Saturday, 28 May 2011

Mastless in Mooloolaba

Boat maintenance continues at Lawrie's Boat Services in Mooloolaba.  On Thursday morning we warped the boat into the slip and the travel-lift crane was used to lift the mast out of the boat.  We had done almost all the preparatory work so it was a quick job.  Before we knew it the mast was heading off into the yard and the boat was looking "strange".

Mast "in slings"
Mastless in Mooloolaba
The rest of Thursday was spent inspecting, planning work on and cleaning the mast.  We decided to sand back all four spreaders so they all look similar after the work, and started work on that.  We decided to replace the masthead VHF antenna since it is a very short stubby type, to replace all light globes with LED versions, and to rewire the mast entirely.  We also decided to remove the wind sensor since it has never functioned well.  It reports random direction and about half the real wind strength.  We'll try fitting it to the pushpit where we can play with it more easily.

Old masthead fittings
On Friday we spent most of the day sanding the spreaders back to bare aluminium, making templates of the new plates required, and lining up for the local stainless steel fabricators to do the required work on Monday.  Below is a picture showing the s/s pins which have been digging into the aluminium mast.

The offending pins "eating" the mast
On Friday morning previous owner Rex visited us and gave us the plaque from (then) Zen's participation in the 2007 Brisbane to Gladstone Race.  Thanks Rex!  It was fun pointing out the work we've done on the boat over the last year and discussing the boat's eventful history.

On Friday the replacement high pressure oil line for the engine arrived, plus the new wetbox/waterlock/muffler and exhaust hose.  We walked along to the local Whitworths shop (chandlers) and spent way to much money on boat stuff - principally LED globes, new LED deck light and hose for the new water bladders.

Today we continued sanding back the spreaders (nearly done at last!), installed new LED globes in the masthead lights and rewired the mast.  The new tricolour LED globe required some "remodelling" of the existing  mounts to accommodate the new globe.  It fits with about 1mm clearance - phew!  The new light will hugely reduce our power consumption at night since it uses 3.5W and the old used 25W.  The wiring was completed without a hitch, including fitting mousing lines to pull through future cables if necessary.

This afternoon we took the bus into Mooloolaba and collected our mail from the yacht club marina, then had a pleasant sundowner with Gary and Nat, owners of a very nice new Hanse 44 "Mocean".  Their boat is being commissioned near Zen Again at Lawrie's.  After that we enjoyed a huge Waygu rump steak for dinner aboard Zen Again.

Hope all's well where you are!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

More from Mooloolaba

We're now alongside the work jetty at Lawrie's Boat Services.  Zen Again returned to the water on Monday afternoon as scheduled.  The shipwrights did a nice job fixing the delamination in the head compartment.

Topsides polished, antifoul "activated"

Tuesday was spent having the engine serviced, stanchions straightened and working on the GPS/VHF interface.  The engine service didn't go entirely to plan, with a high-pressure oil line breaking.  On inspection it was found to be very rusty.  We're waiting for a replacement to arrive (ETA Thursday).  Otherwise all is OK with the engine.  We're also waiting for a replacement exhaust system (wet box and hose) to arrive.  We had planned to replace the exhaust here.  The stanchions have been bent since we bought the boat and it was good to have them sorted.

Ready for launch

The GPS/VHF interface problem was one which had been frustrating us for months.  We were able to send GPS data to the VHF so it could transmit our position when required.  But we had never managed to get AIS data from the VHF to the GPS chartplotter.  AIS is the Automated Identification System which allows us to display large ships on our chartplotter, together with their name, size, type, course, speed etc.  Very helpful in identifying collision risks.  A call to Garmin technical support in Sydney resulted in an email detailing how to connect the two units.  Pity the manuals don't explain it, but their phone support was excellent.


Today we started installing additional fresh water tanks (150 litres in two bladders) in the forepeak, rearranged the circuit breakers to better suit the equipment we now have installed, started installing a bilge pump controller box, and had the rig inspected.  The first three went very well, the last went well but revealed two issues to be fixed.

