Monday, 30 December 2013


Minima YC Burgee - handmade by moi 
...Vexillology is the study of flags and we've been studying them hard aboard Temptress for some weeks as every country expects visiting boats be they super tankers or the tiniest of yachts, to fly a courtesy flag whilst in their waters out of respect for that country. The flag is usually but not always a small version of the national flag, where the definition of small by etiquette depends on the size of the vessel and height of mast it is to be flown from, though more often it depends on what is available in the previous port! Visiting boats to the UK for instance fly a small Red Ensign and not the Union flag. Flying the wrong flag may be considered a serious insult to the country you're trying to enter so it pays to do your research well before hand if you want to be in the the good books of port officials.

Before we left the UK I looked at purchasing flags for the countries we would probably visit - Morocco, Cape Verdes, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and a fair few more. At several pounds sterling apiece the quantity of flags required could suddenly become a major budget item especially if we spent any time cruising the Caribbean or Pacific.

Materials and templates for Grenada's courtesy flag
I decided a DIY approach would be more affordable and after all we'd have plenty of time on long passages and making flags might be fun. It seemed ripstop nylon was the cheapest non-fraying material available in lots of colours, the sort that is suitable for an average weight spinnaker or a tent. And it has the advantage of being light and packing down small. So after a bit of internet shopping Temptress' flag kit was born with half a metre each of navy and sky blue, green, gold (orange) and yellow ripstop plus larger quantities of royal blue, red and white as one day I may even make a house flag for the boat with our mermaid logo and we needed a new Minima YC Burgee (this latter was finally created in Lanzarote). In addition to the ripstop I added a few metres of white inch and a half binding tape to make the hoist-end (the bit the string goes through) and sorted out a few duffle coat toggles from my button tin though mostly a bowline in the top of the string is sufficient.

The first flag Temptress requires is for the Cape Verdes as Jo kindly purchased a Moroccan one as a present for the boat in Baiona and the Canaries are part of Spain which we already had on board. Now the CV's flag is very straightforward - a navy rectangle with a white stripe superimposed by a red one about a third of the way up from the lower edge. Before it could be cut out however I needed to learn about sizes and proportions of a flag. Flag making is an ancient art a bit like heraldry so the terms are archaic but fun. From the internet I gleaned the following:
  • The height of a flag is called the hoist and the length the fly. 
  • The shape of a flag is defined by the proportion of one to the other - usually the fly is two times the hoist to give a neat rectangle but may be less eg 1.5 times. 
  • Use the height of the mast to calculate how tall the ideal hoist should be for your boat and you have a good idea how big to make the courtesy flag (roughly half an inch per foot of mast height)
If I was to follow the rules for sizing courtesy flags for Temptress' mast would be larger than 35cm x 70cm - that is a lot of material, I'd soon get through my stash. So how to make the process economical without making such a small flag it becomes fiddly? 
  • Cheat a bit - firstly simplify the detail as it won't be seen flying at some twenty feet above the average head on the pontoon. 
  • Secondly scale things down (checking the bought flags we already owned most seem to be around 30 cm or 12 inches high) and change the proportions too if you can - I've used 1.5 x the hoist for the fly of both the courtesy flags I've made so far and they look perfectly ok -  this way you use less material. 
  • You are probably only going to be in a country for a week or two meaning the flag doesn't have to last through endless sun or several gales so construction doesn't have to be bullet proof.
  • Use fabric paints to create any vital detail that is too fiddly for fabric (eg the Union flag on the UK ensign)
  • For UK territories, buy a UK ensign, paint the defacing charge or emblem onto white cloth then attach to the ensign!

Cape Verdes - simple blue rectangle with stripes
The Cape Verdes was easy using double sided tape to "tack" the components together - dressmaking pins won't go through more than a couple of layers of ripstop - then sew either using zig-zag or straight stitch. I hemmed the edge of this flag but probably won't bother again as the ripstop really doesn't fray but is very fiddly to keep folded over without lots of sticky tape which in turn gunges up the machine needle. Don't forget a flag is double sided - by placing the components correctly I could sew both sides on with one line of stitching. The stars that represent the islands of the CVs I drew on using t-shirt pens but they only really show up against the white strip not against the blue.

