June has been a very busy and difficult month, yet extremely rewarding. Helping others less fortunate than we are is always a rewarding experience. The difficulty is in balancing what we do between instant relief and long-term solutions.
» For more on how we approach this problem
It is not easy to find the right crew for Vega. It seems most people are just looking for a free vacation on someone else’s yacht and forget that we have serious work to do.
» For more click here
Charity sails to the rescue. While in East Timor we discovered that rural midwives were delivering babies by candle light, yet there were perfectly good rugged rechargeable solar powered lights available for a modest cost.
» Read how we provided many of the lights they needed.
Darwin-Dili yacht rally back on the yachting calendar after 35-years hiatus
» More about the event
When we first purchased Vega her caulking was a mess. Very little caulking and a lot of roofing tar stuffed into the seams. It was only when we sanded her down bare wood and pulled out all the old caulking in Mr. Vim’s Keatsang Shipyard in Thailand that relief from all the leaks arrived.
Mr. Vim’s yard has become like another home for Vega and us. Over the years we have visited them many times and always been very happy with the workmanship and friendly relaxed manner of the people there. That time it was a bit more complicated as we wanted the caulking done our way and not the way they usually do with the big wooden fishing boats.
First we sanded down the whole hull to bare wood and inspected every plank with care. Then the messy work of pulling out the old caulking and roofing tar. The roofing tar was a real mess to get out. It took days of scraping and cutting but at last the seams were clean.
Once clean we carefully painted the seams with red lead primer then the caulkers hammered home a deep layer of oakum that had been mixed with red lead powder. Just behind the caulkers came a painter with a mixture of red lead primer and plaster powder who soaked the new caulking with “as much as it could drink”. Behind him came another who pushed in a layer of red lead paste before the next caulkers came along and did the final layer with cotton soaked in red lead paste. On top of that went a final soaking of liquid red lead paste before a sealing of red lead putty with a few other things mixed in was pressed into the seams as the final sealer.
One of the most satisfying aspects of our work is meeting people who though their own hard work are improving the living standard of their communities. Practical people with achievable goals that they themselves are tackling to the best of their ability. Manuel Soares and the Bakhita Centre are the type of grass roots community program that concentrates on real needs for real people, exactly the kind of people who can benefit the most from our help.
Manuel excitedly talks about needing basic agricultural tools so that farmers can began to grow crops again, or the success of finding the materials so that a community could build new sanitation blocks or bring fresh water into their homes. His eyes sparkle when he describes the opening of the new health center and school, built with volunteer community labor, or how they struggle to maintain the only ambulance in the region.
There is pride there. Pride in community achievement and self-improvement. He proudly shows me pictures of their first commercial carrot crop grown on farms that had been fallow since 1999 or families nurturing and harvesting some of the world’s finest wild mountain coffee from plants that have been ignored for over 10 years now.
Ermera district is a community that is trying hard to lift itself from the throws of poverty and war’s devastation. Our help can be important to them. They need basic things like shovels, axes, hoes, and other small scale agricultural tools as well as basic carpenter and mechanic’s tools and educational expendables for their school and if possible help providing materials to build new sanitation blocks (S$800 with the community providing the labor) and providing clean drinking water. It is a long list, but no single segment is beyond our ability to help. This is a place where together we can make a major impact on many peoples lives.
There is so much need and so many worthy projects trying to meet that need it often becomes difficult to choose which ones will make the greatest difference over the longest term for the largest number of people. You support what we do trusting us to apply your assistance in the most effective manner possible. We take that responsibility very seriously. Calling on all our experience in Africa and here in the East, as well as over 15 years working with WHO, UNICEF, and many other big organizations, we have found that the most effective areas to concentrate our help are those that directly assist people to sustain themselves.
We reach out to those at the very foundations of society, the farmer who needs basic tools to farm, the rural teacher who needs basic expendables to teach her classes, the health worker who needs basic supplies for their health post. Although these are small contributions they are the very basic building blocks of a successful economy. A farmer without tools cannot grow crops to feed his family, his village, and to sell to others. A teacher without chalk, paper, pencils, and the other materials they need cannot effectively improve the next generation’s abilities to help themselves. A health worker with out basic supplies cannot treat injuries, reduce infant mortality, or teach hygiene to those in their care. These are all areas where one person’s modest assistance to another can have a major impact on a larger portion of the population. Being the source of that assistance is extremely satisfying.
Finding the right crew members for Vega has always been a problem. We are not a cruise ship where people come on board and lay about soaking up the sun. We are also not a free form of passage from one place to another for hitchhiking back packers. The people we need are those who are willing to work hard, sometimes under pretty rough conditions, as well as enjoy those lovely nights at sea with the full moon. Our work is serious and people depend on us to bring them the assistance they need or to deliver their assistance to those in need. It also takes time to train someone how to sail Vega, how to keep a proper watch, and how to do the hundreds of things a boat like Vega needs to keep running.
