2016 Off Season and Ship Delivery

CARLESS

October 6 2016

For the first time I can remember I am without car. 

As a family we are now down to a single car.  This is a voluntary situation brought about by my desire to be free of objects and encumbrances that don’t add to my quality of life.  In reality my car has only been used for half the year, it seems as waste to have it sitting around doing nothing. I am now free of the responsibilities of insurance, registration, warrant of fitness, servicing, road user charges, maintenance, tolls, servicing, fuel, cleaning, parking and all other botheration associated with car ownership.

Meanwhile, after a month at home, I am getting used to being a domestic servant and living back on land.  Whether it’s a boat or a house, there is always maintenance to be done.  Conveniences such as showers and fridges are great but the scenery doesn’t change much from the house garden.

A great advantage of being home is access to unlimited 24 hour internet.  I can check sailing equipment any time of day and night and online shopping is only a click away.  Too easy.  It’s also nice to see where some of the cruisers I met on the way are travelling.

Over in Canoe Cove Truce will be lying in wait.  I have commissioned a few works over the winter period.  Truce has a conventional shaft seal and despite repacking it drips more than I would like.  The bilge is fairly shallow and water accumulates quite quickly.  So I have decided to fit a dripless seal.  On examination the shaft is worn where the seal will fit, meaning the dripless seal will not work properly.  This wear is also the cause of the stuffing box dripping despite new packing.  The remedy is to fit a new shaft and all should be good with a dripless seal.

Of course to fit a new shaft the stern strut will have to be removed.  While not a big job it requires all the gear to be removed from the stern of the boat to gain access.  So often when doing repairs half the boat has to be shifted to get access.  A tiresome ritual that always irritates me.

The mainsail is ashore for some repairs and maintenance.  Although its old I hope to get a couple more years sailing out of it with a bit of judicious patching and strengthening.

I could be at sea again quite soon.  There is a possible ship delivery job from Romania to Canada.  Not the nicest of trips at this time of year, I hope it has a heated bathroom floor like the last ship I delivered from Romania.

HEADED TO NEWFOUNDLAND

October 20 2016

One week ago I boarded a plane in Auckland and now find myself heading down the Bosporus in a new ship with a long voyage ahead.  This time I have no heated bathroom floor – a hardship I will have to live with.

One week ago I boarded a plane in Auckland and now find myself heading down the Bosporus with a long voyage ahead.  This time I have no heated bathroom floor – a hardship I will have to live with.

A 30 hour trip from Auckland brought me to Galati in Romania where a new build ferry was waiting to depart the shipyard.  The ferry is headed for Newfoundland, a distance of 4,000 plus miles through the Mediterranean Sea and North Atlantic Ocean.  My crew of seven is a mixture of Dutch, Belgium and Indonesian nationals. All good experienced seafarers, accustomed to the challenges of ship delivery.

I enjoy ship delivery, it’s always interesting, varied and at times difficult. The ability to solve problems, improvise and good seamanship are helpful attributes.  It doesn’t matter what type of ship, big or small, new or old, they all provide opportunities to learn new tricks.

The departure from the shipyard was a busy time as usual. The ships paperwork, classification, surveys and provisioning all have to be completed. The Voyage has to be planned, the engineer needs to figure out how the engine room and systems work, the crew need to be familiarised with the operation of the ship, safety equipment to check, safety drills carried out and a hundred and one other tasks. All this is going on while the shipyard is putting the finishing touches to the build ready for sea trials.

After a couple of hectic days we headed down the Danube and into the Black Sea for sea trials or as the Dutch say ‘Dancing Lessons”. Sea trials took a whole day but went well, everything eventually checked out and worked well with dozens of technicians and engineers checking and adjusting until they were satisfied. With the Sea Trials over we headed into the port of Constanța to drop off the shipyard crew.

Finally, with all the shipyard crew departed we were able to embark the pilot and depart on our way towards Canada and start the voyage proper. Once the pilot was dropped off we were at peace, just the delivery crew on board and able to get into a routine and organized shipboard life.

