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

Friday, 29 June 2012

Woodmans and Liquid Saccharin

I have now found a source of liquid saccharin. Woodmans supermarket in Kenosha. They also have Gluten flour and ground flax seed as well as lots of other stuff. What a place - but they don't take credit cards, only debit cards or cash.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

The same but different

Beginning last Friday, the marina (or at least our pier anyway) underwent a metamorphosis. Boat  owners began to arrive and adorn their boats and the dock with all sorts of interesting paraphernalia. Out came the planters (some of them with real plants) umbrellas, deck chairs, barbies…and by Saturday morning the pier looked more like an outdoor restaurant than a marina.

Each time we would depart on our foraging trips, we would wind our way down through the friendly crowds sitting on their “porches” by their boats. On Saturday night we were invited to join our nearest group and took the opportunity to investigate the protocols and equipment necessary to participate in such activities. On Sunday Carolyn went and bought  all the paper plates, plastic cutlery etc, and of course the folding deck chairs with the little built in table, so are now ready to party with the best of them....just like G pier at Westpark. In fact if the piers at Westpark were as wide as here, I could imagine it looking just like this.

On the subject of foraging, we seem to oscillate between Walmart and a supermarket named Pick N Save. One thing we have found, foodwise, is that you need to be very careful reading the nutritional data on US packaging and almost everything processed here contains sugar. Unlike NZ where nutritional values are given per serve and per 100 grams of product, here it is only per serve. This has caught Carolyn out a number of times when she has bought products that state, say, 10 grams of sugar when the serving size is only 22 grams. Thus the product is nearly 50% sugar. The other thing to watch for is the clever ways that the manufacturers disguise the truth without actually lying about it. I particularly liked ‘dehydrated cane syrup” and “cane syrup solids” as ingredients on products in the natural or organics sections of supermarkets……..it sounds so much healthier than “sugar”.

In Walmart I couldn’t find a single jar of peanut butter that didn’t contain sugar (I have since found some at Pick N Save), but I did find this little gem. Waldon Farms Whipped peanut spread. According to its label, it has as much nutritional value as a glass of water – 0 calories, 0 carbs, 0 fat, 0 cholesterol. According to its ingredients it contains, amongst other things “ Purified water, roasted peanut extract, corn starch, xanthine gum and vegetable fibre (Sawdust, maybe)”. Still it tastes a bit like peanut butter, and if you eat nothing but it you would starve to death (allegedly).

I love this place!!!!!!

I have decided that fitting the inverter myself was getting into the too hard basket. It would be easy to buy the wrong wiring, or too much or too little, so I decided to get the local marine electrician to come and do it. He had a few issues at first with how I wanted it done, as he would do it differently, but once he understood what the design critieria were, he seemed happy enough to do it my way. Mind you, that was three days ago and I haven't seen him since!. The outboard went off to the local Mercury dealer and came back fixed. As I suspected, the carburettor was gunged up and fter a good clean out it works fine. We weht off for a wee tutu around the marinain the dinghy yesterday, but not before Norman, our neighbour and an ex USCG captain loaned us all the safety gear that you have to carry round in a dinghy to undertake such a perilous voyage over here. Last night the name "Urban Legend" was removed from the boat, so we are currently a "boat with no name". I shall try to get Loopy Kiwi put on by the weekend.
It is warming up again. Yesterday got to 94F (35C) in town, but at the lakeside the breeze keeps us a lot cooler. Now I can open the side windows in the salon (I doubt they had ever been opened either) the boat stays a lot cooler inside. We ran the aircon in our stateroom last night and it worked perfectly - it appears that cleaning the filters was all that was needed. There were two heat related deaths up in Milwaukee yesterday and its supposed to be hotter today.

We pumped out the holding tank and flushed it out last weekend. It was not full, but the gauge still showed empty. Despite my rushing around and listentening for sucking or filling noises during the process, I still have no idea where the tank is located, or how to get to it. After that we took the boat round for a wee run to Kenosha harbour. Part way up was a fixed bridge that we sidled up to but hen turned around as we didn't know what clearance it had and it looked quite low. It turns out it had 21ft so we should have got under it OK with the VHF aerial down but, boy, it looked low.

