Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sanyo Eneloops

I like to promote products that we find to be very useful or particularly good value for money. On Ladybug I we used a lot of AA batteries for things like flashlights, clocks, and the SSB receiver. I found that the performance of NiMH batteries was good for a while, but they rapidly became useless because they would not hold a charge for any sort of reasonable storage period. This was a huge issue with the Pentax digital SLR that I had deliberately purchased because it used AA batteries (and was also water sealed). In researching the problem with this camera, I came across a post on a forum about a new technology that had been applied to NiMH rechargeable batteries by Sanyo that apparently cured the problem of rapid discharge during storage.

I bought a set of these Eneloop 'pre-charged' batteries and have only had to recharge them a couple of times in 2+ years of use in the Pentax SLR (which admittedly gets very light use). I recently bought more of these batteries, some from Duracell (apparently rebranded Sanyos) and have found that they work very well in the handheld GPS and in flashlights and head lamps. Highly recommended - we will be recycling our regular NiMH batteries or using them in very low drain devices like clocks.

You can buy these batteries at Canadian Tire or MEC in Canada. Just make sure the package says "pre-charged" or something to that effect. They cost about $15-$20 for 4 AA batteries.

Friday, November 29, 2013

New Caledonia to NZ - Day 2

We ran downwind much of yesterday on a rhumb line to Opua in less than 10 knot NNE winds. The seas gradually quieted and we had a very pleasant sail under blue skies with occasional puffy cumulus clouds. In the early hours of this morning, the wind freshened and gradually swung into the northeast and we are ploughing along, reefed down on a beam reach at 6 knots.

Our position at 1800 GMT (0500 New Caledonia time) on Sunday Dec 1 was 26 00 S 168 42 E. In 24 hours, we ran 138 miles and made good 124 miles toward our destination of Opua.

New Caledonia to NZ - Day 1

We eased into this 850 mile passage with a relaxed late morning departure from the Isle of Pines. A few hours earlier, three other boats had departed, bound also for New Zealand, but with a possible stop at Norfolk Island en route. We hummed and hawed, weighing the pros and cons of leaving or of staying until Sunday when fair winds were more likely and we should have less chance of running into the two lows that were forecast in the area a few days out. Rani baked a carrot cake and I snorkeled to clean the bottom. We pulled the life raft out of storage and began to make up our ditch bag (which we keep handy in case we need to abandon ship).

By 9 am the breeze was picking up (although this later proved to be only a sea breeze induced by the warming land), so we decided to make a start. We left at 10:20 under sail and once clear of the bay, found a large but well spaced southerly swell setting in and between 3 and 5 knots of wind from the SE. We set up the full main and jib on a close haul and sailed along at a very pleasant 3-4 knots until mid afternoon. Around 3pm the wind began to increase and swing into th east and we threw a reef in the main and switched to the wind vane steering. We were soon bowling along reaching more than 7 knots at times as the wind increased and moved into the northeast. This wind, caused by a high moving away to the southeast of us continued all night at 10 to 15 knots. We have been broad reaching, steering a bit south of a direct line to Opua to position us for when the lows arrive in a couple of days.

Our position at 1800 GMT (0500 New Caledonia time) was 24 10 S 167 36 E. In a little under 19 hours, we ran 97 miles and made good 93 miles toward our destination of Opua.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Leaving Noumea

It is getting late in the season and the chance of a Cyclone (hurricane) crossing our path is increasing. So, once we repaired the rig, we checked out of the marina, dealt with a few more pressing emails, and bought fresh produce and various dry goods for our passage back to Opua, New Zealand. We checked out of Noumea, visiting Immigration, Customs (where we obtained a duty free fuel paper), and the Port Captain who granted our exit papers.

We sailed early yesterday, filling Ladybug's diesel tank and spare jerry cans completely, in case we have further issues with our rig or learn of bad weather that we could avoid by motoring. The forecasts are for the current SW winds to veer into the SE and become light for a few days as a low passes us to the south, so we decided to sail for the Isle of Pines and wait for a weather window there.

