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.





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.

230V Shore Power


If buying an American boat be aware of the voltage difference and using shore power
American boats are wired for 110 volts you can’t plug them into our 230-volt shore power and run the internal air-con units, TVs, fridges and so on.

Check with your insurance company to see if they are compliant with New Zealand standards.

Australia: 230V     50Hz
Fiji:  240V    50Hz
New Caledonia: 220V    50Hz
New Zealand: 230V    50Hz
Samoa:  230V    50Hz
Tonga:  240V    50Hz
USA: 110V   60Hz
Vanuatu:  230V    50Hz

Voltage World List:

Electrical Warrant of Fitness for your Boat
If you intend to leave your boat at a marina then you will need an Electrical Warrant of Fitness (EWOF). Details are below for what is required in New Zealand but you will need to check also with the marina administration as well.

Then again if you use solar power and 12V system there is no need for shore power, is there?


Voyaging Under Power 4th Edition- Book



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.

To trust a bow thruster

A bow thruster is a cylinder running through your hull at the bow (front end) of the boat, below the waterline, with propellers, to aid in the sideways movement of the boat. It helps in mooring the boat in the marina. For a larger vessel it allows the ship to enter harbours without a tug.

A bow thruster is an aid to help the skipper feel more comfortable handling his/her boat. It shouldn’t be relied on 100%. It is a back up. Nothing beats practice and lessons and good boat handling skills. Personally I like the idea of having one on the boat but it doesn’t mean I want to cut corners on learning how to handle my boat. It gives peace of mind with mooring, especially if there is an audience.

Things to consider before installing:
What kind of power do you have on your boat 12V, 24V?
Have a dedicated battery for the bow thruster?
Joy stick or buttons for the controls
Bow thruster needs to be low enough below the waterline
The further back you place it the larger the bow thruster you need to install
Do you really need one?
Would it be cheaper to get lessons how to handle your boat than buy/install/maintain a bow thruster?
What is the maintenance on a bow thruster?
What if it doesn’t work? What’s my back up plan?
Another gadget on the boat, can you fix it yourself? Can you afford to have it fixed?

Bow Thruster Brands:
Sleipner – Side Power
Max Power

A cautionary tale from someone who installed a bow thruster here.

The Reef (2010)


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….

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)

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.

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.

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.

Skipper and others swam away to find Turtle Island without water. They had one tiny bottle between five people. Dehydration alert.

There was no VHF radio, no portable secondary mode of communication.


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!

Sea Fever

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.

CO Detector


CO = Carbon Monoxide
A colourless, tasteless, odourless gas that could be formed from an engine, gas stove, gas oven or generator.

I was reading about using gas ovens and that if there is a carbon monoxide (CO) leak, your brain could become starved of oxygen and your thoughts jumbled and your concentration gone. Simple calculations cannot be performed. Or you just fall asleep and never wake up, death.
When the device detects CO it emits a high pitched sound, at 85 decibels, to alert you to the danger.
We want to be safe so I think this is a good safety measure to  have.
Hopefully a device that is never needed. Certainly worth the peace of mind.

Regular battery checks are advised.

Carbon Monoxide Alarm: First Alert CO400 Battery Powered
Warranty:  7 years
Alarm: 85 decibels
Batteries: 2 x AA included
Cost: US$18.49

Help, my deadline keeps running far far away

I love widgets and  the milestone function. I do however I find that the date is far too easy to change. If you have been reading my blog you may have noticed that the date keeps changing on my Day Skipper’s Test and not in a good way. In my zealousness for adding more widgets this also applies to the VHF Radio Test as well.

The deadline keeps moving further away. It’s a bit like that piece of paper you drop on a windy day and you bend down to pick it up and it races a few steps away, you run over to it and are within reach and again the wind gust comes up and off the paper goes again. Well I am running after my little piece of paper at the moment.

I can’t blame it on the wind, can’t blame it on anyone. I have been out of the country. And when you travel you are just so doggone tired that the thought of reading is enough to put you out like a light. I was asleep by 8pm the first week. Back to my childhood sleep patterns. You do what you have to do. I did photograph each page so I could take away the material to study instead of having to carry a book. And in my rush to do so in bad light some of the pages were hardly the best camera angles or clarity. I wish they had a pdf copy of the data to buy instead of paper sometimes.

I even took along with me a short piece of rope to practice knot tying. Really. I could just have used a shoelace you were thinking, weren’t you… My shoes have zips. I was lucky they didn’t stop me at customs and inquire the purpose of the rope. Scissors and water bottles are banned so why not rope too? I took it as carry on. Again really. I thought movies catch up time was far more important and relegated my rope to remain in my bag for the entire journey. No that’s not true. I did get it out once to do a reef knot to see if the length was long enough. It was. I never was much good at prioritising.  It’s funny how innocent everyday objects now have become dangerous. Life has become more complicated. I prefer simple.

The intentions were good but I just didn’t get around to reading it while away. I am back and I am determined to get back on track. The deadline might jump ahead again but as long as I am chasing it I will get there in the end.
Note to self: Make one milestone at a time.

Luna Rossa boat launch

Early this morning I was greeted by the sight of the Luna Rossa boat on the water. A beautiful colour contrast to the particularly gray weather and dull surrounding structures. I look forward to seeing it in action when it leaves the marina on Wednesday.
The weather did improve and it became a lovely day with blue skies. Water was calm and the water temperature was 15.6 degrees Celsius. I even saw one madman dive off his boat into the water for a swim. I don’t think that is warm enough. I swam in the waters in Dunedin in summer when I was knee high but now I know better or I’m getting soft.
I am really into red at the moment and so I approve of the design above the waterline.
I even treated myself to a red G Shock GB 6900 4JF watch with bluetooth technology which connects with my iphone. Can’t wait to link the two devices. Did I mention I liked gadgets? I bought that so I didn’t have to worry about my watch getting wet. Bluetooth was a bonus.

Technology meets fish

This has been the closest that I have been to the water if you don’t count having a bath.
What is it?
My sushi order.

Conveyor belt sushi (“Guruguruzushi” or “Kaitenzushi”) with a touch panel screen where you order sushi plates at your leisure. The “shinkansen” bullet train arrives at the table via the Pre-order Conveyor belt. You collect your order and then push the button so the train goes back to the chef for the next order. Childish sounding I know, but it is so much fun. Who said I had to grow up?
Technology meets fish.

But wait there’s more…
When it comes time to pay you call the waiter/waitress by pushing a call button. They scan the plates with a hand scanner and then the bill is calculated.
There is an IC chip in each plate. The plates are colour coded depending on the cost of your order. You pile up the plates like in the picture so they can calculate easily. This is the way.
What a brilliant way of using chip technology.
Didn’t need my rod for this meal.

Restaurant: Morimorizushi
Type: Sushi
Seating: Booth or counter
Taste: 5 ***** / Excellent
Pride: Local fish, local rice, local vinegar, local soya sauce
Location: Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan (The Japan Sea side not too far from Kyoto)