Pachuca Circumnavigation

This blog began in late 2006 with the planning and preparation for a circumnavigation of the world in my 39-foot sail boat Pachuca. It then covered a successful 5-year circumnavigation that ended in April 2013. The blog now covers life with Pachuca back home in Australia.


Pachuca in Port Angeles, WA USA

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Out of Shed and On Hardstand

The information in my last blog entry of only 10 days ago seems like ancient history.  Even though this project seems to go on forever - much longer than I had anticipated - it is amazing the amount of good solid progress that we are making.

Our big challenge was to vacate the work shed.

On 12 July I wrote a well-documented email message to Amanda Silk, the club's Business Manager asking for a 10 day extension of our tenure of the work shed, which to her credit she granted.  Then I was forced to ask for an additional 4-day extension which again she granted.  But the pressure was on and we had to work hard to vacate the shed by Monday 6 August.  As I wrote to Amanda, we would undertake the following measures in order to vacate the shed:

- Will go to the expense of shipping the mast and boom to a commercial site for spray painting rather than in the FSC shed as previously planned
- Will paint the deck on the hardstand using a roller rather than spraying it in the work shed as previously planned
- Will take measures to prepare the boat for life on a hardstand by rain-proofing itwith measures such as temporarily plugging many holes on the deck until the toe rails and other deck gear can be re-installed and rushing to reinstall the boat's companionway sliding hatch and "garage" whether they are ready or not
- Will complete all other major work on the hardstand rather than the work shed such as installation of the new water tanks, the repaired rudder, and repaired mast compression post.

The problem that we cannot get around is completion of the topside spraying in time for a boat lift out on the agreed date of Wed 1 July.

 Once the spraying was completed the paint must be allowed 3 days to harden before the lifter straps could be used to move the boat.

Bruce had been quietly preparing the topside for painting for days if not weeks performing the required minor repairs, sanding and fairing.  Then the painter Mike Crist arrived on the scene to perform the considerable masking work (the entire cockpit was under plastic). 

Seven coats were laid on the topside: two "Highbuld" primer, two undercoat with sanding using 180 grit paper, and finally 3 top coats. There were also the two blue lines, on below the gunwales and the other just above the waterline, which were put down before the white top coats.

On the day we got very, very lucky.  Monday 30 August was a reasonable day weather wise but Tuesday turned out to be outstanding, with the humidity down to 45 pct, lower than it had been for weeks.  (The higher the humidity the less glossy the result.)  In a period of about two hours that afternoon Mike sprayed the 3 top coats ("wet on wet", with a 15 minute break between coats).  The result was outstanding.  The next day the weather closed in again.
Preparing for the vacation date was not easy.  Bruce and I worked from 8,30 AM until dark on Sat and Sun trying to complete the osmosis repairs.  The affected areas had been ground out weeks earlier and allowed to dry and the task now was to fill in the depressions.

While the topside paint hardened we got onto other tasks.  Bruce did his thing coordinating work by various contractors.  I spent some several hours bringing some order and documentation to the boat's wiring.  I managed to identify and label all of the wiring from the main panel to the front part of the boat, removed quite a bit of redundant wiring, and with the help of Greg Hansen my go-to marine electrician since  my Angie days came to understand the wiring and function of the "House" and "Starter" bank main switches and the crossover switch between them.  With that understanding I was able to finally disconnect the two very active (and very dangerous) leads that been connected to the second starter batter that no longer exists.

On Saturday morning we began working on the osmosis, hoping to complete the work by Sunday evening, our last day in the shed before liftout on Monday.

There are two ways to repair osmosis:

1.  The "Quick and Dirty" way is to "bog up" the depressions by filling them in with some filler, sanding the hull smooth and fair, then proceeding with epoxy coating and antifouling.
2. The Proper way, which is to go to the trouble of filling in the depressions with layers of fiberglass mat to render a result as strong as the original.

