31 August 2013

Go Team NZ!

As I'm sure everyone knows (except probably my mom), Emirates Team NZ won the Louis Vuitton Cup which determines who the challenger will be in the America's Cup against Oracle Team USA. This year, they are racing on these crazy new AC72 wing sail catamarans which go insanely fast and literally fly on top of the water. Team NZ built their boat in New Zealand (along with the Italian Team Luna Rossa) and they did trials and practice races in the Hauraki Gulf all last summer so we were lucky enough to see them out on the water a number of times. They literally scared the crap out of me (well not literally, that would be disgusting) flying across the water and at times I thought we might crash into them. But these guys are pretty good sailors (well great sailors actually) and I'm pretty sure they could have steered their massive catamaran out of the way of our tiny boat if it came down to it.

Here are a couple of pictures we caught of them out racing last summer. They are from a distance as I was too scared to let Scott get our boat too close to them. That's Motutapu Island behind them.

Here are some close ups in the Viaduct. The last three are of Luna Rossa.

The America's Cup kicks off soon - go Team NZ! 

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30 August 2013

Boat Buying Tips Without Too Much Salt (Pt 4) - Rudders

Be warned - I am an unseasoned and not very salty sailor. Any tips I share about boat buying are of the low sodium variety.

This is the fourth in a series of posts about what to look for the next time you happen to be out sailboat shopping. Be warned, I know very little about sailing and even less about boats so take everything I say with a pinch of salt. I’ve had a look already at hulls and keels and now it is time to move on to rudders. Or, as I like to think of them, the boat’s tail. Cats swish their tails back and forth when they’re on the prowl and boats swish their rudders around from side to side when they’re out on the water. And although I find cats far more fascinating then sailboats, let’s be honest, there isn’t a cat out there that I would trust to buy a sailboat for me. They would be less interested in making sure that it was seaworthy and far more interested in making sure it has lots of great nooks and crannies to take a nap in and a great galley set-up to ensure they get fed regularly. Hmm…that sounds a bit like me too. I’m not sure I trust myself to buy a boat either. But I'm pretty sure I trust these guys less. See how they've turned their backs on you? They could care less about you and your boat and they certainly don't plan on coiling up the ropes neatly on deck.

Cats hanging out in Tunisia and pretending to be indifferent to us.
Oh well, enough looking at cute and indifferent cats. Let's get back to business. So what are these rudders all about? Basically, the rudder is attached to your boat by a post and is moved side to side by either a tiller or a steering wheel. Somewhat like how a steering wheel in your car turns your tires side to side. The force of the water pushes against the rudder and turns your boat in the opposite direction. You really don't need know too much about how it works. The key thing is move the tiller or wheel one way and the boat turns as if by magic. Well, that's usually how it works. It helps to know your left from your right. More on that another day.

As with all things sailboat related, it is of course more complicated then that and all rudders and rudder set-ups don't look like what you see in the picture above. There are a number of different types of rudders generally related to what type of keel you have. If you have a full keel on your sailboat, then your rudder is usually attached along the back end of your keel creating a more or less continuous surface. The engine propeller is usually positioned in a hole between the keel and the rudder. These types of rudders can be stronger then other types as they're hinged on top and bottom and there is more area to distribute the force of the water. But it can be harder to turn the rudder given the force of the water pushing against it.

If you have a fin keel on your boat, then you usually will have a spade rudder. A spade rudder is only attached from the top which means it can swivel around easily from side to side. While it is easier and faster to turn a boat with a spade rudder, they are far more vulnerable to the pressure of the water. And if you stuff up your rudder badly enough (either through water slamming against it or grounding your boat), then you can lose your steering. Never a good thing. Debris in the water can get more easily tangled up around this kind of rudder.

Given the risks around losing steering completely if your rudder breaks, some boat designers have moved away from having them built out of sold fiberglass to injecting rudders with structural foam and a system of reinforced webbing about two-thirds the way down the rudder. The idea is that if you ground your boat, the bottom third of the rudder will break off leaving the upper portion intact giving you some steerage to limp your way back to port. Some people love them, some people argue that they are prone to absorbing water and are structurally weak. The cats could care less one way or another.

As an alternative to spade rudders, you may want to consider a skeg hung rudder on your fin keel boat. Although the term "skeg" sounds like the noise cats make when they're coughing up a hairball, it actually comes from the Icelandic word "skaga" which means promontory or headland, something which juts out. And that is what a skeg does - it juts out from the boat hull and you attach the rudder to it. Like a rudder on a full keel boat, it offers more protection if you accidently run your boat aground. It holds a steadier course as it tends to move back to center when left alone as opposed to a spade rudder which is more likely to bounce from side to side. But of course, like a full keel rudder, they have some of the same drawbacks including being harder and slower to turn.

Oh well, yet another thing to add to my "too hard" boat buying basket. Too many choices and too many pros/cons when it comes to rudders. Next up is tillers vs. wheels - hopefully this one will be easier!

If you're interested in other slightly eccentric posts on how to buy a sailboat when you know nothing about sailing or boats, check out this page.

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28 August 2013

We Just Love Her!

Last summer when we were anchored in Bon Accord Harbor in Kawau Island another sailboat cruised past us and said, "We haven't seen a Raven 26 in a while. Great Kiwi classic. How are you finding her?" To which I loudly replied, "We just love her!" I turned around to find Scott staring at me looking utterly dumfounded. "We just love her?", he said, "Since when did you fall in love with our boat?"

I can see why he was so perplexed. While I love certain things and people, I usually do so in a quiet way. Occasionally, I might whisper to people and cute animals that I love them, but I'm not the type to shout it from rooftops. Certainly not the type to declare my love by shouting it across a crowded anchorage. And certainly not the type to fall in love with a sailboat and decide to tell the whole world. When we bought Rainbow's End she was as a "for now" boat so I could learn how to sail and we could putter about in the Hauraki Gulf. She certainly wasn't intended to be our "forever boat" and certainly not one you would expect me to fall in love with.

