Anyone for brain surgery

Generally I’m quite a positive person or so I like to think, but a run of annoying problems had me despairing last week, the cutless bearing, the watermaker motor / gearbox, all things I felt were out of my control and required me to bring the experts in. Normally I see most things as a challenge I can overcome,  normally I would take the view, as made famous in “The boys from the black stuff” with the phrase  ‘Gizz a job, I can do that’. For example, if I was a long way offshore, and I had a mad headache problem requiring surgery, I’d be up for a go. I mean how difficult can it be, I know doctors spend five years + studying, but I gather a lot of that time is spent doing practical jokes on each other, and anyway I bet there’s a whole stack of videos / tutorials on brain surgery on youtube these days. So Friday dawned and it was with this renewed attitude I went back to the watermaker. I’m saying nothing, but check out the video below!

It doesn’t actually make water yet, a trivial point, but it does pump sea water around the system at 800PSI (ish) and brine / sea water is returning from the membrane.
I was able to tease the old brushes out of the motor, and clean it all up quite well, I think the pump does need to be replaced at some point, but I left the motor running for an hour and it didn’t get hot or make any funny noises so I think it has some life in it yet. The main problem now is, 1) the pump needs the seals replacing, I have 2 seal replacement kits on board. 2) the Membrane needs replacing, I can’t be sure, but everything I have read says it has to be stuffed, especially as 3) some of the pipes in the system have started to dissolve and produce an oily black substance from their inner rubber lining, so all the piping has to be changed. I’m hoping to pick up the bits I need on Tuesday when we go into Singapore.

Last Thursday I took a cab over to the boatyard, it’s 40 minutes by road, about 14nm away, but I will have to take the boat all the way around Singapore because of the causeway being in the way. Thats more like a 10 hour trip for me. What’s worse is that the entrance to the boatyard is very shallow, and I have to wait for spring tides to get in, which is another 10 days away, this means that by the time we launch, we will be much further into the cyclone (aka hurricane) season here and the trip north will have more chance of bad weather. Fortunately cyclones are big business here, they are regular each year and do lots of damage so there is a lot of support available. Forecasting is very good, protected harbours are available to jump into, so most of the time it’s not a big deal. Of course there’s always the chance of an unpredictable storm, and a boat problem combining to bring grief, but lets not look on the gloomy side. I’m picking up a new bearing in Singapore on Tuesday, and a spare, incase I should take up fishing again 🙁 It’s not going to cost that much to haul, and do the job, there’s even a chance It might be something we can do in the slings, but unlikely.

Of course the main event of the week/month, if we put the watermaker to one side, was the return of Kathy. I met her in KL yesterday and we flew back, after a much delayed flight, to the boat. It’s great to have Kathy back, and she brought lots of goodies as well. Sadly the missing blade for the wind generator, which the astute of you will have spotted, was 20cm short, can’t see that working. but I have lots of bits to fit to the boat now to make it just that little bit better, a lot of USB charging sockets is one of these additions! I also have a lovely new iPhone, so lots of pictures now. Thanks to Yaz and Chris for sorting that out, it’s only when you need a replacement phone and you live in another country that you see how mad things can be, the old phone couldn’t be posted back, required by the insurers, no carriers will take phones as air cargo at this end. Then the phone comes unlocked, but locks itself to a network, which then has to be unlocked. Then you need a human to transport it back as carry on. What a lot of bother, I’m definitely not jumping into the marina again with it in my pocket.
I expect it won’t be long before Kathy posts her thoughts on Puteri Harbour, she likes it more than me.
I’m spending tomorrow working on the SSB radio, I have just learnt how to use the tuning, and how the bands work, I need to get the wefax and pactor working now. I also need to get the satphones out and fired up before I go into Singapore.

Paul Collister

Abroad Thoughts From Home (March 15th-18th 2017)

Apologies to Robert Browning for rehashing the title of his famous poem, but April is here and I am in England. It’s almost time for me to return to Southeast Asia for more adventures but before I left Malaysia I didn’t get a chance to post my blog entry about our final few days in Thailand so here it is with accompanying pictures of more gorgeous places.

Wednesday 15th March – Ko Lipe

During the night I was woken by howling! It was very loud and sounded just like the wolves in horror films. As I came round a bit and heard barking too I realised it must be coming from the stray dogs we had seen on the beach. I went into the cockpit to listen some more, hoping it wasn’t howls of pain I was hearing but they stopped after a few minutes. Paul told me he’d heard them too and decided the dogs probably just followed suit when one of them started making a noise: ‘oh, what do I do, shall I howl or bark – I’d better do both, that’s what all the other dogs are doing’  :). The strays appear to be very well looked after here. I saw a few signs on display on the island advertising the charity that cares for them (Animal Care Lipe), and the ones we saw looked well fed and content. After a lazy day on board we had a look at the other beach (Sunrise Beach) late in the afternoon. There were even more dogs on this beach and it was a lot less touristy. The bay was full of moored longtails and as its name suggests, it’s the beach where early risers can see the sunrise.  After an early evening drink in a bar, where a gorgeous little pup wanted to make friends with Paul, (see pic) he went off to a beach bar while I browsed the shops.

