Welcome to Zenitude’s blog where you can follow us while we travel slow in our Lagoon catamaran. We update this blog frequently when we are cruising to let family and friends know where we are. Check the complete story of our adventures that started in 2006 when Zenitude became our home and cruising our way of life. Graciela and Oscar

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Back on board and almost ready to go

It’s been already a month since we moved back to Zenitude and only now we are almost done with all the projects we had underway.

These are some of the things we have been working on:

Tested the new engines with a 4 hour run at different RPM’s and took several measures. We have gained in speed as expected but currently concerned with the alternator’s behavior as charging batteries seems to go very slow. Volvo confirmed this is standard behavior to protect the batteries. We will need to see how long we’ll have to run the engine at anchor to charge the home battery bank. The old engines didn’t have Volvo alternators and the behavior was a bit different.

Testing engines around Gold Coast Waterways

Installed a separate VHF antenna for the AIS as the splitter that allowed us to share the VHF antenna between the AIS and the VHF radio kept giving us problems all the time. Installing the antenna was easy, passing the cable all the way to the nav. station was a not that easy but eventually we managed.

Installed a Satellite TV antenna and now we can watch and record all the sporting events, watch the news (really?) and lots of movies. Same story, installing the antenna was easy but passing the 2 required coaxial cables from the antenna in the transom to the antenna controller and Foxtel box sitting in the nav. station was even a bigger pain, but again somehow we managed. By now we are quite experienced in passing cables, I can say
The new antenna

Antenna controller and Foxtel box on top of nav. station

Changed several hatches, some of them had sun damage as well as they were allowing water in when hit by heavy rain.

Oscar designed and built a ‘walking trail’ in the bimini under the canopy to make it easier to walk on top of it, this is needed to reach the back end of the boom. 

Installed a new deck table that we haven’t been able to admire so far as it’s been permanently covered for protection while we are continuously working.

Had a new canopy made for the bimini by a fantastic shop in GCCM. It was time to replace the old one and we decided to have it professionally done. They did an exceptional job. They have also done a carpet to go on deck under the table, which also looks great and is very practical. The carpet has a back material that sticks on the floor without the need to put any hardware on deck and it can easily be removed.

The new canopy, very neat

The new table (covered) and the carpet

Upgraded the Raymarine software version. The wind instrument has been behaving strangely lately but there was not change with the upgrade. Contacted Raymarine and it turned out that our serial number was in a list of recalled instruments failing due to the use of inappropriate glue on the instrument itself. Raymarine immediately replaced it with a new one. Unfortunately the problem was not solved. After several tests the conclusion is that either the wind vane in the top of the mast or the cable connecting to the wind vane are defective. We are calling a rigger to take care of this job up the mast hoping that we don’t need to pass yet another cable, this time all the way down from the top.  

Replaced some of the running rigging that was showing signs of damage (main halyard, genoa halyard and topping lift).

We’ve emptied, cleaned and re-organized at least half of Zenitude’s storage places, found stuff that we’ve forgotten we had and got rid of things we haven’t used for years  to make room for new stuff desperately needing a place to stay. 

Fixed many of the damage caused by people coming to work on board, the best way to avoid this is by doing the job yourself, but that is not always possible for us.

But not all is work and we certainly enjoy the Gold Coast. Here is a picture of a peaceful evening with a full moon raising over the horizon in the marina.

We are now almost at the point where we can leave and start enjoying some sailing, so I’m now looking at weather forecasts, twice daily I confess, and hoping for a nice window to take us slowly north. The end destination this time is the Whitsundays, but the first stop may probably be Mooloolaba.


Sunday, 23 July 2017

New engines installed and Zenitude is back on the water

This year Oscar has been busy with many projects to give Zenitude a series of improvements as she turned 14 years old recently. The main one of course being the new more powerful engines as explained in my previous blog. It took a bit longer than planned but finally Zenitude is back on the water. A successful sea trial (actually it was more like a ‘Coomera River’ trial) showed improved horsepower and noticeable less engine noise, which is a plus for anyone on board when the engines are running. 

Euromarine team at work
The new engines behave pretty well up and down the river. It remains to be seen how Zenitude will perform at sea, we’ll find out in about a month or two when we set off to sail up the Queensland coast. We are thankful to Warren and the Euromarine team that did a great job and very importantly, kept to budget. If you are around the Gold Coast and need Volvo work, do not hesitate to contact them.

In the meantime it is going to be hectic for the next 3 weeks when we leave our land life in Sydney and move back on board, and it will get worse before it gets better. We estimate at least another 2 to 3 weeks of hard work before we can leave the docks.  All of that is coming up soon after I manage to put it all together in pictures and words. 


