Pachuca Circumnavigation

This blog began in late 2006 with the planning and preparation for a circumnavigation of the world in my 39-foot sail boat Pachuca. It then covered a successful 5-year circumnavigation that ended in April 2013. The blog now covers life with Pachuca back home in Australia.


Pachuca in Port Angeles, WA USA

Friday, March 30, 2018

Bunbury Cruise 2018

The following is my report to the FSC Cruising Committee.

Report on the 2018 Bunbury  Cruise

I am pleased to report to the Committee that the 2018 Bunbury Cruise which ran from 17 February to 16 March was an unqualified success, with all boats and crews returning safely.
Eight boats participated in the cruise:
·        de la mer out of HYC skippered by Rob James with a rotating crew
·        Diva out of FSC with Ron & Marlene Viney
·        Georgia out of HYC with Hugh & Robyn Nankivell
·        Libertus out of RFBYC with Rick & Kerry Blair
·        Manta Ray out of FSC with Frank & Lucinda Daly and Graham & Sue Suttle
·        Pachuca out of FSC with Robert Morales and Brenda Newbey
·        Stealaway with Roger Bishop & Trish Fox and Bernie & Sue Siddall
·        Volare out of RFBYC with Zac & Anne Armanasco
Frank & Lucinda Daly were in the unusual position participating aboard their newly acquired motor cruiser Manta Ray while enjoying the company of their sail boat Stealaway on loan to friends Roger and Bernie.

The start of the cruise was somewhat challenging because of the unusual prevalence of S and SE winds. The official departure date was Saturday 17 Feb but at the crew briefing on 8 Feb we gave wide discretion to the skippers to depart at anytime they deemed best, with the request that all boats be at Koombana Bay by Wed 21 Feb.  By employing a variety of tactics all boats achieved this goal, the last boat arriving on 21 Feb.

Georgia was already in Geographe Bay, as is her custom.  The bulk of the fleet departed during the period 17-20 Feb.  Most boats spent a night or MOFSC with one of the boats spending the night on one of the moorings off Doddie’s Beach near the entrance to the estuary.  There was then a much motor sailing to Bunbury, with one sail boat motoring the entire way.

Pachuca set off at 0730 on Tues/20 from FSC bound for Bunbury, blessed with a crew of two experienced sailors and an eager university-age blue water novice.  After studying the wind predictions we had fallen into the old Pachuca trap of deciding to sail all night in order to avoid the prospect of adverse winds the following day.  Unfortunately the SE winds turned out to be much stronger than predicted and we had a rough and wet night.  The seas built up and the young lad took to a bunk with severe sea sickness in the company of a bucket.  At 2100 in pitch black darkness we put in the first reef when the apparent wind reached 22 knots.  The electric bilge pump that had faithfully served me around the globe failed and we resorted to the less efficient manual pump.  

When two of the floor boards began to float Stuart commented on the amount of water coming in.  I replied that there was nothing to worry about because Pachuca has a small bilge, which he did not find reassuring.  “Where is the water coming from?” he asked.  “I don’t know” I truthfully replied, and was confronted with a look of horror mixed with terror.  I explained that Pachuca always ships water when going hard to weather with the deck awash, and neither I nor anyone I had consulted had been able to explain why.  (After all of these years I am beginning to suspect that the water is coming down the mast, given the huge amount of encrusted salt that I regularly find at the base.  I plan to soon do some testing with a hose.)

When the apparent wind started nudging 28 knots we put in the second reef at about 2 AM, much too late but because the boat is an IOR ocean racer with a heavy 9.2 oz cruising headsail she could carry the canvas.

We survived the night and motored the last 5 nm into Koombana Bay and dropped anchor at 11.30 AM.  By then the boat was dry, the young crewman had revived and recovered, the wind had eased, the sea was calmer, and all was well with the world. 

We then spent two enjoyable days of visits to Bunbury, some swimming off the boat, drinks at the club, and plenty of good food and drink around Pachuca’s dining table.  I did comment to my friends that they had wanted a sail and had been blessed with a tough overnighter just like the old days.  