The path to Sunrise Beach
Longtails on Sunrise Beach

A Lily Pond
This puppy took quite a shine to Paul

Since it was probably going to be my last chance to do so and also because I’d backed out so many times before, I braved having a Thai massage. I’m very pleased I did – it was wonderful. For an hour, you just lie on a mattress where incense is burning and soft music is playing while a professional masseur kneads and bends, manipulates and even walks on, your muscles and limbs. The price (£7) includes head, feet, neck and shoulders – very relaxing, and highly recommended. I met Paul in the bar two hours later just as the beach nightlife was starting to heat up. Fire dancers were twirling blazing batons to a growing crowd of onlookers on the sand, beachside clubs were booming out music and staff from bars and restaurants begged passers-by to choose their establishment. It was back to the boat for us sleepy party poopers, though :).

Thursday 16th / Friday 17th March – Lipe, Barat and Rawi

We decided to leave Lipe mid-morning. Not to go very far, just to have a look at some of the other  islands around us. Paul’s makeshift gearstick worked well and we arrived at Barat at noon.  There wasn’t a lot to see there, apart from a few divers on a nearby man-made pier, but at least there weren’t as many longtails racing past us. Once we’d secured a mooring buoy, Paul took the dinghy to check whether the island had anything on it that might be worth a closer look. It didn’t, so we had a leisurely rest of the day and prepared for a rocky night because the weather began to deteriorate early in the evening.

Sunset before the storm, Barat

As it turned out, there was a storm in the night but it wasn’t a bad one, compared with others we’d seen in the Tropics but the sea state caused quite a bit of rocking. The swell made the boat rock from side-to-side, so sleep was disturbed by some items becoming dislodged and falling and we had to close all the hatches and windows when the rain got heavy. Paul went for a snorkel with the Go Pro this morning because the water is so beautifully clear here, but with the rocking making everything that bit more difficult we decided to slip our mooring and move on.

Hardly a minute had passed when we experienced an alarming jolt and heard an awful grinding noise -one that I don’t want to ever hear again.  I was convinced whatever it was had gouged a hole somewhere in the hull and ran to the bow to look over the sides to see if I could see anything. Paul has described the sequence of events in his post. At the time, I just followed instructions as it happened. One of these was to lift up the floor hatches in the cabin to check if water was coming in!  I don’t mind admitting I was scared then because I had no idea how serious things were, or might get. The situation was made worse because the swell kept making the boat jolt and crunch as it repeatedly came into contact with what turned out to be a boulder directly underneath us. I had to suppress the urge to squeal each time it happened in case water was about to gush in. I was actually planning what to try and grab to chuck in the dinghy when I heard the longed-for cry from Paul ‘it’s ok, Kathy we’re clear’! The swell had finally pushed us off the boulder. It wasn’t until later, though after Paul had checked all around the hull that I felt completely secure. He really does know exactly what to do in any crisis, and more importantly, he does it without panicking. He did say that I reacted very well though so maybe I’m getting better at remaining cool, calm and collected :).

Paul bringing in the stern anchor that we didn’t need to make use of in the end

After that drama, we didn’t move very far but we moved to the wonderfully peaceful and picturesque location of Rawi. No longtails at all here and no rocking, which was just what we needed. It was too hot to do much else but sit by the fans until the sun lost its fierceness.  At 5 we set out to explore the serene-looking island, marvelling at the clear water on the way.  The pictures show just how fabulous it was, all the more so for being deserted and quiet.  We clambered over rocks, paddled in the warm water and watched the living shells and crabs scurrying along on the sand. Paradise found!


On our way back to the beached dinghy we spotted a few uninvited guests investigating it.  The monkeys we had seen when we arrived had evidently heard us and had emerged from the woods to see if there was any food going. One of them picked up a mosquito repellent spray, and threw it down in disgust, while another was taking great interest in one of the oars. Seeing us approach, and hearing Paul telling them to clear off made one run at us – it looked aggressive and I reacted by running into the sea to escape its wrath but it was all bravado because it thought better of tackling Paul and scurried away. My fear came from reading a sign on the beach that warned people not to feed the monkeys because they can be dangerous, but the picture below shows their possible reaction to it.

I think the sign may have caused irritation 🙂
Life on the sand
The monkey Paul chased off

We took our time getting back to the boat, lingering in the dinghy to look at the incredible scenes of the marine life under the surface of the water. It was so clear it was almost better than snorkelling. While the monkeys scrapped and chased each other on the beach, we watched sea urchins, vividly coloured tropical fish and living corals. It was the ideal antidote to the anxiety we’d experienced from the rock collision earlier in the day.

Sea Urchins viewed from the dinghy

Saturday 18th March – A bit more Lipe

We returned to Lipe this morning, mainly because it’s a good point to leave for our next stop -Telaga Harbour in Malaysia, and we also wanted to take a look at the island’s other coastlines. However, after motoring around and assessing (and rejecting) the suitability of various likely spots we ended up in the same place we’d anchored at before. Same 23 metres of water but this time using the makeshift gearstick, which is becoming more familiar now that I’ve had some practice. The humidity forced us to relax in the cabin all afternoon and it wasn’t until 6 30 that we ventured out in the dinghy to get provisions. Walking Street was hot and sticky and crowded so we got what we needed pretty quickly (I tried not to flinch at the cost of five pounds for a jar of peanut butter) and headed back to the cooler shore. Since this was our last night in Thailand, we went to The Paradise Bar at the end of the beach that we’d become fond of, and had drinks while listening to great music and chatting to the friendly staff.  It would have been lovely to stay longer but as the only drinker of alcohol I had to remain ‘steady’ enough to help carry the dinghy to the water, and more importantly, be able to get into it in a graceful manner.