Till next time

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Getting to know you

Since my last posting it has been unbearably hot here.......35 degrees and humid and 25-ish at night and still humid. To make matters worse, the aircon in our cabin hasn't been working and it has been getting up to 30 at night in there. I never thought that aircon was a necessary part of boating, but here it is! Apparently the temperatures are breaking all kinds of records right across the country. It has also been BITO from the SSW, which here makes it hotter, so we have just been out shopping every day to stay in the cool stores, and have become one of Walmarts most valued customers over this week.

On Wednesday I finally had enough of asking my computer to do something, then having to go away for 10 minutes while it considered my request, so I lashed out and bought a new laptop (from Walmart, of course), and everything happens so much quicker now. We have bought tools and cooking utensils and cutlery and all sorts of stuff, and yesterday bought the wireless printer to go with the new laptop for $49 (from Walmart, of course).

It has also been a time of exploration, not only of the vicinity, but also the boat. It is a big boat with lots of gear and many places are hard, if not impossible, to access. This is made more difficult by the boat’s layout turning out to be quite different from the layout drawings in the manual and from Hilary and Berts 453 over in Lake St Claire. For example, I have deduced that the holding tank must be under the master bed from where the pipes run, but do you think I can find a way to get to it? While this may seem trivial, the problem is the gauge that tells how full it is ain’t working, so I can’t tell when we need a pump out.

I have found the fresh water tanks are under the bed as well, even though the manual says they are supposed to be under the guest bed, up forward.

Today its a lot cooler and I have been able to get out and check out a few more things on the boat, beginning with the aircon. I reckon the intake filters have never been cleaned since the boat was launched. They were just thick with dust and hopefully this will be the cause of the poor peformance. We got to check out the central vac to clean them and that works OK. The washing machine wont take in any cold water, only hot. I think the cold hose is kinked behind the machine, so it will have to come out to free it up (or at least check that it’s OK). One of the shower sump pumps for the master shower (there are 2) didn’t work and was gunked up like you wouldn’t believe! I cleaned it out and off it went, which is just as well because I would have had to take the other one out to clean or service it. We have taken to using the shower in the guest bathroom as the spout on the bath leaks during use and the pressure at the showerhead is kind of abysmal. I will either take it of and see if I can fix it, or just remove it altogether as I can’t see us ever having a bath on this boat!
One of the bilge pumps operates continuously on “manual”, so its float switch must be jammed. The windlass hadn’t worked since we started, but today I took a closer look with my glasses on at the circuit breaker......... and turned it on. It works now (duhoh)!

I put the outboard on the dinghy today, as well. I had bought new fuel for it in Mlwaukee as I suspect it was the original tankfull when it was bought 2 years ago. It looks like it hasn’t been run much since then and, of course (but not surprisingly) it won’t start.

And we haven't even started on the planned projects, like the namechange, inverter, anchor replacement etc , yet.


PS This was written last night but we had a few teething problems with new laptop vs WiFI (another learning experience). We went to a West Marine store in Winthrop Harbor for marine bits today and I also visited a couple of music stores as I am starting to suffer from guitar withdrawal. Carolyn did Walmart again. I still don't know where the holding tank is, or how full it is, so discretion being the better part of cowardice, we will go to the fuel dock and pump out tomorrow. It is still pleasant, but overcast.

Monday, 18 June 2012

We’re here

No WiFi for a few days so this is a chronical of the trip till we get to it.

Wed 13th June.

After 3 hectic days of final preparation, we departed for the airport with our son Adam, who also kindly promised to return to our home and finish all the things that we had run out of time to do. We were taken in their motorhome (RV) and enjoyed a glass or two of bubbles on the way. Lyn left at the same time with Woody, who will be a farm dog until we return.

We got our upgrade to Premium economy and the new seats on Air New Zealand’s Boeing 777-300 are excellent – not quite as luxurious as the beds in Business, but not a bad substitute. The plane was full, so we appreciated the extra room. Security on departure were a little curious about some of the items in my carry-on luggage but when I explained we were going boating in the USA, they understood and were just concerned if I had a scanner with me. After a 12 hour flight, we arrived in LA on time and 6 hours before we left, courtesy of crossing the date line. We passed through immigration after explaining what we were visiting for but when we got to the baggage claim, I checked the entry stamp and they had only given us until 12 December to estay – 6 months. Since our return flights to NZ are for 6th January, we need at least 7! We returned to immigration and queried this and the man went and checked with his supervisor. The answer came back as” we give 3 months on Visa Waiver Scheme, and 6 months on a Visa.”, and with a stern look he added “make sure you leave before then”. Since these guys have sole say on the matter, I knew it was no use arguing that they have the discretion to give longer if they want. They obviously arrive at work each day and set their VWF stamp to 3 months and their Visa stamp to 6, and they ain’t gonna change that for just a couple of people coming through who want different from the tens of thousands of other travellers. I can understand that, but it now means we have to apply for an extension, or leave the country temporarily to get an extension on our return. Capt Pete – if you’re reading this, I remembered you warned me this might happen at LAX. We may just have to pop into Canada for a day around July 6th while we are up in this neck of the woods.

