Monday, 2 March 2015

Seven Days, 960 Miles

Just over one week into this voyage and we are traveling well.

960 Nautical Miles Sailed From Langkawi
148 Nautical Miles To Trincomalee
0 Fish
Course 283 degrees
Speed 6.9 knots
Ley has read 5 books (!)

Last night the winds finally lifted a little and moved more to the north. So Crystal Blues finally had "a bone in her teeth", with the apparent wind at 75 degrees to starboard, 9 knots true, and we were skating along in the dark at 6 to 7 knots, flying the mainsail, genoa and staysail. Honestly, I'd fly more sails if we had them, as we're keen to make landfall, but the big MPS became hopelessly jammed in its snuffer two days ago, and we need to sort it out on land.

Around 300 miles out from the Sri Lankan coast we started meeting local fishing boats - small steel affairs with diesel engines and equipped with trolling lines, traps and nets. They do it all. The first boat chased us for miles before drawing alongside to trade - fish for cigarettes seemed to be the deal. Whilst we do carry cigarettes for trade, I didn't want to get close to them at sea, so we smiled and waved and said a gentle "no thanks". The fish they were offering was huge, but dried and salted - not to our taste. A second boat early today was a real comedy, with some very funny antics on board, crew jumping all over the roof of the wheelhouse. basically they seemed really happy to meet someone out here, wanted to know where we were going etc.

I was a little reticent to bring out the camera and photograph them, until I saw one of them was photographing us ! After that it was a bit of riot as they played stupid games on top of the wheelhouse, all this in a very rolly sea that has us moving around very cautiously. These Sri Lankan's have a sense of humour - we'll add the photo's to our blog when we reach port.

We finally sorted out the wrinkles with the satellite data system. It was another case of too many networks. Our navigation PC has 2 ethernet connections running concurrently - wireless to the Iridium satellite device and cabled to the boats own ethernet network (printers, disc storage etc). Windows 7 normally handles these nscenarios well, and can even route from one net to another. Seems that the new software from Sailmail and Predict Wind simply couldn't handle it though. We've had a series of very constructive emails with Jim Corenman of Sailmail, in the USA, who is now working on an update to the Sailmail program that will handle concurrent network connections. Jim has been a delight to work with, and we find the the Saildocs service is proving invaluable for weather forecasting at sea. I think we have the best of both worlds, using the Sailmail mail service and then having a choice of HF radio or Satellite for the transmission link.

We've moved through a couple of time zones now, putting the clocks back another hour yesterday just so the sun would set "at the proper time". So our local time is now UTC minus 6 hrs. Each evening we participate in a loosely organised radio network for vessels crossing the Indian Ocean. The Jupiter Net provides a facility for emergency radio relay, position reporting and general discussion. High Frequency radio conditions out here are not great, but the reporting and conversations are welcome. We look forward to joining some of the other boats in Sri Lanka and points further south.

Right now the wind has decided to retreat again, swinging behind us and reducing in strength until its just a frustrating little breeze, so the engine is back on. We hope it comes back soon.

Neil & Ley
SV Crystal Blues

Our position is clear at :

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Friday, 27 February 2015

Half Way, But It Sure Is Slow

564 Nautical Miles sailed
4 days and 4 hours elapsed
33 hours on the engine
8.4 knots top sailing speed
1 fishing lure lost (a big log bit it)
0 Fish caught
0 Whales
12 Dolphins
Decreasing wine list
Blue skies and puffy clouds (again)

We passed the half way stage today, as of now we have just 550 nautical miles to go. Ley and I are settling in to the routine, she's off watch asleep right now. I think her fingers are tired after all the text messages she's been sending on the new Iridium sat phone system.

Incidentally, turns out that system is still somewhat "buggy" - it has stopped handling our Sailmail email and also refuses to download Predict Wind forecasts or Grib files. So we're back to using the HF radio for our mail links. Predict Wind support tell us that we need to "upgrade our software". Where have I heard that before ... its not gonna happen till we get to Trincomalee.

The weather is still docile, we've settled into a pattern of sailing with the winds during the day and starting the engine when the winds drop, usually in the early hours after midnight (down to 2 or 3 knots). Last report showed some rain ahead as we approach the Sri Lankan coast in a few days time. The shipping density has decreased as we've edged north away from the main route. Only two vessels on AIS within 25 miles of us at this time.