There are two possible explanations that I can think of for my odd behavior:
  1. Kawau is a beautiful place and the weather was great that day; or
  2. Scott is drugging me.
Kawau is an absolutely beautiful place. It is a large island located in the Hauraki Gulf about 45 kms north of Auckland. The people are friendly, you can take a nice walk in the Department of Conservation land at Mansion House and you can have a cold beer at the Kawau Island Yacht Club and watch the boats go by. We sailed out to Kawau three times last summer and I'm sure we'll make our way there a number of times again this coming summer. So maybe being anchored in Kawau on a lovely summer day was what caused me to be so lovey-dovey towards our boat.

Or is it because Scott is secretly drugging me? I'm convinced that he puts valium in my drinking water to keep me sedated especially during gale force winds and when the boat is heeled over quite a bit. I am now wondering if he also puts some sort of "happy" drug in my drinking water. He has been passionate about sailing for years and has had an elaborate brainwashing scheme going on to convince me that I also want to live on a sailboat and cruise full-time. These drugs may be working as I seem to have fallen in love with our boat and this whole sailing thing. Or maybe it was love just on that particular calm and beautiful summer day when all was right in the world. Either way, Scott is still claiming it as a victory in his campaign.

Rainbow's End - We just love her!

26 August 2013

Hauraki Gulf Cruising Notes: Ponui Island

Ponui Island - Be on the lookout for feral donkeys and brown kiwi birds
36°52’S 175°12’E

Ponui is a privately owned island located to the southeast of Waiheke Island. It also goes by the name of Chamberlin's Island as it has been farmed by the Chamberlin family since 1853. There are now three farms on the island - two managed by the Chamberlin family and one by a rich bloke by the name of John Spencer. There are around 9 permanent human inhabitants on the island who are associated with the farms, along with the famous feral Ponui donkeys and endangered brown kiwi birds.

Photo courtesy of Peter & Marion van Djik and the New Zealand Donkey & Mule Society
The Ponui donkeys are apparently descended from three original donkeys who were released on the island in the 1800s. I'm not sure if they were released intentionally or ran away when the opportunity arose (are donkeys that clever?), but in any case they are now feral. They are also becoming increasingly rare and the Ponui donkeys that have left the island don't appear to breed readily. (I'm assuming humans took them off the island. I don't think they build their own donkey boats and set off of the mainland by themselves. Or are they that clever?) The New Zealand Donkey & Mule Society is determined to keep them from dying out and has established a register for donkeys with 100% Ponui Island bloodlines. In case you have one of these rare donkeys in your back yard and you want to register it, you must be able to prove that it was born on the island or descended from pure Ponui donkey stock. Also, make sure it is light dun/white in color with a darker brown dorsal stripe. No chocolate colored or broken colored donkeys will be accepted.

If donkeys aren't really your thing, you might be more interested in the brown kiwi birds. 13 birds were released on the island in 1964 by the old New Zealand Wildlife Service. These original 13 birds came from Little Barrier Island, Waipoua in Northland and Coromandel. The birds must have really liked Ponui because there are now an estimated 1,500 of them on the island which makes up 6% of New Zealand's entire endangered brown kiwi bird population. They are doing so well, in fact, that they are reaching the maximum level of the natural carrying capacity of the island. If you're interested in finding out more about the Ponui kiwi birds, check out this article here. Alternatively, you can skip the article and look at a picture of the kiwi bird instead.

Via Department of Conservation website
And if all of this talk of donkeys and kiwi birds has driven you to drink, you're in luck! The Man O' War Vineyard on neighboring Waiheke Island makes a Pinot Gris from grapes grown on Ponui Island. They harvest the grapes and then transport them by barge to Man O' War Bay and deliver them straight to the winery from the beach.

This island is a popular location for youth camps, however, private boaties cannot land without the permission of the owners. So instead you might want to get out your binoculars and have a look from the cockpit for the feral donkeys and brown kiwis while having a glass of the local Ponui wine.

If you're interested in other posts in the "Hauraki Gulf Cruising Notes" series, check out this page.

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23 August 2013

Hauraki Gulf Cruising Notes: Rotoroa Island

Rotoroa Island - Come see the transformation of "Alci-traz Island" into a conservation park
36°49’S 175°12’E

Rotoroa is a private island located 4kms east of Waiheke Island and between Pakatoa and Ponui Islands. Rotoroa is owned by the Salvation Army and was known as “Alci-traz” due to the alcohol and drug programs run by the Sallies on both Rotoroa and Pakatoa Islands. (You can find more information on the Sallies' programs in the Pakatoa Island cruising notes.)

In 2009, the Salvation Army leased the island to the Rotoroa Island Trust and it has now been transformed into a conservation park. The Trust has been bankrolled by Kiwi philanthropists Neal and Annette Plowman who have provided funding to date of somewhere in the region of NZ$35 million in support of the restoration efforts. For that amount of money, they could have purchased the neighboring Pakatoa Island! Apparently they made their money in towels. Who knew there was so much money to be had in the humble towel. Obviously I didn't or we wouldn't be trying to figure out how to live frugally on our sailboat.

As part of the restoration, pine trees have been cleared and native plants reintroduced to the island. The heritage buildings, including the chapel, jail and school house, have been restored and a new art exhibition center has been established. The Trust has recently announced a partnership with the Auckland Zoo and will be establishing a wildlife sanctuary on the island. In the meantime, there are four sandy beaches with barbeques and toilets, as well as native bush walks which visitors can enjoy. There are no shops on the island, so bring food with you, but fresh water is available. You can’t camp on the island, but there is “boutique” holiday accommodation available. The island is accessible by ferry or private boat. If you do arrive by private boat, the Trust asks that you pay a NZ$5 per person entrance fee.

If you're interested in other posts in the "Hauraki Gulf Cruising Notes" series, check out this page.

21 August 2013

Hauraki Gulf Cruising Notes: Pakatoa Island

For Sale: Pakatoa Island – The Original "Island Retreat for Inebriates", all yours for NZ$32 million!
36°47’S 175°12’E

Pakatoa Island is a private island located 3kms east of Waiheke Island and north of Rotoroa and Ponui Islands. Pakatoa is one of the smaller Hauraki Gulf islands comprising 24 hectares of land. But those 24 hectares are jam packed with a holiday resort compound with three sandy beaches, a private jetty, 62 units, staff quarters, squash courts and a golf course. All of which can be yours for the rock bottom price of NZ$32,000,000! It has been on the market for years so I think you can probably negotiate the price down a bit.

