The importance of alternative power

After reading about the Carnival cruise boat in the Gulf of Mexico CNN 2013 it has got me thinking about the heavy reliance on the engine power.  They have lost engine power.

Their power is out. The toilets don’t work, the air conditioning doesn’t work, lights don’t work. It’s too hot in the cabins so people are sleeping in the hallways on mattresses, they are urinating in showers and defecating into bags. Hardly the image a cruise line wishes us to imagine when embarking on a trip of a life time. There are many unhappy people. For some it will be their last trip. Enough is enough.

After buying my own boat and getting behind the wheel and having control, I don’t want to take a cruise on a cruise liner with hundreds of other people. It doesn’t appeal. This was my feeling before thinking about engine power loss.

I bring the cruise boat saga back to my own quest for a boat. Yachting magazines are full of gorgeous boats and the longer the length the more luxurious the interior and the more modern the conveniences. It becomes like a hotel on water. Everything is fine when the engine is working but if/when it stops what do you do?

The ability to have alternative power sources becomes necessary if planning to sail off shore. Can you fix an engine while off shore? I don’t know. I suppose it depends on the part that needs fixing and the ability of the skipper and/or crew. I know today that I would be of no help in this situation.

I don’t plan to go offshore just yet. Crawling then walking before running is the sensible approach. Coastal trips in the near foreseeable future. I have Coastguard membership and if I need rescuing I can radio for help. I have not needed their help as of yet. It’s more of an insurance. A friendly person only a radio call away. And of course you log your trip with the Coastguard whenever you leave port so someone knows where you are. And when you return. Planning and organisation.

SOLAR
solar

WIND

wind

GEN-SET
gen-set

What happens if the alternative power source also malfunctions? Worst case scenario one: the solar panel catches fire. What do you do? How do you put out a solar panel fire? Can it be put out? Fire extinguisher.

Wind generators. I love the idea of them. They need to be maintained too. How handy am I? Show me how to do it and I will learn. Why are there no wind generators on a trawler? Because they have gen-sets and solar instead.

Gen-set or Marine generator is an alternative source of power. The choices are endless.

I want to be hands on, on my boat. I want to be able to fix things. Not everything. Otherwise I would never leave shore. I know you can never be prepared for every worst case scenario but it helps to be a little handy.

Voyaging Under Power 4th Edition- Book

voyaging

©Amazon.com

Title: Voyaging Under Power
Author: Robert P. Beebe & Denis Umstot
Publisher: International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press
Date Published: January 16, 2013
Pages: 448 pages (Hardcover)
Price: NZ$40.08 (Book Depository)

Guide to cross the oceans and see the world in comfort and safety.

Bowline Knot

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Knot: Bowline
When: Used to tie a mooring line from a boat to a post, a very reliable knot
A knot that you need to be able to tie with your eyes closed or in the dark. You may arrive at a marina at night.
A knot that you need to know for the Day Skipper Certificate Course,  New Zealand

Is this a left or a right handed knot?
How to tie a bowline instructions here

Sea Survival – Book

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Title: Sea Survival Handbook
Author: Keith Colwell
Publisher: The Royal Yachting Association
Date Published: 2010
Pages: 160
Price: NZ$25.70 (Book Depository)

Written as a course book for the one day course in Sea Survival.
A common sense approach to sea survival explained well to the complete novice with plenty of diagrams. Knowing what to do if an emergency situation occurs could mean the difference between life and death. We hope it never comes to that but being prepared is in our own best interest. Help is not always there when you need it so knowledge in helping yourself is vital.

The Survival Float

If you happen to find yourself in the water without a flotation device/life jacket then the best way of floating while in rough, open water is the survival float or the face down float. This style of floating allows you to conserve your energy so you can stay in the water for longer.  Variations for individual buoyancy can be accomplished by adjusting the legs by drawing them up toward the chest or extending them out and adjusting the arms by extending them or drawing them in towards the chest. These actions balance the floater around the chest, the center of buoyancy.
In calmer waters lying on your back or back floating is best.

