Friday of last week as Aannsha and I were sitting in the cockpit of our yacht enjoying a cold beer and watching the sun heading towards the horizon, I had a mental panic attack. It blindsided me. It was totally unexpected, out of left field and it took me a while to get a grip on my runaway scarily negative thoughts.
We'd had a great day, lot's of big jobs had been completed with hardly any complications and we'd just been informed by Jose that we'd be lifted back into the water the following morning. I was feeling good, we were another step closer to being ready to leave the marina and start sailing.
I'd just glanced towards the bow and was looking back along A B Sea's 46 foot length...
The thoughts began.
The first thought was understandable, you could call it rookie nerves. I was concerned about the responsibility of being in charge of a 46 foot vessel; it's not just a yacht, it's also our home. Would I remember all the training we'd had in Gibraltar way back in February? Would our anchor hold wherever we anchored? Would I crash into the dock the first time we called into a new port to refill our diesel and water? All reasonable thoughts to have as an inexperienced sailor, soon to be at the helm of a vessel he'd never actually handled under sail.
Those first thoughts trickled in and then it was as if some flood gates had been opened. The trickle turned into a deluge of negativity. In an instant I saw a potential future, as if the rest of my life stretched out before me. A life where I had to create something new every week: A new and interesting blog; A new and entertaining YouTube video. Was I really up to that challenge? Would sailing to new locations still allow enough time each week to be able to write blogs and edit videos? Would we have a decent internet speed and connection? Would we gain enough of an audience and following to be able to create an income? Would the pressure of obligation become overwhelming as our subscriber and viewer numbers increased? Would we still have enough cash in the sailing kitty after we settled the final invoice here at the marina?
The negative thoughts went on and on. I can't remember for exactly how long, maybe only about 4 minutes but in my head it seemed an awful lot longer.
I was only able to regain control and calm my mind by telling myself (several times before it actually registered and sank in) that tomorrow may never come, the future is not yet written and all that I had really was this moment in time - what I was seeing with my eyes, hearing with my ears and feeling as the breeze touched my skin. I focussed on the lyrics of the song playing in the background, I watched a seagull lazily circling across the salt ponds in front of me, I breathed the warm fresh air deep into my lungs and I observed the setting sun. A sun that had been rising and setting for 4.6 billion years and was likely do so for another few billion years. I reminded myself that time is relative, rather than an absolute concept. It was a great relief to finally regain control of my thoughts and I just hope that it's a long time before that runaway negativity ever happens again.
Writing these thoughts down now, the morning after, they seem quite trivial and not so scary. I really can't adequately convey how absolutely negative or how fast and furious all of the thoughts were at the time they were happening. I can only liken it to watching a boxing movie, where one fighter realises that his opponent is done for, he's got him on the ropes and he's just pummelling the other boxer with relentless blow after blow.
When I woke up this morning I was not sure that I was going to share this with you, but I then remembered that when Aannsha and I began writing these blogs we agreed that we'd be totally open and honest in what we shared. It's not all unicorns and rainbows and there will be good times and bad times. I hope as well that if a reader is also entertaining negative thoughts they can take some small comfort in knowing that it happens to other people too and maybe they can try my technique to bring themselves into the present moment.
Poco a poco
Little by little each job is getting crossed off our list and last week with A B Sea hauled out on the hard things moved forward quite a lot. We had five through hulls and badly corroded seacocks replaced and we've now also added testing that all seacocks easily open and close, to our monthly maintenance list. We don't want to wait until seawater starts gushing into our bilge and then discover that a seacock won't close.
The iron keel had all the flaky old paint and primer removed and it was prepped ready for the new antifouling paint to be applied at the same time that the hull got its new coat of antifouling paint. The small chunk that was missing from the bottom of the trailing edge of the rudder was repaired with fibreglass and the rudder was coated with primer and then antifouling paint.
The cast iron rudder quadrant that was almost completely rusted through was removed and a custom built stainless steel one was installed. This fills us with confidence that the rudder is not going to part ways with us at an inopportune moment. The prop shaft and propeller where cleaned and painted with a metal antifouling paint and the Gori folding prop was packed with fresh grease. The prop shaft and keel sacrificial zinc anodes were replaced. The electrical cables at the bottom of the mast were reconnected which means that all the electronics at the top of the mast now work and are sending their relative data back to our navigation instruments.
The radar that's on board was originally installed in the ark when Noah was still a young man and so knowledge of its ability to function as stated on the packet is in some doubt at the moment. We plan on testing the radar functionality next week while we are still connected to shore power. We do have an AIS (Automatic Identification System) transponder fitted which overlays its data onto our chart plotter, so we will at least be able to 'see' other vessels that way and they'll be able to 'see' us too.