After the Cape Verdes with our change of cruising plan Grenada looks like the next flag we'll need and it is probably the most complex flag after the UK ensign that any flag maker will encounter. After taking whole day to create a template for the triangles, cut the parts out and stitch it I realised quite why courtesy flags are so expensive.  The rectangular "ground" is made of two green and two yellow triangles all bordered in red. Then there is a red circle with a yellow star at the centre and a nutmeg in the green triangle at the hoist end plus a series of stars along the border top and bottom. All these components have a significance however only the circle and the nutmeg are prominent but I omitted the stars as they'll hardly be seen when it is up the mast.

To make the flag I cut the four triangles with a 1 cm seam allowance and simply overlapped then zigzag stitched to join them into a rectangle, it won't stand a gale but does it need to?  For more on different types of seam that would be stronger see here. It's been a while since I tackled mitred corners but with some internet assistance I managed four passable ones and the doubled over border strengthens the whole. A couple of circles and "nutmegs" (made from freehand drawn cut outs in red and yellow, two sets one for each side)  zigzag stitched on both sides completed the days work. It may not be the neatest bit of sewing I've ever done but I'm extremely pleased with the result. The hoist was bound with cheap 1 inch tape enclosing a length of recycled boat string  (in a bid to reduce costs further). After this the flags of St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Lucia should be a doddle!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Boat Jobs Always Expand

The bilge pump has been going off occasionally waking one or other of us in the night since the anchor chain was removed from bow and the wind started blowing hard from the south (beam on) this week. We know the cause - water from "that event" still finding its way from the stern services area to the bilge sump by various routes. At the end of a day of jobs we were just relaxing when the pump went off again. We'd said yesterday that we should look into it and check there were no problems with the stern gland etc so a quick five minute check before supper....
Sofa raised to access the engine
viewed from the companionway
Lifting up the engine cover reminded us there was quite a lot of water remaining in the sump under the engine that had been overwhelmed by the seawater coming up the rudder tube when we were towed at speed.Water trapped here can't drain into the bilge as an anti-pollution measure, so the Chief Mechanic got out the oil extraction pump to remove a few oily bucketfuls only to find a bolt lurking in the mucky sump once the water had gone. It was shiny and new and presumably hadn't been dropped there by a mechanic during our pre-departure service last May as it would have been retrieved.

So where from? Whilst Chief Mechanic rotated the prop shaft, watching from above, the First Mate spotted exactly where the bolt had slipped from; the prop shaft/gear box coupling was one bolt short. A bit of fumbling around guided from above and the nut was also quickly retrieved from the sump. More twirling of the prop shaft revealed that a couple of the remaining bolts were also loose. It's happened before, last time off Brixham a few years ago where motoring with no wind we suddenly stopped making progress through the water. Fortunately the tide was sweeping Temptress out into the expanse of Lyme Bay as it then took Kevin a long time to rig up a makeshift prop brake to stop the propeller turning so he could put all the bolts back! This time, safely moored in a marina, it was a five minute task and all the bolts are now securely fastened once more. Wouldn't want to attempt that in any ocean swell.

Five sided engine access
Meanwhile fluff was cleared from round the engine cover (or sofa depending on your point of view) and the top of the water tanks - just where all that fluff comes from is a mystery, there are mostly just two of us onboard! And how much water was still aft of the engine area waiting to work it's way forward? Open up the doors under the aft head sink to investigate... first remove two boxes of spare light bulbs and plumbing bits, then a few dozen loo rolls (the Atlantic Crossing supply) wrapped in bin liners and finally the inside of the hull could be seen. The loo seacock looked a bit rusty. Rusty? It's bronze no idea where that stain has come from; one to keep an eye on. Tentatively try the seacock it closes but won't budge open. The Chief Mechanic swaps roles to plumber and works it open and shut a few times before asking the First Mate to try again. This time it moves freely. We mop out the dribble of salt water, rinse this bit of bilge with fresh and mop again, leaving it to dry overnight (or was it that we couldn't be bothered to put everything back 'cos it is definitely time to cook supper?).  The last of the oily water is left in the pump in the cockpit (can't face a third trek round to the oil dump), Kevin heads for a shower whilst Susie notes that the cabin sole really needs a wash down too - one for tomorrow - then we sort out the furniture and cushions and settle down for the evening, a couple of hours and several trips to the oil dump round the other side of the boatyard after we started a quick five minute check. Thanks Buzz FM for keeping us entertained through out!
I will get this not on that bolt