Thanks heavens for the ocean current here - right now we have only 4.0 knots of boat speed, but are making six knots over the ground. Water depth here is around 2.7 kilometers (!). The boat is steering a course of 266 degrees, but the actual course is often closer to 280 degrees. Fortunately its all going our way.

Best wishes,

Neil & Ley
SV Crystal Blues

Our position is clear at :

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Thursday, 26 February 2015

South Of Great Nicobar Island

We're two and a half days out from Langkawi now, having traveled 340 nautical miles from our start. Our destination, Trincomalee, is about 760 miles ahead, so we're not quite 1/3 of the way across.

All is well on board. Crystal Blues is sailing well (despite the wine list), and the weather has been kind to us. A mixed bag of light and medium winds, mostly very light, so we've motored for just over 23 hours so far. Ley has been dragging fishing lines each day, but no fish have been tempted - very smart fish around here.

The past 18 hours have been under MPS and mainsail, easy sailing in winds from 4 knots to 14 knots. Right now its gone light again, so we're slopping about with sheets flapping and sails slatting - fairly constant direction changes needed to keep things flying. Not pleasant ! We're hoping the wind will come with the sunrise, in an hour or so.

The northern tip of Sumatra (Indonesia) passed to the south of us some hours ago, so we're now in the Bay of Bengal for the first time, with a generous one knot current pushing us towards Sri Lanka. This is a very busy area for shipping, and we are constantly on watch as ships move through the Great Channel, arriving and departing East Asia.

Ley and I have been busy on small maintenance jobs, mainly on deck, adding and replacing leather covers on chafe points and polishing stainless. All our systems are working well, the only casualty so far is a failed AIS transmitter, though the receiver stage is working fine. That will be dealt with in the Maldives.

The catering on board is up to to it's usual standards, so we are not starving. We have good food, sunshine, blue sky, and fluffy white clouds - its all very pretty except for the lack of wind. We carry enough fuel to motor about 80% of the distance, so we'd like another couple of days of good wind. Cross your fingers for us.

Cheers all,

Neil & Ley Langford
SV Crystal Blues

At sea here :

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Sunday, 22 February 2015

The Wine List

Photo : Jan Pitt
After a busy few weeks we are almost ready for our departure to Sri Lanka and beyond. 

Friends Ray and Jan Pitt signed off the boat in Thailand, leaving us spoiled, relaxed and ready for the future.

Four weeks ago we sailed south (overnight) from Koh Phayam, spending four days in Phuket, provisioning and making ready.

Then another overnight passage, again hard on the wind, brought us into Kuah Harbour in Langkawi, our final provisioning stop before departure for destinations west. 

Its here that we finally created "The Wine List"....

We've spent over two weeks now provisioning and finishing off various systems and "boat jobs".  We've had every power tool in use and every conceivable combination of electrical, electronic and mechanical work underway.  Even the paint pots came out again.

We're now down to a list that is manageable, in fact its entirely forgettable, as we're stocked up and anxious to go sailing.  But those lists ....  after 10 years in Asia, we can't seem to get clear of them.

Test Posting

Hi there, this is just a test post from the boat via the IridiumGo satphone system.

Ley and Neil

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Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The Koh Phayam Cricket Club

January 26 is Australia Day, and at home the Aussies are relaxing around BBQ grills, swimming, drinking and generally lazing about.  Beach cricket is a popular pastime, so here at Koh Phayam we celebrated Australia Day in a perfectly traditional way.

With Crystal Blues "dressed all over" we joined the other Australian boats here for an afternoon of drinks and cricket. Ley raised the Australian flag on the beach and dinghys of all types converged to celebrate.

A dinghy paddle is not a great cricket bat, but it was much better than no bat, so we soldiered on (thanks to Adagio for that).  The wicket was paced out carefully, an umpire appointed, the drinks whistle tested and away we went. 

Predictably, the pitch was shortened as the game progressed, usually after each drink break .... these older cruising bodies were struggling.

