August 26, 2012


Unlike Diane and Maia, my weekend was not spent having fun. It was another boat chore weekend.

Australia sometimes frustrates.  Today I was going to put on epoxy primer.  Did some sanding, went for dinghy gas, did the laundry, and then decided to find some foam rollers (my work week was so busy it rather prevented me from shopping during work day).

So I do some calling and lots of online research:
local Dulux Trade big paint store. No. Well maybe - guy isn't sure what I'm talking about. I tell him I'll stop in a bit later. 
Mitre 10 local hardware store. No. 
Whitworths Chandlery. Not in online catalog or paper catalog.  
So Dulux it is.  Get there by bus but the store is closed.  It's open on Saturday from 7:30 to 10:15 am. That's it.  Also closes at 3:45 pm on Fridays.  You know, so you don't have to work too late if you're a pro painter.  Might have been nice if the guy had told me of their unusual closing hours. Sigh.

So I decide to go to Whitworth's anyway because it's only a 15 minute walk.  Surprise! they do have the proper type of foam rollers.  At $6 each. But what choice do I have?

There's a bus stop right outside the store.  Bus is coming in just 10 minutes! Great (because on Saturday's they tend to run every 45 minutes or more).  I wait. And wait.  15 minutes after it's due I give up and walk back to Wickham to get a regular bus.  So my short errand took about 2 hours I think.  By the time I returned it was too late in the day to paint (not enough curing time/temperatures)

Sunday was more sanding/taping/wiping/inhaling solvent fumes (accidently - I use a very good respirator mask with nice brand new cartridges).  But I did get some epoxy primer paint on.  I had to hurry because friends were coming to pick me up to go to a BBQ.  
Rush rush, paint paint.  Tell the cat not to walk on the fresh paint. He didn't listen:

You Can Go home Again

Maia and I landed in San Francisco 20 hours after leaving Brisbane and within an hour we were pulled into the whirlwind of a homecoming—which is why we’ve been so quiet. But as each long-awaited reunion becomes a memory, and we get passed on to the next group of friends and family the moments we spent together run around my head.
Danielle's Bat Mitzvah--three days of fun with lots of chances to catch up with oldish and older cruising friends
There is the savouring: the feeling of being met at the airport by someone we dearly love and being whisked away to more hellos, a sensation that is best described as an all-enveloping hug. But there is also the bittersweet: watching the way our friends go on without us, seeing our place in their lives and community become reduced to an anecdote about ‘that far-away family’.
50th Wedding Anniversary--Ev's parents have gone the distance and had a lovely party to celebrate
 We came home to San Francisco and then Vancouver for many reasons: to see our beautiful Danielle from Whatcha Gonna Do transform from a quirky cruising kid with an ever-ready smile into a gorgeous and gracious young woman whose wisdom (so much of it a credit to being a sailing kid) took my breath away. Her Bat Mitzvah was such an honour to attend—both Maia and I were enthralled. So much so that Maia asked if we could be Jewish.
summer in Vancouver is a wonderful thing--we're savouring

We also came home so Maia would know she has a home. Yes, the boat is her home, and wherever it is, is her yard. But I’m also a believer in roots.  Eventually she’ll choose her own place in the world—but I do want her to know there is a place that she comes from: A specific, tangible place with memories that are just a little stronger and faces that are just a little clearer than all the other ones that populate her life.
And I need it for me.  I need the kitchens in my life where I know where the wine glasses are and the tables filled with friends where the conversation doesn’t need any preamble and who are certain we “really haven’t been gone for three years.” I need a picture in my mind when I speak of home: a glittering city, mountains, densely green trees, a grassy neighbourhood park, well-loved faces.
Annual block party in the old neighbourhood--we caught up with friends and were entertained at the talent show (sorry Jen, couldn't resist)

There have been echoes of our past life all around us as Maia and I have explored our old neighbourhood and favourite haunts. At Granville Island we kept watch for old friends and both found ourselves looking for a family with much littler children than the ones who arrived. We could almost see ourselves as we were as we passed playgrounds and shops. When we saw familiar shopkeepers we thought about popping in—just to see if they recognized us too.
But three years have slipped past. The kids are bigger, the neighbours have changed and we’re now introduced with an explanation: We’re the family that used to live here but went far, far away.

August 18, 2012

Today was a work day on Ceilydh.  I ventured forth by train to Bunnings, the local big box hardware store (hint for cruisers coming to Ausralia - buy your masking tape, paint and varnish in Fiji; it's crazy expensive here). Also found time to visit the nearby Auto Parts store which don't stock the outboard sparkplugs I needed.

I didn't check the bus schedule until I was done shopping - and found that the bus only returns to the big city every hour.  Sigh.  At least I had a book.  I took the bus because it was closer and I had big backpack full of project supplies.