A rather grainy selfie in The Paradise Bar
The Paradise Bar

We had a somewhat disturbed night due to loud music from the bars wafting over and the fact that the wind had increased in strength.  There was a possibility that boats moored or anchored nearby could swing and hit us and we were concerned that we, too might drift if our anchor dragged.  Typically, that had to happen while we were both asleep so we had a rude awakening at 7am when a strong thud jolted the side of the boat. It was better than any alarm clock – Paul was up above in a matter of seconds to discover that the anchor had dragged and the boat had struck the ferry that had been quite far away when we went to sleep! Thankfully, though it wasn’t too serious a collision, just a scratch on the paintwork. As we made a sharp exit out of the bay, I saw a sleepy looking crew member from the ferry looking slightly bemused.

Leaving Lipe

We made it back to Telaga Harbour without any further incidents, and from there back to Langkawi’s Royal Yacht Club.  There was a maritime festival going on not long after we arrived. The boats in the marina were festooned with artwork, flags and lights and there was a party atmosphere in The Deck Bar as well as in the local cafes and shops. We walked to Eagle Square and watched the parade of boats on finale night. It was quite a sight: flashing lights, dancers in national costume, music and a spectacular firework display at the end. In a few days I would be leaving these hot, sultry nights for the more temperate climes of the UK and Italy and would not be seeing Langkawi on my return at the end of April.  There are other countries and waters to explore and navigate then, and I’m thrilled at the prospect of seeing our first one at the beginning of May: Singapore – and the famous Raffles Hotel beckon.


Watermaker woes

I’m doing a little bit of consultancy for the windfarm at the moment, so didn’t get started on the boat till lunchtime. But I managed to extract the watermaker from the bilge area where it lives, As predicted it was difficult, it was bolted to a piece of wood, with the nuts underneath. This wood was then fixed to the bilge with more bolts, or screws, or glue. I couldn’t tell, because the deck-wash and water pumps were fitted over the fixings, these pumps were plumbed in rather rigidly making the whole affair rather complicated. Fortunately I found a ring spanner I could get underneath the wood to fit on the nut, unfortunately I only caught 3 out of 4 nuts as they came off, but I was happy enough to have kept the spanner from going under the fuel tanks in the bilge.

The extracted drive unit
The high pressure pump and drive unit, cleaned up a little

So I took the Drive unit, or motor as I would call it apart. I love taking things apart, and this was quite easy, especially with the manufacturers instructions handy.It became apparent quite quickly where the problem was, water must have been getting to the outside of the motor end cap, and had found a way into the motor.

You can see a lot of white powder, this looks like aluminium oxide to me, or an oxide of whatever the motor casing is made of. The cap / end cover from the motor has a bit missing, this is what became the white powder, or oxide (rust). the presence of water has caused some other rust, not a lot, but the brushes that carry the power to the coils were/are seized in their carriers and don’t make contact with the armature, or is it a commutator?

cleaned up

I could fix this up, I need to get new carbon brushes, probably not that hard here if you know where to go. I could use some epoxy resin to fix the end cap.  I moved my attention to the gearbox at the end of the motor, where the direction of rotation is turned into a piston like action and found a crack in the casing. I don’t think it matters actually, but I couldn’t get the piston to budge, so either it’s seized in the gearbox, or the gearing is so high I wouldn’t be able to anyway.
By now I’m wondering what’s actually ok, the membrane housing should be ok, presumably the high pressure hoses will be ok, Im replacing all the fresh water hoses anyway, but they’re pennies. The high pressure pump looks ok, but until I can run it I won’t know if its ok. Presumably it’s feeling its age too.
I’m thinking I might not be putting this back together again. I packed all the bits up, wrapped them up, and they are in a locker now. I sent off a few emails, to the manufacturer and to a spares stockist to get prices for a new motor/gearbox. I will wait and see what happens. A similar brand new watermaker is about $6500 USD. I think it can wait until we reach the states, our longest passage will be about 5 weeks and we can do that on our tanks without any problem, might need to get one of those deck solar shower jobs and fill with rainwater. I think the watermaker will come into it’s own when we cross the pacific on the way back, where we will go for months at anchor, and this saves us lugging jerry cans of water back and forth in the dinghy.
I’m coming to the opinion that very few things on a boat get to enjoy an 11th birthday, ten years seems about the most you can expect from electrical or fancy mechanical kit. My Macbook air is playing up now, which is devastating, but I can see corrosion inside the USB and charging connectors. I do need an excuse to buy the latest and greatest macbook, but not if it’s going to fail within a year too.

I spoke to the local boatyard today and arranged to visit in the morning to see what it’s like and get some commitment on the cost of the cutless bearing job and when it can be done.

