_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Marcy home Walvis Bay Angling Club club AFASyn Ushuaia Marcy and crew

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Getting under way

Walvis Bay Angling Club

We are thrilled to say that we are cleared out and heading to sea today. It's time for an ocean passage to a new continent. Much as we've enjoyed Africa we're looking forward to new adventures and hoping they don't involve quite as much boat work. St. Helena is our next stop and after a rest of a few days, weather permitting, we'll continue on to Brazil. The first passage of 1200 miles should take just over a week. We hope to update our progress when we arrive in St. Helena. To everyone at home, we're glad to hear that spring has finally arrived.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Marcy scores 2 wins and 1 loss in Namibia

Walvis Bay sunrise

The last two weeks the Marcy crew has been kicking around Walvis Bay looking for spare parts and working on boat stuff. The yacht club is friendly, the town is nice and the weather has mostly been in the low 70s during the day. When we arrived we were both fighting sinus infections so we've also had some down time recuperating and just enjoying being at anchor again after so much marina time in South Africa. We had 3 items to fix in preparation for crossing the Atlantic, the leak, the wind/water generator and the HF radio.

We arrived in Walvis on Easter Sunday at around 6P and though customs is open 24 hours; holidays, Sundays and evenings are no time to bother customs. Fortunately our VHF radio was still working so we chatted with our neighbors on an American ketch called Westwind and they offered to call a cab for us Monday morning. We launched the “Wee Beastie” (our new dinghy) and were pleased to find a dinghy dock at the yacht club. It turns out that the Monday after Easter is also a holiday here so town was very quiet. The customs officer handled all of our clearing in formalities and we were on our way within 15 minutes. We stopped at a grocery store and purchased a Namibian sim card for the cell phone. Oddly, no beer for sale on holidays here!

Day two ashore and the first business day in Namibia for Marcy was busy. After the relative easy access to parts and expertise in Cape Town, Namibia is a desert, figuratively as well as literally. The town of Walvis Bay is small but since it is the only sea port for Namibia and they have a fishing fleet here too, it's the best place in this country to work on the boat. We felt fortunate to find an HF radio shop and downright lucky to get underwater epoxy putty in a home builders store. Communication is a priority and we headed straight for the phone company where they manually set up cell phones for internet access on their phone network. With only a couple of calls to customer service we were happily up and running with our cell phone internet service. Our first email was an update to the blog to let friends and family know that the leak had not gotten the better of Marcy and crew. Alas, we had some calls to make to the US and couldn't figure out how to make that work! Skype is out of the question here, no-one sells the phone cards necessary for the phone at the yacht club, international calling cards and 800 numbers are not allowed on the Namibian phone system and we couldn't get our cell phone to work for international calls. That became a mission over the next week and a half but we had other pressing matters on Marcy as well.

We took the radio antenna tuner off the boat and into the repair shop. They do fast work and had new wires soldered on to replace the corroded wires within a couple of hours. Back at the boat the tuner was reinstalled with no luck. Arrgh! Our radio and tuner are made by ICOM and the closest dealer is of course in Cape Town. The local shop could test our system but they would need for us to pull the tuner, radio, radio controller and all the cables. Even then, if they found a problem they'd probably have to send the whole thing to Cape Town for repair. BUT, we already talked with the repair shop in Cape Town and they're not familiar with the American version of the radio. Ironically, Seattle (home of ICOM America repair center) is really the only option for a complicated repair to our radio. We decided on a compromise solution. We ordered a new tuner to be shipped from Cape Town as it's the most likely problem due to some salt water damage and corrosion. We installed the new tuner, but bad news, the new tuner did not solve the problem. We had the radio serviced in February in Seattle so we are suspicious that it has something to do with that modification to help with clipping. We've sent an email to ICOM to see if this sometimes happens after they do the mod, but not heard back yet. We're running out of time, our expensive Brazil visas will expire soon, so we've decided that we have to go to sea without a radio that will transmit. We'll still be able to hear broadcasts and to get weather faxes but that's it. No email at sea. We will have to resolve this problem in Brazil. We struck out and have to admit defeat on this one for now.

