Haul outs &
boat yards

Hauling out an old boat like Vega is always a slightly worrying proposition. With a boat as old as she is there is always the fear that age will at last catch up with her or woodworms get into her planking. This haul out we were more than usually worried. There were signs of worm along several seams that had caused me many a sleepless night. As it turned out they were the famous but little seen “putty Worms” that had invaded the putty along some of the seams, not the wood itself.
» Read more about our haul out and how we prevented any future attack of “Putty Worm".

Our secret supply of Stockholm Tar

A classic traditionally rigged boat like Vega uses amounts of Stockholm tar (pine tar) you cannot imagine. Often we are asked where we find it in such out of the way places. » Well here is our secret…

Fire at sea and friends to the rescue

Mention insurance companies and someone will have a horror story about non-existent service, troubles with claims, or claims never being paid. For Meggi and I Vega is our life. She is all we have, so when fire struck in our engine room destroying all of our electronics, inverter, and battery charger then severely damaging our main engine, we felt frightened and alone. Here was a problem we could not over come with our own energy and hard work. At that moment the entire dream of Vega was teetering on the brink of collapse.
» To find out how our dream was rescued read more here.

Haul outs & boat yards

Putty worms are really nasty little devils. They get into the putty the covers the caulking seams and eat it. This last haul out Meggi and I almost had heart failure when we saw thousands of wormholes all along the plank edges. Luckily they were not the dreaded toredo worms but a much less dangerous type. In any case we felt this was a problem that had to be prevented in the future so set about devising a scheme we hope will do just that.

Our putty is what the Thai boat builders politely call Elephant Manure. Actually they use another word but I will let you fill in your own blanks. It is basically a mix of oils, red lead, and plaster powder, with a few local ingredients we could never quite figure out. As a long lasting putty or bedding compound it works amazingly well. But, it is susceptible to putty worms.

What we did this time was turn to a chemical supply house and buy a 1/2 liter bottle of TBT, the stuff the super anti fouling paints were made of before the new environmental regulations banned them. By adding a healthy, or not so healthy we hope, dose of about 5% to the oil in each putty mix we hope to have made the new batches quite unpalatable to putty worms. If nothing else at least our seams will be well anti fouled. Just be careful how you handle that stuff as it is very potent when in its concentrated form. Gloves, eye protection, and open air to avoid breathing the fumes are strongly advised.

Our secret supply of Stockholm Tar

Veterinarians use Stockholm tar to treat the hoofs of large animals like horses and cows. Any vet who treats horses, especially racing horses, can tell you right away where to get it. A few telephone calls usually turn up a supply house where 5 liters seems to be the standard size. And the price is about 1/3 of what the boating supply houses ask in their catalogues. Just be nice and be sure to leave some for us too.

Fire at sea and friends to the rescue

Faulty battery switches causing massive intermittent voltage surges throughout the system produced the fire. It was more than one small engine relay could take, so it disintegrated falling onto other wires shorting them out also. The circuit breaker, from the same company, was fused in the closed position and could not trip. Neither switch could be turned off by hand. While fighting to disconnect the batteries fire broke out in the engine room.

It only took seconds to grab the extinguisher beside the engine room door and put the fire out, but by then the damage was done leaving us with no engine, no electronics, and only our VHF radio working. This happened in a major shipping lane between two islands well known for strong currents and no wind. By setting every sail we slowly worked out of the shipping lane and made for the port of Tanjung Pinang. After what seemed like a never-ending day we managed to anchor there.

The next 2 days saw us franticly trying to isolate the damage and get the engine going again. It was then we realized the full frightening extent of the damage. There was simply no way we could afford the repairs that would be needed.

QBE of Thailand insures Vega. That insurance is our protection against the nightmare scenario of Vega ever being lost. One hears so many stories about insurance companies that the last thing we wanted was to endanger that coverage by making a claim. Fortunately we were very wrong in that assumption.

When I called our surveyor he advised us to contact the insurance company at once. I called QBE with trepidation only to find they were very understanding and extremely helpful. Within 24 hours they had the surveyor on site to assess the damage and right away started making arraignments to tow us to Singapore for proper repairs. We were amazed how fast they took over and started making things happen for us. It was like having an old trusted family member with a lot of experience take up our problem and guide us through how best to solve it. And they stayed right there beside us throughout the long months our repairs took.

