Australia, Destinations, Oceania, Sailing

Boat Work Galore

It has officially been four months since I posted and five months since we bought our beautiful boat, Avalon. What have we been up to during our radio silence? Well, I am here to tell you that boat ownership is most definitely not all sunsets, cocktails, and white sand…alas our current experience is a bit more boat work, other work, and a bit less diving, sailing, and general fun than hoped, but that will change.

So where to begin? Last I wrote, Kane and I had just gotten Avalon down to Mackay (and survived our first solo passage) where we left her while we drove 13+ hours south to get Kane to his knee surgery in Brisbane. Less than 24 hours later, once Kane was recovered enough from the anaesthesia to be left to his own devices for a few days, I was headed back to Mackay to help a delivery captain sail Avalon the final 450 nautical miles (nm) down the coast to her berth in Mooloolaba. That was an experience in itself, but as it’s not the point of the post, I’ll leave it at this, all you day sailors out there, beware the night sail.

I burst a blood vessel in my eye from vomiting so much…it went away though after a few days.

Turns out when you can’t see the horizon because it’s dark and you’re motoring dead into the wind as it’s a delivery and the captain can’t be bothered sailing (non sailors: read this as a highly uncomfortable point of not-sail meant to be avoided if at all possible)…well that’s when you regret not taking the sea sickness tablet before you left. Twelve hours of vomiting later, the sun rose on our first day at sea (we left at night), the vomiting stopped, and things improved to the point where the final two days at sea were stunning. We flew the asymmetrical spinnaker, got to briefly see the beauty that is the middle group of the Percy Islands, and crossed the infamous Wide Bay Bar at sunrise on a glassed-off, no swell day. There are things I would do differently than the delivery captain, many things actually given the time to look back on some of his choices, but it was a learning experience that we all survived, so that was good.

Crossing the Wide Bay Bar at sunrise.

We arrived in Mooloolaba in mid-September, and, after a brief celebration of a safe arrival, Kane and I immediately got stuck into 10 days of intense boat work necessary to get Avalon to the point where we could feel confident leaving her for 3-4 months. Cue boat work from sun up to sun down, exhausted overwhelm, and more cleaning, sewing, and fixing than I’d ever done before. Luckily, we decided to take a day’s break from the chaos to head out for a sail with our good friends here on the Sunshine Coast, and, oh man, am I glad we did that. It was a perfect day. The wind was just above a light breeze (brilliant for our Seawind catamaran), the humpback whales were migrating, the BBQ was going, and beers were flowing (responsibly anyway, no one gets inebriated when we are underway, ever, so only one beer every couple hours for those acting as functional crew). I needed that day to remind myself why we do this, what the boat work is for; it is for whale spotting with friends, it is for diving the outer reef, it is for exploring with our home, it is for adventure…eventually anyway.

Sorry guys, ya’ll are great, but Benson definitely wins best crew member.

Then, as September came to a close, we packed up the boat again, put mould preventers EVERYWHERE, begged/bribed our amazing friends to check on Avalon every couple weeks while we were away, and hoped on a plane across the country heading back to…Geraldton.

Avalon all ready for four months on the dock.

Yup, I was as surprised as ya’ll to be back in old dero Gero after only a year, but it made sense. Kane’s knee needed at least 3 months of solid land to recover, we needed to work a bit to recover our finances, and we had friends and family we wanted to see back in WA, so I called an old supervisor from my time as a student, got a job in a less than 10 minute phone call, and Kane called his old boss at the hospital who was thrilled he wanted work again. That is how a mere month into boat ownership we were back working in Geraldton, sans boat. It wasn’t all bad, we got to reconnect with friends (this was definitely the highlight), our finances did recover, and Geraldton’s café scene was still pretty good; but, my work was not great (it was a bad fit, I’ll leave it at that) and we were both just itching to get back to the boat and start the adventure for real. After all, we’d bought the boat! We thought it was finally time to sail it.

Family time was so great to have over the holidays.

