Monday, June 14, 2021

Little Wanderer 2 has been sold

June 11, 2021. This is the day we got the news that Little Wanderer 2 has been sold. Eric of SGBoating  called to say that the couple who have taken the boat out for test drives are buying it, after beating down our asking price (but of course).  

All in the family felt sad. We can no longer go out in it. All that remains now is for C and A to return to Raffles Marina soon to remove our stuff from the boat - the things we want to take back. 

I'll be uploading a video clip that captures our best times on this boat, and some on Little Wanderer, the Chaparral that we held for just about a year before we traded it in for LW2.

Watch this space. A bit depressing now to write more. 

Sunday, May 09, 2021

Two friends on board

Date: May 8, 2021
Weather: Cloudy 
Waters: Flat, like a mirror! 
On board: C, A, A2, N and Pudding   

These two friends go back a long way, back to C and A's days in The Straits Times. None of us work there any more. A2's recent bereavement brought us together again, and we said we would go out on the boat before long, so here we were, near the Lim Chu Kang fish farms in 6m deep waters. 

Again, we were the only boat there and they loved it. Away from the hubbub of the city and amid nature, which they were to tell us at the end of the trip gave them a peace and stillness that has been missing from their lives lately.   

Pudding impressed A2 and N with
his friendly and chill personality.
A2 has a Jack Russell and N, a cat.


Tuesday, April 27, 2021

One of the last trips on Little Wanderer 2

Date: April 24, 2021
Weather: Cloudy and cool 
Waters: Choppy at first, then fairly flat 
On board: C, A, J2, R and Pudding  

Yes, this photo says it all.
Call that number if you are interested.
The family has taken the decision to let go of Little Wanderer 2 as soon as a buyer can be found for it. We have enlisted the help of SGBoating to do that, and there have already been some viewings of this four-and-a-half year old Searay Sundancer 260 (bought late 2016). The body is in very good condition, and it has low mileage; in the time we have had it, some parts (including the battery) have been replaced, and she purrs. (Looks like Searay has lately discontinued the Sundancer 260, but the Sundancer 265 is similar. See the specs on Searay's official website here.) 

She has a beautiful profile.

There are a combination of reasons we are doing this, chief among which is that we simply aren't going out enough in it to justify the cost of maintaining it. Work gets in the way, and the only day of the week we can conceivably go on an outing is Saturday. Throw in the vagaries of each family member's schedule, and the wind, tides and overall weather not being in our favour, and you end up with only a precious few windows in a year to make that outing. It's like asking the planets to be aligned. 

In our four-and-something years with this boat, we have logged in only 37 trips, including today's - under 10 trips a year. Not good... though the memories made on her have been great.  

In an ideal universe, we would have liked to keep her into our retirement years, but if we don't have the time to go out often enough before retirement, then affording the upkeep after retirement would be the issue. Work - damned if you do it, and damned if you don't. 

We are sad to let this boat and the lifestyle go. It's been a pleasure even if we don't go very far from the marina. The quiet and being at sea, away from the week's cares, if only for three or four hours.

So, on April 24, we headed out for what could be the last outing on her on a cool, cloudy Saturday. The water was a little choppy as we headed for the Lim Chu Kang fish farms north of Tuas, but was a lot flatter when we tried to anchor. 

I say "tried" because the windlass chose not to work, despite several tries. We were to find out later that the relay for the system had gone kaput. Anyway, if we couldn't drop anchor, staying put in our chosen spot wouldn't have been possible. We took a short drive north of the fish farms for a look-see, and then headed back to the marina, disappointed at the truncated outing.  We did, however, spend about 15 minutes floating (but still under power)  just outside Raffles Marina

We then made tracks for the flat waters of the marina itself, berthed there and stayed on the boat, drinking our beers and listening to music. 

Captain C berthed her effortlessly, and
C and J2 lashed her to the cleats on the dock. 

We are hoping that there might be another outing or two in her before she goes to her next owner.  

