February 11 – March 14, 2014
Other than the brief beaching in Opua for the thru-hull repair, it had been nearly two years since our last haul-out. Along with a small handful of maintenance jobs, the ole gal was in need of some bottom paint, and it was also high time to give her steel skeleton of a rudder some fiberglass and shape.
Having a work space available for fiberglassing the rudder was a priority. We had asked Norsand if we could rent a spot in their yard in order to finish our rudder, and they weren’t able to accommodate us. Fortunately, CBW (Cat & Boat Worx) was more than willing to allow us to use a space in their shed to get the work done.
Several days before the scheduled haul-out at CBW, we moved the boat down to the basin at Port Nikau where the haul-out ramp was located. We used this time to prioritize our out-of-the-water jobs, acquire all necessary supplies, and get the rudder job going. Since the rudders have 8-foot shafts, and the tractor lift can’t lift us high enough, it was necessary to drop the rudders while still in the water. (After Tonga, we have plenty of experience dropping and installing rudders now!) The good rudder would be used to create a template for the final shape on the new rudder. Also, while we waited for our haul-out, Wil took the new steel rudder to a machinist shop where they cut away any unnecessary steel, leaving behind only the shaft and the existing gussets.
The next minor challenge we faced was having to steer our rudderless boat onto the lift. Being a catamaran with two engines made the task easier, but it still required a little practice. Moments before the tractor came to fetch us, we hauled anchor, and I practiced steering the boat without rudders. I did a variety of maneuvers which included driving a small circle, stopping, and backing. Since there was a 15 knot wind, I also practiced holding the boat in position. Without rudders, it was amazing at how quickly the boat responded to just a slight bump of the throttle. I had to be extra careful not to give too much throttle, as well as compensate for the quick response.
When the time came to drive up onto the lift, it was like I’d driven into a lift without rudders in a 15 knot wind many times before. I was able to hold the boat in position and make necessary adjustments while Wil, the kids, and the yard crew secured the boat, placed blocks, and made sure the boat was ready to lift. It was beautiful!
Unlike all of our past haul-out experiences, this yard crew had us stay on the boat while they lifted and moved it. This was a good opportunity to listen for unusual noises and make sure everything was ok. As the boat reached the top of the ramp, that’s when it happened. CRACKKKKK!!
The kids and I were inside when we heard the crack, but we couldn’t tell where it came from. I yelled for Wil, and we immediately started looking for the source of the sound. We looked at walls, floors, and doorways. We opened and closed doors to check for anything out of whack. We couldn’t find anything wrong.
The boat was already halfway to the yard when the cracking sound happened again. This time we were all right there, and this time we saw what it was. Our single remaining good escape hatch was cracking!! (We’d lost the other escape hatch on the Caribbean Sea, and we still had not found a replacement.) Now, the foam blocks that had been placed between our boat and the steel beams of the lift were being flatten under our 20 ton weight, and the steel beams were completely against the glass, cracking it and bending the hatch frame. There was nothing we could do. It was too late. The damage had been done.
We had mixed feelings. Sadly, our hatch was cracked and damaged. At the same time, we were actually a bit excited about the damaged hatch. This time someone else was responsible, and maybe it meant that we could get a set of matching hatches that worked. Of course, we’d pay for the first hatch that had been stolen by a wave, but now there would be one source for glass and parts for both hatches.
CBW was very good about documenting the damage with us and deciding on a course of action. Fortunately for CBW, we only wanted the yard to purchase the glass and make sure we had a square hatch frame. We wanted to handle the installation ourselves. We also let them know that we would raise the salon floors to check for any hidden structural damage. Luckily, the fiberglass and stringers seemed to be fine under the floors.
In the end, the entire cost to us for replacement of our lost escape hatch was $150! Brand new Goiot hatch parts would have totaled about $1500. However, we obtained new acrylic through a hatch company that the boatyard uses and found $18 Goiot handles at All Marine. What a deal!
After a power wash to her bottom, the boat was moved to her reserved location in the yard, and there was no hesitation on our part to start tackling our out-of-water priority list.