The original developer didn’t do well in the 1980s market crash and the island was then bought by a German whose check appears to have bounced and was never heard from again. At one time visitors were welcome to land and use the facilities, but the resort has since closed and I don’t believe you can visit anymore. However, we haven’t tested this theory out. Maybe if we can scrounge up NZ$32,000,000 in coins hidden in our couch cushions we can pay a visit. So far, I've found NZ$2.80. I'm still looking. In the meantime, we’re content to sail past and have a look from our cockpit.

Prior to being a holiday resort for paying and potentially inebriated customers, Pakatoa was one of the Salvation Army’s original “island retreats for inebriates” in the early 1900s. Their words, not mine – see here. In 1906 the New Zealand Parliament passed the Habitual Drunkards Act. If you were convicted of inebriety three times in nine months you could be declared a habitual drunkard. I’m guessing that there were a lot more habitual drunkards in New Zealand at the time but they were clever enough not to get caught by drinking quietly at home instead. The government wanted to help the drunkards out and asked the Salvation Army to lend a hand. And given the temptation of the local pub and booze at home, what better plan then to ship the drunkards off to Pakatoa Island. By 1908, there were 24 male drunkards on the island and when the number rose to 50, the Salvation Army decided that Pakatoa wasn’t going to be big enough to hold them all. (Personally I would have thought you could have crammed a lot more drunkards on 24 hectares of land, but what do I know.) So they purchased the neighbouring island, Rotoroa, in 1910 and shipped the men over there. Pakatoa then became an “island retreat for inebriates” of the female persuasion with the first lady drunkards arriving in 1911.

The Salvation Army’s approach at the time was to remove the drunkards from an environment where alcohol was available so that they could experience sobriety. Unfortunately, despite the well-meaning intentions of the Sallies, the drunkards were there involuntarily and, after serving their terms (between 6 months and 2 years), they went back to the mainland with many heading straight to their local pub to say howdy. For the women of Pakatoa Island, 70% of them never returned to the “island retreat” so perhaps some of them did in fact overcome their troubles with booze.

Over time, there was a growing recognition that alcoholism was a disease and not a crime and funding for the Salvation Army’s programs shifted from the Department of Justice to the Department of Health. They continued to operate the women’s facility on Pakatoa until 1942. From 1943 until the island’s sale in 1949, Pakatoa then became the site of an Aged Men’s Retreat. The Sallies continued to operate a drug and alcohol program on Rotoroa Island until 2005 when it was then relocated to the mainland.
Food for thought next time you're anchored off of Pakatoa or Rotoroa Islands having a cold beer. Are you sure you want that second one?

If you're interested in other posts in the "Hauraki Gulf Cruising Notes" series, check out this page.

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19 August 2013

Boat Buying Tips Without Too Much Salt (Pt 3) - Bolt On Vs Encapsulated Keels

Be warned - I am an unseasoned and not very salty sailor. Any tips I share about boat buying are of the low sodium variety.

This is the third in a series of posts about what to look for when you're buying a sailboat and you know pretty much next to nothing about sailing. Scott has been racing and cruising for several years now, but I'm a complete newbie. As we'll be buying a new boat in the States next year, I thought I should learn a little more about sailboats before we write that really big check. So far I've learned about how hulls are constructed and the different types of keels that you can get on your boat. It turns out keels are far more complicated then what shape you want it to be. You also have to decide if you want a bolt-on keel or an encapsulated keel. The former is attached to your hull with keel bolts while the latter is an integrated part of your boat.

As I have no idea which is better, I first thought of asking Scott to explain, but then I remembered what happened when I asked him about roller reefing. He gave me a very complicated answer. I tuned him out using my patented cat-like disinterested look. So instead I decided to make myself some new friends on the Cruisers Forum. The Cruisers Forum is an online forum where people passionate about cruising and cruising boats gather to ask and answer questions. They seem like really smart and friendly people so I thought I would join up and ask them whether they thought bolt-on or encapsulated keels were better.

Within seven minutes I had a reply from a delivery skipper who has posted 10,811 times on the forum. I was stoked! I had my answer from someone who surely must know his stuff and it was a such a simple answer that even I could understand:

"Hi Ellen...Welcome to CF. Bolt On's fall off...Encapsulated don't...But someone likely knows one that fell through..."

