Sunday 29 March 2009

Sailboat/Yacht Sail Washing and Maintenance

Preparing to sail on a fine warm sunny day on Western Port Bay, Victoria, we decided to wash the mainsail which had become home to a family of nesting starlings a few weeks previously. You can see from the shot here that in a short space of a few weeks they had made quite a mess.
Fortunately, the mixture of nesting material and droppings lodged in the flake of the sail, washed away quite easily.

There was virtually no breeze at the time, so we were able to hoist the main and shake a good deal of it out. With the water from the dock and a soft brush the remainder came away without any additional cleaning agent - it could have been much worse.

As the main was up we hosed down both sides of the rest of the sail, bringing it back to an almost new appearance. If time had permitted we should have dropped it completely, removed it from the boat and washed it thoroughly on the dock.

Washing of your sails regularly is an important component of your sail maintenance.

Salt builds up over time in the weave of the fabric and being hygroscopic it alternatively absorbs moisture, then crystalises when dry. This action over time will shorten the life of your sails, particularly when you add flaking(main) and rolling(genoa) into the equation. Along with ultra violet rays, these are the two worst enemies of your sails. In addition, salt encrusted sails are harder to handle.

Hence, washing them down with fresh water periodically(read regularly) rinses out the salt and leaves them both feeling and looking fresh - your sails will love this little bit of tlc. and you will notice the difference the first time you hank on following your washing.

You can of course have your sails washed commercially, but it is good to do this job yourself as part of your ongoing boat maintenance programme and becoming familiar with your boat and what needs to be done regularly. You will also gain satisfaction from completing another job yourself.

For more stubborn stains such as grease, rust etc. there are a number of cleaning agents available - be sure to read all instructions carefully and never be heavy handed for fear of damaging the sail fibres - better to try it gently two or three times than scrub the life out of the sail!

Always rinse thoroughly after applying any cleaning agent

We are talking about polyester(Dacron) sails here, which for cruising sailboats is still the main fabric of choice used today. For more high tech sail fabrics such as Kevlar, Mylar etc. more sophisticated methods and cleaning agents may be required.

You can go to Doyle Sailmakers website for more detailed information and cleaning agents that may be used.

We spent half an hour or so cleaning and washing the sail that day and then set off for a days sailing on the fantastic waters of southern Victoria - time well spent.

You can read more about sailboat maintenance in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' downloadable from my website

Wednesday 11 March 2009

Wallypower118 Uber Cruiser

It's not often that we move outside the realms of sailing on this blog, but coming across this object of blatant excess I felt it only my duty to draw it to your attention.

Wally, who until now have built a very fine and radical range of upmarket sailboats have ventured into an arena which one wonders where it is all going to end up. The latest offering from their stable is a monster of a powerboat called the Wallypower118. This is the Uber powerboat of all time and don't be surprised to see one in the next James Bond film! In fact it has already appeared in the movie 'The Island' with Scarlett Johansson.

In my earlier days of boating back in Christchurch, New Zealand, I purchased a used Hamilton Jet32 river jetboat. Hamilton jetboats were invented, designed and built by Bill Hamilton back in the early 1950's and are now famous worldwide. My little fourteen footer was designed to run up the shallow, fast running and braided rivers of Canterbury. It did this job admirably and served me very well over a number of years chasing and catching salmon in the upper reaches of these fantastic rivers.

It was powered by a 3litre Ford V6 engine driving the jet unit and in flat water could reach the surprising speed of 48mph(clocked). It cost me close on three thousand dollars back then and provided years of adventure, excitement and fun. Maintenance was minimal and never more than could be carried out in the garage at home or on the banks of the river - unless you were unfortunate enough to come into contact with a large rock in the rapids and sink the boat! Fortunately for me, I managed to avoid that inconvenience.

Move on to 2009 and enter the Wallypower118. Also jet powered and generating almost 17,000lbs. of thrust it can propel itself through the water at a maximum speed of 60 knots, which converts to 69mph, which is a whole 21mph quicker than a Jet32 flat out - Wow!

With a few additional trimmings and a whole lot more hubris, you can pick up one of these mammoths for a cool 20 million or more - Wow again! With a price differential of $19,997,000 with my old J32 this is exactly what I had in mind to upgrade to when I purchased her back then!

Having said that, the Wallypower118 is a startling piece of technology, would look phenomenal cutting through the water anywhere, but not what you would want to see bearing down on your cruising sailboat in the darkness of night, flying a Customs flag and a popgun on the foredeck - intimidating to say the least!

