View from the Shed – Part II

Urquharts Bay, New Zealand

By: Kerry

Since we’ve been back we have been flat chat on re-building the boat. While we were away, Sel Citron went into the shed at the boatyard in Whangarei and had her topsides repainted. Oddly, people ask me what colour we chose this time around.  YELLOW of course!  It’s grown on us and now we can’t imagine anything else!  So now we’re even brighter than before.

Unfortunately, that was about all that got done while we were away and now it’s a fight and a race to get all the other repairs done, mast built and sails made etc, and get back in the water in time to sail away before winter sets in. (There is NO WAY I am spending another winter in NZ – just for the record!). We are really up against it, with a huge workload and it just seems to be one step forward, one back.

One of the biggest jobs at the moment involves repairing the decks, which were badly dinged and damaged in the dismasting. The original plan was to cut out the damaged parts and replace them with moulds taken from other sections of gel coat on the boat. To cut a long and very painful story short, that ended up not being possible. We looked at every alternative, but we’ve now resigned ourselves to having to sand all the (acres) of decks back to smooth and then paint them with a non-skid paint. It’s a huge job – weeks worth of work.

To give you an idea of the ‘one step forward, two back’ kind of progress we’ve been making, here’s a précis of a typical couple of days.…

(If it’s less painful to stick pins in your eyes than read this, skip to the *** below).

In preparing for the deck repairs, Damian spent the best part of a week trying to take off all the deck fittings – blocks, tracks, staunchions, pad-eyes, cleats, etc etc – you never realise how many they are until you start taking them off. And of course, none of them want to come off and when they do, they reveal further ‘issues’ underneath…Let’s just not even go there!

We also have to replace the solar panels, since – of course – they don’t make the old ones any more. We actually only ‘need’ to replace two of the eight, but you can’t mix different types, so we have to replace all of them. And the new ones are different sizes, which means the custom-built aluminium brackets that hold them in place on the bimini roof and cabin top have to be re-built, which means the holes in the deck where they were bolted, and the bigger holes where the old electric cables exited, have to be filled, fibreglassed, painted….

Damian spent about a day trying to get the ‘ceiling’ panels off the underside of the bimini in order to access the electrical cables for the solar panels, but couldn’t budge them (someone’s used the wrong glue to stick them on with). So the alternative was to drill yet more holes in the top of the bimini (near the ones that have to be filled from the old solar panels). He started on that, but his favourite electric drill caught fire….Eventually, he cut the holes, only to find he still couldn’t access all the cables, so he had to spend another 2 days getting the ceiling panels off, after all…

Meanwhile, the solar panels have to come in from Australia (of course!) and I spent the best part of a day trying to organise to have them airfreighted – not difficult, you’d think… but you’d be wrong!

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg…


Here she is, Glad-wrapped, mast-less, missing trampoline and in the shed…

On the up-side, we finally had our meeting with the mast builder last week. The designer FINALLY delivered the technical drawings – only 9 weeks late – so Bart the builder can now finally get started on building the mast (it was supposed to be done by now). He reckons he’ll go flat out from here, but I reckon it will be 4-6 weeks away, which is starting to cut it fine to get in the water and get away.

We can now also finally push ‘go’ on ordering sails – and hope that there aren’t any delays there!

It took two attempts to fit the new forebeam (the old one was bent and twisted in the dismasting). Here’s the second attempt, with Damian (who isn’t a fan of heights) on the forklift. OH&S would probably have had something to say about the methodology, but it got done at least!

So it’s been a bit grim, but at least we’re not living on the boat while it’s in a snow storm of sanding dust!  I found a little ‘bach’ – a kiwi beach house – in Urquharts Bay, across the river from Whangarei, It’s very simple – as a bach should be – and very cute and right on the water: as I sit here looking through the French doors, I can’t see the water’s edge as it’s so close it’s below the edge of the verandah. Check it out:

And if there was any doubt as to why we wouldn’t want to be living on the boat, here’s one more reason: this is the state of the saloon…

View from the Shed-5493

It was Damian’s birthday the Sunday before last and we had a few friends over for dinner – beef wellington and orange poppyseed birthday cake with candied orange peel, a la Kerry – and had a fun night. Luckily, Cyclone Lusi had blown through the day before, rather than on his birthday – winds of 67 knots at Marsden Cove (our usual hang) and all the catamarans in the boat yard had to be tied down to enormous concrete blocks, one at each corner. But not us, since we’re ‘indoors’ .