After reading what the delivery skipper had to say the choice seemed really obvious. I'm going to go with an encapsulated keel as they don't fall off of your boat. I'm no expert, but I'm guessing it would be preferable to have your keel attached to your boat rather something for the fish to swim around at the bottom of the ocean. I didn't really understand what he meant about "someone likely knowing one that fell through" but I chose not to think about that too much as (a) I liked the idea of having a clear-cut answer and (b) I prefer to be in denial as much as I can about bad stuff that can happen to your boat. So with my answer in hand I happily signed off of the forum for the day and went about my business.
I made the mistake of checking back in later to find that there had been another 27 replies in my absence! And it turns out deciding between a bolt-on vs. encapsulated keel isn't as clear-cut as I thought. So I started reading through the replies and tried to summarize and understand the key points.
  • Bolt-on keels are fine if the people who built your boat know what they are doing. Okay, I had hoped all boat builders knew what they were doing, but now just one more thing to worry about!
  • If you have a bolt-on keel, when you haul your boat out of the water you need to look for cracks along the keel. It would appear that cracks are bad as they let water in. Water is our enemy, at least inside your boat.
  • With encapsulated keels you don't have to worry about your keel bolts rusting, you have more storage and tankage space and you don't have to worry about bilge water swirling around your ankles. I have a lot of DVDs I want to take on the boat so more storage works for me.
  • Encapsulated keels are prone to letting water as they have lots of pesky hidden voids. Again with the water getting into your boat!
  • Some boat builders think encapsulated keels are a license to put all sorts of weird and wonderful materials in for ballast including raw sewage and pachinko balls (as opposed to the more usual lead, steel, iron or concrete) and it is hard to determine what is actually inside an encapsulated keel. Pachinko balls sound fun, raw sewage not so much.
  • There seems to be some debate about whether Volvo engines are any good. Nothing to do with keels but I suspect that people passionate about engines are passionate about them no matter what the topic.
By this point I was feeling a little overwhelmed and then I read this lovely message, "Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Ellen." What a friendly bunch! So I carried on reading and learned:
  • Some boat builders aren't very nice. They claim to put a certain material into an encapsulated keel knowing the original buyer will never slice the keel open to double check that they've been told the truth. Should we build our own boat instead?
  • People who post on the forum are very passionate! A really interesting debate ensued about whether there really are cowboy boat builders out there who use inferior materials. We even got to see some pictures.
  • When you go aground with a boat with a bolt-on keel, there is less area distributing the stress of the grounding resulting in more damage to the keel. The cracks that result are called "smiles". Would you really be smiling at this point?
  • Not only do you need to worry about whether you should go with a bolt-on keel or an encapsulated keel, you also need to worry about having lead in your keel as it is poisonous. Not only do I have to worry about water in my boat, I also have to worry about poison in my boat. I think I would prefer pachinko balls as ballast over lead.
My mother raised me right, so at this point I thought I should thank everyone for all of the advice that had been shared.
I then signed off thinking that was the end of the discussion. Silly me. When I logged back on there were another 23 replies!
  • I got to learn some sailing math. Did you know that the density of lead is 11,300 kg/m^3, concrete about 2,400 kg/m^3? I didn't. This means that to get the same ballast weight your keel would have to be about 4.5 times bigger.
  • Someone attached a You Tube video of testing that Dehler did on their bolt-on keels. The sailing math had confused my brain, so the video was a good distraction. It was particularly distracting as it was in German and I didn't understand a word.
  • You can test your keel using non-invasive methods including ultrasound, x-ray, radiography and magnetic particle flaw detection. Sounds like a better health care policy then many people I know have!
  • And then I read this, "When I was in Australia, most likely in 2001, a Farr 40 hit a rock off Danger Point. The keel was knocked off. Deaths occurred." Hmm...I wonder why they call it Danger Point? I don't like thinking about dying on my sailboat so I went back and watched the Dehler testing video again to distract myself. You should take a look. It is hysterical - they deliberately crash into all manner of things. Kind of like a demolition derby, but for boats.
So after reading everyone's posts, I've come to the following stunning conclusion:
  • Some people prefer bolt-on keels.
  • Some people prefer encapsulated keels.
I'm now both more confused and better informed about the choice. I think for now I'll leave it in the "too hard" basket and revisit the issue once we start looking at new boats. The following post probably sums it up best for me:
"Its a bit like religion, there are no open minds here. If you prefer encapsulated keels then you will only see what you want to BUT on the other hand if you prefer bolt on keels then you'll only see what you want to. Reality check, both are fine if they are put together well."
Thanks to everyone on Cruisers Forum for their help - you can be sure I'll be back with more tricky questions soon!

If you're interested in other slightly eccentric posts on how to buy a sailboat when you know nothing about sailing or boats, check out this page.

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - we'd love for you to pop by and say hi!

16 August 2013

Boat Buying Tips Without Too Much Salt (Pt 2) - Keels

Be warned - I am an unseasoned and not very salty sailor. Any tips I share about boat buying are of the low sodium variety.

This is the second in a series about what to look for when you're buying a boat from someone who doesn't know what she is talking about (that would be me). Scott and I are looking to upgrade and get a larger boat back in the States next year. And as it will require a fair chunk of change and will be my floating home, I thought I should get my head around what you should look for in a boat. After all, you wouldn't let your husband just go out and view a house and make an offer if you hadn't seen it first. Or would you? Maybe we know a couple whose names also happen to be Scott and Ellen who might have done this once. They were young at the time. Ellen might be paying a bit more attention this time around with the boat.

In my last post, I looked at the different types of "bones" that make up the hull underneath your boat's super expensive marine paint skin. In this post, I'm taking a look at the different types of toes you can get on your boat. Yes, "toes". I can't quite get my head around speaking Nauticalese with its sheets and ports and sterns and heads and so on. So every once in a while, I quietly rebel and do things like call keels "toes". And a boat keel is like a human toe in a way. We have toes at the bottom of our bodies and boats have keels at the bottom of their bodies. We can stub our toes by tripping up the stairs and boats can stub theirs by running aground. Both are painful. And one of them can be very expensive if you need to get a marine doctor in to do some repairs.

So let's dive straight in. To start off with what exactly is a keel? A keel is the part of the boat that is hidden under water (unless it rolls over and you have to hold your breath for 2 minutes in which case it comes out of hiding). Basically, sailboats move because wind whooshes into your sails and pushes your boat forward through some sort of magical energy conversion (I dropped out of physics in high school so I'll just accept it as fact without seeking to understand). But as the wind is whooshing into your sails it is also trying to tip your boat over. Bad wind. Thankfully, a boat has a keel which counterbalances the wind and keeps it upright. Well mostly upright - boats "heel" or go tippy when you sail which will surely be a subject of a future post. Something along the lines of "Tippy, Not Tipsy". So, even though we hide our keels underwater, we like them a lot because they keep us upright. Much like human toes.

There are two major types of keels - fixed and deployable. Deployable keels are basically like ironing boards. When you want to use it, you unfold the keel by lowering a cable which drops the centerboard down. When you're done using the keel, you fold it back up and it stores itself neatly under the boat. There are some other types of deployable keels which have a daggerboard which are dropped down like a dagger through a vertical hole in your boat. When we chartered up in the Bay of Islands, we sailed on a Davidson 20' which has a deployable keel with a centerboard. Boats with deployable keels can be great when you want to get in close to anchor. You can fold up the keel and scoot right up front thumbing your nose at the big super yachts. And you can haul them out easily and put them on a trailer and be a trailer sailor if you want. But they aren't really what we would be looking for in a blue water cruiser, so we can cross them off our list.

That brings us to fixed keels. There are a number of different types including full keel, modified fin keel (with skeg or spade rudders) and fin keels with spade rudders and either round or flat sections. Yeah, I don't know what that means either so here are some pictures.

