Time to get moving!

So, it was on the 6th of August, 2006 that I basically made the 'deal' on Constellation, and I've been more or less patiently waiting here in Berlin, working to pay for her. It's been a really long eight months in some respects, but at the same time life has flown by, and I can't believe we're almost in May. When I first had this idea, I had planned to leave next month - Ha! But, at least I'm making efforts to launch by then, and this is where I make my move into the topic at hand: I'm going to live on the boat in just over a week! It seemed that I could stay here, 'spinning my wheels', or I could commit to a moving and see where it takes me. Since that decision, I am very close to [hopefully] organising office space, no less than 30metres from the boat, at a company that actually overlooks the marina. This means I can be near the boat, and also continue working. Being in the marina also opens up opportunities to crew and to learn as much as possible - I could stay here reading books for another couple of months, but really, you can only go so far.

I have some things to sort out here, namely paying the 'kaution' or 'bond' on the apartment, which is an unfortunate loss of €600.00, but alas, there is nothing I can do. I also need to figure out how to bring about 20 sailing books, mainsail, clothes and other assorted things on Easyjet without incurring excess baggage fees - €9/kg, no way! I will take the bus if I have to, but it's a 24 hour ride, and actually costs more than the plane (go figure).

In about two weeks this blog will be awash with questions, and I'm hoping some sailors out there might be able to give me a hand. My plan thus far is to get the engine working, anti-foul the hull and make minor repairs on the rudder and replace the sacrificial anode. After that, the rest of the work can take place once she's in the water. If anyone has any thoughts on things I must do before launch, I'd be most appreciative of any information.


Quick update, Launching early

I've been terribly busy lately, working and pondering what it is exactly I'm doing with this whole thing. I have been planning to launch Constellation in July for awhile now, however it seems kind of crazy, considering a week or so later I want to sail her to Kiel. What are the chances she's going to be up for that kind of journey a week after launch? Pretty slim. Not only that, but Tudor jokes that the only person who can launch on time is Noah and his famous ark. I don't claim to be Noah, and my boat is probably about the size of one of the horses he was carrying on board, but damned if I'm launching late. So I'm launching early. I need to work something out in the coming days before anything is final, but I'm organising a mooring as we speak. Thanks again to my kid brother who sent over a care package, consisting of enough cash to get a flight over to the boat, as well as a box full of red licorice and tootsie rolls. I'm now hyperactive on American candy.

I'll be launching the new site in a few days too, which includes recommendations from the folks at Searchenginejournal.com


Lost the website, fixing up Constellation this weekend!

The data center where my website is hosted crashed over the weekend, meaning I had to revert to an October 2006 backup. I managed to retrieve most of the content from Google cache, but alas maybe things are still probably missing... In other news I will be down to see Constellation this weekend, from the 29th of March till the 2nd of April. I have next to no money after getting my 'account overdue' notice last week, so the dreams of fixing a lot of things are dashed by the fact I can't buy the battery charger and engine parts I need, as well as stanchions, lines and some other pieces I had planned. There are plenty tasks which require little money, so I guess I'll be tackling those.

I always say I have exciting news to mention, and I never do - But, as soon as I can get a confirmation that I'm allowed to announce it, I promise I'll I'll speak up! My news doesn't solve all the problems I have, but it does solve a fairly significant portion of them. I think...

If you are near Southampton, email me for directions and come say hi!


Everything is boring. Moving Constellation in July.

After the excitement of sailing around Gibraltar the other week, life has taken a dive into the realm of utter boredom. I have this really great project at the end of the tunnel (the trip…), but everything else before it, is simply poo. Sometimes I wish I had restructured my ambitions into a 3 year escapade, instead of a moving half way around the world, trying and learn a new language, buying a boat I can’t sail, learning how to sail and then attempting a half-circumnavigation.

All within 12 months.

I know, you’re all saying to yourself ‘errrr, duh’… However I made the commitment, and I’m not going to stop steaming forward. I have an extreme case of tunnel vision.

Ok, my public whinge is over for the minute, sorry. Immediate change of tone ahead:

Johannes Erdmann who is continuing his shoot to stardom, through book writing, speaking and being the nice guy that he is, has offered to help move Constellation to Kiel. What is my rationale for moving the boat? It’s twofold. One reason is cost - Everything is expensive in the UK, I hate to say it… I’m already in debt up to my proverbial eyeballs with the boatyard for hard standing, and once Constellation is in the water, costs double or triple. Parts, paint, marina fees and everything else related to kitting out the boat is going to be cheaper for me in Germany. I sincerely apologise to my UK contingency. I still love you, and none of this would have happened without the British. It’s just logistics…

The trip to Germany will also be an extremely valuable opportunity for me to pick up more experience, with someone who knows a great deal aboard my own boat. It’s roughly a five day sail, which will be a fascinating voyage in itself along the coastline.

