Cruising on Milk Crates

July 8, 2012

Whangarei, NZ

By: Damian

Truth to tell, the beginning of our adventure hasn’t gone exactly as we had imagined. If I were writing a book, I think the first chapter would be titled, Cruising on Milk Crates – after two months, we’re still up on chocks in the boat yard.

I want to preface this post with the message that this is not a tale of woe at all, it’s more a series of bumps in the road, a reality check so that we don’t get fooled into thinking the cruising life is all plain sailing.

I think the first thing we discovered back in May is just how little we knew about boats, despite the fact that we’ve both sailed an awful lot. Being crew on a boat, hopping on and off with little care or responsibility is so different to being an owner. Even though our boat was in good condition and presents very well, the workload we knew we faced before joining the boat quickly doubled, then trebled, then…you get the picture.

Needless to say, as the work list grew, so too did the expenses. As Kerry says, “BOAT is an acronym for ‘break out another thousand’.”

Before leaving Australia, we thought six to eight weeks should see all the work recommendations detailed in the pre-purchase surveyor’s report completed, with enough time to get us familiar with the boat and then it’d be first stop Fiji.

Looking back now, that seems ludicrous.

Hopefully this won’t be too boring (skip to the end of this post if you’re not interested in boat maintenance), but our work list so far has included:

  • replacing our rigging and changing it from Kevlar to wire
  • repairing and re-glassing the dagger board housings on both hulls
  • replacing the teak on the transom steps on both hulls
  • re-caulking one of the large coach house windows as well as filling a lot of smaller scrapes and dings in the hulls.

Casper the ghost - sanding copper coat anti-foulingWe had a ‘copper coat’ anti-fouling that was supposed to be good for 10 years, but it clearly wasn’t working very well. That, or it just wasn’t applied correctly. Either way we decided to sand it back and apply an abrative anti-foul to the bottom of both hulls. The sanding of the copper coat alone took four days!

We replaced both complete rudder assemblies due to heavy pitting on the rudder shafts (identified during the pre-purchase survey). These were flown in from France. In the process of removing the old rudders, it became clear the rudder bearing housings needed to be replaced. It took engineers two days to drill them out, then the new ones needed to be glassed and epoxyed in. Oh, and one of the rudder shaft arm brackets had to be drilled out, rendering its re-use impossible. This is something the yard forgot about until the day before we were due to go in the water… More on that later.

We’ve replaced one of the halyards and one of our three reefing lines on the leech of the mainsail and we’ve serviced all 10 winches on board. We’ve installed an internet wi-fi access point and had a stainless steel pole fabricated for it. We also bought two sea kayaks and had stainless steel frames made for them to be stored above the stern davits.

We had stainless chafe plates made for the mast; the autopilot linear drive was sent off for servicing; and the engines and generator were serviced. The engine servicing took 52 hours of labour and cost $5,500! Ouch!

We had new canvas awnings made for the cockpit and covers made for the cockpit table and both helm stations, as well as a new stack pack for the mainsail.

Ahead of going back in the water, we spent four days cutting and polishing the topsides, in the course of which we noticed water oozing from the caulking in the hull/deck seam, so we had to chip out all the caulking all the way around the boat and replace it, which led to several days delay launching.

polishing-3That’s a short list of the work on the outside!

Inside, we had to repair our saloon entrance door because it was sticking so badly Kerry couldn’t open it. That may not sound too hard, but it turned out to be one of the biggest jobs yet. They had to cut through the bulkhead to access the door and re-engineer the rolling system. That meant we had a loose bit of plywood keeping out the biting cold wind for about four days. It’s all back in now and working better than ever, but it took a lot of head scratching to fix it, not to mention some nifty cabinet-making and cost.

We also replaced all the European power points on the boat with Australian ones, and added more power points.

Finally, after delays that continued to snowball, we reached a point where we thought we were ready to go back in the water.

Our lift onto the trailer in readiness to go back in the water didn’t go very well. Actually, that’s quite an understatement! Firstly, the guys at the yard remembered about the drilled-out rudder arm only when they went to re-fit the rudders – this was the day before our scheduled splash down. This meant a new bracket needed to be machined and, consequently, further delays. At this point, we were up on the trailer (rather than resting on our milk crates) and we spent a wild and woolly weekend suspended by the bridge deck, with it blowing 30+ knots.

It turned out there was inadequate support on our hulls. Consequently, by Monday, big cracks had appeared in the gel coat at the top of the transom steps towards the bridge deck on both hulls. I stuck a bit of red tape at the edge of the crack to help you see it a bit easier (see pic).

crack in transom-1So back down off the trailer we came and another two weeks were lost while the yard did the necessary repairs.

Are you starting to see a pattern here?

As we’ve been doing all this, the days, then the weeks have rolled on by. Wherever we sail to offshore this year we have to be back in New Zealand by the end of November so as to avoid the hurricane season in the South Pacific – and to comply with our insurance policy.

And thus our weather window to head north to Fiji has been getting smaller and smaller and smaller.

~~~ ><(((°>  ><(((°> ><(((°> ~~~


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