On the 14 hour passage to the Isle of Pines, the winds varied from SW to S and from 6 to 20 knots (in gusts). Most of the day we sailed in the protection of Grand Terre's lagoon, enjoying smooth seas. It was peaceful enough for Rani to make a batch of chick pea humus and to enjoy a picnic lunch in the cockpit. The sun was shining and the repaired furler and rig were working well. We had an opportunity to test the rig in everything from a dead downwind run, 'wing and wing', to a beat to windward in 15+ knots. I was a little nervous about the new forestay because this is my first repair of this kind, using Norseman fittings. Every time I heard a noise, I would come up on deck and sight up the mast and check the tension of the stays, but there were no problems.

We broad reached down to the Canal Woodin where we calculated there would be a tidal current against us. Sure enough, as we approached we could see standing waves in the passage indicating wind against tide. I steered close in to the port shore, hoping to stay out of the worst or even catch a counter current. The worst current we saw was about 2 or 2.5 knots, and with a fair following wind, funneling through the channel, we ran through to the entrance to Baie de Prony.

We had heard on Tony's Net (a morning HAM radio net) that there were a group of highly experienced New Zealand bound boats heading for Isle of Pines, so Rani suggested that rather than stop at Prony, we press on. It was another 35+ miles to Baie de Kuto on the Isle of Pines, so there was no way we would make it in before sunset. In addition, the waters between us and the island are strewn with reefs. However the charts are very good here and there is a marked passage used by ferries between Noumea and the Isle of Pines, so we decided to risk the passage and entering the harbour in the dark. We would never have tries this in Fiji where reefs are often uncharted, charts are off by many hundreds of meters, and marked channels few.

The rest of the afternoon we close reached into 10-15 knots of southerly wind passing dozens of reefs on either side. We used the tiller pilot for the whole passage, because the wind vane requires more attention in the event of wind shifts. This makes it more tiring to use when working close to shore because the helmsman must always be watching for wind shifts and adjusting the steering vane. However when using the little tiller pilot, designed to work for boats half our weight, we have to be careful to trim the sails so that it will not be overloaded by too much helm force. We kept at least one reef in the main and at times tucked in a second and furled part of the jib to do this. We also made much use of the main traveller to de-power the main and reduce the tendency of the boat to round up into the wind.

The entry into Kuto was straightforward. There are flashing lights marking a safe approach transit line and the bay shoals up gradually. Using a bright headlamp, I guided Rani to a safe spot to anchor just outside a row of anchored yachts. We will stay here until we have good weather for the passage. Last night's GRIB weather forecast shows that Sunday (three days from now) may be a good departure day.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Forestay and Furler Fixed

Two days ago, I visited Papillon with the bits and pieces of the Profurl furler. Erik had assembled the necessary tools - circlip pliers, regular needlenose pliers, a ball peen hammer,  and a wooden plug usually used for plugging broken through hulls in emergencies. Two hours later, with the use of these tools, a brief interlude to modify a circlip plier with a dremel grinding wheel, and some colourful language, Erik had the unit re-assembled and greased up. Erik grew up on a farm and can fix pretty well anything. He loves a challenge and enjoys helping out other cruisers with their problems. I think his generosity sometimes gets him in hot water on his own boat where there are plenty of projects awaiting his attention!

Up the mast removing the damaged furler and stay.

The mast has slight ripples in the tapered section. I am currently trying to find out if these have always been there (apparently the welding of tapers in aluminum masts can cause slight regular ripples) or if this occurred when the forestay broke. 
I returned to Ladybug in her slip at the marina and with some neighbor's help we lifted the furler off the rails and place it on the main dock. Rani and I removed the mainsail and I took the furler apart into sections, by undoing a series of little grub screws with an Alan key. The sections came apart effortlessly, being joined by well anodized joiners and the screws being bedded in Loctite. One thing I will say for Profurl furlers is that the are fairly easy to work on and fix using non-proprietary parts (the bearings are standard steel ball races and the seals nitrile lip seals with non-stainless springs). Next we laid the old forestay and broken swage alongside the new 7mm wire and Norselock fittings. Some of the foil sections were slightly bent from the loads imposed when the forestay failed while beatings. These were easy to straighten out using gentle pressure with part of the section placed under a dock cleat.

