Fire and ashes

Christmas was great. New Years Eve was even better…

The Dunalley bushfires weren’t.
That smoke plume in the photo below was the Forcett fire raging down on the Peninsula.


We were ok, we sailed out the day before fire swept through but our car and shipping container were at Dad’s place, and Dads place and all his sheds burnt to the ground. He lost just about everything.


Dad evacuated south to a friends place, but that place came under threat the next day. He evacuated to the beach, but got to go back to his friends place after the fire changed direction.

All the roads into the area were shut, and while Dad only had what he put in the car, he didn’t want to leave it. So he stayed put until the roads reopened enough to get people out, a few days later.

We lost Beryl, the ballistic blue brick to the fire and all our photos, which were in Dad’s house. The container and all it’s contents survived, which is great, because Dad will have some familiar furniture to refurbish his house with.

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What’s Cruising?

So the better half asked me this morning, “What cruising are we expecting to do?”
The question was in context of all these boats I keep sender her links to… Like this one, and this one, not to mention my current ideal boat, if we could ever afford it.

What cruising was I expecting do to in boats like these?
Stop and go cruising, I think it should be called. The sort of cruising where you go until you get somewhere you want to stop, and you enjoy staying stopped until you want to go again… Sound too vague? If you haven’t done it, it’s a bit difficult to explain.

I think we established on our cruise to the Tamar and back that cruising with kids on Centrelink payments expecting to pick up (inter)national project work without prior arrangement doesn’t work. It’s difficult to pick up local casually paid work because someone needs to look after the kids, and Centrelink takes a very dim view of people moving about on support payments.

So, we need to get income sorted, which means not leaving here until I have a guaranteed job somewhere else suitably far out that we can enjoy a cruise on the way. This sounds a bit too much like cruising a schedule, which is a definite no-no, so another option is to wait until my better half gets her writing career into a place where she gets paid for it. Income means we can enjoy the stopped part, and afford the go part of stop and go cruising when desired.

I really enjoyed exploring the Tamar. I liked the river gypsy nature of our lifestyle, and I look forward to duplicating it in other protected waterways while we cruise up the East Coast of Australia. So that’s what I want a boat to do. That means:

  • She’ll need to be seaworthy enough for the stretches in between protected waters, and of shallow enough draft to enjoy those waters when we get there.
  • Moving from place to place in time to make tides, weather windows, junior crew tolerance and daylight hours often means motoring, much more than I would have thought before our trip to the Tamar; strong performance under motor with sails to help is desirable.
  • A sheltered cockpit big enough for the family would be great. Enough room down below for the kids and all their school stuff, and a separate cabin for the wife and I is also a requirement.
  • We also need self steering capable of handling rough conditions, because that’s when you need to leave the helm to deal with some other crisis, like kids still in pyjamas, a seasick wife, or a tool draw spewing its contents out down below.
  • We all would prefer a wooden boat, but I’d consider fibreglass. Not steel or ferrocement, as I don’t have the skills to be a plasterer or a welder.
  • So that’s cruising for me, and a rough idea of the type of boat I want to do in.


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    The Ballistic Brick

    We took the plunge, bit the bullet, broke the ice, took the first step…

    We bought a car!

    She’s a bit tatty, is neither comfortable nor fast, and manages to be square hipped, shouldered and jawed.

    Without further ado, let me introduce Beryl…


    Yes, she’s a Volvo.

    I did say once that I’d never own a Volvo, yet here I am. The good wife points out that the car is in her name, so I could argue a technicality.

    Blue Beryl, the Ballistic Brick, is a marina car. For those unfamiliar with the term, it arises from the situation that many live-aboards find themselves in; a requirement for transport, but only occasionally. Marinas are rarely built next to industrial supply areas or supermarkets, and rarely have a bus service nearby, so the live-aboard boat owner finds himself walking a lot or getting a lift in somebody else’s marina car.

    Beryl was originally bought by some cruisers down from Sydney when they wintered over here, sold to another cruising couple when the Sydney-siders departed last summer, and now sold to us. We’ll sell her on too, hopefully to another set of cruisers in the marina, but in the meantime, for the first time in 5 years, we have a car.

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    Boats a rockin’

    It’s been four straight days with winds gusting over 30kts, and it’s getting old.


    See that 976 millibar low over toward New Zealand? It was 982 when passed over us a few days ago, and it’s been kicking our arse ever since. We had a 43kt gust (30 second average) measured onboard come through on the weekend… A bit too breezy. Check out this graph of wind speed and barometric pressure over time, made with data from the guys over at the BoM (Hobart weather station).


    Barometers been on the up, climbing sharply (hence the wind), stable now around 1014 millibars, but look what we have coming next Wednesday?


    More wind!

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    Have you heard of 6ft-itis?

    It’s a common affliction for boat owners. It starts with looking at other boats, and you know you have got it bad when you start casting a less than kindly eye over your own boat. The infection is contagious… Your wife has it when both of you start conversations with what you’d do with on a different boat that was just 6ft longer.

