Friday, 2 February 2018

The refit (part eight)

It’s lovely that so many people have taken the time to ask us how the repairs are going. I’m often asked if we’re back in the water yet or if the work is all done. No. No its really not and it’s going to take time. A lot more time.

edit after posting: I just noticed the mistake on this picture - oops!

The weather has been a problem and has thrown us quite a few challenges. There has been a lot of weather, with several named storms coming through which make the whole boat shake. It feels really horrible and unnatural and has given us several sleepless nights. I know that the rest of the world believes that it rains all the time in England but it doesn’t usually. This winter though it has felt like it. There have been many days which have felt like they contained all four seasons with sunshine, hail, rain and strong winds. The puddles in the boat yard are growing and the bilge pumps have occasionally had to work, even on land.

All those rain clouds do mean that it has not been as cold as some winters. That and being on the ‘English Riviera’ means that generally it has not been too bad. There have been some mornings though when the front door has been stuck shut with a touch of ice. Obviously an icy deck that far above the ground is not a great thing to have and we now have an old rug and an old towel that we can throw down between the door and the top of the steps to help us stay upright. The skipper has also put some gripper tape on the top of the ladder after we had some hairy moments balanced on one leg getting over the guard rail. It feels much safer now.

The two hulls give quite a lot of protection under the boat to make working in all weathers easier. They also work as a tunnel though meaning that any wind coming off the water blows straight under the boat and makes working there hard at times. To counteract this, the Skipper has constructed walls at either end. Using a simple wooden frame and plastic tarpaulin this has given protection against the worst of the weather and means that he can work even in pouring rain.

Front entrance to the workshop/shed under the boat

Fortunately we still have shore power. This means that power tools can be used. One of the biggest problems when repairing on the beach at L’Aber Wrac’h was not having electricity and relying on hand tools. It made work very slow. Angle grinders, chop saws, drills and sanders have all been used at points in the work so far. We’ve also just inherited some new tools including enough planes to require their own hangar.

wooden frame and supports

We have very easy access to chandlers here. Although some of the older guidebooks say that 'Plymouth is not for the yachtsman' things have changed a lot over the last 20 years or so with a boom in marinas and the support needed for boats. In the marina we have the Boathouse with very friendly staff and lots of useful bits. For a good browse and a chance to find all sorts of random items the Marine Bazaar over the water cannot be beaten. The teenage deckhands like going over there to admire the kayaks and dinghies for sale too. 

These are not always the best place to shop though as often a similar or even identical thing can be found in a normal DIY store (or Lidl!) for half the price but for some things they are brilliant. Paint is certainly something that needs to be correct and using ‘normal’ paint for many jobs can be a false economy. We gave kitchen and bathroom paint a go on our galley walls when they were last painted and it has not taken properly, peeling off in places. This time we’re using proper yacht bright gloss. One of the best things we have found recently from Toolstation has been the Black Mamba heavy duty gloves. These are thick enough that as long as you take them off carefully the same pair can be used all day and washed off at times for the messiest jobs – and we’ve had some really messy jobs this week as we mopped out bilges and hard to reach parts of the boat.

Black Mamba industrial strength nitrile gloves

Our engines need work and have been causing us problems meaning that we have needed help from the marina dory to move. The propellers have been removed and the Skipper has been using a polishing kit to remove the old anti foul. From a dull red they are now a gorgeous bright brassy colour. The teeth on the starboard one were worn and it will need replacing. As we have two engines it would be helpful (but not essential) to have matching propellers as these are the bits that provide the push to control direction as well as speed and give us control when manoeuvering in tight spaces for example in a marina. The engines need a thorough service and the very expensive seal between the sail drive leg and the hull needs replacing to stop water coming in.


The storms pushed our wind vane up the to-do list. Looking at a very wonky pole with a potentially lethal weapon dangling from its top was enough to have the Skipper hanging from the climbing harness over a terrifying drop to remove it. Replacing and re-seating the pole should solve the problem and mean that we can carry on topping up our battery bank from the turbine. He has been looking at different options and set ups.

Rusty remains of the turbine pole

Building up the strength of the boat from the inside is an important part of the repair work and we have identified the area on the hull where we have the greatest weakness, caused initially by the force of movement against pontoons in stormy weather. The inside of the walls have been uncovered (involving moving lots of stuff around) and the area cleared. I have said before that Tarquilla is made of three layers of plywood cold-moulded to create the strength and shape of the boat. This means that the affected area will be removed  layer at a time from the inside first then the outside. To help improve the integrity of the hull the Skipper is also replacing our inner doors. Arching the door ways to create an oval shaped hole increases the strength over square/rectangular doorways.

There is always lots going on in the yard and it’s not a bad place to be but we are separated from our neighbours and we miss them. It is lovely when we do see them around the marina and are able to stop for a chat. We’re not sure how much longer we will need to be out of the water for but we need to make sure that everything that needs doing below the water line is completed before going back in.

If you've got this far I must just apologise that this has turned into such a long blog post!

A beautiful Bristol Channel Pilot cutter squeezes between the boats lined up on the hard

At the moment it feels very much one step forward, two steps back. There is still a lot of work to go and at the moment any light in the tunnel appears to be a bulb part way along rather than the end but the Skipper is working on it. More updates to follow...

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Other posts about the work can be found under 'refit' in the word cloud on the right hand column

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