Assembling the Norseman eye fitting. This will attach to the masthead. 
We taped the forestay wires together to make transferring the measurement more accurate. I added an inch extra so that if and when we replace the furler with a new one, we can simply cut off one of the end fittings and re-use the new wire. There is enough slack in the tensioning turn buckle to allow this.

Attaching extra halyards to lift the repaired furler foil and forestay into place
The next day I woke early, re-assembled the furler foil over the new forestay wire by sliding each section on with the bearing unit/joiner  at the end I first inserted. The Profurl foil has plastic bearing sleeves inside each section joiner. This makes it impossible to slide a new wire through a complete foil unless one has the foresight to use the old stay to feed a messenger line, hence the need to disassemble the foil. The re-assembly went smoothly and I used Loctite to refasten the little screws that hold everything together.

Putting on the Norseman end fittings proved to be very simple. You un-lay the outer wire strands for a few centimeters, insert a tapered hollow cone over the core wires to a precise distance from the end and then re-lay the outer wires evenly around the cone, making a bulge in the wire. Then, if you are me, you undo all this because you forgot to put the body of the Norseman fitting on the wire first (I made this same mistake at both ends!). Once this is done, you screw the head onto the fitting and tighten it with two wrenches. You take it all apart to make sure the wire strands are evenly space and re-assemble with a sealant to keep out water.

The sky was quite spectacular yesterday.

Up the mast for the last time, fitting the Windex wind indicator.
We asked our Polish neighbor, Voytek, to help us raise the foil and with three halyards and two control lines, we soon had the foil raised to the masthead. The rest was relatively easy, requiring two trips up the mast to fasten off the forestay and set up the halyard anti-wrap and our new wind indicator. I slid the furler drum over the bottom and tensioned the forestay by feel because we have no gauge.

Everything back together!

We will head out to anchor today and await a good weather window for New Zealand. It looks like we may be another week here because there are low pressure systems and troughs moving across south of us for much of this week.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Roller Furler Progress

Earlier this week I left the damaged roller furler assembly at a machine shop in the industrial are of Ducos, about a half hour bus ride out of central Noumea. After a lengthy conversation in my stilted French, the manager told me to come back on Friday afternoon to pick it up and said he would email me if there was a problem. Hearing nothing I made the trip out to Ducos again yesterday with my friend Erik off Papillon. Eric was interested in visiting the machine shop to see if they could do some aluminum welding in support of a repair to better support his prop shaft.

When we arrived at the shop, the man I talked to brought out the roller furler in much the same state as it was and explained that he could not disassemble it because the drum was forced to one side in the barrel. Erik speaks fluent French and helped translate the bad news. I felt terribly deflated by this. If the assembly was not repairable, we could end up in New Caledonia for the cyclone season or at the very least miss Rani's flight home from Auckland. I thanked the manager for trying and offered to pay for their time, but he declined payment since he could not fix the problem.

Next, we headed off down the hill to visit an aluminum welder that he had suggested for Eric's job. On the way back from this visit, Eric suggested we look into another machine shop on the off chance they could help with the furler. To my surprise, the men in the shop had some knowledge of Profurl furlers and were able to remove the circlip that retains the bearings. They then used a large press to push out the drum and took off the old bearing and additional clips.

We walked for another couple of hours in the hot sun around Ducos, eventually buying a set of very overpriced seals and a bearing race for the furler rebuild job as well as some material for Eric to mock up the aluminum plates he would need for his job.