    Bed rest doesn’t help, or at least not aboard ERIK. Lying in bed reminds us that we have to pack it away… You see, we sleep on the dinner table, which collapses down while the bedding rolls out from behind the removable seat back. We make our bed every night and pack it away every morning, and have done so every day for the the last 6 years. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a bedroom that wasn’t also the lounge room?

    That’s 6ft-itis talking.

    A good dose of reality helps keep the disease under control. We own our boat, our home, we don’t owe a cent to anybody for her. Looking at prices of other, bigger boats is like a bucket of cold water… $160,000 for that boat? Even if we could sell ERIK for $80k (and in this market, there’s no guarantee of that), where would get another $80k from?

    So, you learn all over again to make do with what you have… But boy, that centre cockpit ketch with the below deck walk-through to the aft cabin sure looks appealing.


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    Seafood Chowder

    It’s still howling 20 to 30kts here at the moment, boat heeling in the gusts. The thermometer thinks its 9 degrees C, but with this wind, it feels a lot colder than that.

    With this rather chilly weather, I have rediscovered soup. A hot bowl of soup seems to be just the ticket for days like this, but I’m not keen on those thin watery soups. I like mine thick.

    I thought I’d share a recipe, my first for this new category “My Galley Rules”, from my mum. She used to make this great chowder, and I have found quick, easy to make, and ideal for winter life aboard.


    1. A fist sized amount of potatoes for each intended diner.
    2. A large onion.
    3. As much garlic as you like.
    4. Stock of some sort, be it seafood or chicken. I use a chicken stock cube or two.
    5. A red capsicum.
    6. Milk, fresh, UHT, or powdered, it doesn’t matter.
    7. A couple of slices of bacon.
    8. Chives, shallots or parsley, if you can get it.
    9. Any sort of seafood you can get!


      First you need to make a base for the chowder. Wash the potatoes (I don’t bother peeling them). Peel the cloves of as much garlic as you like. Toss both in a pot with the stock and just enough water to cover the potatoes. Boil until the potatoes are soft. Mash them with a fork, or potato masher if you have room for one. Salt and pepper to taste.Add enough milk to make the mash into a thick soup. If you are using powdered milk here, make it up so the milk is thick and creamy. If you can get fresh cream, add in a goodly amount now!
      Okay, that’s the base sorted.

      Chop the onion, capsicum and bacon finely. When I say ‘fine’ I don’t mean microscopic here… I once gave an onion to a friend and asked her to chop it finely. I came back 10 minutes later to find she’d made a purée of half the onion and was just tackling the second half… So ‘fine’ means bits less than 10mm in size, but greater than 5mm!

      Add the chopped ingredients to the base. Simmer the base until they’re cooked, but be very careful to not let it boil or burn on the bottom. Now add the seafood!

      What sort of seafood? Anything! If it’s fish, make sure you have all the bones out of it. Debeard mussels, drain the oil from a can of smoked oysters. Chop whatever it is into spoon sized chunks if it isn’t already. I have used salmon, tuna, calamari, oysters and mussels fresh off the rocks… I haven’t tried tinned fish, I think it might break up too much.

      The seafood won’t take long to cook, so get the bowls ready. If you are really keen you could serve with grilled cheese on toast, which is both delicious and handy for sopping out the bowl at the end.

      Oh! The chives/shallots/parsley should be finely chopped and stirred in just before serving! I always nearly forget that…

    So there you have it:


    Apologies for the less than glamorous photo, the soup sloshed about a bit with the boat heeling, and the light was tricky…

    Categories: My Galley Rules | Tags: | 1 Comment

    Thieves, sneaks and rogues

    We had thieves aboard early this morning. We awoke to the pitter-patter sounds of furtive feet on the side deck.

    The dear wife sat bolt upright, waking me with a start. By the time a half dressed her and naked me clambered out into the cockpit, we saw three juveniles at the marina gate. They had a life-ring and maybe something else small and they took off at a run towards the CBD.

    We called TasPorts and the Police. The cops where down in minutes and took a statement. They told me that they had other units in the city looking for the culprits.

    The security camera feed didn’t get much, it was pointed somewhere else at the time, and only just caught a blur and some shadows in the bottom of a few frames. Bit disappointing, but in my experience, most camera feeds aren’t a big help in identification anyway.

    Checking equipment aboard, our life-ring wasn’t missing. It’s tied on to our dan-bout as a part of our MOB system. It looks like they may have tried to remove a fuel jerry off the side deck. They are lashed in placed, and our youngest commented, “You have to know your sailors knots to get them undone!”.

    Nothing seemed to be missing aboard ERIK, so somebody else on the Marina is missing a life-ring this morning.

    What grand way to start a Sunday.

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    My Galley Rules

    I got some inspiration recently, talking to a live-aboard friend about the television show “My Kitchen Rules”.

    Many people we have talked to wonder how decent family meals could be prepared on what they view as a camping stove with nowhere to cook. “What can you cook in such a tiny space space?”, they exclaim.

    Erik’s Galley


    So I thought I’d start a new category on the blog called “My Galley Rules” to share what and how we cook aboard.