For a different point of view Google up 'Wallypower118' and read the review in by Dennis Caprio. Admittedly this was written prior to the arrival of the Global financial crisis, so things may have changed. He notes however, because of the controversial design and what it stands for, you would either love it or hate it. Looking at our current global situation and attendant environmental issues we are all facing, I think I would come down firmly on the side of the 'h' word - long live sail!

There is a powerpoint presentation and several short videos on 'Youtube' you can view.

Visit Wally's website on and whilst there check out their range of fine luxury sailing boats.

Wallypower118 image reproduced courtesy Wally

You can read more adventures on the high seas in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' downloadable from my website

Friday 6 March 2009

Batik Making in Beautiful Bora Bora - Sailing Adventures in the South Seas

To all of you budding Cruisers, Voyagers, Passagemakers out there, the following article is an example of the fantastic adventures that you can experience whilst on you lifetime sailing adventure.

Many of these wonderful events just happen completely unexpectedly and therefore the more enjoyable and memorable for that.

This one is just such an experience and is an extract from my book 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' and I will call it simply 'Batik making in Beautiful Bora Bora'.

'Apart from an aerial view, the best vantage point for viewing the encircling reef of Bora Bora is from the top of the twin peaks. Her captain and WK set off up the long track next morning, whilst sibling crew, using the excuse that our two men need some male bonding, prefers to go shopping in the village. Trekking upward is hot work, even though the trail is bountifully shaded with palms and other trees, so that the sweat has begun oozing within a short distance up the climb. Two thirds of the way up, the track opens out into a gorgeous shady glade with a Tahitian house set on the far side. Our two heroes momentarily think they have taken a wrong turning and are entering some private garden. Not a sign anywhere indicating this is private property, so they stride toward the shaded verandah in the hope that there may be a cool drink on offer from inside. Passing an open door of what looks to be some kind of a studio, they peer in and spy a lady wrapped in her pareu, working over a table spread with fine and brightly coloured cloths.

On becoming aware of someone in the doorway, she glances up, flashes a brilliant smile and invites them in most naturally, as if this is a commonplace occurrence and she has been expecting them. She straightens, turns toward them and walks with a natural grace over to a sideboard and pours two large glasses of what looks like water with lime. Turning once more, she glides over the matting of the hard earthen floor, placing each foot straight and directly in front of the other as she walks, like any well bred woman would. Smiling all the while, she arrives and hands the glasses to our adventurers with a ‘thank you’ and ‘welcome’. In their warm state of readiness she appears as a vision would, surrounded by some kind of halo, her skin glowing with a honeylicious epidermal effulgence. Gratefully accepted, the drinks are gulped down, the lime cutting the water delightfully, immediately satiating their thirst.

Ever watching them, eyes sparkling with amusement, she politely waits till they have taken their fill and asks, ‘was it a hot trek up the hill this morning?’ hiding her irony beneath that engaging smile. In the presence of such stately beauty, our two gallants mumble their thanks and begin to collect themselves. They ask if they are on the right path to the top and she satisfies their concern that indeed they are, and that her house happens to sit on the path. Appeased, and having noticed much framed Batik art hanging on the fronded walls, they set about asking her about her art.

‘I’ll show you’ she says, in delightfully French accented English.

Bending over the table, her tresses falling sensuously about her face and bare shoulders, hands fluttering delicately, she demonstrates how she paints the wax onto her fabrics. There are many pots of dyes strewn about, and having applied the wax, the fabric is dipped into the next colour of dye she wants.

Watching several stages of this complex waxing and dyeing process, she then moves to another table where she has a finished work ready for de waxing. Placing the absorbing paper on the fabric, she takes her hot iron over it and melts the waxes. As each layer melts into the paper another colour is exposed until, peeling off the last sheet, the final image is revealed. The finished image is complex and quite beautiful and many such examples grace her studio. This particular piece is a brightly coloured pareu which will hang on the rack along with all the others - all items are for sale.

Batik art is like painting in reverse in that the artist has to visualise the completed picture beforehand, and then go about applying the wax to the areas that are to remain the same colour and not affected by the next dye colour. So, there can be no mistakes with this art form, as there is no way back, once made they cannot be corrected. Watching her at work for half an hour – no other visitors during this time - gives our two a greater understanding of this art form and they are very impressed.

She comments with a wry grin that she receives most callers early morning and late afternoon when it is cooler. Expressing much admiration for her work and thanking her they take their leave, promising to call in again on their way down to select a suitable piece. A graceful, languid wave from her doorway sees them off on their next stage upward.'

You can read many more experiences such as this encountered whilst cruising, in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' downloadable from my website