At least we are making progress. Today we go into the marina to take apart the furler foil and make up the new forestay. Despite being very busy arranging his family's stay in New Caledonia and work in Australia, Erik has offered to help me rebuild the furler. This is a job that requires a vice and some very heavy circlip pliers, neither of which I have on Ladybug. We are fortunate to have the help of such capable and generous friends.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fromage and Fruit

We have been eating cheese twice a day in Noumea. Why? Because it is quite delicious - creamy Brie, earthy blues and spicy peppercorn Rondele - all served with fresh crusty baguettes - mmmmm! The cost is reasonable - about $3.50 for 250gm of Brie or Camembert and $1 for a baguette  Flavourful canned  Greek black olives imported from Morocco make a favourite accompaniment. You can see the results on my Buddha belly!

On the other hand, the price of fruit and vegetables makes me wince - apples, oranges and bananas cost around 50-60 cents each, aubergine, carrots, courgettes and onions all cost around $4/kg, a small head of cauliflower can set you back $6 and green peppers around $6/kg. Oh, how I miss those heaps of vegetables for $1-2 in Fiji markets. Being a vegetarian is tough in New Caledonia!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Walking with Wild Horses

Horses graze near the bay in which we are anchored

Chris tries to tempt them with a feed of oats

Our friends Roz and Holger had written that there were good walks on Ile Ducos in Baie St. Vincent, about thirty five miles north of Noumea. We anchored in Baie des Mustiques on a windy afternoon between two local yachts and launched our dinghy to explore the nearby beach where our closest neighbours' inflatable was already parked. The hills were parched, with crisp dry grass rustling in the breeze. A couple of houses hid under a cluster of trees a short distance in both directions along the beach and a wire fence, leading up from the low tide line, divided the land. There was a dusty track just above us, so we walked along it toward the nearest house/ranch. An old rusting Dodge truck with surprisingly shiny chrome lights and wipers lay in our path. Low level thorn bushes that reminded us of the Torote Blanco in Mexico's Baja scratched a few etchings on our exposed legs here and there. I was happy to be wearing my hiking boots, but should have worn trousers.

Fossil clam shells on the beach

What looks like a fossil crab

The path was easy to walk, well-trodden by horses as evidenced by their drying droppings, and we reached the stand of niaoulli trees behind the house quite quickly. Not wishing to disturb anyone, we skirted the stand and came out in a flat valley where many trails criss-crossed the grassland. We headed inland and then up a hill onto a ridge. The wind was pleasantly refreshing on the top and we had superb views of the passage we had sailed that morning and saw many possibilities of walking across the island. Small groups of horses,half a dozen to a dozen, grazed on just about every hill on the island. We descended to a forest on the north side of the island where I spied a deer that leapt away at our approach. As the day was late, we returned to
Ladybug for supper and decided on an early start the next morning.
Ile Ducos Panorama

We rowed ashore around 8am when the tide was out and struck out along the beach in the opposite direction to our previous hike. We did not see any signs of life as we walked past a house near the barbed wire fence. However, a small kids' slide on the beach and a flower garden spoke of recent occupation, maybe ranchers visiting from the mainland. The sandy beach turned into a rocky beach with sharp volcanic terraces. We continued along the shore and at one place found fossilized shells in soft sandstone rocks. The fossils were all small clam or scallop shells, except one which appeared to be a crab, with distinct claws and round body.

Horses run from us even though we are close to a km away

A little while later we climbed up the bank and came close to a clan of horses. We had brought along some oats and tried to entice them to come closer. They were very shy and skittish and kept their distance, eyeing us wearily. A few had beautiful shiny brown coats but most looked half-starved with their skin stretched taut over the ribs. A very young foal stood close to its mother and peered at us curiously. I was a little anxious myself while trying to tempt them with an open dish of oats. They were edging away from us but stopped to stare. Then Chris took the oats and crouched down in the grass while I took a few steps back towards the beach. One brave mare slowly approached Chris but turned away as if she thought the better of it. I guess they are not used to people offering them food. So we continued our way up the hills and left them in peace.

