St. Vincent’s Bay – New Caledonia

North of Nouméa lies Baie St. Vincent, a collection of islands and coves within a day’s sail. As we were to find out, most of the islands inside the bay are rocky and rough – more reminiscent of Maine than the South Pacific. But one of the islands outside the bay is one of the nicest places we’ve visited, here or anywhere else. Of course, we took two days to get there anyway, since we started late.

Baie Maa

Our first stop was a one night only layover. A pretty place, like everywhere here seems to be, just out of sight of Noumea. The glow from the small city was still slightly visible in the sky.

There was little there but a few boats, like us on a one night stop on the way to someplace else. It’s still a beautiful spot, and Kathy and the kids decided to take a quick trip ashore before sunset while I waited out the anchor watch on board (it is our standard practice to wait at least one hour after anchoring before leaving the boat completely, to ensure all is well and set properly).

Baie de Moustiques

If you speak French, you know what is coming. A ‘moustique’ is a mosquito. Our first stop in St. Vincent’s Bay. The cruising guide we have says it’s a misnomer, but Danielle did complain of seeing one. “Baie de Moustiques” does sound much more romantic and pleasant than “Mosquito Bay”.

It’s another place which is very quiet with little human presence. On shore there were dozens of horses and goat, but no sign of people moving around in spite of two visible encampments/housing sites. We didn’t go ashore since we weren’t sure of the property situation and didn’t want to trespass or alarm the horses.

Kathy and Will took a sail in the Pudgy to visit a nearby island, but had a disappointing visit. The beach, which looked sandy from a distance, was rocky and the approach was tough and they made a rough landing on the beach. The grasses and vines on the island were so high and thick they could not climb to the summit of the small hill for pictures. It was a short, wet trip, and we decided to move on from Mosquito Bay the next day.

Baie de Pritzbuer

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Balbuzard.

Don’t ask me where they get the names. Our next destination was only about two miles from Baie de Moustiques as the Balbuzard flies (a New Caledonian subspecies of what we call an Osprey) it was a longer trip for us as we had to sail around several islands and avoid a narrow pass. The pass would have been shorter, and we could do it in the dinghy. But with a ten foot charted depth we tend to avoid places like that if we can. The trip around was about eight miles, and took us past the tantalizing Il Ténia (literally “Tapeworm Island”) on the way.

Pritzbuer Bay lies between the main island of New Caledonia, and two smaller islands – Ile Puen and Ile Leprédour. Ile Puen is privately owned and you must seek permission to land. It looks like a lovely spot, but we didn’t approach. Ile Leprédour is a nature preserve, and landing is strictly prohibited.

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The approach behind Ile Puen

It’s a gorgeous spot, but left us puzzled about how to get off the boat and explore. A boat ramp on the mainland looked promising, and there was a dock further off but it appeared private. But all there appeared to be on the mainland side was a road, with a rumor of a village nearby. A village…may or may not be useful. But we found other diversions anyway.

One of our first excursions on arriving was to head to the ramp to beach the dinghy, flip it over, and clean the bottom.  We’d accumulated way too much marine growth, and the dinghy had become slow and unwieldy, while consuming much more fuel. Cleaning it was a must if we wanted to do any exploring.

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Apply at least three times a day as needed for stress relief.

Several times per day while anchored here we were visited by small pods of dolphins. They’d cruise by the boat, sometimes close enough so the first thing you’d know of them was the sound of their breathing. They were a constant delight to watch, as always.

Ile Leprédour is home to a population of deer and a small flock of Peacocks, of all things. As dusk the deer come out, and watching for them provided lots of amusement and frustration. The deer are tough to spot, but beautiful if you can catch them.

DSCF6965This was a calm, protected and beautiful spot, which made an excellent base of operations for visiting nearby Ile Tenia.

Ile Tenia…is so special it gets it’s own post. So all I can do here is post a teaser or two.

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Ile Ténia from a distance as we sail by the first time. Pictures don’t do the color of the water and sand justice.

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New Caledonia – the Overview

I’ve got a fair amount to say about New Caledonia, but its only weakness is dodgy internet! So I haven’t really been able to make updates easily. And pictures may be light. But for now, we’re in one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever visited and the internet is better in the anchorage than it is in the capital. So here are some updates…

We’ve been in New Caledonia a almost two months now, and my strongest reaction is “Why aren’t there more cruisers here?”

