Saturday, May 30, 2009

Planning for a different world

Sure, when we are actually out in that world we intend entering, we will find so many notable differences that it will be impossible to describe them. But in our preparations to get going, there are a couple of things that hit us every day (time and again!) that are notable for having been left behind in Pretoria: space and control. Thinking back on our lives there, space was never a consideration if we wanted to buy something (as in “shall we buy that tin of tuna? Well, no, because… there is NO SPACE for another tin”) and we seemed, in the main, to be in control of our lives (as in: “what shall we do tomorrow?” and we were generally able to make it happen). How these things have changed…

We decided to prepare a plan for up to 6 months away, assuming little opportunity to replenish many stores (but assuming… and desperately hoping for… many chances to get fresh foods): what a challenge! While there are articles on the web where others have given guidelines, at the end of the day it all comes down to personal choice and needs, and other peoples’ articles give opportunity to scan through and hit the alarms when you see an item you have forgotten about.

This is how we set about doing it… First, we listed everything in our (Pretoria) house and used that as a base to draw up a list of home-type things required to equip our home-on-the-sea. Next, we learned how to sail, in the process learning from how we ate on the boat and finding out what technical stuff is required peculiar to this industry (from extra large sponges for the bilges to electronic chart-plotters to lists of boat spares….) then we did extensive research to find the best type of thingie for the job and what other things sailors recommend as necessary.

A recent monitoring of our consumption gave us an idea of what quantity of muesli / toilet rolls/ cleaning products we use monthly (which produced some scary numbers); this was expanded to a spreadsheet for foods and another for general consumables on a monthly basis which then provided a base for the “what to buy for 6 months” column.

The resulting list of only kitchen-type stuff is 100 plus, from aprons through egg-boxes (when you buy eggs up north you must take your own carriers) to water filters.
The list of yacht-specific things contains another 100 plus items. Then there is bedding, linen, towels etc.
The food / drink list has about 180 items on it (including spices, sauces….. anything and everything else that gets consumed). The meats are only 3 items of this (different cuts grouped together)…. and no, the drinks list is NOT the big contributor (see, we KNOW what our “friends” and family are thinking!!!).
The consumables list has 42 items, from batteries to windolene, and that excludes personal toiletries.
The meds lists look like this: 129 different meds (of which we hope to use zero…. except maybe panado for hangover…!), a 21-strong “general” list (from cervical collar to thermometer, and including suture materials and drips and malaria tests) and 22 types of bandage / plaster. Now to find storage space for these… and a sensible stowage and referencing system so that if (when) all the labels come off we know what they are, how much to use…. and what to do!

So how much space do we have for this?
Looking at the photo, our home (the yacht – no longer the car and trailer!) is pretty big compared with our car, so there should be PLENTY of space….. but although there are lots of lockers (big ones, too) there is lots more to store…

We have allocated wet lockers (for things like the second dinghy, second anchor, dive cylinders, drogue, part of grab-bag, spare lines, fenders, foul-weather gear, dive bags …. 25 things in total), other lockers for fishing stuff, day packs, lifejackets, tools, spares, books, clothes, computers, games, binoculars …. and then we must find space for the meds, food and consumables, kitchen appliances, crockery etc.

So now the foodstuff has been restricted to catering for 3 months only, beer will be purchased locally and only whiskey will be kept at 6 months (some re-classified under ‘medical’) …. and we hope there will be space for the rest!

Reflecting on a (likely scenario for a) regular morning at anchor somewhere…. First consider the sea state, the wind, the boat’s needs, your health, officialdom, fishing or diving conditions and the on-shore possibilities on offer (assuming there is some way to find out what these are)…. Now plan your day. Not a lot of pre-planning advised, unless you have learned to cope with plans being shot up (oops, bad wording…. Not referring to the pirates here, ok!?) and dealing with alternatives.

My, but this is different from our previous experiences… and something that is really going to be interesting to deal with! On the other hand, 2009 has been preparing us for this, in that 2009 has exposed us to the yachting industry and as a necessary consequence, the fact that absolutely nothing goes according to plan and there is relatively little that you can do about it except adapt!
The industry anthem is along the lines of “this is yachting …. what can possibly go wrong?” Depending on the tone used and the expression on the speaker’s face, this sentiment appears to cover most situations!

Current Status?
Yet again, we report that there is no firm launch date (long stories, many reasons, many excuses, ho hum) so have renewed our lease on this little place… to find that we may not renew it again after this lease expires (16 June) as the owners are coming to stay. So … it appears we are learning some more about ‘control’ and ‘space’, or lack thereof!

However, we sit back and discuss these things and learn to go with the flow. The mountain is wonderfully calming as are the sunsets (this one from the water on a yacht delivery we helped with recently).

The pirates’ ongoing operations as far south as Seychelles is interesting and at present it appears to be a score in the ratio of Pirates 4: Authorities 1 (sailing is banned in the Seychelles at the moment, due to the piracy). Of course these developments coincided with Rolf having to hand in his various firearms in terms of the new gun license laws. This loss of control of another aspect of life caused Irene to have to endure a medium sized rant and tirade against authorities in general, but on the other hand, playing Rambo against a couple of boatloads of AK47 wielding pirates was never going to end well!

