Posts Tagged ‘haul out’

Working Hard on the Hard

April 27, 2016

The time had come to roll up our sleeves. Aluna had by now been in the water continuously for a good five years with only periodic quick scrubbings between tides to apply antifouling before major passages. Since our bottom grating adventure in Hawaii there had been some lesions to the keel shoes and I always suffered a lingering suspicion that the plywood of the keel might have been compromised.

In the early morning of February 24 we motored Aluna up the Hatea River towards Whangarei proper and turned into the little bay at Norsand Boat Yard, which at its end laps up a concrete slipway, where the sizeable Furukawa tractor was at that moment busy hauling out one of those non-descript monohulls. We made Aluna fast to the little pier at the entry and waited patiently for our turn. Once the monohull was high and dry a blue sled was lowered into the water down the concrete ramp and Aluna was diligently roped in until she floated directly over it. The sled was equipped with a clever system of hydraulics and its platform could be raised and slanted at will. Wooden blocks were then placed on that platform precisely under Aluna’s beams and while the workers went for their morning break the dropping tide set her firmly onto the sled.

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Enticed by replenished caffeine levels the tractor soon started pulling on the long extension and soon Aluna’s overgrown underbelly emerged from the waters. She was then put up on blocks amongst many others of her peers and from that moment on time was definitely money. We decided it was best to bite the bullet firmly and frantically went to work.

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A closer inspection revealed that the Australian eucalyptus keel shoe had in fact been rubbed open in various places, which had made it swell to the point of cracking the protective layers of fiberglass that encased it. Fortunately there was no sign of the inner plywood of the keel having been compromised.

I had to consider various options for repairing and reinforcing the keel shoe, but most of the fancy ones like copper or stainless U-channels turned out to be impossible to source or astronomically expensive. True to Aluna’s creative guerilla style engineering I decided to purchase a square section of standard PVC down pipe, normally used for gutters in houses, cut it in half and use it as a mold to fit a solid epoxy shoe onto the damaged keel. Applying the wetted out glass upside down came first, then the mold was filled with excessive epoxy putty made from glue mix. The mold was squeezed on the keel from below and pressed upwards before clamping it on to let the glue set. After half a day the mold could be pried away and a perfectly shaped keel shoe appeared. Having a limited number of clamps (You never have enough clamps when working on boats!) this had to be done in one meter sections. The four spots where the boat was sitting could only be done once the support blocks had been relocated.

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Before that of course a good bit of scraping and sanding had to be done to get rid of the remains of marine growth from all over the pacific. Some amazingly resilient greenish material was the toughest to eliminate, quite obviously the base of the seashells that had made their home on Aluna’s belly. We then extended the copper epoxy base upwards past the ‘theoretical’ waterline to include the splash zone where we had to wash of green algae residue time and time again. Once all this preliminary prep work was done three coats of antifouling was rolled on over an epoxy primer tie coat. The lower half of the topsides also received a new coat of paint.

We were very lucky with the weather. This year New Zealand’s Northland enjoyed an exceptionally dry summer, allowing us to soldier on stubbornly and work our way through an endless list of this and that in dire need to be done while having Aluna’s two hulls standing firm on the hard gravel expanse of the boat yard. Time compressed into a kind of narrow worm hole and before we knew it the month of March had flown past us into the collective history of mankind. Our original date for relaunching had already been postponed to April 1 and in spite of the quirky pleasure of splashing on a fool’s day we begged our hosts to grant us a couple more days of slavery. It was not until April 8, that the blue hydraulic monster returned to pick up our sailing ship and return her to the water.

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norsand - 1 (6)norsand - 1norsand - 1 (7)Aluna did look sleek when she touched her element anew and while boats are boats and you are never able to do all you’re supposed to do, I do think we accomplished a good bit, getting our vessel much closer to being ready for departure. We will soon leave this strange land of queer kiwis, who in spite of saying otherwise are still subdued to the crown of the aging queen half a world away, and hang on to the union jack in their flag in spite of the surging Chinese invasion of their fledgling economy.

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It is now time to look towards the future and of that I will tell you rather soon!

Captured by the Spell of the Vessel

February 5, 2016

Boats do have their famous ways to grab your attention in its entirety and dominate the doings of your daily living, exterminating without mercy any trace of free will. I guess that is what exasperated and exhausted men mean when they say the boats are worse than women and when boats are called upon to give their proverbial promise of freedom, I’d like to caution that this does come at a very high price! To cut a long story short we are now in the midst of paying our dues for having abandoned Aluna to the elements for a good twenty months. Boats by their very nature do make their home on the water, and that is a very unforgiving element indeed!

I mentioned in my last post, it could have been an awful lot worse and we certainly are grateful for that. But the transformation of two cheerful vagabonds jet setting across half of the globe and paying delightful visits to friends and family along the way into, once again, scrubbing sponge and epoxy brush wielding maritime construction workers does grind away at the ever meager resources of the psyche. For all of you leading the stable fantasy of a normal life, let yourselves be warned: There is a price to be paid for freedom, and rightfully so. The irony of this statement can not be expressed with any emoticon!