So far, to say we love it would be in understatement. Without waxing too effusive, we’re enchanted by the combination of natural beauty and local culture.

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Sunset in Nouméa

New Caledonia is surrounded by one of the world’s largest barrier reefs and is completely enclosed by a coral lagoon. The lagoon itself is protected with many nature preserves, and is uncrowded and clean. The island’s terrain is rugged, like many volcanic islands in the Ring of Fire, but is also lush and rife with birds, flowers, and life. Outside the city of Nouméa, surrounding the city and even visible from within it, are gorgeous green mountains, beautiful landscapes, and sparkling waters. Every night’s sunset is a beauty contest with the last, and the light pollution is so low outside of town that every starry night’s display is breathtaking. In the lagoon we’ve seen whales, dolphins, fish, birds, and dugongs. The snorkeling is fantastic and the beaches are gorgeous soft white sand.

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Culturally, the island is French, with a mix of Melansian and Kanak culture. French culture dominates the food and language. At least three Boulangeries/Patisseries are within easy walk of the dinghy dock; there are several others in town. A fourth rumored to be a longer walk, but there’s a hill in the way and the first three are so good, we’ve got a dominant sense of “why bother” since we’ve scientifically tested the three that our easiest to reach and found our favorites. The predominant language is French, and more so than any French territory that we’ve visited, people prefer it, and fewer people seem comfortable with using English.

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We let this guy go since we already had some tuna in the fridge for dinner.

There’s a market right at the town dock that’s open every morning but Monday, with fresh fruit, vegetables, and other delights, and a fish market that provides a wide array of local catches. We’ve become partial to the Thon Blanc there (white tuna, what we’d call Albacore) which is half the cost of the yellowfin at about 1300cpf (currently the US D dollar is strong at about 105cpf or “Pacific Francs” to the dollar, so that’s about $5.00/pound for fresh caught Albacore).  Though the Thon Jaune isn’t a bad deal either, at a little over $10.00/pound. Interestingly, pelagic open ocean fish like Tuna, Mahi Mahi and Wahoo come into the lagoon as if it were open ocean, and can be caught very close to Nouméa. We hooked a Wahoo within view of the city, so the fish is coming pretty fresh. We’ve become much more aggressive and hopeful for a tuna while fishing, and now generally have a line in the water as soon as we’re clear of boat traffic.

The city has several supermarkets, with a full range of French cheeses, and many things are inexpensive (relative to New Zealand, especially) and good wines, various French products we’ve come to like, and a decent selection of meats and frozen foods. The fresh vegetables in the grocery stores are the only real weak point – both expensive and generally poor quality, but we have to walk through the local market to get to the grocery stores, so that’s not generally a problem.

To the detriment of our waistlines we’ve resumed our addiction to the Boulangeries and Patisseries that so delighted us in other French countries.

These are clearly the low calorie version of the Aux Delices de Noumea desserts.

These are clearly the low calorie versions of the Aux Delices de Noumea desserts.

With three in easy walk, when we’re in town it’s easy to get our fix for baguettes, Pain au Chocolat, and other stand-bys. We’ve been meticulous in our studies of these places, and have determined that our favorite is Les Petites Choux (“The Little Cabbages”; Petite Chou is a French pet name for a loved one) for breakfast patisseries (beignets, or French donuts, that are different from the usual Patisserie offering and to die for), though Au Vieux Paris (“In/of/for Old Paris”) edges everyone on éclairs and some desserts to die for, and Aux Delices de Noumea (“The Delicacies/Treats of Nouméa”) reliably has the best baguettes and finishes very strong in the dessert division. But any one of them would suffice if the others didn’t exist, and if one is closed our out of stock the degree of difference between the quality is slight. We all agree that had we found only any ONE of these places in a town we’d have been perfectly content. But then again, we’ve only met one French bakery we didn’t like and have loved most of them.

The saving grace though is that we’re doing a lot more walking.

Did I forget to mention the spectacular sunsets?

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Nous Sommes Arriv!

We’re anchored in Nouméa, though we’ve not cleared in yet.

