21 June 2019
Now, as I've said before, this old cruising lark isn't all beer and skittles. And for some of my pals, this subject isn't one to use as the topic of another crummy blog.....but here we go.
A few months ago and, wow, nearly three thousand miles ago, back down south in sunny, yet strangely chilly Tasmania our port engine kicked off one morning with an exhaust that was looking a bit steamy. I did check the bibles on board, "The Idiots Guide to Diesel Engines" and Nigel Calder's PHD thesis, "The Boatowners Mechanical and Electrical Manual" which details in microscopic brilliance absolutely everything you need to know about the three "R"s of sailing; Repairs, Renewals and Regret. Some of it's even written in English. The Idiots Guide was more at my level and happily, in blissful ignorance, I put the white swirly smoke "that clears quickly" down to the cool Tassie mornings, filing it in that part of my brain reserved for subjects I'm ill equipped to deal with marked, "Ignorance", sub-section "Denial".
One thing we like about our new boat is that in light airs, while most others enjoy the delights and steady six knots of diesel propulsion, we can keep sailing. Consequently, Herr Volvo, isn't called upon much to move us along and only makes an appearance at parking time and then only for a few minutes. Until a few days ago.
It was early morning. Well, early for us; one of these crack of dawn starts when, after struggling out from under six layers of fleece blankets, (because you can't face looking out the duvet again because, after all, we are north of the "duvet line") you look out the window and you're the only boat left in the anchorage. Drawers on, gloves on, anchor up and we were off, chasing the fleet and the sun as, cunningly, whoever built Australia must have been a powerboater as, more often than not, each night's anchorage is number of available daylight hours plus two, further on, ensuring we repeatedly break Survival Rule No1, "No night approaches to new ports".
However, we'd been to Townsville on our Booty Call camper trip the previous year and could picture the straightforward, well marked river and the easy approach to the long dock, yet, despite flying the goodness knows how many square metres of "How the hell we gonna get this down?" we had to rouse Herren Port and Starboard Volvo and motor the last few miles into Townsville. At least, that was the plan, right up until that old favourite, "Can you smell burning?"
Anne screamed as she looked over the side and I looked back. We were laying a black smoke screen the Royal Navy would be proud of. I quickly gave Herr Port Volvo the rest of the day off and, once I plucked up the courage, opened the engine hatch, thereafter able to do a fine impression of Dick Van Dyke, the chimney sweep from Mary Poppins. (I could probably do a better Cockney accent as well). Whatever it was, it didn't look like we should be motoring with Herr Port Volvo. Fortunately , one of the beauties of a catamaran is that you carry a spare. And, to make the final approach even easier, Bill from Out of the Bag, called up and volunteered to stand by on tug boat duty in his rubber ducky in case we needed a final nudge alongside.
So, off we went up the river. Past the sugar docks. "Don't remember these". Past the Magnetic Island high speed ferries. "Hmmm. Don't remember these either". All the time, the river getting narrower. Finally, the marina came in view and we definitely didn't remember that. If you'd seen its convoluted, short, tight docks squeezed into the last wee bit of drying river you'd have remembered. And not taken a one engined tennis court shaped boat into the jaws of disaster. In the end, after a lot of squirrelling about, finding out the boat does actually have good prop walk and turning clockwise was easy, we had to turn anti-clockwise to make the dock. Just as well we had our personal tug.
The cause of all this mayhem? Almost totally blocked arteries on the Port exhaust elbow. Herr Starboard had the same symptoms and his heart attack wasn't far off so, two new exhaust elbows and two boat bucks later we were back in action and finally able to depart the marina and its restaurant / bar, whose deck we elevated to every high tide to sit with the drinkers and diners. Not great at night if you forget and walk into the saloon in yer pants before closing time.