Kathy hits the sky tomorrow, looking forward to her arrival, you won’t believe how high the dirty dishes are stacked 😉

Paul Collister





Water water everywhere, except in the water maker

Yesterday was good, after a lot of flapping around I got the two foot pumps at the galley sink working, the left one pumps sea water into the left sink, at quite a rate, the right one pumps fresh water, quite slowly, into the right sink. Perfect.  The seawater wasn’t coming in because the hole in the boat that it comes in form (thru hull) was blocked. I tried all sorts to unblock it, it was really solid whatever was in there. I eventually got water to come in after hammering a very thin tube down, but it wasn’t enough really, It’s a very thin thru hull so I didn’t have anything that long and thin to use, then I came across some chopsticks, perfect size, hammered one in, seemed to go a long way then jammed and snapped off. It was at that moment I remembered why we use wooden bungs in boat holes, the wood swells up when wet and makes a great seal. Bugger! It wouldn’t come out, and the hole was filled perfectly. Should it ever fail in the future, I need to have chopsticks handy to seal it. Anyway, I drilled the chopstick out through the through hull (and attached seacock). Then hammered out the chopstick, then found a rat tail file of exactly the right size, and with some mighty hammer blows managed to get the inlet cleared. The thing is it was only a few weeks ago I walked around under the hull with a screwdriver poking every hole to make sure it was completely clear, so how did this happen. I have a feeling something else is going on, and in fact this hole has been glassed over, but that can’t be right. We will see on the next haul out. It has to be understood, and checked properly as this sort of thing can sink the boat when you’re not looking, especially if I have hammered off the flange that holds the thru hull on

I have had a reasonable quote for a haulout just around the corner from here, unfortunately, the causeway that links Singapore to Malaysia is in the way, So I have to circumnavigate the island to get there, so thats a whole days trip. I’m just waiting to see when they are free. The bureaucracy around here is a bit mad, they have decided sailors can’t buy diesel fuel, as we are foreigners and the fuel is state subsidised for Malays. So a man comes around under the cover of night taking and returning Jerry Cans, crazy. I heard their is a fuel barge near Singapore I can use, but the ‘night diesel man’ here says the fuel is dodgey in the barge, but then he would say that. He marks up the fuel by 50%, nice work if you can get it.  Also the marina wants £5 to check me out with the harbour master, but the boatyard want £70 to check me in with the harbour master, even though they’re only a mile away. A little further north, the whole process is free. I believe I also have to do the whole customs clearance to go from the port to the boatyard! I’m fighting this one.

The Watermaker

I’ve been putting this job off for over a year, partly because once you start using a watermaker you cant stop, or it breaks. Let me explain. The picture above is the same as my watermaker, but new and shiny, and without the pipes that join it all up. Top right is the electric motor which drives a water pump attached to it, top middle. It pumps water into the long tube, which houses a membrane. So the principle is really simple. The membrane is like a filter, think of it like gauze, with holes so small the salt in the water can’t get through, but the water can, so you pump the water through the filter and hey presto, out the other side is fresh water. The problems are two fold, you need very very very small holes for this to work, and because the holes are so small you need a massive amount of pressure to get the water to go through them, hence a very high performance, energy sapping pump and motor drive is needed. Secondly, you’re pumping sea water into the membrane, the sea water is full of organic life and other matter, if you don’t keep flushing water through it to wash these little chappies along then they take up home in the little holes and block them and grow into surrounding holes. The manual says that if I don’t use the watermaker for three days in very hot tropical climates, then the membrane will be damaged by this growth, you can pump in growth inhibitors, and cleaners, but then you have to pump them out as they’re poisonous. A lot of flapping around. I believe a new membrane is about £500, but I need to check, I’m bound to need one.

So below is my actual pump,

and here is a pipe going to the membrane, a variation on the chopstick, me thinks. I have no idea what this might have been for.

So I spent a while understanding the hoses and where they all go, the manual says this system can make 13 litres an hour, in ideal conditions, but the previous owner (PO) has written 6 ltrs/hour on the manual, which doesn’t seem a lot, but its more than we need for a day, 3 ltrs each. I’m surprised it makes any, given that the hoses are connected all wrong, the waste excess sea water is being fed with the sea water in. I can’t believe the PO could make such a big mistake, but I have checked and checked and I’m sure it’s wrong.
So anyway with a good understanding of how it all works now, I fired up the motor from the switchboard, Nada, nowt, nothing, Oh well, out with the multimeter, yes 13V on the motor, but nothing, cut the cables back and measure the resistance, infinity, or ‘Open circuit’ to the motor. So the motor is stuffed.
I have done a bit of googling and it seems the motor replacement could be a few thousand US dollars, but here in Malaysia, most motors can be repaired for pennies. It has carbon brushes, so I could be lucky and it’s just these, whatever, I have to extract the motor from the pump, that’s bound to need some tool I haven’t got, and require some skin from my knuckles before it leaves the bilge. A job for tomorrow.
I’m happy that at least I understand the system now and it’s not a mystery anymore. I’m sure it can be repaired and I’m looking forward getting it running.