A full keel is just what it says on the tin - it runs pretty much the full length of the waterline. Beth Leonard describes boats with full keels as "traditional voyagers". She says that they are slow, safe and comfortable. All sounding good so far. Full keel boats are good when the wind gets all blowy as they don't get pushed sideways and off course as much as other types of keels. And you can heave-to more easily. ("Heave-toing" is another Nauticalese term which we'll leave for another day.) But slow, safe and comfortable comes at a price and that is speed and ease of turning. Because they are dragging a really big toe under the water, boats with full keels get more resistance and are therefore slower. When you want to tack (turn) the boat, it takes longer as the big toe gets in the way. But I don't like the idea of racing and I do like the idea of safe and comfortable so this might be a price worth paying.

This is our boat - Rainbow's End. She has a modified fin keel with spade rudder.
The next type of keel is a modified fin keel. Unlike a full keel, they don't run the length of the waterline. Beth Leonard describes these types of boats as "performance cruisers" - a perfect marriage between performance and comfort. Many modern cruising boats have fin keels as they give you the best of both worlds. They are faster and turn more easily, but also stable enough so that you feel safe (well, most of the time anyway). These types of boats can come with skeg rudders or spade rudders. Skeg rudders are attached directly to the hull via a skeg. While the term "skeg" sounds like the noise cats make when they cough up a hairball, they are really like an arm which extends down from the keel. Spade rudders are separate from the keel and attached to a post which comes down through the hull allowing it to swivel side to side. I like to think of rudders as a boat's tail and we'll cover these more in a separate post.

The next type of keel -  fin keels with spade rudders and either round or flat sections - are preferable if you want your boat to be more racy. And by "racy" I don't mean sailing around provocatively, I mean being faster and more agile. These types of boats are much harder to handle and need experienced sailors to manage them. I'm not very experienced and I don't want to be provocative or go too fast so we'll cross these off of our list too.

So taking all of that into consideration, I think we're going to be looking for a boat with a modified fin keel and spade rudder much like we have now on Rainbow's End. I like Beth Leonard's description of a "marriage between performance and comfort." The performance will appeal to Scott and the comfort will appeal to me. And that's what marriage is all about - finding something that works for both of you.

Coming up soon, we'll have a look at the different ways you can attach a keel to your boat and why boat builders put ballast in the keels. Clearly, it's just not as simple as what shape you want your keel to be but that's enough for one day.

If you're interested in other slightly eccentric posts on how to buy a sailboat when you know nothing about sailing or boats, check out this page.

Note: Just in case you think I am making this all up, I've had a look at a number of sailing books and articles to get me some learning. Beth A Leonard's book, The Voyager's Handbook, is a classic for good reason. It covers absolutely everything. I've also found Twain Braden's The Handbook of Sailing Techniques useful as he gives really simple descriptions which even I find easy to understand. And I came across a cool website - "How Stuff Works" where you can click on things to learn about buoyancy. It was fun - check it out here.

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14 August 2013

Boat Buying Tips Without Too Much Salt (Pt 1) - Hulls

Be warned - I am an unseasoned and not very salty sailor. Any tips I share about boat buying are of the low sodium variety.

I recently found out that sailboats can roll-over when a big wave hits them. This means that you need to be able to hold your breath for 2 minutes by which time the sailboat should hopefully right itself. (By the way, I have started practicing holding my breath during my spare time.) This has led me to the realization that there may in fact be more to buying a boat than whether or not it has a cute name and what color the cushions are. Scott has been obsessed with boat buying for a few years now and often shows me links to potential boats for sale. He’ll go on and on and on about the engine, the rigging, the hull, the gear it comes with and other technical bits and bobs. At this point, I usually give him my patented cat-like disinterested stare and then look at the pictures of the boat to see what color the cushions are. If the owners of the boat have chosen a nice pattern for their cushions, then I might go on to check out the galley set-up. After that my interest wanes and I fix myself a snack and watch a couple of episodes of 24.

This whole holding your breath for 2 minutes thing coupled with the fact that we’ll need to write a pretty big check when we buy our next boat has led me to the conclusion that perhaps I should become a bit more involved in this boat buying process. Plus, Scott is a crafty one and it pays to keep close tabs on him. Especially when it comes to buying things. So I’ve started doing some research and reading up on boat buying during breaks between my meals and episodes of 24. But because I am a very unseasoned and not very salty sailor, I wouldn't take anything I say too seriously. Not that I imagine you would anyway. This is definitely the low sodium way to buy a boat.

Let's start with what's underneath a boat's skin (aka that super expensive marine paint). Like humans, boats have to have something underneath their skin so that they don't go all floppy. While we have bones, boats have wood, steel or fiberglass under their skin. Wood is one of the oldest boat making materials and with good reason - wooden boats look awesome! I love looking at the classic wood boats in the Viaduct in Auckland and part of me would love to own one. That is until Scott tells me how much upkeep would be required. And then there is the fact that wood rots. That certainly puts me off. I'm not too keen on the idea that the thing I am depending upon to stay afloat in the water could be rotting away underneath me. Of course, you can prevent wood rot but that comes right back to considerable upkeep and maintenance required. So, I think I'll just drool over the wooden boats in the Viaduct and consider other options.

This takes us to boats made out of steel. Right off the bat this doesn't sound appealing. The word "steel" just seems to evoke coldness and sterility. I would much prefer my boat to be warm and inviting. But there are some pros to having the steel boat and the big one for me is that you can hit almost anything and come out the winner. Steel is tough and it can hold its own against hard, floating objects and well as survive if it goes aground on coral reefs. Of course if you hit a larger steel vessel, like a big freighter, all bets are off. The downside of steel is that it rusts. So owners of steel boats have to do their utmost to keep water from coming into contact with the bare steel. Hmm...boats are meant to be in the water aren't they? I guess that is where that super expensive marine paint skin comes in handy.

Fiberglass (or glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) in Brit speak) is the other option. I was surprised to learn that it has only been used for around 40 years. Without giving away my age, I think it might even be younger than me. Don't I just feel old now. Fiberglass is very commonly used in the types of boats we'll be looking at. It is basically glass cloth which is saturated in liquid glue and then allowed to dry. In between the glass cloth and glue is a core that can be made out of things like:
  • Plywood - something I think Karate masters chop in half with their feet;
  • Balsa wood - something I think a 5 year old could easily snap in two without knowing how to do Karate;
  • Foam - cats would easily tear this to pieces;
  • Some sort of high-tech wood - this is sounding better than ply or balsa wood; or
  • More fiberglass - this is what our current boat is made of.