The day was completed when we retired to Crystal Blues for a pot luck BBQ dinner with several other boats - Adagio, Chinook of Canada and Sylvia May.  Fireworks mysteriously appeared on the beach that evening, another Aussie contribution to the day - thanks to Persian Sands and Boomerang.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Cruising At Ko Phayam

Our approach to Ko Phayam was compounded by 25 knot squalls and lumpy seas.  A contrary current combined with wind over tide conditions to challenge us, and then the wind changed direction several times over five hours, keeping the crew both cranky and busy.

So when the anchor hit the sand in Buffalo Bay there was a collective sigh of relief from the crew - we'd arrived.

You could actually feel the tension leaving the boat.

Now, after 10 days here, we're chilling....  It's two years since our last visit, and some things have changed, there are more cruising boats visiting, but the essential laid back character of Buffalo Bay remains the same.

This is a very beautiful place, I think perhaps the finest cruising boat anchorage on the west coast of Thailand. When the other locations are rolly, Buffalo Bay is nearly always OK.  Local businesses will provide drinking water for visiting boats, and the river delivers good water when there has been rain.  Of course the food is still sensational. But what about the hippies ?

Friday, 23 January 2015

Too Many Networks - NMEA 2000, STng & More

Turck Devicenet Hub - For NMEA 2000
As you may have seen from our earlier story, we're progressively updating to newer navigation systems on board Crystal Blues, with our first update being the autopilot system. 

It is getting crazy folks - upgrading the systems in stages means that presently we have both the old and the new networks running, which means (count them) seven data networks on board :  NMEA0183 / NMEA2000 / ST1 / ST2 / STNg / HSB / Ethernet.

The NMEA 2000 networking standard is clearly the preferred network for the future, and fortunately has been adopted by our preferred vendor Raymarine, even if they insist on using non-standard connectors for their own version called STNg (those extra pins and wires in the Raymarine cables are there to carry legacy Seatalk 1 data). 

Our new autopilot uses only STNg, the older unit uses ST1.  Our sailing instruments use ST1 and ST2, plus NMEA0183.  And of course the older radar and sonar use Seatalk HSB to share graphics.  What a nightmare.  Unless we put a completely new system on board, we needed a way to integrate now,  provide a logical upgrade path in the future and to monitor what was happening on the network.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Floating Again

Who's A Happy Girl ?
After a month on the hard stand, we re-launched Crystal Blues in late November.  What a relief  - it was great to be floating again and not dealing with paint spatter.

Preparing for the cruising season ahead,  we were busy cleaning and completing our works list.  Three days work on the main engine, including sea water pump replacement, gear box service and overhaul of the heat exchangers,  which we "rodded out" with brass rods.  The salt water cooling system was stripped completely, exhaust elbow removed and checked, belts, filters and lubricants replaced.  On the electrical side we rectified a loose connection in the alternator field wiring and replaced one of the 12volt fans that handles airflow in the engine compartment.

Our Northern Lights generator also received its first service, having run for just 46 hours since new.  An oil change and valve lash (tappet) adjustment and that was over very quickly.  The toilet system has also been stripped out and re-installed, with adjustments to the stainless base.  Ley has also worked hard re-stocking the vessel with food and wine for the coming months.

Its been a busy time. We flew to Australia in mid December, after a farewell dock party with live music from our resident band.  It was our first Christmas with our families for many years, a real buzz. We returned to the boat just before the New Year, ready to cruise north to Thailand.  

The lure of family connections was strong, but it was hard to leave the boat so prepared and ready for our next adventure - we really were aching for some sailing. The adventure started after a fine New Year celebration on Rebak Island, with Neil's band playing at two locations on the night.

Ley & Jan " Just Testing" The Gin
Good friends and frequent crew, Ray & Jan Pitt arrived onboard courtesy of Air Asia, and within days we headed north to Thailand. 

Tonight we are at anchor on the north east tip of Ko Ra, only a day's travel from our destination of Buffalo Bay at Ko Phayam.  The winds are good, blowing generously from the East, and the monsoon has set in with sunny dry weather. 