Making the move to the alternate path in was the right move, and it got us to Nouméa just before sunset so we could anchor safely. The last 60 miles or so was motor sailing inside the reef for maximum speed so we could make the anchorage before dark.

We’ve no regular internet yet. The only service that would let me sign up wants a local Nouméa cell phone number, go figure. So for now, this is the update you get.

It’s lovely here, as expected, and we’re looking forward to clearing in tomorrow and exploring the town.

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Day Five to New Cal

Fortunately, the wind has stayed as predicted. Though a bit stronger than the GRIB model which predicted ESE winds at 16-18 knots. We’ve been seeing more like 22-28 today. The wind has moved more to the East, which works well for us since we are now sailing almost directly at our next waypoint for maybe the first time all trip.

It helps that we moved our waypoint…

Our original plotted course had us entering the Passers De Boulari, which is a series of three breaks in the barrier reefs on the the Southwest side of New Caledonia. It has the advantage of being the closest reef passes to the city of Nouméa, the capital and where all yachts must go to clear into the country.

Looking at our constant inability to go West without also going no North at all, or even slightly South because of the wind, another way occurred to me. On the Southeast corner of New Caledonia is the Ile des Pines, which is on a largish bay surrounded by coral reefs. To the west of the bay is an uncharted area we wouldn’t try to go through, but the bay narrows down to a well charted and marked series of passes that we could follow through to reach Nouméa going inside the barrier reef.

So this is how we’re doing it. It saves us the trouble of sailing another 80 miles or so Westward to get around the uncharted reefs at the Southwest end of the island, and makes the route shorter.

Currently we expect to hit the the opening of the bay near Ile des Pines somewhere around 6:00 to 7:00 in the morning. I’ll slow us down at night if it puts use there before that. I have ZERO interest in being anywhere near any reefs whatsoever before daylight. As of this writing Ile des Pines is 109 miles away, and we’re averaging eight knots, and it’s about 6:00 p.m. So that’s about 13.5 hours to get there. From that point it’s still another fifty-sixty miles of traveling inside the barrier reef to get to Nouméa. We expect that will be in protected flat waters, and barring any bad currents should run another eight hours or so, putting us in Nouméa in the late afternoon. Probably too late to clear in tomorrow, but we’re not unhappy to spend the night sleeping flat, showered, and cleaned up before checking in.

With the increased winds we have been faster today, though the waves have been more confused since the longer swell that was coming in from the West was mixing it up with the wind blow waves from the SE trades. It’s settling down now, and we hope for a quiet evening…if not too fast!

If I put another update out tomorrow it will be brief as we decompress from the trip. It will have taken us a day longer than we hoped, but given the amount of sailing versus motoring we’ve done so far that’s not bad.

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Things Falling off the Boat – Day 4 to New Cal

This seems to be the trip to find things that are vibrating apart or open.

Yesterday we had the tack shackle come off the head sail. Today we discovered that the bolt that holds the Radar mount to the deck had worked loose. Fortunately, it too was found on the deck along with it’s nuts and washers, and we were able to reinstall it. With Loctite, this time, even though it had a Nylock nut on it

And later, the shackle that held the topping lift to the book worked open. For the third time we were also lucky; the shackle loop was still in the topping lift, and we found the pin on the deck.

Still no fish today, though the water and the air are getting water.

The wind conditions are similar, 15-20 SE winds, which leave us zigging and zagging back and forth to sail dead down wind. We have more North to go that West, still. So we’re staying on Starboard tack and hoping for a shift to the East.

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Day Three to New Cal

There’s not much new to report today. The conditions are about the same as yesterday, with 15-18 knot winds from the Southeast settling in. The sailing isn’t super fast, and it’s not straight at New Caledonia. We’re sailing about 30 degrees off of dead down wind, so at some point we’re going to have to jib over and sail the other way for a while. But for now, while the wind holds, we’ll ride it even if it’s not taking us far enough West.