The kids were excited because s/v Sueño was just a few boats down from us in the yard. For the next three weeks, a routine was established. Nathalie was working on a certification for her work, so each morning she would take all the kids to the library to do their schoolwork. Wil and I would work on our boat without having to worry about the kids, and David would work on Sueño. The kids would come home for lunch, and then they’d all get put to work on assigned boat jobs. Once the kid chores were completed, the boatyard would come alive with kids running and playing all over the place. Occasionally, they’d all go down to Norsand to play with the s/v Yindee Plus boys, or the Yindee Plus boys would join the chaos at CBW. Sometimes, we’d let the kids burn their energy at the Whangarei Aquatic Center or at the Town Basin playground. Having multiple kid boats hauled at the same time simplified boatyard life and made it a lot more fun! Every one of us also enjoyed weekly boatyard BBQs and free, long, hot showers each night.
Priority out-of-water jobs consisted of:
- scrape, sand, and paint the bottom
- fabricate, glass, and shape new rudder
- install newly fabricated bushing for new rudder
- add zincs to new rudder
- compound and polish the hulls
- dinghy maintenance & repairs: clean bottom, repair rub rail, remove rust stains, patch leak, change impeller & oil (upper & lower) in engine
- re-bed escape hatch frames
- install new glass, handles and weatherstripping for escape hatches
- install new cutlass bearing
- clean & grease a dripping drip-less shaft seal
Other jobs that were also completed during the 3-week haul-out:
- a new used jib was fitted & purchased ($1350 from Sailbrokers)
- mainsail was taken for some restitching & reinforcement
- installed newly fabricated genaker sheave at the mast top
- replace one drip-less shaft seal (leaked on launch & we needed to be re-hauled for a night)
In order to complete the rudder fabrication, Wil was able to buy (for cheap) spare pieces of foam which he glued together to form a “case” for the steel rudder skeleton. Once the two sides were created, he used a Sharpie pen to outline the skeleton before using a grinder to carve out the spot for the steel. The next step was like making an epoxy glue sandwich. With a thick layer of epoxy glue (West System 403) smeared across the foam, he pressed both pieces together and left them clamped overnight. Next, a grinder and homemade calipers were used to achieve the appropriate shape and measurements. Once the rudder had its shape, it was fiberglassed, faired, and bottom painted, and zincs were added. Since the new rudder shaft was 38 mm, compared to the previous 40 mm, a new bushing was made and a 38 mm steel rod was used to appropriately place the new bushing.
Actual installation of both rudders occurred right before launch when the tractor backed our stern over the top edge of a rock retaining wall to allow for the extra distance needed to re-insert the 8-foot shafts. This was a nerve-wracking move because the ground was wet, and we had to be positioned where the lift wouldn’t sink into the mud and cause us to slide backwards down the rocks. With Wil standing at the base of the rocks and under the stern, and myself in the engine room, we installed the rudders as quickly as possible. For the new rudder, the spacers needed some minor adjustments, so the rudder could reach its secured position and not have its leading edge touch the hull. This took a few tries before the rudder was right and was a perfect match to the other rudder! My heart raced during every second that Wil was underneath the stern of the boat. We were all relieved when the boat could finally be pulled forward to the hard asphalt.
Next stop was the launch ramp. After 3 weeks of continuous hard work, we were thrilled to be headed for the water. Compared to the 3 years out of the water prior to cruising, this had been a breeze, but we were still exhausted. At the same time, we knew it wasn’t over until we were floating free from the boat ramp. Something in our gut must have reminded us of this fact because moments after being lowered into the water, we had to be hauled back out for one more overnight in the yard.
The drip-less shaft seal in the starboard engine room was leaking. During our haul-out, Wil had removed the seal, cleaned it, and packed it with grease before replacing it. However, at this moment, it was quite obvious that the maintenance had not been enough. We quickly learned that the seal was way beyond worn out. While still on the launch ramp, I made phone calls and was able to locate the part. By that evening, Wil had installed the new one, and we were ready for a round-two splash the following morning.
Once we were floating and back on the hook, our bodies relaxed, and we looked forward to some physical recuperation. Nothing better than the sound of water lapping at the hull to aid in the rejuvenation of mind and body. BUT, yet again, there was no rest for the weary. A second cyclone was on its way!