Postcript: This pic was sent to us showing
us the bit of the windlass relay that went
wonky on Saturday. 

Friday, February 26, 2021

First family trip of the year, Coast Guard comes by

Date: Feb 20, 2021 
Weather: Alternately sunny and cloudy 
Waters: Fairly flat, only around 3m deep where we anchored
On board: C, A, J2, R and Pudding 

J1 and P are on a staycation this weekend, but the rest of us were available, so out to our usual spot we headed. It was past noon by the time we got to the marina, and finding only a quarter tank of petrol left, we decided not to chance being stranded Out There, so we topped up the tank first (causing a bit more delay). 

This is the first top-up since petrol duties were raised at last week's Budget announcement. The tank wasn't completely full and yet it cost $388. That same cost would have bought us a full tank before. 

Pudding stayed fairly calm during the ride
 though he seemed to be studiously avoiding
 a proper look at the roiling waters
churned up by the engine!
This dog really hates water. 

Pic by R. 

We could have gone to Lazarus or any of the further-away Southern Islands of Singapore, but it was a late start, coupled by the delay from getting fuel, so it was back to our usual spot, beyond which we have never ventured. Further north, beyond the fish farms, would be the seaward edge of the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and also the Causeway. 

Anyway, we were nicely anchored about 200 m from the Lim Chu Kang fish farms when a Police Coast Guard boat came by, and asked (in friendly manner) through a loud speaker told us to move further north, nearer the farms, as we were still within the Singapore Armed Forces live-firing area. We hauled up anchor and complied. 

The rest of the afternoon passed without incident. We had beer, music and fed Pudding rather too many treats to make up for the fact that we had forgotten to bring his lunch kibble along...

C going through the post-trip ablutions.
All this rinsing hasn't warded off
corrosion though. Sigh. 

Friday, February 19, 2021

Three boys on board - and some musings on the costs of owning a boat

Date: Jan 30, 2021
Weather: Sunny and windy 
Waters: Peak of an unusually high tide, but turned quickly before return trip
On board: C, J2 and Pudding   

The following entry was posted by C, since A wasn't along for this ride. 

There ya go: C with Pudding,
and then J2 with Pudding ...
the three boys on the boat this round.

The first trip out for 2021 was one for the boys, literally - only three males on board. It was a hastily-arranged trip, with much of the usual crew sidelined due to last-minute commitments. The weather was a challenge, too: Who can forget the wet, wet weather that greeted the first two weeks of 2021?

But a break in the clouds emboldened C and J2 to drag Pudding along and go for it, and, as usual, the trip was well worth the price of admission. A late start meant making a beeline for our usual lounging spot off the SAF Live-Firing Area, and a planned dinner at 6.30 pm with the rest of the family meant there was less time than usual out at sea. The boys made the best of it anyway - good music, beers, and a lively conversation were crammed into three hours or so. 

Apart from the future of work, property, and the usual discussion about their beloved Liverpool FC, one topic of conversation in particular might pique the interest of boaters: The cost of owning a boat, and how long we might be able to keep this up.

The chat was sparked by a spate of repairs over the last few months. Having arrived brand-new in December 2016, LW2 is now just a shade over four years old. Niggly affairs, such as peeling paint, mouldy seats, and general cosmetic issues have required seeing-to. 

In our years of boat ownership, however, we have found the occasional mechanical hiccups to cost way more. On one particularly hot afternoon in 2020, the air-conditioning refused to work. It turned out to be a minor issue - a faulty pressure switch, but a hefty, four-figure bill was presented, despite the fact that the replacement part cost in the low three figures. 

An earlier episode of strange power interruptions was fixed relatively cheaply, but the repairs threw up a bigger problem: the exhaust elbows and gaskets had to be replaced.

Leaving aside the issue of the condition of LW2 - it is in almost mint condition despite its age, courtesy of a rigorous maintenance schedule and a generous amount of TLC - this has been puzzling. 