With the radio problem on hold it was time to once again turn our attention to the leak. Yes, we're hoping that the 3rd time's a charm because we'd like to have a dry trip across the Atlantic. We (read Peter) disconnected the steering and it was obvious that our Dassen patch job had failed. We were glad to see that it wasn't something else. We moved some heavy items from the stern into the bow and then piled Red Dogfish (the kayak), full water and diesel jugs and spare sails on deck at the bow to get the stern out of the water. We applied a bit more epoxy putty where the water was coming in let the area dry overnight and then Peter prepped and sanded. We applied fiberglass in two layups. The first was a single layer of fiberglass mat. to cover the crack area and make a good bond for the top layer. We found that the original boat layup was resin heavy in that area and to further compromise things when installing the steering sheaves, long ago, the glass had been ground away to make room. The mat application went well and after 24 hours to cure we applied the glass cloth. We blew up Red Dogfish and checked the outside of the boat. There was a small hole next to the lower bearing that appeared after all the work done in the last few months. Peter was able to pack some epoxy putty in that hole without getting too wet. It's good to stay dry because the water here is as cold as Puget Sound right now. With no more water coming in we are satisfied that we've done as much as possible in Walvis Bay on that project.

The third boat project was our wind/water generator. We had some problems with it in the Mozambique Channel and had not gotten it working after a rebuild in Richard's Bay. After another thorough cleaning to improve contact under the brushes the test still came up unsuccessful. We finally tracked the problem to the plug, cleaned the wires and contacts and success! Two out of three successful jobs is a pretty good score for working with limited resources.

A note about our Comar AIS and Raymarine C80 chartplotter - we still love them BUT we sent an email to Raymarine asking why the TCPA (Time to Closest Point of Approach) is always miscalculated on our chartplotter. We were pleased to get a quick response, but surprised and very disappointed to learn that the although the problem has already been reported, there will be no fix. “Raymarine is not planning any future C-Series Classic MFD updates.” We are inferring that Raymarine is abandoning their classic version to focus on their newer chartplotters. Our five year old system, one that is still being sold in stores new, seems to already be an orphan system.

Being tourists by boat it isn't always easy to get all the local information. We taxi show up an hour late and a couple of other confusing arrangements with shops closing later than expected for lunch before we found out that Namibia has daylight savings time for winter and we missed a time change. It turns out, here in Namibia, people are generally on time but they're definitely NOT an hour early for anything!

After working on our issues, we had some time to think about checking out the area and socializing. There is a lagoon with flamingos and pelicans nearby with a walking path along the shore. On the lagoon, built on stilts, is a well recommended restaurant a short walk from the yacht club where we had a perfect dinner at excellent Namibian prices. (Dinner for two, w/drinks & tip, $35 US.) About 20 miles away is the tourist town of Swakopmund. We took a day trip there with the Chilean crew from a neighbor boat. The natural history museum was good but the rest of the town was typical tourist fare. We checked in the largest bookshop for magazines. We're not picky, “The Economist”, “Time” or any other source for world news would be better than “Cosmo” so we'd have some current reading for our passage, but they don't sell those here. Oh sure, if you want to know what Oprah thinks you can get that. Also if you're interested in knitting or hunting they have that too. But, one must go to the capital of Windhoek for such literary fare as world news. The day in Swakop' was redeemed by our discoveries as we waited for our ride back to Walvis Bay. Our friend Luis found a sewing shop to repair his Chilean flag and we found a fresh fish shop next door with unusually fresh local seafood and beautiful heads of leaf lettuce. The low evening light on the return drive to Walvis Bay was beautiful on the sand dunes.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ups and Downs Departing South Africa

As we set sail and departed Cape Town, our thoughts and conversations were all about the recurring leak. We dropped the hook at scenic Dassen Eiland to see what we could do about it. Marcy and a small crayfish boat were tucked in behind a shoal with a wave break.

Fishboat and break

Dassen wreck

It's a very pretty spot, but our spirits were low as we realized that we had spent thousands of rand, had two haulouts, but had missed repairing the major leak. We did our best exposing a gap and pushing waterproof epoxy putty into it. It's never easy trying to stop a leak from the inside, but we did our best.

Lower bearing block and repair

We set sail again and headed for Namibia. Our HF radio failed, depressing us further. It is much loved for safety, weather, email, and chatting with friends. We listened as our friends on Nomad just 100 miles away called us for our morning check in but we could not reply. Marcy leaked with a vengeance in the brisk quartering waves. We pumped every two hours, day and night, and kept the bilge water at a reasonable level. The southern fall is well under way and the days were chilly. The nights were downright cold! Peter was bundled up as he tightened the wind vane control lines.

tighten lines

Ginger was bundled up, too.

colder weather

Ging at nav desk

The cabin has never looked so warm and inviting.

warm cabin

Just hours before leaving Cape Town, we had installed an electronic black box called AIS. It reads, decodes, and plots VHF signals that are broadcast from commercial ships – giving us their position, heading, speed, name and other good information. Our route took us near busy shipping lanes, and the AIS proved to be useful and entertaining. The black boat shape on the screen is Marcy's position, and the triangles are all ships. They are not close (the screen is on the 300 mile scale in this image) but we can watch and spot potential problems much earlier than we can see the ships on the horizon. Some of these ships are so fast (up to 20 knots) that once they are in sight we only have a couple of minutes to react to a possible collision course.