Thu 14th
Security at LAX were not quite so curious for our flight to Chicago, but as we checked in I was charged an extra $35 for one of my bags. No matter how I protested that the United flight was a continuation of an international one and the same bag limits should apply, it fell on deaf ears and United Airlines scored another unentitled $35. When we got to the gate, we discovered that our flight had been delayed by an hour, which turned into 2 by the time our plane finally arrived. It was packed, and we were WAY down the back, and by the time it arrived it was full of people with very tight connections. As a result it was an hour before we got to the Bus and Shuttle centre to get our hotel shuttle and very late by the time we got to the hotel. We just had a meal and crashed. On opening one of my bags (the $35 one!), I found that TSA had taken a lot more interest in the contents of that one, with this card sitting on top. However nothing was missing, seized or broken and I’d rather the inconvenience of the TSA searching through dodgy looking bags, than the alternative…

Fri 15th

After a shuttle ride back to the Airport Bus and Shuttle Centre, we caught the Wisconsin Express bus to Milwaukee. We arrived at the drop-off downtown at 12.30 and immediately got a cab to Harborside. When we arrived, there she was hanging on the crane about to be launched. I quickly borrowed a tape measure and measured from the “tide mark” to the ground and the ground to the bottom of the prop, and calculated the difference as 4’6” – or actual draft. We then went to lunch as they washed the hull sides, and from the restaurant across the river we saw her being swung out and lowered into the water. By the time we got back, they were washing the topsides so by the time we were ready to start loading she was lovely and clean. John Niemann, the broker, came aboard and together we “re-commissioned”  the boat and made sure all the important stuff, like the genset, fridges, freezers and aircon all worked (oh – and we fired up the engines for a while as well). This took several hours as there is an awful lot of stuff on a 453, and there was still a lot that was going to take a lot of investigation and reading of manuals to get to understand.

At 5.00pm-ish John left and we decided we should go for a look for some provisions to tide us over until we got to Kenosha and a rental car on Monday. We consulted Carmen (our Garmin GPS we bought on the boat buying trip) who told us there was a grocery store about 1.1 miles away. So off we went with a shopping trolley from Harborside looking like a couple of bag people. Carmen must have given the distance as the crow flies, because we seemed to walk for miles before we found the store, which turned out to be a Mexican mini mart. We loaded up our trolley with all sorts of stuff, including a frying pan and other cooking utensils so we could cook dinner when  we got back, and wended our weary way home. By the time we arrived it was getting towards dark and to top it off we found there were no eating utensils aboard – not even a plastic knife and fork. Fortunately, I had brought one of the Alaskan Ulus that I bought on our last cruise (I use one a lot at home and I figured they might be hard to get in Wisconsin) so we could slice up some cheese and tomatoes and have a sandwich. Very warm evening, so we had to run the aircon (just to try it out – honest).

Sat 16th

Up early as a tech from Harborside was coming at 7.00pm to do an oil/filter change on the engines and genset. I wanted to observe as I have never used an auto oil changer and wanted to see the procedure. I also got him to repair a small oil leak in the injector pump that was picked up by the surveyor as I don’t have any tools yet and wanted it fixed before we headed for Kenosha. I decided to go for a walk to see if I could find a phone store and somewhere to buy cutlery and after wandering around downtown Milwaukee for several hours, I only managed to pick up a couple of plastic knives and forks from a market place sandwich stand. By this time it was pouring with rain and by the time I got back to the boat it was not good for going out on the lake, particularly since I was still somewhat unfamiliar with the navigation equipment, so we decided to stay in Milwaukee until tomorrow. Instead I spent all afternoon going through the equipment and manuals until I had an insight into how it all worked, and identified all the various bits and pieces that came with the boat. The only item that has me (and everyone else I have spoken to is this little remote control that was bundled with the yacht controller and power cord retractor remote. I have been through all the manuals and cannot find a reference to it. If anyone knows what it is, I would love to hear.