So there’s an upside to being in the shed!

~~~ ><(((°>  ><(((°> ><(((°> ~~~


A Pretty Good Idea of the WHAT, if not the WHY…

Whangarei, NZ

By: Kerry

At the time of the dismasting, we released both the cap shrouds and the starboard lower shroud (D1) to free the broken mast and get it overboard. But the port lower shroud was nowhere to be seen: all that was left was two neat holes, the size of the chain plate bolts, in the cabin top gel coat.

So we had a pretty good idea of WHAT caused the dismasting, but not the WHY…

The Loss Adjustor quickly established that the lower shroud giving way was the cause of the mast coming down: once the mast was unsupported in the middle section, it bent like a noodle and snapped.

With a fair bit of effort, we extracted the U-bolts (the ‘chain plates’ which attached the lower shrouds to the cabin top) from both sides and it became clear that both sides of the port U-bolt had sheared off at the point where the thread of the bolt meets the smooth metal of the ‘U’. That point was exactly half way – 25 mm – through the 50mm thick deck. It made no sense at all.

The Loss Adjustor said he’d never seen anything like it in 40 years, and ordered tests be done by a metallurgist.

The metallurgist’s report stated that it appeared the bolt sheared as a result of ‘minute cyclic movement’: there was just the tiniest bit of movement under load and, over the 10-year life of the boat, this had weakened the bolt until it snapped.

So one small fitting – probably worth about $40 – one giant headache.

Since the amount of the repair bill is going to have a lot of zeroes in it, we were a tad concerned about the response from the insurers, to say the least.
Thanks goodness for Mike, our very-experienced Loss Adjustor who went in to bat for us.

After an anxious wait, we heard from the insurers, who agreed to honour the claim.


~~~ ><(((°>  ><(((°> ><(((°> ~~~

S**t Never Happens when the Sun’s Shining.

Marsden Cove, New Zealand

By: Kerry

And so, we ended the season as we started: dealing with ‘enhanced trade winds’. We’d asked Bruce, our weather man, to find us a weather window to head back to NZ. The winds in the last week had been pretty strong – there was a squash zone between two weather systems that were pushing the trade winds up to 25 knots. Bruce said that, if we left on Friday, we’d have 36-48  hours of fairly boisterous conditions, but then it would be a smooth run all the way to NZ.

Sailing lore has it that you WILL get smacked by a cold front and/or low pressure system somewhere on the trip from the tropics to NZ: the lows come rolling through from the Southern Ocean and the Tasman about once every 5-8 days, and since it usually takes around 8 days to do the crossing, you’ll meet one somewhere. The best you can hope for is that you hit the front north of 30 degrees south, when it is less intense….

We’re a bit faster than most of the cruising boats to which that ‘lore’ applies. But this was also a pretty exceptional window – it didn’t look like we’d hit a low anywhere, as long as we left by Friday. “Cool,” we thought. “That’s gotta be an improvement on the trip up here!”

So we set off and made really good time. The first 24 hours we had steady 25 knot SE trade winds and we were were flying along on a beam reach – the boat wanted to be going a lot faster, but with a 2.5 metre swell and us not wanting to bang the boat (or ourselves) around, we had two reefs in both the main and the headsail. Still, we did 241 miles in the first 24 hours. That might not sound much if you’re thinking land travel, but most cruisers dream of doing – but rarely do – 200 mile days, so it was pretty damn fast, and we were pretty happy with how things were going.

Everything was fine. Right up until it wasn’t.

It was Saturday night, around 9.30. Black as the inside of a cow outside. We do three-hour watches at sea, so I was asleep, while Damian was on watch, sitting at the chart table. There was an almighty crash: our mast had come down.

Just like that.

The next three hours or so were fairly torrid. The mast broke into three pieces (as far as we could see in the dark) but they all remained linked together by the mainsail, which is on a car system that runs on a track right up the mast and held at the top of the mast by the halyard. The middle section of the mast was bent back toward the boat, the sharp end of it being driven into the hull by the wind and waves and the downward drag of the top two thirds of the mast which was submerged, still loaded with the bulk of the mainsail, and sinking under the boat and in danger of fouling props and rudders.