At lunchtime, I took a walk down to the ferry terminal to get some provisions from the shop there, I took some pictures on the way back, my cheap ‘genuine Apple iPhone replacement camera’ seems to have deteriorated even more, but hopefully Kathy brings me a new (to me) iPhone out on Saturday, so I can take some proper pics again.

This last one taken with the front facing camera, but I prefer the bleakness the other camera provides, seems more fitting. Such boring buildings, where’s Gaudi when you need him.
The hat’s on it’s last legs, did well for a paper hat, you can’t beat the genuine panama Kathy bought me, but that’s back home sadly.

Paul Collister


Starting the Ocean prep

I don’t know if it was seeing the other sad looking baba, which isn’t actually a baba, but a Tayana 37, very closely related to the baba,

but I woke up with a desire to do some varnishing. It’s been a very overcast day, temperatures low, and thunderstorms all around. But as it was dry at 8 AM, I slapped a bit of varnish on the cap rail either side of the bowsprit. For some reason the last coat of varnish was flaking off, I wondered if it was related to all the power-washing of the anchor chain that goes on there. I varnished the bowsprit while I was there. After a bit of breakfast in the cockpit, when the sun had come out, I got the covers over the boat to keep it cool, but then more thunderstorms, and a light rain. So I took the opportunity to do all the stainless polishing on the starboard side, that took a couple of hours, but was pleasant work in the cool breeze and drizzle.
The Tayana 37 boat has had a good life, and will have a good future if somebody puts a bit of effort into cleaning her up. I had a good look and it’s just dirt and rust mostly, I think the boat has had no TLC for over a year. I see a lot of that out here, people get across the pacific, and for all sorts of reasons don’t go any further, often for financial, or medical reasons they have to leave the boat here, there is not much of a market for yachts with the local people in these countries, they’re far to pricey, and so they sit here dropping in value until they are a steal. Often it’s the Australians who are able to see the value in these great boats.
I did a lot of phoning and emailing to try and find a way to replace the damaged cutless bearing, but no success yet. I have a feeling I won’t be able to get it done in this area.

So today I started on the ocean going jobs, firstly the water foot pumps, in the galley, we have two extra taps, operated by a foot pump, one brings sea water to the sink, the other fresh water. Neither work, but I had never really investigated why. So I followed the pipes for the sea water back to the seacock on the thru hull, i.e. where the water enters the boat, found the sea cock turned off, which makes sense, but I also found the filter that is in between the sea cock and the pump. I though I would open the filter and have a look at the filter element, it probably could do with a clean, however it’s a heavy Perko make, and the cover was very firmly fitted, a good tug on it to try and unscrew it resulted in it ripping off the supports, at the same time one of the hose clamps snapped off. The cabin sole boards were replaced, that’s a job for tomorrow. The seawater pump is great for rinsing dirt of dishes and the like, the freshwater pump is gret, one if we lose power, we still have a way of getting water out of the tanks, but you also use a lot less water when you have to pump the water up with your foot, as apposed to turning the tap on for the duration.
So for a break I had a wander around the outskirts of the marina, It’s actually quite nice really, in about ten years time, this may be a great destination. There is room for 3 more marinas within the complex. I saw a big poster advertising a Jazz festival which starts here in the Marina the day Kathy arrives, it’s free and has some big names. She will be delighted.
I also found the ferry terminal, a huge swanky new building, but the ferries go to Indonesia, not Singapore, which is a shame. However they did have a shop that sells bread and cadburys chocolate, so I’m all set now.

Back to the ocean going tasks, one of the jobs that’s very important is safety for our ocean passages, and part of this is weather forecasting. In order to get forecasts offshore, I have two main systems, the SSB MF/HF radio, and the satellite phone. The latter hasn’t been turned on since the ARC in 2007, so that’s going to be interesting. I probably need to buy credit for it too 😉 Credit for a sat phone can be scary. Like hundreds of pounds a month. But Singapore is not a bad place to sort this out. It may be cheaper to buy a new phone, first I want to know if the old sat phone still works, it will almost certainly need a new battery. The HF/MF radio allows me to get weather forecasts in the form of data send over the airwaves in squawky tone. I have had to learn a bit about how this radio works, it is channelised to maritime ITU channels, which I now understand a little better. I was able to find the Japanese Met office transmissions on 13988.5 kHz, and could hear the weather forecast going out as Wefax, so I just need to hook up Kathy’s computer to the speaker output and see if I can decode the images, they also send cyclone forecasts and tracks this way, so that’s invaluable. There’s also the crudest version of the internet available, it’s a packet data system called Pactor, which allows extremely slow transfer of data, but you can get a basic email in and out, and download a weather GRIB forecast. GRIB’s are a great way of seeing what the wind and waves are doing.
I also need to get the water-maker fired up tomorrow, as I expect I’ll need to buy bits for it in Singapore.

A pic I took on the way here, it looks lovely looking back towards the west, those who are more observant probably have a question relating to this. Can I just say ‘Bloody Fishing rod’ and leave it at that! 🙁


Paul Collister

Puteri harbour, but not a real harbour

All tied up in Puteri harbour, just a short swim from Singapore, after an uneventful motor from last nights anchorage.  Below is one of the many big ship anchorages around here, theres about 30 big tankers or container ships there, and there’s quite a few similar anchorages around here.