So my immediate goal is to have the boat setup to minimum standards for the July trip to Kiel. This means servicing the engine and liferaft, having the rigging inspected and putting her in the water (the list is longer than that, but I won’t bore you). Ooooh, how I pray she floats.


Mainsail, Ads & The New Year

(Help: If anyone from the UK knows what I need to do with this ‘bill of sale‘ could they contact me. Apparently I need to send it off? I also need to work out how to get an SSR number… Thanks!)

Well, 2006… What a year. I moved to a foreign language speaking country, visited Holland, Denmark, England, Scotland, Sweden, Norway and bought a boat. I attribute this to 99% luck and 1% perseverance; how lucky I am to be so fortunate. I know a lot of people have had ‘questionable’ 06’s, so I think ‘07 is the year destined to be a playing out of the hard work done in the year prior. We can only hope.

I succesfully travelled back with the mainsail, strapped to my backpack so it became considered ‘one item of luggage’. The check-in girl looked at it suspiciously, but waved the ‘pack’ through since it was under the weight limit. As we speak I’m emailing broken German back and forth to a Polish sailmaker just over the border, attempting to work out what I need as well as the costs involved. My existing sail I believe looks quite good - As everyone knows, I’m no expert on these things, but a little common-sense reasoning leads me to believe it’s in good condition.

In other news I have put a few ads around the site, in addition to my search attempts… I hope this doesn’t put people off. I’m just selling out for a buck, no doubt about it. I hardly spin wads of cash on it, but a few dollars here and there might just buy me a wind speed instrument over the course of this blog. You never know…

Fingers crossed for 2007.



Constellation, 25 December, 2006, 19:41: Heater on full, cabin cleaned, shower taken, mainsail packed.

I woke up this morning at 5am, rushed into the forecabin and gasped at the number of presents under the tree. Heaven knows how Santa made it through the skylight hatch, I’m sure it was locked! Nevertheless, I definitely found footprints, and under the tree was everything I needed for my journey. It was difficult unwrapping the Monitor Windvane, but boy, she’s beautiful. How exactly Santa knew which alternator belt I needed as a spare is beyond me, but quite clearly he (or she) is highly intelligent, and even knowledgeable about boating paraphernalia. So everything I needed on my wish list is accounted for. Wow!

Well, needless to say, it was a rather uneventful Christmas day. I woke up and wondered around the yard for awhile looking at boats. Al, the local catamaran owner invited me in for a coffee which was nice, and Chris the flight attendant (who is also a liveaboard) came by, and as it turns out, will be driving to Gatwick in the morning. I’ll be 12 hours early for the flight, but I figure waiting around at the airport is better than waiting around in Southampton if the bus doesn’t work out.

I have double packed the mainsail to bring back to Berlin. Hopefully if the stars align themselves correctly, I will have enough money to drive over to Poland and have a new duplicate made. If not, I’ll make a duplicate myself out of waxed brown paper and sail close to the sun.

Clearly there are several mysterious (minor) leaks on the cabin roof, as a hose down reveals a little fresh water in the bilge, from who knows where. I seem to have figured out that unless you own a brand new Hanse or similar, yachts tend to just have water hanging about the place no matter what you do. Note to self: Pack lots of sponges.

I’ve made a hefty list of things to bring back from Germany next time I come to the boat. The prices here in the UK are out of control. I’ll come back on an overnight bus, and smuggle cheap(er) German parts and materials in large suitcases. To my knowledge, there are no weight restrictions (within reason) on coaches, and while it’s a 24 hour ride, it seems worth the trouble.

So, I’m looking forward to going back to Berlin, going on my detox diet (a week of Christmas mince pies and triple chocolate muffins have taken their toll) and cranking the coal oven.

Merry Christmas to you all :)


Half Circumnavigation Plan B

Constellation, 23 December, 2006, 19:09: Heater on full, two new books in the library, zero public transport on the 26th, baked not fried crisps winning the daily taste war.

Today was my big adventure into Southampton, to find a calling card and investigate bus timetables. On both fronts, the results leant towards the negative end of a rusty battery terminal. Meaning, I couldn’t find a calling card anywhere, and the buses are not even running the day after Christmas, as I had previously thought (as with trains). So, I closely observed the route home, in anticipation of my long walk this coming Tuesday morning. I can only hope it isn’t raining, or I will be boarding Easyjet Flight 00FUN11 sopping wet. Is it just me, or does everything seem incredibly dramatic and arduous when connected to my endeavors?