LW2’s engine hours are very low, but corrosion has still managed to set in. We have made only 36 trips on it in four years. (Thanks to this boat log, we are precise about that.) We are not sure of the average among boaters, but if we had made a trip out every other weekend, which seems a reasonable amount for the investment, we would have had to make the repairs in a year or so! 

OK, perhaps that is simplifying it. One has to, of course, account for exposure to the elements and such, but still!

Anyway, to cut a long story short, ordering the parts and getting the latest repairs done forced us to pony up that high four-figure sum that would have been better used on Christmas shopping. A GPS fix and other minor repairs pushed the total into five-figure territory. 

Far be it for us to complain about what looks to be First-World problems, but ad hoc repairs are one thing. There are also ongoing recurring expenditures - the monthly outlay for berthing at Raffles Marina, a boat-washing fee (OK, in a pinch, we can save on this by doing our own washing), marina membership and petrol for this 26-footer Sea Ray Sundancer 260. 

Petrol will cost us more, thanks to the hike in petrol duties. It has normally cost about $400 or a little less than that to top up the tank. The next tankful is going to be way more. 

So all in, even when we don't go out, we'd say it costs about $1,200 a month to be the owner of a boat this size (which is still pretty modest, we think).  

And now, with A and C having fewer sunrises ahead than behind them, the elephant in the room will have to be confronted - sooner rather than later. Retirement, forced or otherwise, beckons, and boating is simply not a leisure activity for those above 65 with modest means. 

J2 derided the idea that we will have to sell the boat soon, promising that the children would pick up the slack, being in good jobs and all. But that would be unfair: Having a boat was our idea. From the earliest days, we wanted, most of all, to give the kids a different experience, and since we are also fans of the great (?) outdoors, a boat seemed just the ticket. I venture that has been achieved, and then some.

Each boating trip has been such a great family occasion. Wading ashore on deserted islands, cooking under the stars, chugging beers with abandon under the azure skies ... that's just the half of it. We have decorated our boats (LW and LW2) with Christmas lights and had parties on them while docked, painted anchor ropes in inclement weather, been aground, hoping for the tide to beat the fading light, navigated by instinct through a horrendous storm, and even been adrift at sea in darkness after engine failure. 

Sure, there has been some fear at times, but those are just some irksome memories in a library of good ones. We’d recommend a boat to anyone.

Alas, as they say, all good things must come to an end. And for us and Little Wanderer 2, each passing day brings us closer to a fateful decision.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Just the two of us

Date: Dec 16, 2020
Weather: Sunny, then cloudy. Rain to the starboard on the way back. 
Waters: Fairly flat, peak of high tide
On board: C and A  

C and A, being the only two in the family who have begun their year-end vacation, headed out today. The younger people had plans of their own. 

 It was cloudy up east where we live, but actually sunny at the marina. 

C picks the music. A snaps a wefie. 

Still, we did expect it to rain buckets at some point, especially in the mid-afternoon; this has been the weather pattern for the past month. This was why we set out earlier than usual - and also, without the younger people with us, we were actually able to do that. If not for the crappy weather, we might have even taken a longer trip, say, to Lazarus island. 

Rain crimps plans, limits options. (It also makes us wary that fresh leaks may be springing in the basement of our home.) 

We dropped anchor and just chilled to a bottle of prosecco, and put Aretha's Christmas carols on. It was mercifully quiet today, except for Gloria In Excelsis Dio

We had only one sighting of a Brahminy kite swooping down to fish, missing the mark, and then flying back to a tree in the army training ground nearby, as C watched the action on the binoculars. 

No decorating of the boat with baubles and tinsel this year. We didn't do it last year either. It feels like we have run out of time to do it. (We did it in 2017 and 2018.) 

It really feels like time is speeding up, like we are barrelling towards Christmas, even though we began our annual leave at the end of the first week of December. A has realised that attending mass through the year, and especially during Advent, is way of marking out the passage of time. It gives structure to the weeks. It's been nearly a year of mass-less Sundays, and this season, we are already in the third week of Advent. Without witnessing the lighting of the Advent wreath a month ahead of Christmas (starting with a purple candle in the first week, another in the second, a pink candle in the third and a final purple candle a week before Christmas), Advent feels amorphous, without structure. It's the same with the rest of the year, when one would mark the start of the week by attending Sunday mass. Watching streamed proceedings just isn't the same.