Life is grand.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Raymarine Electronics For Sale

We have for sale a package of Raymarine equipment :
  • L770 Plus Fishfinder & Radar Screen
  • DSM250 High Power Fish Finder Module
  • RL70C Plus Radar & Fishfinder Screen
  • 4D 24" 4Kw Radar Scanner (48Nm)
  • Radar Cable
  • HSB Connection Cable
All items are fully operational, presently installed on Crystal Blues (we have new systems on the way). Come and see them working at any time.

We're now at Rebak Island Marina in Langkawi, Berth D16.

Email :

Mobile :  +60-11-2769-8420

The package is offered at a bargain price, only US$900.00, though individual items may be sold seperately.

Saturday, 15 November 2014


Crystal Blues has been lifted out of the water and is on the hard stand at Rebak Island Marina, in Langkawi, Malaysia.

Ley (optimistically) booked for just a week, thinking we only had to do a quick anti-foul paint job and replace some plumbing - one week, should be easy.  

So now, almost three weeks later, no paint tins have even been opened, though the end is in sight.

In The Beginning

Removing the toxic underwater paint with normal electric sanding machines is not recommended.  

We now use an air powered random orbital sander that allows us to sand the hull wet, without too much effort. We keep the water running over the work area and the old paint is flushed away.  There is no dangerous dust, though it is still a very dirty and messy job. 

Once this was done I finished polishing the topsides, a job we started back in Singapore. Then followed all the stainless bright work.

So Far So Good

Next Ley tackled the brass-ware - aka cleaning the propeller ready for the new paint system.  

All was moving along quite smoothly until our neighbour Eddie said - "gee, you've got a bit of movement in that P-strut bearing".  Sure enough that bearing was badly worn - 10 years and almost 3000 hours of motoring will do that.  We ordered a new bearing from Australia, started to disassemble the drive train and the real fun began (click the link below).

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Good Medicine In Penang

Crystal Blues had health issues, with "something" around the propeller.  So after a few days of rest and recuperation in Penang I dived on the propeller and removed an indecent chunk of rope.  What a pain - visibility in the marina was less that 12 inches, and cutting it away was a slow process.  I'm still amazed that we managed to maneuver the boat into the berth with this around the propeller.

In Penang we were medical tourists - we had our own schedule of tests and specialist visits (mainly dermatology), but we were surprised at the massive numbers of foreign visitors here purely for the medical facilities.  At Hospital Lam Wah Ee, the specialist surgeon who removed Ley's "lump" (a small BCC) said his business was directly linked to the number of Air Asia flights coming in from Indonesia.  Things have changed.

Penang is still a most attractive Asian city, one of our absolute favourites. It ain't perfect, but it is a shining example of racial tolerance and self awareness, welcoming visitors with a quirky sense of humor, great food and a multi-cultural social history that is alive and prospering. 

Our friends there made us welcome, celebrating our visit with embarrassing repeated dinners and seafood specials - what a great time we had.  It has been wonderful to watch Eileen and Gerome's children blossom into delightful , articulate teenagers who are now planning tertiary education.  It is also great to see how Onomichi Marine, their business,  has grown and transformed over the 8 years we have know each other.

Monday, 13 October 2014

On Board USS Carl Vinson

We sail with just 2 crew most times, so it was amazing to visit a vessel with a ship's crew of 3000, plus another 3000 "passengers" being the various air wing teams deployed aboard.  That's 6000 people on a ship that is 1000' long, and displaces 192,900 tons. 

Crystal Blues neighbour at Keppel Bay Marina was a very smart Riviera power cruiser that is owned by the US embassy in Singapore. Commander Paul Harris Wilt runs the boat, whilst his real job is Assistant Naval Attache at the embassy. Paul invited us to a reception on board the carrier when the battle group berthed in Singapore. The USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) is the third United States Navy Nimitz class supercarrier and is named after Carl Vinson, a Congressman from Georgia, in recognition of his contributions to the US Navy.

Onboard, we moved through an honor guard into a massive aircraft hanger, dressed with flags, where the reception was held.  Military music, food and drinks of course, on an otherwise "dry" US Navy vessel. 