All tightened up once more

Extracting oily bilge water -
this oil extractor pump is a brilliant tool

Meanwhile our extended stay in port has a silver lining in that Temptress' job list is at an all time low of ten items unstarted and three part done. Even better the one job that has been on the list since 2002 (and annoying the First Mate ever since it got to the top of the list about six months after joining it) -"fill and fair the furler switches"; Kevin announced today with a big fan fare that he has finally worked out how to do! So we might just might tackle that one too before Christmas, possibly or possibly not - what would we do without two purely decorative water proof switches at the top of the companionway?

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Dissimilar Metals

When two different metals meet if the circumstances are right then one will generously pass itself over to the other which may or may not be what you want. If it is in a cheap battery then yes this is a reaction you need to effect a flow of electricity but if it is two bits of metal on a boat then usually this is not a desirable outcome.

The problem on a boat is that it is hard to avoid having different metals together in some places - stanchion posts are usually steel, their bases may be steel or aluminium and the toe rail those are attached to is often aluminium. And the circumstances are always going to be right as sea water is salty so conducts electricity quite well. The result can be unattractive bubbles of corrosion or it can have more serious consequences such as where a steel fitting like a radar bracket is attached to an aluminium mast. The new pulpit required two replacement stanchion bases and these have been manufactured locally from stainless steel rather than the original aluminium for speed, time and cost reasons. This has moved the risk of galvanic corrosion (the correct term for the process) from between base and post to base and toerail. However corrosion can easily be prevented by using a suitable barrier, in this case a thin plastic pad between the two metal parts.

Corroded windless base
Meanwhile as Kevin moved the anchor chain around so that the pulpit could be fitted he discovered some unwelcome galvanic corrosion has started between the steel plate that the anchor windless sits on and the anchor windless itself. A mass of bubbling metal at one corner of the aluminium windlass case where it bolts to the plate indicated that the aluminium was leaving the windless for the steel plate. If allowed to continue the corrosion would weaken a strong point that Temptress might rely on if we were anchored in severe weather so needed urgent treatment. To that end all 70 odd metres of the main chain plus the warp and chain we use for our second anchor had to be removed from the anchor locker to ease access to the fixing bolts. The chain and warp are now laid in tidy lengths on the pontoon alongside the anchor and been given a good hose down for the first time in several years.

Will he get out of there?

Windless, plate and messy shelf

The steel plate just needed a clean up
The anchor well also contained a fair amount of rotting seaweed, rubbish dropped by the metal workers when tailoring the pulpit (the boat hook helped remove a marker pen before unloading the chain) and mystery stuff like bits of the manufacturers label from the anchor which you think would be washed over the side not down into the well, two halves of a chain link actually lost in the depths by the skipper when he replaced the swivel that joins the anchor to the chain earlier this year and other odds and ends. Most rinsed out easily with a hose as the two cowls on the outside of the drain holes were knocked off by the towing bridle (one of the repair jobs waiting to be done under the insurance claim) only the heavy items remain, probably indefinitely. The well being like an upside down pyramid about chest deep is hard to get in and out of  and it is impossible once in, to bend or squat down to pick up stuff from its small floor space (I know I've tried). A possible need for one of those litter picking thingies or else we have to simply ignore the remaining rubbish.

A day or so later Kevin threaded himself feet first into the well, the only way to undo the bolts that hold the anchor windless and its steel plate in place. Both I and passers by wondered if he'd get out again but he did. Then the forepeak had to be partially emptied of sails so that the windless could be disconnected from its power supply as the cables aren't long enough to otherwise lift it onto the deck from its shelf at the rear of the anchor well. Meanwhile the rough weather lashing the coast resulted in the water supply to the pontoon being cut due to wave damage so fresh water to wash everything down with was in short supply. Having scrubbed away the dirt with bucketfuls of sea water the final rinse was water from the galley tap. The weather was decidedly flaky - apart from strong southerly winds which have been tossing water over the marina wall for the last couple of days, intermittent rain showers coated red Sahara dust on everything. And, when it wasn't raining, you were breathing in that same thick dust leading to coughing and sneezing fits or a perpetual runny nose, working outside had become particularly unpleasant.

