The Relentless Preparations

It’s been a while since I’ve written about what we’ve been up to, and thought I should give a quick update. With cyclone season lasting until April/May, we thought it’d be a good time to go and visit all our friends and family in South Africa, and spent 6 wonderful weeks re-connecting with our special country and people. We arrived back at the boat at the start of March, with the intention of spending the next 2-3 months preparing the boat for our Indonesian voyage.

It has been rather intense to say the least! Our family catchphrase has become “one step forward, two steps backwards” … because it has really felt like that a lot of the time! Marco tries to sort out one problem, and discovers two more in the process, and the list of to-do’s just seems to get longer and longer. There have been numerous times when Marco has wanted to “throw in the towel”, as it seems he has to become an expert in every little system on the boat (electrics, plumbing, engines, solar, communications etc). It’s put huge pressure on all of us, in different ways. We are starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel though, and the main headaches are mostly under control (or a work-in-progress) – hope I’m not “jinxing” us now.

Marco’s main headache has been the fuel tanks. Early on (soon after buying the boat) he discovered a slight bit of fuel next to both tanks at the bottom of the bilge. We weren’t sure if it was coming from the connections or from the tank itself, and whether it was getting worse – or possibly was just spilled fuel and not even a leak. We had been keeping an eye on it, and noticed that the amount of fuel seemed to be increasing – reaching about 5cm in height. It also seemed to be coming from the bottom of the tanks, not the inlet/outlet pipes. Marco wasn’t prepared to go offshore with leaking fuel tanks (and rightly so!), and so we had to get them out.

One of the offending fuel tanks – sitting tight in the bilge

Sounds easy enough, but apparently not. The tanks were too big to be removed from the bilges – the boat seemed to have been built around the tanks, and would have to be cut to get the tanks out. We weren’t keen on that, so decided to rather cut the tanks up and keep the boat intact. Turns out that there was a small hole in the welding under the tanks – probably caused from a combination of inadequate welding and the tanks being placed right on a foam layer (rather than having ventilation space underneath), and reacting with this foam substance.

The hole that caused all the headaches!

Anyway, after many many hours of research by Marco, we have decided to go with high-quality plastic fuel tanks. They don’t have seams so can’t crack, are light and won’t react with other substances they may come into contact with (like stainless steel or aluminium seem to). We’re also adding extra fuel tanks under the 2 aft-cabins, as we’ll probably be doing a lot of motoring in Indo. Now they just need to be fitted.

Living the dream – preparing the bilge for the new fuel tank

Apart from the fuel tanks, there is a long list of other projects which Marco is working through – like servicing the engines and winch motor, anti-slipping the decks, installing new solar panels etc. There are also a lot of items we’ve had to buy, all of which require a lot of research first – like a water-maker, additional anchor, satellite phone, lifeboat, AIS, etc.

I’ve been doing most of the admin, in amongst work and teaching the boys. We needed to get the boat Australian registered (kind of like a passport for a boat), which is a bit of a process. Part of this entails finally putting the name on the boat – which is quite exciting! Unfortunately it’s not totally straightforward transferring the vinyl sticker onto the boat – and I messed up part of the design on our hulls, so still a work in progress. We do have a cute new stern now though …


I’m trying to gather the necessary charts, books and navigation info for Indonesia, part of which involves overlaying Google Earth images on our charting software. It’s been a bit of a learning curve, but makes it all seem quite real (as I’ve been looking at satellite images of the islands we’re going to)! I’m going on pretty full-on marine first aid course in about 10 days time, where they teach suturing, CPR, giving injections etc. I’m a little nervous as I can be a bit squeamish, but I’m hoping it’ll make me feel more confident and empowered to deal with medical issues, should they arise (hopefully not!). I’ll then start working on getting a comprehensive medical kit together.

The boys have had to entertain themselves a lot of the time (not quite as much surfing or tennis at the moment). Luckily they’ve discovered Scratch, a computer language designed for kids, and can spend hours programming. They’ve been willing (and sometimes not-so-willing) “handlangers” for Marco when he’s stuck in the engine room, and have gotten involved in jobs that they can handle. Noah has been extra-motivated recently, as he is saving up for a new drone, and is keen to earn some extra pocket money.

Noah replacing the trampoline cords

Schooling carries on through all the boat-work. We’ve now started a Science curriculum on Wednesdays which the boys really enjoy, as it generally involves experiments (and therefore a bit more prep for me!). We’re also learning about Indonesian geography, culture and some of the language (the boys are ahead of me here, as they did it at school in Margaret River). It’s all helping our plans seem more real!

Fun experiment about density

We’re quite excited in that we are expecting our first crew member to arrive in 2-3 weeks. I’m estimating that we’ll be ready to leave for Indo in early June, so only about 6 weeks to go, God-willing. As before, our plans and decisions needed to be guided and led by God, and our desire is to be in His will. It’s hard to always keep the focus with all the struggles and obstacles, but we’re pushing on.


6 thoughts on “The Relentless Preparations

  1. Ashley Boyles

    O’Know, who would of thought there would be so many challenges when u got back to Auz. They must be testing for Marco to almost throw in the towel. It reminds me of a saying there are two good things about having a boat ‘the day you buy it & then the day you sell it’. This must be a big dream for you guys to endure so much. So dont lose hope now because you know the plans Jesus has for you, not to harm you but to prosper you… so keep your eyes on Him, Jeremiah 29:11. Indo is so close now you must all be excited. We loved seeing you all in CT & will keep you in prayer as you set off on the next stage of this life’s journey.
    May our Lord keep you & protect you all. Much love Sue, Amy & I


  2. Camilla Sjöberg McElhinney

    Hi Julie,
    It’s always so nice reading about your adventures (and not so nice that you have to deal with all the frustrations with boat problems). I hope all works out well over the next few weeks and that you have the most fantastic time in Indonesia. I am sorry we didn’t get a chance to see you when you were in SA, but I do understand that the “schedule” gets busy and fitting everyone in is difficult. We are all well, had a wonderful 2 week trip during the Easter Holiday and now the boys and I are waiting for the next two months to pass as we’re off to Sweden in June for the first time since 2014. Take care! Love C&co


    • jamvalentini

      Hi Camilla. Sorry to have missed you guys in CT. We actually spent most of our time in Elands Bay and Betty’s Bay, and was pretty manic when we were in CT. Have a lovely time in Sweden – your pics of your recent trip look amazing. Lots of love


  3. Lukas Wilczek

    oooh that’s annoying with those fuel tanks, I feel your pain. But nice job sorting it out! Plastic seems like a good choice. Nice name stickers too, finally the boat has a name! Keep it up, looking forward to following you guys and get a dose of the big sea back here in Sweden.


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