Bruce, to his credit and my good fortune is a Number 2 man.  We spent two days fiberglassing the lesions with usually 3 layers of fiberglass.  This is a tedious and laborious process of painting oe fiberglass resin until it is "tacky", laying on a circle of fiberglass that has been well stippled with resin, the laying on a slightly larger circle of fiberglass, then a third until the repair is at the same level as the rest of the hull.  An extremely useful tool is used to iron out the fiberglass layer, which also removes any bubbles in the resin.
Fiberglass tools and various sizes of fiberglass patches
We worked hard, and even with Dolphie's help in Sunday we were not able to complete the work by Monday, so the last thing that Bruce did on Sunday evening was to use the resin to seal off the untreated lesions to make them waterproof.   Later during a dry day we will roughen up the lesions with sandpaper then proceed with the fiberglassing.  I figure that we can complete the repairs with about 3 hours of work.

We dedicated yesterday, Mon 6 Aug 2018 to vacating the shed.  We spent the morning preparing for the move.  We moved the mast to the shed occupied by Victor Mews, grandson of Victor Mews who had built my first boat Chiquita in the 1930's.  Victor's offer to allow us to store the mast and the roller furler in his shed adjacent to the wooden boat that he was restoring was of invaluable assistance to us.  (A lot of "Victors" here: Three generations of Victor Mews and Victor Peters, the man who probably took the best care of Chiquita during her long life so far.  Victor Mews III is very familiar with Chiquita and Victor Peters )  Bruce and I cleaned out the rest of the contents of the shed and his wife "Dolphie" hosed out the floor. We even cleaned out trash from earlier tenants.  

The boat was moved from the shed and placed on a hardstand immediately after lunch.  Bruce had selected the second bay from the west end so that the deck can be painted in the clean grit-free prevailing wind.

Lashed against gale winds

We spent the the rest of that day settling the boat in her new home, ensuring that everything was rain proof and ready for strong winds.  We tied the stern of the boat to a heavy metal bar and the next day tied the bow to a heavy coil of rope to ensure that the boat and cradle could withstand extremely strong winds.  Bruce also gave the boat a good wash while I looked below for leaks. 

The boat was amazingly rain proof, given the number of holes and openings that we had been forced to temporarily seal off.  However, I noted a lot of water coming into the boat from the lazarette, which did not surprise me. 

The lazarette has always been a problem with its two totally unsealed doors.  In a heavy sea the lazarette floor is typically sloshing with water as it pours into the bilge below through the many hose openings.   A water level of only 50 mm of water in the cockpit will result in water flowing over the lower edge of the opening to the lazarette then straight down into the bilge.  I showed Bruce how water pouring down from the seat that is the top of the lazarette will curve over the edge then into the lazarette.  The design was flawed from the beginning.  We then started discussing solutions and every measure seemed to require Zelko's expertise.  Then lo and behold, Zelko showed up totally unexpected, and he provided invaluable advice.  The decision was to remove the lazarette doors but leave the teak frame in place.  The doors will be replaced with a plate of 6 mm aluminium with a rubber seal that will be attached with 6 low-profile nuts (tightened with allen keys) onto bolts fixed to the lazarette.  Zelco will produce a curved piece of wood that will fit over the lazarette opening to be used as a template for the fabrication of the aluminium cover.

Bruce had noted the unbelievable shall rear cockpit drain.  The decision was to replace it with one about 35 mm in diameter.  This requires drilling a bigger hole on the teak cockpit floor and also a bigger drain hole through the hull, which terrifies me but to Bruce and Zelko is routine.

I then grumbled about the "Seabird" vents on the cockpit coaming that act as water scoops in a following sea.  The plan is to replace them with more conventional vents that can be sealed off with a plate.  This will probably require fiberglass work to reduce the diameter of the existing openings.
New teak cockpit table from Zelko (Actually spelled Zeljko)

Finally Bruce had a look at the second manual cockpit pump that has never worked.  It is an old style all-metal "Whale Gusher" and Bruce is confident that he can source a modern plastic counterpart with the same footprint.  The function of this pump is to remove water from a dead zone in the bilge is cut off from the rest of the bilge.  We looked at the hosing into that area and think that it can be routed better.  The hose itself is in good condition.

It was a good session and if the measures with the lazarette access, rear cockpit drain, coaming vents, and manual pump work out as planned Pachuca will be a much drier boat in heavy seas.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Turned the Corner

[Note: I have updated this entry after a visit to the boat today, 28  July 2018. I met Mike the spray painter, who appeared to be very young, but at my age anyone under 40 seems young 😔]

In my last blog I stated that "we have identified every major problem", but as has happened so frequently in this project I was disappointed to find yet another major problem.