We did have a brief bit of excitement when Kathy noticed on her watch that the shackle holding the tack (the lower front corner) of the head sail had come off. Rather than wrestle it in the dark to fix it, we furled the sail. The wind had been fading anyway, and that capped off the decision to motor for a while until the wind filled back in. In the morning we found the shackle on the deck, but attached a different one on and “seized” it with wire. “Seizing” is winding wire around the shackle pin so it can’t come unscrewed; I can’t find the links from off shore, but I discuss this in some detail in one of our posts about getting ready for Hurricane Sandy in 2012 if you’re more interested. Here it is -Ed It appeared we failed to seize this shackle on, or less likely the seizing failed on it.

Still no fish, though we had a line out for most of the day. There is still a chill in the air if you’re in the breeze, but it is getting warmer. The water temp is now up to 71.0° F.

Current arrival predictions are for some time on Monday, the 21st (remember the date line, US based readers, that’s the Sunday the 20th for you). We’re hoping to reach New Caledonia during the day, because there is a reef entrance to be navigated, as well as a roughly fifteen mile trip from the pass in the barrier reef to the city of Noumea that has a few twists, turns and hazards. So we won’t be making that at night. If we get close to the pass in the middle of the night we’ll stand off shore until the sun is well up for the best visibility.

Hopefully we’ll have a better ETA soon, but with the winds the way they are…who knows for sure?

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Day Two to New Caledonia

Day two was pretty uneventful. That is always a good thing.
Motorsailing last night we shook two battens out of the main sail accidentally. It aeppears one landed on the deck, the other did not. It made a loud and alarming noise in the dark, but nothing was visibly wrong. We didn’t sort it out until the morning when we found the batten lying on the deck.
The winds have filled in from the Southeast. It’s good because there is wind, but not great because New Caledonia lies to the Northwest. So the wind is almost straight behind us. That means we’re zig-zagging across it. The latest GRIB for weather I have is still the one I downloaded before we left; it is suggesting now we should range East to pick up better wind, then cut back at some point to get back to our course.
No fish; we’ve had a line out both days now. Maybe when it gets warmer. The water temp has climbed from 62F when we left NZ up to 70.3F. Hopefuly the air will follow suit soon and we can start peeling layers.
We’re looking forward to Calzones for dinner tonight, with Kathy’s hand made pizza crust. Always a treat off shore. As usual we’ve been eating well, something which the benign conditions permit.
At this rate it’s likely to be a six day trip, not the five we’d hoped for. But we’ll see. And now to retrieve the fishing line for the night and get ready for dinner.

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Day One to New Caledonia

The first day to New Caledonia has been almost by the book from what we expected of the weather. Our weather forecasts predicted light to no wind the first night, and light Southerly breezes today. The expectation is that later in the trip the Southeast Trade Winds will fill in and make for a faster passage. But for now it was motoring all night, sailing slowly and drifting West all day today, and an expectation of another night motor sailing.
We’re erring on the side of sailing too far West in anticipation of the trade winds. If we’ve headed West of coure course, Southeasterly winds will be more on our beam and easier sailing than if we headed too far East. Then, when the wind fills it will be from behind the boat, which is less pleasant and more difficult to sail.
We’ve been fishing otday, but no fish so far. Either it’s too cold for the things, or we’re not moving fast enough to present an interesting looking lure.