On Friday 23 Feb Brenda arrived and my three crew returned home. Hopefully two of them will return next year.  It was good to have Brenda on board for the pleasant and genteel phase of the cruise.  She had learned from hard experience to avoid the passage from FSC to Bunbury at all costs.

And it was good to be back at Koombana Bay, where we found KBYC as hospitable as ever, and we enjoyed the club bar and restaurant whenever they were open and 5 PM sundowners in front of the club when the it was closed.
Two of the boats, Stealaway and Volare  proceeded to Dunsborough Bay Yacht Club at Quindalup on Fri/23 as planned but the bulk of the group made the crossing a day later on Sat/24.  All of the boats tied up to free moorings as usual, but this year we found that most of the moorings had no ropes and incoming boats were helped by those already safely moored.
DBYC is at the stage that all large clubs passed through in their early years.  When you see the Vice Commodore tending bar and a division captain washing dishes you know that you are in the presence of a real everybody-pitch-in club, and that helps to provide an intimate family feel.  The club opened the bar every evening during our stay where we were able to mingle with each other and many club members on the veranda with its spectacular view of the bay and beyond.  And on the evening of Mon 26 Feb we all enjoyed in the company of club members and other guests at the sumptuous pre-paid “Weber of Beef” dinner that had been arranged by Lauraine, the club’s social events manager and past Commodore of the club.
Warm Reception at the DBSC Bar

On 28 Feb we set off for a 3-day stay at the Port Geographe Marina, enjoying the 10% discount for boats that stay 3 or more days.  That evening we enjoyed the hospitality of Dennis and Kitty Gee at their splendid canal-side home.  Dennis and Kitty were the consummate hosts as usual, with Dennis managing to mingle with the crowd while single-handedly cooking what appeared to be a mountain of steak, sausages, and fish.  It was a wonderful evening where Dennis regaled us with a short history of the Bunbury Cruise since our visits began.

We relaxed on the second day and on the third day had the bus trip which has become one of the highlights of the Bunbury Cruise.  Bunbury Cruise co-coordinators Frank & Lucinda Daly and Ron & Marlene Viney did an outstanding job of scouting for venues, planning, and execution.
We boarded the bus at 8.45 AM and proceeded to The Goose near the Busselton jetty for coffee and muffins.  We then walked over to the jetty for the train ride to the end of the jetty then a visit to the underwater observatory.  Most of the group had never experienced the observatory and found it fascinating and entertaining.  At 12.45 we arrived at the Aravina Estate for an outstanding lunch with plenty of wine provided.  Afterwards many of us enjoyed the interesting vintage car collection on the premises.  At 2.15 PM we arrived for a return visit to The Yallingup Shearing Shed, a surprise hit from last year’s bus trip, which is not surprising given its excellent range of high quality wool clothing, hats, bags, and other items that are difficult to find elsewhere.  At 3 PM we were back in Busselton for a visit to ArtGeo, an arts and crafts precinct.  (I cannot comment on ArtGeo because I did not get past the fascinating visit and history of the old jail, but I was told that the glass-blowing was particularly interesting.)  At 4.15 we were parked near the IGA at Busselton for a quick shopping for groceries and were back at PGM at 5 PM.
Lunch at the Aravina Estate Winery

