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  • Writer's pictureTom

Changes, changes and more changes

Passage from New Zealand to South Africa via Fiji, Vanuatu, PNG, Indonesia, going north of Madagascar
Passage from New Zealand to South Africa via Fiji, Vanuatu, PNG, Indonesia, going north of Madagascar

Stephen Hawking, once said (with echoes of Darwin), “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” Given all the changes that I have experienced whilst in NZ, my ability to adapt (and hence intelligence) is being severely tested.

Let me start with crew. As many of you will know, Annick is now back in Belgium and not intending to return to sail on Skyfall. Although she enjoyed her eighteen months of a live-aboard lifestyle, she missed her children, friends and the creature comforts a shore-based lifestyle can offer. There was some trepidation returning to 'normal life', not least the prospect of being able to find work (she is still four years shy of retirement age). Fortunately, her old employer has welcomed her back with open arms. As well as enjoying her work, she fills her schedule with volunteer work in the local community and time with loved ones.

Annick hiking with our extended family (minus Patty, taking the picture)
Annick hiking with our extended family (minus Patty, taking the picture)

Of course, it is not the first time I have changed crew. When Skyfall left Belgium in 2021 my crew was Chris, my brother-in-law. He remained aboard until we got to Spain. Then my friend Paul, and his partner Sue, crewed for eight months. Then Annick joined. To quote Oscar Wilde, " To lose one may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose two looks like carelessness'. And I have lost three!

Fortunately, I have struck lucky and am happy to welcome Denise on board

Denise, Skyfall's new crew
Denise, Skyfall's new crew

Denise is an Argentinian adventurer who has lived in New Zealand for six years. She is a keen diver, paddleboarder, surfer and hiker who has recently started sailing and is keen to explore the 'islands' north of here. She is in her last of five years to qualify for NZ citizenship, which means her time out of NZ is restricted and, therefore, that she will only be able to stay aboard until some time in August. From then, I will be joined by Chris, my brother-in-law until November.

Skyfall has also seen many changes. Because things break. After all, it is a boat. But the list of parts 'changed out' in NZ became much longer than I had envisaged. For instance:

  • Standing rigging. After 11 years, it was time to replace the standing rigging (the wires which hold the mast up). It is hard to see small fractures in the stainless steel and people typically change them preventatively when they are between ten and fifteen years old. This was planned. But, with the mast down, it was possible to give everything the 'once over'. So, all the internals of the masthead (sheaves and pins they rotate on) also got changed. In fact, we added a second set of sheaves (the Seldon mast head allows for this) to reduce the force, and hence the wear, on the pin. Any play in the joints between knuckles (on the boom and rod kicker) were eliminated by drilling out, re-bushing and replacing the pin where necessary. In addition, the rollers for the outhaul and the sheaves for the lines running down from the boom were changed. The genoa halyard was also on its last legs. The RF cable and two electrical cables for the various lights had damage from the mast foot. So they were changed. (With AIS I can now see boats 15nm away)

Masthead design with two sheaves per halyard
Although there is no official Seldon design which dos this,the masthead can accomodate two pins sothat the main halyard (and toppng lift) can run over two sheaves. For the same halyard tension, this reduces the force on the pin by 30%. So we built a custom masthead for Skyfall

  • Engine The engine mounts are supposed to be changed after ten years. And the saildrive seals (which are critical because they seal the hole in the hull where the saildrive protrudes) every five years. We had planned to change these preventatively. In doing this work, we discovered there was play between the saildrive and the propellor hub. So that was replaced (thanks to Ollie without whom, etc). Then, on my third trip after the work, I had engine overheating issues. it turned out it was because the exhaust elbow was partially blocked - even though it was new in August 2022. Having taken it off to clear it, we noticed the heat exchanger was almost corrroded enough to start leaking. So that needed to be replaced/re-conditioned.

  • Radar My radar had not been working for six months. I had expected to be able to take it off and fix it whilst the mast was down. But I failed, took a deep breath, and ordered a new one. Except that B&G ensure that their new radar will not worrk with their eleven year old chart plotter. So I had to invest in a new chartplotter. The 'basic' installation was quite straightforward. But Skyfall has a CZONE system. And I could access that from the old chartplotter. But that is a more complicated setup. I needed to generate new 'configuration files' with setting that would recognise the new chartplotter. I have all the hardware and software to do that. I have used them to examine the system but never had the guts (or necessity) to write a new configuration. Because, if you get it wrong, nothing talks to anything else. So, having set up the hardware so I could do everything from my PC, I called B&G technical support. The very experienced engineer explained what to do. In fact I shared my PC over the internet so he could show me on my screen. We pressed the 'upload new config'. And one by one, elements of my system started disappearing. The technical support believe it is related to outdated firmware for those elements. My setup to interface my PC to the boat is from 2021. The firmware in these units was last updated in 2017 and is not compatible. To update the firmware in these units, I need different hardware which is on its way from Auckland. But currently, CZONE is not working. And I wonder which bits will need to be replaced. Should find out next week. Boats!

  • Combo inverter and charger In early March I noticed that unpleasant, 'burning electrical' smell. Sure enough, my inverter/charger had given up. Another part of Skyfall changed.

  • Bow thruster I had been without a bow thruster since Tahiti. It took Ollie only five minutes to identify the issue. Easily fixed. Then, a month later, the control panel developed a fault and needed to be changed out

It is definitely the case that the more 'nice features' you incorporate into your boat, the more things there are to go wrong. I am learning the wisdom of KISS (keep it simple stupid)! Yet, I am philosophical about these issues. Looking on the bright side, it is far better that everything has failed in NZ (where it is relatively straightforward to find spares and expertise) rather than in Fiji or worse, on some remote atoll.

The next change to report are my plans. This relates to the crew change and illustrates how one change forces you to adapt. Having thought about it, I fully understand Annick's decision to return to 'normal' life. Yet, a long distance relationship is never easy to maintain. Therefore, I have decided to return to Belgium faster than planned. Next Christmas will now not be spent in Sydney, but in South Africa. Skyfall will not cruise in Australia and, if we keep sailing, Skyfall could be back in Belgium by summer 2025. The currently planned route for the rest of 2024 is shown in the passage map above. Of course, it is very rushed; for instance we need to be in the Kei Islands, Indonesia, by July 15th (as I wish to participate in part of the 2024 Indonesian Rally) when most boats heading north from here will still be in Fiji.

Finally, there has been a change in my personal (perceived) status! I have discussed the characteristics of a long term live-aboard (LTLA), and the requirements for a sailor to be categorised as such, in an early post. My conclusion was that, apart from the time spent living on the boat, the nautical competences and the willingness to be generous with time and knowledge to the rest of the sailing community, there was another essential characteristic common to an LTLA. The boat needed to have a mascot!

When my daughter came to NZ for our trip around the south island, Ellen generously brought her first and most loved 'knuffle' (soft toy), called Bernie. And now Bernie is making himself at home and exploring Skyfall. And I can change my status to LTLA!

Bernie, Skyfall's mascot, exploring his new home
Bernie, Skyfall's mascot, exploring his new home

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