Does glass cloth and glue sound like something you would trust your life too? I can see why some people like steel! However, I have been assured by the many books and internet articles I have read that fiberglass is strong and impervious to water. But of course, like all things boat related, it too requires upkeep and maintenance because, yes you guessed it, water is its enemy. If you get moisture in your glass cloth and glue based hull then the core can rot. If it isn't rust, then it is rot.

Our Boat (Rainbow's End)
She is made of fiberglass
So after considering all three options, I'm guessing that we'll be going with a fiberglass boat. They're less upkeep than a wooden boat and more commonly used material than steel in the size of boats we'll be looking at. So there you go, I've learned a lot. In particular, that in addition to spending a lot of money on this new cruising life of ours, we'll also be spending a good chunk of time maintaining our boat! Hopefully, I'll be able to find some time in between boat maintenance chores to reupholster our boat cushions so that at the end of a long day I can sit down and sigh and think to myself, "Darn, those are real nice cushions."

If you're interested in other slightly eccentric posts on how to buy a sailboat when you know nothing about sailing or boats, check out this page.

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12 August 2013

Why Is Anti-Foul Paint So Darn Expensive?

Do you know it costs over US$10,000 to hire someone to paint the average 30-40 foot boat? See here if you don't believe me. That is a lot of money! Well, I think it is a lot of money. If you don’t think it is a lot of money, let me know if you’re looking to adopt two middle-aged sailors. We would be more than happy to help out.

Even if paint your boat yourself, you still have to shell out for the paint and other materials which makes the cash register go cha-ching! Now that we have made the decision to move onto our boat full-time, I’ve started to pay far more attention to how much all of this is going to cost us, especially as we’ll have to write a pretty big check next year when we upgrade and get a bigger boat.

When we bought our current boat we knew we were going to have to haul her out to repaint her bottom with anti-foul paint. This is when I first started to show some interest in how much things with the magical word “marine” in front of them cost. When Scott told me that the paint alone cost NZ$200 I almost fell over and this was on sale! And that doesn’t include the cost to haul your boat out of the water and get her water blasted. While I can spend almost as much on a pair of shoes, I really can’t get too excited about spending that much on a can of paint. It is just now starting to dawn on me that owning a boat means that how much we spend on “marine” products is going to increase dramatically while my spending on cute shoes is definitely going to have to go down. And since you have to anti-foul your boat regularly, I thought I should find out a bit more about anti-foul paint and why it is so darn expensive.

So what is paint anyway? Seems like a basic question but sometimes those are the best ones. Paint is a pigmented coating material which when applied to a substrate forms an opaque film having protective, decorative or specific technical properties. Makes sense so far – something with color which makes your boat pretty and keeps it safe from nasty things like barnacles. (Varnish is like paint, but transparent.) Paint has been around forever. You’ve probably seen pictures of Paleolithic cave paintings and, unless you live in an actual cave or on a sailboat in an isolated anchorage, you’ll definitely have seen the Mona Lisa. Both are great examples of how paint has been used throughout human history for decorative and artistic purposes. But paint can also serve an important role in protecting surfaces. This is particularly true when it comes to boats. The last thing you want is for your boat to corrode and start letting water in or collect a whole lot of creatures attaching themselves which will slow you down. Keeping the bottom of your boat clean is also important for the marine environment as it helps ensure unwanted marine pests aren’t introduced into new areas. (You can find a handy pamphlet here which shows you how seriously New Zealand takes anti-fouling and marine bio-security. It also has pictures and descriptions of local marine pests. Some of them look cute but don't be fooled.)

You can basically divide a boat into two – above the waterline and below the waterline. If you have a fiberglass boat*, you can generally choose whether or not to paint above the waterline. You may be perfectly happy with the color of the gelcoat (i.e., a colored resin applied to the boat when it is made - we'll learn more about this at some point) and/or too cheap to paint it. It’s your choice – you can paint it or not.

Our current boat has a “lovely” pink hue to her especially when the sun hits her just right. I think it is the result of the years she has spent in the harsh New Zealand sun. I turn pinkish when I get sunburned and I assume that’s what has happened to Rainbow’s End. At least I hope so because I can’t imagine why anyone would deliberately choose a gelcoat which has a slightly pink Pepto Bismo hue to it on purpose. We’re too cheap to paint her topsides so pink she stays. Plus it would be a big hassle. Money + Hassle = Not Going to Happen. (If you’re looking to buy Rainbow’s End when she goes on sale next year, we’re only kidding. She looks great! No pink to be found here. The best looking boat on the block!)

Below the waterline is where anti-foul paint comes in. This is the kind of paint you really don’t have a choice about. You have to do this - no ifs, ands or buts. You can see a picture of what our boat looked like when we hauled her out before we bought her here. She hadn't been anti-fouled in a while. It wasn't pretty.

Basically, the free loaders of the marine world love nothing more than to hitch a ride on your boat. At least when you’re driving down the motorway the hitchhikers stick their thumbs out and politely ask for a ride. They don't assume you'll give them a lift. Not so when it comes to barnacles, molluscs, tube worms, slime, the occasional gummi-bear etc. They just hop right on like they're entitled. But fortunately we're humans and we're bigger, smarter, have opposable thumbs and we have access to credit cards and marine stores. So we water blast the nasties off regularly and then apply a couple of coats of anti-foul paint every year or two. While anti-foul paint looks and smells like regular paint and you put it on the same way, it actually behaves differently. It has "biocides" inside it which ooze (a technical term) out in a continuous and controlled manner. The paint is actually porous and lets water in so as to dissolve the biocides. It must make the boat taste bad or something because it inhibits the marine hitchhikers from clinging on to your boat. Take that barnacles!