Read more: here

Seriously a wee reality check here

knots
Okay so I could look at boat listings all day long and be quite happy. I get that. But it will not get me any closer to living aboard a yacht, sailing along the coast, let alone the blue water pipe dream. Oh and don’t forget the idea of  buying a boat overseas and sailing it back… let me wipe the coffee you just spilled onto your keyboard, laughing, after a gulp. You should know better.

I know that I put up the Bucket Trip List and a carrot is a good thing.  However there are things that must be done before this dream becomes reality.  See my Training Section.

All I ask when sailing is to be:

  • COMFORTABLE
  • SAFE
  • HAVE FUN
  • FAST

In order to do this I , no, we, need to learn a little bit before getting our feet wet.  We aren’t interested in going fast so cruising sounds ideal. Skill, skill and more skill required. You can have all the skill in the world and still capsize. Why am I mentioning about yachts capsizing? Well I know how easy it is to capsize in a dinghy and wondered if the same thing could happen to larger yachts…

Capsized 30 foot (9m) yacht lost its mast,  in winds 25 knots, swells about three metres, seven kilometres off coast of Tasmania, Australia here 24 March 2013
Rolled 38 foot (11.6m) yacht in conditions of 50mph (75kph) winds and 30ft waves 700km east of Tonga, South Pacific  here 11/11/2012
British man drowns after 30 foot (9m) yacht capsizes off the Coast Galacia in Spain here 15/10/12
Top ocean racing yacht capsizes with crew of 21 people  here 1/11/2012
34 foot (10m) yacht with 27 people on board, three drowned, Oyster Bay, New York, here, 4/7/2012

My condolences to those who have lost loved ones at sea.

The Reef (2010)

thereef

The Reef (2010)

Australian Horror Film, based on true events of a similar incident in 1983.
A very good B rate suspense film.
Watching this film from a boating perspective gave it an extra dimension. I did go to sleep thinking briefly that I would never go in the sea again. But by morning all was forgotten. Brilliant short term memory!

A delivery skipper is moving a sailing vessel from Australia to Indonesia. He invites along for the ride, one experienced sailor,  a former girlfriend, and her brother and his wife. Making a total of five people. And things go wrong….

NAVIGATING USING A WATCH
I learnt something while watching a horror film. No, no, no, it wasn’t to run towards the strange sound in the darkness. I mean something practical like finding direction using your watch. It’s a pity at the moment that I prefer to use my digital watch while at sea which wouldn’t be very helpful in an emergency. Oh well at least I would know the time and it is waterproof after all.  There is a difference  between whether you are in the southern or northern hemispheres though. In the film they were in Australia so the skipper held his watch horizontally, pointed the number twelve on his watch towards the sun, noted the direction between the hour hand and the twelve and that was north. You can check for yourself if you happen to be in the northern hemisphere. But tell me what happens if you are near the equator? What then?

One point I did take away with me in the film was that having flippers and a snorkel mask on board is rather handy. A wet suit would be useful too if you are into diving or snorkeling or boat bottom cleaning.

If you happen to be in the water with a shark nearby, and there are other people in the water with you, you should all come together in a huddle, giving the appearance of being larger than reality. Facing the shark might deter it. But I personally would rather look away. They say with a bear you should always face it and walk away slowly. Not that I have ever encountered a bear or a shark.

But what went wrong?

(SPOILER ALERT – kind of)

DIDN’T CHECK THE CHARTS
The skipper wanting to impress his ex-girlfriend and takes them on a detour to an island with a reef on the first day of the journey. A reef that he has never been to before. He doesn’t check the tides properly or the depth of the water for anchoring. He is too busy trying to impress.

NO LIFE RAFT
He is skippering a boat into international waters, he needs to have a life raft surely to be able to leave Australian waters.

OLD EPRIB (Emergency Position Radio Indicating Beacon)
He has one on board but it only works if there is a plane flying overhead according to the skipper in the film.

NO LIFE JACKETS
How he can be a skipper I have no idea. There were no life jackets on board. They did however have wetsuits for all on board.

NO FRESH WATER
Skipper and others swam away to find Turtle Island without water. They had one tiny bottle between five people. Dehydration alert.

NO METHOD OF COMMUNICATION
There was no VHF radio, no portable secondary mode of communication.