After a winter interlude in the US for me (only me, as flights were too expensive for us both to return, and let’s be honest, I was mostly just going to meet my new nephew, who is AMAZING by the way, best baby in the world), we both arrived back on the Sunshine Coast in early/mid January. I was so hopeful we’d get our boat work done in a few weeks, a month maybe, and then we’d throw off the dock lines and go adventuring for real. Well, it’s be a few weeks now and the boat work is no where nearing completion, but we have done a lot and learned a LOT.

I don’t want this post to be too whingey (Americans read this as complain-y), but I also want it to be real, so if I’m being honest, these past 3 weeks of boat work from sun up to sun down with no time for self-maintenance have been hard (I ran once and wrote once in past 3 weeks; no yoga, no meditation, limited healthy eating). We knew boat life would be hard and there would be a lot of boat work, but we never thought we’d be doing so much of it before we even got to sail. I guess it’s just one of those things that you can’t really know until you’ve experienced it (turns out sweating in engine bays, fighting with Sika Flex, and roasting in the summer humidity of Queensland are better teachers than books, YouTube, and blogs).

Boat work, in our experience, is hardly ever straightforward. Little projects have a habit of becoming big projects (just ask Kane about the leak in the galley that turned into a hatch removal and re-seal that turned into a re-glassing and epoxy expedition into fibreglass repair…and that was all before the horrid Sika Flex entered the picture). Simple things are not so simple (like when you go to replace your dinghy, you think it’s a simple sell the old one, buy a new one equation, and then you realise that equation keeps going into a saga of get stickers to register the dinghy as a tender to your big boat, learn that if you dive from the dinghy it needs it’s own registration, go to Department of Transport to register the dinghy, find out you need a stat dec to register it as it was unregistered when we bought it, go back to get that in order, realise you need to pump up the dinghy, figure out the foot pump said dinghy came with is broken, find new pump, succeed in pumping up dinghy, attempt to run the fuel line back under the floor of the dinghy, curse old dinghy owners for removing said fuel line without running a mouse line in its place, spend 3-4 hours in the sun doing painful versions of boat yoga to coax the fuel line back where it needs to go, finally succeed in running it under the floor…only to realise the fuel line is too short and you need a longer one…all this to STILL not be able to use the dinghy as we haven’t made it back to Department of Transport yet with the stat dec to register it).

And that’s not even the half of our to do list. We need to fix the life raft location, replace the windows eventually as the leaks we’ve found have been traced to them (cue crying face at cost and time), re-swage lifelines, install the washing machine, source many many things (like automatic fire suppression balls, engine spares, a helm seat, a canister life raft, medicine for med kit, stuff for our ditch bag, etc.), keep investigating and fixing more leaks than you ever thought probable, start (and hopefully finish) a boat load of sewing projects (hatch shades, mosquito screens, couch covers, and more), clean toilet tanks, determine why toilet motor has changed sound from it’s usual throaty gurgle to a high pitched whir, re-commission water maker, investigate and remedy stinky filter smell in bathroom, fix wonky door hinges, find and complete key additional courses prior to international sailing (navigation, offshore survival, offshore medicine), and actually find some time to sail the damn boat and get confident in ourselves, as well as our boat.

Deep breath.

All this boat work will be worth it, it will get done, and we will have our great adventure, we’re just front loading the work to, hopefully, have less problems when the sailing season actually starts (we can’t head north to the best cruising grounds until after May 1st anyway as that’s when our insurance has determined cyclone risk is appropriately small for them to continue insuring us). Until then, we need to stay the course and, maybe, just maybe slow down on the boat work a bit to take care of ourselves as well. Here’s to less boat work and more fun in the future.

9 thoughts on “Boat Work Galore

    1. Lol yup, at this point Kane is getting very comfortable with almost every system on the boat. It will be good for our confidence when we head offshore for us to have this experience 🙏

  1. You guys are amazing – what a fantastic adventure….after all of the work 🙂 Deb, myself and the A frame miss you – it’s not the same without our little American contingent!

  2. Wow! You are learning so much! It sounds like a lot of work. I can’t wait to see you all and your hard work in July😊

  3. Thanks for keeping us in the loop Monica. Do me a favor and check to see if there is a glitch somewhere since I have never received a notice of your blog despite having signed up twice in the last year or so (I just did it again). I only knew about this latest because Regina just told me. Grazie mille, Uncle Dan

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