30 December 2016

Back in the Pen (Slip) with Wild Weather

Katmai went back in to the water on schedule just before Christmas and boy were we glad.  The Christmas season brought really unusual and interesting weather to much of Australia.  We were glad to observe the weather from the comfort of our boat, in the harbor. 

There were two large storm systems influenced the weather in Fremantle, even though they were relatively distant. 

37.5 knots of wind in the harbor was not
unusual during Christmas week 2016
It was a very windy week here in the harbor, with local predictions consistently exceeded. Much of the last few days saw winds in the 20 to high 30 knot range.
The Fremantle Sailing Club Cruising section members are planning on sailing south to Quindalup for the holidays. While some boats have departed we are waiting for more favorable winds.

The following three synoptic charts from the Australia Government weather service really show the story of the unusual weather we have experienced.

This first chart is from Christmas Eve.  I have added our position on the west coast in the Fremantle Harbor.  To the north is a cyclone, Yvette, that is headed for landfall on the northwest coast of Australia.  The continent of Australia is about the size of the lower 48 states.

Two days later, Yvette is bringing major rains to the center of Australia, a region which is a desert.  The Uluru National Park (formerly known as Ayer's Rock) was closed due to heavy rains and flooding.  The official government word is that it was a once in 50 years' storm.  Note also the High Pressure system in the Bight of Australia.  During the Australian summer season (now), the high pressure systems move from west to east through the waters off southern Australia every 3-4 days.

The most amazing thing happened next. Within 18 hours, a major Low Pressure system (storm) formed in the Australian bight.  As the next High pressure system (the 1022 on the Chart) tried to move in to the bight, it compressed against the big Low.  This compression is expressed as the isobar lines on the chart are close together, bringing more wind to the west coast of Australia.
It is three days later as I type this and things are improving weather-wise. The Low in the bight has moved considerably to the east and the more normal pattern of high pressure systems moving though has resumed. We plan on heading south tomorrow and hope for some nice easterly winds to ease us south.  The strong southerlies of the last week would have been right 'on the nose'.  We will be off for just a few days for local sailing/fishing and socializing with friends.

24 December 2016

Back at the Helm in Freo

We’re back in Fremantle on our boat Katmai after spending most of the last year setting up our post retirement home, garden and workshop on Orcas Island.  We are delighted to be back at the Fremantle Sailing Club (FSC) for the southern summer.  It has been especially wonderful to see so many long term friends.  Our life here is very social, with many club events and friends in the area.
Katmai being lifted out of the
water for routine maintenance
During the first weeks back on the boat we have been hard at work, but then a wise friend once told me that all sailing is hard work, and I suppose that is true. Most of the work is really enjoyable though.

The least favorite part of boat ownership is the maintenance done ‘on the hard’.  Yes, ‘sailing’ on the asphalt of a marine work yard to do the routine, every other year, maintenance.   Tasks include cleaning, sanding and reapplying the boat bottom antifouling paint, buffing and polishing the ‘top sides’, the white shiny part that is above the water, cleaning the propeller and applying a special antifouling to the metal, checking all the though hulls, cleaning and reinstalling all the sensors that penetrate the hull such as depth and speed sensors, and checking the rudder and keel.

Work on the bottom paint goes pretty quickly on Katmai.  We normally have minimal sanding to do.  Considering she did not sail during most of 2016 we are pleasantly surprised to see very little marine growth on her bottom.  Nothing a power wash did not solve. 
Eric preparing the hull to paint with anitfoul
This year we gave her two coats of an antifoul known to do well locally, Altex #5.  We were happy though with the performance of the Jotun we used last time.  When we first got to Australia, at great expense, we found the same antifouling paint that did well for us in Alaska, International's Micron.  It did not do well in Australia; the critters in the warmer water were not discouraged.  So we learned the lesson of antifouling.  Ask what the local boats are using.  We are so fortunate to have a friendly and helpful chandlery(boat part store) on the edge of the works area, Wilson Marine.  The staff have been fantastic about getting us parts we need and are so convenient for that special bold or screw that one needs in the middle of a project.
Can you spot the snow man? 
Ha, Ha- it is near 100F!
Painting antifouling using a
respirator and other safety gear.

What really was a pleasant surprise was the fantastic condition of the propeller and shaft.  Normally these are crusted over with carbonaceous marine growth that takes a couple days of scrubbing and sanding to remove.  When she was out of the water for maintenance in 2015, we had the prop and shaft treated with ‘Prop-Speed’ and clearly it worked.  Expensive, but worth it in the long run.  Even the sacrificial zincs were in great shape: the 2 year old shaft zinc is nearly like new and the prop zinc I did replace but only because of slight erosion.
Cleaning the propeller to add a new zinc.

In Alaska, we seemed to go through a set of zincs in 6 months to one year.  Here they last many years.  I suspect it is due to the “Fail-Safe” galvanic isolator we added when Katmai first arrived in Australia as part of the broader rewiring of the whole boat.

One of the most challenging chores is the buffing and polishing of the top sides.  It is really like waxing your car, except Katmai is 25% longer than a school bus, and of course, up on stands.  So imagine a school bus up in the air 10 feet.  To get to the sides, Eric has to work 6-8 feet up in the air on scaffolding.  Holding a 15 lb electric buffer mostly over his head to buff the hull, then every 8 feet, scamper down to slide the scaffold over for the next 8 feet.  Then once more around to wax.  All in all, this part takes 2 days.
Finally, time to go back in the water
Finally, after a long, dusty, sweaty week, the sound of the 75 metric ton hoist coming for us is like music. Within 30 minutes, Katmai is picked up off the stands, and gently placed back afloat in the water. For me, the best part of being back in the water is to be able to sleep at sea-level again, rather than up in the stand 12 feet above the ground.  Unless it is really hot, we have always stayed on the boat during maintenance.   I think it makes us get it done and over with!

Back in the water, but gear to be cleaned
 Now, back in the water, we are organizing Katmai, finalizing the rigging and getting ready to sail down the coast to the wine country of Western Australia with several other boats from the FSC over the holidays. 

Donning climbing harness
for a ride to the top

Eric has been up the mast several times in the last few weeks, but today is the last for a while.  Today he went up to lubricate the fittings before we did the final tensioning with the mast jack.  A final rig check before we go out…Can’t wait.  I promise sailing photos soon!

Eric near top of the mast
for final check
We are always ever so glad to be back in the water, in our slip (pen). Can you tell?  The next day or two are spent cleaning the boat which is always covered with dirt and grime as are our clothes and all gear used in the process.  Even the water hose and electrical cords get a cleaning with soft scrub and fresh water before being allow back on the boat.  My tennis shoes are still quarantined in a bucket on the dock waiting for a cleaning.  Eric threw his (old) shoes out!

As type this, it is Christmas Eve in Australia, so Merry Christmas to everyone and best wishes for a fabulous, joy-filled, healthy 2017.