Coomera

summ.org
Slides from this chapter

We arrived in Brisbane with a mountain of luggage having travelled something like 17,000 miles in three days. We are so done with flying...

First Missteps

Having gotten everything more-or-less stowed away, and having had a couple of days to take the edge off of a truely phenomenal case of jet lag, we decided to go for a motor down the Coomera river with the possibility of a sail if the weather outside the Gold Coast Seaway was clement.

Before leaving the slip, I dropped both daggerboards so that it would be easier to steer against the crosswind in the marina. I also decided to check the motors while still tied to the dock. Starboard side seemed fine, but the port side wouldn't budge the boat. Hmm... Visions of a $3000 propeller eaten away by electrolysis shot through my head. But wait, the tide was quite low and the board wasn't all the way down. Could it be touching bottom? I cranked it up a few inches and retested the motor. Success.

We eased out of the slip and headed down river. Feelings of glee were being expressed by all and sundry "thrill of the open sea" &c. Then we noticed black smoke boiling out of the exhausts.

Hmm... no warning lights. Engines look OK. Perhaps a bit of gunk in the engines from months of idleness or some fouling on the props. We slowed up and the black smoke went away and I cracked open the diesel book to read up on black smoke.

We motored as far as the Gold Coast Seaway (the start of the Pacific Ocean) but it was too rough for a sail so we turned around and headed back up river. At one point the port-side engine died and refused to restart for several minutes, but we were able to get it restarted after checking the fuel and air filters.

We motored back up the river with both engines at 2000 rpm. Because of the recent problems with the port-side engine and the history of that engine stalling out at inopportune times, I decided to do a few test manuvers out in the river before weaving our way back into our berth. Sure enough, as soon as I shifted the port-side engine back to neutral, it stalled. Since we were right in front of the marina, anchoring seemed to be the best choice.

Of course, because we were going for a day sail, we'd left the dingy back at the slip. A passing powerboat was flagged down and proved happy to ferry Karin and Tristan back to the marina 50 yards away. Where, they were unable to start the dingy outboard, and, the dingy oars were, where else, stowed aboard Endless Summer. After half an hour of fiddling and some help from someone at the marina, the outboard roared to life and they motored back to Endless Summer where we spend the night. Fortunately, we'd topped up the water tanks and gone shopping so it was a comfortable night.

In the morning, I tried to figure out what had gone wrong. The port-side engine still wouldn't start and the starboard side started but wouldn't charge the batteries. I phoned up Steve (the boatbuilder) and he came out and we changed fuel filters (no sign of problems) and bled the fuel system (removed air from it). Still no luck.

As the wind was favorable, we decided to try motoring over to the fuel dock on one engine, but with only one engine, our slow speed manoeuver repetoir appeared to consist of only 270 degree right turns. Also the starboard engine cut out a couple of times. Back down with the anchor.

Fortunately, the marina was able to provide a tow to the fuel dock where we spent a few days awaiting the ministrations of various mechanics, boat builders and electricians.

Ultimately we found out that there were three problems:

  1. The props were badly fouled. This overloaded the engines and caused the black smoke.
  2. An air leak somewhere between the fuel filters and the port-side engine was causing that engine run erratically.
  3. The alternators, which had been modified to use a separate negative ground instead of the one provided by the engines, had been modified incorrectly causing one to melt, loosening a screw which fell into the stator and jammed/shorted it which caused the other alternator to melt even more rapidly than it otherwise would have.

Fortunately, all this happened while we were about 50 yards from home, and it is all easy to repair. After talking to several electricians, I discovered that the only one advocating above-ground alternators happens to be selling very expensive above-ground alternators. Everyone else suggested that above-ground was far more trouble than it (might) be worth and that, to be truely "above ground" you would have to do far more than just modify the alternators.

Trevor

It would have been a rainy miserable weekend on the fuel dock but Trevor, our, electrician invited us up to his house in Burringbar, NSW.

Trevor grows bananas, oranges, tangelos, lemons, and mangos right around his house. It is not unusual for pythons to slither past (one of the neighbors found a 4 meter snake in the back yard) and Kookaburras wake everyone up at 5:30am.

Just what we need after a couple of weeks fixing up the boat.

Ozzie Highlights

  1. "phaser chicken" crosswalk sounds
    When the "walk" sign starts flashing you get what sounds like a burst of phaser fire to wake you up followed by a rapid toc-toc-toc sound to chivy you on your way.
  2. "roundabout slingshot"
    Around Brissie many intersections are roundabouts. Generally they're nice because you don't have to wait for a light, but when you're trying to navigate there's no time to figure out what the cross street is. You go shooting around like a stone in a sling into whatever exit the gods of centrifuge deem expedient.

