Tag Archives: boatyard

Work, Work, Work…and a Little Play

One day after arriving in Mackay the boat was out of the water and dozens of projects were started. Everyone in the yard seems to know their stuff. In fact, our experience so far is much better than at any of the American yards where we had work done. But we haven’t seen the bill yet…

Because we had a weird bottom paint before (that we didn’t really want, but that’s a Key West story), we are painting with a primer. Then the best possible bottom paint, in black. (Should look cool, but also the yard manager “mentioned” that 75% of collisions with whales occur with red-bottomed boats, which is what we had before…)

Lower shrouds are replaced with larger diameter wire (and they convinced us to use swage fittings rather than our old norseman fittings). Upper shrouds and forestay will be replaced, just because they are 16 years old. Side stays for the screecher sprit will be replaced (because they showed signs of wear, and they were slightly too long to adjust properly anyway). If we can get the parts we will replace the fittings on the ends of the diamond stays, which have been welded together — a no-no as the weld creates a weak spot. Nobody noticed this before… We will modify the rig for the screecher furling line so it will be easier to furl.

We had routine servicing of our engines done. Replaced the oil in the saildrives. Props were not folding easily, and were somewhat wobbly, so they have being serviced. Our outboard got a routine service.

The alarm trying to tell us we have water in the saildrive seems to be due to a faulty sensor, so this is on order. We had a very hot relay in our electrical system; now replaced with one of higher capacity. The electrician impressed us with his abilities, so we peppered him with more questions. Why would our cockpit chart plotter sometimes stop updating (usually just as we are approaching a tricky reef pass)? Probably a poor network connection, and he identified a connection that seems likely to fail when it gets wet. He is talking with the manufacturer about alternative ways to connect.

How about the shunt that measures the current produced by the hydrogenerator? It has never worked. He’s working on this one. How about the bad connection to our horn? No worries…fixed. What about the depth/speed sensor where the plug into the network corroded and failed, and where the manufacturer does not offer any way to replace the connector — you have to replace the entire $300 sensor unit? He said it is good that we already ordered a new sensor, but as a backup (only) he pulled the old cable apart and spliced on a new connector. Okay, what about the fact that when we transmit on the VHF a radio, we get an alarm that the AIS system has lost its antenna connection? Probably corrosion in the antenna cable. He tried cutting back from the ends of the cable, but it still looked bad. So we will be threading a new cable through the mast to the splitter that goes to the radio and the AIS unit.

One of the vinyl strips intended to protect the bows from dings had come loose and was mostly gone. Now both have been stripped, and the dings underneath (hmm, seems maybe they don’t really work) are being filled and painted. Our freezer again works. Although I was convinced that the compressor was toast, it turned out to be corrosion in the temperature sensor. Inexpensive fix!

We’re modifying the mount for the hydrogenerator, to get the propeller a couple inches deeper in the water, to reduce cavitation. Looking into replacing the mount we made to hold the outboard when we’re at sea, as it does not seem rugged enough. Planning to replace the seals in one of the hydraulic cylinders by which the autopilot moves the rudder, as we noticed some hydraulic fluid leaking from it.

The list above is what we’re having the yard do. We also have items on our own list — swapping our anchor line end-for-end. Improving the way the halyards are run at the masthead, because the spinnaker halyard chaffed against the screecher halyard. Replacing the bearings in our wind generator, applying protective spray to the dinghy, replacing our broken fishing rod holder. Replacing the broken galley sink sprayer. Replacing the fuel level sensor in the forward tank. Shopping for various and sundry supplies and parts. We started out with a longer list to do ourselves, but we have passed several items on to the yard, since they can do the jobs more quickly/easily. After all, what’s another $100 added to the expected $10,000 yard bill…?

We sent our blown-out spinnaker to a sailmaker, who got back to us saying it is too far gone to repair. I don’t buy that — so we are trying other channels. This is a pain, and scary because the sail was extremely expensive.

So far there have been only a few surprises. The welds in the fittings on the diamond stays; the wear in the sprit side stays; having to replace the entire VHF radio antenna cable; the amount of wear in the folding propellers; the amount of damage to the spinnaker. And one big surprise: there was no oil remaining in the port engine!!! We checked the oil before leaving Vanuatu, but we did do a lot of motoring on the way here. There’s no oil in the bilge, so we must have burnt it. Yikes! But also incredibly lucky that the engine apparently survived with no damage. We are now back in the water, and the engine seems to be working fine.

Meanwhile, Bob headed out after a few days. He’s been a great crew, and I hope the plans work out for him and his wife to sail with Tim this winter when I come home for ten weeks. This morning Bill headed out. It has been a delight to sail with Bill, and I greatly appreciate all the work he has done on the boat from the beginning, right through his last day here in Mackay. It feels strange to now be on the boat with just my family, and no sailing partner.