Saturday, 29 April 2017

Zenitude prevails and she gets repowered

In 2006 we sold our home, bought Zenitude and moved on board. At that time Zenitude was just 3 years old, soon she will be 14. Since then we have sailed over 30,000 miles and enjoyed our cruising life immensely. We find the sailing enjoyable when everything goes well on a perfect day, on one of those days when you set up your sails and just go where you want to go without having to change sails twice per hour, but it has always been the 'getting there' and not the 'sailing there' that makes us happy. This is what defines us as 'cruisers' and not as 'sailors' but despite of all the ups and downs, we love this cruising life.   

Before we bought Zenitude, we were actually looking for a long-range trawler. At the time, we were living in the US East coast and after spending about a year researching and looking for the right boat we could not find anything that was right for us at a price we could afford. At some point, our friend John came to our rescue by suggesting we should take a serious look at sailing catamarans. At this proposition, we replied horrified that we always had motor boats and had no idea how to handle sails. No matter, he said, I will teach you and besides a catamaran has two engines suitable for going in trawler mode and on top of that, he went on, you have sails for getting you as far as you want to go. It was a good argument and you can read all about this story here. Almost 100% convinced we went on a search for our sailing catamaran and when we found Zenitude, we knew she was the one. Since then, never for a moment we regretted our decision.

Cruising with Zenitude

At anchor somewhere

Eleven years and all those miles later, we find ourselves with a dilemma, we are getting old. The stamina is not always there, we are avoiding long trips, we are lazy when it comes to handling sails, especially the big main and we are trying to avoid overnights. About a year ago, we started thinking and pondering if we should switch back to the trawler/motor cat idea, less work and more speed. We even pretended we were in the market and got to see some boats that could be affordable. Our shopping tour did not last too long, anything we saw looked like a big demotion of our cruising life.

The problem, as it turns out, is we are in love with Zenitude and by now, as Oscar puts it, we know every single screw she has. Selling Zenitude did not feel right and it seemed like a too drastic measure.

After a lot of thinking and research we started looking at our dilemma from a different angle. What if we re-power Zenitude, give her two new engines a bit more powerful, change her propellers for better and more efficient ones and treat her as a power cat when we do not feel like handling sails.
This ‘what-if’ scenario started looking like a good idea. Serious costing considerations came next. Negotiations for new Volvo Penta MD 40’s and their installation proved affordable if we could sell our old Volvo Penta MD-30 engines, which we did and sooner than expected our 2 engines went to another cat in need. Now our two new engines are waiting for installation in May and Oscar is busy preparing the engine ‘rooms’ to receive two shiny new engines.

Port engine 'room' ready

We think these changes will better suit our new (older age) cruising life style. Gone are the long ocean passages, instead coastal cruising in warm Queensland is our current pattern. If we change our minds, Zenitude is still with us to take us as far as we want to go.

At the yard in Gold Coast City Marina, ready for the new engines

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Our short 2016 sailing season - Long overdue summary

I felt there was not much to report this past year as we planned to stay around Whitsundays and we've done this before. In retrospective I regret not having my notes as there is always new places and experiences that by now are somehow forgotten. Anyway, not all is lost and here are some highlights of our sailing in 2016.

Around the Whitsundays

We left Mackay last May as planned and spent two lovely months sailing around the Whitsundays and visiting lots of places, always hoping for a nice weather window to go to one of the coral reefs nearby.

Eventually we got a window of settled weather and we left towards Hook and Bait reefs. There were a couple of boats in Hook but mainly we were all by ourselves. Visibility was good for snorkeling and it was calm at night. We went to Bait Reef next and it was unusual to arrive at the lagoon and find it totally empty, all  the moorings available, not even one of the daily tour boats was there.

Tides going down exposing coral heads at Hook Reef 

Nightfall at Bait Reef
Strangely enough for this time of the year, the wind turned NE and there was a small swell making its way inside the lagoon thru the cut so we had a rolly night at the mooring. Next day didn't look too good, visibility at the reef was poor with the north easterlies, I guess this was the reason nobody else was there. Wishing that the weather was not so unpredictable we left the reef and turned back to the islands.

Towards the end of May we had Joan and Jan visiting which was great. Whitsundays is the perfect place to receive friends, they can easily fly to Hamilton Island where there is a very good marina to wait for visitors with its location at walking distance from the airport. There are many places to visit within a short sail and always an anchorage for each weather condition.