It was bitterly cold and foggy again today… The kind of weather that does not encourage doing much at all, besides from thoughts of huddling in the corner with a large and difficult book, or prodding an open fire while exchanging hunting stories with old men. Needless to say, the last thing I killed with a gun was quite by accident when I was 14; a wee bird not worth exaggerating for the sake of a worthy tale. So, I stepped off the bus in Southampton right into Waterstones, a large bookstore that has gone down the Borders model of filling the place up with books, and then dedicating a good third of it to selling Latte’s and expensive muffins. But, as with all big stores devoid of a soul, at least you get a decent price (thats the point, right?). I soon walked out with two new paperbacks, skipped around the town twice (for the pesky phone card) found a German Christmas market (and felt at home) selling Gluwein, and decided the Christmas shopping extravaganza was far too much to contend with, and walked straight back to the open doors of a bus heading to the Burseldon bridge. Which brings me to the corner I’m huddled in right now, wrapped up in a sleeping bag with the heater (on full) eating ‘crisps’ (ahem, chips) and aptly enough, listening to ‘Bridge over troubled water’ by Simon & Garfunkel.

So, without further adieu, the wind has picked up, and it is time to fasten the tarpoline on the roof, board up the door, and settle down with a luke-warm cup’o’soup to cook up ‘Nicks half-circumnavigation Plan B’.

(It’s the plan where I sail home with three pounds fifty in spare change, two bananas and a used tea-bag.)



Constellation, 21 December, 2006, 13:47 : Heater on full, cabin boarded up, three layers plus jacket, two cup’o’soups, one tea, one coffee and three rolls consumed. All water boiled with tea light candles.

I must say, while it is deftly cold here, I like nothing more than a walk in the nearby paddock. Every time I venture out, I could swear the countryside is going to yield a a group of fox hunters on steaming horses pounding out of the forest: I’ll see them first, and then the group will canter over and ask me what I’m doing in the middle of nowhere, to which I’ll exclaim ‘Sailing home!’ Because of my accent, they’ll assume ‘home’ is either South Africa or Australia (both far away) and invite me to their manor for tea, scones and a cigar by the open fire.

The other thing about sitting on a boat alone in the cold, is that you excite an overactive imagination.

However, the reality of it is, I mostly sit around contemplating cockpit drainage, re-seating deck parts with Sikaflex and my new hobby of calculating cost to taste ratios from my encyclopedic memory of the local Tesco’s Extra 24 hour, three hundred mega-hectare supermarket (thats how big it feels). Let me explain: For $1.40 you can purchase 250g of Danish blue cheese on special, which will last many days, because of it’s spreadability and rather strong taste. Another example is ‘Tescos Garlic Sausage’ which is sandwich meat impounded with either real garlic or garlic flavour. Whatever it turns out to be, the bottom line is, it packs a whole lot of taste per slice, meaning instead of using three slices of standard ham, you only need to use one. I know, true value. Other examples may include bottled Olives and Vegemite knockoffs.

But back to boating tales, the true reason you are here. Constellation gave me a very special present this year, to which I am eternally grateful: Several inches of water inside the cabin.

I can’t wait to see what I get next year! (Ahem, I will be on a scheduled route across the Atlantic this time next year, so lets pray Constellation only gives me ‘good’ presents in 2007!)

So, I spent the next 25 minutes pumping the bilge, wondering how the heck so much water got in. For a brief second I thought about pushing the boat off the standing, blaming the boatyard and collecting the insurance for a first class ticket home. Aye, but you know if I’m down to calculating cost to taste ratios, I won’t give up so easily.

I spent two nights huddled in the corner freezing to death. Mum, this is one case where if you said “you’ll catch pneumonia!” you would actually be 100% correct. So off I went to sort out a shore power lead and go back to my favourite three hundred hectare mega-store to find a heater. Even with the heater, its still freezing. To illustrate this, please inspect the ’smoke’ coming out of my mouth. Brrrrr.

But what about the water? Oh, well as it turns out, the cockpit drains into the bilge. Leave the boat long enough… She fills up. What to do? Connect the cockpit drains through a new skin on the transom? I don’t know. But after rummaging through the sail locker I almost slapped myself across the face for not finding the cockpit cover earlier… I don’t know though, it kind of seems logical to think the cockpit would drain on its own and not require covering… But I guess thats my first Contessa lesson for the winter.

