Apr 30 2011

position update

Tag: updatemattholmes @ 7:51 am
matt here–they left bundaberg about a week ago and I’ve been receiving regular updates. They visited Lady Musgrave Reef (looks sweet) then Great Keppel Island.  Map with waypoints here:

Apr 19 2011

ex-HMAS Brisbane

Tag: Australia,diving,fun activity,Justin,pictures,scuba divingJonathon Haradon @ 12:41 am
This post pertains to events that happened June 9th.

Justin and I went diving on a wreck called the ex-HMAS Brisbane just outside of Mooloolaba. ‘Ex’ because she’s sunk. HMAS is her Her Majesty’s Australian Ship. Justin was our dive master for the trip based on his getting certified more recently, three years ago, than I, fifteen years ago. He also paid for the permit and listed himself as dive master. He also has a dive computer. I have yet to figure out how mine work.

The ex-HMAS is quite possibly the best first wreck dive you could do. It was purposely sunk to create a reef and a dive site. Large panels were cut through the sides to allow easy access all throughout the ship’s interior. Justin was hesitant before diving about going through the interior; going inside a real wreck can be a serious endeavor. Once we were down though, and right next to the eight foot wide cut-outs, I found it irresistible to not meander through and motioned that intent. What a cool experience.

We almost were unable to do the dive, rough seas gave us fits as Justin tried to motor up to the mooring while I tried to snag the mooring with the boat hook. At one point, we had to execute a boat hook overboard, when I had snagged the mooring but was unable to hold on as the waves pushed us away. The boat hook was ripped from my hands. Justin did a few circles around the hook before finally closing in. We retrieved the hook and managed to secure up. And glad we were because it turned out to be a fantastic dive.

Here are a few pictures.

Apr 18 2011

Lessons in Captainhood

Tag: Australia,failures,JustinJonathon Haradon @ 7:48 pm
This post backtracks a bit and talks about events that happened April 4th-8th.

It’s easy to write about fun things that happen, like in the next few posts to come about scuba diving a wreck or Justin imitating an Australian accent over the VHF to the coast guard. It’s harder, much harder for me, to write about screw-ups or flaws in my captaining. When Karen was writing about the trip, however, she was bravely honest and up front about when things weren’t going well and how she felt about it. So I’m trying to take some inspiration from her here.

Justin was at the helm as we approached a channel that would hopefully take us to a better anchorage. Though I would occasionally give him course corrections, Justin does a fine job of it and I was watching our course on our computer charting program below decks. Our original anchoring location seemed too exposed and the weather forecast said the wind would pick up. We had already seen two squalls blow by us earlier in the day where the wind had jumped from 10-15 knots to 30-35 in a matter of seconds. The water depth was 15 feet, which for Moreton Bay is quite good as half of it seems to be a minefield of sand bars. We were 100 yards away from a buoy that marked the channel. And then we abruptly slowed to a stop. We had run aground.

Since we had run aground in Fiji, I at least had an idea of what to do. In Fiji though, the water had been perfectly calm and it was a beautiful day. This time however, the situation was compounded by a nasty little wave chop and an impending storm on the horizon. I was desperate to get free before 30-35 knots of wind starting knocking us around and creating waves that would pound on us some more. As it was, each choppy wave would lift the boat slightly and set it down back on the sand with a small shudder. I dreaded feeling a much larger shudder if the approaching storm reached us.

I started racing around the boat, mimicking exactly what Matt had done when we ran aground previously. Dinghy into the water, outboard on, fuel attached, kedging anchor out. Justin quickly asked what he could do, and my mind raced as I tried to balance thinking about what I was currently doing, with the effort to explain to someone anxious to help but unfamiliar with the boat, unfamiliar with where items are, and unfamiliar with what we might need.

Just before speeding off in the dinghy to set the kedge anchor, I explained to Justin he needed to start cranking in the winch once I had dropped the anchor. Unlike in Fiji where we tried going forwards and sideways to break free, I had decided to pull us sideways and backwards. It seemed probable that it only got shallower moving forward. As he winched madly away, putting an prodigious effort into cranking the line in as fast as possible, I raced back to the boat and with snorkel mask on, dove down to try to see what was going on and pray there wasn’t any rocks around. With less than five feet of visibility, I couldn’t even see the bottom from the surface. Diving down to get closer to the keel, I thankfully saw there was only sand. I could also see the boat lifting on every wave and coming back down. It was unnerving.