On Sat 3 March most of the group made the short passage from PGM back to Koombana Bay. At this point two boats departed from the cruise: Georgia remained in Geographe Bay as is her custom, Libertus set off for home due to other commitments.  Volare headed for Busselton to spend 2 days at anchor before returning to Koombana Bay.
One of our boats exited PGM then turned north past the second instead of the third red floating marker with the result that he ran hard aground.  In a great exhibition of grace under pressure and seamanship he managed to refloat his vessel on his own by emptying one of his water tanks and another tank of “unmentionable”, listing his boat using the boom, and whatever measure he could think of.  (A lesser person such as myself would have freaked out and called for help.)
Rob and Zac helped me set up inflatable dinghy on the Pachuca's davits
Stealaway spent one night at Koombana Bay then set off for FSC due to personal commitments.  The remaining five boats spent 5 relaxing days of visiting Bunbury, swimming off the boat, seeing friends and relatives, sundowners at the club, etc.  During this time we rode our dinghies to the Parade Hotel for lunch and one morning enjoyed cooking breakfast at the public gas barbecue between the channel to the inlet and the Dome Cafe.
Pachuca at Mandurah Marina
On Thurs 8 March the diminished fleet of 5 boats made the long passage from Bunbury to MOFSC, Mandurah.  The winds were strong at first but sagged in the early afternoon forcing most boats to do some motoring.  I had planned to moor Pachuca at Doddie’s Beach due to her large draft but Frank Daly was thoughtful enough to record many soundings during his passage from Roberts Point into the MOFSC marina and based on his information we decided to give it a try and for the first time in 3 years Brenda and I enjoyed a stay at the marina.  (Thank you Frank!)  That evening we had dinner at the club with Rick and Teresa Oswald, past participants and wonderful friends of the Bunbury Cruise, and on the next night we held our End-of-Cruise dinner at the club restaurant, enjoying their spectacular value $15 specials.  This marked the formal end of the Bunbury Cruise.  The next morning we departed MOFSC to make room for the influx of boats from a FSC-Mandurah race and went our separate ways.
Rob, Zac, Robert having a chat at Koombana Bay
Back on our home turf it was up to the BC co-ordinators to calculate the state of the Bunbury Cruise budget with the invaluable help of Hugh Nankivell, the BC Treasurer, and plan the venue and time of the post-cruise Photography Dinner, at which time we will have the privilege of having our photos submitted in the various categories judged by Garth Lynch, a professional photographer.

I am pleased to report that Rob James has facilitated the hosting of the Photography Dinner at Hillarys Yacht Club on Wed 4 April.  The Bunbury Cruise has an estimated surplus of $461 (which includes a float of $136 from BC 2017) which we plan to disburse as a subsidy of the Photography Dinner meals.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Solar Panel Replaced

After I commissioned the new solar panels in early November I noticed signs that things were not quite right. One day I noticed erratic levels of amperage being delivered to the house bank though the sunshine was relatively steady.  The wind charger was unsteady as usual, delivering 0-3 amps,  which would not explain the behaviour. The next time I visited the boat the amperage input was steady and normal.

But I had not seen the panels delivering more than 5 amps and I would not be satisfied until I saw about 15 amps being delivered.  The maximum of 5 amps that I had been seeing was normal given that the battery bank was always topped up with the regulator on "float".  The only way to test the system would be to lower the battery voltage enough to force the regulator to go into the "boost" phase and see what the panels delivered in bright sunshine.

Last week just before the Bunbury Cruise Information Dinner I visited the boat,  covered both panels with heavy wool blankets, turned on the refrigerator and chart plotter, then left the boat for the night. 

At 10 AM the next day Stephen and I visited the boat to find the house bank down to 12.7v and the regulator on "boost".  While Stephen watched the instruments below I uncovered the panels exposing them to full sunshine.  Stephen reported a delivery of 7 amps.  I joined him down below, confirmed his finding, and grumbled that 7 amps was disappointing, as though only one panel was working.  Stephen suggested that we investigate this by covering one panel at a time.

We covered the port panel and the voltage dropped to 0v.  We then moved the blanket to the other panel and the voltage resumed to 7v.  OK, so the starboard panel was not producing.  We then checked the voltages at the end of the connections that were part of the panels and confirmed that the port panel was at 7v and the starboard panel was at 0v.  Note that none of my wiring was involved in this examination.

I contacted Battery World and we arranged a visited on Wednesday of this week.  I met Brian at the gate and soon we were on the boat.  After peeling back the Bimini cover Brian probed both panels and confirmed that the starboard panel was dead.  We removed the 6 bolts holding the panel onto the frame and soon we had it loaded in his van.  I asked him what to expect next.  Brian would check the panel but unless he found a simple fix a replacement panel would probably have to wait until after Christmas. 

Late on Thursday morning - the next day - I got message  that the panel was faulty, which I had expected, but they had a brand new replacement panel in the shop ready for pickup, which was a very big and surprise.  Brian told me that while discussing the problem with KT, he ask if they could send a replacement today.  To their credit KT sent the replacement almost immediately. 

No doubt KT will be most interested in determining the fault because according to what they told Brian, they have never had one of their panels fail.

