It should have been a 2 hour job but it turned out to be a week of work; par for the course for boat projects.
When we decided to put in the new Raymarine X5 Autopilot (after carrying it as a spare for several years) we found that one thing led to another: open up the autopilot hood and we found that we had to remove the instrument cluster. Remove the instrument cluster and we had to get into the main hatch. Once into the hatch we should sand and paint it.
So we did.
One week later the hatch is done and the autopilot is installed.
Time for sea trials,or... calibrate the new autopilot.
So we went out, did a few circles, discovered that due to a miss-wiring, right is left and left is right, (fixed that) and almost ran aground during the “Learn” phase where the auto pilot takes over for a few minutes, and got past that too. But you can see from our track that we went every which way.
And finally success! The old Autohelm 4000ST-GP was good, and was still working, but after 15 years, we felt we could risk the upgrade, and now we have it.
Pierre noticed it first; one day off the Sumatran coast when the sailing was good and we thought we needed a little loud music we turned up volume on the outdoor Bose speakers (the Bose 251’s that the crew bought for us in Singapore).
Pierre said, “Hey, what is that?” They sounded like crap; very weak and totally muddy. We were shocked. I used to think they were pretty good. I guess the deterioration had been gradual and I hadn’t really noticed it or maybe I just hadn’t tried them much for a few months.
On the Indian Ocean crossing we couldn’t do much except fiddle with the equalizer settings, cranking up the treble and turning down the bass, so the speaker fix waited. After the autopilot upgrade was done this week I decided on a speaker upgrade too. A new amplifier helped but the sound was still weak and muddy so we took a closer look at the Bose speakers themselves. Once the covers were off it was obvious: they needed new drivers (sorry team).
It took all day to rebuild the Bose speakers with the new “twiddler” drivers and another day to re-wire the nav station for the amplifier and the new switches but in the end it was successful. The Bose speakers are again good, clean, and loud; the ”Bose" sound is back and louder than ever!
Boat work is constant but if you have a car, car work is constant too. The ’94 Merc W124 is a great ride but while most of the other things work fine the heater has never worked since we bought the beast. A few false starts on fixing it later and I finally got under the covers pretty good. Hoses off, wires ripped out, parts on the sidewalk and some new ones, heater solenoid valves (used) installed, a bucket of water added and a short hose, and finally today I rebuilt the heater water pump. I’m not sure what it was but now the heater will burn your toes. Finally I got heat. That is good, however it is now late spring here and heaters are not much in demand. Air con is more likely the feature that will sell the Merc when we head out in January. Well that works too, like a dream.
Now that everything is fixed, we just need to get to Cape Town
On Wednesday a lightning storm landed on Durban and at least two boats in Durban Marina were hit including Doughty, the 70’er next to us, but we were spared. In fact I was on the computer typing an email when the sky darkened, the afternoon storm hit, the rain came pouring down, and the thunder and lightning struck. Again, and again.
“Bang”, then, “Bang”, then… “BANG!”
“Ouch!’ I said, “That last one must have been a close hit.”
I didn’t know how close.
The security guard told me it hit the boat next to us; he saw it strike, and sure enough, soon the crew on Doughty were removing fried electronic gear including the masthead unit. On the next dock over a boat named Revelation was hit and much of their gear was also damaged. But in that storm, on that day, not to say what might happen on future days or in other storms, we were spared; nothing on Wings was hit. Was it the 100’ mast on Doughty or the 80’ mast on Dream Free, on the other side, that saved us? Or just luck, maybe dumb luck? I don’t know; I’m just thankful.
Anyhow, the coast of Africa is unforgiving. The lighting storms are unpredicted, the strong fronts blow through with little warning, and boats limp into Durban with long lists of damaged gear. We’re seeing them arrive daily.
Our next jump down this coast will be 500+ miles to a small fishing port called Knysna. We hope to skip over two industrial ports on the way, Port Elisabeth and East London, however, given the unpredictability of the weather around here, we might have to duck into one of them.
