Monday 21 December 2015

Early Days in New Zealand (Tall ships, soft shackles and more maintenance) - Part 1 of 2

[Part 1 of 2 from Liz's latest letter home]


You can tell when we have wifi and when we don't: when we have Internet, I find myself spending so much time reading everyone else's emails and Facebook posts that I forget to save time to send out my own!!

When I last wrote, we had just arrived in Opua, with an engine that was leaking oil, an alternator that we had disconnected because we had blamed it for the engine-compartment fire that melted most of a bundle of electrical wires, an autopilot that was computing but not driving, charts of NZ that used to work, but our newly-updated chartplotter would not read, and sea water coming into the saloon through our mast, and a social schedule absolutely full with end-of-rally festivities for the "All Points Rally" hosted by the NZ-based Island Cruising Association (ICA).  A lot has happened since then!

The morning after we arrived, we got ourselves settled on a mooring, and headed ashore to hear our weather-guru Bob McDavitt speak as part of a week of workshops set up by the ICA for visiting cruisers.  With two days of great events like this remaining, we didn't exactly lie back and rest after the eight-and-a half-day passage!  

Oh, the glamour of cruising ... replace the burnt wire bundle.

Oh, the glamour of cruising ... replace the burnt wire bundle.

Benjamin helping Liz.

Eventually enough boats had left that there was room for us in the marina, which meant that we could tackle our long list of new projects:

--  The engine compartment fire was a bit of a cautionary tale - even though we had disconnected the alternator, and the smoke stopped when we killed the engine, it turned out that we were just lucky: as long as the main battery switch was ON there was a risk of fire, and to prove this, we got a puff of smoke when Max moved the bundle to start trouble-shooting.  I can't say that the bundle was in *the* most awkward place on the boat, but it was close: the wires passed under a metal framework in the engine compartment, and we had to reach in and down, working by touch as much as by sight, label both sides of each damaged wire, cut them and pull the ends back to where we could work.  We were glad that this happened in a marine center where we could get supplies and advice.  We ended up splicing in a new segment for each of the dozen or so damaged wires (some of which were duplex).  At one point, both of us were stripping and splicing, and Victoria was standing between the open door of the engine compartment and the nav table handing tools back and forth like a surgical assistant.  (It was not all bad: I have to admit that it was fun to do a job together, and I liked giving the kids a real example of both Mom & Dad doing boat jobs).  Even Benjamin "helped": he toddled off to the store with Victoria and Johnathan when we sent them to replenish our supplies :)  It is easy to write about this in one paragraph, but it was in fact about three days of wiring, testing, heat-shrinking, and protecting with a sturdy helical conduit (the space was so tight that winding this stiff piece of plastic around our ungainly new bundle ended up being one of the hardest parts of the job!).  Our friends on Honey dropped by when it was my turn to be up to my shoulders in the engine compartment installing this conduit, and since that evening's plan was to celebrate the return of our functioning propane system by (eventually) cooking a roast that I had bought when I had reprovisioned using their car ... it seemed that the obvious thing was for Jude to cook our roast and chop our vegetables while I kept going trying to enforce my will on a stubborn piece of corkscrew-shaped plastic, and then both families were able to enjoy an impromptu dinner party together. These are the cruising memories that I love :)

Victoria and I repacking the spinnaker after drying it.
-- Without the boat tossing & rolling, Max was able to remove the brushes from the Autopilot drive.  He had attempted this at sea, but somehow they were a bit stuck, and didn't want to come out.  Even though they were only a year old, the brushes were about 5mm when they were supposed to be 18mm thick.  We have new ones on order, but after cleaning them, the old ones have gone back in and are doing the job for now.  We were very relieved that our new drive was fine, as this time last year we were replacing its predecessor under warranty.

Delicate maintenance.
-- The issue with our charts turned out to be caused by the software update that we did in Fiji: once the update was done, the charts saw it as a new and unregistered machine.  The initial answer (from Simrad) was to download the charts again, but they only come with a one-year subscription, and ours had expired (and they could not extend it).  The problem seemed to be with an identification key; they sent us a text file with the proper data, but this didn't work either.  Finally, they sent us a refund, and we will try again with new charts.  Even though they weren't able to provide us a solution, we felt that they were working hard to assist us, and found a way to resolve the issue that didn't leave us out of pocket.  Max had checked our Fiji charts when he did the upgrade (and they worked without issue), but from now on, we will confirm all our charts still work, while we have internet!!  (We will also continue our practice of ensuring we have many layers of charting redundancy onboard, as any of these electronic solutions are vulnerable...)

