May 8-12, 2017: Working hard on the hard

Monday morning, we had the boat hauled out of the water and put on jack stands.

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If I drove the lift, I’d be so tempted to just gun it . . .

When it came out, the hull was covered in a soft brown mud/algae mixture with some feathery growth and tiny barnacles mixed in.  We were amazed that the hull was in that good of a condition as we hadn’t had it dived on and cleaned since January.  We figured it would look like a carpet.

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Ewww.  And yes, it smelled.

When the boat yard hauls the boat, they power wash the hull.  Once that was done, things were looking a lot less gross.

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Blue hull starting to peek through the muck.

We removed the tiny barnacles with scrapers and then sanded the last of the dirt off of the bottom with tough scrubby pads called Doodlebugs.  That is backbreaking work, and I’m glad that part is over.  We then gave the hull a good wash, which it hadn’t had in recent memory.  It definitely needs polishing with Finesse-It and a few coats of wax, but that will come later in the haul.

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Set up and ready to work.

Island Packets have a small locker in the cockpit that they call a cooler.  It has a drain and a hose that leads overboard, and that through hull is below the waterline.  We can sometimes hear water gurgling up into that hose when the starboard side is heeled. We removed that through hull, replaced the hose, installed a valve on the hose, and then reinstalled the whole system.  This way when we are underway, we can close that valve, and water cannot come into the boat from that through hull.

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The cockpit cooler is above and to the left, and the starboard hull is to the right where the through hull with new valve exits.  We single-handedly keep the sealant industry in business. 

The Captain replaced the bilge pump and has saved the old one to rebuild as a spare.  This was a sweaty, contortionist job but a necessary one.  He also cleaned the VHF radio microphone connection and the SSBI radio connection and installed copper ground wire in the lazarette for the SSB.

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Soldering the ring terminal onto the copper ground wire.

Our galley sink is a dual sink setup (which I hate, by the way—both sides are too small to do anything).  One of the drains had developed a leak.

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See the funky corrosion on the underside of the drain in the foreground?

The drains and metal pipes are attached to a hose that runs vertically but is freestanding, and we think that engine vibration acting on the unsecured hose simply shook one of the drains loose.  Plumber’s putty is no match for a Yanmar diesel!  We removed the drains and pipes and cleaned them up using CLR.  A trip to Lowe’s in New Bern netted some new gaskets and nuts (and a trip to a take out Chinese place—hey, the Chef is tired).  The Captain reassembled and reinstalled the entire system, this time using Life Seal silicone instead of plumber’s putty.

We lowered the dinghy from the davits to some sawhorses.  I scrubbed the dinghy until it shined.  This was made easier by an anti-growth product I put on the aluminum bottom in January called Shark Hide.  It inhibits the growth of all of the nasty stuff, is easy to apply, and seems to really last.  Call me a believer.  Some kind of oily residue got on the pontoons when we were in Charleston, but it was no match for Simple Green.

The big job, one way past our pay grade, is work on our drive train.  We knew that the cutlass bearing and shaft seal needed to be replaced, and due to Island Packet design, this meant that the entire propeller shaft had to be removed.  As is the norm for all boat projects, this led to a cascading series of work and purchases that were not on our list . . . but are now.

Long story short, the stern tube (which holds the cutlass bearing through which the shaft runs) is too pitted and scarred to be trusted, so it needs to be replaced.  The shaft itself is in a similar condition, so it needs to be replaced.

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Stern tube on the top, shaft on the bottom.  The worst part on the shaft is where the PSS shaft seal was located.  No way we’re putting those back on the boat!

We decided to switch from a PSS shaft seal to a traditional stuffing box so that we can work on it in the future without having to have the boat on the hard.

As part of the shaft removal, the propelled had to come off.  This is where having a professional look at boat systems is worth its weight in gold.  A prior owner had installed a Max Prop, which is a very expensive and fancy prop that has feathering blades.  Whoever installed the prop hadn’t put it on correctly, and it was so tight on the shaft that it crushed the prop nut.  It was also woefully underpitched; pitch essentially measures how far forward the boat will move with each turn of the propeller.  This explains why we would run the engine at pretty high RPMs and not get good boat speed.  The Max Prop was due for reconditioning (to the tune of the $1500+ *cough* *gasp*), and we decided to go with a good old three fixed blade prop.  We’ll keep the Max Prop if we ever want to reinstall it, but we’d rather depend on something less technically finicky.