Back on the boat, Justin and I swapped out every two minutes cranking in the anchor line on the winch. It was like sprinting with your arms, and in two minutes I would be out of breath and exhausted from cranking.  As Justin kept cranking away at a now extremely taunt anchor line, I turned on the engine, hoping the water intake wouldn’t clog with sand. The low depth alarm on our depth sounder went off, freaking me out; I had never heard it sound before. I revved the engine in reverse, nothing happened. Justin and I swapped out; cranking the winch could only happen in the low gear now, straining will all one’s effort. Back at the helm I put the engine in reverse again; we slowly started inching backwards. We were free.

For a denouement, we struggled for 30 minutes to retrieve the kedge anchor, so stuck in the sand it had apparently become. it also started raining and the wind picked up. I was glad to be away from being grounded. Once free, Justin justifiably was ready to smile, laugh, and enjoy the fact that we and the boat had emerged unscathed. For myself, with adrenaline still coursing, I could hardly talk and wanted only to get to the anchorage we had previously passed on. An hour later, at anchor I slumped into the nav table with a beer. Mentally exhausted.

Justin kept saying afterwards, we gotta blog about it. And while I agreed, I knew part of me didn’t want to. I didn’t want to admit to a deficiency on my part. I didn’t want Matt to be worried about losing confidence in my ability to captain Syzygy.

A couple of days later we punched a hole through one of the polycarbonate windows that wrap around our dodger. Another error in captain-hood on my part, I wasn’t insistent enough to Justin to pull in the boom all the way to centerline before jibbing. The boom came over harder then it should. The boom is sheeted, moved in and out, by the main sheet line. The main sheet runs through blocks which are on a traveler. The traveler can be moved from side to side by the traveler line. The shock load from the boom coming over harder than it should caused the traveler line to break one of the pulleys it was attached to. The pulley snapped off violently into the polycarbonate dodger window and punched a hole through. Fixing this will probably be expensive and a huge ordeal. I was more upset with myself at this event than at running aground. At least when we ran aground I thought our location was fine and was telling Justin to stay on course. Here, I knew better. I knew the boom should be further to center before jibbing. I knew better and just didn’t insist to Justin that he needed put more effort into winching in the boom. He was tired of winching and asked if it was enough and if he could stop. I let him. I shouldn’t have and I knew it. I berated myself as captain and my lack of leadership.

A week later, I e-mailed Matt, almost sheepishly, intro-ing with the line, ‘well I suppose I should tell you…’  I felt like a student handing in a final exam, embarrassingly mumbling to his favorite professor that he hadn’t studied well enough and had done poorly.

I’m hoping I can do better in the future.

Apr 18 2011

Justin has been Promoted

Tag: Australia,humorous,JustinJonathon Haradon @ 1:31 am
I would like to inform everyone that Justin has been promoted. When Justin joined sv Syzygy, he was given the title of deck swabby. I had previously been through the rank of swabby and had been glad to be rid of it. Justin too labored under the unfair disdain from his fellow crew which accompanies the label.

I would like to announce however, that Justin’s new title is deck swabby/cook.

Despite repeatedly quoting Stephen Siegal in Under Siege, “Nah. I’m just a cook. [whispering] Just a lowly, lowly cook,” Justin has shown a high degree of enthusiasm and has taken to the role of cook with relish. In fact, since Justin joined the boat, I have only cooked one or two meals. Justin, as cook, is a god-send.

His favorite is a stir-fry with sweet chili sauce. He also makes a mean egg and sauteed potato hash. His ramon, with cucumber and a can of chicken, is fucking incredible.

Congratulations, Justin, you are now ‘just a lowly cook’. slash deck swabby.

Post-note: Justin has also applied for the position of dinghy helmsman. However, the first time he took the dinghy out for a little joy ride the engine stalled repeatedly on him. He still needs some practice, but I’m confident that another promotion is in his future soon.