The Dumpster Fire of Departure

Getting out of New Zealand this time was a series of annoying setbacks and bad weather. The original plan was for us to be in New Caledonia well before Will arrived back from college in the UK. We’d booked him a round trip flight from London to Brisbane, Australia, and a one way leg from Brisbane onwards to Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia, arriving in Noumea on June 2rd.
We weren’t really ready for a nice departure window sometime in early May, we planned to leave a week or so later on the next good weather window. That weather window never materialized.
The trip from Opua, New Zealand to Noumea, New Caledonia is about 875 nautical miles, which is about five days on Evenstar. Ideally, we’d find a forecast where no seriously nasty weather would be due for five or six days, then slip out and go. That didn’t happen. For weeks on end a series of low pressure “troughs” – stormy systems of high winds, rain and rough seas, marched across the Tasman Sea providing no clear window when we could set sail without the expectation of 40 knot winds, 15 foot seas , or some unpleasant combination thereof. When your forecast for a five day trip includes three days of rotten weather, it’s time to stay put and wait.
We ran up against a problem because our NZ Visas expired on May 26th. So we had to make a call – head out into the bad weather, or extend the visas. The cost to extend the visa was the same as last time ($165 NZD) except that to stay longer than six months requires a chest X-ray. We got the X-rays and extended, because the forecasts did not look good.
As we got closer to Will’s arrival date we saw what looked like a good window, only to have it evaporate a few days before our deadline to meet him arrived. We booked a new flight for Will to Auckland arriving June 1st, and we planned to take the good weather window on the 3rd and go. But as Will was boarding a plane in the UK, a new trough appeared on the forecast. The trough that was coming was a monster, stretching from New Caledonia all the way down over South Island, and taking a week or more to clear the area. By the time Will got to New Zealand we knew we weren’t going anyplace for at least another week or more.
We spent DAYS stuck on the boat after he arrived with howling wind, pouring rain and chill air. It’s winter in New Zealand now, and with the cold came the condensation. The inside of the boat had been dropping with it, as every wall on the outside of the hull was cool, and the warmth from our breath, our cooking, and so on caused condensation to pile up. It dripped on our heads while we slept, made the curtains wet, and got into everything. New Zealand winter is fairly mild, it’s like winter in say, North Carolina. But the cold nights and the humidity had been a plague on us since the beginning of May. Kathy was continually fighting off mildew and wiping things down.
Eventually, the giant trough cleared and we got ready to go. We returned out friend’s car on Thursday the 9th, hoping to leave Friday. It became apparent that Friday would be a zero wind day, so rather than plan to spend a couple of days motoring and burning a few hundred dollars worth of dead dinosaurs, we decided to wait until Saturday.
We began some of our final systems checks and discovered a few small problems. On Saturday morning the generator (the NEW generator.) stalled out for no reason. I deduced it was probably a bad thermostat, since the engine was not over heated. It started up right away after the stall and ran for another hour with no problem. So I did an emergency thermostat swap. Later, we found the button that controlled the main sheet electric which wasn’t working right. So I ripped the ceiling off the aft bathroom to get access to the winch and swapped in a spare button for the wonky one. Yeah! Well prepared spares supply: 2, gods of boat breakage: 0.
By three in the afternoon we were tired, but ready to go. We went in to Customs to clear out, which would be followed by a visit to the fuel dock to fill up on duty free fuel. One can only get out of paying the 15% tax on it by filling up after clearing to leave the country. We cleared out, went back to the boat, and prepared to pull the dinghy engine off and raise the dinghy to stow, when disaster struck.
We lift heavy things like dinghy engines, the Pudgy, people up into the rig, etc. with our spinnaker halyard, which is long enough to run back to a powered winch. So lifting a 150 pound boat out of the water becomes a push of a button instead of manually cranking the winch. We hooked the engine up to the halyard and put the halyard on the winch and.that winch button was wonky too. A quick test showed that ALL THREE electric winches were acting the same way – as if there was a dodgy button. They would spin up for a second then stop.
This was not good. We could, in theory take off and use the winches manually. But they are big winches and the loads are huge. Just winching up the dinghy engine five feet in the air we managed to drop a winch handle over board. The manual operation is a backup; heading off shore without the winches working properly would be irresponsible. So half an hour after we cleared out we were back at Customs asking them to chuck all that.
This of course was a Saturday. We cleaned out the locker where the winch controlling systems were kept. It was beyond damp. All that condensation had built up on the outside of the waterproof control boxes and the covers. We wiped everything down and purchased some dehydration bags to soak up more moisture. By Sunday, the winches worked again. Contrary to what you might expect, this was worse than continuing to malfunction. Because there was no way to reproduce the problem, there was no way to diagnose it and ensure that the problem was fixed.
Sunday, while running the generator, it also stalled. Again. So it wasn’t the thermostat. This is another deal breaker for not heading off shore. We need to be able to charge the batteries, and our 12V alternator on our engine was already acting up. Without the generator we wouldn’t be able to charge the start battery except for using solar panels, which isn’t realizable enough
On Monday morning we called the guys that installed the new generator last year and they came out to the boat. After much poking and prodding they discovered a lose ground wire that was not only the likely culprit for the stalls, but explained why all the dials and gauges had been going wild for weeks as well. With that sorted, I asked them to look at the messed up alternator, and they fixed that too. That’s an explanation for another day, but it made me happy to have that fixed, too.
While the guy was working on the engines I was tracking down the Lewmar guys in Auckland to talk to them about the winches. Finally I reached them late in the day. There wasn’t much to talk about, beyond that we couldn’t find the problem anymore. We’d been testing the winches for two days and they were working. Yes, the moisture causing it wasn’t an outlandish idea they confirmed. This was as good as we were going to get on this.
So finally, on Monday night we had a fixed generator, working winches, and a functioning 12v alternator on the engine as a bonus. Tuesday we still took a while to get our act together, and I even managed to drop a credit card on the floor in the marina office and leave it while paying for our fuel. We got a radio call as we were steaming out of Opua about the credit card, and had to turn back, lower the dinghy and send Will to row into pick it up (remember.the engine is off the dinghy for passages!).
But finally, by about 4:30, we got the whole clown show on the water and were on our way.