Our main concern was to avoid being holed by the broken mast – losing the rig was one thing, sinking was an altogether less attractive option…

I won’t go into the detail here as it would all sound too scary (especially the part about Damian getting into the dinghy to release the gennaker from the prod) and too technical, but if you’re interested, you can read the full, four-page story I wrote for New Zealand Boating Magazine, here:

Dismasted 925 Miles From Home

Suffice to say, our beautiful sails, our new radar, and two of the three sections of mast are now at the bottom of the Tonga Trench (think Marianas – about 4000m down).

We didn’t sustain any major injuries and were able to get cleared up and underway by about 12.30am. The interesting bit then was whether or not we had enough fuel to get home… This happened 925 nautical miles NW of New Zealand. We could have turned around and gone back to Tonga, but that wouldn’t have solved any of our problems: one way or another, we still had to get the boat back to NZ, and since we were already 300 miles out and it looked like we would have good weather most of the way home, we decided to press on.

We notified NZ Search and Rescue and kept them updated twice daily with position reports. We had to estimate our fuel consumption – fortunately, Damian is totally anal about keeping records of such things, so we had a reasonable idea, and were reasonably confident we could make the distance (having filled the tanks just before leaving Neiafu). So we became a motor boat and motored for the next 7 days straight – very grateful, once again, for being a catamaran and having 2 engines, rather than having to rely on just one!!

Our last night at sea we encountered a cold front that pushed the winds back up to 25 knots and we had a few ‘issues’ with engines and autopilot, which we didn’t really appreciate at that point, but nothing insurmountable. The smoke stacks of Port Whangarei appeared on the horizon in the early hours of Saturday morning and by 11.30 we were tied up on the Quarantine dock at Marsden Cove: our home away from home. We were greeted by Bruce, the local Customs officer, Karen, the manager of the marina and another friend, Ian – bearing food, flowers and a bottle of Bombay Sapphire! Since then, we’ve been overwhelmed by the kindness of everyone here – they have been tremendously supportive.

The boat is pretty banged up – the solar panels are smashed, the forebeam that joins the two hulls is twisted (staggering force required to do that); the mast and boom have had it, sails gone, stack pack torn, hole in the cabin top, lots of scuff marks, dents and grazes. Amazingly, there is little damage at the waterline – we think there must have been some sail between the hull and the sharp end of the broken mast.

We spent six hours yesterday with the insurance assessor and have, we think, identified WHAT happened, if not WHY.  The U-bolt holding the D1 (inner shroud) to the cabin top sheared off, about 20mm below the surface of the deck. Once it let go, the mast (which was carbon and had no spreaders) was unsupported in the middle, so warped like a noodle and snapped.

The Assessor, who has 30 years experience, has never seen anything like it. So it will be interesting to find out the “WHY”, which will involve having the bolt examined by a metallurgist.

The upside of it is that he said we did a ‘superb job’ of handling the situation – that we’d done everything possible in advance to make the boat safe, to prevent it happening; and that we did everything right when it did happen. There was nothing else we could have done either to prevent it or to salvage anything. So that’s good for our confidence. The flip side of that is, we did everything right but it happened anyway – don’t know what the odds are (one in ten thousand?) but how unlucky can we be?

At this stage, there seems to be no reason why we won’t be covered by insurance, but we won’t count those chickens just yet…. We have a huge job ahead of us to make the boat right again – it’s feeling pretty daunting at the moment, but we’ll be able to find the help we need – NZ is probably the best place to be to do the work and of course, after our experiences last year, we know all the local contractors…

We were due to fly to Europe to visit Damian’s family and our friends, flying out of Sydney on November 29. Not sure what we’re going to do about that trip yet – we need to get some timeframes around getting a new mast (might have to come from France) etc. Obviously, we want and need to be here to oversee the work, but yards close over Christmas and it may take some time to get all the bits and pieces we need.

At this stage, we’re still feeling a bit stunned – we wake up each morning and have to remind ourselves what has happened. But we are fine, and we’re safe and that’s the main thing.

~~~ ><(((°>  ><(((°> ><(((°> ~~~