The Psychology of Boat Maintenance

When there aren’t deadlines, boat work can be surprisingly satisfying.
The motion, ocean and tropical ultraviolet light really do their best to
damage everything on a boat, so in Scarborough Marina, Brisbane, everyone
had long lists of ‘things to do’, and the chandlery did great business ordering spare
parts. Intrepid had done brilliantly over the Pacific, but boats (like most
things) prefer to be used, and 5 months on the hard being blasted by sand
makes things stick, so lots of work, plus yachts always have a few
’improvement’ projects to do.

It might appear easier to just get someone to do it all. But this ignores 3
related points: 1. If someone else fixes it and it or something like it goes
wrong again, usually 100’s or 1000’s of miles from any professional, what do
you do? 2. Good professionals are rare, mediocre or awful ones more common;
3. Cost (remember the old joke about sailing - standing under a cold shower
tearing up $20 notes?). Whereas if you can figure out how to fix it
yourself, you really do gain a better understanding of what is going on, and a feeling of
being, not so much in control of what is going on, but at least better able to influence
it, and being part of the whole ......Zen.... Conversely, there are times
when something breaks and you realise that your whole voyage and possibly your
life and that of others depends on it, and you really don’t know how to fix
it. It happens to all yachts, and we do our best to avoid situations like this by building in redundancy, for example we have 4 depth instruments, and 2 independent depth sensors.

Raymarine are probably the best marine instruments there are, so when one of
Intrepid’s Raymarine depth and speed instruments didn’t work after her long lay off, I looked for the best professional - who was 100 miles away and booked up till next month. So I worked out a diagnostic process with him over the phone,
identified the problem, ordered the part, and installed it, all without him
seeing the boat. Saving 2-3  weeks in time, $’s and giving me a better
understanding of Raymarine instrumentation which will be useful next time
(at sea there will be a next time - see next but one paragraph*).

To give an idea of what boating involves, our list also
included recaulking  200 metres of teak deck seams, varnishing, renewing
satellite phoneconnections, replacing 2 navigation lights half way up the mast, fixing an
external shower tap, fixing a corroded self igniter on the cooker, servicing the engine, repairing the cockpit grille, replacing a block at the top of the mast, repairing a broken gear in the anchor winch, replacing 2 seacocks. This last item I had a professional do, with me helping. It took 6 hours, and cost A$1300 (600 pounds).

*And there was a next time - marine instruments are essentially small
computers now, with software and all the simplicity and elegance of Microsoft.
The instrument I installed was the absolute latest Raymarine ST60+ version,
new out this month...... which (no-one knew, not even the experts) turned out to
have software that didn’t agree with our Raymarine chart plotter - made it
change distance units at random  in fact, from nautical miles to kilometres to land miles. Not
obvious initially, so we had to spend all Thursday sailing up and down the
Bundaberg River taking out then adding various instruments to find which was
the problem. If we had waited for technicians we would be there till 2007.
 So rather than wait, we sailed north. I am afraid I usually tackle these problems like a
psychologist - Raymarine seem to have added intelligence to their simple depth and speed meter, which was messing up the well-established system. So I managed to make an earlier style ST60 instrument into the master unit and made the new ST60+ unit into
a simple repeater denied intelligence or initiative, and it all works. Oh
the frustration and stress, not that we expect or deserve
sympathy. Self sufficiency was fashionable a few years ago, currently it
appears to be the age of the specialist and consumer

For a laugh, here are the 3 solutions recommended by Raymarine professionals so far: 1. its a hardware problem with your chart plotter - replace the unit (3000 pounds/replace the mother board 2000 pounds) 2. its a software problem, wait for us to sort out new
code - in the meantime just try to get used to quick mental arithmetic,
3. send us the unit, we will check it and send it back to you in a few
weeks. In fairness, they are now working on the problem.

It meant Richard’s trip with us was postponed, which was a great
shame - its one drawback of organising friends to come with us - the unexpected sometimes happens.  But it was great fun to get a visit from David (who we had first met in Vanuatu) and his lovely new bride, Ildeka at Mooloolaba, north of Brisbane. First met in January, married in April in las Vegas!

Then through the narrow creek between Fraser Island and the mainland - a bit
like some of the Essex marsh creeks or ICW - except that Fraser Island is the worlds largest sand island with more sand than the whole of Saudi Arabia, and twice as many sand flies, but the tide wasn’t high enough  to get into Urangan, so we changed plan and
sailed direct to Bundaberg, arriving at 9pm. Its quite dark by 6pm, but its
an easy night entrance, well lit. We sampled the ’world famous’ Bundaberg rum after a tour of their distillery - its almost the most popular alcoholic drink in Australia, and is expected to overtake beer (in terms of alcohol consumed I think) by
2008! Its certainly consumes masses of sugar cane - all mechanically
harvested - the price has trebled to $500/tonne in the last few years, so
maybe this will help Fiji as well.