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Catching Up in New Zealand

First, my profuse apologies for not updating this more.  I’ve been writing, but writing fiction, not blogging. That’s been taking a lot of my time. The good news is I’ve written something like 130,000 words since last July. But very few of those words ended up in this blog. Whether fiction writing is a viable thing for me is a question for another time, but it is the primary reason I’ve devoted so little energy to writing here. This isn’t really the space to talk about my writing, though everything I’ve read says I need to build a social media “platform” to help promote my work some day if it ever gets published. So that means another blog to not update often enough…if you’re curious though, there is a “Contact” page here.

The second reason is we haven’t been doing all that much that is blog-worthy and interesting. Life in New Zealand has been…routine…and we’ve not done the same quantity of touring and exploration this year as we did last. Some has to do with a few things that happened, like our car getting stolen and the headaches from that. Some friends have been gracious enough to loan is their car while they were in the states, but we haven’t been making the great ranging road trips we did last time around.  We’ve spent a lot of time writing, doing school, and handling a few boat projects.

As of this posting we’ve technically overstayed out visit here, and had to apply for a visa extension to get past six months. The weather has been tough for leaving, with low pressure systems coming through every third day or so for the last few weeks. We, along with a handful of other cruisers, are perched waiting for a good window to go. Since we were planning to meet Will in New Caledonia next week and won’t be there, we also have other considerations.  We changed his flight to meet us in Auckland, though we will miss a good departure window in the next couple of days to do so. But June 3rd is looking good.

Marley’s Ghost

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You can see the flakes of metal coming off here.

Two major projects faced us this season in New Zealand. First, we needed to get our bottom painted. We had it done last year, but the paint was rather disappointing after the fantastic experience we had with Blue Water’s Copper Pro SCX 67. That stuff was amazing; we painted in the spring of 2012 before leaving Rhode Island, and it was still providing some protection by the time we got to New Zealand in late 2014 some 15,000 miles later.  Don’t look for it, it’s been discontinued. But our bottom looked better when we arrived in NZ in 2014 with that paint than it did when we arrived here last year after six months in Fiji with the new paint we had to use.

The second project was also from another disappointing product, our anchor chain. That was also replaced in 2012 right before we left. Three hundred feet of Acco’s best HT 7/16th inch chain. Within a year it was rusting, within two it was staining the boat with rust and looking nasty. After three and a half years chunks of it were coming off on the deck every time we ran the windlass.

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300′ of chain in a pile. Note the intense rust in the middle of the chain.

We were deeply concerned that the chain no longer had the strength or integrity to hold us securely. The pictures show that there is clear and serious degradation of the metal in the chain. Disappointing, as this was the top quality chain we could buy in the U.S. before we left, and we expected to get a decade or more out of this chain.

Fast forward three and a half years, and we’re in New Zealand.  Where everything is metric. And 7/16″ chain is nearly impossible to come by, and I had to jump through the hoops I talked about in the last entry to get the right one here.

After our bad experience with the Acco chain, we wanted something different. Which worked out pretty well since Acco isn’t a very strong presence here anyway. We settled on 12mm Maggi Aqua 7, a higher grade Italian chain with excellent rust resistance and the strength we needed. It’s easy to come by here in NZ, and it ended up costing us less than the last lot of chain we bought in the U.S. for 100 meters.