I made a quick visit to the boat two Saturdays ago while recovering from my first cold of the season to find Bruce and three yard workers struggling to drop Pachuca's rudder. The rudder had not been dropped in my time and I had agreed with Bruce's suggestion that we have a look at it.  Bruce's impression at this point was that the bearings at both ends of the rudder required replacement.
Dealing with a rudder that will not drop

The rudder would not drop more than about 150 cm because the upper part of the leading edge of the rudder was coming in contact with the back of the skeg, and nobody could explain why.  I agreed to the suggestion that a bit-size chuck of the rudder be removed to allow free movement.  And just as well, too.  A day later Bruce telephoned to inform me that removing that section of the leading edge had allowed him to have a look at the inside of the rudder, and what he had seen was not good.

The rudder is a hollow fiberglass shell filled with high-density closed-cell plastic foam core, which gives the rudder structural support as well as buoyancy.  An important role of this material is to allow the stainless steel rudder post or stock to act on the rudder via metal blades ("armatures") welded to the rudder  post and projecting into the foam material.  (See

Bruce found that the internal plastic foam work had pretty well dissolved due no doubt to years of salt water  inside of the rudder (which of course added to the weight of the boat).  He was not comfortable with doing a patch up because it would still leave the risk of rudder failure sometime in the future.  He could imagine one day losing steering because the rudder post begins turn inside of the rudder, rather than acting on it.  A fix would require him to send the rudder to a man he knew in Henderson, south of Fremantle, who would split the rudder open and basically rebuild the interior.  Bruce suggested that I think about that option for a day or two, but I responded that there was nothing to think about.  Even if I got away with a patch up during the rest of my time I would not countenance passing the boat to the next owner knowing that there was this time bomb inside of the rudder.

The "shoe" into which the lower end of the rudder stock is fitted found to be worn, causing a bit of play in the rudder.  That bush has been replaced.  The upper end of the rudder stock rotates inside of packing, similar to the "packing gland" setups in propeller shafts. That pacing will be replaced, and most importantly and extended grease nipple will be fitted to enable me to regularly lubricate the  packing and the entire shaft.  This packing had never been greased during my time, and Bruce assures me that in future I will have lighter, tighter, and more responsive steering.
New bush in rudder shoe

Rudder with chunk removed at leading edge at right.
By then the cutlass bearing of the propeller shaft had been checked  out and found to be worn, even though it had been replaced in Mexico in about 2011.  Removing the propeller shaft is not easy on Pachuca because the skeg does not allow the shaft to be pulled out from below.  (Some boats have their propeller shaft at angle, to allow removal from below past the skeg, and the side of the skeg is selected to compensate for "prop walk".)   But in order to remove the prop shaft from above the engine must be raised out of the way (gulp!).  These guy are pro's and it seemed no drama for them to de couple the drive shaft from the engine, drive up the club's small crane to the small crane to the side of the boat, then lift the engine up about 0.5 meter and out of the way of the shaft.
Degenerated internal foam. Can be scratched off with finger.

I suggested that while we were at it we remove the Cobra steering pedestal for a checkout.  My friend Reg and I had removed the pedestal in 2008 and the engineer  had found that two of its three bearings were seized.  With the area underneath the cockpit clear of batteries removing the pedestal would be a relatively simple matter.

There was progress on other fronts.  After putting in a lot of effort to clean the gap between the deck and hull Bruce injected an
Upper section of rudder with chunk removed above
adhesive sealant into the gap all around the boat.  He did this by lifting the deck material between the rivets using a paint scraper then injecting the material.  Bolting the toe rails back should squeeze the rubber-like material nicely.
Filling deck gap

A friend of mine who completed his SS 34 in his back yard told me later that all SS 34's were delivered with pop-riveted decks, but also with a waterproof matting in place along the gap.  For some reason no such material had been inserted into my SS  39.

