A Kiwi couple's cruising adventures on America's Great Loop and around the coast of New Zealand

Friday, 6 January 2017

Noflex and Vacuflush toilets


While responding to a post on a boating forum, I thought I should bring any Noflex users attention to something that may have been troubling them if they have vacuflush heads. This is that the vacuum pump may start again, even several times, after Noflex has been flushed via the bowl.

When Noflex reacts with sewage, it generates oxygen as part of the digestion process, which is why it is very important to have clear vents from your holding tank. When Noflex is added to a vacuflush head, it is sucked into the vacuum chamber before being pumped into the holding tank. Depending on the layout and pipe distances some of the Noflex, and effluent, can remain in the vacuum chamber and give off oxygen. This generates pressure in the chamber that negates the vacuum, causing the pump to restart for a short time to re-establish the vacuum. This is quite normal and is no cause for concern.

Curious to see what actually happens, I recently did a small experiment with Noflex. I rinsed out a glass jar that had previously contained apricot jam and filled it with water. I then added a 2" piece of excrement, (supplied by my dog, Woody), and shook it so it partly dissolved. Not unexpectedly, when finished, the contents smelled like dog poop.


I then added 1/2 of a teaspoon of Noflex and shook it again and left it for 5 minutes:



You could see the effluent bubbling away and foam forming on the surface. I released the lid and there was a hiss of escaping gas (oxygen), then I left it for a further hour, with the lid partly unscrewed to allow the oxygen to escape.



After this time, all the solids were gone and the fibre residue had floated to the top. More to the point, when I took the lid off, all I could smell was apricot jam.

The Admiral made me throw the jar away afterwards!

I felt I should share this with y'all.


Sunday, 10 April 2016

Bad Friday.

So here we were heading towards Easter. We had invited Lyn and Lois (who now lives on the Kapiti Coast) to come and spend it with us. We planned on getting to the boat on the Tuesday before Good Friday, departing Wednesday,  and returning Easter Monday. I drove down to the boat on Monday to pick up Lois from the airport the following day. On the way, I got a call from the Marine store saying the SS plough anchor had arrived, so I diverted to pick it up. When I arrived, they unwrapped it and I found it was a 60lb anchor, not the 50lb I was expecting. I queried this, but they insisted that it was the one the insurance had ordered and paid for and since bigger is always better when it comes to anchors, I took it away - although a little anxious that it would not fit in the storage space I had in mind for it. As it turned out, it fitted OK (just) and is now tucked away as a pretty, shiny, spare while I continue to use the Vulcan.


All stocked up and ready to go, the weather decided to intervene. A gale warning was issued for Tuesday and Wednesday with NE winds forecast to gust to 70kts. It was starting to honk by the time I picked up Lois at noon, and it was howling by the time the Admiral and Lyn arrived in the afternoon. True to its word, the weather remained this way until Thursday morning, so we stayed put on the dock. After heavy rain on Wednesday, I found the carpet in the sundeck was very wet. At first I thought it was a roof leak, but couldn't find one and then discovered the internal plastic water tube that feeds the ice tray in the icemaker had broken. I had a brass fitting the correct size and fitted it, but found the tube was so brittle that it kept shattering, and after several attempts I decided I would need to replace the whole tube with new and we would have to make do without ice - so I turned it off.



Early Thursday morning, the wind dropped and the forecast was for calm and settled conditions for the next 5 days. So off we went. It had been a while since our last holding tank pump-out, but the gauge was still reading empty (it doesn't normally begin to register until the tank is about half full). I was still a little suspicious that the overboard discharge pump was not working properly, so I intended to stop at Westhaven for a pump-out. However, as we left, we got a text from our son who had just arrived back on a cruise ship at the cruise terminal, so we by-passed Westhaven (first mistake) for the compulsory drive-by and photoshoot of them on their ship. I considered returning to Westhaven but figured we could discharge using the macerator pump when we reached open sea (second mistake). It was calm cruising all the way past the 2km point from land where overboard discharge is legal, so we slowed and turned on the pump. The pump ran for some time and, as the gauge still read empty and despite the fact that there was no sign of released effluent, I assumed the tank had discharged (third mistake). We continued on to Man O War bay at the "bottom end" (of Waiheke Island) and had a lovely afternoon lazing about in the sunshine.