Today we are lucky and have a Bosporus transit in beautiful weather and daylight.  The first time I made this passage many years ago there were no bridges, now there are three magnificent structures connecting the European continent to Asia.  Istanbul is now a massive sprawling city with many high-rise buildings.  The waterfront is very pretty with cafes and restaurants overlooking the strait.  I didn’t feel any desire to get ashore for a visit.

Pilotage through the Bosporus is compulsory for us and our pilot turned out to be a surly, bad tempered, miserable individual. It was good to be rid of him before we headed out into the Sea of Marmara towards the Dardanelles.

DARDANELLES IN DAYLIGHT

October 25 2016

I have transited the Dardanelles many times but always at night.  Today I had the opportunity to make the passage in daylight and bright sunshine. Wonderful.

We entered the northern end of the Dardanelles from the Sea of Marmara at daybreak, the blinking lights on shore gradually turned into recognisable structures and landmarks.  The straits have traffic separation lanes, just like a motorway, with southbound ships keeping to the lane on the western side.  Pilotage is not compulsory for us so we headed south without delay.

The highlight of the Dardanelles is passing Canakkale where the strait narrows and turns.  On shore either side are impressive castles, the sense of history about the place is very powerful.  On the eastern shore at the town of Canakkale can be seen the Trojan Horse.  Canakkale looks like an interesting place, I would like the opportunity to visit sometime.

After passing Canakkale the Dardanelles open out into a wide strait heading westwards towards the Aegean Sea.  On the north shore is the impressive Turkish War memorial and the biggest flag you will ever see. The Turks seem to be fond of large National Flags, they can be seen painted on hillsides, flying from bridges and just about any tall structure.

Slightly inland can be seen the French war memorial and further along the coast the British war memorial.  It makes you wonder about the logic of expending so much effort and losing so many lives fighting over a featureless, barren piece of dirt.

Once out of the Dardanelles we turned south, helped along by a strong northerly wind in sparkling seas.  Our next stop is Gibraltar where we will load some more fuel to get us across the Atlantic.  We should be in Gibraltar in about eight days.

PIT STOP IN GIBRALTAR

Approaching Gibraltar from the Mediterranean side in the early morning is always a special occasion.  As you get closer the rock rises above the horizon and features become visible and the Europa Point light house provides a reference for entering Gibraltar Bay.  Many generations of British Sailors must have felt relief in the past on sighting this Bastion of the British Empire and the shelter it provided.

As we approached closer, the Gibraltar Vessel Traffic Services informed us we were turn two for a pilot behind a large tanker.  Impatient and not wanting to be stuck behind a slow lumbering tanker I asked if we could speed up and get ahead of the tanker.  The pilot agreed and we rounded Europa Point at full speed to pick up the pilot.  Forty minutes later we were safely tied up alongside the bunker berth.

My first visit to Gibraltar was as a cadet during my first trip to sea. In fact it was second foreign port, Malta being the first. Gibraltar was then a very different place, full of sailors and British forces personnel, a wild and bawdy place, quite exciting for a teenager. Now the main street is populated with tourist shops, some of the pubs and bars still exist but the customers are quite well behaved now.

On the way into the berth I noticed we had to pass three very noticeable yachts.  The first being ‘Ice’, owned by Finnish car driver, the second, ‘Maltese Falcon’ a unique automated square rig sailing vessel and finally the massive and so good looking, ‘Eclipse’ owned by a Russian who owns a football club in London.  Little was I to know at the time but I had to shift berth a further three times in close proximity to these mega yachts, something I managed to do without bumping into any of them. No pressure!

The stop in Gibraltar was for bunkers and to sort out some technical issues.  The trip through the Mediteranean had turned up some minor technical problems that we wanted to sort out before crossing the Atlantic Ocean. By morning we were bunkered and all our on board systems now tested OK and were running well.  We ordered a pilot for 11:00 and prepared to depart.  I just had time to get a taxi up to the local supermarket and pick up some HP Sauce and Frank Coopers thick cut English Marmalade, with these essential food items on board I was ready for the North Atlantic.

The pilot joined us at 11:00 and we let go to head out the harbour, as we headed for the breakwater the pilot jumped off after cheerily telling me to leave everything to port.  We headed out the harbour, down the bay, turned into the westbound traffic lane and by lunchtime were heading into the Atlantic.  So ended a hectic 24 hours, now we get settled back into sea routine for another 11 days before arriving in St Johns.