The type of anti-foul paint you choose depends upon what color you want, where you sail your boat (i.e., what local nasties are prevalent) and any local regulation around copper biocides. Like many things in life, anti-foul paint is certainly not without its controversy. And when it comes to anti-foul paint, some people consider copper to be a bad guy. There are very few biocides that will work well in anti-foul paint. They either don't react well to salt water or they're too toxic to be handled safely. During the 1970s and 80s, tributyltin (TBT) was commonly used but has since been banned internationally. As a result copper biocides are now in vogue, however, there is now some question about their level of toxicity and impact on marine life. As a result, its use is now banned in certain areas. So my takeaway is, marine creatures bad on your boat, but good in the water. Substances that keep marine creatures off your boat both good and bad. It is all too confusing. Fortunately, the marine industry is beavering away coming up with fabulous new non-toxic anti-foul products so I won't have to waste precious brain capacity thinking about it.

Phew! That was a lot to take in. If you zoned out during the middle of the post, here are the key things to remember for fiberglass boats:
  • It's your call if you paint above the waterline (there are exceptions I'm sure).
  • Keep your bottom clean and apply anti-foul regularly below the waterline.
  • Make sure you know about the regulations and conditions in your area and pick the right type of anti-foul paint.
  • Read the labels and be aware of the impact sailing and other human activity has on the environment.
And the most important thing you should keep in mind is that anti-foul paint is expensive. In New Zealand, 4 liters of ablative paint will cost you around NZ$179 for the non-premium kind and NZ$269 for the premium kind (prices with a store card).** However, you do get your choice of some exciting colors - black, red, blue and white. There are two big marine shops in Auckland - Burnsco and Smart Marine. It pays to compare prices between the two. Fortunately, they're right across the street from each other so it is easy. Also, if you're cheap like us, get a store card to get the discounted price. Yes, they'll have access to all sorts of information about your shopping habits, but I'm guessing the NSA knows far more about you anyways.

I was curious how much house paint cost in comparison so I looked it up and it seems like you can get 4 liters of Resene house paint for NZ$115. You also get a far greater choice of colors. That's a pretty big price difference between anti-foul paint and house paint. Those biocides they put in anti-foul paint must be expensive creatures. But then I guess homeowners don't usually have a problem with barnacles attaching themselves to their siding.

If you’ve been really fascinated by this discussion of marine paint you can find more information here including lots of technical mumbo-jumbo, formulas (like 4Fe + 302 +2H2O = 2Fe2O3H2O) and diagrams. Read at your own risk. We cannot be held liable for any boredom you may experience.

*We currently have a fiberglass boat and are likely to get another one when we get our new boat, so I haven't looked into painting wooden or steel boats.
**There are number of types of anti-foul paint: (1) Copolymer ablative paint is a soft paint which wears off over time. Good for boats that get taken out of the water as the paint doesn't lose its effectiveness when dry. Our boat stays in the water, but we've used an ablative paint. I think it is a pretty common choice in NZ for your average boat. (2) Epoxy or modified epoxy paint is a hard paint which doesn't rub off. This means you can scrub and scrape you boat while it is in the water to remove marine nasties. Because the paint doesn't "dissolve" like ablative paint, you have to eventually strip off the paint as it will build up over time. Sounds like a messy job. (3) Thin film paints are generally used in fresh water where you get less marine nasties. Some racers also like it because there is less friction on the paint thus shaving precious seconds off of their time. We don't race our boat or keep her in fresh water so we don't use this kind. (4) Vinyl paint is a hard paint which racers like as it is low friction and more effective than thin film paint in salt water. You can also polish the paint to make it super slick. Again only something crazy racers would be obsessed with.

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09 August 2013

More Cooking with Cans

Following on from my Taco Soup recipe, it is time for some more experiments cooking from cans. Cooking from cans will come in handy living on a boat - its cheap and there aren't always supermarkets in isolated anchorages. 

Although Scott's eyes tend to glaze over when I start talking about cooking from cans, I actually know someone who is a "fan of the can" and has been living almost exclusively out of cans. And he lives on land! Here is what he has to say about cans:

"I like the 'efficiency' of them in every aspect - efficient to store; efficient way to bring ingredients together; efficient to dispose of; efficient on the wallet; and efficient on the food value - because they are good quality! I like cans."

So in his honor, here is another recipe from cans. I've even costed it out so we can check and see if cooking from cans really is good value. For those Americanos out there, if you want to do the math the Kiwi is currently trading at about .80 to the US dollar. And keep in mind, everything in New Zealand is really expensive so when you do the math, it might not seem like good value to you. And if this doesn't seem like good value, don't even think about buying a house in Auckland.

Scott - if you can manage to stay awake throughout this entire post, I'll put in a bonus picture of a snapper at the end.

Corn Chowder

Here are the ingredients and how much they cost (all prices in NZ$).

  • 1 300 gram can of creamed corn ($1.85) - I used a can of Wattie's creamed corn. There are generic versions, but Countdown was having a "can sale" so I went "premium" with Watties. I feel comforted in my extravagance because the corn was grown in Hawke's Bay. It says so on the can.
  • 1 410 gram can of whole potatoes ($1.89) - I went "downmarket" for my potatoes and bought the generic Homebrand kind. But I feel reassured by my decision as the can explicitly states that there are no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. Good to know. Because it is a generic can, the label is much less aesthetically pleasing than the Wattie's can. But I guess you get what you pay for.
  • 2 cups of milk (25 cents) - I made this using skim/trim powdered milk. For me it qualifies as a "can-like" ingredient as you can store powdered milk for a long time on a boat. I just estimated the cost based upon 400 gram packet of milk powder going for $7.99.
  • 1 onion (30 cents) - Onions, like powdered milk, theoretically last a long time so this is another one of my staple "can-like" ingredients. Again, I just estimated the cost based upon 1.5 kg of onions going for $3.00. My original estimate was 27 cents, but they don't have pennies in New Zealand so I rounded up. Imagine living in a world without pennies. Once you've gone without, you realize you don't really need them. (Hey! Listen up US Mint - I'm talking to you!)
  • 1 tub of Continental chicken stock pot concentrate ($1.25) - I don't actually like these but they come in packs of 4 and since I had already bought them, I feel compelled to use them up. I am truly embracing my new frugal lifestyle. The old Ellen would have chucked them out and bought the super expensive and better tasting Campbell's chicken stock instead.
  • 1 tablespoon of canola oil (5 cents) - Another estimated cost based on a 500 ml bottle of Homebrand canola oil going for $2.39.
  • About 1 teaspoon of pepper - Sorry, I didn't price this out. Way too complicated to count each individual grain of pepper and calculate a cost per teaspoon. I didn't add any salt to this recipe because you get enough sodium from the stock pot concentrate.
  • 1 bay leaf and about 1 teaspoon of thyme - Couldn't be bothered to cost these out either. I have some already so I'll call it free. If I didn't have any, I wouldn't put it in.
  • 1 cup of water - free!
So the total cost is $5.60 (I rounded up, remember no pennies). I figure you can get 3 servings out of this so the price per serve is approx. $1.85. For comparison, you can get a 600 gram pouch of Signature Range Chicken and Corn Chowder for $4.70 or if you want to splurge you could get a 600 gram pouch of Pitango Smoked Seafood Chowder for $6.39. I think you can get around 2 servings out of each 600 gram pouch. So the pouches are more expensive per serve, but they do have meat in them (chicken or smoked seafood). But the good news is if you live on a boat and have your very own cynical sailor, he can catch snapper for you which you can add into your chowder to turn it into Snappy Snapper Chowder. Yum! (Hang in there Scott, bonus picture of the snapper coming soon.)