As we head towards the end of one Very Strange Year, we take count of the ways life has changed. A year (OK, 10 months for A, and about nine for C) of working from home has saved us time commuting to work and preparing to go to work. We've slummed comfortably in home clothes. Where did the time we saved from commuting and getting dressed for work go? More TV, and with that, lots more snacking. 

We have one home-cooked meal each day at dinner. Lunch has mostly been ordered and delivered by GrabFood or Deliveroo or some such. It is expensive this way, as we have found!  In normal times, we would all have lunched separately, as a break midway through work in the office. 

The dog can't believe his good luck. Scritches and pets on tap all day, every day. 

We have to count our blessings, in that we don't seem in immediate danger of losing our jobs. 

After two hours on this day near the Lim Chu Kang fish farms, the sky began turning dark, so we left our spot. It began raining to starboard, where Puteri Cove, Johor Baru is, and also over Forest City, that mega mixed development built on a man-made island off south-western Johor. 

What torrential rain looks like from out at sea. 
We were dry where we were, though the tiniest 
of droplets could be felt. Puteri Cove.

Forest City being pelted.

After this trip, the boat goes in for some fixing. The risers need to be fixed. We turned on the AC below deck to check on it, and it seems to be working fine, despite having been on the blink on the previous trip out.  

Monday, October 26, 2020

Air conditioning on the blink

Date: Oct 24, 2020
Weather: Cloudy, then blazing hot 
Waters: Flat
On board: C, A, J2, R, Pudding and a guest, C2 

It was a late start, near 1pm, so we went for our default destination near the Yio Chu Kang fish farms instead of the longer trip to Lazarus Island. After we dropped anchor and through the afternoon, a hired boat which had set out from Raffles Marina with wakeboarders shattered the peace of our spot and sent us bobbing in its wake repeatedly. A nuisance. 

It was a smooth ride out and the waters off Tuas were otherwise like glass. Today, we had C2 on board, the older brother of D, who joined us on the last trip out. C2 is 15, skinny and restless, talks fast and jabs frenetically at his iPhone. He asked lots of questions too, about the features of the boat, and also why other boaters waved at us. A told him it is a maritime tradition. More about that here

At our anchored destination, his keyed-up energy found release in leaping and somersaulting off Little Wanderer's bow and swimming around her. 

C2 catches up with his aunt, R.  

The cool, cloudy day turned into a broiler soon enough, and Pudding responded by retreating below deck. We wanted the air-conditioning on but ... nothing happened. A short consult by phone with Eric of SGBoating later, C got instructions to open the hatch below the rear seats to do some trouble-shooting. Turns out the air-conditioner was low on coolant - either from neglect by the marina maintenance crew, or a leak, which could mean another bill to pay! (Repairs were done in July for separate problems. See entry here.)

Pudding had to lean in for a look
 to see what was wrong too.  

Back at the marina later, Capt C roped in C2 for the after-trip ablutions. It's become a sort of tradition on board Little Wanderer 2: Her young guests are asked to help hose down the deck to clean away the dirty footprints, spilled beer or random globs of doggo saliva. As Capt C says: "You've had fun at sea, now get to work. There's no such thing as a free lunch."  

And so C2, like the young guests before him, obliged. He had no option, actually. In truth though, our little "tradition" is a recognition of the fact that kids like to play with water. So this bit of "child labour" is actually fun for them.  

After the boat was hoisted out of the water (below), C was reminded that it was time to book this year's grooming. Dry berthing has spared us the curse of barnacles, but the hull needs protection from a polish with glazing so that stains don't stick.  

LW2 is a little over three years old. 
The wake by LW2 on the way back to the marina,
just below the Tuas Checkpoint (Second Link).
A fine Saturday to be out at sea.