Rani hikes into a forest where she saw a deer

We switch-backed up one tall hill and saw a settlement on the lagoon side of the island. There was a palm plantation around the 4 or 5 houses but it was too far away for much detail. The white-capping bay would not be great for fishing boats other than landing small skiffs on the beach. Ladybug was anchored on the opposite, protected side of the island.

The dry  plains here are a stark contrast to the lush jungles of Fiji
It was tempting to continue walking and we hiked along a long undulating ridge to another headland where a herd of goats grazed. Despite trying to approach them from a blind side, they must have seen us from afar and scampered down before we reached their pasture. Piles of manure attested to their preferred hangout and who could blame them? They had a magnificent view all around - the islands to the south, the lagoon to the west, the mainland to the east and their own island laying at their feet. The horses outnumbered the goats (we could count a couple of hundred within our sight) and we wondered where they all went for water.

More horses in motion

After a light picnic lunch at "goat point" we reluctantly began our circuitous tramp home. We had to sail out early the next day to Noumea to check on some overdue important emails. Little did we know of the drama we would endure on that passage (described in a previous blog post)!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Noumea Aquarium Pics

A few photos from our trip a couple of weeks back to the excellent local aquarium.

The displays began with some fresh water fish

In one tank you could enter a tube in the centre of the tank

Sea horse

Anemone or soft coral

Coral under regular light

Coral fluorescing under UV light

Lion fish

Soft corals

Feisty little shrimp

More unusual corals

Baby lion fish

Humbug Dascyllus among corals

Leopard shark - we think

Big wrasse

Carved nautilus shells (photo of poster)

Naughty nautili mating. Their tank was almost black to simulate their real environment.  These creatures take 24 hours to complete their mating.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Rigging update

A correction to the last post. There are two toggles at the mast head giving the rig a proper range of motion, so the failure was not due to this issue.

With the help of John on 'Sir Francis', Eric on Papillon, and Karen from 'Beau Soleil', we lowered the sail-wrapped roller furler foil carefully onto the deck of Ladybug, Even though we got up early, the wakes from passing powerboats were an issue, rocking us at critical times. We had rigged several control lines and halyards to control the descent, but even so I had to be hoisted to the mast head to guide the foil past the spreaders and clear some lines I had not lead properly the day before. Karen took the end of the foil in her dinghy, Eric guided the unit using the control lines, and John and Rani lowered it using three halyards. After a tense hour or two, the furler foil and sail are now lashed along our lifelines.

Today I bought a new length of forestay wire. I have learned that 7mm is considered equivalent to our 9/32 wire and will work with the existing Norseman fitting from the bottom of the stay. We traded for another Norseman fitting for the mast head end, so now we can do all our own rigging of the forestay. The furler bearings still need to be replaced, so I have left the furler unit with a machine shop in Ducos - an industrial area near Noumea. They will remove the old ones and fit the new bearings and seals. Note that bearings and seals are crazy expensive here - 3 times what we paid in Papeete Tahiti! We should have bought a second set then, but I thought I would get many years out of the last one :(

The forecast rain and higher westerly winds will likely slow down our progress, but we hope to have the new forestay and repaired furler unit back together within a week.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Broken forestay

On our way south from the Bay of St. Vincent we were beating into 20 knot winds with squalls when all of a sudden there was a terrific bang. Our first thought was that we had hit an under-water object, but then I looked up to see the roller furling foil and jib swinging crazily off to one side and I realized that our forestay had broken.

We quickly adjusted the wind vane to run off downwind and I rigged a spinnaker halyard to steady the mast. We were unable to furl the jib at first, so I tried to drop it, again without success, because the jib halyard was the only thing holding up the foil and trying to lower the sail just lowered everything. So instead we tightened the halyard and rolled in the sail using a winch to assist.