AIS in operation

The wind was good and the passage was fast, so soon we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn. The air became a bit warmer – but not as warm as we thought it should be in the “tropics.” We turned into Walvis Bay and dropped the hook in calm, shallow water. We had views of beautiful sandy desert to one side, and a busy container port to the other. Marcy looked good with her new paint.

at anchor Walvis Baai

The water was so calm we could look over the side at our reflection to verify the name and homeport were still stuck on.

reflections Walvis Baai

Our first local visitor came onboard and perched on the mainsheet.

Namibian visitor

We know the drill by now. Visit customs, dismantle steering, and repair radio and leak. It could be worse – the location seems to be perfect for the work at hand, and if we can complete our duties soon, the desert calls for exploration.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Saturday Day 4 to Namibia

After 36 hours of cloudy skies the haze burned off to make a beautiful sunset and moon rise last night. The stars were out in a clear sky and the wind has continued to push us steadily toward our destination. The temperatures seem very cold to us with a low of 58 degrees and wind chill reminding us that we've stayed well into fall but also making us assess our clothes and heat for our trip south later this season. Though 58 doesn't sound cold it is difficult to stay warm after 4 hours on watch in the cockpit at night.

The seas are just unpredictable enough to send the odd wave into the cockpit and to throw us around the boat ensuring that we're getting all the involuntary exercise possible. The boat is regularly rolling so far that traction on the cockpit floor is impossible. With a cockpit slightly too wide for Ginger to sit and reach the far side with a foot it's always a test of reflexes to react to a tossing wave before being tossed too far. The bilge pump continues to do it's job well and due to the wind strength we've spent most of the last 36 hours under jib alone which seems to slow the flow of water anyway. We have less than 200 miles as a crow flies to Walvis Bay (translated "Whale-fish Bay") and expect to arrive some time tomorrow.

We've spent the entire trip accompanied by albatrosses, petrels and terns. We have also seen whales and seals and are amazed by how much wildlife lives off shore of this coast. We were sad to leave the shy penguins behind not long after Dassen. So far no flying fish to scrape off the deck - yay!

Our AIS is showing us that there are more than 50 ships within a 300 mile radius - when propagation is good at night - and has also shown us that we are currently in the middle of a parade of about 20 ships heading north and south around us. Though we've only actually seen 6 ships since leaving Dassen Eiland we know that we've been passed by about 25 ships a day within 20 miles of us. Incredible! It's showing us how crowded these waters are and how close we have to be to see a ship. Last night we passed within 2 miles of the first ship we've seen this trip not transmitting an AIS signal - a large fishing boat - and so we're still vigilant with our watches. Thanks Adam for mentioning AIS with time to get one in Seattle.

We're looking forward to the sun recharging the batteries and warming us up with a sunny day today.


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Heading North to Namibia

We left Cape Town on Monday afternoon. The boat was put away again and ready for sea, food cooked and in the fridge, everything stowed. A few miles north of Cape Town we checked in the bilge and were dismayed to see water still pouring in from the stern, as much as ever. We emptied the lazarette and checked the new stuffing box. It was doing it's job, no water was coming in above the bearing. We decided to continue on to Dassen Eiland. No turning back this time. We anchored at Dassen in the dark and resolved to work on the problem in the morning. It was a chilly fall morning when we got to work disassembling the steering to have complete access to the bearing box. We found that while the bearing has been sealed at the top there is a crack at the front edge of the box housing it. It was so rough with large swell rolling in that we had no problem seeing the leak because every wave submerged the stern and brought a fresh supply of salt water to the area. Peter chipped away the rotten glass and we used our JB Weld Waterweld epoxy putty to plug the crack until no more water was coming in. It wasn't a big enough hole for caulk. As there is apparently a bit of pressure on the area we could have then spent another day or two to glass over the freshly puttied crack but the waves were big and we decided to move on. We didn't want to spend too much time in a rough anchorage with the steering disconnected. There is now some water coming in but nothing the bilge pump can't keep up with. We're making good time on our way to Namibia and looking forward to a quiet anchorage and quality time in the lazarette with some fiberglass and epoxy. Of course, we'll also try to work on where the water is coming in from outside if we can get the stern out of the water enough.
Water in the bilge issues aside - really we're quite used to those by now - the trip is going well. We're enjoying our AIS for watching all the big ships transmitting their positions, we have a fine following wind and the seas aren't too bad. We're averaging over 7 knots and hoping we arrive in Namibia at a time that we won't have to pay overtime and holiday fees for clearing in! With the fall temperatures in Cape Town we're looking forward to crossing Tropic of Capricorn line into the tropics again.