The real fun began after the speeches and formalities - we were invited to ride the aircraft lift up to the flight deck and inspect the various aircraft up there.  An amazing site, dozens of aircraft of many types, positively eerie on the darkened flight deck.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

We "Love" The Mallacca Straits

This was our eleventh Malacca Straits passage, and it turned out to be just like some of the others - a pain in the neck.  Keeping in mind that the boat hadn't been actively used for fifteen months, we started cautiously with a 40 mile passage from Singapore to Pulau Pisang.  A quiet night there was followed by a good 6 hours of sailing before the wind dropped and we started the Cummins diesel.  All systems were working fine and we spent some time on deck that day, completing the re-rigging - runners, preventers, down-haul and the like. The new Raymarine autopilot worked fine straight up and it was a joy to be at sea again.

With The Smoke Haze, It Felt This Black
That night things changed, with a decent 35 knot Sumatra (squall) coming in from the north west just after 21:00hrs.  It blew for a couple of hours and settled down gradually.  Our real issue was that I managed to receive a bad rope burn on the fingers of my left hand when releasing the traveler under pressure - substantial skin removed from two fingers and minor burning on the palm and others.  Yes it hurt like hell. After 52 years of sailing I felt like an amateur again - definitely out of practice.  We immersed it in ice water for 15 minutes, then cut away the loose bits, lathered it in Savlon and wrapped it (photo here if you're medically interested).  I have never been so glad to have good pain killers on board.  We call that Incident #1.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Bound For Penang, Smoky Haze

We departed Singapore this morning on schedule, clearing immigration just after noon and turning westward across the bottom of the island.  By 15:00hrs we should will be turning north west, up the Malacca Straits. 

The smoke haze from forest fires in Sumatra is very thick - visibility is down to about 3 or 4 miles.  The haze will clear as we head northwards, aiming to be in Penang by Thursday.  The past week was highlighted by a succession of send-off dinners with many friends, the final one was being last night aboard MV Alfa Nero (Robin & Dianna Enlund) at Kepple Marina.  Consequently we're a liitle slow today, but very happy to be at sea again.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Escaping Singapore

Crazy Curved Buildings At The Marina
That's us on the right, so keen to move, sitting here with our mainsail up in the marina. Only two days to go and we'll be away - north from Singapore to Penang, and then on to Langkawi for haul out and yard work.  

This will be our (count 'em) eleventh passage through the Malacca Straits.  Never again, we said last time....

Crystal Blues has been neglected for quite a while, so we're putting energy into cosmetic and systems work.  The mainsail has been bent onto the boom, tracks lubricated and sheets rove. Tomorrow we'll hoist and furl the staysail, and she'll be a sail boat again.  Ley has been busy stocking the freezer and pantry, while supporting me with the polishing, hull cleaning and the systems work. She's also been repairing damaged covers with the sewing machine we carry.

 We've hoisted the dinghy on deck for a thorough clean and minor patch job.  Still need to service the outboard engines, one more job. 

On the systems side, we always voyage with dual Autopilots fitted, with a changeover switch to select the "in service" pilot system.  This year the oldest Autohelm unit died (23 years is fair service), so it has been replaced with a new Raymarine ACU400 with the fancy new EV1 sensor core.  This of course meant running new cables from A to B and from C to D and so on and so on for several days, removing ceiling panels and drilling and painting yet more holes in steel frames - lots of fun for all. 

We've also completed installation of an AIS Man Overboard alarm system (more on that in the future), updated the voltage regulator for the engine alternator and many other jobs.  However the autopilot system was really the big one, as it meant introducing new data networks to the boat and finding ways for the older systems to share information with the new ones.  So we now (stupidly) have six (count them) different marine data networks on board, plus extensive ethernet and wifi systems. We'll talk more about that in a future post.

Sarah, Shaun, Sam & Harrison
Today we went to sea for the first time in six months, testing systems and tuning the new autopilot.  More importantly it was also to be our last picnic sail in Singapore, so we left the dock with family on board - Shaun, Sarah, Harrison and baby Sam, plus my brother Peter Langford who was in town this week attending a conference.  It hasn't rained for weeks, so of course the heavens opened just before our scheduled departure time.  We waited for the system to move through and then motored out of the marina - what a joy to be afloat and moving again. A great day, swimming, fishing and enjoying good food.  Four year old Harrison said the boat was "cool".

