece body suits and hoods and high specification masks. It certainly was a job for the professionals and not one that we wished to tackle. Yes, it will inflate the maintenance budget this season, but while it was being done we were enjoying pleasant weather at home and our beloved garden. Leaving home in early May as we did last year we missed most of the flowering shrubs, but this year we were able to appreciate them, and they really put on a show for us. We also heard a cuckoo or two this year, which we missed last year, and were entertained by all the bird nesting activities around us, together with the song contests that are part of the seasonal mating game. So all-in-all we seem to have made a good call when planning our return to Belfast.
Now we are living aboard again and the stowage and accommodation are pretty well squared away. So far all systems seem to be functioning normally after the harsh Maine winter, although one or two remain to be tried. The job we dread the most, flushing the antifreeze out of the fresh water system and reconnecting the calorifier in a leak-free manner, went as well as it could have. And in the past couple of days we have made a good start refitting deck gear and rig control lines.
Because the yard was requested to have Kiviuq back in her berth by our return (the first time we have not been present during a launch or lift-out) the task of greasing the propeller was also delegated. This was done, but partly because I didn't remind the project manager to check and replace the zinc prop anode, last season's anode is still fitted. I had left a new anode out on the chart table with the engine key last fall, but the 'driver' didn't come below for the key until the boat was back in the water, and so didn't see the new anode. As a consequence, at some point during the coming days we will drive round to the travel lift and Kiviuq will be lifted just high enough to make it possible to change the anode by working from a work boat. All being well we will have Kiviuq back on her berth in short order.
Over the coming weekend we are hoping the weather will allow us to refit the working sails, main, jib and staysail. Handling the two foresails is not too demanding, but the mainsail is a big one, and heavily built. By the time we have that fitted we will have had a serious workout, hopefully without injury.
But it is good to be back in Belfast for a while, and especially to reconnect with good friends. It is also just great each morning to be able to enjoy the superb coffee made with excellent beans, freshly ground on board, accompanied by gargantuan blueberry muffins purchased still warm from the oven of the Belfast Co-op. This is the USA!
01 June 2019 | Burnside Lodge
This is Saturday 1st June and Marilou and I leave home for New England on Tuesday, so I felt it was time to reactivate blog posts.
By Tuesday evening we should be in Boston where we overnight before taking the excellent Concorde Coach service up to Portland and then on to Belfast, Maine. Arrival in Belfast should be late afternoon on Wednesday 5th where we are booked into the Yankee Clipper for a couple of nights while we make Kiviuq habitable again.
So this is a busy weekend for us, completing what needs to be done to ready our home and garden for our absence of four months or so. And at this time we are reminded how fortunate we are to have such good neighbours in Geof and Anne to keep an eye on things at home and a great team, Jan, Eric and Ian, to look after the garden. The car will be taken care of by Craig in our absence; Craig being the local mechanic who kept our old Volvo running as well as it did until its recent replacement. So organisation and help there is plenty of.
Of all things, meal planning has taken on an extra dimension this weekend to make the best of the remaining fridge and freezer contents. And my sourdough starter has already been hibernated. Our weekend bread is, unusually therefore, a yeast-leavened sandwich loaf. It doesn't of course have the complexities and subtleties of flavour that our more usual soudoughs have, but it is jolly good for all that.
Kiviuq has also been getting a lot of attention of late as the Front Street Shipyard ready her for our return. This involves refreshing the anti-fouling paint under the waterline, greasing the Maxprop, buffing the zinc nodes and relaunching. And this year prep work has involved stripping and repainting the deck and cockpit with anti-skid. The old anti-skid, International's imaginatively named 'Deckpaint', has lasted since fitting-out, but increasingly large areas of deck paint had lifted or were showing signs of distancing themselves from the underlying alloy deck.
There is absolutely no doubt that aluminium alloy is an excellent choice for a hull and deck material, particularly for a boat that sails the remoter places, especially in temperate and higher latitudes. We know we made the right choice in this regard. All hull materials have their good and bad points. With aluminium alloy the good points are many. The bad point is its aversion to painted coatings. We of course knew this when we made our choice. It is the price paid for the multiple benefits of the material. So renewal of deck paint is just something one has to take on the chin every few years.
Now we look forward to seeing the newly smartened Kiviuq, back in her Belfast berth, in the coming week.
Lastly for now, I know I am not good at taking the time to get photographs for the blog gallery, but I am going to try harder. I have already uploaded the first image of the season! To see, go to the Photo Gallery link in the right column, choose an album and click on images to enlarge.
Back in Moonbat City
15 September 2018 | Belfast, Maine, Nova Scotia
We have sailed quite a way since my last post. From St Peters in Cape Breton we did an overnight (31st August/1st September) to Halifax where we spent a few days at anchor opposite the Armdale Yacht Club towards the head of the Northwest Arm. We had a pleasant time there in the company of several other boats that we had met in Newfoundland. It was on leaving Halifax that the little flotilla broke up. We were the second boat to leave with Lunenburg as our next destination.
As we made our way back down the Northwest Arm early on the morning of 5th September we found that our autopilot was malfunctioning. As a result, and because we needed to use the engine due to lack of wind, we hand-steered to Lunenburg.
After some careful passage planning we left Lunenburg on the 8th September knowing that without the autopilot we would need to sail the distance to Belfast; the need to sail dictated by the need to use the windvane steering if we were to avoid steering by hand for a couple of days. Fortunately our planning paid off and the wind stayed in the north to northeast sector for almost the entire passage; the exception being overnight on the second night at sea when we were in any case hove-to so that we would not get involved in the dark with the lobster pots that infest the coast of Maine.
Nonetheless, shortly after getting under way again at dawn on the 10th September Marilou noticed a few metres of polypropylene rope trailing behind us. Some heroic work hanging over the scoop stern on Marilou's part determined that this line was attached to a pot buoy and its pickup buoy companion that were hiding just under the scoop. It also suggested that this very unwelcome hitch-hiker was attached to Kiviuq's rudder, although the steering felt quite normal. As we sailed into Penobscot Bay on up towards Belfast we kept our fingers crossed in the hope that the line(s) was not around the propeller, which of course we would need to manoeuvre in the marina at the Front Street Shipyard. We were quite relieved when we started the engine and put it into gear after stowing the sails in the approaches to Belfast when everything worked normally.
After docking Marilou somehow managed to clear the offending items from under the stern without anyone having to enter the water to do so.
So here we are, back in Belfast, our base for the coming winter. An outline workplan for repairing the autopilot has been made with the technical services manager at the Front Street Shipyard and this afternoon we will remove the inverter which refused to turn on the evening before we left Lunenburg and hasn't functioned since. The inverter provides us with 230V AC power on board which it 'inverts' from the 24V DC battery supply. It isn't a big loss.
The inverter will be packed off on Monday to the nearest Victron repair facility in New Jersey. We will then make a gentle start on pre-winter preparations. Meanwhile we are enjoying being back 'home' in Moonbat City.