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    Sovereign Hill

    I recently had to go to Ballarat on business, and by good fortune, finished up early.

    I thought rying to find something to do in a place like Ballarat, in the depths of winter, on a weekday, for half a day was going to be a tall order… Until I found Sovereign Hill.

    Sovereign Hill is an open air museum in Golden Point, a suburb of Ballarat. It depicts Ballarat’s first ten years after the discovery of gold there in 1851, and it’s huge, sprawling over a 25 hectare site. You really need a whole day (or even two) to see it properly.

    View up main St.

    The site is basically a whole town of historically recreated buildings, with period-costumed staff and volunteers.

    Goods for sale in the General Store

    The recreation is completed with antiques, artwork, books and papers, machinery, livestock and animals, carriages and devices all appropriate to the era.

    All the shops are “working” shops. That is to say, they mostly make what they sell right there. The town newspaper really prints newspapers, the blacksmiths makes and sells his wares, straight from the forge in his own shop. The girls in the sweet shop make all 50 odd varieties of their boiled lollies right there (and they are soooo good).

    Recreation of the old hotel, looking towards the Mine works


    Apparently the main street is loose reconstruction of Main Street, Ballarat East which was once the settlement’s umm… main street (possibly overusing the word “main” a bit there).

    the modern Main St. of Ballarat. Note they are all brick.


    The real one was burnt down in a large fire during the 1860s and a more substantial town centre planned around Sturt and Lydiard Street in Ballarat West.

    Seattle had a similar issue, with a big fire burning down the city center in the gold rush days. They, too, passed an ordinance that all future buildings had to be brick.

    Gold panning creek, and the Chinese area.


    The gold diggings are right at the beginning of the complex. They have constructed a winding creek in which visitors are able to pan for real gold, although if any is actually in there, I’d be surprised. Still, it gives you a sense of what life on the gold fields was like, particularly on the cold, wet, dreary day I was there.

    Life in those canvas tents, enduring sub-zero winters and forty degree summers would have been pretty tough. Prices for food were so high, due to demand, many couldn’t afford decent food. Being the sort of people to travel from afar, keen to make their fortune on the gold field, what they didn’t spend on food was spent in the gambling houses instead.

    The Chinese had it particularly rough. There’s a good article on Chinese emigration to Australia here. They had very little when they arrived, were actively discriminated against by the locals, unfairly taxed, lived in bark and hessian huts and sent every scrap they earned back home to feed there starving families there. No wonder they left the country as soon as possible.

    Reflecting on the period, I think the only people that actually made a living in the gold fields were those selling stuff to the endless stream of hopefuls that actually wanted to do it.

    I left the museum with a much better appreciation for life in Australia 150 years ago. If you are ever in the area, I’d recommend a visit.

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    Electric Light Orchestra

    We have had an issue in ERIK of late, made worse by the deepening dark of these winter nights.

    Whenever we fire up the DVD/media player, or the refrigeration kicks in, the lights dim and flicker horribly. It started off as a mild phenomenon, hardly worth commenting on. Last night it was so bad the boat was plunged into darkness.

    Today, I pulled out the tools to get into the distribution panel:


    I really dislike opening this up. My reasons are many:

  • The screws that hold the panel in are dome topped stainless machine screws with slot drive. They are pokey, fiddly, easy to cross thread into their copper barrels, and slotted heads don’t “stick” to the screwdriver.
  • The panel is made from 2mm 25yr old laminex, it flexes horribly, cracks easily, and deforms under the weight of the switchgear and gauges attached to it.
  • It wobbles and flexes so much that connections come loose in the wiring. Every time I open it, I spend a bunch of time getting something working again.
  • I’d guessed the the problem with the dimming lights is due to a poor (or high resistance) connection. I worked myself up to opening the panel (carefully) and having a look.

    The first obvious thing is that each row of switches has its own positive feed (confusingly, in black wire). This common feed supplies each fuse, which in turn supplies the switch. Checking the resistance on the lighting common feed to the bus bar showed some resistance, about 20 ohms. The others were zero. Next I checked the feed from the battery isolation switch to the bus bar, some resistance there too, about 10 ohms. No resistance from isolation switch to battery.

    Isolating the panel, I pulled the positive feed off, and saw that it wasn’t seated well, and had corroded on the underside. A bit of sandpaper sorted that out.

    Next I checked the common feed, and saw that the screw connecting it to the bus bar was loose. Tightened that. (thinking back on it now, I should have put a stainless spring washer under it).

    Checked resistance; close to zero!
    Switched every light in Christendom on, fired up the refrigerator; no flicker!

    Yay! All fixed.


    Now to put the bloody panel on again…

    First go, the anchor winch indicator LED let its blue smoke out. They don’t work very well after that.

    Second go, the bilge pump came on, stayed on. Obviously a short, off came the panel to fix that.

    Third go, the indicator light showing the bilge pump is on auto fizzed out. Sigh. I can live with that.

    Gawd I hate this panel. One day soon I’m going to build a new one and replace it.

    Anyway, to cheer me up, I listened to “Mr Blue Sky” by the band this post is named after… Quite appropriate for today!

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