Saturday, January 26, 2013

Install the Fridge

Installing the new fridge.  Eric and Elias help, in full protective work gear.

Change the transmission fluid.  Change the impeller.  Talk to the mechanic about the coolant leak.

Find the manual for the transmission online.  Read the manual for the transmission and decide that synthetic transmission fluid would have been better.  Change the transmission fluid again.

Plumb an overflow hose to the not-to-be-trusted anti-siphon valve above the engine.  Plumb a hose to the petcock that drains the muffler.  Heatshrink the chafed spot on the positive cable to the starter motor.  Put hose over the heatshrink on the positive cable to the starter motor to stop the chafe.

Decide that changing the head gasket is not the way to fix the coolant leak on the engine.  Decide that nobody knows how to fix the coolant leak on the engine.  Plumb in an collector tank to catch the leaking coolant on the engine.

Take the old batteries out.  Make a shelf for the new batteries.  Install the new batteries.  Block the new batteries so they will stay in place even if the boat is upside-down.  Make new battery cables.  Wire in the new battery monitor.  Wire in the new fuse block.

Install the new wind generator.  Realize that the fancy regulator that you ordered for the new wind generator will not work.  Install the regulator that came standard with the wind generator.  Install the diversion load for the new wind generator.

Replace the bearings in the old wind generator.  Put the wind generator back up on the pole.  When the hub on the old wind generator starts to wobble, take it down from the pole.  Order a new hub.  Find a spacer in the container of nuts and bearings left over from stripping down the old wind generator.  Decide that the spacer should have gone between the two bearings, even though it isn't on the exploded diagram in the manual.  Wonder if leaving out the spacer has something to do with ruining the old hub. Wonder if you can strip down the wind generator again, but this time with the body still on the pole and the wiring left in place.

Replace the main halyard.  Find out that the new halyard won't stick in the jam cleat, even though it is in the specified size range.  Put the old halyard back up the mast.  Order a second new halyard.

Have the fridge mechanic come down to capture the refrigerant from the old fridge.  Rip out the old fridge.  Install the new fridge.  Run the new wire and put in a new breaker.  Take out the old shelves in the fridge.  Fill the new holding tank with anti-freeze.  Make the hole in the bulkhead bigger with a hole saw.  Drill a hole in the bottom of the fridge and epoxy in a pipe and valve to make a drain.  Run the copper tubes through the bulkhead and maneuver the holding tank into the fridge.  Screw the holding tank at the top of the fridge cabinet.  Wonder if you tore the rotator cuff in your shoulder.

Plumb in the pump that draws drinking water from the tank to cool off the refrigerant in the new fridge. Realize that the pump needs to be below the water tank; move it.  Screw down the new fridge unit.  Connect the copper pipes.  Follow the directions' exhortation to move "quickly and surely" to minimize the loss of coolant.  Fill the gap around the copper pipes with expansion foam.  Reinstall the fridge shelves.  Turn on the fridge.  Put the galley back together.


When my parents told us, a few months ago, that they were going to rent a Queensland beach house for six weeks beginning in late January, we were a bit crestfallen.  We knew that we would be in the throes of preparing the boat for the trip to New Zealand, and imagined that it would be too hard for us to get away to see them.

But then, a few weeks ago, Alisa had a realization - "Why woudln't we visit your parents if they're coming all the way from the States?" she asked.  We bought tickets.

And now, with the trip to Queensland a day away, we're so glad to be going.  Besides the joy of seeing family, I've realized that if we were staying here for another week I'd just be flogging myself every day, trying to get boat jobs done.  And I could use a break.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Behold the Seadragon

Well, we might have struck out on our attempt to see a Tasmanian devil.  But we did manage to see a different natural history wonder before leaving Tassie.

Weedy seadragons are an endemic fish of southern Australia, in the same family as seahorses.  And they are completely outrageous fish.

We had always heard that it was quite easy to see them at Kingston Beach, just south of Hobart.  But shame on us, we never quite got our act together to go look for one.  So this Sunday being a gorgeous day, and the end of our stay in Tasmania getting ever-closer, we rallied a group of friends and went to have a look.

We saw this one individual - you can tell that he's a male because of all those orange eggs on the underside of his tail.  Just as in the seahorses, it's the male that carries the eggs.

Just completely outrageous.  Being the biology geeks that we are, it was a great treat to see this fish in the wild, rather than in an aquarium.

So I think that we can now officially leave Tasmania satisfied.

And meanwhile, the next generation of snorkelers is in the wings.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Endless Summer

Our good Hobart mates on Triddar and Aratika are living aboard at the marina right now - and each of them have two kids in the six to nine age bracket.  So ever since we got back from Port Davey Elias has been living a pretty idyllic existence - there's always a mate (or four) at hand who might also feel like fishing, or swimming in the marina (wet suits advised) or playing cards.  It's been a short time, really, but you can see that Elias is living the sort of timeless summer that you might remember as a kid - each day is fun, and there is always another day at hand.