Singapore has changed regulations recently, visiting yachts now need to have a locally licensed captain on board - just to go for a day sail.  You can do an online license test, apparently a days swatting will get most people a pass. All private boats must also now lodge a voyage plan before every departure (only $20 at the marina office) and you must have AIS running as well.  Private boating is tightly managed here.  So today we had to hire a licensed captain to be on board for our daysail  ...  could not get a cruising permit without that.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Black Streaks Are Us

Escaping the grind of 12 hour work days in Manila, boat work seemed an attractive option and Crystal Blues has been ignored for some time.  Arriving aboard in Singapore twelve days ago, we were surprised how much attention she really needed.

 The acid rain here is (we think) the worst in the world - just one rain shower can have the boat looking zebra striped.

If the black is not removed quickly, it will eat into older gel coat and paint systems to become a permanent feature of the vessel.  

Our Awlgrip paint is five years old, but living in Manila for the past year we were simply not washing the boat often enough.  So we returned to a stripy hull and decks that resisted all attempts at conventional cleaning.

We really needed a solution.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Our Cruising Mantra - Retire Young - Retire Often

We first retired from our work in Australia in 2005, before going cruising.  For five years we stayed gainfully unemployed, before happenstance offered up a variety of interesting projects and challenges over the intervening years.

Since then we've been involved in making digital HD videos of beautiful villas in Bali and Thailand, project management at a zip-line ride and adventure park on Sentosa Island and consulting for a Singapore company, building an AV design team in Singapore and India.  These projects allowed us to experience the south Asia area in depth, and between the assignments we managed to continue our cruising life style.

Making Videos - Luxury Villas In Bali and Thailand
Project Management - MegaZip At Sentosa Island, Singapore
Building Systems - Axis Bank Mumbai, Video Walls & Multiple Meeting Rooms
Our latest contract has given us the opportunity to discover another country as we've been based in Manila for almost 12 months.  I've been working with a local company on a range of very large projects, including a museum, a luxury home and the largest temple in Asia.  Most recently I've been responsible for the design, implementation and commissioning of media systems for the new City Of Dreams Casino in Manila.

When the Fun Stops... Retire

Ley sends me off to work each morning with a consistent and clear message - have fun !  We both know that when the fun stops we will move on, returning to our cruising home.  

Retirement day now is now looming again.  On August 31 (in just one week), we'll be off again.  Yes, we are on a count down, there is water at the end of the tunnel and we are looking forward to sailing on it very soon.

Crystal Blues should depart Singapore in early October, calling in at Penang for a few weeks before hauling out of the water at Rebak in Langkawi (Malaysia) for some much needed under water anti-fouling paint. By January we'll be back to our old haunts around Phuket in Thailand.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Barnacle Busting

Barnacles and a solitary oyster living on the inlet fittings.
Almost two years since we last applied anti-fouling paint, and the barnacles are starting to grow on our hull once again.

Frustrated with barnacles blocking our raw water intake, in April this year we installed an Ultrasonic Antifoul System on Crystal Blues (read more here & here).  Though the Ultrasonic System is marketed to control barnacle growth on hulls, we were really wanting the system to keep our water intakes clear.  

Since the installation, the inlet hoses and filter basket have been growth free.  One victory for technology.  However the jury is not 100% convinced (yet) on the system's effectiveness on the hull.  Four months after the last clean, diving on the boat we find a fairly regular covering of small barnacles (the boat has been sitting in a marina in Singapore for the entire time).  Would it have been worse without the Ultrasonic system ?  Cautiously, we believe the answer is yes.

Systems Rich Neil
High Tech Cleaning

Removing the barnacles with a paint scraper is an arduous task, so this time we tried using the WaveBlade tool.  

We had looked at these tools with some suspicion over the past few boat shows.  Its like a hand held electric chisel, waterproof, and powered by 12 volts DC.  Faced with several acres of nasties, it seemed worth a try.

I can say this is a wondrous tool !  In use, the best description I can give is that its like shaving the hull.  With a light pressure and low angle, the blade glides across the surface of the hull and simply explodes everything in its path.  The small barnacles don't even slow it down, they just fall off, and the few large critters we found disappeared in seconds. The wave blade isn't specially fast, but it does make removing the critters an easier task.

Shaun & Harrison Helping Out With Scraper & Scrubber.
Low Tech Cleaning

Of course an even easier method is to send someone else in to do the dirty work.