Sun 17th (Fathers Day here)
Beautiful clear sunny morning. After a late breakfast we decided to leave for Kenosha and, since both fuel gauges were reading E (for enough???) we figured we should fuel up before departing. We flashed up the engines, cast off and tutued down the river to look for the fuel dock – only to find it was back on the same wall we had just left, about 50 metres in front of where we had stayed for 2 days! Still, it was good to practice manoeuvring. We put 150 gallons in the port tank and got to 48 in the starboard before they ran out of fuel. We figured it was enough to get us down the lake and off we went, listing a bit to port. Out on the lake the wind was a southerly about 12 -15 knots and there was about a 2 ft chop. We cruised down to Kenosha at 17 knots and arrived around 3pm. We had been given berth 410 by the marina when we rang yesterday, but on arrival there was a jetski parked in the berth. A couple of folk on the dock moved it for us and I backed into the dock while standing on the landing board, really impressing the locals with the performance of the Yacht Controller. The next issue was that by the time we were secure, we found the marina office had closed at 1pm so, although we could leave the dock, we had no way of getting back through the gate. So we finished off the last of the supplies from the Meximart and settled down to watch TV and check our emails (WiFi and cable….yay!!!!).

Mon 18th

Up at 7.00 after a cool, calm night where we didn’t need the aircon. I went over to the office and registered with Molly, who had arranged our dock and who was frantic to contact us as 410 has actually been already allocated to another client who was due anytime. We were given 522 instead and figured we would put the other 100 gallons of fuel in the starboard tank and even the boat up.  We agreed that I would go and pick up the rental car and do a little shopping before coming back and moving the boat. Hertz came and picked me up and took me to the car, where all the conditions on the quote were honoured – all insurances were included in the rental price, and the agent was quite surprised when I told him that his competitors charged them as extra. By the time we got back from shopping at 2.30, having bought out Walmart (but with $9.88 prepay cellphones in hand) it was blowing a 40mph Southerly and stinking hot – 92 degrees F (33C). Molly figured the dock wouldn’t be needed today – anyone out on the lake would be nuts! – so we’ll do the change tomorrow. There is a storm advisory out for tonight, with the chance of tornadoes a bit north of here but hopefully it will calm down overnight.

I will try posting this now.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

The last post

Not the bugle call for fallen comrades….. just the last opportunity I will have to put up a post before D-Day. It will be quick note with reflection on the planning and preparation process.

“Just do it” they all say. This is all very well if you live in the same country and/or your boat is a few miles, or states away. Even then, I have noticed from those that blog, the new Loopers who live close by never actually seem to get away on the dates they anticipated anyway. From halfway round the world preparation is that much more daunting and time just flies by like you wouldn’t believe.

Should we have taken longer to prepare? I don’t think so, and as I said on an earlier posting, we’d probably have been in just as much turmoil on departure if we had had an extra 2 weeks or even months, for that matter. And at our stage of life the guy with the black hoodie and scythe is standing way too close to delay anything on one’s bucket list for too long.

Should we have committed to a date so early? Absolutely!! Committing to a date and subsequent travel arrangements is a huge inducement to avoid procrastination. To not set a date invites the possibility of it all getting too hard and putting it off until the “time is right”, which may result in never doing it at all.

Would I do it differently, knowing what I know now? Quite likely, but then at the beginning I didn’t know what I know now, so it’s of little consequence anyway.

In two more days we’ll be off and “just doing it”. Great Loop, here we come!

Monday, 4 June 2012

I swear I didn’t know

Propspeed is a New Zealand made product!!!!!

For some obscure reason I always assumed it was made in the USA, hence the price of it here (dearer) versus the price of it there (cheaper). I had further assumed that some lucky NZ importer had discovered it and got sole distribution rights so he could maximize the price by selling it only through “approved applicators”. All this was dispelled when I read a posting on the blogsite of “Last Dance” (http://mvlastdance.blogspot.co.nz/2011/03/day-one.html) and further investigation on the net. So There y’go – small wonder the stuff is so good.

And on that subject, the owner of Last Dance took this pic showing his prop and shaft. He was planning to replace the props so he had not coated them with Propspeed, just the shaft. As you can see if you blow the pic up, the prop is covered in barnacles, the shaft is clean. Take note anyone who thinks that barnies don’t grow on working surfaces like prop blades. They grow anywhere and will affect your speed, fuel economy and overall performance more than any other thing, and in an amazingly short period of time.

