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Wannabe offshore cruiser - lessons from Port Vila to Noumea

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Headed up to Vanuatu in October to bring back a Sadler 32 I bought earlier in the year, but I'm a complete novice so I got an experienced skipper, Island Time's Matt Paulin and another crew member, Russ, to come up with me. I promised Matt that I'd share some of the highlights and experiences on crew.org.nz so here goes...
I wrote up a wordier journal and have just posted it here

For those with limited time..here's the super short version
"Had a blast - a potentially life changing experience. Matt was superb. Russ, the other crew member was equally impressive. From failing head pumps to self inflating vests suddenly going pop on the foredeck and a whole lot in between, the trip was hugely memorable. I've got a whole lot to learn but with the right approach, progress is inevitable and can even be fun..."

Okay then - for anyone interested here are some of the highlights and some lessons I obviously needed to learn..
Day 1:
Just because it smells like petrol doesn't mean you should put it in your outboard...I should have poured it into clear container first. We spent a few hours trying to diagnose why the "reliable" outboard wouldn't start (after 3 months break)...fuel filter, spark plug, carburettor all ok, but when we poured out the petrol from the tank, we saw it was rusty in colour and a bit sludgy. Soaking everything in fresh petrol next morning soon got it going.
Day 2
I learnt that vinegar will dissolve caked up crap on the head pump valves, but it's not the nicest choice, and in our case, the rubber was perished and tore when I was cleaning it. A much better option is to replace your pump service kits as you use them...doh...hardly rocket science, but no service kit available in Port Vila, so I bought a replacement pump..welcome to boat ownership lesson 1 - it will cost more than you ever imagined.
Day 3
Just because it's a SSB radio on a marine vessel doesn't mean it's a maritime radio. The previous owner was a ham operator and hadn't opened up the radio for transmitting on maritime frequencies..no ability to respond to or relay distress messages. After a bit of googling, Matt got his scalpel out and performed a marinectomy....removing 3 surface mounted resistors and voila -we had comms with Taupo.
Day 4
Getting up close and familiar with the bottom of your boat and scraping it clean can be a zen-like experience. But for an even deeper experience, wait until there is a good strong current running at the same time. Of course, using a dive tank might be so much more quicker than a snorkel and mask, but then you just wouldn't get the same sense of accomplishment...
Day 5
Just because a hose is connected to a bilge pump doesn't mean that any water would leave the boat. No idea why, but the hose connected to the engine bilge pimp would have need to be draped overboard - otherwise it was just a re-circulation pump. Easy to fix - just add another thru'hull with anti-siphoning loop in the transom.
Day 6
Iridium Go! Woes. Apparently the activation process is manual, and was delayed due to a hurricane in the Caribbean. What the heck? This is 2015. I'd hate to be having to try activate this in a genuine distress situation. Lesson: simply don't assume.
Day 7
There's more than one way to fill a gas cylinder. Laws of gravity still apply to liquids even under pressure, and after we couldn't get the cylinders filled locally we used a bit of DIY. Don't try this at home etc..
Day 8
Set sail day. Lots of lessons, we were running out of days, otherwise we'd have had a trial sail and ironed out a few kinks. The fiddles on the gimballed stove only had clamps on one side, and we hadn't checked this. Moving with rhythm of the boat is all well and good, but I only took my hand off handrail for a couple of seconds and ended up on my back...bruised ego and back. I was lucky.
Day 9
Popped my cherry on the foredeck...self-inflating jacket just went pop when a wave came over me. Lots of experience gained in just 10 minutes..Also, don't forget rule #1, keep the water on the outside. A dry boat is a happy boat..We lost two navigation laptops to water coming down the companionway.
Day 10
When you're running out of options, go back over some you might have prematurely ruled out. Turns out that the other spare laptop's Prolific serial drivers were compatible with a usb GPS on board, so we could navigate inside the reef at New Caledonia. GPS on my phone with Navionics was flakey and useless, and the iPad was little better. OpenCPN and a dedicated GPS unit were much more reliable.
Day 11
Arrival at Port Moselle, Noumea. The harbour master uses Ch 61, rather than 16 as their listening frequency. This is visible once you're inside the harbour..by daylight, but we arrived by night. Weather forecast not looking good for onward passage to NZ and we had run out of time (lesson there somewhere too). It was now time to figure out Plan B..getting the boat from Noumea to New Zealand, but that's another story...

