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new zealand ~ thru-hull sprung!

Posted by on November 18, 2014

December 6 – 10, 2013

For the very first time, after a year and a half of cruising, we left the boat alone at anchor and departed town for the entire day. Of course, this would be when a case of Murphy’s Law would have to occur, and a major problem would demand immediate attention . . . but we weren’t around to know what was happening.

Along with the Sueño and Tribe crews, we rented a car for the day, so we could attend a vendor Meet -and-Greet in Whangarei. We went early, so we could explore and do some shopping in Whangarei before the meet-and-greet events and dinner that evening. We met up with Elcie (who was hauled out at Norsand for a paint job), and we joined the many other cruisers at Marsden Cove Marina for the vendor fair. The day was busy, fun, and informative, and it was nearly 10 p.m. by the time we were making the dinghy ride back out to the boat.

As we pulled up to the boat, we heard an alarm sounding. It only took a millisecond to realize that it was a bilge alarm. Immediately, we were all scrambling aboard to locate the problem, and it was only a matter of seconds before Wil discovered trouble in the starboard engine room.

emergency plug in the thru-hull for the engine raw water intake

It was like a steady stream of water from a drinking fountain. Water was squirting into the engine room, and there was about 4-5 inches of standing water covering the floor of the hull. The bilge pump, which we know had been functional, had quit working. The pump appeared to have burned itself out after what had possibly been many hours of continual running. Fortunately the engine still remained untouched from the incoming salt water.

Pumping as hard as we could, the kids and I rotated turns on the manual bilge pump while Wil did what he could to stop the water flow. After several failed attemps, he finally succeeded in stopping the water flow by pressing a marble-sized ball of a two-part epoxy stick into the set screw of the bronze thru-hull.

Remember our thru-hull trouble on day 3 of our initial Pacific crossing? Our temporary fix using 5200, a heavy duty rubber glove, and a couple of hose clamps had held the thru-hull together from the eastern Pacific all the way to New Zealand! Now water was streaming in from the set screw of that failing thru-hull.

This was late on a Friday night, and we knew there was no other solution than to replace the thru-hull. The epoxy would only hold for a short time. We needed to get the boat hauled or beached as soon as possible. All day Saturday, we did our research to figure out the best solution.

Hauling out at Ashby’s Boatyard was out of the question because we are well over their 15 ton limit for the trailer lift. And, if they were capable of hauling us, the cost would be over $800 for the haul-out, plus $120/day to sit on the lift. Besides, there was already another boat on the lift. It would be too risky to move the boat any distance. We thought through all the beach areas we knew about for the possibility of beaching the boat. However, while we knew we could stand on our keels, we’d never beached a boat our size before. Then, we learned about Doug’s Opua Boatyard just around the corner from where we were anchored. For $20/day for the use of his property, we would be able to beach the boat right in front of his yard. Couldn’t beat that price!

Fortunately, the thru-hull held until the Monday morning when we could move over to Doug’s. He had us arrive about an hour before high tide. We pulled up toward the beach until we just touched the bottom. Doug caught our bow lines which were cross tied to posts on the shore. Using the dinghy, we placed a stern anchor. Then, we waited for the tide to fall.

As we waited, there was a Van Morrison tune that I couldn’t shake from my mind . . . “sittin’ on the dock of the bay, watchin’ the tide roll away . . .”

waiting for the water to go out ~ about a 9 to 11-foot tidal swing

Since, we had been having electrolysis issues, we planned to replace all 4 bronze thru-hulls (both engine rooms) with brand new thru-hulls made of reinforced plastic. At the same time, we would be replacing all of our zincs, as well as adding two additional zincs.

Just before the tide fell low enough, we prepared everything up to the point of thru-hull and zinc removal. We needed to make sure all jobs could be accomplished before the tide came in. Priority tasks were set, and if there was extra time, then we would clean and polish the water line.

bows crossed tied to posts at the wall

fat cat beached (& sunk) in the mud for her special spa treatment

disintegrating bronze thru hulls

As Wil went to unscrew the leaky thru-hull, it completely fell apart in his hands. When we got a better look at the thru-hulls, we were shocked at what we saw!

These photos speak for themselves and definitely show the results of electrolysis. We were extremely lucky to be in a place where we could prevent any further disaster from happening.

bronze thru-hulls just over a year old ~ bonded thru-hulls fell apart / unbonded thru-hulls were fine

a mucky work platform

a Kingfisher on a neighboring boat

All thru-hull and zinc jobs were a success during one low tide, and before the tide came in, Wil managed a bit of hull cleaning at the water line. The next low tide would be in the early morning, so Wil decided to finish polishing the hull once the water was low enough again. Then, we would be ready to float off at the following high tide.

Since the keels had sunk so deeply into the mud, we wondered if the boat would be able to escape the suction. We had nothing to worry about. High tide came and the boat floated. We untied the bow lines, hoisted the stern anchor, and away we went . . . relieved to have new thru-hulls and appropriate zincs intalled.

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