The rig problems are damage to one of the upper spreaders and two s/s pins wearing the side of the mast below the lower spreaders.  So tomorrow morning we're having the mast taken out to have these problems fixed.  The mast can be lifted out with the boat in the water so we'll stay at the work jetty.  It's a shame issues were found, but better to find and fix than to be blissfully unaware until the mast decides to fall down!  We expected to stay in Mooloolaba for a while, but we expect it's now going to be 2-3 weeks in all.

Alongside work jetty at Lawrie's Boat Services

We spent much of this afternoon preparing for the mast lift.  We removed the boom and vang, the storm jib and furling jib, and pulled through all the halyards and coiled them on the mast.  Then we loosened all the shroud lock nuts and straightened out all the split pins.  All so the lift can be as quick (and therefore cheap) as possible.  This evening we disconnected most of the electrical cables which enter the mast.

I guess all those rum and cokes while anchored off tropical beaches have to be earned!!!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Mooloolaba Continued

We're now on the hard at Lawrie's Boat Services, a five minute motor up the canal from the yacht club marina.  Zen Again was lifted out of the water on Wednesday morning and since then we've been flat out.

In the slings
Within a few minutes of lifting out we were (once again) confident we don't have a major keel problem.  Absolutely no cracks or any other signs of stress around the keel.  The job became one of working out how water is getting in, and to stop it moving around inside the boat.

The first job however was to give the Coppershield antifoul a light rub to "re-activate" it.  That took the two of us the rest of the day.  In the evening we reran the electrical cables from the depth and speed transducers so that they no longer pass through the main bulkhead down in the bilge.  That took several hours and we ended up with about 30cm excess cable - phew!  Likewise we removed the fresh water pipe which runs from the main water tank to the head compartment sink.

On Thursday we filled the holes previously used by the electrical cables and water pipe to isolate the head area from the main saloon at bilge level.  Overnight we left several buckets of water in the head bilge to see where it went.  During the day Nicki went shopping at the nearby mall for provisions, and we're now fully stocked again with non-perishables.  We have renamed the "pedestal" the "larder" to better describe its purpose.  ;)

On Friday morning we discovered how water is getting from the head compartment to the main cabin, and set the local shipwrights to work to fix the problem.  Basically there is some delamination of fibreglass which was part of the repair done about 10 years ago.  The delaminating fibreglass is being cut out and replaced.  We'll end up with much improved access to the hull in the head compartment - which alone is worth the cost of the work.  Inaccessible hull areas on boats are always a worry and occasionally dangerous.  Very few such areas left on this boat!

While the shipwrights worked inside the boat we polished the topsides and the stainless steel on the bow and transom, both of which are hard to do with the boat in the water.  Zen Again looks significantly shinier after this (hard) work.

On the other problem of how water is getting into the head compartment in the first place, we're confident it isn't through the keel or the skin fittings.  We believe it's probably been siphoning up through the sink drain / head sump foot pump hoses.  We haven't been closing the sea cock for that drain, perhaps foolishly.  :(  Thanks to previous owner Rex for his thoughts on the problem.

We expect to put the boat back in the water on Monday afternoon.  If the fibreglassing is completed then tidying up can be done alongside the work jetty here at the boat yard.  On Tuesday we will have the engine serviced and hopefully the rig inspected.

We're living aboard the boat while she's out of the water.  Peculiar climbing up and down ladders into one's supposedly floating home!  ;)

Tuesday, 17 May 2011


We've arrived in Mooloolaba after a very pleasant overnight sail from Southport. We're in a berth at the marina for tonight, then will motor up the canal to Lawrie's Boat Yard where the boat will be pulled out of the water for inspection of the keel tomorrow morning.