The following day was Good Friday and we expected a lot of boats to be joining us, in view of the forecast for the long weekend. The plan was to go and harvest a feed of mussels from the wharf at low tide around 3pm, but in the meantime I had discovered the water supply to the icemaker itself had started to leak, probably from all the jostling it got while I had attempted to fix it. The trouble is the icemakers shut-off cock doesn't shut off properly, so the leak was going to be a bother. I decided to have another go at repairing it, but by now about 50mm (2") of the hose was missing and the remainder was broken in several places. After an (unsuccessful) attempt to use duct tape to hold it all together I decided to use electrical heat shrink cable, and cut a piece of a plastic drinking straw to fill in for the missing piece of tubing. I also managed to resurrect a used fitting to stop the leak in the feed pipe. This worked fine, with not a sign of a leak for the next 2 weeks, when I removed the icemaker and replaced both of the tubes.

The straw

You can see all the kinks where the bits of tune( and straw) are
Final fix


And long enough to take it right out to test
Feeling jubilant with success, we were about to celebrate when a familiar, and ominous odour reached my nostrils. Someone had flushed a toilet, and I could smell raw sewage. I raced to the back of the boat and looked over the side to see what I knew would be there. A trickle of horrid stuff coming out of the holding tank vent. The crew were immediately told to cease using the heads and we got underway to get to the nearest pump-out station. The closest marina was Pine Harbour, 13 NM away. We didn't know if it had one, but we decided to head that way. As we headed back the way we had come, there was an armada of boats coming towards us - all heading down to "the bottom end" for Easter. They were all shapes and sizes and going at all kinds of speeds. It seemed that everything that floated in Auckland was heading out. There were monstrous boats, putting up monstrous wakes and we ain't no little ship, but one of the wakes buried our bow. In doing so it sent an improperly stowed roasting dish flying down onto the floor via the hotplate and removed the hotplate knob, including the shaft that held it, in the process.

By this time we had determined that Pine Harbour did not have a pump-out facility, and that the next closest, Half Moon Bay marina, only had it "by arrangement". Good Friday - no-ones open. The next nearest was Okahu Bay, another 17NM then Westhaven  at 20NM. We tried Okahu Bay, but never found the pump-out station and no-one there knew where it was, So we went on to Westhaven (remember Westhaven?) and duly pumped out a VERY full holding tank, on which the gauge still read empty!!!! By then it was almost 4pm, so we decided to go to Oneroa, arriving to a very crowded bay (I counted more that 120 boats). There was a bit of a NE swell rolling in, about 1-1.5 metres, but long and lazy so the rocking about wasn't too bad. It would have been better up the W end of the bay but it was too crowded to get a good anchorage. 

The following day it was warm enough to warrant a swim and I had been considering why the overboard pump hadn't been working. I figured at first that it may have been blocked at its inlet, and I hoped that the pumpout may have cleared it. But there was also the possibility that it was blocked on the outlet, so I took a screwdriver, went for a dive and poked the screwdriver into the outlet skin fitting. At first there was a bit of resistance as I poked it in and, as I twisted the screwdriver, a lump of something (perhaps oyster shell) fell out of the hole. AS we were getting tired of the swell, it seemed a good time to relocate, and test the pump at the same time. So, we went out the pre-requisite 2km, stopped, and started the pump. The results were immediate and gratifying (to me, anyway), as the water surrounding us indicated positively that the pump was working. We returned to Oneroa and managed to find a good anchorage amongst the other boats and clear of the incoming swell. The rest of the weekend was warm, sunny, pleasant and uneventful. We even had a visit from the scenic flights floatplane who had some trouble weaving his way to the beach to drop off his passengers.

De Plane, De Plane (sorry - I had to say it)




Regrettably, we had to toddle off home on Monday, even though the weather was superb for the next few days. Some people had work to go to, or planes to catch.

We carried out a successful overboard discharge on the way home and I would like to say that that is the end of the holding tank saga, but you may remember in the last post that there was still work to be done on the venting on the starboard side. I shall address that later - enough of the crap for now!