So now when I am in a group of people and someone mentions insurance companies I can happily say our experiences have only been good ones, and in all good faith heartily recommend QBE as a company where problems simply do not happen. If you want to know more about QBE visit their website. They are 100% Vega approved!

The one varnish that really lasts

When you get two skippers together for more than about an hour the conversation always seems to drift to either bottom paint or varnish. On Vega we have a lot of varnish and visitors seem to think we spend all our lives sanding and varnishing. The truth is we have varnish, still perfectly good, that was done in 2003 and has lived its whole life in the tropics. We almost never scrape or sand it.
» Want to know our secret?

Culinary luxury aboard

One of the greatest smells first thing in the morning is fresh baked bread and fresh roasted coffee. Meggi for some delightful reason has always taken great pride in providing us with truly fresh, often home made, delicacies. Some of her achievements include a range of fresh baked bread and pastries, and home made yoghurts that are more like cream cheese, or cream itself, than the yoghurt sold in shops. For years now we have always roasted our own coffee from fresh beans then hand ground it each morning in our 65 year old Sponge coffee grinder.
» For a few of her tips on roasting your own coffee.

Baggie Winkles not drowned rats in the rigging

Baggie winkles are very useful elements on a classic sailing vessel. They protect the sails from chaffing against the rigging. Simple to make they are a great investment in time and energy. The only problem is that most of them start looking like drowned rats after the first few rains.
» Read more to see how we solved this problem.

The one varnish that really lasts

Over the years we have tried almost every “quality” varnish available. They all promise long life, UV resistance, and everything except making ice for the drinks. They can be very expensive and not a one seems to last more than a single season. Some of the most expensive don’t even make it that long in the tropics. Then in 2003 we discovered an obscure South African company called Rystix. It is owned and run by a chemist who simply got tired of having to re-varnish his beach cottage’s wood work every year so brewed up something designed to really last. After all the years his great work has saved me from scraping and sanding I can safely say he did a fantastic job.

We use their Exterior Sealer in the light oak tint and just love it. All you need to do is follow the instructions when you first apply it. Be sure to really prepare the wood well as what you do now will be with you for years to come. Then once it’s on about once a year, or if you get chaffing somewhere, just wash it down with fresh water and slap on another coat. I say, “slap on” because it is so painter friendly even an amateur can get great results with no special tools or brushes. To find out more visit their website at www.rystix.co.za

Culinary luxury aboard

We always start out with the best beans we can find; we buy them in bulk and store them in well-sealed containers. Most beans have already been roasted to at least a light brown. What we noticed is that over time the beans seem to lose some of their flavor. Re roasting them again just before grinding brings back all the flavor and aroma. To get a very nice roast on your coffee beans try using the microwave oven. Meggi roasts enough beans for about three days at a time. Put the beans in a glass or microwave friendly container and “zap” them for between 3 and 5 minutes. You will need to find your own times depending on your microwave and how strong you like your coffee. That’s all there is to it. If you do not have a microwave on board then try using a large skillet, cast iron works a champ, and roast over a low to medium heat for between 7 and 12 minutes. Be sure to stir the beans constantly until they reach the color you want.

Baggie Winkles not drowned rats in the rigging

Most of the baggie winkles I have made, and seen, have always been make from nylon line. The logic being that it is soft and long lasting. The problem is that after a very short time the strands start to compact together looking quite ugly. We solved that problem by using some old NavyFlex line we had on board. The NavyFlex is not effected by weather in the least, stays nice and fluffy, and also has the advantage of not soaking up the black soot that seems to be in the rain everywhere these days. The work to make is exactly the same but the long lasting results are amazing. Oh, and they look like the old style originals made from hemp line.

Captain’s Log

I began this with Vega on anchor in a lovely tropical lagoon off Koh Muk, Thailand fresh from the boat yard and with another clean bill of health. We should not need the boat yard again for 2-3 years thanks to the Jotun SeaQuantum Ultra anti fouling and a lot of hard work this last time in the yard. The wonderful feeling when the boat goes back in the water completely clean and everything as it should be is hard to explain to anyone other than another boat owner.
» See a gallery of photo’s from Vega in the boat yard .