-- Masts and decks are notorious for leaking at their joint: when the boat flexes, it is hard to keep the two surfaces together in a water-tight manner.  When we were in Mexico, we put in a triple-defence system to keep the water out of the saloon: we used Spartite, a two-part rubbery compound that starts as a liquid, is poured into place, and congeals to form a tight seal, we installed a custom-fit collar that is siliconed into place and held to the mast and the deck collar with hose-clamps, and we added a sunbrella cover (also custom-fit) to protect the whole business.  We haven't seen any water in the saloon in more than two years.  We were pretty confident in this system, but after we arrived in NZ, with water pouring down the mast, we did hear that water can sometimes seep in between the spartite and the mast as the vaseline applied to make the mast removable wears away, so Max dutifully took everything apart, noticing at each layer that it looked pretty good, only to discover that the water was actually coming in between the mast collar and the deck itself!  Our triple defence was still working, so he re-caulked and re-clamped it all (and marked that it had just been inspected) and set about re-doing the black goo that seals the mast collar to the deck.  In this location, he did find some moisture, so it seemed that we had our culprit.

-- We have a lovely story of coincidence to tell about the repair to our engine: after Max and Johnathan pumped 1L of oil out of our engine pan, he contacted the company in Whangarei who had done the work on it last year.  They wanted to put us in touch with the company to whom they had subcontracted what turned out to be the faulty hose.  Shortly after sending an email reiterating that we would only deal directly with our engine contractor, Max was walking across the marina parking lot and saw a fellow wearing the company insignia of the hose company.  He asked him if he could come and take a look so that he could confirm to our engine company that the piece was, in fact, defective.  Once he got onboard and saw the hose (which was leaking through a faulty connection), he did even better than that: he took it into his own hands to fix it himself at no cost to us.  Kudos to ENZED Opua (aka Gary, The Hose Doctor) for fantastic customer service!
The kids met the nice crew of the R Tucker Thompson and were invited to climb the rigging

Up up up ...
Johnathan up the rig on the R Tucker Thompson reluctantly using safety equipment.
That kind of sums up the reactive (ie corrective) maintenance of our first week on the dock.  With those jobs out of the way, we can focus on the usual preventative maintenance that keeps Max busy for a couple of hours every day as well as the "New Zealand" list that we have been compiling all season in Fiji ... new alternator(s), new external alternator-regulator, new rain enclosure (aka "clears") to give us access to our cockpit even when it is raining (hooray!!! this is probably the job I am most excited about), re-cut staysail so we can actually use it, and on, and on.  Eventually, once we are going to be in one place with some extended sunny weather, we will also tackle the many deck fittings that began leaking on our passage south (these need to be done regularly: we remove the bolts and goo holding them in place, clean it all up with acetone, put in new goo, and screw the whole business back together again.  Last year we could only find slot-headed screws; we are hopeful for phillips-headed ones this year...)

Victoria and Ella's display at the little trade show.  Note she was selling dyneema soft shackles as well.
Benjamin was more interested in the petting zoo.  Here Benjamin and one of the Little Explorers crew "groom" a rabbit.
While we (especially Max) were beavering away on boat jobs, Victoria and Johnathan were reconnecting with their friends on Honey, Nirvana (who arrived about a week after we did) and Field Trip.  They have spent a lot of time building a fort that is hidden from view and off-limits to parents :)  Victoria had an outing to Paihia (about 10 min away) with Julie (Nirvana) and all the other girls; Johnathan has spent many hours riding up and down the dock with Axel on Nirvana's two bicycles.  Even Benjamin has gotten in on the act, being driven around the marina in a dock cart ("Of course we're careful with him, Mom...").

While Johnathan and I were working on the boat and checking out the tall ship, Liz, Victoria and Benjamin went to a massive American Thanksgiving dinner hosted by our friends in L'il Explorers in Whangarei.  Here is a picture of some of the kids at the dinner.
More culinary adventures in Fluenta.  The kids (with Ella from Honey) prepare brunch.

Some fruit to go with crepes.

Nirvana was in the yard so obviously time for a BBQ in the yard. Sarah and Chris had just arrived and Chris is already put to work.

Warning ... Yards are great for taking your two year old brother out for a bike ride.   Our visiting medical professional was not so sure of the plan ...

Julie and Liz.

[Part 2 of 2 to follow] ...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments ? (Note all comments are moderated)