I picked up the panel, went to be boat, where the first thing I did was check out the voltage under sunshine.   I read 21.5v under partial shading, which was good enough for me.  I then worked methodically without rushing, and two hours  later had the new panel mounted, connected, cables tidied up, tools put away, and cockpit swept of aluminum shavings from the drilling.  Because the house bank was full and the regulator was at "float" stage another test with the house bank low enough to put the regulator into "boost" phase would have to wait until my next visit. 

But I am optimistic.

Battery World O'Connor's handling of the matter was exemplary, and I cannot speak highly enough of them and, for that matter, KT.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Ready for Sea

Ship's chronometer repaired

Progress on boat projects has been by fits and starts over the past winter because the house renovation effort demanded first priority.

In June I had the new house batteries installed and in July with Stephen's help I mounted the new solar panels then managed to haul the boat out of the water for three days of hull maintenance.  Soon after that I managed to find time to change the engine oil and filter.  I also removed the canvas spray dodger and bimini to Debbie at Ocean Canvas for repairs of zippers and snap locks.  And about a month ago I delivered the boat's chronometer to Jim, a clock repair man in Guildford.

The chronometer had been of particular concern to me.  It had begun to stop intermittently and it appeared to me that the electric drive mechanism had to be replaced.  I was wondering if a clock repairer would take on an electric drive replacement.  Repair of the clock was important to me because the inscription on the brass surface described is a retirement gift from my colleagues at Murdoch Univeristy.  Jim did a wonderful job.  He even purchased new hands for the chronometer but decided that the original simpler ones looked better.  I told him how much I appreciated his restoration because the chronometer meant a lot to me. "I know" he replied.

As the bathroom renovation wound down I had opportunities to spend a day or two at a time on the boat and in the last two weeks everything came together when Debbie delivered the repaired canvas ($260) and Jim delivered the repaired chronometer at the quoted price of $70.

Work on installation of the new regulator for the solar panel took two visits. During the first visit I simplified the wiring by removing the switch by which I had been able to direct the solar power between the House and Starter banks and also direct the wind charger  power to both banks simultaneously.  All power from the sun and wind is now directed to the House bank because that is the one that requires replenishment while cruising and I know that I can always join the two battery banks if the Starter bank is too weak to start the engine.
Panels joined under starboard panel

Victron Controller

On my last visit I confirmed my doubt that I had gotten the polarity right in wiring up the solar panels because the output cables were not labeled + and -.  Over a 5-day period the House bank voltage had dropped from 13.7V to 13.3v and no power was going into  the bank. I reversed the  polarity and soon everything was working well.  (Yes I know, as Stephen pointed out I could have saved myself a lot of trouble by probing the cables with the volt meter.)

I also mounted the chronometer and finished installing the repaired canvas. For good measure I replaced the LED light strip in the head.

Unless there is a surprise in store Pachuca is ready for sea, with 1020 a/h of new AGM batteries in the House, a new 230 a/h AGM battery in Starter banks, solar panels that rate at more than double the output of the older ones (150W vs 65W), and a new Victron controller with MPPT technology.

I plan sea trials to see if the the new can support without battery drain  normal cruising electrical requirements including running the power hungry refrigerator.

On a final bright note, during last weekend's "open house" Peter Austin asked me if I needed crew  for the sail from Fremantle to Bunbury in the coming Bunbury Cruise.  He beat beat me to it because I had been planning to ask him.  After we agreed he asked if his son Tom could come too.  Yup!  Then he asked if Stuart a long time mutual sailing friend could join us too.  Yup!  So there could be four of us making the sail.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


October 2017 Edition
Last July I was greatly honoured by being chosen as the Fremantle Sailing Club's Cruiser of the Year.

I suppose that the selection committee was attracted to the narrative of a middle aged office worker teaching himself to sail, setting an ambitious goal of sailing around the world, then actually doing it.  I think too that my voluntary activities with the club since my return from the circumnavigation also helped.
Article on Page 6

What I wasn't told at the time was that the nomination puts me in contention for Cruising Helmsmen magazine's COTY (gulp!).
Trophy evocative of a sail, FSC and Cruising Section emblems at top

Last week I was presented with an imaginative and elegant trophy by Bill Burgess, Commodore of FSC which I will always display with great pride.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Hull Maintenance

Annual hull maintenance has seemed a waste because I kept finding the antifouling and anodes in reasonably good shape, so this time I decided to forego the springtime hull maintenance and see what an 18 month span would be like.