Bundaberg marina is actually a bit remote near the mouth of the river, so Saturday we set off north at 5am and had a lovely sail all the way up past the town of 1770 (its real name - its where Captain Cook first set foot on Australia) and anchored in a
creek called Pancake 65 miles north - and we have nothing to make pancakes
with! Sunday we sailed further north and caught a designer Spanish mackerel just as Nic
was in the shower, so she re-appeared hot and flustered - I can’t land
a fish in a sail boat doing 7 knots, and had a
rollicking good sail, beating all the other boats into the small
anchorage at Cape Capricorn - exactly on the Tropic of Capricorn, 23S.

Being in the tropics means its hot - right? Er, well no actually, next day
we sailed fast north  to Great Keppel Bay Marina in 20 knot winds under
gloomy lowering clouds and drizzle. Couldn’t even fish (as we had fish in
the fridge). The Great Barrier Reef starts here with a few isolated islands
about 40 miles from the coast, but its currently too rolly to think about anchoring there. We visited Rockhampton by bus, it has an interesting origin: Gold was found there in about 1860, 16,000 prospectors flocked there, but that’s all the gold there
was. However 16,000 prospectors created such a demand for goods and services
that Rockhampton continued to develop as a trading and later as the major
cattle exporting station in Australia. Recently it has had a bad attack of
out of town shopping malls, and the centre is run down, but the University
of Queensland keeps it busy.

Next day we sailed north to beautiful Pearl Bay, protected from rabid
property developers by ............the military - its a training area, so we
can anchor but not go ashore, then another 6am start to sail to North East Percy Island, beautiful deserted protected anchorage and just warm enough for sundowners in the cockpit as the brick red sun dipped behind the neighbouring islands, and a lone lighthouse cut
through the haze. The nights are still cold, but the days are warming up.
Next day we ventured ashore - no tracks, thorny scrubs, a steep scramble, we
wore boots and jeans, partly against scratches, partly against snakes (not
that we saw any). We had planned to sail the 75 miles to Mackay next day,
but when we got up at 6am - no wind, despite the forecast. Motoring for 12
hours is no fun, so we hoisted the Big Green Monster (BGM) Asymmetric
Spinnaker and wafted along at 4 knots in 5 knots apparent wind. to tiny deserted Digby
Island and anchored there, waiting for the wind promised for tomorrow (its always

Captain Cook must have been thinking of his North of England home district
when naming this area, in addition to the Percies, there are Hotspur, Northumberland,
Penrith, Scawfell, Keswick Islands. And Monday the wind did appear so we
rushed along to Mackay, passing a dozen anchored bulk carriers in a 20 knot
wind and lumpy sea. Mackay is another industrial town, the new harbour is
already too small, a huge complex is under construction further south, and
the ‘new’ harbour is being gentrified with apartments round the marina.
Tomorrow we venture inland to towns called Emerald, Sapphire, Ruby (no
prizes for guessing their origin - much of ‘Thailand’s’ cut sapphires came
from Australia until recently). .

There are about 20 yachts of differing nationalities heading north, we all
have different timetables and priorities, but swap information. What’s the
point in sailing the world and being tied to a rigid schedule? However we
love to sail with friends so try to keep plans reasonably constant, and give good notice of
changes. We have decided that for all sorts of reasons we will be continuing
through Indonesia in 2006, rather than the Solomons. One reason is
the rioting (and malaria) in the Solomons, but 2 much bigger ones are the
lack of any other interesting destinations in the area; and reduced time needed in
UK in 2006.

So the aim now is Darwin in August 2006, Indonesia September and
first part of October, Singapore late October 2006, and Phuket in late
November 2006. More detail is on the website schedule section, although we
are fine tuning it as formalities dictate. We will be behind the Sail Indonesia rally but are in good touch with them, and it means that we are less like a cruise ship - the rally has 100 boats so about 250 people descending on small villages is not the best way to see the
’real’ Indonesia. Happily most of the friends who had planned to come with
us are still able to do so. We are currently engaged in a furious fast track
(if there is such a thing) Indonesian bureaucratic formality  of cruising permit
applications, passport details scanned etc. After a lot of ambiguous information, it appears that piracy may indeed be restricted to large ships, although I will believe that when we are through. Volcanoes and earthquakes may in fact be the greater danger,
Indonesia has more active volcanoes than any other country in the world, and
the latest terrible quake in Java destroyed whole towns. It may also not be
practical to leave Intrepid in Kuching, so we may have to visit Sarawak by
plane after traversing Indonesia.

Elaine and Denis fly out from Oregon for 3 weeks with us to cruise the
Whitsunday Islands and dive the Great Barrier Reef, as we sail north to
Cairns, so we hope the weather improves......We hope the weather wherever you are is
clement, and your surroundings peaceful ...with just enough
adventure.......If you would like to sail with Intrepid during 2006 or 2007
do let us know, and we love to receive emails, no limits on space now, as
larger ones are held in a bulk file we access when we have broadband
(usually in a marina).

Return to Log Index Page

Return to Home Page