Thursday, 31 May 2012

Alcaro Bay

Hi everyone,
We are now in Alcaro Bay on the Cobourg Peninsula (11 18S 131 48E) after a great overnight passage on Tuesday night from Fannie Bay. Winds varied from 10 to 25+ knots from ESE to SSE. A great shakedown cruise - for us as much as the boat. We used just about all plain sail combinations - full main & No2 down to double-reefed main with staysail. Nothing broke. Kami the autopilot did a great job.

Zen Again Track
We pushed the tide through the Vernon Islands, but this was fine since it is neap tides at present. We then had tide with us across Van Diemen Gulf and out past Cape Don. The wind direction allowed us to sail through the Vernon channel without having to tack. The water was flat due to the lee of the islands. Once out into the Gulf the seas were very lumpy - quite uncomfortable - but Zen Again powered through doing 6-7 knots on a close reach. After a while we could bear away onto a beam reach which made life more comfortable.

Figuring out the sports camera
It was quite a black night with complete cloud cover most of the night. We even had a little rain for a few minutes. Two supply barges passed us in the Vernons, both passing about 200m clear after we talked on VHF. We saw the lights of three yachts westbound as we approached Cape Don. We arrived off Alcaro Bay at dawn and were by then ready for a rest. Once clear of the reef just outside, the Bay itself is clear of dangers and the water is flat. Nice looking beaches but we left them for another day.

For those interested in the stats we logged 99nm in 17 hours with an average speed of 5.5 knots. GPS average 5.6, max 8.0 and track 99nm.

Under the awning at Alcaro Bay
Today (Thursday) we had a very lazy day. We stayed aboard and did a few odd jobs. I mounted an emergency engine start switch in the engine bay, while Nicki baked a loaf of very yummy bread. We spent a lot of time relaxing in the cockpit and saw the local dugong nosing around. Tomorrow we plan a run ashore. Hopefully we won't see the local crocs - or they us! ;) Then on Saturday we expect to head east - weather permitting.

Trust all's well where you are.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Harbour Race

Hi everyone,
We had a great sail today, joining Division 4 of Darwin Sailing Club's Harbour Race.  Today was the third day with a strong wind warning current, but the previous days had shown the wind drops off in the afternoon.  We started off in about 25 knots and finished with 15.

The day started with a wild ride ashore in the dinghy to sign-on and get the course.  Back on board we weighed anchor and motored away from the anchorage.  There were about 5 keelboats plus a bunch of catamarans and dinghies in the starting area.  We started with a double-reefed main and half-furled No 2 for the first beat up to Mindil Beach.  From there we had a reach past Cullen Bay and shook out the second reef, leaving the first reef in.  We also unfurled the No 2.

Around the corner we had a long beat in a lumpy sea to the No 8 mark.  That was a bit wet but we were gradually getting our act together.  After that mark we had a run back past Cullen Bay and Fannie Bay before reaching across the shipping channel and beating back to Fannie Bay and the finish.

We managed to beat only one of the other boats, and came last on handicap.  It was great fun and the other boats probably weren't carrying most of their worldly possessions around the course with them!

The Doctor took a set of photos as we sailed past them towards the finish.  Here's one...

Approaching the finish
Thanks again to The Doctor.

We hope to depart Darwin for some NT cruising sometime this week.  Depends on wind and tide.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

New Alternator and Smart Charger

Hi everyone,
We've continued to be busy over the last ten days.  We managed to get a sail in too.

Our engine problem is now fixed.  One of the injectors wasn't seating properly, and was fixed by fitting new washers and O-ring.  We'll have to do our speed trial again since it seems we may have been running on two cylinders last time!

With the engine fixed we could then fit and test our new engine start battery, alternator and smart regulator.  The battery is a Lifeline AGM starting battery.  The alternator is a Balmar 60-series, 120Amp unit.  The regulator is a Balmar ARS-5.  The alternator fits with about 2mm to spare at the rear and 10mm to spare at the front.

New alternator mounted
The battery is installed in the engine bay to minimise the cable run lengths.  The engine now starts immediately.

The battery isolation switch, smart regulator and a custom switch box are mounted in the cockpit locker to permit observation and switching from the helm.  The switch box allows for quick switching between smart regulator and the "dumb" regulator built into the alternator, and selection of "small engine" mode which halves the load on the engine when all its power is needed for propulsion.

Switch box, alternator controller and battery isolation switch
Other jobs we've done include:
  • Removed 20 year old insulation tape from engine electrical harness, clean up and resecured;
  • Cleaned and repainted locker in which engine control panel is mounted;
  • Cleaned and repainted fridge locker;
  • Polished lots of stainless steel;
  • Cleaned growth around waterline every few days (since the waterline is above the anti foul!); and
  • Tested the HF radio by doing skeds with catamaran "Better Than Shares" on their way to Dili.
And we went for a sail!  The winds were light, and decreased eventually to nothing, but it was a great sail.  We hoisted our MPS/asymmetric for the first time.

Zen Again sailing

Thanks to The Doctor for taking several photos as we sailed past.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

New Outboard

Hi everyone,
Hello again from Fannie Bay.  Yesterday our new outboard arrived and all of a sudden we're mobile again.  Marvellous.

Darwin Sailing Club has an excellent outboard servicing area which I used to add the necessary oil and petrol.  I used the flushing tank to run the engine for a few minutes before conducting successful "sea trials".  Nice engine.

New outboard motor
Today we motored Zen Again in from our spring tide anchorage spot to be closer to the shore during the current neap tides.  The idea was that the engine mechanic would visit us today but sadly that didn't happen.  Hopefully he'll appear tomorrow.

We have solved one of the engine problems, that of the motor being hard to start.  That turned out to be a poor electrical connection near the new batteries we installed several months ago.  All part of debugging the new systems before we leave Darwin.  Hopefully the engine problem (an air leak near one of the injectors) will be fixed soon.

Hope all's well where you are!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

At Anchor in Fannie Bay

Hi everyone,
We've now been out of the marina for 6 days.  We're anchored in Fannie Bay, on the 2m line which is 3/4nm from Darwin Sailing Club.  We're loving it - the boat feels alive and it's much, much cooler out here in the breeze.  We've had SE winds every day, with sea-breezes on some days.

We've been quite busy since leaving Tipperary Waters.  The item we've spent most time on has been the outboard motor.  It has continued to overheat, so I first removed the drive leg and cleaned the water passages in the leg and on the lower side of the engine.  That didn't improve things so I removed the cylinder head to get access to the water channels there.  They were full of "rock".  After a valiant attempt at chiselling the rock out we gave up and ordered a new outboard.  The new one will be a Honda BF2.3, which were very conveniently on sale.

Just another Darwin sunset
The lack of a functioning outboard hasn't really limited our shore trips.  On Saturday I rowed ashore and filled our petrol jerry can.  Nicki went ashore with Diana from The Doctor on Sunday.  Yesterday Nicki and I rowed ashore and had a great day at the Fannie Bay shops, Casuarina and Darwin.  The 3/4nm row takes about 40 minutes but is fine so long as the wind is light (or aft).

Aboard we're continuing through the to-do list, including:
  • Cleaning and polishing in and around the cockpit (to clean the 6 months of marina/work grime);
  • Resealing several foredeck U-bolts which proved to have become leaky over the summer; and
  • Sanding back and revarnishing various fiddles and other teak in the cabin.

We've also discovered what should be a minor engine problem which Shipstores have promised to look at later this week.

We've joined Darwin Sailing Club as temporary members which gives us access to the club, including its showers and laundry.  It's great to no longer be burning money every day as we were in the marina (nice though the marina is).