Haul Out

We got the whole engine/alternator mess squared away just in time to be able to motor into the crane for our haul out. Thankfully, there was no wind so I had an easy time motoring onto the straps. For once everything went smoothly, two coats of bottom paint, change the saildrive leg oil, change the zincs, lanoline the props. The kids helped sand, paint and vied with each other to see who could scrape the props cleaner.

Our plan was to do the whole thing in one day, but the boat ahead of us needed more time and the paint guys recommended letting the paint dry overnight anyway so we spend the night on the hard. Very strange sleeping on a boat that doesn't move.

Bright and early next morning the crane came to pick us up. You get a brief grace period to paint the places where the stands were and then the crane dumps you back in the water. Everything worked, even getting into the slip in the crosswind.

We've gotten nearly all the antifouling paint off of the kids but one of my toenails still has a nice blue spot. I'll make future reports on how effective it is in discouraging marine growth.

School is in Session

The kids were mortified to discover that our trip was not in fact a comprehensive tour of skate and amusement parks in tropical paradises. Didn't realize that a marine could be such a fruitful whine growning region.

Plans

With the exception of the heater which should be in on thursday (just in time for really nice weather) the boat is done, gassed up and ready to go.

Our plan is to run about 300 nm up the coast to Hervey Bay all in one go. It is easy to get into Hervey Bay and there are anchorages for most weather conditions. We'll wait for the next low pressure system to spin off the coast and then we can head north with reasonable confidence in a few days of SE winds. Farther north, where the barrier reef is closer to land, the navigation is much trickier and people usually avoid sailing at night because there's no way to see the reef.

We'll try and pick up Geoff Mercer somewhere along the way for the run up to Great Keppel.

By 1 September we'll have started the journey north!

Yachtie Details

Handy Publications

For cruising on the Queensland coast The Official Tide Tables and Beacon to Beacon are invaluable. In addition to tides, the former contains a wealth of information about local facilities, weather, and regulations. Beacon to Beacon is an up-to-date set of charts for the most popular areas of the Queensland coast. It includes descriptions of anchorages complete with arial photos. Both are available at any chandler.

Ship2Shore is a handy "blue pages" directory to marine related services. It is free at most chandlers.

Boats

Our next door neighbors in the marina are Chris and Mandy on Bedouin, a brand new Perry 43 cat. We share "new boat" sob stories with them. They're making the hop to New Caledonia that we'd though of doing last summer, then following the trades around to the US east coast.

The yacht Amaroo 7, Simon & Nirelle, that we met when we moved in to GCCM is still there and may be heading up north about the same time we do.

Trevor Patrick - Electrician

04 1966 2981

Trevor has been infinitely helpful in getting the boat ready to go. In addition to being an top notch electrician, he's cruised for many years and has been a fount of good advice.

Ian Jennings - Hamilton Auto Electonics

51 Violet St. Eagle Farm 4007 QLD Australia 07 3268 5866

Ian is immensely knowlegable about alternators and was able to clarify a number of issues relating to above-ground alternators in the marine environment. He maintains a large inventory of alternators and spare parts. Worth the drive into Brisbane.

Ocean Power Marine

Gold Coast City Marina 07 5561 7200

Their prices were very reasonable and they were happy to lend me a tool.

Gold Coast City Marina

The marina is brand new, and very secure. Haul-out, powerwash, and hardstand for Endless Summer (43' cat, 6.5 tons, er, tonnes) was A$ 480. The entire operation was very professional. The marina supplied bottom paint (delivered to hardstand) for a modest premium over a marine discounter, about A$ 9 per gallon for A$ 200 paint.

They also provided a free tow into the marina during our engine trouble episode and didn't freak about us camping on their fuel dock for a few days whilst getting the engines/alternators squared away.

Drawbacks:

  1. From land, Coomera is "in the middle of nowhere." Very few services within walking distance. The Gold Coast proper is a twenty minute drive in one direction and Brisbane is 30 minutes in the other.
  2. By sea, Coomera is about 8 nm from The Broadwater so it is an awkward port for daysailing.
  3. There's a fair amount of dust from the yard and ashes from nearby cane fields.
  4. Most services seem geared towards price-is-no-object powerboaters.