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726 Lbs of shiny new chain. Thanks to Sea Power for moving it for us!

Three hundred feet of 7/16″ HT anchor chain weighs 645 pounds.  One hundred meters of Aqua 7 12mm chain weighs 726 pounds. So this isn’t something you’re going to put in a dock cart and wheel down to the boat. It isn’t even something that a couple of grown men can comfortably move without some heavy-duty hardware help, your average shop dolly isn’t going to get it done. Once the chain is loose it’s like wrestling a big, dirty snake.

In our case we had it drop shipped to Cater Marine who’d ordered it for us, but we weren’t ready to install the chain when it arrived. We had to wait until we were pulled from the water for the bottom painting, then we could drop our 645 lbs of old chain (less all the rusted bits that fell off…) on the ground and haul the new chain up with the windless. When we finally got the boat on the hard I met with the folks at Cater, and we stood around the drum of chain, prodding it with our shoes and trying to figure out how to move it. Finally we reached out to Cater Marine’s neighbors at Sea Power, who installed our generator for us last year. They had a little truck with a crane on it, and were able to bring the new chain over for us and drop it under the bow, where after some work on the windlass to replace the gypsy we got it loaded on the boat.

Of Gypsies and Bearing Mush

In 2012 when I swapped out the old 12mm gypsy for the 7/16″ model it was pretty easy.  Undo a big nut on the windlass, pull off a little hardware and off it came. Slide the now one back on and put it all back together. It took me less than an hour.

This time, I wasn’t so lucky. The first thing I had to do was get the 12mm gypsy. Which I really didn’t want to do, because I am cheap and a new gypsy is not. But as I said in my last post, the folks at Marine Consignment came through!

Getting the gypsy off was not so easy. It should just slide off, but it wouldn’t move. Close inspection shows that the gypsy and the clutch surface seemed to have seized up together. No amount of heating and banging would move it. Our friends at Sea Power once again came through, with a specialized puller tool that popped it right apart for us.

albatros parts

If you like gruesome detail, it was the bits I circled in red.

Then I discovered what a mess the windlass was. Without boring you with gruesome details on the inside of the windlass, we discovered that the top seal on the drum had leaked. So all the of the bearings and retainer clips inside the windlass above the deck level had corroded to mush. Literally, brown rusty mush with a few rough round pellets in it that must have been ball bearings at one point.

Keep in mind, before I tell you our idiot solution, that this windlass has worked just fine for years with this bearing in a mushy state. This windlass is discontinued, and getting actual parts from the manufacturer in Italy proved impossible. Our friends at Cater Marine did track down appropriately sized seals and bearings for us eventually.

But in the meantime, we were on the hard for a week getting the boat painted while living on board. Living on board on the hard…is a subject for another post. Suffice to say, the key information is you want to do as little of it as possible, even if you weren’t paying fifty bucks a day to stay in the yard.

Close inspection after removing all the mush showed that this would be a labor intensive process to replace all the bearings, involving disassembling the windlass down to and below the deck level. This creates an opportunity to make new leaks, and would extend our time on the hard considerably since we had to put the windlass back together to load the chain.

So, with the flawless logic that it had worked fine with the bearing chamber packed full of rusty mush, it should all work find if I cleaned out the mush and packed it full of grease, I put the windlass back together and finished the project.

I have the bearings, clips and seals I need to finish the job. Now I just need a few days in a marina to rip it all apart. I don’t want to do it at anchor, since I won’t be able to use the windlass until I’ve finished. That would be a bad thing if some weather moved through. So maybe Australia in a few months.

Posted in hard to find parts, haulouts, New Zealand, procrastination, projects, Windlass | 1 Comment

Rain Delay…

Brief post…very short.

As of Monday AM the forecast in New Zealand was for rain for the next four to five days.  Which means the yard would be able to do little work, and we’d be sitting on the hard over the weekend and into next week.

We decided to wait for a week, so we’ll haul next Monday instead and hope to get back in before the weekend.

In the meantime…the freezer stopped working!

And of course we let all the food run down in anticipation of the lack of refrigeration…

On the plus side, a friend has offered us the use of their car for a bit which is fantastic!

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Posted in On the Hard, projects | 3 Comments