An experienced mechanic visited the boat what must have been a hefty socket and handle and managed to tighten every keel boat. (YES!)  Bruce reported that Mr Swarbrick got about 1/4 turn from most of the nuts but 1/2 turn on the bolts at each end of the keel and one of the middle nuts. That was very, very good news.  Given the coarse thread on the bolts a 1/4 turn in that setup is a big deal indeed.  Although the keel always seemed tight and did not ship water, it will be nice to minimize the hair line cracks that appear along the joints at both ends of the keel.

The new base plate for the mast compression post has been completed, and the trial fitting was successful.

The boat's toe rails have been sand blasted and powder coated and are ready to be picked up.
Pachuca shaftless, propellerless, ruderless

The new water tanks should have been competed by now.  I am anxious to put them in because now that Zelko has finished his wood work in the cabin it will enable us to restore the side batteries, seats, flooring, etc to finally give us a good working space in the cabin.

The new mast spreaders are ready, and by now the new backstay should be ready too.

Last week I sent a well-documented letter to the club's business manager complaining about the state of the work sheds.  She investigated and to her credit she agreed to give me a 10-day extension in the shed at no charge, which is just a well because I was shocked to learn that after 20 days the daily charge for the sheds increases from $67 to $80 per day (plus 10% GST).  For the 30 days of June I was charged $2640 for use of the shed,  (This resulted in another letter of complaint to the Cruising Committee, and the matter is being taken to the club's finance committee.)

The pace of progress has picked up significantly in the last 10 days.  Because of the extensive sanding and spray painting activity I have been forced to stay away from the boat. I understand that the topside has been sanded, filled, sprayed with two coats of "Highbuild" primer, sanded again, then sprayed with undercoat, and Bruce will soon repairing the osmosis.

The goal is to be able to move the boat out of the expensive work shed by 31 July and repositioning it on a hardstand at a much cheaper rate.  There the deck will be painted with a roller rather than sprayed and we'll start to put the boat back together again.

I am looking forward to regaining access to the boat to complete my own tasks, such as completing the tidying up of the main electrical panel, repairing corrosion damage in  the sub panel at the front of the cabin, coming to grips with the rewiring of the mast when it is re installed, and completing the rebuild of the aft battery boxes.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Progress On Several Fronts

By now we have explored just about every part of the boat and I believe that we have identified every major problem.  Barring any more surprises we are starting to work our way out of the project which has evolved from a treatment of osmosis to what could be accuratey described as a refit - a partial one I suppose, given that the boat's propulsion system, teak decking, instrumentation, and sails are in top condition.

Last week I decided to cancel the order for the new stainless steel bow plate for several reasons: (1) The existing on polishes up fairly well and its battle scars give it character (2) I wasn't too happy about the extra weight at the extreme end of the boat from the proposed thicker material (3) I preferred allocating the $1,000 to Zelko's work.
Teak lift raft bases, white life raft support on rear one

During the week I had obtained s a perspex mounting panel cut to millimeter tolerance for the small 6-switch electrical panel to be mounted at the lower left corner of the electrical compartment door.  I emailed the plan to Steve at  BCJ Plastics Products in Kewdale who produced the piece in only two days.  Zelko mounted the panel and the fitted the electrical 6-switch electrical panel which was designed to relieve the overload on the main panel and cover up holes left on the door from the instruments of the old SAAB engine. 
Perspex Plan

Panel in Place
That installation enabled me to begin work on bringing order to the electrical panel, which will include removal of redundant wiring and labeling every wire at both ends.  That is a job that will be made easier by the fact that all of the boat's batteries have been disconnected but will nevertheless require much time and patience.

Zelko also delivered a beautifully made pair of teak supports for the life raft.

For the first time I worked over the weekend which was quite useful because it enabled me to paint International "Everdure" and varnish on Zelko's work so that he would be able to resume work on the ceiling first thing on Monday.  He began that work by dropping the main panel which he had put up on Friday and gluing wooden blocks to the roof of the cabin which would enable firm fastening of the cabin light instead of simply putting the screws into the thin ceiling as in the past.