Inspection of the hot water heater revealed that a hose which carries water from the heater to the engine (for the water to be heated when not connected to 220v shore power) had broken off. That itself was an easy fix. However the previous owner (I'm going out on a limb here by saying he wasn't a technically minded person), upon discovering water pouring into his bilge from the broken hose had simply shut off the water to the heater. What he forgot to do was switch off the electricity to the now empty water heater, which meant that when he returned to the marina and reconnected to the 220v shore power the heating elements inside the water heater simply burned themselves out. They too have been replaced and we now have hot water.
One of the 12v electrical cables that supplies the starboard (green) navigation light at the bow had its protective plastic sheath worn through and the salt water had corroded the copper strands so that they were completely broken. That small section of cable has been replaced and now all of our navigation and safety lights onboard are compliant.
The non-functioning bilge pump was found to be working, it turns out that the float switch was dead. That was replaced and we tested it by chucking a bucket of water into the bilge and heard the sweet sound of the bilge pump automatically switching on. To be honest the sound of the bilge pump is anything but sweet, it's very loud, grating and annoying, but we will definitely hear when it kicks in and unless we have knowingly got water in the bilge it will be a good audible cue to go and investigate why it's pumping.
As I mentioned earlier in this blog one of my greatest concerns is whether or not our anchor is going to be up to fulfilling its job description and there are a couple of reasons for this.
Firstly the previous owner has left a large anchor and a small anchor attached to the double bow roller, when I asked why there were two anchors Jose told me it was because the previous owner said that the big anchor was not enough to hold the boat in place. The big anchor is a Delta plow anchor and our surveyor told me that it is the correct size and weight for A B Sea and it should hold. The smaller anchor is a CQR type. So I have two conflicting comments to work with there.
Secondly I am not a fan of CQR or Delta anchors and I came to this position not by personally testing out various types of anchors, but by watching about 30 YouTube videos in which the various types of anchor were tested. Therefore not being knowledgeable about or biased towards or against a particular anchor design, I based my dream anchor preference on what I saw with my own two eyes. The anchor that really stood out in all the tests is a relatively new kid on the block; it's a Mantus anchor. The blurb on their website is this. "The Mantus Anchor sets with unparalleled holding power. When tested, our anchors set faster and deeper than any other tested anchor, including Rocna, Manson Supreme, Bulwagga, Fortress, Bruce, CQR and Danforth anchors." Also weighing in (no pun intended), in favour of the Mantus is the fact that several of the YouTube channels we watch of other liveaboards show us that they're using a Mantus as their main anchor and they have said that they have no regrets in their purchase.
So that's what we've done, we purchased a 38.6 kilo (85 lbs) Mantus anchor online for AU$2,062 (£1,170). That gives us peace of mind that the anchor will set solidly every time we drop it and our home will be where we left it when we come back from a shopping or scuba trip in the dinghy. It also means that we can sleep soundly at night at anchor knowing that we are highly unlikely to drift. We will keep the original two anchors on board for either emergency use or to put down another anchor should we find ourselves ever in need of more holding power.
We are now members of the RYA (Royal Yachting Association) and they will be issuing us with an ICC (International Certificate of Competence) which is basically a boat driving license that is recognised throughout the Mediterranean. We have been told from some people that an ICC is not necessary, but because it's issued for free with our RYA membership we figured that it's much easier to have one and never be asked to show it, rather than the other way around.
We are also now getting close to paying the final invoice to Marina Estrella and taking legal ownership of A B Sea. Once that happens she will be removed from the Spanish boat registry and we can apply to have her registered in the UK, which is far easier, quicker and very much cheaper than registering her as an Australian vessel.
The final step will be to get her insured and right now all we have are a couple of leads to recommended insurance companies, but we can't really start that process until the items above are finalised.
We really are almost at the pointy end of the stick and this (for me) brings mixed feelings. There's the nervous apprehension of severing our ties with the marina and all of the benefits that it brings like unlimited water, electricity and internet plus access to Jose and the team from Marina Estrella. There's a lot of excitement inside me too. Since we moved on board 6 weeks ago I've felt very much like a child at Christmas who has unwrapped a super special toy, but has been told that he can't play with it until February. Then there's a feeling that I'm finally going to get answers to the multitude of musings that are constantly flying around my head. How fast can she go? What's her sweet spot when it comes to wind speed? How long will it be before we need to head into a marina for fuel and water? How many days can we last on battery power without sunshine to recharge the batteries? How will we be with just the two of us as crew?
These questions and more will be answered in the future, a future that has not yet been written, a future that I have a hand in creating. I'll let you know how it all pans out. Until next week, thanks for reading and take it easy.