We want to get going but we are watching the weather. No sense in going if the forecast is bad. Even if it is good we could get smacked, so might as well wait for the best possible weather window. Right now, from the data we see on the Internet, it is at least a week away.
Gives us time to fix a couple of things including the car we have.
Never thought we would own another car but we do. We bought an old Mercedes Benz while in Richards Bay and we have it here with us in Durban. It needs some work, so we have that to deal with. But we’ll leave it parked here, assuming it is fixed, when we sail to Knysna, and then take a bus back to get the car.
Fun, huh? A cousin of mine said, and he was right: “Freedom is nothing left to lose”.
And that includes a car. But we love driving that old Merc, so we’ll keep fixing it and keep moving down the coast.
In the 90’s grunge was in and Judy and I often visited Moe's Mo' Rockin' Cafe and the Crocodile in Seattle to hear bands that sounded like Nirvana and Pearl Jam where everyone wore black clothes and on Friday night the bands changed every twenty minutes. We were the oldest folks in the crowd and we were asked if we were the parents of the band, “or else why would you be here” but we didn’t care because we liked rock and roll and for six bucks you could hear 10 bands, some of which were actually good.
Since sailing out of Seattle we’ve kept a look-out for live music at the various ports we’ve visited and we’ve found it a few times.
In Mexico we could go to old Puerto Vallarta and hear Willie and Lobo. Not exactly grunge, but it was good music. We bought all of their albums.
In Papeete, Tahiti, during Fete’ in 1998, the sound checks from a rock stage near our mooring on the quay attracted us and we had a blast watching some young Polynesian punk rockers wail until after midnight.
Down-under there were lots of places to go in Auckland, Sydney, and Brisbane and we always preferred to find a venue where the band members outnumbered the audience and we’d have no problem getting up close. Intimacy was more important than a big name.
A real find was at the Gypsy Jazz festival in New Caledonia in 2003. We weren’t particularly fond of jazz but we thought we had to see at least one act as long as we were there. We chose one which was in an old warehouse converted to a club, reminding us of the venues in Seattle, and instead of jazz we found a USA rockabilly band with electric guitars and crowd all dressed in black. Hey, this is good! The French rock and roll fans just wouldn’t let the band leave the stage and even though we stumbled back to the boat at 2:00 AM I am sure that those guys played encores until dawn.
In Hong Kong we sat on the grass at Victoria Park for a couple of Rockit Festivals right downtown surrounded by high rise apartment buildings and neon signs and we wondered if the Chinese punk rock bands wouldn’t shake the windows out of some of them. Here the skinheads took the stage after midnight and the crowds got rowdy and we knew we were in for trouble when a couple dozen bouncers took up places in front of the stage to hold the barriers back against the crowd. Judy retreated from that mosh pit but I held my ground and got some good shots but barely avoided a fist fight when some asshole shoved me and said, “You don’t belong here, Grandpa.” I asked him, “You want to eat this camera?” His buddy backed him off, lucky for me. Those were the good ole days I guess.
In Bangkok there was Tokyo Joe’s and that was one intimate place; I had to turn sideways to keep from getting in the way of the bass player when I went up to get some photos. In Chang Mai, at one riverfront club after crawling through three others, we found where the action was and crowded our way to the front for some great Thai rock and roll. Memorable.
The next year at the Phuket Blues Festival I got bored at musicians who played sitting down so I plunked a full bottle of whiskey on the table and told Judy & Randy & Laura, “Let’s make our own action here!” Judy just shook her head; won’t this man ever grow up? But we drank the bottle, the bands somehow got better, and we danced until we dropped. I think that was the straw that broke Judy’s back however because after that we had to find a good surgeon for her.
Now, three years later her back is better and we are back at the hard rock and loving it more than ever. In Durban last week there was a blues festival and we somehow got tickets for the final show long after the event was sold out and we enjoyed a few great acts before a South African guitar player virtuoso named Dan Patlansky fuzz toned his way into our hearts. His style reminded me of Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck, only unique in his own way, and we clapped ourselves silly when his show ended. The management wouldn’t let him come back out, something about an agreement they had with the local landowners, but we bought his CD and we have a few photos to remind us of another great night of music around the world.