I knocked off ‘66 Days Adrift’ all the while eyeing off my raft in the corner, with it looking back at me rather suspiciously. Note the ’six person’ sticker on top - You might think that means it can take six people, but the truth of the matter is, it takes six people to move the damn thing. I pretended there was a small baby trapped underneath, and then used my exponential strength to move it down into the cabin. I’m patiently awaiting the day I trip on the painter cord, and let her rip: Imagine that, blowing Constellation up from the inside because I tripped the raft line. Ha!

My ticket back to Berlin is for the 26th, the day after Christmas. It was the cheapest time to fly around this period, and I’ve worked out why: Its impossible to get to the airport! The train here isn’t running, however the bus is, albeit on a Sunday schedule. I think.

This post took six chilly smoke rings to compose.


Presents, Boat Ownership, TV Commercials. I like!

(I’m still attempting to garner pledges for my certifications: 12 Days remaining, $330USD pledged so far! More information at my Fundable.org page or here.)

Just ahead of schedule, after five months of freaking out and various setbacks, the day has come that Constellation is paid for!

This was incredible news after having yet another not-so-great month. However, I was saved a few times by some incredible luck… The day I was informed I would miss another payment (my employer called the boatyard and explained it was them, not me, and I was given a months grace) due to cash flow issues (contracting sucks), a phone call lined up two weeks of full time work, starting immediately. Incredible! This didn’t solve immediate cash problems, but it was a step in the right direction.

So, down to my last few Euros in change, friends donated (thanks Daniel!) & loaned me (thanks Bobby!) some money at the last moment. Only this time, I couldn’t access it because my ATM card had expired! I have a little collection of bottles sitting next to the fridge for a rainy day, and due to Germany’s recycling laws, they can be exchanged for money. So I traded bottles for food, and then another weird set of circumstances landed me some instant money: I was cast in an Audi TV commercial. In front of a greenscreen, I nervously said “Hi, I’m from Sydney. Audi is the sportiest brand downunder!”. The worst part of course, was that I had been scripted to say I was from Sydney! Melbournians: Trust me, I did try to wrangle Melbourne into my cameo, but the Germans didn’t think I was very amusing in my attempts. Anyway, so I made a little money on the spot, which funded my self-gratulatory drinks this weekend as a newly adorned boat owner.

I feel like quite the charlatan, between pimping Audis and dabbling in yachting, but I assure you I’m not like that… My boat is worth about as much as a family station wagon, and I only sold my soul to Audi so I could eat pasta sauce, instead of using vegetable oil make it go down. Excuses excuses, I know.

The past month has also brought my two very kind presents from strangers. Special thanks to Tudor for the chart of the English channel - I now have enough paper-based directions to make it from England to Gibraltar! I also received ‘66 Days Adrift’ from RisingSlowly. As I picked it up from the post office, I saw a friend on the way home. He couldn’t stop laughing when he saw the title of the book - His words were ‘Man, I think this is a hint!’. Hah! Lets hope not. Thanks so much to the both of you; lovely gestures.

Well, the boat may be paid for, but I guestimate I’ll need the value of the boat again in cash to get this idea afloat, so back to work I go.


Constellation - A Gift

As it turns out, Constellation has an unusual history. Originally named 'Prince Hamad II', she was renamed in 1994 to Constellation. Prince Hamad II? Yes, an odd name for a boat. I guess it would be an odd name if it wasn't a present from an Arab officer cadet to the original owner! According to sales archives from Jeremy Rogers, Constellation was sold on the 8th of April, 1972, at a price of ?Ǭ£3399.25 as a gift to the first owner. So now I am trying to research who the Arab officer was, and see if he was possibly a Prince (naming the boat after himself). I've also tracked down the original owner, who is still active in boating, writing books on Superyachts and working as a photographer. I see a compelling story unfolding here...

Not only have I found a little history on the boat, but thanks to Michael Lindsey, the class captain of the Contessa 26 Association (which I recently joined) Jeremy Rogers himself emailed me off of this site, offering to give some pointers on setting Constellation up for such an enormous journey. Jeremy Rogers is the boatbuilder and designer of the Contessa class - I think that's pretty incredible, because I don't think there is a better person on the planet who could offer advice. More history on the Contessa 26 can be found at Contessa26.net.

Thanks also to Peter McGrath for supporting my cause on his blog as well as offering helpful advice.

Also many thanks to Adam for the support and pledge. Adam's blog is located here.