The 90nm passage from Southport took 19 hours. The winds were 5-10kt ESE for most of the evening. They died altogether for an hour so we motored. Then a nice 15kt southerly came in and took us home. There was a nearly full moon and only scattered cloud, so it was a clear night with good visibility. About a dozen ships passed but all were well offshore from us. Although we did 93nm over the ground we only logged 87 so overall the currents assisted us. We stayed near the 50 metre depth contour in the hope of staying out of the current - it worked!

We sailed the entire passage with one reef in the main and the full No 3 jib. The boat moved along well even in quite light winds. She sails very well.

Approaching Mooloolaba we spotted our first turtle in the water. They always have a bemused look when they see you. We've been escorted by dolphins many times since leaving BB.

The entrance to Mooloolaba is well marked. We entered in the middle of a spring tide ebb, and the current in the channel was only about 1.5kt. The minimum depth seen in the channel was about 2.5m.

The marina is very modern and there are no water restrictions so we hosed down the boat. There are a number of international boats here - we've been seeing more and more as we head up the coast.
It's a nice sunny day in Mooloolaba. Hope all's well where you are!

Friday, 13 May 2011


This afternoon we are anchored in Bum's Bay, Southport, Queensland. A very pleasant location for boat bums like us. We had a good passage from Coffs Harbour with mainly light winds. We've cleaned up the boat and are now relaxing. Best of all - it is warm!!!

Zen Again in the Queensland sun!

We sailed from Coffs Harbour in company with Splash and Smart Move, Bavaria 39 and 37 respectively. We met them at Coffs Harbour and had the usual sundowners aboard Splash and then Zen Again for the two nights we were there. The passage started with reasonable westerly winds on Thursday morning, but we ended up motoring for most of the afternoon when the wind died. That gave us an opportunity to run the fridge for the first time since leaving Batemans Bay. In the evening a new breeze came up and we were able to sail. It was a beautiful night with a half moon for the evening and then no moon (and so lots of stars) in the morning. The wind held in until we were within a few miles of Southport, when we had to "put the fridge on" again.

Splash in the sunrise enroute to Southport

Our two days at Coffs Harbour were great. The first was spent recovering from the passage up and doing the laundry. The second was spent walking the ~3km into town to shop, walking to the top of Muttonbird Island (great views) and helping Splash with an electrical upgrade.

Zen Again in Bum's Bay

We have decided to have some additional work done on the boat at our next stop. Previously we were going to have the rig checked, but now we'll also have some work done on the hull around the keel. The boat has always taken about a bucket of water each day when at sea. On the way up we established the leak is around or near the keel bolts, not through a deck fitting as we had thought. We don't want to be at sea in a leaky boat! ;) We will probably continue to Mooloolaba and have the work done there. The alternatives are the Gold Coast and Brisbane, but the people at Mooloolaba seem as able to do the work as the others.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Coffs Harbour

Today we arrived at Coffs Harbour after a 26 hour passage from Port Stephens. It was another fast passage but this time it didn't rain which was good! We departed Port Stephens on Monday at 0800 after a very pleasant day in the Nelson Bay marina. The highlight of our stay in the marina was one of the local fairy penguins swimming up and down alongside our jetty.

Initially we had 10 knot WSW winds but these built to 25 gusting 30+ SSW winds by lunchtime. They remained 20 - 30 knots for the rest of the trip. We logged 165nm which is very close to the rhumb line distance we had planned. This time we kept the double-reefed main and No 3 jib working and had a much more comfortable ride than under jib alone.

The entrance into Coffs Harbour was exciting, with a solid 30 knot SSW breeze blowing. We came alongside the end of a jetty in the marina with the wind on the beam - glued it on quite well we thought. The fenders got a good workout.

Coffs Harbour from top of Muttonbird Island

After tidying up the boat we explored the marina and it immediate surroundings, then did our laundry for the first time since leaving Perth. In a few minutes we're going to a 'sundowner' aboard another boat which is also heading north.