Isn't that what grand kids are for ?  

You can never start hull cleaning too young, and  three year old Harrison was very keen to help Poppa Neil.  

Long may it last.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Another Gemini Birthday

Friday June 13, Lucky For Some

Time flies when you are having fun and it flies even faster the older you get.  Neil and Ley celebrated another birthday on June 13.

Neil's work mates had a surprise for him when he arrived at site, at the City Of Dreams Casino in Manila Bay.  It was in the form of a luscious, super rich, chocolate birthday cake.

After the candle was blown out and the cake cut and shared there was still plenty left over.  We left it at the office as we were flying out that afternoon to another birthday celebration in Singapore.

Ray and Jan Pitt, aka Crystal Blues part time "deckie and galley bitch" were coming to Singapore to continue the celebrations.

They arrived bearing gifts of bubbles and good cheer and quickly settled into their cabin and started to chill out after a whirlwind trip to Bali.

A little bit of Singapore charm was also added to the night as we had starters and pre dinner drinks in Tekka Mall in Little India.  

Then we rode the MRT to the Sands Casino and enjoyed fine dining, Italian style, at Osteria Mozza.

The Last Party for the Geminis

Just a week back, Neil's Pinoy work team joined us for fun at our local bar, Senore Paquitos.  Neil sang, we danced and all had a lot of fun.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Our Singapore Family

Shaun, Sarah, Harrison, Sam & Ley
Seems like we can't keep away from Singapore.

Now, our eldest son Shaun, wife Sarah and two grandchildren have relocated there. 

So we recently sailed Crystal Blues from her berth in Indonesia, across the Singapore Straits to the marina at Keppel Bay.  It has been a busy few weeks, helping the family with unpacking and house setup and enjoying the time with grandchildren - a luxury for two old sea gypsies!

The Job List

H helping Nana Ley
Our new Karcher pressure washer arrived, so with help from Harrison we gave the dinghy cover a good scrub.  Singapore is a great place for boat jobs, as parts and materials are so readily available.

First on the list was to repair the air-conditioning, which stopped working a few hours after we arrived in Singapore (of course).  

With some email support from Stephane of Siam Cooling, Neil was able to locate and repair the problem.  Stephane was spot-on with his advice - we found a burnt AC connection wire, under a cover on top of the rotary compressor housing - probably caused by the low supply voltages on the dock in Indonesia.  Lower voltage equals higher current - not good for the wiring, specially at the crimped terminations.  We replaced the crimp connection and  cool air was pumping around the boat very quickly - a collective sigh all round!

Second on the list was the completion of the Ultrasonic Antifoul system that we purchased a few months back.  We had initially set up a temporary install, but now all cables are loomed in neatly and the system is clicking away, hopefully keeping all critters from attaching to our hull.  We plan to report on the progress of this unit in the future.

Finally, soon after departure from Nongsa Point in Indonesia, our Comar AIS stopped working.  It had been operating faultlessly for 6 years. Robin Kidd from OceanTalk replaced the motherboard and all is up and running again.  Sailing visitors to Singapore should note that local regulations now require that onboard AIS beacons should operate 24x7 for the duration of the visit, even while berthed in the marina.  We have had to re-wire the switchboard supply to achieve this.

Three jobs down, plenty more to follow!

Marina At Keppel Bay

Crystal Blues has been snugly moored here for three weeks.  The staff are exceptionally friendly, and with many live-aboard cruisers around there is always a party somewhere. We think we are going to enjoy our time here.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Boating Therapy

We have visited quite a few boat shows over the past 20 years and on March 22 we added another one to the list. 

Sea-Ex Manila 2014 was held on the very muddy shores of pungent Manila Bay. There were 4 "big" boats in the water plus locally made large RIBs and an interesting array of canoes on the dock.

Once inside the exhibition space we meandered around and found a few stalls that held our interest.  We took a serious look at the new Sony HDR-AS15 and the GoPro Hero, but kept our money in our wallets.