What to use as insulation? LanoCote, a sort of lanolin grease often used to protect against corrosion, had been smeared on when the steel plate was replaced a few years ago but obviously hadn't stood up to the wear and tear of the anchor chain rattling past or all the salt water that washes into the anchor locker when at sea. As mentioned plastic is an ideal inert insulator. We recently bought a couple of 50x70cm sheets of 1mm thick translucent pink plastic in the local ferreteria as part of our ongoing mosquito screen project (more on that when it is complete). Ferreteria Tias (or FT) is a veritable Aladdins Cave of DIY materials and kitchen equipment that we have both become addicted to. Kevin re-purposed a 20x20cm piece of the lurid plastic to become a sandwich filling between the winch and its steel mounting plate. It is easily cut with scissors or a knife and can be drawn on with a biro or pencil.
Plastic cut and ready to go
 Meanwhile opening up the electrical side of things has enabled him to check on and clean  the down switch that had caused us problems when anchoring in Essaouira over a month ago. Something to pass the time between dry spells! And, as its still raining and rapidly getting dark, the whole lot can wait until tomorrow to be reassembled.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Vacuum Packed Chicken and Pickled Cabbage

Elise, Gordon & Steve
Thanksgiving Dinner 2013, RC Louise
It's over a month since Temptress was towed into Puerto Calero, Lanzarote and we are still here though the boat has moved all of 20 metres to the next pontoon across. It was easier to move than to try to turn Temptress round so that she is bows-to for work on the new pulpit with the bonus that access by boatyard staff on this pontoon is easier.

Repairs have got under way but it is a frustratingly slow process. At first Kevin was busy gathering insurance quotes, finding a shipping company for the rudder etc but now we have to wait for the tasks to be done. A sturdy new pulpit has appeared on the bow, but as yet no navigation lights. The mainsail has been repaired but remains on the sail loft floor, Kevin will go and assist the sailmaker to fold it again next week. Sprayhood repairs will be completed on Monday or Tuesday but the rudder has unfortunately been seriously delayed by a lack of suitable steel, we hope for good news tomorrow on that front. All in all it looks like we'll be celebrating Christmas here.

Oud-Arn, Tracy, Susie & Kevin
In our spare time other things get done. We've cleaned fenders, rinsed Moroccan mud from our mooring lines, pondered over how to fix the trim round the forepeak hatch and achieved a zillion other bits and pieces. The boat inside and out looks a bit of a mess with boxes, buckets and general boat clutter strewn everywhere. We sit on bunk cushions from an aft cabin round the saloon table. In between we've been exploring the island, even finding the enthusiasm for some geocaching which here amongst the lava rocks is a bit like the challenges of Omani caching. Which rock? Do you remember the picture?

Fitting the new pulpit
The forward heads has become a bit of a nuisance -  it fills with seawater slowly. Fortunately the sea level outside the boat is such that the bowl never overflows but it is an inconvenience to have to pump it out before you use it. The valve seals look serviceable, Kevin took the pump apart and cleaned the components a week or so ago but after only a couple of days water began to seep in again. It has done this on and off since we left Southsea and had one replacement set of flap valves fitted already this year. A messy investigation task for the coming week.

Mainly we have been sorting out storage for the massive amount of provisions that four people will need for six weeks and beyond. Provisioning occupies our thoughts continually as we think through storage, ideas for menus, discover from other cruisers strategies for preserving fresh stuff as long as possible etc and is a welcome distraction from the repair project.

Our  trip across the pond will take three weeks or perhaps four if we spend some time in the Cape Verdes, add a contingency of at least a week and extra stores as the Caribbean can be expensive. (Did we mention that this is our revised destination as we don't fancy the 1200 mile of headwinds the Pilot Atlas predicts to the east of Brazil late January early February?)

