It’s been four months between blogs, and between sailing trips. I haven’t put fingertips to keys because, quite simply, I haven’t known how to put the events into words. The past four months have been…. Tumultuous. Embarrassing. Scary. Character building. Draining. Confusing… But, they’ve also been exciting. Challenging. Educational. Oh, so educational.
I suppose I’ll start from the beginning – my maiden voyage, after acquiring Kuna and sailing her with Jason and Nicola from Adelaide to Brisbane.
It was ANZAC Day long weekend back in April. I was talking to an ex-boyfriend turned good friend about my broken wind vane (caused by a night of sailing through 50 knot winds and 5m swell) when he recommended I call a friend of ours, Jarrad, from Velocity Marine who specialises in custom fibreglassing for boats and could probably help me with a mould for my wind vane (which is a kind of auto pilot). I got in touch and sure enough he was the guy for the job, but I was keen to get out sailing for the long weekend first – wind vane or not.
Having been friends with Jarrad for almost six years I decided to invite him and his workmate, Tim, out for a weekend at Tangalooma – it turns out Jarrad knows his way around yachts and his family was going to be out there on their yacht for the weekend as well. Still very much a novice on all things yacht and sailing related I was stoked to have found a friend familiar with it all. It was shaping up to be the perfect maiden voyage!
We set off Saturday morning and enjoyed a 5 hour sail to the incredible Tangalooma Wrecks at Moreton Island. We enjoyed a quiet evening of music and dinner on Jarrad’s parents cat and retired relatively early back on Kuna. We awoke on Sunday to a rainy day, and a seasick Tim who rowed himself to shore while I taught Jarrad how to play chess!
A Blocked Toilet
Around lunch-time Tim told me the toilet was blocked – a relatively common occurrence with marine toilets unfortunately, which can be tricky to operate and definitely require some training of crew on proper usage… Having seen Jason (Kuna’s previous owner) handle a blocked toilet on the Adelaide to Brisbane sailing voyage I was somewhat confident on one course of action and dived into the unpleasant job with an odd sense of enthusiasm – I was dealing with my first issue on the yacht!
I unscrewed the pump area to check for a toilet paper blockage that could just be pushed through… no luck. That was going to be easiest fix and it meant the blockage was further up the pipe. It wasn’t something I wanted, nor quite knew how, to deal with right away. In screwing the pump piece back on though I snapped one of the delicate plastic threads which meant we now had a constant leak, also not something we could fix out here, so we turned the sea cock off and figured we would get by without a toilet for the weekend.
The afternoon progressed in a blur of rum, wine, chess and music, as well as some spearfishing friends dropping by for a visit. Jarrad’s Dad visited, wisely suggesting we re-anchor closer to the wrecks to avoid a bit of swell that was coming through and mentioned we might want to run the engine for an hour or so to recharge the batteris. We took the advice and moved Kuna to a prime spot by the wrecks, and left the engine running while Jarrad and I went for a late afternoon freedive on the wrecks.
As we climbed the ladder at the back of Kuna about an hour later Jarrad commented that there was no water pumping out, about the same time that I noticed a burning smell… I opened the engine hatch to billowing smoke and hit the kill switch to turn it off. The engine didn’t have water pumping through to cool it – it had been cooking while we were diving. I didn’t know much, but I knew that could destroy an engine…
Jarrad’s Dad saw the smoke from his yacht and came over – Jarrad wasn’t letting on that the issue was too bad, but the look on Andrew’s face said it all. Not good! I remembered the seacock that we had turned off to stop the toilet from leaking – it turns out that the engine was being cooled from the same seacock that the toilet was plumbed to. Even to a novice like me, that seemed like a stupid idea. It meant you had to make a choice – major plumbing leak, or a running engine. How crazy is that?
We found a spare impeller on board and changed it out with the old one, which was now broken. We primed the engine over and over again and eventually got it pumping water somewhat. It was a tense couple of hours of work, and it was all completely new to me. I didn’t even know what an impeller or water pump was before, now I knew how to change one!
That night we drowned our sorrows in some more rum and wine. Seriously, it’s no wonder sailors drink so much!
The following day we enjoyed the sunshine that was now out – swimming on the wrecks, jumping off the boat and flying my DJI Phantom 3 drone, Scout. Mid-morning we decided to up anchor and head back to Manly. The engine wasn’t pumping water again though and it didn’t take long to see why – the exhaust hose had completely melted at the waterbox! A bit (lot) of duct tape later, and we had it primed and running again… It would have to do for the trip home.
When we got back in there wasn’t much I could do, nor did I have any idea on what to do. I washed the engine with some fresh water and a healthy dose of Innox after all the salt water that had gotten on it from priming the water pump.
It wasn’t until a couple of days later when my friend Rob visited and checked my oil that I knew I had a more serious issue… the oil was milky. I didn’t even know what that meant. Turns out, milky oil meant there was salt water in the oil, which meant something was cracked or leaking salt water through the engine. A head gasket, the whole head, sleeves in the block, bearings… these were all new terms to me and it didn’t really click that it meant there had been salt water going through parts of my engine, which would cause rust, which would cause more breakages…
Yep, my maiden voyage was an eventful one with many lessons learned… My Grandad always said the most important lessons to learn are often the most expensive. I had no clue what I was facing here. $300… $3,0000…. $10,000… more?
I’d already just spent everything I had on the yacht. It was like I had climbed the massive mountain that came with buying a yacht, not to mention sailing it from Adelaide to Brisbane, only to be thrown off the top. Now I was facing a mountain of a different kind, one I couldn’t even see the top of… but I never expected that it would take months to climb it. It was the beginning of what would be a steep learning curve.
Thanks for following the journey! Feel free to subscribe to the blog for more updates along the way.