Today's project was "Disassemble part of the Heater".  Our boat has a diesel drip pot heater in one hull. It starts out burning liquid diesel but within say 10 minutes it's hot enough that the diesel turns to vapour and burns very cleanly with a blue/orange flame.  This heater doesn't use any electricity unlike the popular Espar/Webasto types, nor does it have fancy circuit boards that decide that the heater needs maintenance NOW on a cold night. A developmentally delayed monkey with a screwdriver could work on it. It's so simple I laugh. But it puts out the heat really well.  Unfortunately it's down in Maia's port hull.  So her hull gets warm, the upper main saloon gets really toasty (like 25C if you don't turn it down), but our starboard hull is cold. 

So when I installed it, I fitted a small hot water tank in the heater's fire chamber, ran some radiator hoses to the starboard hull, and fitted a small motorcycle radiator I found at a junk  used sailing gear shop, a tiny 12V pump, and a computer fan to blow through the radiator.  This setup was all in the interest of saving electricity since it would often run overnight or around 12 hours. 

But the radiator was expecting 50 mph motorcycle wind to get rid of heat, the large but weak computer fan was barely able to push air through the radiator, and well, very little heat got transferred.  It was good for warming a small area near your feet when cooking but that was about it.

Our favorite thing in bed was to put your hand on the nearby very hot hose (incoming or outgoing it didn't matter, both hoses were stinking hot) and then place them on each other's back.  Momentary bliss.

It would have been better to buy an expensive MSR radiator/fan for this setup, but they draw at least 2-3 amps. My homebrew setup only was about 0.5 amps.  So today's project was rip it all out.  I'll use an overhead fan in the salon and pump the superheated air near the roof down into that hull.  Uses less electrictiy and probably is more effective.

I forgot how convoluted this installation had been - and of course the boat was empty when I did it.  About 2/3 of Maia's bookshelves had to be emptied before the hoses could be removed (don't worry kid, I put them back tidier than before).

But it's another 10 lbs off the boat.  From L-R: expansion tank, air vent valve, 12V pump, big computer fan, little radiator, and a bunch of hose clamps and fittings. And about 45' of 5/8" hose.

I'm saving the 16 hose clamps that this job took.  Hose clamps are like donuts - you can never have enough.

August 13, 2012

Leaving on a Jet Plane

 20 hours in the air and through four airports will take us back to San Francisco and then after a week of some very special reunions it will be on to Vancouver for Ev's parent's 50th.

Flying makes me realize just what a different kind of journey sailing is. We took two and a half years to sail from Vancouver to Australia. We left with a seven year old—I’m taking my almost 11-year-old home to celebrate her birthday. She’s taller, wiser, more capable and self-sufficient. She’s not really a little girl anymore.
 Reunions are the main reason we’re going home. It was important to us that even if we have a nomadic life Maia should know her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. We’re been lucky that my mum and stepdad, my sister and her family, Ev’s parents and many, many of our friends have made travel plans to include us. But taking Maia home so she can follow her grandparents through the garden, or spend a few hours looking at old pictures are things we think her childhood needs to include.

It also gives us a chance to buy cheap boat gear. We’re slowly finding our around the Australian economy (yay for bulk beans at a wholesale price!) but boat gear is one thing that stays stubbornly expensive. We’ll include the list of spares I’m hunting down when the shopping commences.

The tough part of our four week trip is leaving Evan behind. Someone needed to take care of Charlie. That and having us off the boat gives Ev a chance to do a bunch of painting and varnishing. So watch this space for his progress.

August 11, 2012

Make and Mend

 For the first time in two months, or so, none of us is sick. And the weather is gorgeous. So to celebrate we’re doing boat chores…

Sure we have plenty of big things to do: we still want to replace one rudder (one was replaced in French Polynesia); the new (Fiji) dagger board requires some finishing work; and we have a few wooden beam covers we want to replace in fibreglass. But this week’s chores were more about making our home, homey.

new pillow covers and wetlocker curtains with the lovely fabric Meri (Hotspur) gave me
 Back in the old British navy era make and mend days gave the sailors a chance to pull out their sewing kits and keep their uniforms from turning to rags. If you live on a boat full time—where your one living space is dining room table, family room, living room, workshop and home office—make and mend days fill the same role. It’s the day (week) where we replace cushion zippers, sew new pillow covers, hang up masks that have been hanging around since Fiji and find a way to mount (again) a Milagro that doesn’t involve screws.

Cruising boats are an interesting mix of adventure craft and home. For us (me) it’s a constant balance between wanting the things that make my home feel like a home and keeping it sparse and light enough that we can sail in rough weather and not have knick knacks turn to projectiles.

Our solution is to limit our collecting to things we can use (our super cool Tahitian Ukes for example), or to fabric that we can sew into cushions (turning the previous ones to rags), or to occasionally add to the mask collection we started 25 years ago.

We also discovered foam-backed photos a while ago. Light weight and easy to hang with double sided sticky tape we’ve chosen a few favourites from our trip to date to hang on the galley bulkhead.
TV antenna--for our first television in viewing in years. Some assembly required... Okay--it's not pretty--but we wanted to watch the Olympics.
 Soon enough we’ll get back to real chores (I need to tell Evan that the head pump seems to be leaking, and his list for while Maia and I are in North America is growing lengthy…) but for now there’s something kind of fun about simply making things look nice. Especially because boat chores usually have the opposite effect.