Okay, here is how you make the chowder:
  • Chop up the onion and sauté in a pot in the oil until soft.
  • Open up the can of potatoes*, drain and slice them. Then chuck them into the pot.
  • Open up the can of corn and chuck it into the pot.
  • Add the stock pot concentrate, milk, water, bay leaf, thyme and pepper and bring to boil. Then reduce to a simmer and let it bubble away for about 30 minutes.
  • If you have snapper, you could chop it up and add it to the pot at the end and let it simmer until it is cooked. I don't have snapper so I haven't tried it out, but we'll give it a go this summer on the boat.
And finally, the moment Scott has been waiting for. A picture of one of the snappers he caught last summer (as well as a shot of his foot).

*Note: When opening the cans, do not cut yourself on the jagged edge causing you to have to wrap a towel around your finger to keep the blood from dripping on to the floor, which means you have to try to get dressed and call for a taxi with only one hand in order to get yourself to the local White Cross clinic to get stiches put in and have your finger wrapped in such a way that people call you ET for a week. Also, don't stick you finger into a light socket to check what type of light bulb it takes while the lamp is still plugged in.

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07 August 2013

The Accidental Man Overboard Drill

I specialize in two kinds of knots - "Ellen Specials" and "Ellen Super Duper Specials". "Ellen Specials" are knots that are very complicated, can't be replicated and can't be easily untied. I use these in lieu of a bowline knot. Scott just loves them. My other type of knots - "Ellen Super Duper Specials" - are Scott's absolute favorite. They are the type of knot which comes untied without any human intervention whatsoever at the most inopportune time. Like, for example, when you are motoring out into the crowded Waitemata Harbor in Auckland to put the sails up and the fender that was tied on to the lifeline magically unties itself and falls into the water. Apparently, the point of knots is that they are supposed to stay tied until you untie them. Mine either don't untie unless a considerable amount of effort is applied or untie all by themselves.

For those that don't know much about sailing, let me explain how we got ourselves in this situation. Scott is the skipper of our boat and, like all good leaders, he empowers the crew with little tasks and duties so that they feel involved and motivated. One of my duties is the tying and untying of the fenders. Fenders are rubber objects that protect your boat when you are maneuvering up against a wharf, dock or jetty. They are basically car bumpers. They come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colors.

You generally tie fenders on using a clove hitch (something I have yet to master). A clove hitch is a knot that can theoretically be quickly tied and easily untied (ideally with human intervention). We generally tie our fenders to the lifeline. A lifeline is one of those few Nauticalese terms that is easy to understand without a dictionary. It literally is a line that runs around the perimeter of the boat to keep you from falling off. It is designed to save your life and prevent accidental man overboard drills. People who race actually take lifelines off of their boats as they drag in the water when their boats are heeled over. This takes precious seconds off of their time. Crazy people. This is why I don't go racing.

On this particular day, before heading out for a sail, we were going to tie up at X Pier to get some water. We moor out in the "piles" at Westhaven Marina and store our dinghy in the dinghy racks on X Pier. When we want to get out to our boat, Scott rows us (thanks Scott!) out to the "piles". If we need water or have to load a lot of stuff onto the boat, we swing by the X Pier where you can tie up temporarily. So I tied on our fenders, using what I thought were clove hitch knots, and off we went to the X Pier. We got some water and headed on out. Once we headed out, my next task was to untie the fenders and store them in the locker in the cockpit. I successfully removed 3 out of 4 fenders. My mind then wandered (probably thinking about what kind of snacks we were going to have) and I completely forgot about the fourth fender. Scott is much more focused than I am and noticed a fender floating in the water. Being a frugal guy he thought, "Score! Someone dropped their fender. Let's grab it - we can always use an extra one." At this point, I started paying attention again, did some math and realized that it was actually our fender. I confessed. Scott sighed.

On the bright side, although we didn't get a free fender, it was an excellent opportunity to practice our man overboard skills. The man overboard drill is one of those safety procedures you hope you never have to use but you should be prepared to do so should a man, woman or fender fall overboard. Basically, you gybe and let the sheets (aka ropes in ordinary English) go which turns you around and allows you to stop back by the person or fender in the water. (Side note: Scott says you should tack, not gybe. But I'm going with what Penny Whiting says.) As Scott was in charge of turning the boat around my task was to lean over the side of the boat with a boat hook and try to scoop up the fender. Either my arms are too short, our boat hook isn't long enough or I'm hopelessly uncoordinated. Or maybe all three. Needless to say I didn't manage to grab the fender on the first time, or the second time, or the third time and so on and so on. Eventually, Scott "relieved me of my duties" and then managed to helm the boat and grab the fender. He is so coordinated (and he has longer arms). We'll do more practice this coming summer.

One thing that the accidental man overboard drill did make me think about is the importance of redundancy in your boat equipment and systems. I came dangerously close to dropping our one and only boat hook in the water and we need our boat hook to moor. So the next day, I decided that we had to head down to the local marine shop and buy ourselves another boat hook. I don't think we have redundancy for anything else on our boat, but we are the proud owners of two boat hooks.

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