Cruising – The things we learn!

It is wonderful, I think, how during Lockdown one’s mind wanders to memories of yachting and other adventures past. I am sure that because we are yearning for better days when we can get out and about again, our subconscious is working overtime and bringing up memories that we had forgotten we had (there is an oxymoron if ever there was one, as a memory remembered, can’t have been forgotten?) – one minute I’ll be doing something very unimportant, and next I am in Casilda Cove, Port Davey on the West Coast of Tasmania remembering the great time we had with the three other boats in the VDLC fleet who moored there at the same time, or I am on my favourite stream stalking a not so small brown trout…

This seems to be happening often – and it is almost as if, when it does, I am vividly there – lost in the memory for a few moments, then I snap to and think – what am I doing back there? Maybe it is just me – so let me know if it is happening to you as well?

Anyhow, I thought that I would write about things we learn about our boats when cruising. Cruising – and living aboard for extended periods – is the best way to learn all about our boats.

On the Van Diemen’s Land Circumnavigation, here are some things I learned:

First, I always wondered why Wingara seemed to have a list to Starboard – not a great deal, but noticeable. One of the things that becomes precious on an extended cruise is fresh water, so usage is kept to a minimum. Before we left Hobart, of course I filled the water. Wingara has two 250 litre tanks, one to port and the other to starboard, joined by a balance tube. There is only one filler on the port side. We seemed to run short of water really quickly, and I couldn’t work out why. There were four of us aboard and after five days, we were approaching empty!

We filled up at Triabunna – so no issue, but it continued to puzzle me.

As luck would have it, a few days later near Wineglass Bay, I was doing a routine inspection of the motor, bilges etc under the floor boards, and I spied a tap that I hadn’t noticed before – and lo and behold, it was an inconspicuous gate valve on the balance pipe, tucked in a place not readily visible. I opened it – amazing, the water gauge went from near full, to less than 1/2 as the tanks evened out.

What I hadn’t also noticed until prompted by this discovery was that the filler pipe fed into the starboard tank on the opposite side of the boat where the gauge was, so when filling up, we were only filling the starboard tank! Voila – from then on, we seemed to have plenty of water – and the list to starboard is now a thing of the past!

Next, I could never work out how the in-mast furling locked – until I decided to pull it all apart and service it.  Time to do such projects is always available when cruising and waiting for the right weather window!  I had always wondered why there was a solenoid on the hydraulic system main tank which has been disconnected – the wires having been cut. I couldn’t ever work out what it was for?  Neither could the electrician who rewired the new hydraulic storage tank!  But, when I pulled the inspection plate off the back of the mast below the boom, it all became clear!

There was a spring-loaded piston – with a solenoid on the base, and the solenoid sensor on the hydraulic system operated so that when the hydraulic furling was “on”, the solenoid on the main tank turned the one on the piston on to pull it down, so when the hydraulic furler was operating, the piston was withdrawn.  When not on, the piston was meant to spring up, and engage in a sprocket on the bottom of the furler mechanism, thereby locking it.  Well it was so rusted, that I had to completely dismantle it, clean it, polish of the pitted rust, and grease and reassemble it.  Now the piston works so I can furl the main and lock it in position wherever I no longer gradually unfurls over time.  A piece of shock-chord has replaced the solenoid (for the time being) to lock the piston up or down when I need it!

Other things I discovered:

  • There was a large 30mm warp in the anchor well which had a spliced loop either end – what was it for ?- I discovered that it was the perfect thing for making an anchoring loop at the bow on the two mooring cleats, and then attaching to the chain via a rope strop with a sturdy Gibb clip, also in the locker – voila – no anchor chain noise at anchor, plus the boat didn’t shear as much in the wind.
  • There was a hose outlet in the anchor well. There was also a pump in the chain bay which was completely rusted and unserviceable that I only discovered on the trip. I had replaced the head on board and kept the separate pump from the previous one. It had to be replaced as the macerator died. I remembered that I had it, so I fitted it where the unserviceable pump was and plugged it in and I now have a very handy salt water deck-wash for the anchor and chain – saves a messy and smelly anchor well!
  • The main halyard pulley sheave at the top of the foil in the mast was worn and had stopped turning. We found this out when approaching Tasman Island to go through the “Eye of the Needle” and head up the East Coast. Suddenly, the main was on the deck – ooops! With the sheave not turning, the halyard which was 3mm Dynema had fallen to one side and eventually worn through with movement of the foil and luff of the main. We were lucky to be able to do a temporary fix with a great rigger in Beauty Point – friction rings are great things! It is now fixed properly, but the friction ring got us around Tasmania and more!
  • HF radios work best with headphones! The difference is unbelievable, and I strongly suggest if you have an HF Radio and want to make it clearer – use headphones.
  • In Strahan, the diesel started to play up. In looking for the reason why the engine was cutting out the first two or three starts on cold, I discovered how the diesel tank shut off valve worked – and in fact, that it had been disconnected at some point – probably when the motor was replaced, and not reconnected. It is now reconnected, but that wasn’t the problem – it was the electric lift pump which primes the engine which had a faulty wire connection.

There are many more things that I discovered about Wingara that I wouldn’t have unless I had lived aboard her for the two months of the trip.

There is always time to tinker and fix those little things that we always put off – that is why cruising is such a great way to get to know your boat.

I did find this great guide to fixing issues on a cruising boat:



It is true that at least nine out of ten things can be fixed by Duct-Tape or WD 40!

Fair Winds

John Hall – Wingara