We also spent time valuable time on the BLA stand. Luckily for us we met one of Mastervolt reps from New Zealand who helped solve a few questions that Neil had about their new smart engine alternator regulators. 
Retail Therapy

Our one and only purchase was a waterproof back pack.  Dinghy beach landings in surf, with electronics and wallets onboard are not a good mix, so hopefully our new Beyond Water will keep it all dry.

The Pinoy PT Team

In 2005 , as we were planning to leave Australia, Neil had surgery to repair a torn tendon below his right elbow.  He was warned that his left arm tendon would probably cause him problems in the future. It looks like the future is now!

So for the past month Neil has been in the hands of the very excellent Physical Therapy Team at De Los Santos Hospital here in Manila. With Ultrasonic treatment, massage and exercise, the pain has reduced and hopefully with time and rest, the tendon will heal.  If not he'll be visiting a surgeon ja vue!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

The Local Pinoy Scene

Singing with Chucky at Senore Paquitos, our local tapas bar.
Six months now in Manila, and we're still loving this city.

Most Friday evenings we walk down to Senor Paquitos. It has become our local tapas bar and we love the ambience, the live music and the food.

It seems to us that most locals we meet can sing and play and this venue is never short of audience participation.  Most Friday nights Neil manages a song or two with Chucky. Recently we donated a rainmaker bamboo instrument to the bar - a drummer has to have something to do with his hands!

Pinoy Cuisine

It has taken us a while to understand Pinoy food, with American, Spanish, Mexican, Chinese and local flavour it takes some time to get "into" to the local dishes.  Of course it doesn't help that most menus are written in Tagalog.  But with the help of Google and asking lots of questions we are now enjoying a great many different dishes.  Some dishes combine two different styles of cooking, with meat, mainly pork, firstly boiled then deep fried and served with a range of condiments and sauces that use a variety of oils, vinegars, spices and a large serve of minced garlic. Garlic Bangus, Adobo, Sisig, Crispy Pata, Bulalooften served with delicious steaming garlic rice, are just a few of the choices.

Garlic crab, delicious except for the oil    Mixed vegetable platter with pickled egg      Garlic Bangus, flattened fish 
Relaxing Down the Coast

Over the past few months we have managed a few weekend escapes to the south west coast of Luzon Island, staying at The Coral Beach Club at Matabunkay.  Hosts John and MJ and the delightful manager, Jennifer, offer a peaceful beachside escape from the noise, hassle and traffic of Manila.

With a pool, spa and excellent kitchen offering Pinoy and Western Cuisine, comfortable accommodation and this stunning sunset, whats not to enjoy.  John and MJ recently celebrated the completion of their new house, also on the beach, with a magic sunset party. An eclectic group of friends, both local and expat, spent a day sailing on John's catamaran and then partied on the balcony at sunset.  John charmingly referred to it as the "IPU" for his new house - "Initial Piss Up".  You can't take the aussie out of the boy.

Matabunkay Beach Sunset

Thursday, 20 February 2014

"Relaxing" at Nongsa Point

Drilling a hole to mount the new stern light.
Well, not really relaxing.  Our visits to Crystal Blues tend to be pretty focused - always a list of jobs to do, keeping the systems alive, running and testing major components, and upgrading where we can.

This last visit, with only three days available, was a busy one.
- Wash the top sides and all the sun covers
- Using the Powerdive Hooka, clean the hull (well half of it anyway)
- Test all the on board systems, including refrigeration, air con,  genset, main engine and computer back up
- Check and test all the pumps
- Install a new stern navigation light

The only relaxing job was mounting and wiring the new Hella NaviLED Pro stern light. The job went smoothly and was completed, surprisingly, in a very short time.   We like these new Hella lights, as they have a completely sealed precision optical unit.  We are now around 75% converted to LED lights including navigation, cabin down lights and cockpit lighting.

Back At The Coal Face

Neil has now been working with the EVI team in Manila for over 5 months now.  Designing, co-ordinating CAD drawings and schematics, managing the project, problem solving and passing on his knowledge.

The four audio, video and control racks have now been built, and custom software written, all off-site. All the audio visual equipment and miles of cabling are installed.  Now it is up to the onsite installers and programmer John White to finesse these very complex systems into a living and breathing environmental machine.  It has been an exciting project, with many challenges both cultural and logistical.

Preparing the racks for shipping                   Commissioning the systems                             The transport team