We are spending time getting to know passage planning software and chartplotting software; reading all the pilot guides and books about the Indian Ocean islands, Madagascar and Mozambique and planning where to go….. and more specifically, how to do it in terms of the sea / wind states at that time of year (which time of year? Not sure yet). The islands off the north-west of Madagascar (Nosy Be etc) and the Pemba / Querimba Archipelago / St Lazarus Banks of northern Mozambique are the current focus (and a couple of days at the Bassas da India atoll so that Rolf can catch at least one fish!).

Friday, May 1, 2009

Departure date

Ok, so today is the day that was the outside limit for our departure, by sail, from the Cape.
In our ignorance, our planning was dictated by our contractual arrangement to take delivery of our yacht in February, so we allowed a buffer period of 2 months in which to allow for completion of sea trials, our own boat-familiarisation process and provisioning, then off “before the Cape winter sets in”.

Latest projected departure date? Well, anywhere from the end of June to end of July….. well (or badly!) into the Cape winter!!
Today seems to be an opportune time to share the knowledge and insights gained over the last few months…. into the yacht-building process and industry.

Firstly, Ketoro. She is great! The factory allows free access to owners and we are always impressed with this fact, as well as the state of the factory and all the yachts on the floor, in various stages of build. From the photograph below, you could think that there has been little change since the last blog, but the detail inside the yacht does show progress… and it has made us aware of just how much work goes into building yachts.
It appears to be massively more complex than putting together a house and furniture and some transport in that the yacht must provide for all these needs plus water purification; electricity generation (solar and genset); sail systems; engine propulsion; navigation; communication; fuel, electricity and water storage and management; dive compressor; davits; emergency equipment; etc. all in a small (appropriately structurally reinforced) space and for long periods. The detail in planning and construction is minute and critical, always tempered by the fact that keeping the weight down is really important.

Hence the long time to build and other pre-launch work …. but then why tell us she would be ready in February and then be so very far out in your calculations? Well, it seems this is the Cape, this is the yacht-building industry, this is the construction industry in general…. In fact this is business: get the sale by making the purchaser happy with your proposal and then manage the situation when you do not deliver! As it turns out, the owners of all the other boats on the floor (from SA, Italy, USA) are in the same predicament and no doubt the factory owner is performing a juggling act with everyone’s balls in the air simultaneously… which means fast hands and a large amount of creative speak as he smoothes ruffled feathers… AAARGH!

The photograph below shows what the boat-builder sees from his very nice office as he surveys his floor (Ketoro closest to the window). When the yacht leaves this factory the work will not be over: after it is launched the mast and rigging is put up, then all the systems are tested by the builders and suppliers before final hand-over to the owners.
However, credit where it is due: the quality of the construction, openness to some customisation (which contributes to delays, particularly when overseas customers armed with dollars put in many late requests for add-ons) and open access to owners, compared with other yacht-builders, is excellent. Most other factories do not allow access; many simply turn out identical boats, often with glossed-over defects (particularly those who also build for the charter industry). Some get the boat on the water quickly but then spend months in harbour still finishing off and addressing issues and problems.

So… we wait patiently, as winter moves into the Cape. We feel the chill: believing that we would be leaving now, our supply of winter “town clothes” (as opposed to boat clothes) is sadly deficient (Irene having left most warm jackets snug in a Pretoria storage box). On reflection we were na├»ve to believe that, even if we had been living on the yacht from March, we would have been ready to go now. Man, is there a LOT to do, when one leaves a life behind and embarks on a totally new and different life. It does not help that we tend to be perfectionist so the spreadsheets will be precise when we get onto Ketoro, the computer files will be perfectly sorted, the meds / foods will be labeled, treated and stored just as they should be, the new technology will be mastered, the communication facilities will be the best possible (within the bounds of limited finance), we will have a safe route planned and plotted, French and Spanish will be spoken fluently…. ha, ha! Who are we kidding!? That’s all on our wish list anyway…

We are enjoying finally making contact with other people who are sailors (note that this was NOT expressed as “…. with other sailors”) and marvel at what they have done, what we may have the opportunity to do too and how much we do not know and must still learn! Is it really possible that we will be hopping onto a yacht, calling it home, mastering its use and making decisions on the direction and speed of life based, mostly, on weather?? (.… and dive locations and beer replenishment stops, according to my crew!) Well, we do not know if we are capable of all that… but we are certainly looking forward to finding out! When can we call ourselves sailors? Evidently that title will be earned the first time we first do the ‘finger-tip test’: put your finger in the bilge-water, smell it and taste it to decide if the unwanted fluid is fresh, salty or sewage….. (or diesel or battery acid or spilt food stores) and then fix the leak! So we plan to wait a bit longer for Ketoro and allow them time to do a really good job in ensuring absolutely no leaks.

As our first season is the Indian Ocean islands we are watching carefully the antics of pirates as far south as the isolated and shallow seas between Seychelles and Madagascar. This may crimp the extent of our travelling in 2009 as we try to stay out of the hot spots - and makes the delay in departure more bearable because it looks like we may in any event be confined to a circuit of Mozambique, Bassas, Madagascar, Comores, Mayotte, Pemba (Moz) and back out at the southern end before the cyclone season. We will also while away the next few days researching the alternative passage routes and seasons for Thailand or for South America and the Atlantic circuit to the Med!

Anyone want to join us on this first voyage (and offer their finger) … when we eventually get a departure date?