Monday, August 27, 2012

On The Hard

Boats are certainly not meant to be propped up by stands in a boatyard, but it amazes me how many boats we have seen here sitting on the hard with folks living on them year after year.  Every boatyard has them.  These are people who had big dreams and sold off their homes to buy that perfect boat.  Sure it had its problems but nothing a little elbow grease and sweat couldn't cure.  They bought their dream boat and hauled it out to refit it and only then did they realize that those "minor" problems were very serious expensive issues that had to be fixed before the boat could safely sail away.  The dreamers soon found some sort of work near the boatyard, bought a car and began a life of working part time on the boat they were living on, on the hard, while holding a full time job.  One of the first lessons they learned is one that still baffles me, a boat on the hard deteriorates at a far faster rate than a boat in the water.  Soon the boat is actually falling apart around them faster than they can even fix it and the original problems are not even on the list of repairs they have to do anymore.  This is a sad story and it is one that can be found in many boat yards around the world.

The boatyard is a dirty place, full of chemicals, paint in the air, mud when it rains (which is every afternoon in Trinidad), the dust in the air turns to mud on the decks and is tracked below, the bilges fill with dirty water, the water systems and heads don't work on the hard so you have to run to a bathroom in the middle of the night.  The boat is hot on the hard.  There is no spinning on the anchor head to wind, no cool breeze blowing off the water and down the hatches, no jumping off the boat for a quick swim to cool off.

The work is a hot and muggy toil. Every little job becomes a frustration and sweat pools at your feet as you work.  The bugs are fierce and they crawl up the ladders and stands and the fight begins.   Speaking of ladders; your legs ache every day from climbing up and down a ladder to get on and off the boat.  Imagine if you had to climb up and down a ladder to the second story of your house every time you wanted to go inside.

We hated being on the hard so much that we actually put it off for three years in a row.... That was a mistake.  As terrible as it is to haul a boat, it is defiantly something that needs to be done every year.  The hull needs new bottom paint and a good inspection, through hulls often need work.  If you faithfully haul every year and keep up with all the little jobs that keep appearing you can manage to keep your boat in seaworthy condition every year.  To ignore it is to find yourself hauling out and being faced with such a huge refit bill that you end up becoming the people in the first paragraph.

This would have happened to us if it had not been for my job on Sweetest Thing and her kind owners as well as a close friend in St Thomas. When we hauled last year, after three years in the water, and found all of the welding our Aluminum hull required they saved us and let me work off the monstrous bill required to make her hull seaworthy again.  This year we needed to haul her again to finish the rest of the work for a total refit, including an unexpected new engine.

I have recently reread a great book by Jack London called "The Cruise of the Snark" where he recounts is adventures in building and sailing his own sailboat across the Pacific.   In this book written in 1911 he says,

"The Snark is a small boat.  When I figured seven thousand dollars as her generous cost of construction, I was both generous and correct.  I have built barns and houses, and I know the peculiar trait such things have of running past their estimated cost.  This knowledge was mine, was already mine, when I estimated the probable cost of the building of the Snark at seven thousand dollars.  Well, she cost thirty thousand dollars.  Now don't ask me please.  It is the truth.  I signed the checks and worked for the money.  Of course there is no explaining it.  Inconceivable and monstrous is  what it is, as you will agree,I know, ere my tale is done."

He built the Snark in 1911.  I am not sure what the equivalent of thirty thousand 1911 dollars is to 2012 dollars but I think, as he said, you will agree, it is inconceivable and monstrous!   I was remarking on this at supper one night and said that having a boat on the hard going through a refit was like a hemorrhage of money, my daughter, EmilyAnne, said,  "No Dad, in our case it's more like the dry heaves!".  Clever girl!

Inconceivable and Monstrous,
Captain Tofer

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Refit as it Happens!

It has been almost a month now since we hauled Wandering Dolphin out of the water at Peakes Boatyard in Trinidad.  Since that time we have been working like a hive of bees on her.  Here is the list of jobs that need to be done in order for her to be ready for the next big passage across the Atlantic next spring.