Oddly age is not an important factor for our crew. As long as you are healthy and in reasonably good physical shape, eat almost anything, and do not get seasick you can find a pretty interesting and adventurous time aboard Vega. If you think you would like to crew with us or know someone who you think would be a valuable addition to the crew let me know, but remember what we need are people who can dedicate several months to helping others while sailing an old ship thousands of mile to do it.
Often the most important items people need are not big and expensive, but small and modest in price. A farmer may need a shovel, an axe, and a hoe to get his farm working again. In this case midwives, currently working by candlelight, needed a simple rechargeable source of light. Fortunately Vega could help out by doing a “Charity Sail” to raise the money for many of the lights needed.
On a lovely Sunday afternoon we had 15 people on board for a short sail (we had to cut it short because the seas were so rough) and a great sundowner on anchor. Not only did we all have a good time, but also the money donated was enough to purchase many of the solar powered lamps needed by the midwives in the rural areas.
Beef Jerky - once a staple of the trappers who once explored the North American forests is an ideal snack to feed the dogwatch or emergency food for bad weather.
2 pounds lean beef, cut into long,thick strips, an inch wide
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 cup vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup soy sauce
Marinate beef in mustard, vinegar, salt, pepper and soy sauce for 24 hours. Drain beef and dry with paper towels. Place on a wire rack in an oven heated to 150ºF. for 24 hours. Jerky should have the consistency of tough leather.
Our secret to non-skid decks
Freshly scrubbed decks are a pleasure to behold, but too much scrubbing can damage the wood by leaching out important natural oils and slowly wear away the wood. There are many expensive products that claim to protect your decks, but it has been our experience that they only give marginal results and do not last very long. Here is a formula we found in an old book on sailing ships and what ships officers should know. We have been trying it for some time now and can say it definitely works better than the expensive stuff in the fancy cans.
In a large pot heat natural distilled wood turpentine with bees wax in a ratio of about 3 parts turpentine to 1 part bee’s wax. Heat just enough to allow the turpentine to mix with the bees wax. The recipe also calls for “a small amount of pine rosin to be added when the mixture is warm”. We cannot find natural pine rosin so have yet to try that part. Let the mixture stand over night. The result is an easily applied paste.
Starting early on a hot day scrub down your decks with dish washing soap and stainless steel scouring pads. We usually make a ball out small pads that works just fine. Rinse well as you go along to carry away the dirt before it settles into the wood pores. Let dry until all the fresh water has evaporated. About the hottest part of the day apply the mixture liberally with rags rubbing it into the wood leaving excess evenly coating the surface. The heat of the sun drives it into the wood over 1-2 days leaving them well protected, easy to clean, and well water proofed. The wonderful scent of bee’s wax and turpentine over the next few days is an added bonus.
It all started one peaceful evening with hardly a puff of breeze. Meggi and I were sitting on the aft deck reading when I noticed the boat beside us seemed to be moving. With a 110 kg Danforth anchor down on 80 meters of chain and 30 meters of 32 mm nylon line in only 18 meters of water the last thing I imagined was Vega going for a drift around the harbor, but that it was. A quick look at the Maxsea screen showed us well out of our swing circle and moving rather quickly toward the harbor wall. First thing I did was to go and give a pull on the anchor line. There was no resistance at all. The reason for this strange state of affaires soon became abundantly clear as the end slithered onto the deck showing a distinct absence of chain. The splice, and knots, that held the line to the chain had come completely un-done. I imagine a photograph of my face at that moment could have won several awards. Well panic, panic, and two smaller anchors on line later we had Vega more or less back in her position. I am very careful about how I attach anchors to both chain and line. Always using heavy shackles and securing the pins with safety wire and, until now, using the traditional anchor line splice making sure it has two loops, the proper knots, a long tail, with lots of tucks. That simple system has always served me well and, until now, we never lost an anchor. I say until now because after some excitement there we were with kedges out on line and all of our chain with our largest anchor lost somewhere on the bottom. Lucky I always mark the swing circle and also try to mark where we put down an anchor on the MaxSea screen. Sadly our efforts at anchor floaters kept disappearing. Most likely to some needy fisherman’s house. The story does have a happy ending as the next morning Craig from the Dili Dive Center came by with John from M/V Lisa and after some major underwater searching – visibility was very bad that day- managed to find the chain and attach a line to it so we could haul it back on board. What a relief not only to have the anchor and chain back, but also to be able to anchor safely again. Dili harbor is not the world’s best holding ground - to put it mildly. Now the connection between chain and line is via a heavy shackle and a long tucked splice (75 cm) on a thimble, which is well served and even lashed back every 15 cm with about 7 cm of double lashing. If that comes loose I shall really be surprised. Then again, I always thought the old trusted anchor splice would never come undone.
Friends to the rescue
This time around we were lucky to have Joanne Har and her friends who volunteer to help us with the hundreds of things that needed doing so that VEGA could look her best for the show. Not the least of those jobs was touching up the brass work, a task the girls attacked with gusto and amidst a lot of joking made short work of. The day ended with one of Meggi’s spaghetti dinners on the fore deck followed by most of the crew reclining in the bowsprite net where many a tale was told under the stars. Judging by the empty tin count we must have had a really good time.