AZORES HIGH

November 8 2016

Since leaving Gibraltar we have travelled a thousand miles.  During that time, we have rolled relentlessly accompanied by squeaking and creaking, moaning and groaning, rattling and shaking, and a cacophony of other noises.  This vessel loves to roll.  She is so enthusiastic; the speed and severity leaves you with a headache.  I would love to bring the naval architect who designed this ship on board so he can experience the genius of his creation – which appears to have the hydrodynamic properties of a biscuit tin. To be fair this is a ferry designed for more sheltered waters and we have been encountering fairly boisterous conditions since leaving Gibraltar.

We are now north of the Azores in an area of high pressure and have some relief from the wind and swell experienced during the last week.  St. Johns, our destination in Newfoundland is only a thousand miles away, everyone on board is looking forward to arriving, delivering the ship to her new owners and heading home.

Between us and St Johns lies an area of unsettled weather.  I have four forecasts on board from different sources.  None of them seem to agree so further investigation and evaluation is needed.  In the next few hours I will need to decide whether to slow down and let the weather pass by or to keep heading direct to Newfoundland and try and sneak through.

Meanwhile life on board is good.  HP Sauce to accompany bacon and eggs makes breakfast a civilised affair.  Frank Coopers thick cut marmalade on toast washed down with fresh coffee at morning Smoko enhances to the feeling of wellbeing.  A cold beer before lunch sets up the afternoon for a period of horizontal contemplation.

SPECTACULAR ARRIVAL AT ST JOHNS

November 15 2016

After what seemed like weeks rolling through the North Atlantic – in reality it was only a few days – we arrived at the St. Johns Pilot Station at seven in the morning.

As we approached St Johns the sea became calm and the swell subsided, a full moon set ahead of us into the harbour entrance as the sun rose from astern.  Our entry into St. Johns was spectacular and memorable.

We entered the harbour through a deep channel protected on either side by high ground.  The same high ground that Marconi took advantage of to send his first radio signal across the Atlantic.  I can’t imagine he could have realised the changes to the world that transmission would trigger in the future.

St. Johns is a wonderful natural harbour and reminded me of Norway with colourful houses scattered about the shoreline.  The Portuguese from the Azores were the first Europeans to regularly visit on fishing expeditions and the city is one of the oldest in North America.

After turning left into the harbour we berthed alongside, close to the town centre.  The town looks interesting, there are some interesting taverns visible and I am looking forward to tasting some fresh fish and a beer or two.  However, before then the ship needs to be handed over to the new owners and a heap of paperwork to be completed.  I hate the paperwork but it must be done – just wish all ports and countries could be consistent in what they require.

AROUND THE WORLD IN 35 DAYS

November 20 2016

Back in Auckland again after circling the globe in a westerly direction.  So nice to be back in Auckland, bright sunshine and clear sky’s to welcome me.  Auckland Airport is one of the worlds easiest to arrive in, so quick to get through immigration and the baggage is usually on the belt ready for collection.  So efficient, just like Singapore.  Australia needs to look and learn.

Now I am back the last trip seems so quick, the route Auckland, Dubai, Bucharest, Galati, Constanta, Gibraltar, St. Johns, Toronto, Hong Kong, Auckland.  I only had time to Visit Gibraltar and St. Johns briefly to collect fridge magnets, the rest was in transit.

One of the things I enjoy about ship delivery is the satisfaction of completing the job and handing over the boat to the owners in good condition.  Of course, delivering a new boat is a privilege.  It’s also a challenge, a new vessel has thousands of individual components from differing manufactures that all need to work together.  Often during a delivery voyage mechanical or technical problems arise that must be fixed on route, always an interesting challenge and a testament to the fact we never stop learning.

Now I am back in New Zealand I will have a few days rest and catch up on sleep.  Then I will start preparations for next years sailing on Truce.  There are quite a few items of gear that I want to renew and repair.  While I was away the engineers have installed a new shaft and dripless seal on Truce.  The previous shaft was scored in the stuffing box area, causing more drips than I wanted.  I have now gone for a dripless seal and am looking forward to a dry bilge.  The old sea water strainer has also been changed out for a new Vetus unit that is easy to clean.