Bruce and I traced the tied-off shower drain pump hose through the boat to the exit at the stern which led to his realization that none of the above-water drain hoses had been fitted with shut off valves.  He could hardly believe it and I confessed that I had replaced all of the below-water valves in 2008 but had not dealt with the above-water ones.  The problem is that in rough weather the boat can begin to hobby horse even when at anchor, submerging those exit points.  Our plan is to remove and fill in the shower drain exit (I tried showering in the boat once and found that it introduces too much moisture into the boat.)  and to install shut off valves in the remaining four exits.
Stern above water line.  Small exit at left to be sealed, other 4 will have shut off valves fitted.

I had shown Bruce the insane setup where the 1.5 inch filler hose for the port water tank as well as the pressure vent (which fills up with water whenever I fill the tank) passed through the crowded electrical compartment.
Path of breather hose and filler hose (which as been removed)
The filler hose has been removed and the deck fitting is being moved forward to directly above the tank where it belongs.   This of course has involved filling in the old deck hole and cutting a new one.

Yesterday we dealt with the toe rails.  That type of toe rail is no longer available in Australia and must be ordered from the USA.  The modern rails have no where near the flexibility (e.g. fastening points) of the old ones.  Fortunately the toe rails are strong, although there is some corrosion.  We discussed the issue with an anodizing firm but decided to have the toe rails sand blasted then powder coated.  This provided me with a wide selection of colours and I decided lighter colour that I believe will better complement the colour planned for the deck.

We also visited Steve the rigger where I was shown the problems that had been discovered in the mast and boom.

I had not know that there were two blocks built into the boom to provided purchase for the mainsail foot outhaul.  One of the blocks had broken away sometime in the past and bringing on the outhaul had caused the two blocks to come together creating a tangled ball of rope inside of the boom.  This explains why ever since I've had the boat I have been unable to firm up the foot of the sail no matter how had I tried.  The six boom sheaves were intact but somewhat loose on their axles an will be replace.
Corroded external end where wire passes

Hole due to corrosion

Cracked Tang

Closer Look

The spreaders were in bad shape.  One of the stainless steel tangs had a crack in it but can be repaired with welding.  However, the four spreaders were extensively corroded.  As usual I made the decision to replace rather while I had the chance.  Fortunately Steve was able to source material with the same dimensions required for a tight fit into the mast, and the shop has a very experience fabricator of spars.

A spinnaker halyard will be replaced (it needed replacing when I purchased the boat) and I will replace all four reefing lines when the rig is back up. (The existing reefing lines are in good condition but are not colour coded for easier identification.)

This rigging work will cost serious money but the work must be done because at present it is a dismasting ready to happen.

Late yesterday we had a visit from the man who will replace the boat's lettering.  He will also put on a stick-on boot topping above the waterline and the broad blue line around the exterior of the coaming.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Deeper Still

We've made  progress over several fronts in the last two weeks.

Zelko has done a lot of good work in the cabin.  After giving us access to the toe rail bolts he installed several small beams on each side of the cabin to support the deck.  By the time I left the boat on Monday he had filled the space between the beams and deck with a strong compound which should result in a firm deck.
Two deck supports (red)

Zelko the master teak man with Bruce working in lazarette

He also fabricated new ceiling panels in order to replace several that had either been damaged or been modified for various reasons, such as the void left from the removal of the boat's original radar unit.  This was not as easy as cutting the panel to shape then flexing it to fit the curved ceiling.  I was amazed to learn that he had to first scribe a pattern of the curve then use the mold to glue the sheet of wood to the laminate on the correct curve.  I had not anticipated this much effort going to the cabin ceiling but Zelko is doing terrific work and the boat will be much better for it.

Zelko's next job will be to fabricate two teak supports for the life raft.  Their function is to provide flat supports on the curved deck.  

Bruce and I had to accept the fact that the three heavy batteries must be removed in order to obtain access to the space below the cockpit.  He had lined up two strong men to do the job but the slightly younger Bruce who is strong as an ox and this old dog Robert managed to do it with surprising ease.  The key was patience, analysis, teamwork, and much grunting at the appropriate moments.  I then spent some time removing the battery cases to give untrammeled access to the area for the first time since Mexico.

Bruce inspected the area and although he spotted corrosion amenable to treatment in several places he did not see anything grossly out of order.  No problems were detected with the steering quadrant or the linear arm of the autopilot.