Food for six weeks plus is therefore required. Fresh foods like meat and veg are simply not going to last that long so Temptress has to be loaded with tins and dry stores like flour, pulses and beans. Potentially four weeks of eating meals made from canned food means variety will be key to keeping the crew happy so we are also adding tins never normally consumed like peaches - for breakfast as well as for desert and frankfurters (can you make a decent sausage casserole with these?). Utilising our hire car we've bought a massive amount of stuff already and have got to know what Lidl, Hiperdino and Eurospar offer. The focus has been on long term, heavy stuff like tins plus items we may not easily find "over there" like favourite coffee, shampoo and the like. More perishable items can wait until the crew arrive in January. We've also purchased foodstuffs that are relatively cheap here like powdered milk and washing up liquid. And edible items unique to Spain such as a vacuum packed cooked chicken (best before Feb 2014), hard cheeses (keep forever) and chorizios (also keeps for a long long time). But where to put it all?

Dry Stores & UHT Milk

Some of the bottles and jars

Surrounded by tins - we mark the contents on the top
making it easier to spot what's what from above

Wine for drinking before we leave!
The bilges are almost full - a couple of dozen tins of tomatoes, what seems like six months worth of baked beans, corned beef and car crash (tinned sardines in tomato sauce, a sandwich favourite) plus lots of other stuff. The aft heads space under the sink is crammed with packs of loo roll in protective bin liners (trying to estimate the quantities required reduced us to some schoolboy humour). A cubbyhole under the chart table is likewise stuffed with eight kitchen rolls and three boxes of Kleenex, I was amazed just how much could be fitted in this spot which has housed only a roll of flags for many years.

Under the saloon table are currently two folding crates full of tins of veg, jars of potatoes, tetra packs of sugar and jars of Nescafe Alta Rica. Saloon lockers are beginning to fill with dry stores like pasta and rice but we know there will be more to come; flour, yeast, kidney beans (if we can find them), drinking chocolate, the provisions list is endless and the quantities measured in kilos or dozens.
One locker space Jeanneau hadn't though of!
Other boats appear to have far more storage than Temptress with lockers behind and above the saloon seating backs as well as below the seating. It's the price we pay for an airy open saloon. So we started looking at our boat with new space greedy eyes. Are there any "dead spaces" behind all that teak that are currently inaccessible? Well yes definitely behind the curves of the porthand sofa. With the upholstery all away being renewed we took up the challenge. Kevin drilled a thumb sized pilot hole and we eagerly peered in with the help of a torch. Both ends revealed sizeable voids. I went out for an hour or so and when I returned neat ovals had been cut. A couple of judiciously placed pieces of marine ply prevent any contents sliding beyond arms reach along the back of the sofa. Temptress has two new lockers. A length of table protector will pad the hull to prevent rattles and condensation then we can put the lockers to use. We are now wondering where else!

The ongoing debate is how/where we'll store kilograms of potatoes which need cool and dark conditions to survive without sprouting. Usually we have a couple of kilos under the galley sink but the space is too small for much more. The cool box will be turned into the boat's fruit and veg store and the beer in the fridge will have to give way to dairy stuff and fresh meat for the first part of the voyage. We collected plastic egg boxes in Morocco to protect four dozen eggs or so (the actually quantity is a bit of a weird number as eggs came in fifteens or dozens). Apparently eggs keep for long periods unrefrigerated (and they rarely are on Temptress) if turned every couple of days. There is space on top of the sail repair box to stow the boxes though they probably will need some padding (an alternative use for beach towels?).
The skipper nose in a good book

Remind anyone of DXB? Actually Playa Blanca

The square at Femes

Beating to windward off Punta Pechiguera

The lighthouse, Punta Pechiguera

Another distraction is planning our landfall. Which courtesy flag(s) do we need to make? Our Pilot Guide for the Lesser Antilles is over two decades old, should we buy a new one for more recent immigration/customs formalities and harbour info? We have up to date electronic charts which hopefully will show new marina developments in former anchorages so we can avoid them. And then there is deciding which island to actually head for, after all it helps setting off across the Atlantic if you know approximately the course required to reach a destination even if ultimately we make landfall elsewhere. Whatever happens the crew will not starve though they could be eating some strange combinations if the voyage takes to long; pickled cabbage and fruit cocktail anyone!