On closer inspection, the roller furler drum unit was bent out of true and the bearings and seals wrecked, the Spinlock clutch holding the jib halyard shattered, and the wind indicator at the masthead was destroyed. We motored with the 2-reefed main to steady us into a nearby harbour, choosing our destination so as to have a comfortable angle to the swells to minimize the motion of on the damaged rig. After lunch Rani hoisted me to the masthead to inspect and make repairs if possible. From the top of the mast I noticed that the halyard anti-wrap unit had disappeared when the stay broke. The stay had broken off just inside the swage that was flush with this unit. Far worse, I noted that the top portion of the mast is rippled from the shock of break when the back stay pulled back on the mast. I added a line to secure the sail directly to the forestay tang and reduce the chafe on the jib halyard. I also duct taped the furled jib to the inner stay to dampen its swinging. I should have run a line in a spiral all the way down the length of the jib to tie it off to the spinnaker halyard as this would have steadied things a lot, but I only thought of this once back on deck.

I am not sure how much the top section of the mast has been weakened. I think we can replace the forestay, repair the furler, and make our way south to New Zealand under staysail and reefed main. When in NZ we should be able to repair the mast, hopefully with a sleeved in top section only. The only question is can we fly a jib, too, on the way south or is the weakened mast portion too damaged for that? The ripples in this mast section are maybe 1/8 inch - 1/4 inch out of true, spread out evenly over the column at intervals of a foot or less, with no visible cracks. The mast section does not appear to be bent port or starboard.

People here have been very helpful, with advice and assistance from friends on Akimbo, Papillon, and Sir Francis in the last two days. We now have a contact for a shop here that sells rigging materials and can hopefully make us a new forestay. The main issue is that our current rig is 9/32 inch where the French use only Metric wire. We currently plan to replace the forestay with larger 8mm wire and to use a Norseman fitting on the bottom and maybe the top also. The current stay is 9/32 and is not available here so we would need to replace the old 9/32 Norseman on the bottom of the stay with a new metric one, too. And then this might necessitate replacing the turnbuckle which is an English Gibb unit and may not be metric threaded either and hence may not interface with a metric Norseman. If this is the case it may be cheaper and easier to have order a 9/32 forestay in New Zealand assuming the NZ riggers have access to such stuff.

We should be ok to make the trip between the two of us assuming I can make these repairs in the next week or two. Rani has a flight out of Auckland in a month. We will fill up the diesel tanks and plan to motor as needed.

Lessons learned - one should inspect the difficult to access parts of the rig before any larger trip. This could have happened a week later on passage to New Zealand in big seas and with far worse results. We should probably have replaced at least the forestay earlier. The rig was last re-done late in 2001 and despite sitting in a boatyard in Mexico for 5 of those years is now 12 years old. Finally, the furler foil puts a side load on the top of the forestay. There is a toggle at the mast, but this only handles fore and aft motion. A ball toggle would be much better here as it would allow the stay to bend in line with the furler foil on each tack. It is this repeated side stress that probably resulted in the failure. I have talked to others who have had stay failures and it seems that this kind of forestay failure with roller furlers is not uncommon.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Boat Showers

The true cost of a boat shower.

Something most of us take for granted at home in Canada is the daily hot shower. However, out here we rarely enjoy a hot shower. In fact, Rani tells me that the last one she had was on August 3rd, over 3 months ago. Strangely, we have come to accept this and a simple but pleasurable alternative in these warmer climates is the 'balti bath' (the Punjabi term for bucket bath). On sunny days, we usually fill our small orange bucket with between 6 and 8 litres of collected rain water and place this in the sun to warm up. On a cloudy day or when we are impatient, we heat up about 1/4 of this water in a saucepan over the propane stove to take the edge off it.

Many cruisers we know, especially on smaller boats do something similar, perhaps using a camp solar shower (a black plastic bag with a small shower head hose). On larger boats, even where there is an indoor shower, the owners often use an outdoor alternative to avoid filling the boat with mildew-causing steamy air. Many newer boats are fitted with a wash down hose near the transom for just this purpose.