Apr 18 2011

Temporarily Indefinitely

Tag: Australia,boat work,failures,humorous,JustinJonathon Haradon @ 1:04 am
“How long are you going to be in Bundaberg?” asked Ducan over some beers at a pub in Bundaberg. Justin replied, “temporarily, indefinitely.” The three days prior to arriving in Bundaberg, a city renowned for brewing an exceptional rum, we had been running our engine for five or six hours a day. There was just no wind or we were in a place so narrow that I didn’t want to be sailing. The Great Sandy Straights just south of Bundy, while serenely beautiful, were tough to navigate, so the engine was on the entire time. More posts later about fun we had there. At least we knew the engine fabulously. Until the day after we got to Bundaberg and tried to move away from the obscene $50 a night marina we were staying at. Then our engine decided not to start. Two hours of investigation revealed nothing and at that point Kate, our supremely gracious and generous friend here in Bundy, arrived to take us back to her place for hot showers and beds. Another $50 to the Bundaberg port marina. They would get at least another $150 dollars when all is said and done. The next morning Justin and I arose early and headed back to boat. Since the engine was cranking but wouldn’t fire, I suspected air in the fuel lines, something Matt confirmed in some e-mails I traded with him. Getting air out of the lines is supposed to be relatively straight forward. Follow a few steps and they should be cleared of air and the engine should start. Air may however, leak back in once the engine is turned off. Finding and permanently fixing an air leak is a confounding, vexing, frustrating and all-together potentially miserable experience. But I digress…. simply getting air out of the lines is supposed to be a relatively straight forward process. First: open the bleed screw on the primary filter currently being used (we have two of them) and use the pump on the primary filter to pump fuel though the filter. Air bubbles should come out of the bleed screw and when they stop then there is no air from the tank to the primary filter. First problem: fuel began leaking out of the other primary filter bleed screw. This was not surprising or unexpected as the bleed screw on said filter is a plastic piece of shit bolt that is basically stripped and deserves to melted down and turned into a children’s toy where it can cause joy instead of the frustration and ire it caused me. I had temporarily fixed this six months ago by wrapping it with plumbers tape and I again painstakingly cut some plumbers tape in half and wrapped it around about a dozen times all the while mumbling under my breath curses at it. Two days later I would buy a nice new metal bolt and declare victory on something Matt and I knew we should have done two years ago. Simultaneous first problem: fuel began leaking from above my head. This was surprising and unexpected. Instead of mumbling curses under my breath, this elicited an audible, “where the fuck is that coming from?” I was apparently too eager on the pumping at the primary fuel filter and was forcing fuel out via our vacuum gauge. There is a line running from the fuel system to the back of this gauge so that it can measure fuel pressure. There was no hose clamp on the line for some reason, just a tube pushed onto a nipple in the back of the gauge. I zip-tied it for now, and should hose clamp it later. Second step: open nut on fuel line exit at secondary fuel filter and using lift pump, pump diesel out until any air bubbles go away. Second problem: fuel began streaming out of the secondary fuel filter, which I had just changed. I must now mash and squeeze and contort my body over the engine so that I can better see the secondary fuel filter and put the o-ring and the filter on correctly. My head is now inches away from where two years ago I had jump started the engine via my body when I connected the alternator to the starter motor or solenoid, (I’m still not entirely sure what happened back then). Having the engine start unexpectedly, with me lying on top of it, because current had gone through either me or a tool I was holding, was not an experience I wanted to repeat. Thirty minutes later, the secondary fuel filter is finally on appropriately with a mild stream of obscenities. Third step: open fuel line leading to fuel injection pump and using the lift pump, pump diesel out until any air bubbles go away. Third problem: No fuel will come out. I can hear fuel running through the system and returning to the fuel tank, but no fuel comes out here. I give up and move on, with a pointedly loud set of damnations for the engine. Fourth step: open bleed screw on fuel injection pump and using the lift pump, pump diesel out until any air bubbles go away. Fourth problem: The bleed screw is located in another screw, lets call it the ‘stupid screw’ which goes into the pump. When I try to loosen the bleed screw, it seems to be seized to the stupid screw, and instead the stupid screw loosens. The bleed screw is specifically made so that when loosened, only a small amount of fuel comes out. The stupid screw is not. Lots of diesel now comes out as I fumble around trying to find the wrench that will appropriate tighten the stupid screw and not just tighten the bleed screw further into the stupid screw. I get it to work right with additional wrenches as I ponder what cancer I am bringing upon myself with diesel dousing my hands. I am also cognizant that neighboring boats might have head the stream of invectives I direct at the engine. Fifth step: Crack open each injector nut, there are four, and crank the engine with the throttle open. If bubbles appear, the engine has not been appropriately bled and the process must be repeated. Fifth, six, and seventh problems: The fifth and sixth problems are that two injector nuts leak air, so I have to repeat everything. The seventh problem will vex me for three more days. Instead of the injector nut opening, the injector adapter (some stupid adapter piece between the injector nut and the injector) comes loose and will not retighten. The injector nut will also not break free. Over the next two days this illicit roars of hell-fire, and I begin to scare Justin with a series of imitations of an 8 year old’s temper tantrums. I should be mildly embarrassed but the engine has gotten the better of me. So we are now in Bundy, the rum city of Australia temporarily, but indefinitely. At least I can drown my sorrows in rum. post script: The problem was finally fixed upon pulling off the fuel line, purchasing a new injector nut, reassembling, and bleeding the engine multiple times. The engine has now been running perfectly for the last month. You can read a different take on this and more about the resolution on our maintenance blog here.

Apr 14 2011

position update

Tag: route,updatemattholmes @ 7:19 am
they’re in bundaberg now, at a marina: -24.76122,152.38649

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