I was expecting to see skyscrapers rising into the heavens as I approached, a bit like I expect motoring up the Hudson or the East river to be like, but no, nothing, fields and forests is all I can see on Singapore. Other than the massive docks I passed. Also there is a bit of smog here, they do suffer terribly from the burning of forestry in Indonesia at this time of year I believe

I have wifi now, so I have been able to upload yesterdays pictures at last, the main ones being the openCPN screenshots, I have a problem with not getting the correct Course data into it, so my little boat is sitting there pointing North, and travelling SE sideways, most ungraceful.

The above pictures shows the ships passing up and down the straits, Singapore is in the bottom right of the pic, and the Johor straight, which is where I am is running NNE around the back of the island. The AIS data plotted on the chart was fantastic for getting past the dock entrances, I could see and work out who was going to hit me really easily, one ship was heading through the anchorage right at me, but I held my course as I was only in 5 metres of water, and there was nowhere ahead of me for him to go, he was a huge container ship, so I figured he would turn before he hit me. He actually stopped and dropped anchor. I remember being told, as a kid, that the really big tankers need a day to slow down, I don’t believe it, this guy went from 15 knots to stationary in a few minutes.

The above picture confused me, the sea changing colour so distinctly, immediately has me checking the depth sounder, but there’s no difference in depth between the clear and muddy water. must be currents or something.
On the way down I snapped this tug (no pun intended), in fact we were on a collision course, but I worked out we would just miss, which we did, but I got close enough to the tug to wave to the skipper, that’s probably too close. The towed barge is actually massive, at least the size of a football field, possibly two, and it’s carrying powdered real estate, just add estuary, and you have the basis of another unsightly block of flats.

Which brings me nicely to where I am, I think, not so long ago, this area would have been miles and miles of mango swamps / jungle. however, thanks to the invention of reinforced concrete, we have a small city here, there are high rise buildings all around, mostly still under construction. But why would you want to pick this block of flats compared with any of the other billions of developments going on along the coast here, well there’s their secret, it’s a harbour, with billionaire boats, perhaps ‘you’ could aspire to having a boat here, actually the billionaire boats haven’t arrived yet. So basically I’m in a ‘show Marina’ To me a proper harbour would have a smell of fish and diesel and some hookers hanging around, nothing like that here, just western boutique shops, a Belgium beer bar, a Superman/batman store, which has me confused, and all the other standard mall offerings. There is nowhere to get repairs to the boat done, no fuel dock, no stores of any use, like a supermarket or fruit and veg shop, just a few day trip boats for the tourists, who are the only people here as far as I can tell. I expect you can tell I’m not mad about the place, still it looks pretty, and I only wanted something to tie to for a few days while I wait for Kathy to arrive.
There we are above, Herman, who I met in Admiral Marina is just a few boats up, he hit something in the water on the way here and is worried he has bent his prop shaft, thankfully that’s a lot harder to do in this boat, but there’s certainly plenty of crap in the water here to hit. Herman saw a fridge, I saw a big old style 36″ tv, lots of the usual coconut and tree bits. I sent the go-pro camera under his boat and we couldn’t see anything on his prop, but because the marina is on a little creek here the water is very muddy, if not even stagnant. As I type, I can here his tabby cat walking around the cockpit, I assume it remembers the boat from the last Marina, as it spent a lot of time snoozing here.

This picture is for Taffy, who has been known to read this blog, I believe it’s a Solent class lifeboat from Stornaway. The Hugh William Viscount Gough. I bet there’s a great story behind how it got from the outer reaches of Scotland, to here. It makes my voyages seem trivial.
There’s also what looks like a baba 35, just a few berths along from me, but I feel like crying when I walk past it, she has been left to rot away, the staysail, is lying on the deck, destroyed by the UV I would expect, the whole boat black with dirt/soot, things are rusting away on it that I didnt even think rusted. Such a shame. I will investigate more and try to find out the history. The berth I am in, apparently had a baba 40 in it just a few days ago, I wonder who that was?

Paul Collister



Nearly there, Singapore that is

Just a quick post, I have a very poor 3g connection here at anchor at P. Pisang. But I got here just fine, and settled in, in time to watch the sunset, I didn’t notice the sunrise, I was busy trying to get the mainsail up, and get going. Up at 6:30 am, left at 7:30, arrived here at 6:30 pm, motored all the way as the wind dropped as soon as I left the anchorage.

I’m in a lovely spot here, again a bit rolly, but very calm and well protected. Just a short (6 hour short) motor up the Johor Strait, between Malaysia and Johor in the morning then I will be in the Marina at Puteri. I’m going to see about getting the cutless bearing replaced while I’m there, if it’s possible. It was fine all day, but it’s not right, and it worries me that it will fail catastrophically at a bad time. 


So today I travelled alongside the main shipping lanes of the Malacca Straits, they are separated into North bound and Southbound  lanes, called a traffic separation zone, just like a dual carriageway, except it’s all virtual, theres no barriers or lines on the sea, not like the one they have at the equator ;-), which I am now only 1.5 degrees north of. I travelled right on the edge for a while, I had hoped to be impressed, but it turns out it’s just a long procession of ships that all look much alike, chugging along. Don’t know what I was expecting. This is also the most pirated area in the world, but they don’t seem to bother with little fish like me.

