Dreams on hold … for now

This post is being written from Alice Springs, where we are just about to finish our two week quarantine period. Tomorrow I get to hold my grandaughter for the first time, and be with our family.

Just a quick update: In our last blog, Everything Has Changed, I wrote of our last voyage on Selah before laying her up for the duration of the COVID-19 travel restrictions. At that time, I was still harboring some doubts about our decision. Since then, the constantly evolving restrictions, have all but shut down recreational boating. Details vary between states, but the two-week quarantine rule is being applied universally. This logistically, makes it impossible to move your boat. Most of the live-aboard community have resigned themselves to sitting this out, where-ever they currently moored.Our flight home was surreal. Walking through deserted Tullamarine felt like a scene out of a science fiction movie. However, the experience did reinforce to us the importance of staying at home. Living aboard the boat, we were self-isolating. Maintaining social distancing is impossible on a plane. We were surrounded by people returning from overseas. We Aussies love to travel, but right now, traveling is a risky business. Thankfully, after two weeks quarantine, both Deb and I are not exhibiting any signs of infection.

In the big picture, we are conscious there are others far more deeply affected than us. We are with family, have somewhere safe to live and food on the table. We are looking forward to spending time with our grandchildren. Hopefully I will get a chance to replenish the cruising fund. Selah is safe and waiting for us, under the watchful eye of family and friends in the live-aboard community at the marina.

So now, I return to the building of Selah. As of writing, she is “finished”, if indeed, any boat is ever completed. Anyone who owns a boat knows they are a constant work in progress. Already we have plans for modifications when we return.

This post, however, will be the last in our build blogs series. Thank you to those who have followed our journey over the past four years. Your encouraging comments have lifted us, and helped to give us a sense of community. Building a large boat, can be an isolating experience.

This post covers the time period late December to March 27, and includes last minute jobs we completed at the marina in Launceston, before flying home.

A benefit of joining the Mersey Yacht Club, is access to a very inexpensive haul-out yard. So, even though we had only been in the water for a month, we decided to put her on the hard to finish the last of the jobs that needed to be done to make her seaworthy. This included weaving the trampolines, fitting the internal ceiling insulation and liners, hooking up the VHF radio and completing the house and navigation lighting. The main reason however, was to take the motors off to have their 20 hour service completed by a Yamaha dealer, which is necessary to validate the four year warrantee. The nearest dealer was in Somerset, 90k from Devonport. They were unwilling to travel so we had to transport them to their workshop.

Less than a month after launching we put her on the hard to finish a number of jobs that would be difficult to do on the water.

First on the list was the trampolines. Our friend Peter Newman who keeps a modified Simpson on the river, had suggested a method of fitting the trampolines that we liked. He came up with it after his netting gave way unexpectedly, due to UV degradation.

Peter showing me how to lace up our netting. We used 5mm Yachtmaster rope, stretched between 10mm stainless steel tubing, that is secured to the boat with spectra ties.
It is not the neatest way to make a trampoline, with all the hand-tied knots, but I reckon it is the strongest and most UV resistant solution around. These will not have to be replaced for well over a decade.
First one done, second one well underway. It was one of those jobs that got quicker as we went.

While we were on the hard our saloon cushions arrived. This was a bonus as we did not have to transport the bulky items by dingy.

Deck salon cushions fitted. It was nice to be able to stretch out in comfort.
Tramps done!
This is my brother Paul, the resident family tech-head. He gave us a couple of days before returning to Alice Springs. He fixed some of my wrong connections and got the navigation lights functioning and internal lighting sorted. He also hooked up the masthead antenna and commissioned the VHF radio, including a radio-check with Tas Radio.
We took the motors off to have services by the nearest Yamaha dealer, unfortunately 90K away!
A room with a view. We enjoyed watching the ships come and go. The Mersy is a busy little river. Cat nerds will note Peter’s, Simpson 11 on the left, and a Schionning 13. We were known as the cat-brigade by the locals. 

Upon re-launching, we were approached by the yacht club to display Selah at their annual open day event. We were happy to oblige, as they had been so helpful and welcoming. So instead of returning to the mooring, we tied up onto our allotted space on the yacht club pontoon. We hosted around 40 groups throughout the course of the day, one of which offered to buy her!

Selah all cleaned up and on display for the MYC open day.

After the open day we moved back to our mooring. Next on the agenda was fitting winches and the various blocks for sail control.  All deck fittings need to have backing plates fixed below the decks. These all needed to be coated in epoxy along with the mounting holes. So once again out came the epoxy, gloves and mixing cups.

Poor Deb thought she was done with all the epoxy work. Here she is coating backing plates and fixing holes.

Before we could bend on the sails I needed to set up the lazy jack lines. This involved a trip up the mast, but thankfully only as far as the spreaders.

My first trip up the mast. Thankfully only 4 meters. Later on I’ll need to go to the top to mount the 4G mobile antenna. I’m not looking forward to that. Also seen in this shot, are the roof top sail control lines and fixtures used to control the mainsail.
Setting up the lazy jack lines, fitting the boom bag.
Fitting the main sheet.
Most evenings are completely still on the Mersy, so we set up the Staysail & Genoa at night.

