The sun is a good thing – or is it?

We are nearly through our third month of living aboard in a sub-tropical region in summer. So how have we found it? Well we have to admit that this season has been a bit of a struggle. Where in the south you tend to soak up the rays, in the tropics or subtropics you do everything to protect yourself and your boat from them!

Life afloat in the subtropics

We had not exactly planned to spend summer in South East Queensland, it just happened that way. First there was the scheduled maintenance of Take It Easy, then the purchase of Anui and sale of Take It Easy, followed by upgrade work on our new abode. It all took time, as it turns out three months!

South East Queensland feels especially sticky and humid in the three hottest months of the year: December, January and February! It is particularly hard if you are on a boat, doing physical work inside or outside while the sun is beating down. The worse thing is sitting at a marina. It is not quite as bad if you are anchored with some breeze flowing through the boat, but still pretty unpleasant. Overall we have found the heat stifling, the humidity energy sapping, and getting drenched in sweat from morning to night horribly uncomfortable.

The sun might be good for your soul and your state of mind, but too much of it is not a good thing! So one aspect we have learnt is that we won’t do this again if we can help it! Next summer will be spent in more temperate climates!

Boats and the burning sun

From a boat care point of view, we have also discovered a few things the hard way, so for the yachties amongst you, here are a few pointers that might be helpful. For all our other followers, this may still be of interest, but if it is not, skip to the next section!

Mainsail – On larger boats, the mainsail when down is often flaked into a cradle rather than straight into a boom bag. The bottom of the cradle is open to reflected light from the deck, and the lower panel of your sail can get damaged really quickly. The rest of the sail is protected by the boom bag attached to the edges of the cradle. To avoid the reflected sun damage, fit a length of sunshade cloth to the bottom of the cradle – it lets rainwater through but stops reflected light from killing the bottom of your sail. On Anui, the bottom panel of the main was totally rotten, tearing at the smallest provocation, and the first reefing point further up was ripped off when we used it in strong conditions. We decided to not only fit some shade cloth to cover the bottom of the cradle, but also to replace the mainsail – a fair thing after 18 years of service! We have bitten the bullet and have got the best we could afford: our new main is made from Hydranet cloth and has a radial construction. It has just been made by Gold Coast Sailmakers.

Hatches – Once the seals on your hatches become brittle or shrink away from the glass, you will get leaks. In some cases leaky hatches can be made watertight again by changing the gasket, or resealing the glass into the frame, but there are cases when the whole hatch needs to be re-bedded into the deck. The lifespan of the sealant is 8 to 10 years, less if your boat has been baking in the hot sun on the hard! On Anui, all the hatches leaked. We resealed them and that was sufficient on all but one stubborn hatch in our cabin. For that one, we had to re-bed the hatch into the deck and re-bed the glass into the frame – the full treatment!

Shade Cloth – In the subtropics and tropics, when you are at anchor you want a shady, cooler cockpit, and protection from sun and heat on your windows/hatches. So invest in shade cloth around your cockpit that is easy to roll down and back up, and for the large windshield windows around the saloon on a cat, make or have made clip-on exterior shade panels. These block a fair amount of the light (70-90%) but still let you see out. For the smaller deck hatches, get some covers or install some perforated one way vision vinyl film to reduce the sun and heat penetration into the cabin.

Colour – Consider the colour of the shade cloth, particularly where it touches your paint work. When we bought Anui she had black shades with press-studs covering the large side windows – when in full sun, the temperature of the windows and surrounding paint work got 150 hotter than anywhere else and overtime cracked the paint work. We have had the paint work repaired and have replaced the shade cloth with very light grey material. We got ours made by Marine Canvas & Trimming at The Boat Works.

Dinghy Chaps – If your dinghy is an inflatable one, get some chaps made to protect the tubes. Without them over time the PVC or Hypalon will perish. Getting chaps is a lot cheaper than buying a new dinghy! And again, don’t select a dark colour if you want to be able to sit on the edge without burning your bottom! We got ours made by Gold Coast Sailmakers.

What is next?

Having finished our chores and spending spree for a while, we are finally ready to sail away from the Gold Coast. We today are leaving Paradise Point to move up to Moreton Bay, near Brisbane, where on 20 February I am abandoning Wade and flying to France to see my Dad. I expect it will be an emotional three weeks away, but significantly cooler since it is winter in France!