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Dumb and Dumber

Since our roly poly trip back from Barrier we have had a recurrence of problems as described in my post in July last year. Bad smells, self filling holding tank and difficult discharge with the macerator. It came to a head (pun intended) last week when I decided to try the new self-pumpout facility at a Westhaven marina, and found that there was no flow from the deck fitting and a vacuum was being pulled on the holding tank. We stopped the pumpout and disconnected the port vent hose from inside the boat, behind the mirror in the master bathroom. We restarted the pump and emptied the holding tank without further issue, so it was obvious that vents were blocked again. We then repeated what we did last time using a garden hose to flush out the vents to the outside and, yes, they were well blocked.

I had always been wary of the thru hulls (we call them skin fittings) on the holding tank vents because they are of a type that you cannot even see the discharge ports, let alone clean them out from the outside. I decided enough was enough and I would look at replacing them. These are the type, and they seem to be quite common on Silvertons. I checked them out at our local marine store and, sure enough, they have about 8mm (3/8") dia holes in the centre section, which have a fine SS mesh insert!! They look great and are well designed for fuel or water tanks - although I have heard of issues with insects building nests in them. The recessed head and the mesh prevents water ingress into the tanks from the outside but those are precisely the reason they shouldn't be on holding tanks. If you ever get effluent into the vent line (eg from overflowing it), it cannot help but get stuck in the fitting. So that's just plain DUMB

 
So... out came the port fitting and this is what I found

 





















Only one of the 4 holes was clear even after flushing it out with pressure water and there was still an awful lot of crap inside the head The only reason it was still even partially working was that one of the corroded mesh screens must have blown out under the water pressure. 

I found some 1" replacement fittings that were a reasonable match for the other (which is the water tank vent, by the way) - the irony is that the replacements cost $12 each and the original ones were over $50.

 


But wait.....there's more! And its even DUMBER!

As I said earlier, the port vent fittings are easy to get to by simply removing the mirror in the master bathroom. 




The starboard is not so easy as the only access is through a small removable panel inside a locker built into the transom.




 I managed to wiggle my way in and could reach the fittings, but noticed that there was a thick green wire wrapped around them. While it was the size of the earthing (ground) wires, it was not actually wired to anything. Then I found the other end, wrapped around and tied to the 12ft long, 9" diameter exhaust pipe from the starboard muffler to the underwater exhausts. Silverton's very own patented exhaust support system! 



I would like to think the Sophisticated Silverton rear mounting was only supposed to be temporary until a permanent solution was found - which was then overlooked - and not a case of someone's thinking "what the eye can't see the heart can't grieve over". Normally, the exhaust outlet is out the stern quarter on a 453, but mine has underwater exhausts that exit behind the rudders, so there's an extra 3-4ft of exhaust pipe to support as well. That's an awful lot of weight hanging off a piece of wire and two through hulls. Oh, and as you can see, the main exhaust also supports the genset exhaust pipe.


So...I cannot replace the vent until I remove the wire, and I cannot remove the wire until I make a proper support for the exhaust pipe. I have decided to address these issues after Easter, when we intend to go cruising for a week. At least I know one of the holding tank vents is working properly.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Anchors galore

An insurance claim for a replacement anchor was placed, a new 25kg Vulcan anchor was duly ordered and, as it was on 3-4 weeks delivery, we needed another anchor to continue our summer cruising. This was provided by or friends off Taurus, in the form of a 44lb Delta - the same type as our original factory anchor albeit 9lb heavier. We cruised down to Te Kouma Harbour on the Coromandel Peninsular and spent a very peaceful and non-eventful 3 days there. Not that there was a lot of wind.

Sunset at Te Kouma

Same shot - next night - a tad earlier
A couple more weeks went by and a couple of things happened simultaneously. The marine store advised that the Vulcan had arrived, and the insurance company advised that the claim had been approved and that they had ordered the replacement from the same marine supplier. I told them that I had already ordered one and that it had arrived and during the ensuing discussion I discovered that they had approved replacement of, and had ordered, the $6000 SS 50lb plough!! The rationale is that the policy required replacement "like for like" so that was it! This was also on a 4 weeks delivery and, as I had already decided I wanted the Vulcan, I took it as well. So the new SS plough anchor will become a very pretty (and very expensive) spare when it arrives. I will sell the original 35lb Delta that came with the boat as it is near new and of no use to me at all now.