I had a great time. Three guys spending 24/7 together for 2 weeks and all still getting on well at the end...even through some trying times...I felt I drew the lucky straw with Matt & Russ and learned a heap in the process. Thanks Guys.

What next ?
The boat is on the hard in Noumea and I'm looking at options for getting it to NZ. I'm available for a couple of weeks after Dec 11, but realistically, expect that it could be January before I get up there again. Will have to wait for weather window, and of course I'll need to sort out the skipper and crew logistic again. I'll put up a dedicated post on that in the coming days. More fun ahead..




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Thx Shaun, Yep, your boat had a few "issues", but it went to windward better than I expected!


If we could have kept it dry inside, we probably would have made NZ. Now that that leak from the cockpit locker into the boat is fixed, ditto the ones from the window above the Nav station, that will make a real difference. Fixing the stripped gear on the wind vane etc etc etc is all good to!!

I reckon you could have a Holiday up there in Jan, but I don't think its a good time to try again - middle of the cyclone season etc. I'd be thinking more April/May for the return voyage... 



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Doesn't sound exactly smooth sailing there bluzeb. But thats what you get with a remote purchase I guess. Shame she isn't back for our season but it occurs to me that if the boat is stuck there till April or May you might as well leave it there and do some cruising up there in our winter, bring it back june to november or so. Many , including myself, would kill for an opportunity like that.

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One of the bits Shaun (bluezeb) does not mention, is that the "spares" were really just junk. For example, there were 20 something v belts on board. 3 were the correct ones :wtf: !!  We took out enough useless crap to raise the boat 100-150mm. I do not believe that we threw out anything actually useful.


The thru hull cap he talks about in the full article was to properly seal a 2.5" thru hull in the topsides fwd of the mast, opposite the head. It had been "filled" with a soft wood plug I pulled out with my fingers!! We removed the thru hull, sealed it, and capped it with a proper cap. By now it has been properly removed in Noumea, and glassed over.


There really were some real safety issues we had to deal with before leaving - not just toilets and outboards. An example is that in the Sadler 32 the cockpit floor is removable - direct access into the hull and engine space. The hatch was not secured in any way - just sitting there! Lots of other stuff too, but the boat is pretty nearly ready now....


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finished the full writ-up now


what a mission!


in many ways, could have been me


but with a smaller budget, buying off-shore was never a realistic proposition, so stuck to local and am happy learning the ropes, exploring the gulf, on Vindil, my 25' world cruiser;o) on the mooring in okahu bay


though ads on tm like this still get me thinking...




you mentioned the Claddagh Bar in newmarket


perhaps we live close and i could shout you a guinness there and/or if you've no better way to keep your sailing vitamin levels up, take you out for a wee sail this summer

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Sean, I gobbled up all the words. Great writing. You made the right choice with Matt and Russ. Happy to take you for a sail too while you wait to get Admetus back. I went all traditional too but now have a hankering to explore the opposite end of the spectrum like an Open 40 http://anasaziracing.blogspot.co.nz/p/the-boat.html

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Thanks for the responses and encouragement folks and also for the offers of sharing some summer sailing and guinness ! The delivery is a work in progress, a rather extended work, but the idea of getting in some sailing in New Cal before bringing it back has real appeal. This will all unfold in due course..

sorry no pics...next time..

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Really nice write up Bluezeb. Great adventure, well done. You struck gold with Matt and Russ I think. Sounds like a tough introduction, but with good guidance, so heaps learned. Much better than struggling by yourself!! I have cruised alongside Sadler 32s quite a bit. Great boats that will take a good blow in their stride. Again, well done!

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