Wade intends to float around between the Gold Coast, Moreton Bay and Fraser Island with a few friends for company.  As for Bengie, she is hoping for a few early morning beach walks after being cooped up on board for too long.

We may post while I am away – I am thinking of doing a parallel lives series… Photos and reports from France and updates from Anui if I can convince Wade to take a few photos and email them to me! No promises but we will try to stay in touch. Stay tuned!

12 thoughts on “The sun is a good thing – or is it?

  1. And this is why we are ‘down south’…or one of the reasons. I have just made an internal shade for our helm station, not professionally done but concur – you need to block the sun out. Be careful what you wish for…Andrew tells me there might be a big low developing near Fraser Island shortly (according to one forecast program), Wade will need to check his detination forecasts early. We are still hanging off Geelong, this weekend’s weather window a bit too short if anything went wrong. On the upside, we will have a birdseye view of the Geelong Ironman competition tomorrow…we are around 200 meters (guess) from a turning mark for the swim….they kick off (splash off) however before 0700 so we will need to be up early. Stay sane, it could be worse….you could be in Darwin! xxx Trish

    • Hi Trish – Wade will only go all the way to Fraser if he has company. I think he is keen on getting the kite and surf board out either at the Gold Coast or Mooloolaba. And you know how careful he is with the weather! Hope you get across Apollo Bay at least soon, then to King Island and the Hunters – it is easy to spend some time around there before Tassie proper and all are easy day sails. Or is your intention to do the big crossing straight from Port Phillip Bay?

      • We are looking at potentially one jump (two days on my normal passage plan (less if we get good winds)) and to leave the Bass Strait islands for another time. However, the wind will determine the final journey direction.
        A note on hatch seals:a periodic (annual) run around the seals with silicon grease also helps keep them waterproof. 🙂

  2. When you put it that way, what a saga. At least all your hard work and purchases have made Anui into a magnificent beast and will be the pride of the Aussie coast. Talk soon. S

    • It has felt like a long stretch, Sue. Having said at the beginning that we would wait to make changes, we have attended to more stuff than originally thought, although nothing structural. Given we spend more than half the year up north, we had to act.

  3. Like the shade cloth around the cockpit. What is the type and spec of the cloth and who did the work for you.

    • The black shade cloth around the cockpit is the existing stuff, made by Scooter Sails & Shades in Yamba. No idea of the specs. They are excellent, cut down sun and UV and provide some privacy too when we sit in the cockpit at anchor. It would probably have been better in light grey to reduce the heat but because they are not affecting the paint work, we did not feel a change was warranted. The light grey cloth on the side windows replaces the original black Scooter shades which were in very good nick but because they were straight on the windows and sides of the cabin top, all the paint work was damaged underneath from the intense heat. The new ones have been made by Marine Canvas & Trimming at Coomera. They are Breeze Mesh.

  4. Just on the way back from a break, back home in Alice: reading this post on the plane. After two decades in the Center we can vouch for the destructive power of UV! Also, we have found that cheaper plastics stored in our tin shed (not exposed to UV) can break down just from the heat. After so long in a hot climate its one of the reasons we are not inclined to do a full circumnavigation. I haven’t done any research: but given the distances involved, I can’t see how it could be done in just one dry season, without going flat-chat, just to get round. I don’t fancy sitting out a wet/cyclone season up North. Great post Chris. Thanks for the one way film tip. I was wondering how to insulate my hatches better.

    • Hi guys – we did not think you can do a circumnavigation in a year either. Most people we know have done it in a minimum of 2 years, leaving the boat in Darwin on the hard over the wet season whilst doing something else on land – or took a cruise to Antarctica! We are not ready for that yet…

      The One Way Vision film is great – easy to put on yourself. Black side is stuck on the outside of the hatch, white side up. From the inside you can see quite well through the perforations.

  5. Hi, just wondered how you have found your new blue hulls in terms of boat temperatures?

    Thanks James

    • Hi James – Our last two boats have been blue. Coloured hulls are warmer and harder to colour match for scratches or ding repairs but in our opinion they look better than white ones. We are happy to make those compromises to have a boat that stands out from the white crowd.

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