Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Whale Season

The Humpback Whale migration up the east coast of Australia starts in June and goes until August, at which point, the Whales turn around and start making their way south again (September - November). This is a very sad but interesting government fact sheet about the history of whales and whaling in Australia.
We have never been in Whitsundays at the same time as the whales but we did see a couple on our trip up from Mooloolaba a couple of years ago. With one exception (The magical Pearl Bay), we only ever saw the occasional spouting and surfacing, never diving or breaching. A whale is a whale and they are amazing, giant, majestic creatures and we have now been forever spoiled by their visits.
Approaching Cid Harbour
We are currently anchored in Cid Harbour which is much to shallow for whales so we won’t be seeing any in here but our last few anchorages were much, much deeper. Compared to the one meter of water that we are anchored in now, at Blue Pearl Bay on Hayman Island and Caves Cove on the west coast of Hook Island, we were anchored in upwards of 20 metres of water. In fact, Baby I. went for her first (of many) deep water swims with the giant fish (actual giant fish, not the whales). 

At Caves Cove, we were particularly spoiled when three whales surfaced about 15 metres away and continued to play around the boat. I. in particular, who probably had no idea what we were getting excited about every time whales surfaced further away, finally was able to get it and join in the excitement. In the 18 hours we were there, we saw several other groups of whales passing nearby and then just as we pulled up the anchor, I turned around to see a whale surface right behind us. We proceeded with mighty caution!

One of my goals this season is to catch a photo of a Humpback breaching. We saw one at Blue Pearl but I couldn’t tear myself away from them to go and grab the camera. Now that we know what’s in store… the camera is ALWAYS nearby!
The Great Humpback

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Interior Design on a Boat

So the thing about boats is that for the most part they come with the furniture built-in and, unless you have designed your own boat, you don’t get much say in it! We’ve talked about ways we could make changes to Batty’s layout but as everything is interconnected (tanks, storage, compressors, wiring, plumbing, etc) that doesn’t leave us many options, unless we want to get a different boat, which is not happening for awhile at least!

So short of a complete interior makeover, here are some of the ways we tried to liven up our tiny living space!

Wall Fixtures 
Whiteboard, canvases, ornaments, removable wall decals. The whiteboard is magnetic but because we are afraid of tiny magnets ending up either in the bilge or the baby’s stomach, we don’t really use that feature and instead doodle away to our hearts content. In reality, I use it to keep track of what’s in the fridge! 

The canvases were a project I did with my Mum. We set about finding a couple of complementary patterns that wouldn’t be too tiring in a small space and mounted them to some canvases with glue. That’s it. 

Fruit Bowl 
Because nothing is as sexy as this three-tiered hanging basket full to the brim with fresh goodness, it get’s it’s own category. It’s truly a work of art. Bottom tier is washed produce (apples, pears, tomatoes, etc), middle tier is stuff that doesn’t need to be washed (avocados, bananas, oranges, etc) and in top tier, I keep my ginger, garlic and a stash of onions so I don’t have to go digging in our longer term storage whenever I need an onion. So far it’s working great.

Cushion covers 
These were more of a baby proofing necessity than fashion statement and so I didn’t putt much effort into their design and fabric selection. I made our settee covers out of old sheets and have tied some sarongs around our pillows to make them pop a bit. This is about all we can change easily: material. Someday, when flying food and grubby fingers are no longer a regular occurrence, we will definitely recovered our settee cushions nicely.

Again, more blue, so they had to go, Bryce’s mum made us some new lighter curtains which really brighten the place up.

When we moved aboard Batty, one of the first things I noticed (and didn’t like) was that EVERYTHING was blue. Now theres nothing wrong with blue, but being on the water, we see an awful lot of it so we wanted to lighten things up a bit.  The blue carpet was in great condition so I wasn’t going to mess with that. So the velvety material on the headboard  and reading nook in the master cabin was the first to go. I enlisted the help of my friend, Grace and her mad upholstery skills and recovered them both. We did manage to expand the  bed which made the reading nook just another part of the bed but its still cozy.