Sea View from east side of Muttonbird Island

We expect to spend at least two nights here, possibly more. The weather forecast is for strong southerlies for the rest of the week, and the marina here costs only $35/night. Coffs Harbour is quite a scenic spot, so a few days here will be very pleasant.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Port Stephens

This evening we're moored at Nelson Bay in Port Stephens. We had a quicker than expected overnight passage from Broken Bay, aided by a northerly current of about 1 knot. Normally the currents are southerly on the east coast so this was a pleasant surprise, although perhaps to be expected after several days of strong south winds. (NB - winds are "from", while currents are "to").

We departed Broken Bay at about 1700 yesterday in quite light winds. We motor-sailed for an hour or so after clearing the Bay, and then were able to kill the donk and sail. We had a 10-15 knot southerly wind with a 2 to 3 metre left-over swell. As the night wore on the wind gradually increased to 20+ knots, so we reduced first from full main and No 3 to a single reef, and then eventually to No 3 jib alone. We handed the main since we could see we were going to arrive well before dawn so decided to slow down. Good idea but resulted in a very rolly ride which we didn't enjoy at all. Next time I think we'll keep our speed up and heave-to on arrival and wait for the light.

As we approached Port Stephens the wind turned westerly, leaving us beating into the breeze. Poor navigation on my part since the westerly had been mentioned as a possibility. Motoring into Port Stephens was quite wet and slow into the face of a 20 knot breeze, with sea from the west and swell from the east! That wind was cold, cold, cold! It was great to pick up a mooring off Nelson Bay marina, clean up the boat and then crash!

The westerly gradually blew itself out by noon and the sun was wonderfully warm. We had a very pleasant afternoon on the mooring relaxing. Tomorrow we'll go ashore and explore. We expect to remain here until Monday when the next southerly is expected.
Hope all's well where you are!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Refuge Bay Continued

We're quickly adjusting to cruising. After a good night's sleep here in Refuge Bay we decided it's too nice a place to leave after only 24 hours. So we're staying another night.

Refuge Bay

Today was spent working on the to-do list. The to-do list is quite extensive, particularly given our original plan was to gradually refit Zen Again over 4 years. That was reduced to a single year when we decided to sell up and go this year. Today we installed a set of deadeyes on the pedestal, installed deadeyes to properly secure the spare anchor, made up and marked an anchor buoy and line, polished a lot of stainless steel on deck, and made toast and baked a cake to test the grill and oven.

For breakfast today we had scrambled eggs on toast. For lunch we had tuna salad. For afternoon tea we had cake. It's a tough life! :)

Tuna Salad Lunch

We expect to depart Refuge Bay tomorrow afternoon for an overnight passage to Port Stephens. The winds are forecast to be 20-30 knots initially, decreasing overnight to 15-20 - all from the south. Sounds great!

Zen Again in Refuge Bay

By the way, there's no mobile phone coverage in the National Park around Refuge Bay, so HF is our only means of communication here.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Broken Bay

We are moored in Refuge Bay in Broken Bay north of Sydney. We had a fast, boisterous ride up from Batemans Bay. Zen Again covered the ~150nm passage in 24 hours. We logged 165nm and lifted our maximum speed record from 10.7 to 11.1 knots. The wind varied from 20 to 35 knots from the south. It rained on and off throughout the trip. We encountered quite a few ships, including one warship off Sydney.

We decided to stop at Broken Bay this morning when we realised we would arrive at Port Stephens after dark this evening. We don't want to enter Port Stephens in the dark because the entrance is quite narrow (and rocky). So we're now in a lovely quiet bay, surrounded by national park and a real waterfall! Very serene after the exciting sail.

The gas system installation was completed on Monday. We also collected our new liferaft, topped up the diesel tanks and stocked with perishable foods. The new stove and gas system works very well. Thanks to Danny at Coastal Gas Services. The new checkstays also had a good workout. Thanks to TonyS for those.

We plan to carry on up to Port Stephens tomorrow night, arriving on Friday morning.