Initially, especially in colder weather, we discussed the merits of installing a shower on Ladybug. However, when the true costs are added up, I think most people would think twice about this. For a start you ideally need a boat large enough for a separate shower stall. The smallest boat we have seen with this was a Pearson 365 at around 36 feet, but the shower is often combined with the toilet on boats even as large as 40 feet. This is inconvenient because you need to put away all toiletries before and then wipe down everything after you shower. You could easily add tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of your boat to buy one large enough for a separate shower stall.

Next you need a way to heat the shower water. On most of the boats we looked at buying, the hot water heater (combined AC and engine heated) was in need of repair, so this is clearly both a capital cost and one that requires regular maintenance or replacement. We looked at an on-demand propane solution, but this is neither legal nor practical on a smaller tilty sail boat and would probably succumb to corrosion fairly quickly in this salty environment.

You also need pressure water and the pumps and (optional) accumulator tank needed for this are not cheap. We use foot pumps on Ladybug that are now 25 years old and as far as I know have not required any servicing. The pressure pump on my last boat was quite reliable, but did require a rebuild after a year or two.

Often overlooked, is the cost of obtaining enough water to take even a short shower. At 9 litres per minute, a 2 minute shower will use nearly 5 gallons. Two people will need about 10 gallons per day. Assuming a typical boat tankage of between 50 and 100 gallons, you are likely going to need a water maker to keep up with this demand on any but the shortest cruise. Water makers are expensive and require a surprising amount of care because they work best with regular (every day or two) running and need to be run in clean water only and to be preserved if not used for a week. The membranes have a finite life and can be expensive to replace in out of the way places. Also the high pressures these systems run at and the exposure to salt water means that all parts of the system must be rugged and made of the right materials. On the system we used until last year we had issues with leaks and membrane failure.

Hot water and water making requires a lot of power. Our Village Marine water maker drew 14 amps and made about 24-25 litres of water (6.5 US gallons) an hour. Other water makers require that you run the engine (direct drive) or a generator (AC motor) and will consume similar power. Even the most efficient systems (such as Spectra water makers) consume at least half as much power. Assuming we ran the engine at low speeds solely to make water, we would burn at least a litre of diesel to make 25 litres of water. That works out to about 1.5 litres for 2 short daily showers. To be fair, you should be able to generate a lot more electricity than is needed to make water while running the engine or generator, so let's just count half of this. At $1.25 a litre those showers are still costing about $1 just to make the water. As a bonus, we can use the engine to heat the water too, so we get this for 'free'.

Now we need to look at the capital costs for the water maker, heater, and pressure water system. Let's say $2500 for the water maker, $1000 for the heater, and $500 for the pressure water system. Add on $1000 to pay someone to install or help us install these systems. Assuming we own the boat for 5 years and to keep things simple, depreciate these systems to $0 over this time, that works out at $5000 or $1000/year.

Running costs for the water maker include filters, membranes, and cleaning/preserving chemicals. Let's assume about $500 for these over the 5 years, so we can add on $125/year. With no breakdowns, we are spending nearly $4 per day to buy and maintain these systems. This assumes you live on board for 365 days a year for 5 years - not particularly realistic in our experience, since most of us are away from the boat for months each year. Adding in the $1 a day fuel costs, we are up to about $5/day or over nearly $1500 per year for hot showers. In addition to this we need to consider the time required to run the water maker, maintain and install the systems, and the daily shower stall clean up to keep down the mildew issue.

Contrast this to the simplicity and low cost of a solar heated bucket bath. Admittedly you have to have some way to collect rain water or to bring it from a shore-based supply. In the south seas we have found it simple for about 3/4 of our cruise to collect enough rain water. When we run low, we bring about 20 gallons at a time from shore in containers in our dinghy. This can be a pain, but is at least good exercise and has at times been an adventure and a good way to meet local people.