NO FLARES

NO NAVIGATION RECHECKS
The skipper lined up the 12 hand on his watch and found north, but part way through his swimming to the island he had to deal with a shark and he was facing all directions under the sun. Disorientated I would say. He then swam off again towards Turtle Island, an island that you couldn’t see on the horizon. So in theory he should have been checking each time they stopped.

There may have been more errors but that’s enough I think to get into a spot of trouble. Could there be more? Watch it yourself. Enjoy!

Water water everywhere

sunset
Oh to cruise off into the sunset and stay away for a week or so, just along the coast and come back someday next week or stay longer if the weather is great or the fish are biting.

WATER TANK
When buying a boat is the water tank below the waterline?
YES. Lucky you. You have a natural water cooling function. The lower the better to have a lower centre of gravity.

What size water tank is best?
Calculate 6-8 litres per person per day for a coastal cruise. So a week for 2 people is 112litres. Factor in showers, toilet, cooking, brushing teeth.

What material should the tank be, plastic or stainless steel?
If plastic then it needs to be Food Grade Polyethylene.
If stainless steel then use 316L Grade.

One large tank or two smaller ones?
Separate tanks offer advantages such as the reduced need for baffles. Two smaller tanks don’t “slosh” as much as a single larger tank, so the loads are reduced, allowing lighter construction.

SALTWATER FAUCET/TAP
Do you have a saltwater tap in the kitchen?
YES. Excellent.
No. Well all that precious fresh water that you brought on board doesn’t need to go down the plughole to wash plates.

WATER LEAKS
Water leaks don’t just come from below on a boat they can just as easily come from above. To keep a watertight boat keep maintenance up to date on seals around portholes/portlights and hatches.

SEACOCKS
A seacock is a value on the hull of the boat allowing water/liquid to flow into/out of your boat. It is always above the waterline.
A seacock is used for a saltwater faucet, toilet, water coolant for the engine
When in port the seacock for the saltwater faucet may be manually opened and then closed when going to sea.
Water can enter the boat through a seacock that should be closed.

Sea Fever

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It’s first and foremost a love story and it just happens to be themed on and around a boat. It was one of those easy, chatty toned summer reads that you pick up and not put down until the last page. I like it when I find a book that I don’t want to finish. It however is also a book on the dangers of sailing and what can go wrong. A book of warnings.
I sit in front of the screen and dream of picking a boat up from the other side of the world and sailing it back home with an experienced skipper and all will be smooth sailing. Reality check. It might be like that but chances are there will be problems.

What did I learn about boats?
A modern 406 MHz EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons), or emergency distress beacon is an essential piece of equipment when considering blue water cruising, sailing between countries on an open sea. Some activate when hitting water but others engage with the press of a button. And with luck you will be rescued within 24 hours. You do not press this button when you cannot find the cork screw and are in need of kitchen aid, you press this when your engine dies in the middle of the sea  and/or your mast has broken or you have a medical emergency. It is a beacon of last resort.
EPRIBs must be registered to give the best information to the coastguard. Emergency contact information and the description of boat, number of people on board, whether there is a life raft on board. If registered the coastguard can contact the designated person and verify whether or not the distress is real or just a false alarm for starters.
A 406 MHz EPIRB is one of the requirements for Category 1 NZ registered boats wishing to leave NZ waters to other parts of the world.
The New Zealand Country Code is 512.

Buying a boat without a survey is a case of buyer beware. AIWI, as is where is means that there is going to be some work to do. Travelling far to buy a boat is fine but to buy a boat because it happens to be  the last boat of three that you have travelled far to view and it appears to be the best of the worst and you don’t want to go home disappointed. Well honey, sometimes it is better to go home empty handed than to buy a lemon. Learning to say NO is an important lesson in life. A word that is small yet significant that we sometimes just cannot say for pride gets in our way.

The Coastguard are knights and ladies in shining armour.
I witnessed the rescue of a boat only yesterday. The engine died on a powerboat. The coastguard towed them back to their marina pier. All safe and sound. One family with a happy ending.  It pays to be a member of the coastguard. You never know when you might need their help. It’s a bit like insurance, you buy the service but you hope you never have to use it.