With Joan and Jan

The other visitors

This time the weather behaved and even with their short visit we were able to stay at some of the nicest places around  Hook and Whitsunday Islands, like Langford Island and Butterfly Bay, great places for snorkeling. We also stopped at a couple of other small islands, spent a day at the very famous and amazing Whiteheaven Beach and then it was time to sail back to Hamilton marina for their flight to Sydney.

Around the Whitsundays with friends

Testing new gear

Manson Supreme - The new anchor 

When we left Mackay in May our first stop was lovely Thomas Island where we anchored for the night anxious to test the new anchor. The Manson Supreme has a great reputation for no dragging once is set with the correct chain scope and the weather was settled so we were really not too concerned. At least Oscar wasn't.

Manson Supreme ready to replace old anchor

Since that first stop we've anchored quite a number of times and I'm happy to say we've been sleeping very relaxed with this anchor. It took us a bit to get used to set it right and we had to slightly change our anchoring technique as this anchor seems to require a slow and constant backing movement with a scope of about three times the depth, it slowly buries in the bottom until it stops the boat, then the rest of chain needed for the conditions is released.

There is a problem though, this anchor design is very different from our previous Danforth and we haven't been able to store it tight in the bow roller, except by tightening the chain in the windlass, something we are not keen to have as a permanent solution, so in the 'things to do' list there is a new project to tackle this problem.

The new super-light dinghy - Zeni III

Zeni I, our first dinghy came with Zenitude when we bought her. This dinghy gave up on us after a good use around the Caribbean and when we arrived in Venezuela we bought a brand new Caribe, Zeni II. She stayed with us until last year giving us 8 years of good service. She was still in quite good shape but we decided to replace her for a lighter new dinghy.

We bought an AB inflatable with aluminium hull and we put her to a good test this time around the Whitsundays. We had to get used at a lighter dinghy with less stability than our heavier one but still we found she runs quite well and is definitely much easier on our backs when pushing her up the beach. We've added a portable ladder to make it easier to climb up into the dinghy when swimming in deep waters.

Zeni III, the new tender to Zenitude

Oscar testing the new dinghy

Time to go back

Before the end of June it was time to get back to Mackay marina and leave Zenitude very tightly tied up while we went into our extended overseas trip. We were away for almost three months and by the end of September we were back in Mackay, getting ready to take Zenitude south to the Gold Coast for the summer. 

After a week at the marina and a lot of pondering about the weather to start our trip south we decided to leave and had a good 3 days window to reach Keppel Bay marina           in Rosslyn Bay, before the arrival of a southerly change.  The good thing about sailing during this time of the year is that there are almost 14 daylight hours, which allowed us to make the trip without sailing at night. Our overnight stops were Digby Is., Hexham Is. and Pearl Bay.

It took us a week in Rosslyn Bay to get another couple of good days to keep going. This was no problem as we love this area and the marina is great.  At this point in the trip we started to spot whales every now and then but as we approached Fraser Island and entered Hervey Bay we could see them almost every time we look at sea. They are quite a sight, but we feel uneasy when they get too close, they are just too big and we can only hope they get out of the way as we pass next to them. 

We've been in Hervey Bay many times and never stopped at Platypus Bay, so this time rather than going to Bundaberg we sailed down next to Fraser Island and spent the night in Platypus Bay. Next stop was Gary's Anchorage. Following day we left at first light to make it to Wide Bay Bar at a good time for the bar crossing. The early morning was good and the crossing was uneventful. Later on the day we heard in the radio that conditions had deteriorated quickly, so we did well. As we were exiting the bar, a couple of whales were crossing alongside just about 100 meters to our port side, the whales on one side and the sand bar on the other side made for some excitement moments we would have happily missed.

Sunset at Gary's Anchorage

Our next stop was Mooloolaba, we entered the canal as the sun was going down and by the time we arrived at the marina it was completely dark. The marina staff was gone by then but they had arranged for the people in one of the boats to help us with the lines, as we approached trying to find our spot in the docks a cheerful committee of very nice people were waiting for us and soon after we were happily docked. 

Our friends Eduardo and Sonia live in Mooloolaba and we met them and the kids for lunch. It was great to catch up once again. Not long ago Eduardo bought a sailboat and here is a picture of the family passing by the marina.

Eduardo and Sonia with kids below deck

Another good window and three days later we were arriving at Gold Coast City marina where we plan to stay, at least until the end of cyclone season in May 2017.  Until then there is lots of work as we have many projects on the pipeline to keep Zenitude looking good and behaving safely.

Link to all photos for this trip: Cruising Mackay to Gold Coast Album