In cooler climes or on cloudy days, heating a couple of litres of water on the stove top costs pennies and uses equipment found in any galley. The self-draining cockpit is easy to clean out and the humidity escapes immediately. Often we are salty from swimming anyway, so we combine our cockpit balti bath with a post-swim and snorkelling gear wash-off and wash our smalls at the same time. Pretty effective use of a gallon or two of water.

Birds and Butterflies and a few Fish

Chris walks up the hill above Bai Maa - Ladybug is anchored in the bay behind.

Rani takes a local truck for a 'spin'.
We are less than ten miles from Noumea but it's like another world. The Baie Maa is quite a large bay and had thirty five boats anchored in it over the long weekend, almost all locals enjoying their civic holiday. Most of the action remained on the water with people water-skiing, swimming and speeding about in small skiffs. We took to the shore and found a red dirt road skirting the beach. In one direction lies a small cottage community with a nice picnic park and gold sand beach. We took a short walk through the "village" one day and stopped at the locked gate which allows access from the main road to Noumea. Some of the cottages were shipping containers with added porches and awnings, pretty floral gardens completing a cute rustic picture.

Niaouli trees look a bit like small stubby Eucalyptus trees.

This windmill used to pump water to a nearby cottage, now abandoned

Monarch butterflies mating

The monarchs were feeding on the flowers from these plants

Over the next two days we explored the road closest to our boat and hiked through the valley and over scrubby hills to four other beaches to the south. Farmers must be mowing the roads to either keep track of their livestock or go hunting. Otherwise the long grass would be hard to walk through. We startled some sheep a few times and saw deer scat but no deer. Birds whistled and sang in the trees and bright orange monarch butterflies danced in the breeze. A young man we met on one walk pointed out the niaouli trees and crushed a few leaves to let us inhale the menthol-like scent. Niaoulis populate the dry savannah of the west coast of New Caledonia after the land has been cleared by farmers for grazing.

Sheep gallop past us on the coastal road that runs along the bay

Chris explores a vacation property we found on a peninsula near the bay.

Rani's blouse matched the bougainvillea

The beaches were a mix of sand and coral rubble and there were a few shaded grassy spaces which had been used by campers, judging by the ashes of fire pits and heaps of beer cans. It is a pity that those who enjoy the outdoors cannot be bothered to respect the land and remove their trash. We also came across a gorgeous closed-up holiday property comprising two boarded up cottages and a large gazebo with their own private beach. There was a fruit orchard with mango, guava and Kumquat trees. Vivid pink and orange Bougainvillea flowers draped over the cottages and it seemed a shame that no-one was there to enjoy it.

We came back re-charged after 3-4 hours of hiking in this pastoral paradise each day and then enjoyed a cool dip off Ladybug. Evenings were spent chatting and eating with new and old friends on Akimbo, Barefoot and Sir Francis.

The following photos were taken a day later on a trip out to some islands near the edge of Grand Terre's lagoon.

We saw some new fish on the reefs at a nearby island

Lovely colours and patterns

Most of the corals were of the stag horn variety, but we came across a couple of small bommies wth healthy growths of soft  and hard corals

These electric blue fish were common on the two bommies.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Photos from our trip to Amedee Island

The pictures that follow are mostly taken at Ilot Amedee, which has the tallest lighthouse in New Caledonia and one of the tallest in the world at 56 meters. We sailed there for the day from our anchorage off Ile Bailly

View from a mooring off Amedee Island

Our friends on Barefoot arrive under mainsail after striking their jib.

The entrance to Fare (lighthouse) Amedee

The spiral staircase has 247 steps

Panorama from viewing platform - (click for larger image)

Rain spout details above the lens windows

David, Roslyn (off Barefoot), Rani and Chris

They built this tower to last and took care to make it a work of beauty as well

View through the rails to our boats on moorings
And a couple of earlier pics:

Sunset at Noumea

Rani plays catch the pumice ball at Isle Bailly