I decided to take the club's wintertime offer of the first 5 days at the hardstand for free and booked the boat for haulout on Monday with splashdown in Friday.  This may appear to look like 5 days but it yields closer to 4 working days.  It was going to be a tight schedule and given the vagaries of the wintertime rains it was likely that I would have to extend the hardstand time.

The hull was in remarkably good shape, given that the boat had been in the water for 19 months.  I asked the yard worker who had pressure cleaned the hull if it had been a particularly difficult job and he said No, the marine growth had not been unusually bad.  He also commented on how good the anodes looked.  The propeller had also been in good condition.  Two days earlier I had put the engine into forward and reverse in the pen to ensure that the propeller was not too fuzzed up with growth to provide drive and found it to be OK. 

The schedule was tight.

On Monday afternoon I took the propeller and shaft back to bare metal using a wire brush attachment on my angle grinder then had a good look at the anodes.  They looked remarkably good after 19 months.  The yard man who had pressure washed the hull had commented on how good they looked and this was confirmed by a fellow sailor who commented on the generous number of anodes protecting the propeller and shaft.  I removed the large circular anodes protecting the metal part of the skeg, wire brushed it, and found that they had plenty of weight and heft - at least 80% of the original material, by my reckoning.  On that basis I decided to wire brush the other anodes and put the boat back into the water with the same anodes.  This saved me about $140 and perhaps 2 precious hours of work, largely in drilling the center holes for the big skeg anodes.  I finished the day by beginning the unpleasant and dirty job of scraping down the hull.
Large anodes being inspected

All anodes retained (notice anode at rear of shaft)

Primer on propeller and shaft.  Dynaplate ground shoe for HF radio above

Ready for splashdown

I spent most of Tuesday scraping down the hull.  The water pressure cleaning does a marvelous job of removing most of the self-ablating antifouling, but there is no substitute for scraping down every square inch of the lower part of the hull to remove lose flakes of old antifouling and tiny surviving barnacles.  I used a respirator and finished the day with blue hair and a blue face.  I also managed to put the primer coat on the propeller and shaft.  It was important that I do it on this day so that I could lay down the top coats on Wednesday and Thursday.  And I masked out upper part of the hull using two types of tape.  I had been lucky with the rain but I knew that showers were expected overnight and was concerned that the tape would deteriorate in the moisture.  (Fortunately it didn't.)

On Wednesday I rolled on the first coat of antifouling using a 10 liter can that I had purchased at Yacht Grot for $450.  That job took 6 hours because the hull has hungry, the antifouling was thick, and the rolling had to be done very slowly.  I also put the first topcoat on the propeller and shaft.
(The metal primer and Velux Plus topcoat are by Marlin Yacht Products out of Trieste.  It is very expensive but goes a long way, four years so far and enough for another two.  I highly recommend it.)

On Thursday I rolled on the second coat of antifouling, with two new 4-liter cans at hand (at $200 per can).  The second coat always requires less material and rolls faster, so I managed to finish that job in about 4 hours.  I also put the second (and final) topcoat on the propeller and shaft.

Friday morning was a very busy time for me.  The boat was scheduled to be hoisted on the slings at 12 noon and be held there for 30 minutes while the crew had lunch and I worked frantically to put 2 coats of antifouling on  the parts of the hull that had been covered by the props holding the boat up.  I arrived early and used what time remove the masking tape around the hull, replace the DOT boat registration sticker on the side of the hull (I had not displayed a current DOT license in about 3 years, risking a $500 fine.), polish the stainless steel bowplate, and remove the marks left on the upper part of the hull by the lifter straps when the boat had been hauled out.  Cleaning those strap marks is not easy with an old paint job but in a timely visit by Kim from Mandalay, next to my pen, to see how I was doing, he introduced me to "Scuff Off", a liquid cleaner that its works like magic.

