"Arctracer" Letters

"Arctracer" Finished with Boatyard, March 2003

We are floating again! We went "on the hard" on February 17 and did not get back in the water until March 20. This was at least twice as long and twice as difficult as we expected. It was a long, expensive, aggravating and often painful time, but we are done with it now and have made real improvements in our boat which should last for a long time. Here is an account of some of our struggles during that month.

Mast & Rigging: Our mast always bent backwards. This is typical of many racing boats, but makes the mast a little less sturdy so we never liked it. Two tiny cracks developed at the heel of the mast, probably because of the extra stress caused by the bend. Also, we noticed a couple of the wires which hold up the mast were starting to break. Stainless steel rigging needs replacement about every 10 years, so we decided this was the time. We removed the mast and sent it to a rigger. He welded the cracks, put a sleeve inside the base to make the mast stronger, and made all new rigging. He discovered other wires nearly broken too, and noticed that some of the end fittings on the old shrouds were mismatched with the corresponding fittings in holes in the mast, perhaps contributing to the early failures of the wires. We had the new forestay made shorter than the old one, and that has eliminated almost all of the mast bend. We are really glad to have this all fixed now.

Propellers: Before we bought the boat our surveyor pointed out that the folding propellers had parts which were looser than normal. The old owner said he had contacted the manufacturer and they were okay. We took them to a propeller specialist here, and he said they were worn beyond repair, which does happen eventually to all folding props. We bought new ones, and they appear to be working well.

Propeller Shafts: The shafts from the engine run inside fiberglass tubes for much of their length. These tubes were filled with oil to lubricate the bearings. A rubber seal on the end of the tube was supposed to keep the oil in and the water out. Our surveyor noticed oil dripping from one tube, and the previous owner said he fixed the problem. We noticed later that a mixture of oil and water was sometimes pushed back up the tubes and out the oil filler hoses, creating sticky messes. Our schooner had grease in its shaft tube, so we replaced the oil fillers with grease nipples, replaced the seals, put grease in the tubes and now will have no more messes.

Rudders: Our surveyor noticed that the rudders had a lot of play, and we asked the previous owner to fix that before we bought the boat. He said he did. When we examined the rudders here, we found we could turn each one through 15-20 degrees before the other one started turning. We took parts of the linkage to a machinist, and he made new parts which fit tightly and do not wobble around. This cured most of the problem, but there is still a little play in some other parts which we will try to eliminate.

Bottom Paint: We used to use a "soft" antifouling paint, but when we snorkled around to scrub algae off the bottom we also scrubbed off this paint. We decided to change to a harder antifouling paint, but this necessitated removing all the old soft stuff first. We used scrapers for days, tried various sanding techniques, and made slow progress in spite of aching muscles, horrible messes and sore backs. Finally we hired a sandblaster who took off most of the old paint in just over three hours. It was worth the cost. We took off all but the "anti-osmosis" barrier paints which had been applied over the gelcoat. The bottom seemed in excellent shape, with no signs of osmosis or damage from rocks. We made a new waterline, a little higher so less algae will grow on the white gelcoat, and at the same level all around instead of the irregular levels of the old paint job done by previous owners. Then we hired a spraypainter to apply four gallons of new anti-osmosis paint, to make sure we had really good protection, followed by four gallons of "Ultra" hard antifouling from International Paint. Our bottom is now ready for more than a year of cruising, with just an occasional scrubbing.

Sails: We ordered a new roller-furling jib which should be delivered today. We also had our mainsail removed, checked, and repaired as needed. These are our most important sails, and it will be very good to have them in perfect shape.

Daggerboard: We had a new daggerboard made, and it was installed at the boatyard.

Anchor & Chain: We had our main anchor and chain regalvanized.

Window Frames: Replacing the hatches and windows was done before we got on the hard, but finishing those jobs still took a lot of time. Nina revarnished all the wood frames and mended their many breaks. We cut off the bolt ends, and reattached the frames. The job still isn't completed.

Hull Trim Boards: We tore the (mostly rotten) trim boards off the outside of the hulls and had new teak boards made and installed. Teak is supposed to be almost rot-proof, so we hope these will last a long time. These were attached with epoxy and many screws, so they provide extra strength to the outsides of our hulls, even though the designer says they are basically decorative and not essential for seaworthiness. The many screw heads created new holes in the inside paint and trim, and we have a big job to make everything look good again. We have to finish sanding the teak, and have not decided whether to let it go gray or paint it.

Toilet: We replaced the toilet and sink drain hoses on the hard. When we got back in the water the toilet leaked badly. Replacing it was on our list of things to do in NZ, and we immediately gave that a high priority. We now have a new toilet.

Cleanliness: This boatyard had no shower and no laundry facilities. We washed up in buckets, and used our solar shower occasionally, but we never felt really clean. Nina is still scrubbing the boat, clothes, bedding and seatcovers trying to eliminate the grime. We have decided to make sure there is at least a shower in the yard next time we haul out. Luckily the people at the Okahu Yard were friendly so it made our lives much better than it could have been.

Food: Another disadvantage of this boatyard is that there are no shops or restaurants nearby. This meant that we had to walk far or take busses to get food. The result was that we almost never left the yard, and Nina had to cook more than usual in really poor conditions. Imagine carrying all the dirty dishes in a pail down a rickety ladder to wash them at an outside faucet. Despite the handicaps, we ate well, and even had a few dinner parties with guests, but it wasn't always fun.

Assistance: The people running the yard were very nice and helpful. We had John, the main guy, up for dinner a few times, and he gave us several extra bits of help in addition to doing his normal jobs carefully for us. Our biggest source of help was our friend Pete of "Twisted Sisters", who ran countless errands in his car, gave expert advice, found friendly people to work for us at reasonable prices, and did much of the technically tricky work himself. Without Pete it would have been nearly impossible for us to get all this work done so quickly.

Okay, it's over at last, and we are recovering. We are still restoring and fixing things, but feel a little less time pressure now we are floating. We will order a new stove soon. The old one should not have been given approval by the gas inspector who supposedly checked everything before we bought the boat. We are nearly ready to sail to Tauranga where our friend Pat will help us make a new table and make other changes to improve comfort in our main salon. We had hoped to finish our boat work in time for a visit back to the US before the end of cyclone season, but that seems unlikely now. Our tentative plan is to leave the boat someplace (not sure where) for a couple of months (not sure when) to see you all. We haven't been back to the US since the World Trade Center came down and we want to visit you soon but cannot establish any dates right now.