We picked up the new Vulcan and took it down to the boat. Here's what it looks like and how it compares to the borrowed 44lb Delta



It fitted neatly in the bow roller (just like the cardboard cut-out predicted) and rolled easily up to lock in place. It is also the first anchor I have had that will deploy and retrieve without having to lift the anchor locker hatch





The first time we used it, in Putiki Bay of all places, it dragged in a strong SW wind. But when I pulled it up I found a piece of cable wrapped around the shank, which probably caused the problem. It also has a slightly different deployment technique to what I had been doing with plough anchors and we have since anchored a dozen or more times using that technique and, boy, does it dig in.

We also did a four day away trip to Kawau with Charlie and Pauline that was very pleasant but brought to a head a couple of long standing issues that need to be addressed. One is the holding tank ventilation, the other is battery charging, and they will be the subject of separate postings.



Sunday, 31 January 2016

What a drag

After a week at home recovering from the Barrier debacle, we decided to give it another go as the weather was forecast to turn better. We invited Aunty Lyn along for a week or so cruising around Waiheke and, as the tail end of Cyclone Una trailed down the East Coast of the North Island forecast to produce 25-35 NE winds, we opted for remaining on the the S side of the island until they blew over. We spent the first night in Putiki Bay, one of our favourites on this side. It is a large but shallow bay with good holding on a mud bottom and sheltered from all winds except due SW. It is not particularly popular with other boaties due to the large number of local moorings and the lack of sandy beaches, but we have anchored there dozens of times without incident. A couple of our G Pier friends were also anchored there adjacent to us, and the first night they dined aboard with us. In preparation for the stronger winds the next day I had let out 25 metres of chain, although we were anchored in only 4 metres of water.

The next morning the wind picked up to the forecast NE 25/35 and we danced around as normal but, after an hour or two it seemed that we were further from our friends than we had been the night before. A couple of hours later it was obvious that we had moved so we lifted the anchor to reposition and found a large plastic bag full of mud wrapped around the anchor shank. Aha!!!! a good reason for not holding! We returned to our original anchoring spot and reset but within an hour it was obvious we had shifted again. We tried another spot nearer the beach and in slightly shallower water - same thing! As it was late in the day, we shifted over to the other side of the bay, which seemed to have more shelter and anchored there. I set the iPad to track us and by dusk we had dragged back around 50 metres. However as the rate was so slow and we had a lot of clear space behind us and the wind was supposed to drop, we remained where we were for the night. Sure enough, I checked in the morning and we had dragged a further 50 metres


Fortunately, the forecast was now for light winds for the next 4-5 days so we continued on down to the "bottom end" of Waiheke and into Man O War Bay - another one of our favourites (lots of mussels on the wharf piles for mussel fritters). We dropped anchor and heaved a sigh of relief as I felt it dig in and pull the boat up hard. We spent an incident free night in light winds and departed the next day for a days fishing. On retrieval, we found the anchor well embedded and had to drive over it to break free of the bottom - quite a common occurrence with this ground tackle.

After a moderately successful trip, we returned to Man O War and dropped anchor in roughly the same place as we had left that morning. The anchor would not bed. We tried again - same thing. We shifted a little and tried again - no luck. On the fifth attempt the anchor finally dug in, but with nowhere near the same ferocity as the previous night. About now I remembered that we had had trouble anchoring and holding the bottom at the Barrier as well, and I had put this down to the strong and blustery wind conditions over there. I then came to the realisation that all these problems had surfaced since our tangle with Taurus on New Years Day and our ground tackle, that had never let us down before even in extreme conditions, was now unreliable - and there had to be a reason!