Then on the 3rd of February we took up the duties of “Press Boat” for the 13th Phang Nga Bay Regatta. That regatta is known for it’s great sailing and wonderful scenic backgrounds. Sailing through some of Thailand’s most scenic islands in company with so many other beautiful boats was an experience to be cherished. The parties at the end of each days racing, or in our case “getting in the way”, were – well - great parties! If you have the chance this is the most enjoyable regatta of the entire South East Asian circuit.
» View some lovely images of that regatta

We started March with a long list of goals and objectives each of which seemed to lead us in a different direction. Then all of a sudden things started to happen. First Dr. Donald Kafa returned to the Solomon Islands from his year of special training in Australia. As most of you know we have worked very closely over the years with Dr. Kafa to support the under staffed and under supplied medical and educational services of Isabel Province in the Solomon’s. When he went away for a year everything went on hold. Now he is back and with a longer list of needs than ever. Anyone up to helping us make deliveries of medical and educational supplies?
» Read more about the project

Thanks to a friend in Norway who owns a major hydraulics company, and the help of his engineers, we may at last be able to sort out the mess made of our anchor winch when we were last in Singapore.
» For more click here

From the 15th – 18 April Vega will be one of the featured boats at Boat Asia, in Singapore. This is one of S. E. Asia’s largest and most prestigious boat shows. During the show Vega will not be idle. In keeping with our desire to help underprivileged children we will be one of the attractions supporting the gala fund raising for the Singapore Needy Children’s School Fund. A fund that provides funding and support for needy children’s educational expenses.
» Boat Asia


This month’s cover and feature article on Vega in SEA Yachting Magazine was a blessing. Granted they only talk about the boat and not our humanitarian work but at least people get a chance to see and learn more about Vega and her history. For a boat like Vega media exposure is our life’s blood. Vega can only accomplish her missions with the help of a wide spectrum of people and companies who assist us. It is impossible for two people to make deliveries, gather supplies and materials to deliver, and find the funding for fuel and other expendables, while keeping Vega in top running order. That is where we depend quite heavily on our network of sponsors, friends, and supporters. It never ceases to amaze me how many people share the dream of one small old wooden boat striving against all odds to stay alive and assist a few isolated island communities.
» See the article.


Assistance for the Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands are one of the poorest, least developed, countries on earth. The people are amazingly friendly and trying hard to make a go of their small country with the lowest level of aid of any developing country. The Solomon’s consists of about 35 “big” islands and several hundred smaller islands, most of which are inhabited. These islands are spread over thousand square miles of ocean making communications and transportation major problems for the islanders. Many of the islands have never seen a doctor and only see a nurse once every few years.

Dr. Kafa is the only doctor for Isabelle province. Isabelle Island is a long thin mountain range with only 12 kms of roads, the rest are footpaths. The main means of transportation is by water and then walking. Visits to the out islands of this province are difficult due to lack of transportation. We have been actively supporting Dr. Kafa’s work for several years now and hope to be able to provide even more support this year. The small hospital on Isabelle needs almost everything that makes a hospital work. If you imagine a building with a few home made beds, tables and chairs you will be pretty close to the reality. There is no generator, no operating room lights, few if any medications, and even fewer instruments to work with. The laboratory has no microscope and the dental clinic uses tools purchased at a hardware shop and modified in a metal shop.

If you would like to help Dr. Kafa we have lists of his most important requirements and would be happy to facilitate getting any equipment of supplies directly to him once you have been in contact with him directly and agreed on what to provide. With small cash donations we will purchase items from his list and get them to him in your name. Please contact us via e-mail at vega@sailvega.com for further details.

Anchor winch woes

As many of you know we have been pulling the anchor by hand for years now. If you have sailed with us you know what fun a 100kg anchor and 100 meters of chain can be first thing in the morning. This is not because we have neglected the winch. Quite the opposite. When last in Singapore we commissioned an “engineer” to convert it to hydraulic, that being the most dependable of systems. The conversion was very expensive, but we took a deep breath and went through with it, as many of the islands that need our help are deep anchorages, too deep to pull by hand.

That was a disaster. The system never worked the way it should and the “engineer” steadfastly refused to make it right. Between then and now we have tried several modifications with some limited success. Yet the winch has never really worked for us.

Now thanks to a friend in Norway we may have a real working solution to the problem. It seems that although all of the parts supplied are of good quality they were not properly matched for the job. The ports on the valve block are too small so they restrict the flow causing the pump to cavitate and massive heat build-up. To solve this we will need a larger valve block. The motor supplied is low speed high torque rather than the higher speed needed to replace the electric motor that was there before. The placement of the pump directly on the front of the engine causes all sorts of problems, but it seems it can be moved to inside the oil tank and driven by a 220VAC electric motor, eliminating a lot of those problems. Now all we have to do is find a way to pay for the new parts.