Once the deck gear was installed, sails bent on, and control lines set-up we slipped the mooring and took her out for her first and so-far only, sail. The first job was to check the sails fitted, and the various control lines worked freely. The sails were cut to my dimensions, so there was an element of doubt. Did I get the measurements right? The jibs still had room to tension the halyards, but I was dismayed the mainsail would not tension tight. I noticed however, that there was still plenty of space on the mast. A quick call to Gary Saxby solved the problem. The halyard was terminated with a bulky eye-splice, which jams in the sheeve. The mainsail was cut with 200mm stretch allowance. Gary suggested removing the spice, and using a bowline knot instead. Problem solved. I didn’t have time to start tweaking the lines to eliminate wrinkles, but I was pleased with how the sails set on a first try.

Sails and deck gear all installed, ready for her first sea trial.

My main impression was how easy the sails are to manage. The three sail configuration means that no one sail is overly big. The largest is the genoa, which is on a furler. Personally, I’m not a fan of the fractional rig, so prevalent on modern production catamarans. Frankly, those huge roached mainsails scare me as it seems they would require very careful handling if caught in a squall.


I guess now is the time to write about her sailing performance. The Sarah design, in her standard sail configuration, is a moderate displacement, moderately rigged boat. On our test sail, with a choppy residual slop in 8 to 12 knots of wind, she sat on half wind speed on a shy reach without any tweaking. This was encouraging. I expect to be able to improve those speeds over time. She was close to our cruising weight, having moved aboard some time ago. Our water and fuel tanks were full. With my passage planning, I have been told to plan for an average of 5 knots, but in reality should achieve an average of around 6 knots, over a long passage. There are a lot of variables though. I do not, at this stage have a kite or screecher, upgrades that may be necessary to make the most of lighter downwind conditions.

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Another job completed was the installation of our table. We have elected to mount it on a pedestal so that it can be lowered to form a third double bunk. So far we are happy with it, but I suspect we may need to mount a second pedestal in the future. But for now, we are pleased to be eating on a table instead of our knees!

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The long awaited table.

Not shown in any photographs are the ceiling liners. These were cut from 3mm ply, finished in high gloss. We purchased the sheets, pre-finished from Laminex Industries, through Russell’s trade connections. Each needed to be templated, using the joggle stick method. We also installed lambswool insulation in the cavity space, in the sleeping cabins and forepeaks. This dramatically improved temperature control and eliminated condensation, so we were pleased we went to the effort. It goes without saying, any overhead jobs are a pain, and we were very, very pleased when we screwed up the last sheet!

A shot of the cooktop and stove. Paul mounted some overhead LED strip lights.

When we got to Launceston we had a few jobs to do, to prepare Selah for her hibernation. Top of the list was to fit the shades we had previously sewn back in Devonport but were still needed stainless steel press studs to be fitted. I did a ring around and arranged to visit Foamland, where I could purchase the studs, and they would allow me to use their mounting tool to fit the studs to the cloth. I used 10mm stud screws, bedded in roof and guttering silicone, to fit them onto the windows. $70 all up including hire of the tool, for 60 studs.

Mounting the turret window shades.

A job I had been postponing for some time, was fitting the locking handles onto the forward opening turret windows. There are no second chances with this job. Get it wrong, and the whole window would need to be replaced. It involves drilling a large 15mm hole through the window, to mount the locking handles, then fitting some clamping blocks. Sounds simple enough, but the first time I attempted to do this job (on a test piece of perspex) I was dismayed to see the edges of the hole would chip away during the drilling process. So the job went into the too hard basket, and I went onto other things. Its marvellous what a little experience can do. I have since learned a method of drilling large holes in difficult materials. I raided my drill set and gathered together every drill diameter from 3mm up to the 15mm final drill. After carefully locating the correct position with a template, I started with the small pilot hole, then gradually worked my way up, 1mm at a time, to the large drill. It worked perfectly and was stress-free. Having drilled the holes, I cut some nylon locking blocks and mounted them with M5 x 25mm SS threads that I drilled and tapped to the window frame.

With more time I would have refined the clamp blocks a little better, as they are visible in the main saloon. But, that job can wait until I get back when I will take them off and chamfer the edges.

We still had a list of jobs and we were due to fly out at 6:30 am the next day, so I was relieved the whole job was finished by lunchtime, and there were no unexpected hiccups. Structurally, Selah was now complete. She could be locked up and buttoned-down, ready for her long COVID-19 hibernation.

Window handles & clamping blocks fitted.

After lunch, we removed all the sails. It was sad, given we had only just fitted them, but at least we know they are good to go, when we return.
Our friend Josh, offered to help, which we appreciated. We had the job done in about half an hour. I also removed the boom bag and rolled up the furling lines, storing them all below. I wasn’t sure what to do with the battens, the longest being over 3 metres long, until I realised I could slide them into the boom.
Josh is going to keep an eye on Selah, and also run the outboards every few weeks. We spent half an hour, orienting him on the boat, and her systems. I had previously rung our Yamaha dealer, asking his recommendations for long term storage of our engines. His advice was to keep them on the boat and run them from time to time to keep the battery charged, and the impellers from drying. He also advised treating the fuel with an additive, to extend the shelf life.

The remainder of the day was spent tidying up and attending some other small jobs, preparing her for her long hibernation. Tomorrow morning we fly home to Alice Springs, in the center of Australia, as far as it is possible to be from the coast. Our hearts are heavy. We have not had time to visit our extended family in Tasmaina, most of whom are at risk, should they contract COVID19.

No skipper likes to be so far from his vessel.

All we can do, is put our faith in the One who has guided and provided for us over the past four years.

To all our readers, where ever you are, we wish you all the best. Stay safe, stay at home, and keep dreaming…

Pete & Deb.

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