The following day was windless and flat calm, so we pulled up the anchor (which came up far too easily for my liking) and travelled out to deep water so I could examine it. We pulled it onto the deck and, sighting down the shank, we could see that it was no longer straight, but slightly curved. Obviously when Taurus first hooked our anchor chain and pulled us out of the bottom, the sideways pressure on the shank had caused it to bend, and this had been enough for the anchor to no longer set properly. We swapped the anchor for the 35lb Delta that had come with the boat, but rarely (if ever) used - it still had the "made in China" sticker on bottom of the flukes. Curiously, it also came with a galvanised swivel attached to the shank with what appeared to be a non removable clevis pin. I already had a swivel on the chain, but could see no way to get the other one off, so I attached it to the chain with a standard shackle. Although grossly undersized for the boat I figured this anchor would probably be more reliable than the damaged 48.5lb SS plough, particularly since only light winds were forecast for the rest of our stay out.







We stayed out another 3 days using the Delta in a number of different anchorages, although in much lighter winds, without any setting or dragging issues. Ironically, we spent our last night back in Putiki Bay in  the same spot that we had dragged on our second day out. When I came to pull the anchor up I was horrified to see that the clevis holding the swivel to the anchor shank was halfway out, and the anchor was about to fall off. Fortunately I managed to get it  fully home and lashed to the forward cleat without the pin falling out completely.


At first I thought it had sheared off, but when I removed the shackle and inspected it, I found that there was no means of locking the clevis to the swivel. There was a hole through it for a split pin, but the shaft of the clevis only came flush to the outside of the swivel so the hole for the pin was inside it. Furthermore, I am sure that the outside end of the clevis was galvanised over, making me think it had been welded in place and therefore non-removable. It would appear that it was only held in place by the "interference fit" of a cut off section of split pin





Spooky eh!

Well, we're safe and sound back home again and I have been looking around for a replacement anchor. Amazon still sell the one that I got in Kenosha, albeit $50 more than I paid in 2012, but won't ship to NZ (mind you imagine the shipping cost of a 48.5lb anchor to here). The local equivalent SS plough is a tad under $6000, so its out of the question. After researching them out, I have decided to go for the new Vulcan anchor, from the makers of the famous Rocna. According to the website, it is as reliable as the Rocna and was  designed to fit into boats with bowsprits (or "anchor platforms" as they call them) such as Loopy Kiwi. They also have available full size templates on their website so you can make up a cardboard cutout and see if it will fit. This is the one for the 25kg (55lb) anchor that I intend to fit.


Weird looking huh! I'll let you know how it works out.


Saturday, 9 January 2016

El Nino and the Barrier

Great Barrier Island is a large island at the entrance to the Hauraki Gulf, approximately 40NM from Auckland City. It is a popular destination for boaties in summer as its most visited harbour , the fiord-like Port Fitzroy, is well sheltered, deep and provides good anchorages for many boats. The downside to the "Barrier", as it is commonly known, is that you have to cross the Colville or Craddock Channels to get there. Both of these Channels are subject to strong currents and, under adverse conditions such as wind against tide, even relatively light winds can turn them into washing machines. Many overseas visitors report that some of the worst seas they encounter on their trans-Pacific voyagers, are near the Barrier.

Our son, Adam, lives on Great Barrier at Tryphena, the largest population area of the islands 750-odd inhabitants. There is a regular ferry service from Auckland City, but Tryphena Harbour is exposed to winds from S through to NW and there are very few sheltered anchorages from winds in these directions that haven't been taken over by local moorings. However we had committed to joining him to celebrate Christmas day and departed on the 18th December with the intention of spending the next 2 months cruising the Barrier, the East Coast of Coromandel to Mercury Bay and returning to Auckland via Coromandel Township and the "Bottom end" of Waiheke - these destinations are shown in red circles on the following map


As the entire world knows, we are currently in a Global "El Nino" weather pattern. In NZ, this usually manifests itself as "windy and dry" in the South island, and very windy and wet in the North - so we were a little sceptical on how well our plans would pan out. It was blowing SW when we departed, around 15-20kts, but when we arrived at Oneroa, our first overnight anchorage, this picked up to 25-30kts remaining through the next day as well. The following day we moved to the bottom end of Waiheke (5NM closer to Tryphena) to wait for a weather window for a safe crossing. We tried fishing but it was too blustery to drift fish,which is the only method I have found works in the particular place we were. On the second morning, we were greeted by a pod of around 12 dolphins that came in for breakfast and cavorted around us for over an hour.