In keeping with the idealized-childhood-of-summer theme, we took the Galactic and Aratika kids to the circus yesterday - the Great Moscow Circus, here in Hobart through the 28th.

It was great.  There's all sorts of things that I could write about the rare joy of live entertainment, and the long-standing traditions that the performers are serving.  But I think that I'll just say that if you're in Hobart, whether you have kids or no, you ought to go.

Tomorrow Aratika is leaving, bound for points North.  A week after that, we are leaving as well (for Queensland, by plane, for a family visit before we sail for New Zealand).  So this little idyll of summer for Elias and his mates will end up being short-lived.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Third Step

The car is for sale, and we're forward-loading our errands around town in case someone suddenly buys it out from under us.

All adult eyes on Galactic are peering across the Tasman Sea, at New Zealand.  We're earnestly preparing the boat for the crossing.  

The kids, on the other hand, are living in the moment, and preparing for nothing at all.

I feels like we're about to take a third step in our sailing life.  First there were the Pelagic years, and our first sail to Australia.  Then came Galactic, and another Pacific crossing.  And now we're setting off on something new - we're leaving Australia behind, after two wonderful extended stays, with no plans to sail back.  And for the first time, our long-range plans don't include a Pacific crossing.

A lot of our preparation is oriented around weather - forecasting it, routing around it, being prepared for it.  These are, after all, the Roaring Forties, and the delights of the tradewinds are far far away.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Port Davey

So here's the thing about Port Davey - to get there from Hobart in your boat, you have to stick your nose out on the south coast of Tassie and travel dead west for a day.  Since southern Tasmania is well into the roaring forties, you need a lull in the persistent westerly winds to make the trip.  

That's one of the things that makes Port Davey special - it can be tough to get to.

This is our outbound track in red, from Hobart in the east to Port Davey in the southwest.

We had a perfect day for the trip out.  This is the somewhat notorious Southwest Cape, looking completely placid, and below, the coast just south of Port Davey.

Eric didn't think it was such a great day, though.  There was a little wind on our nose, and a bit of a swell from the west, and he was seasick all day long.

A highlight of Port Davey for us was a visit from Mary-Anne Lea - globe-travelling pinniped biologist, knowledgeable Tasmanian naturalist and great friend to Galactic.  She flew into the airstrip at Melaleuca and spent four days on board.

This was a raincheck visit of sorts.  We had invited M-A to visit us in French Polynesia last year, but then, to our lingering shame, rescinded the invite.  Family life with a one-year-old and a five-year-old in the confines of the boat was just a little too crazy for us to want to share it with a friend.

Family life is a little more mellow now, in the two-year-old and six-year-old phase that we currently inhabit, but it's still pretty full on, as the Australians say.  M-A got the full Litzow/Abookire experience - Elias was even cheeky to her.

We did New Year's Eve full justice.

The attractions of Port Davey, for us, were the "b"s - beaches, bushwalks and birds.

The beach part is pretty obvious - the beach is the place to be when you're traveling by boat with kids.

There are a lot of little hidey-hole anchorages within Port Davey, and there are a few beaches to be had.

And then, when you walk out to the outer coast, there are delights like this.

Australia has such good beaches.

And, then, the bushwalking.  Port Davey is similar to the south end of Kodiak Island, in that it is generally unforested.  The open landscape invites walking, and we got in some good family outings.

This is Elias on the outbound leg of our Spain Bay - Stephens Beach walk, when his spirits were still high enough to take mud in stride.  On the way back there were tears and a certain amount of wailing about "stupid bushwalks" and "stupid mud".  In a lot of ways he still is such a little boy. 

Slingshots in National Parks.  Bloody Alaskans!

The birds were a more mixed delight.  On one hand, we saw both an emu wren and a ground parrot while in Port Davey.  The first is likely the oddest of all Tasmanian birds - a little wren without flight feathers in its tail, that, bereft of rear-end lift, flutters along with an odd vertical orientation to its body.  The second is a cursorial parrot of the button-grass plains, not to be missed on a visit to Port Davey.  I had seen both birds when I was in this area in the 90s, and seeing them again was really my only goal for this visit.

Another bird that I saw on the last visit, but did not see this time, is the orange-bellied parrot, Neophema chrysogaster.  This one isn't such a happy story - the wild population of this bird, which nests only in southwest Tassie, is nearly extinct.  There are less than 50 individuals alive in the wild, and the species will soon live only in zoos.  The blind at Melaleuca that used to be the heart of the "recovery" program had an abandoned feel, with unused nest boxes collecting dust on the floor.  Heartbreaking. 