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Here’s a short list of what’s been done since our return and what awaits eagerly at the pole positions of our various lists. The bottoms have been almost freed of the astonishing amount of marine growth, banging away at it from the dinghy with an aluminum scraper on a long stick. This latest and greatest form of cardio workout has helped to raise Aluna out of the water a good inch and a half. The shells of those admirable beings that made their filtering home on our boat hulls sport a density similar to that of rocks, after all they are sand waiting to be ground under pounding surf somewhere on the fringes of our earth’s oceans.

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The aft netting beam came off its two sockets atop the sternposts with the intention of fixing a couple of cracks in the fiberglass. Chiseling away on its ends at Ted’s shop a soggy mess of not very nice smelling dark grey wood soon appeared and before we knew it, the option of constructing a new beam had emerged as a far more reasonable approach to the problem. A short trip to the lumber yard with our newly acquired little wine red Honda Logo with three five-meter-long boards strapped to its fragile roof on the way back provided with the necessary materials for the task at hand. An I-beam with a slightly curved top similar to the Tiki 38’s main beams was deemed the best design, after discarding the temptation to purchase a piece of round aluminum extrusion due to the three times heavier material costs.

alunajan16 - 7 alunajan16 - 8The three boards, two 19x140mm vertical grain and one treated construction grade 2×6, were first glassed before gluing them together. Cutouts where made on the contraption to sit in the sockets and extra layers of fiberglass were laid on the places where the lashings will try to gnaw their way into the delicate timber. Three pads were then added at carefully measured positions to accommodate the blocks for suspending the boarding ramp. The vertical board was a good meter and a half longer than needed. I decided against cutting these ends off, thinking they would make good supports for adding two little catwalks outside the tiller arms. Two one inch holes were finally drilled to either side of the rudders to serve as fairleads for the bridle of our sea anchor, which should help us ride out any serious storm. Finally, three coats of gleaming white marine enamel paint culminated the fabrication and by now Aluna’s newest member sits proudly aft, all that is left to do is attach the bridle for the steering lines and the netting that spans between the center catwalk and the starboard hull before checking this task off the list.

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While I’ve been busy with these testosterone prone activities, Beatriz let her estrogen flow freely by tidying up Aluna inside out to make her livable again, chasing grime and slime and spider webs away sending them off to find happiness somewhere else. The joy about the absence of seagull guano on Aluna’s decks on our return was somehow tempered by the discovery of swarms of swallows who made their agile flybys just before sunset, cruising at breakneck speed under and in between the two hulls. Christian, our neighbor and owner of SV Donella and the mooring Aluna is still tied up to, was swearing out his full German self about their nesting under his sail covers, messing up the sails underneath. The crevices between Aluna’s hulls and decks soon turned out to have received ample decoration marked by the little critter’s poop. But that was an easy clean up, as it became soon obvious, having all dried to little hoops of black dust.

What we had to keep an iron fisted secret though was the discovery of two small nests the swallows had built behind beam number three, just underneath the step I had glued there to be able to walk back and forth behind the cockpit, because we had seen what happened to the poor critters should they end up in the hands of Christian. Little black thingies dangling from SV Donella’s lifelines when observed through our binoculars turned out to be the lifeless bodies of our swallow’s siblings hung by their feet as scarecrows against those undesired intruders.

We granted our guests a two-week extension to their lease while we went for our house sitting stint down to Auckland over the holidays. On our return the three tiny little eggs in one of the nests had turned into fat balls of dark brown plumage slumbering away during daylight while their diligent parents where out and about snapping up enough fluttering critters to come home and feed their brood at dusk. Within a couple more days those fat balls of dark brown plumage had again transformed into aspiring acrobats of the airways, each one of them making the most important leap of faith to adulthood without stranding in the lethal waters below. It was now time to unmount the nests from their inopportune location to contemplate their intrinsically mudded engineering.

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Next up will be the transferring of the big main sail from its old and tired spars to the new bamboo sticks we had glassed just before leaving for Europe on May 2014. These are much more solid than the old ones and will hopefully provide our mainsail with added stiffness, to be able to leave it up in stronger winds to provide ample power of propulsion to our vessel. For February 24 we have booked a date for Aluna to be hauled out of the water at the Norsand Boat Yard in Whangarei, as her bottoms are in need of urgent care. This implies a short sailing stint of about 60 miles down the Northland coast, where those new spars will have to prove their worth. Plans are to sand the underwater parts of both hulls free from the lime stone residue down to the copper epoxy substrate and recoat with an additional coat of this up to the chine line. The failure to do so due to having fallen prey to the persistent myth of the waterline has been given ample payment by scrubbing green algae sludge from supposedly white top side paint. An additional ailment to be cured while on the hard is the port hull’s rudder blade, which had been knocked off its centered position because the ropes of its classic Wharram hinges had not been glued in properly. Aluna has limped across the watery Pacific this way since shortly after we left Hawai’i.

Then, finally and hopefully, once this string of sweaty labors will have been completed, we will be able to turn our attention to planning for the travels ahead. This, of course, is where all the true excitement lies. In the meantime though, the brain must not fall ill while the brawn does its mindless duty!

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