So now there is one further reason to use Propspeed other than its characteristics. It is New Zealand made and we need the money!

From the above, you will appreciate, however, that I have no pecuniary interest in the product, neither was I just being patriotic in my ravings about Propspeed. I am just a satisfied user .

 I swear I didn’t know! 

(8 DTG)

Friday, 1 June 2012

Ease and appreciation

One of the bloggers I am following finished off his latest post with a saying: “If things come too easy, they’re not appreciated as much”. On that basis our imminent arrival in the USA to start Looping will be the most appreciated thing we will have done in many a long time!!

Since my last posting, the well-oiled planning machine has found itself lurching from one crisis to the next whilst plummeting at an ever increasing speed towards D-day (Departure day) - now a mere 11 days away. Firstly, while taking our friends Charlie and Pauline out for a day final trip on Kindred Spirit, we discovered that the propeller shaft seals (which I had replaced last year while the engine was out) were leaking….profusely. Investigation resulted in the discovery that the engine was misaligned to the point it had destroyed the new seals ability to prevent the boat from remaining watertight – which is not a good thing when you are trying to sell it or plan to go away for a long time with it still in the water. After several weeks “discussion” with Cummins (who had put the engine back in after fixing it last year) accepted their “oops” and appointed a local engineering company to remedy both the alignment and the leak. This required the boat to be lifted out of the water and was finally completed yesterday. For the engineering-oriented amongst you, the alignment was out by 3mm sideways and 1mm vertically and 11/1000ths of an inch out of parallel, so the propeller shaft was rotating oval by a significant amount. (funny how a metric country still uses thousandths of an inch as a minor engineering measurement….but I digress!). This not only distorted the seals to the point that they became useless, it also stretched the polymer coupling between the transmission and propeller shaft to the point that it had to be replaced. Cummins refused to pay for it, citing that it was old and was probably failing due to wear and tear as much as misalignment. In the absence of sufficient time to argue, and to prevent further delay and the additional cost of keeping KS out of the water, I coughed up the $560 for the coupling and my respect for Cummins and their engines has now declined even further. I am now no longer as disappointed as I was that Silverton took the Volvo engine option instead of Cummins, when they built “Loopy Kiwi”.

The only upside was that we got a good look at KS below the waterline and could see that everything was still hunky dory before we depart. We also got to replace the zinc anodes so that she stays protected from corrosion while we are gone (or till she sells, anyway). We also got to check on how the Propspeed on the running gear was holding up after a year of immersion, and it looked like it had just been applied. Great stuff that Propspeed.

However also during this time, the sale we had for Carolyn’s Kindy, timed superbly to coincide settlement with our departure, fell over with no alternative offers in hand. The resultant panic in setting up a management structure in absentia (while we ain’t here) has preoccupied Carolyn to the extent that Loop planning, and any excitement or anticipation thereof has become quite secondary and somewhat inconsequential. At the time of writing this, a contingency (sort of) plan is (sort of) in place, but we’re not holding our breaths while we wait for it to be resolved completely. Not yet, anyway.

It’s a long weekend this weekend…Queens birthday, where we celebrate the birth of our Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II (yep – she is ours as well!!), even though it’s not the actual date. It is considered the last boating weekend before winter and this year it’s forecast to be a nice one so we would normally be off in Kindred Spirit with all our boating buddies to some quiet anchorage to relax. Instead, tomorrow we will be having a major garden cleanup with our Gardener. Last year when we did this, it resulted in 1.2 tonnes of garden waste being taken to the tip in Woody’s big red Van. If there was ever a reason to live on a boat, this is one of the best. I hate gardening with a passion….you cut it all down and it just grows back again (which is why we have a Gardener).

On a positive note, I have ordered our AGLCA burgee, joined up with BoatUs, ordered the inverter from Amazon.com to be delivered to the boat and have qualified for an Active Captain hat. For the uninitiated, you can only get a hat if you supply information to the website, such as anchorage info, updating existing data and writing reviews, for which you get points. When you get 250 points, you qualify for a hat. The hat tells people like Marina owners that you might write a lot of reviews - so they better treat you good! That's the theory, anyway.

I can’t help but wonder if perhaps we should have allowed more time to prepare and so avoided the last minute crises which will have us feeling that there is still unfinished business when we fly out on June 13th. However logic tells me that even if we had had more time, the circumstances would probably be no different then to what they are now.