Two Feet

Two Feet. That’s all (in theory) that’s different between Sole sUrchin and Ocean Blue. Two Feet.

But with boats life is seldom simple or obvious.

Of course I’m comparing two very different yachts, with two very different design briefs – the Trapper 28 and the Miura.

Obviously, the first question that springs to mind is “Why the heck is he comparing those two yachts?”. On paper they don’t even fall in the same category and wouldn’t be compared by anyone who knows their stuff. But, I am Clewless after all, and well, those just happen to be the current and most recent boats in my life, so for me the comparison is obvious and relevant.



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Galley slave

Slow progress is being made in returning the boat to her former self after the recent unauthorised PNYC clean-out. The main challenge, I’m finding, is missing critical tools to perform simple jobs on board. The stove and base were manufactured in the workshop back in Dirtville but a certain amount of measurement and cutting was required to finalise the supports and hang the assembly in the gimbals. Arriving on board to find no hacksaw in residence almost put paid to the proceedings. I was pretty sure I replaced that saw, the one which was stolen with the rest of the tools but after turning the boat upside down and shaking hard I can safely say I didn’t [not unless I hid it so well that now not even I can find it]. Fortunately my neighbour in the next slip had a half-a-hacksaw-blade in his kit which he kindly donated and I managed to get the bits cut and installed. [It’s not easy gripping half-a-hacksaw-blade]. It still needs some work to pretty it up, varnish the base and the gas hose needs to be properly routed still but for now it functional and at least I can brew a cup of coffee without feeling like I’m camping in the wild.

The new galley taking shape

The new galley taking shape

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Self steering

If one considers all the truly great and useful inventions and innovations in the history of the world, self-steering for your sailboat has to be right up there with the best of them.

There’s nothing much worse than being invisibly shackled to the tiller, watch after watch, day after day, manually steering a course that starts out ok but soon degenerates into an erratic and jagged course across the ocean as boredom and exhaustion set in.

Even on sheltered inland waters, especially when sailing short- or single-handed, the ability to leave the boat to herself while tending the sheets or nipping down below to raid the cooler, is a luxury that, once experienced, will always be high on the wishlist. One might even argue … a necessity even!

There are basically two types – electronic auto-pilots and mechanical wind-vane systems. Both have their place on an ocean-going sailboat.

In confined waterways the wind-vane system will have limited application since any wind shift would quickly put you on a collision course with something. In these situations, the electronic pilots have the upper hand. But they obviously require battery power, which means you need to keep the batteries charged, which means running the motor or installing enough solar or…..and so it snowballs. Anyhow, the average boat would likely have most of the required battery and charging facilities for other needs as well, so it’s likely that a small, low power pilot would be on board.

The biggest problem with the electronic autopilot at sea may well be the sea itself. Electronics and salt water don’t mix and, no matter how well sealed the system, sooner or later it will fail and need repairs. Or the batteries will fail. Or the charging system will host a gremlin or two.

So, for offshore sailing, nothing beats the simplicity and reliability of a mechanical system. There is enough documented experience of wind-vane systems tending the helm for thousands of miles and in all wind strengths. These systems are robust, reliable and long-lived. It’s not unusual to hear of sailors using the same system for 25 years and hundreds of thousands of nautical miles of sailing.

They don’t come cheap however. Delving into this world you start coming up against trim-tab systems, servo-pendulum systems and all the associated theory and speculation as to which system is best and why. It’s fascinating reading a little of the history of how these systems evolved.

There’s plenty of superb gear to be had off the shelf but considering the vast number of different boat shapes and configurations out there, any system will require a fair amount of DIY for installation and set-up. So, it’s not so much of a stretch to move from thoughts of “BUY + DIY” to purely “DIY + DIY”. Here’s a really interesting design concept by Jan Alkema: Self steering for outboard rudders RHM-USD which then lead me to this website which has a wealth of reading material.

Some might consider it strange, all this thought of wind-vane self-steering for a Vaal-based Miura. Others will just understand and believe…! It’s just a matter of time and so here is the new and evolving self-steering research page.

Posted in Ocean Blue, Sailboat Cruising, Self Steering | 1 Comment

At least it’s not only South Africa

Taken from John Vigor’s blog article “Are you a drunken operator

A vessel, apparently, is “every description of watercraft on the water . . . capable of being used as a means of transportation on the water” with the illogical exception of seaplanes, inner tubes, air mattresses, sailboards, and small rafts or flotation devices or toys customarily used by swimmers.

Thus, in the eyes of the legislators, your dinghy is a “vessel” and if you have too many drinks in the club before rowing the dinghy back to your yacht, the cops can nab you for drunken boating.
The answer, it seems, is to paddle back to your boat on an inner tube or small raft. You can get as drunk as you like then, and the fuzz can’t touch you. At least, not under these laws.
So, it would appear that South African law enforcement values our lives as much as any first world country does….. or our legislators are just as ridiculous as everyone else out there? Your choice……!
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I have finally received my Certificate of Listing. December 2012 the boat was bought and the application made. End July 2013 it arrived in the post. That’s good going, no?


Anyhow, the good ship “Tubby” is now officially listed and ….? Well. And nothing really….!

Having the piece of paper doesn’t materially affect life afloat. It just means we now have a piece of paper.


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Tips to save fuel

Save Fuel


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Sitting here onboard, I hear nothing. Nothing except an owl going “Hoo…..Hooo” that is.

Why would I want to be in the Jhb traffic and stress with this on offer I ask ?

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Baaa… !!

The stupidity of the system…

Instructions on how to wash your hands in the corporate washroom

A lable to warn “Don’t Drink this poison because it’s harmful”

COF’s and COC’s


It’s amazing humanity survived into the 21st century !

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Winter anchorage

Bunnybrook at 8am on a chilly June morning. Magic !

With a steady 10kt easterly providing the motive power, we have a magic sail off the anchor all the way to the Confluence. Around 12pm the wind dies away to 4kt’s and reluctantly we fire up the Yanmar to finish the voyage back home.


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The next job onboard ……. it never ends !





The closest I can get to my yacht is a …. tractor !

Ok. Ok. 15W40 is 15W40 right. But I ended up with this one because [no, no, not because of the tractor] my YSB12 manual recommended Shell Rimula. There we go then!

recommended oil


So, the oil change endeavor experienced a temporary setback last weekend.

Everything was there –  the manual-oil-extraction-pump, the used-oil-container, the multiple piles of rags and tissue paper to wipe up the inevitable mess.

Strider thought we were leaving on an early cruise as we motored out to warm up the oil. 20 minutes later, back on the mooring, it was all systems go.  That is until the pump did nothing but make hissy-slurpy air-sucking noises. Nothing I did could coax the beast into actually sucking oil from the sump.

Fast-forward to Thursday the week after and I have found the solution. I’m confident [as confident as can be] that this will work. It wasn’t cheap but then I’m not planning on selling or sinking the boat within the next 20 years, so over that period I’m hoping it will turn out to be money well spent.

The real cool thing about this pump [when it works next weekend] is the internal reservoir. Now I only have to have a single rag for preventing drips as I extract the suction pipe from the sump.!!

Watch this space for a report on successful oil extraction and renewal !!!!



Finally, some many days after the start of this exercise the oil is finally changed. And it was less messy than anticipated, thanks to the pump itself.

The oil siphon pump

The oil siphon pump


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