Other items on the wish list are; a new cover for the steering vane, new fitted bed sheets (Ngozi has promised to get her sewing machine out), New sea cock for Raw water intake, seal up the speed transducer through hull, new guard wires, jib furler overhaul, replacement VHF radio.  I will also look at fitting an additional solar panel and new batteries to boost the electrical storage capacity.  Other items on the wish list include, inflatable dinghy, outboard, inflatable kayak and Barbecue.   That reminds me, I need to write a note to Santa.

STEAMING INTO 2017

January 10 2017

The start of 2017 finds me standing on the bridge of a vessel steaming up the Malacca Strait, passing Port Dickson.  It’s a beautiful balmy night with a faint offshore breeze bringing out the smells of vegetation and wood smoke wafting the water.

There’s searchlights ashore piercing the sky, must be part of the New Year’s celebration.  A few of the ships passing up and down the straits are giving New Year’s greetings over the VHF radio, they are a bit disjointed, it looks like they are on different local time zones.

I am now on my way to the UAE, delivering a new ship from China, a fairly routine voyage.  I flew out to Guangzhou, China and checked into a not too inspiring hotel close to the shipyard.

This delivery is another new ship, this time going to new owners in the United Arab Emirates. Ther route will take us first to Hong Kong for bunkers, then Singapore and finally Sharjah in the UAE. Many years ago we used to live in Sharjah when I was working for a marine company there.

When all the paperwork and familiarisation was complete we departed from the shipyard in Guangzhou and headed down river. Chinese rivers are a nightmare for non Chinese seafarers. Ships come from all directions and near misses are routine and unless you can speak Chinese using the VHF radio for ship to ship work is a waste of time. Luckily, we had a pilot for the first part of the journey.

The river has numerous large dredgers extracting sand, going downstream we had to navigate through numerous dredgers and their barges. China is growing at such an alarming rate that they no doubt need all the sand they can dredge up for construction.

Looking back on the last year there has been a lot of water passing under the keel of various boats I have been on.  2016 has certainly been a year full of adventure and interest. Sailing on a calm sea in the early morning hours is a great time to have a look back and reflect a while.  Since I took delivery of Truce last March in Canada I have had an amazing journey, visiting so many interesting places, awesome Alaska, wildlife, meeting so many different people and learning a new kind of freedom and peace away from everyday distractions that don’t add to the quality of life.

But it doesn’t take long to start thinking about the coming year and the return of spring to Canada and the preparation that needs to be done for the coming year.  In 2017 I want to bring Truce back to New Zealand, that will entail a long ocean voyage across the Pacific.  I have crossed the North Pacific countless times in ships and I have a deep appreciation of its awesome power.  The South Pacific is somewhere I have never ventured and I have not crossed any ocean in a vessel as small as Truce.

So, steaming into the New Year and thoughts turning to preparation for the next adventure.

FAT AND CONTENTED IN NZ

March 20 2017

I have been back in New Zealand since the end of January.  Living the good life, eating, drinking and enjoying the warm summer weather.  Generally getting fat, contented and too comfortable.  Apart from a couple of mammoth record breaking rain events the weather has been beautiful, real Kiwi summer.  Ngozi and I had a few days away in the Far North, enjoying he beautify scenery and taking in the quiet pace of life that exists just a few hours drive north of Auckland.  February always seems to be the best month.

Recently there has been a chill in the air at night and I am thinking more of my return to Canada next month.  Time for action, I have booked a one-way ticket to Victoria for early April.  Then down to Canoe Cove and meet up with Truce again.  I feel guilty about leaving her all winter, I hope she hasn’t suffered too much.  I expect she will need a thorough cleaning and airing, the weather will have been cold and damp over winter.

I have been thinking about the route I will take back to New Zealand.  First I think it’s down the coast to San Francisco, I have never been to San Francisco and I feel the need to sail under the Golden Gate bridge.  From San Francisco, I will probably head towards Hawaii before turning south towards New Zealand.

Anyway, before heading off from canoe Cove I have anti fouling and heaps of boat preparation to get out of the way.  There are always jobs to do on a boat – to keep in the sweet spot between perfect working order and total breakdown.