So I realised, a bit too late that I should have openCPN running with the AIS targets so I could see what was going on, after a bit of flapping around I got it all to work. This is a free piece of open software that does away with the need for dedicated very expensive ‘marine’ plotters, and runs on consumer devices like tablets and laptops. Unfortunately these devices don’t work so well in bright sunshine or when doused in a big wave, but for free, and if used carefully are fantastic. I have some screen shots, but I can’t upload them and I have run out of time, if I don’t start on the squid prep now, I will lose interest, and they will go off.

Paul Colister

On our way to Singapore (ish)

Today the Marina at Port Dickson is having their summer fair, and there will be boating, kayaking, and swimming in the marina, for safety ressons boats like mine aren’t allowed in or out, so I was up early and checked out at 8AM to be away before all that nonsense started.
I’m heading to Singapore, but have been advised by so many people not to take my boat there that we will be in Puteri Harbour, just across from the Island. Apparently, their’s a lot of bureaucracy and cost involved in taking your boat there. For example, you have to hire an agent to look after the formalities of checking in, and you have to hire them again to check out. this is understandable for big ships, of which Singapore has it’s share, but crazy for yachties.

In the above chart of Besar, you can see a little bit of land just NNE of me, in reality, thats an ugly looking cluster of rocks, that seem a lot closer than they really are.
It’s a difficult journey, as there is only one place to anchor safely on the way, that’s where I am now, at the Water Islands, or Pulau Besar to be precise. This is only 6 hours from Port Dixon, the next leg to Pulau Pisang, which is just a few hours off Singapore, is 10-12 hours, and I only get a 12 hour daylight window, so if I’m slow I will arrive in the dark, which won’t be fun as I din’t think it’s an easy spot to anchor in. I’m going to set my alarm for 6:30 so I can leave just before sunrise. That way I get nearly 13 hours. The forecasts are rather unreliable at the moment, not that that’s a big problem, but I can sail faster than I can motor, so if the wind is as good as forecast for the morning, 10-20 knots, I will fly along. otherwise it’s a lot of motoring.
Todays journey here was rubbish, raining for a lot of the way, grey overcast and smelly, the wind was behind, and at one point I was sailing with the headsail only, I didn’t put up the mainsail as thunderstorms are all around and if one comes close, it can create a sudden surge in the wind, but the headsail alone pushed us along at 6 knots, which was nice. But that only lasted for an hour, the rest of the time I motored, and the wind from behind was just strong enough to blow the exhaust fumes into the cockpit every now and then. I stayed between the main shipping routes and the coast. Normally I would have expected to see lots of fishing nets, but not one today. Is it because it’s Friday? I passed scores of big tankers at anchor along the coast, passing through the middle of several anchorages, and there was an awful lot of junk in the sea.
I bought fish last night at the supermarket, it was remarkably easy, I gave them money, and got a fish. I didn’t need a line, lots of reeling in and out, I didn’t get stung and best of all the boat wasn’t trashed.

Very tasty, and at just over £1, very reasonable. I also bought a stack of squid, not so cheap, but they will taste lovely with some garlic and soy sauce. It’s a shame the boats rocking so much now, otherwise I would be cooking them up.

Here are some boat pics, they look more impressive close up, but they are often very smelly when they run their engines.

Finally a picture of me modelling my latest headgear, I like the way the light shows up the pattern, never noticed that before. I’m wearing the lifejacket as the boat was rocking so much with the swell left over from a night of strong thunderstorms.

Paul Collister


Malacca & more prop pics (sorry if you’re not into props)

The diver came today and had a look, he  took some pictures for me and basically, the bearing lining has failed, at least near the prop end of the bearing. I had him cut away a ring or rubber that was protruding out the rear of the bearing. I’m going to have to get the bearing replaced, but where is the question, and when. I can’t get it done before Singapore, and from Singapore I won’t use it until I reach Hong Kong. I don’t want to wait until Japan to get the work done, as it will be very expensive there. Perhaps I can stop at Taiwan on the way, the boat was made there, but I expect the warranty might have expired. At least there should be facilities there that are not too expensive. I will research more today.
Yesterday I drove into Port Dickson to sort out my port clearance problem. Everything was fine, I just needed to make a small payment to the harbour master, the exact amount depending on whether I needed a receipt or not, and coming to a very nice round 50 ringgit, about £10. Now some people might have a name for this Ad Hoc form of charging, but I don’t mind at all, in the UK I could easily have met a jobsworth behind the counter who would refuse to stamp my papers until I had returned to the previous port. Some countries might have you go through an elaborate process to correct my error. This way is quick and simple, and not that expensive really. It might even be the official way for all I know. I was pleased, then I moved to customs, they were confused as I should have gone through customs on leaving Langkawi, as well as the harbour master, but as the HM had cleared me, they did too, and didn’t have any charges to apply. The customs office was staffed by women only when I visited, and I realised I have only ever had to pay Ad Hoc fees to men in both Malaysia and Thailand.
Once cleared in, and also cleared out, in anticipation of my imminent departure, I headed on down the coast in my rented car to the city of Malacca. The route took me through miles and miles of palm tree plantations.