Saturday, April 04, 2009

Marcy's Penny Pinching Strategies


We watch our budget very carefully. We've heard money referred to by sailors as “freedom chips” - the longer the money can last, the longer the sailing can last. We've also heard boats referred to as “a hole in the water into which you must pour money” and we try hard to disprove that saying.

So we sail conservatively – new sails or even repairs are expensive. We reef early and always look up to check for chafe or hang ups in the rig. We use the sail cover religiously to protect the expensive mainsail from UV rays. Also we make sure the jib is completely rolled up to ensure the sacrificial cover strip actually fully covers the sail. We sail a lot and motor a little because of course, diesel fuel isn't cheap.

There is a wonderful money saving synergy possible with plywood, seine twine, tools and paint, combined with a knowledge of knots and lashings. We carry a small AC jigsaw and drill motor that we can use on board and off grid with inverter power. Many small repairs and modifications can be accomplished inexpensively with these tools and scraps of plywood. For example, our whip antenna needed a support, so we made a bracket and lashed it in place. Otherwise, a welder would have been hired to do the job.....

Ginger and antenna with bracket

One of our solar panel mounts broke and plywood and twine came to the rescue.

Peter and panel mount

Bashing upwind while leaving New Zealand last year, a joint in the v berth started to separate. Simple lashings replace or at least delay a more elaborate repair.

v berth lashing

Of course, we did not invent this type of repair – Wharram boats are built this way. Also years ago, Peter worked for and learned from Dick Wagner (of the Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle) how to keep a fleet sailing with seine twine.

We decided that a proper seat at the chart table would be nice for talking on the radio nets. With some plywood, paint and the handy jig saw we had a serviceable sit down nav desk.

chart table with seat

And of course we had to make a deck box for the giant African propane cylinder. We've had many struggles but always eventual success to get our US bottles filled in various countries until we were stumped in South Africa – and so we had to buy the local standard. We hope it will be acceptable in South America!

propane box

In addition to spending as little as possible on repairs and modifications we practice inexpensive tourism. We walk everywhere – only very rarely do we take a taxi. As a bonus, we see interesting sights not in the tour books. On the way to the grocery store, we pass a site where fishing boats are being cut apart for scrap metal.

scrapping fishboats Cape Town

cutting fishboat Cape Town

With our Austrian friends Doris and Wolfe of Nomad we climbed Lion's Head to enjoy the view of Cape Town. We loved this “fire extinguisher” mounted on a tree at the trailhead.

fire sign

Cape Town from Lions Head

climbers Lions Head

There were sections with small rocks conveniently glued (glued rocks?! TIA – This Is Africa) on the route for hand and footholds.

glued on rock Lions Head

on top Lions Head

Back at the boat, Ginger cooked up a nice braii for the four us. As we ate, drank, and discussed the weather, we agreed that life was good, even on a strict budget!

braii RCYC


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Back in the Yard

On the crane RCYC

As Marcy was lifted out of the water – again – to repair the leak in the rudder bearing – again – we noticed that the old girl was looking a bid dingy in the topsides. She was showing the marks of months of docks in windy Africa and a difficult cross current landing at the fuel dock.

Dirty Marcy 1

Dirty Marcy 2 .. Dirty Marcy 3

Since we were in the yard for a certain amount of time in any case, we asked for a quote to paint. With the help of a favorable exchange rate, the yard would paint Marcy's topsides for about $2600 US, which is a fraction of the prices we'd been quoted in the US, Mexico, NZ, and Fiji. So we said yes, please! In no time at all, the sanding commenced.

sanding RCYC

Marcy was taped and screened.

taped and screened

A stuffing box was installed to take care of the leak.

rudder stuffing box

We dreaded the trip up the ladder.

climb up

But the trip down was much worse.

climb down

The paint job looked good. We decided to move the name and home port to the sides, considering Marcy's transom is small and obscured by the wind vane. When the Australian patrol aircraft flew over us last year, sometimes they had a hard time reading our name. Once they got it very wrong and called us “Money!” So we had the name and home port made in vinyl and applied it port and starboard to the new paint.

taping name

Ginger working on new name

We enjoyed one last beautiful sunset in the yard, and were launched the next day. The grime and soot from a big wildfire at the edge of town had made the yard even dirtier than ever, but the sunsets were spectacular.

sunset boatyard

back over water

We will head north after washing the decks, re-rigging and checking out with the authorities. We've already begun the paperwork, including the all important sketch of Marcy required by South African search and rescue.

SA paperwork