August 1, 2012

Through the Wringer

Okay—so that title could be a reflection about life on Ceilydh for the past few weeks (between bad bouts of the flu for all and a few too many deadlines life’s been busy…) but actually this post is about laundry. August’s raft-up topic is about clothing management on board.

Right now life is a bit unusual, we have access to almost affordable laundry machines on shore. I say almost affordable because at $4 per wash and $4 per dry they are about midrange in cost. The cheapest machines were in the USA where we occasionally found ones for $2 per wash and $2 per dry while the most expensive were in Tahiti where we plugged a very small machine with $8 and never dared check to see what the drier wanted.

The other element of the almost affordable is its winter. So rather than our normal wardrobe which consists of, well, not much, we’re wearing long pants, warm shirts and socks.

Washing machines, or sending our laundry out to be done (bliss!), are great. They are larbour saving and boat-water saving options that we use:
a) when they are affordable (we only did that one load in Tahiti…) and
b) when they are available (sadly that was one of the only machines we encountered in the South Pacific…) and
c) when water is scarce (we make water but have a low output water maker)
What this means is, for us, machines are a luxury and finding a workable way to do laundry aboard was essential.
laundry is a family affair--we crank the music and take turns plunging
 On our first boat we had a scrub board and a bucket. The scrub board was pretty useless but the bucket and a plunger did the job. Wringing the clothes out was another matter—small items were wrung by hand while bigger things were wrapped around a shroud then twisted. The process was tedious and killed my hands.
our fabulous wringer--it almost makes laundry fun!
 Then a friend showed me how well her wringer worked (something we had initially looked at and decided was too expensive). When it came time to outfit boat #2 a wringer like this one was one of our first purchases. It’s a bit expensive (the aluminum/bronze combo is essential on a boat-so skip the steel one) but if you consider we do 2-3 loads of laundry a week at >$4 a load the wringer paid itself off pretty quickly. And three years in, our wringer is still operating like new.

The wringer is also a water saver. After washing we use it before putting the clothes in the rinse water, then again after rinsing. If it’s not too dodgy we reuse the rinse water for the next wash load and use the wash water to scrub down the decks…

The next thing we discovered is not all clothes pins are created equal (the things you learn whilst cruising…) Keep in mind if something gets blown off the ‘line’ on a boat it may never find its way back to you. And, because we drop a lot of clothes pins overboard, wood is preferable to plastic. Locating sturdy wooden clothes pins takes some searching. And when I find them I buy double, no make that triple, what I think I need (even if we use a washing machine we almost always line dry).

What we wash is just as important as how we wash. When we moved aboard the first thing to go were all my lovely fluffy towels. It turns out you can dry yourself just as well with a scruffy beach towel. Heavy jeans and bulky button shirts also were liberated from our wardrobe. They take up too much space—and they don’t go through the wringer very well.

While we did get rid of our bulky stuff and our least favourite work clothes, I actually kept many of my dressy things. Part of it is I still work—which means I occasionally head off to a posh resort and try to pass and a gainfully employed person on holiday. The other part is I learned a few things on our first trip:

1) Just because I’m in a tropical country it doesn’t mean it’s always going to be warm. So while I don’t need my winter boots and parka (though I did pack them…) I have worn heavy sweaters, cosy socks, warm trousers and toques.

2) One cute outfit isn’t enough. Going out for dinner, with the same people, while wearing your one dress over and over makes you feel like you’re stuck in some sort of Groundhog Day loop. And for the record—sport sandals aren’t really very dressy. No matter which colour you choose.

3) Stuff starts to look ratty really fast on the boat. It could be our laundry methods, or the fact I tend to alternate between three outfits, but it’s easy to look bad pretty quickly. Having a larger number of cloths to rotate through can help. Once something is nasty enough it gets downgraded to a ‘work on the boat’ outfit or a rag.

4) Don’t keep everything out. I actually have three duffels tucked away—one has summer clothes and shoes suitable for civilization and another has winter clothes and shoes. I’ve broken into them on occasion when something particularly formal has come up—yes it can happen. The third has daily wear stuff for rotation. Nothing more exciting than breaking out a new/old t-shirt…

Despite having a few options mostly I wear the same stuff. Because we travelled through a bunch of more modest countries I have shorts/skirts that hit below the knee, t-shirts or blouses that cover my shoulders for daytime and sun dresses for evening/going out. I mix and match. Occasionally I wear yoga pants.

I also own several sarongs/pareus/sulus//tupenus/laplaps/lavalavas. The reason every country has a name for these bright strips of cloth is because they are incredibly handy; slipped over your shorts or shoulders and you’re fit for church or visiting an official; they also work as a bathing suit cover up or a towel; and in wintertime Australia I use them as a scarf.

So—if you were fascinated by our laundry methods be sure to checkout the rest of the raft-up for more tips. I doubt you’ll learn how to make your whites brighter (most of us avoid white) but you may learn something new:

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