I visited the famous Mosque thereand walked the length of Jonkers lane, a touristy street full of shops selling stuff I hate. I did find a nice antique shop and had a great chat with the owner and his mate about the merits of Manchester United, Arsenal  and Liverpool FC, a subject that often comes up when they learn I am from Liverpool. Man U, as they are known worldwide have an awesome reach as a team/brand. I have yet to visit a place that didn’t have an Man U fan there, and that includes remote Afghanistan. However in these conversation I am always bluffing it as I no little about football, these guys were very impressed that my brother, who does know stuff, has had a season ticket (or two) for Anfield for most of his life, and rarely misses a home game.
Heading back I called into Aeon and Tesco, two huge hypermarkets, that look much the same as they do anywhere. Then I took the motorway back. Now I know I’m a visitor in this country, and I don’t speak the language, but I do hate it when you come to leave the motorway, and there’s a fee to pay, and only machines that take smart cards you have to buy before you get on the motorway. I didn’t have a clue. Nothing in English, even the Icons they use are undecipherable, also why did everyone choose my lane when I hit the Tollgate and then proceed to honk their horns. To cut a long story short, I finally worked out the women who was screaming ‘Boh Cah’ at me over and over very loudly (see its not just us brits who shout louder in english to be understood better when abroad). She was saying borrow card, so I had to give the man in the car behind me RM3.2 in cash and he lent me his card so I could open the barrier, then I gave the card to the lady who let him through and gave him his card back. There was some further complication as his card was new and he was waving a RM20 note at me, I thought for a moment I could make a profit here. Still it all worked out in the end, except for the fact that back at the marina the only trolley was locked up and the office shut, so I had to carry most of the shopping to the boat by hand.


Diver below, using a snazzy portable dive kit.

The extracted bit of extruded/exposed bearing

At least I can see the prop shaft now and know there’s nothing binding on the outside

Paul Collister

Prop Pics

I was able to take some better pics of the prop shaft. I can’t be sure, but it looks like some of the cutless bearing nitrile rubber lining might have escaped out of the end.

To explain the anatomy of a sailboat stern gear, I better show some pictures.

This is my prop shaft/bearing/prop arrangement, in happier days. The prop shaft leaves the boat and goes straight into the propellor, with just a little gap, of maybe 5mm, which you can make out to the right of the brass propellor.

The hole at the back of the boat that the prop shaft sticks out of, is actually a tube called the log, and the back part of the boat that the tube is fitted in, is called the deadwood. Now the prop shaft passes through the log with a lot of clearance, but at the very end of the log, a bearing is fitted into the log, or in fact into a special bearing holder as you can see below in a very similar boat. Here the bearing holder, which probably has a name too, has the bearing fitted

Below is a typical bearing, and very similar to the one I have.

So in my case the fishing line wrapped around the prop shaft in the 5mm gap, and may have forced it’s way into the bearing, cutting the black rubber lining. Looking at the picture below you can see what looks like rubber sticking out, but I can’t be sure. 

It may be that the whole rubber lining has parted company with its brass shell, in which case that would explain why I hear a noise at low revs, the noise of the rubber rubbing against the brass as it revolves with the prop shaft. I think at the higher revs, it must be staying still. If it is spinning in its case it will burn up eventually as there is no coolant for that side of the rubber. Once this bearing starts to fail, I will get a lot of vibration, and it has done more than half a million revolutions since I cleared the line, so it had plenty of time to complain. Possibly just the end of the bearing is damaged, and there’s plenty left inside to do the job.
Today I made contact with the local, Mr Fixit, Pani, he brought 150 ltrs of fuel down to the boat for me and filled the tank. I used 180 ltrs in 31 hours of motoring, I think this is about 5.8 ltr/hour, or just over 1.5 gallon/hour, which seems a lot to me, I did have my foot on the floor for a lot of the time, and I was making between 7-8 knots most of the journey, anyway. Pani, Tel 01235-73096 can sort anything, and for about £12 a diver will appear tomorrow and have a good look at the prop for me, hopefully cut away whatever is still there, and take some better pictures. After that, I fear a haulout, and a new bearing, which requires the prop shaft to come out, which is a biggish job. I’ve gone right off fishing.

I’m meeting Kathy a week on Saturday at Kuala Lumpur Airport, to bring her back to the boat. KL Airport, is less than an hour from here by car, but I will be down at Singapore by then, so will be flying back up here. For a sailboat, I’m certainly running up my carbon footprint. Still, we have a 12 day sail to Hong Kong in May, followed by a 20 day sail to Japan May/June and finally a 30-40 day sail to the Vancouver Island / Seattle area in July/August. We wont be able to motor on those trips, not at 6ltr/hour, we only carry 2 days fuel.

Tomorrow, Im going to visit the harbour master at Port Dickson to beg forgiveness for not getting the check out paperwork from Langkawi. Then I will do some shopping in the old historic town of Melaka.

So while I prepare the boat and do little jobs I’m just going to have to continue to rough it here at Admiral Marina, Port Dickson.

Paul Collister