video

After 2 days of gusty SW winds we got a lull on the 23rd which according to the forecast, would be the last opportunity to cross before Boxing day, at least. It turned out to be a pleasant voyage and we pulled into Tryphena around midday. The following day, Christmas eve, was awful with the winds gusting 35kts from the SE, which causes a nasty beam-on roll to set up from the Colville Channel. Christmas day started out the same, but moderated once we went ashore to enjoy Adam's excellent 5 course Degustation lunch with all the trimmings. The roll was still there when we returned, so we moved to a small bay around the corner and had a comfortable night.

The next few days were forecast to be 10 - 15 kts, so we used the opportunity to scamper up to Port Fitzroy in superb conditions, where we were joined by Adam and Peter for a few days of calm, sunny weather, and caught up with friends from our marina - Chrissy and Bob on "Taurus".

Heading up from Tryphena

The "Broken Islands"

Looking back towards Tryphena

The tip of the Coromandel Peninsular

Through the Broken Islands

Approaching Man O War Passage

Port Fitzroy


Warrens Bay

Our G Pier Friends - Taurus

Kiwiriki Bay


Although it doesn't really show in the pics, there were a LOT of boats in Fitzroy, and every night, every anchorage was full. Not such a problem in light conditions, but on the day before New Years Eve, the first Gale warning was issued by MetService - E35-50kts. This had many boats crowding into sheltered bays and we took up anchorage in Warrens Bay amongst about 50 others. The first strong winds and torrential rain hit around 10pm and by midnight were howling way in excess of 50 knots. 2 yachts (sailboats) nearby began to drag anchor and had to relocate. I had set the track feature on the iPad Navionics app, and it had drawn a "smiley face" as the boat swung through an arc on the anchor. I knew that as long as the icon signifying the boat was on the smile, we were still holding anchor, and this it did while I sat watch until dawn. By then the wind had eased to around 40kts and I figured if we hadn't dragged by then we wouldn't now, so I went below to get some sleep. A few moments later I heard a roar of engines nearby and got up to find Taurus driving furiously against a howling gale of over 60kts trying to get  his anchor up as another sailboat had dragged back against him.  To maintain steerage he had to motor forward with his anchor still partly deployed and his anchor dropped over my chain and caught on it. Suddenly he was alongside, then behind, but tethered to our bowsprit and his chain running under our hull, endangering our props, shafts, rudders and underwater exhausts. To avoid absolute calamity required extracting his 33kg (75lb) Rocna anchor with a 50cm (15") blade from over our anchor chain. All the while 50ft of chain and 19 tonne of Taurus were trying to keep it there. I could only reach it by lying prone on the bowsprit, hanging over the side and lifting it towards me. I got it on the second try - I don't know how - but I had the bruises on my chest, arms and lower body for a week afterwards to prove it wasn't easy. Here's a pic of the track on the iPad showing the saga as it unfolded. The smiley mouth is the overnight track and the zigzag is where Taurus pulled us out and we swung around trying to get uncoupled. Finally, we got away, retrieved our anchor and got the hell outa there.



From New Years Day, boats began to leave the Barrier. We stayed on in the hope that the weather would moderate - it didn't! After 3 more Gale warnings and uncomfortable days and nights where you couldn't leave your boat, or go for a swim we decided that enough was enough and left on 6th January for home at 5.45pm. The wind was supposed to be easing to E10kts, but crossing the Colville Channel it was gusting 25 giving a lumpy 2m (7ft) beam sea with the occasional 2.5m (9ft). Part way out we decided that our usual 9kt cruise was too uncomfortable so we picked it up to 17kts and cut the crossing time in half. Originally we intended to stop over at an outlying island for the night, but as we got closer we decided the marina was a better idea and arrived home at 10pm.


There's the route.....we stayed on the boat 2 more days at the marina before coming home for a break. In the 21 days we were out, there were 3 days where the wind was below 10kts. There were 3 days where it was above 50. The rest were between 15 and 45, with the majority above 20. Since we have been at home the weather has not improved.

El Nino sucks