We’ll be looking out for more.
Click here for more images from the Durban Blues Festival.
Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Durban, South Africa.
PS: Here is another band we ran across in Durban which we rather liked:
Sometimes it seems that you are just along for the ride, when the boat is sailing itself and there’s nothing really for you to do. Once we got settled down (the departure was a bit chaotic) sailing to Durban Wednesday night was one of those times; we spent our watches just sitting in the cockpit staring at the flickering orange numbers on the knotmeter.
We expected light winds but when we got out of the marina we found 26 knots and at the end of the breakwater waves were breaking and it was getting dark already. We sucked it up and put up the sails in a hurry, Judy steering with her knees and tailing the lines with her hands and me pulling things at the mast and then jumping to the winches. We got everything done, got into our foulies, got on our life jackets, got the main and the jib up, put in a deep reef, set the wind vane, sorted out the autopilot all the while trying to watch our course and not hit an anchored ship. Then we took a deep breath and settled down for a midnight ride to Durban.
We headed the boat south and soon it was going fast. The wind was over 26 and increasing (it hit 30 knots by midnight and topped out at 37.7 knots around 05:00 AM.). Still, the boat just sailed itself. The wind vane steered perfectly and since we’d put in the third reef at the start, because that was what was rigged, with the number 4 jib, we had the right sail combination. There was nothing for us to do; we just sat in the cockpit, standing our watches three hours on and three hours off, watching the instruments.
Except for one jibe about half way down the coast we never even touched the sails.
But it was wild sailing. The waves were big and the boat was surfing down them. Even just riding, when Wings is squirreling and swerving its way downwind, hitting ten and eleven knot surfs, it is exciting. Nerve wracking you could say. It makes a believer of you. The waves were big enough so that any number of them could have easily come aboard and filled the cockpit. We couldn’t see them in the pitch black, no moon, night but when we heard the hissing of the big combers looming up behind us we cringed and we waited a deluge. It never happened. The wind vane seemed to have the knack of turning the boat down the front of the waves. The bow would dip, almost plunging into the deep, then it would rise and off we’d go for another ten knot surf, leaving the breaker behind. But white water swept by the boat like a river; we were moving.
It usually takes around 14 hours to sail from Richards bay to Durban, depending on the wind and on finding that southbound escalator, the Agulhas Current. We had wind, plenty of wind, heaps of wind, but never found the Agulhas current. In fact we had current against us the whole way. So even with the really high speeds we were making it took us 14 hours to get to Durban. We were watching the weather closely because there was a southerly due sometime that day and we’d heard it might come early.
We arrived at Durban at dawn, basically in one piece (there is a bit of a repair list but we will handle it quickly) and the dreaded southerly buster never showed so we’re quite happy.
Now we’re in another new place and we’re quite happy about that too.
Click here for other shots taken on our trip to Durban and arrival.
Two people: Fred & Judy , drawn to each other and yet somehow drawn also to the sea, and both intrigued by the idea of living aboard.
I saw her, blond and asymmetrical, beautiful, boarding another’s boat and I followed her and wooed her, or she wooed me. That was 1985 and we fell in love and we thought that to buy a boat and make a life together on the water was only natural.
So we did.
The boat was WINGS.
For the next ten years we lived on Wings in Seattle, had jobs in the city, sailed every chance we got, and 40-50 times a year, went racing. It was great.
Then we left Seattle and began our cruising life. We voyaged across the world, across the seven seas, to faraway places, and made them our own.
Wings was our home, and is still, and we lived wherever the sea met the land and people welcomed us, as they did everywhere.
For twenty-five years we’ve lived this life, and more to come, we hope.
Join us now, and sail the seas.
Fred Roswold & Judy Jensen, SV Wings, Caribbean