Our biggest and most unexpected expense this year is a new engine.  We could have opted to rebuild the old Perkins but the expense of a rebuild was really only about 1/3 the expense for a brand new engine.  A new engine will be more fuel efficient and much lighter weight for the same horse power.  We are replacing the Perkins 4108 with a new Beta Marine 50.

Being forced to haul the engine out of the boat opens an area of the boat that is never seen and puts a whole new set of jobs on the necessary list just because the only time they can be done is when the engine is out of that compartment.  The hull needs to be cleaned and repaired if there are bad spots.  We pulled out a whole load of old wires that were no longer in use.

We pulled out an old 8-D battery that was lodged in the area and couldn't be removed without that area opened up.  In the spot where that big battery sat we are installing a new water heater which will use shore power or engine heat to give us hot water on the boat.

Back in that area sat an old water tank that we had stopped using because it was so nasty and full of bio growth.  We have been able to clean it up and put it back in with it set up to only receive water from the watermaker and only runs to one manual pump at the sink.  This keeps the drinking water from the watermaker separate from the main tank so if either one was contaminated it wouldn't contaminate the whole supply and drinking water is not drained out if a faucet is left on because it is only drawn up with a manual pump.

The manual bilge pumps have needed servicing for a couple of years but were so difficult to get to that we have put it off until now.  We are re plumbing them with smaller hoses so they have more pressure when drawing up the water through such a long distance.

Both teak pads for the big jib winches were rotting out and I have been afraid that they might just fail when the jib was straining at full load.  They have been removed and new ones made.  This job required us to remove the headliners in both aft cabins to get to the winch bolts.

One of the things I have always hated about our boat is the manual windlass.  Pulling up the anchor has always been a chore and there have been many times where I knew I needed to move but the effort required was to great because of the wind or current so we just waited it out.  A couple of years ago a boat was abandoned near Honeymoon Bay and ended up on the rocks.  We helped with the effort and were told we could choose a salvage item off the boat for our help.  We chose the electric windlass.  It was old but looked workable.  Turns out it is in great shape.  It needed the motor serviced and some new brushes, but with new paint it looks brand new.  Installation means running 4 gauge wires from the alternator to the new battery we have to install up at the bow so the engine can keep the battery up while the windlass is working and pulling up the chain.

Our old friend and welder Larry from last year is making a reappearance this year.  Last year he fixed our bottom this year he will be putting aluminum rails all the way around the boat, replacing the stanchions and lifelines.   A lot of people may think this is ugly and bulky looking but the safety they will provide offshore is well worth it.  He will also be refurbishing our bow pulpit which was damaged when a boat dragged down on us a couple of years ago.  There are also a few places on the deck that Larry will be reinforcing with new aluminum.  The dorade vents on both sides have corroded through the deck and will be replaced and we will ditch the bronze bases which caused the problem in favor of marlon.  He will also be welding supports for our rear chairs mounted on the arch.

Beck has been jonesing for new cushions ever since Jimmy washed our old covers in Charleston five years ago and shrank them all.  The cushions have never fit right since then.  We are replacing them with thicker cushions made with denser foam and a faux suede fabric in a very pretty light green shade.  This will make the boat much more livable.

We have also begun the woodworking projects.  The companionway, running boards, and various removable access panels are being done by us and the floor and interior will be done by a professional here at Peakes.
The last project is a paint job.  We will be doing this ourselves once again.  Seven years ago we rolled and tipped Awl Grip on the topsides and it turned out beautifully so we will try to do it again.  The bottom will need a couple of coats of anti fowling paint and we will be putting on new lettering done by our friend Sheldon. (He's the guy who sandblasted WD last year.)

These projects will keep us busy until sometime in September.  We hope to get back in the water and up to Grenada for the last few weeks before our return to St Thomas at the end of October.

You might think this would be enough to keep us busy but we also have Sweetest Thing here and although we are not doing the work itself we are overseeing a number of jobs on her as well to get her ready for another full season of chartering in the Virgin Islands this summer.... Come book a charter with us so we can pay for that huge list of work on WD!

Hot and Sweaty in Beautiful Trinidad,
Captain Tofer, Beck, EmilyAnne, Kanyon, Kaleb, and Benny