There was a fourth "b" at the center of our stay, and that of course was the boat, where we spend so much of our time.  The boys took to dressing up as knights and holding jousting contests up and down the length of the cabin, from their cabin to ours.  It wasn't a quiet game, but I find it much easier to live in this intimate space when the boys are playing any game, no matter how loud, rather than when they are fighting.

The boys as knights - Eric in cape and helmet, Elias in cape with sword and shield.

And that was our experience of Port Davey.  We had a great sail back, with flocks of prions (we expect fairy prions), diving petrels, shy albatross and a white-headed petrel around Southwest Cape, a night at anchor in New Harbour, and then clouds of shearwaters at the entrance to D'Entrecasteaux Channel.  Eric only threw up once on the way back.

Port Davey was a capstone on our Tasmanian experience, something to console us for everything else that we didn't manage to experience while we were here.  And now, this second stint in Tassie is nearly through.  In a fortnight we go up to Queensland for a visit with my family, and then, once we return to Hobart in early February, we'll be looking for the first weather window to cross the Tasman to New Zealand.

New places ever await.

Friday, January 11, 2013

First Peak

In Port Davey, Elias and I had our first father-son "mountain climb" - up the 170 meter-or-so Balmoral Hill.  That's the descent above.  You can just see Galactic and the other two boats that were in Port Davey with us anchored up below.

Elias didn't love the going-up part.  But even though he fell down a hundred times on the way down, he didn't mind the descent.

It was windy on top.

Throwing our apple cores off the summit was a highlight.

It's my hope and expectation that we'll get back to Alaska while I've still got a lot of hiking and skiing left in my legs.  Hopefully by then Elias will still be keen to go out in the hills with his dad.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Flatties For Tea

(I somehow failed to post this when I wrote it, on Christmas Day.  Here it is now...)


Elias started catching the flatheads on our first morning at anchor.  After weeks of catch-and-release fishing in the polluted waters of the marina, he was finally catching fish in a place where they could be eaten.

"Flatties for tea!" he shouted after the first three fish had come aboard.
"Woo hoo!" Alisa and I said.  "Flatties for tea!"

Later, out of his hearing, we tried to remember if "tea" meant lunch or dinner.

Five and a half years into this trip, the cross-cultural misunderstandings continue.  But now they occur within the family.

We motored (and sailed) all the way from Hobart to Recherche Bay on our first day out.  The weather forecast that night made it clear that we would have to either go around to Port Davey the next day, or wait until Boxing Day.  I was completely knackered after all the usual drama of getting away from town.  So we decided to wait until Boxing Day.

So we had our fifth (!) Australian "Chrissie" here in Recherche Bay.

We plucked a Christmas Branch from the National Park and decorated it.

 We went for walks on the beach.

(Captain Underpants)

And we spent time with a convivial group of friends old and new, plus a couple of random drunks.  Turns out there's a bit of a mob going to Port Davey this year.

 The kids, laughing at the carryings-on of a random drunk on the beach.
Sigh, the things we expose them to.

You know you're a yachtie if Santa brings you a new deck bucket.

Someone's moving up from driving the dinghy to driving the family home.


The end, for now - more soon from Port Davey.

Tassie Burning

We're back from the southwest of Tasmania, into the familiar waters of the D'Entrecasteaux Channel.  Hobart is a few days away; once there, we'll be into our final two weeks of preparing for the crossing to New Zealand.  Alisa is working on her town list tonight, with a nearly frightening intensity.


Meanwhile, now that I can again post pictures to the blog through the yachtie blessing/curse that is the internet, I'll catch up on a bit of our adventure in Port Davey.

Here's a day that stood out - the day that I hiked up Mt. Rugby with Wade and Chris from Take It Easy.

The views from the top were everything you'd hope for - the open, unique southwestern corner of Tassie, laid before our feet.

We didn't know that there was a bushfire just out of the frame in this first picture - there was no sign of it when we were on the summit.

It was a hugely windy, and hot, day.  So windy that it was uncomfortable to sit on the summit block of the mountain.

Take It Easy and Galactic in 40-odd knot gusts in the anchorage below.

When we were nearly all the way down the mountain, a smoke plume appeared above the summit.  By the time I got back to Galactic it looked like this.

We haven't been in Australia long enough to be at all used to the intensity of bushfires.  How the sky in the first picture turned into this in two hours or so is beyond me.

It looked a bit like the Mayan end time, come a few days late.

The fire was miles from us, and we were in no danger.  We watched the glow of the fires at night from our next anchorage, and the smoke obscured the views of the coast on the sail back.  But on the east coast of Tassie, things have been much more dire - homes destroyed, the Tasman Peninsula cut off, the police searching for missing people.