In addition to the boat work, we’ve been through visa hell. Jesse had a problem getting his Australian visa, and we had pretty much reconciled that he wasn’t going to be able to make his flight here. Hallie tried to work things out from this end, while Jesse wrestled with the US end, but there didn’t seem to be any way to expedite the process. Then the visa came through the morning he was scheduled to go, and he’s here! He, Tim and I also need visas for Indonesia, which first required that the BPO rep get a sponsor letter and a cruising permit from Indonesia. Then a consulate needs four days to process the applications, and there is no consulate near Mackay. It was uncertain when the documents would appear from Indonesia; they showed up last night. Today Jesse and I swallowed hard and put our passports in registered mail to a consulate. They should come back here before we leave Mackay, if all goes smoothly. Tim’s will be trickier since he needs his passport to get to Australia. If he then mails it to a consulate, it will have to be mailed back to our departure point (Thursday Island), to some as yet undetermined address. All very stressful.

We did mix in some play. Hallie and I stayed in a fancy hotel next to the marina for four nights. Hallie, Bill and I spent a day driving to a park called Finch Hatton. We got to see some of the countryside, and do a short hike to a waterfall. Hallie, Jesse and I went to a movie — something I haven’t done for many months. And in two days the three of us get back on a plane to fly to the Northern Territories to do some sightseeing. We will be traveling for eight days. When we return the focus will shift to finishing projects, provisioning, getting Tim aboard, and setting sail once again.

View from our hotel room overlooking the marina.
View from our hotel room overlooking the marina.
Finch Hatton
Finch Hatton
Finch Hatton
Finch Hatton
Sugar cane field for miles and miles inland from Mackay.
Sugar cane field for miles and miles inland from Mackay.
Jesse tries oysters on the half shell for the first time. Bill double checks that there isn't one more among the empty shells...
Jesse tries oysters on the half shell for the first time. Bill double checks that there isn’t one more among the empty shells…
Back into the water again, with our slick new black bottom.
Back into the water again, with our slick new black bottom.

One Day to Scheduled Start

Although we’re not ready to start tomorrow, we are doing better than some of the other entrants. Originally Jimmy Cornell was concerned that we might have too many boats to be manageable for going to small islands. Of that initial burst of interest, only about 15 boats actually registered for the rally. Seven planned to start from Key West (3 more from Martinique, plus 2 others starting in the Pacific, plus Jimmy’s boat). But one dropped out a week ago due to health problems. Another is unable to start due to lack of funds. They hope to start in March and catch the fleet in Tahiti, but that is very uncertain. Tonight we hear that there is some uncertainty about yet another boat. In the end we will be one of only four or five BPO boats to start here, plus there is one Pacific Odyssey boat (sailing only as far as the Marquesas) also joining the start. The fact that we will be several days late in departing seems like a minor point in this context.

Today has been a blur. We got our repaired saildrives back in place. Our rebuilt port engine got tested in the shop, was working in record time, and got put into the boat. Both engines need to be wired in to the electrical controls again, so we can’t use them yet. Nevertheless, we went back into the water…


…and got a tow from the boatyard to the marina where the other BPO participants are docked. The mechanic says he is coming tomorrow (Saturday) to work on the boat. The hope is that we will be able to use both motors by Monday, so we can test them and leave maybe mid-week.

We also had our safety inspection with Jimmy. He summarized his review with, “It’s better than I expected.” We balked at that “compliment,” but he explained that given the problems we have had, he didn’t expect us to be ready with all our safety gear, and so it was indeed a compliment that we are ready. He had one suggestion for an improvement, which is a good suggestion and should not be difficult to do. Photo below shows Jimmy and his daughter Doina standing by our boat, unfortunately somewhat hidden in the shadows.


This evening we had the “captain’s briefing” before the BPO start tomorrow at noon. Suddenly it is getting very “real” that we are about to head off around the world, despite our delay. Routes and winds and currents and forecasts and starting time and daily radio check-in procedures and satellite tracking devices and information about arriving in Jamaica and in the San Blas islands off of Panama. Exciting!  Is it safe to start dreaming about tropical islands again…?  We need to start thinking about food shopping!!


Still Counting the Days

Four Days to Scheduled Start

Let’s start with the good news. I found the cause of last night’s alarm. It was a faulty engine-stop button/switch that we replaced last month. Easily fixed. And not a sign that the boat is bewitched or cursed.

The bad news is that the cylinder head for our port engine rebuild is not available (backordered from Japan). So the old head must be sent to Miami to be reconditioned. This of course adds days that we don’t have. We tried to rent a car to drive it to Miami, but we found that there weren’t any rental cars available today in Key West. So it is shipped overnight. Our mechanic got the shop in Miami to promise to move it to the front of their queue. But I think it is safe to say that our departure will not occur on Saturday. I’m gradually coming to terms with that thought.

We are on the hard again, so the saildrives can be worked on. Frustrating, but lucky that we could schedule this on short notice.  Tim guides a repaired saildrive back into the engine room:


Two Days to Scheduled Start

No chance that we will make the Saturday start. The cylinder head that was sent to Miami was found to have a crack. Luckily our mechanic had the foresight to also sent our old engine head (from the starboard engine, where we bought a new one). It was inspected today and passed muster; it should be back to the mechanic tomorrow. With only a little luck we will get back in the water Monday. Then we need to give the engines a thorough workout before we leave the area. If everything works (does it ever…?) we might start chasing the fleet Wednesday or Thursday.

Nice photos of the Blue Planet Odyssey boats/people/preparation are on the Cruising World magazine web site at http://www.cruisingworld.com/countdown-blue-planet-odyssey-rally/?image=0.

And a shot of the other boats at the marina, in formal attire with their signal flags.