We would love to hear from you. What other ideas do you have for brightening up a small space?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Why Build a Drogue

Around this time one year ago, I was, what felt like 500 months pregnant (in reality, 35-36 weeks) and decided to build a drogue. We had actually decided to build a series drogue a couple of years earlier and had been carrying around the materials to make it since then. I was determined that if it was not made before the baby came, then we were getting rid of all the materials and never having a drogue

Irrational? Maybe! But the bits and pieces for the drogue were taking up precious space on this boat!  And besides, I was pregnant! While I did the actual building of the drogue, Bryce was the brains behind the research and design so I'm going to hand it over to him to share all his drogue-y knowledge! This is part 1 of 2. Part 1 will cover why we decided to build a drogue and Part 2 will cover how we actually built it!

With modern weather monitoring services, it is extremely unlikely that we would ever be in the situation where we would need to use our drogue. BUT, if a nasty weather system were to pop out of no where and surprise us, we want to be prepared! So just keep that in mind as you read what Bryce has to say! :)


This is Bryce now!

As some background, the series drogue is a "series" of cones that are streamed out from the back of the boat to slow the boat down as our last line of defence in a "survival storm" scenario (i.e. a storm so severe that the only objective is survival).  The main features are: Once deployed it requires no tending in hideous conditions, it prevents the boat from being capsized or rolled, and allows all crew to go below-decks and hunker down until the nasty weather passes.  In many ways, it is like an airbag in a car - you hope you never need it, but it might just save your life if it all goes very wrong.  A lot of my thoughts on this topic have been heavily influenced by www.morganscloud.com (see there for a thorough analysis).  A very brief analysis of the options follows.

There are other techniques that people use for dealing with a survival storm, mainly consisting of "drag devices" .  They all work by slowing the boat down, and ideally stopping the boat from being thrown off the face of a large breaking wave (the boat landing in the trough of the wave, possibly tens of feet below, is the main issue, as is the rolling of the boat that will likely follow this scenario).  If a single drag device is deployed and fails at a critical moment, it fails spectacularly and there is no backup.  Further, any single unit could feasibly pull out of the face of the wave that it is dragging through, again potentially resulting in the associated free-fall and smash at the bottom.  The solution to these issues seems to be using multiple drag devices, but streaming several independent drag devices in these type of conditions is a recipe for them to tangle and become ineffective.  A "series" drogue has many independent cones performing light duty; the failure of several cones will be of little consequence.  Of course, there remains the issue of a single point of failure in the line and attachment points, so these need to be of high quality.

Assuming then, that a "series" drag device is the answer, the question of where to deploy it from is next.  Deploying from the sides of the boat is out of the question, as that would present the largest area to the wind as well as leaving the boat sitting broadside to breaking waves, inviting a capsize.  That only leaves us with the option of deploying from the the bow (a sea-anchor) or the stern (a drogue).  For us, a bow deployment was inferior.  I know from anchoring that when we get a little bit of the bow off the wind, that will expose the side of the boat to the wind which pushes us further in that direction until the anchor line comes tight and we get whipped around so the other side of the boat is now presented to the wind.  This process repeats!  At anchor, where we are mostly protected from any significant wave activity, this is only an annoyance.  In a survival storm, however, these loads will be ferocious and present an unacceptable risk of either a broadside wave-strike after the bow gets pushed around, or else the sea-anchor line chafing through from the constant yawing back and forth.  Contrast that with the behavior of the boat with the stern into the wind.  In this position, the boat is remarkably stable, and the opposite behavior occurs (i.e. if the bow finds its way out of position, the wind quickly snaps it back into place).  Additionally, the wider transom provides a platform to use a bridle rather than a single line, further accentuating the tendency to sit still and stable whilst stern-to in a strong wind.  

So now that we've decided on a series drogue, we need to look at some of the specific risks.  One risk that has been identified is the potential for a pooping wave to flood the cockpit and risk flooding the cabin through the companionway hatch.  From first-hand reports, this concern isn't especially significant provided a couple of factors are addressed:  
a) The cockpit drains quickly (ours has VERY large drains), and 
b) the stern has lots of buoyancy (ours does), and 
c) the companionway has a good hatch cover that is in place when the drogue is deployed (ours does and will be).  

Also, as alluded to above, the attachment points need to be very strong and chafe-free.  For our boat, each attachment point must be able to withstand forces of about 9,000kg.  The attachment points are still a work-in-progress for us, but we will upgrade this before we do any serious offshore sailing.  

That's all for now! Stay tuned for Part 2 in this series where we will share exactly how we built the drogue!