As the mechanics were working on the shaft, they noticed that our skeg is in pretty rough shape.  The skeg is a piece of stainless steel that connects the keel to the bottom of the rudder post.  It doesn’t hold the rudder up, but it does act to protect the shaft and prop by blocking things from hitting them from below.  The skeg was removed, and once beadblasted it was revealed to have serious deterioration of the welds that hold its various components together.

So on the tab for replacement is the skeg, the shaft and coupling, the stern tube, the cutlass bearing, the stuffing box, and the propeller.  We’ll end up with a whole new drive train, which goes a long way towards peace of mind when we’re in Fiji.  Or Norway.  Or Cocos Keeling.  Who knows?

During rainy weather and in the evenings, we have been working on “inside” projects.  The Captain epoxied some wood strips into the lazarette and painted them with bilge paint.  He then mounted some line hangers on them so that we can neatly store our dock lines when they are not in use.

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We did some work on our Lewmar self-tailing winches.  Lines should wind around the winch, come up across the silver feeder arm, run through the crown (the grippy black channel), and then run off the winch.  On some of our winches, the feeder arm placement did not let the line run freely to a nearby cleat.  We pivoted the feeder arm on those winches, and now the lines have the maximum “bite” within the crown and run freely to a cleat.

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We have two mooring lines, one for each side of the boat.  The lines run from a bow cleat, through the mooring pennant, and back to the same side’s bow cleat.  We have ridden out some gales and named storms on a mooring and wanted a secondary mooring line for security.  In the past, we’ve used one of our spring lines, but we didn’t want them to wear prematurely.  So we purchased 45 feet of ¾” Samson double braid, and the Captain (who is also the Rigger) spliced in an eye with incorporated Chafe Pro.  This line will run from a bow cleat, through the mooring pennant, and up to the other bow cleat as a secondary mooring line.

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While his rigging hat was on, the Captain also whipped some marks in our mainsail halyard to show when the mainsail was fully raised or had one or two reefs.  He whipped marks in the reef lines as well.

I put my nerd power to work making a giant Excel spreadsheet of all of our emergency gear including item type, location, brand, model, identifier, expiration date, and number.  So far it covers:

  • Fire (alarms, extinguishers, blanket, fire port)
  • Visual (flares, strobes, flashlights and spotlights)
  • Sound (airhorns, bells, whistles)
  • Man overboard (buoys, slings, lights, throw lines)
  • PFDs (three types of PFDs, tethers, jackline)
  • Electronics (EPIRB, personal locator beacons, personal AIS, satellite phone, InReach, radios)
  • Dinghy (oars, boarding ladder, fire extinguisher, lights)
  • Ditch bag

As I listed each item, I inspected them.  Our red handheld SOLAS flares and orange smoke flares expire in June and July 2017, so it’s time to restock those.  Sigh.

We’ve been doing a reasonable job managing our day-to-day life; we lack only refrigeration.  I have been making meals that don’t require fresh ingredients; thank you enchiladas and Mexican casserole! Fortunately our friends M&N have a local property and graciously allowed us to store our frozen foods there until we’re back in the water.  This gave me a chance to defrost the freezer and clean it and the refrigerator.  For daily use we have two coolers filled with drinks and lunch foods like cheese and deli meat; I get ice each morning from The Piglet (the mini Piggly Wiggly here in town).

We have fresh water, but since the water that goes through our galley drain simply runs down the side of the boat into a puddle underneath us, I am trying to minimize dish washing.  That means paper plates and bowls, reusing utensils whenever possible, and making large meals that can be microwaved rather than dirtying up pots every night.  I hate how much trash I’m making, but it’s how it has to be until we’re back in the water.

We have one head with a shower and one washer/dryer on site, so no complaints there.  We are right in the front of the yard, so our wifi access is pretty good.  My car started up on the first try after being in storage for five months, and although the air conditioning decided to stop working a couple of days ago, it is running as well as can be expected for an 11-year old vehicle with 169,000+ hard miles.

So that’s it for our first four days’ steady work on the hard.  That knocks off about 1/20th of the items on our list.  Today will be rainy, so we’ll be working inside again.

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Ten steps up, ten steps down.  All day.  Usually carrying something heavy.  Who needs a stairmaster?

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