At about 11 AM when I knew that I was about ready I visited the office to confirm my splashdown.  The yard manager had no idea that I was going back into the water.  I told him that I had made the booking over a month earlier and that I my boat was supposed to be hung on the slings over lunch time. He did some creative scrambling and managed to get me into the water as planned. 

I had not had time to visit my pen to make sure that the ropes were in correct position and telephoned Brenda who on short notice came to the boat to pick up a short boat hook in order to pick up ropes out of the water and when I arrived at the pen there she was ready to pass over the bow ropes, fended off the bow which was about to touch the jetty, the stood by while I attached the springers and stern lines that she had set up. 

For the record, I used about 16 liters of antifouling.

I got home tired but very satisfied that everything had gone to schedule.  I had been unbelievably fortunate with the rain, which seemed to happen at night then magically stay away during the day.

HF Antenna Cable

Removing the solar panels presented an opportunity to tidy up the connection between the HF radio cable and the backstay, which acts as the boat's antenna. 

The connection is a crude one, with bare wire held tightly to the backstay using universal clamps.  Crude but effective, because I was speaking to South Africa twice a day until I reached Cape Leeuwin at Australia's southwest corner. 
Connection above insulator

Spacers in place

I removed the clamps, cut off the partially corroded bare wire, exposed fresh wire by cutting back the insulation, sanded the backstay, then clamped the wire to the backstay. 

I then replaced some of the separators that maintain a gap between the HF cable and the non-antenna part of the backstay.  This gap minimizes the leaching of the transmission energy from the antenna cable to the backstay, presumably through inductance.  The spacers are sections of fuel hose and everything is held in place using thick plastic cable ties.  Very effective.

Holes Drilled

Late last week I drilled 6 holes to accommodate the new solar panels, which for me was a very big deal that had been worrying me for a while.
Hole template on rickety platform

Each side of the cockpit frame has three straps running athwhartships upon which a solar panel rests.  Each strap has a hole at each end through which a bolt passes through to the panel frame, giving a total of 6 bolts per panel.

The new panels are narrower and slightly longer than the old ones, meaning that the distance between the holes on each strap would have to be reduced slightly.  The task that I dreaded was drilling through the thick and very hard stainless steel material which for me has as always been a challenge at the best of times, and more difficult now because I would be working aloft.

To minimize the drilling I decided to use three of the existing holes for each panel, thus there was the choice was between fixing the panels near the center line of the boat or spreading them out and leaving a bigger gap at the center.  I decided that the result would look better with the panels spread out.  That meant that I would use the existing holes on the outboard edges of the straps and drill new holes on the inboard side.
New holes on right side (inboard) side of straps

New hole at left

The first problem was to find a fast and fool proof method of marking the distance between the new holes.  In the garage I found an aluminium strip of suitable size and at the boat cut it to span the panels.  I then drilled a hole at one end of the strip, fitted it to the panel using a bolt, then with a pencil carefully traced out the other hole on the aluminium strip.  Drilling aluminium is easy and I was able to drill the hole to within 2 mm of the required span.   I now had a template and used the same procedure to trace out the hole locations on the cockpit frame.

Then Stephen and I visited a tool shop where I got good advice on the drilling technique (very slow speed, no lubrication) and the best drill brand.  I suggested a second, smaller bit for a pilot hole and the salesman agreed.  I would need to center punch the material to avoid my drill bit dancing around so I also purchased a new punch.

On the day when I had everything ready Stephen arrived at the boat with a heavy wooden block.  His job was to use the block as backing while I center punched.  This was necessary to avoid bending the straps or, worse, breaking the welds that held them to the frame.  In order to raise myself to working level I set up a rickety system using the boat's boarding ladder with a small foldout ladder on top.

Once the hole centers were puched and I had partially drilled the first hole to make sure that the punches were deep enough I thanked Stephen for his help and proceeded to work on my own.

After 3 hours of patient work spread over two days I managed to drill the holes without breaking either of the bits.

Fitting the panels should be easy.  Each panel has 3 pre-drilled holes on each side.   I'll bolt one of the center holes of the panel to the center inboard hole on the cockpit frame and when the panel is orientated correctly I'll drill the other 5 holes on the panel through the holes on the stainless steel strapping.

There is no substitute for good planning.

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