And finally I had access to the four bolts holding the external ground plate (dynaplate) for the HF radio's tuner.  I had connected the tuner to the ground shoe using several layers of the prescribed thin ribbons of copper (to maximize surface area minimum resistance) but they had degenerated significantly due to corrosion, particularly along the floor of the lazarette.  Having said that, the setup provided me with excellent HF radio propagation because I was able to maintain twice-daily radio communication with South Africa until  I reached Cape Leeuwin at the SW corner of Western Australia.  There are four bolts passing through the hull from the dynaplate, and I will talk with Greg Hansen about laying a pair of relatively heavy cables from the tuner to two ground shoe bolts.

The toe rails were removed and Bruce shocked me when he showed me the gap between the deck and the hull.  Sometimes the gap was as much as 5mm wide, and it was particularly bad near the bow.  He reckoned that this explained most of the water invading the boat when I went hard to weather.  Bruce could not explain why the gap had not been sealed during the manufacturing process.  "So ... What is holding the deck to the hull?" I  asked rhetorically.  We figured that the screws holding the toe rails to the hulls were performing that role, but I did not find that satisfactory, hoping that there were at least a few dabs of adhesive that we could not see.
Two rivets at left and right

Closeup of s/s rivet
Once Bruce had begun the laborious task of cleaning and taping in preparation for injecting sealant into the gap he called me over and pointed to what appeared to be stainless steel screws every 150 mm (6 in) or so along the deck.  On closer examination we realized that they were rivets.  I was amazed that rivets could be used on fiberglass but Bruce assured me that it could.  I grumbled that I was thinking of renaming my boat "Rivets".  After my initial shock I saw that the stainless steel rivets were in pristine condition and the setup had carried me around the world with no problem.  Later in the week I ran into an old friend who told me that companies such as Prestige Yachts who had built my boat often handed the hull and deck over to the customer who would complete the fit out.  He could imagine Prestige handing over the bare deck pop riveted to the bare hull to the customer with 'over to you'.

Anyway, at this point we have identified three likely vectors for the huge amount of water entering the boat when I sail her hard to weather:

1. The "boot" around the base of the mast which had deteriorated and was probably leaking huge amounts of water which for some reason I was not able to detect from inside of the cabin
2. The two large "horn" cleats at the stern which had gaps at the base through which one could see daylight, which could explain the constant slosh of water in the lazarette
3. The gap between the deck and hull.  Although I could not see water streaming inside of the hull, incoming water would possibly have run along the upper stringers to drop into the boat along the starboard and port shelving amidships, or maybe all of the way back to the lazarette where I could not see very well.

I complained about the main hatch dragging to the point that I had trouble emerging from the cabin during my run to the Horn so we removed it and its "garage/turtle" entirely.  The slides were heavily corroded and we cleaned them back to bright brass and will probably lubricate them.  I am still not happy with some "proud" screws holding down the brass slides because the holes had not been drilled exactly perpendicular to the surface, but we'll see how it works out.

The battery cases must be either strengthened or rebuilt.  We had decided to give the job to Zelko but on reflection I am very capable of doing the job myself and will allow Zelko to do the jobs beyond my skill.

Another job I asked Zelko to do was to do a cut out of the door into the electrical panel so that I could fit a new 6-switch panel.  The idea is to fill in the holes in door left by removing the instruments from the old SAAB engine while providing much needed relief for the overcrowded main breaker panel.  We had a very good discussion and he suggested that I have a suitable rectangle of 3mm perspex made up with a cut out to accommodate the new panel.  I have done that by engaging BCJ Plastics to do the job.  Steve at BCJ is a pleasure to work with.  I sent him a photo of my plan, we refined it a bit (e.g. added 1 mm to the cutout dimensions to accommodate expansion) and it will be delivered within 7 days at the modest cost of $55 plus GST.
New switch panel

At Bruce's suggestion I washed the bottom of the floor panel over the main part of the bilge with the plan to sand it and cover it with a fresh coat of waterproof material.

At great trouble I was able to source two rectangles 12mm and 15mm thick rectangles of "Seaboard" marine grade polyethylene material so that Zelko can fabricate new stanchion bases.  I had used this 12mm material to replace some of the stanchion bases in Mexico and found it to be excellent. Zelko will use the 15mm material for the stanchions and will use the 12mm material for backing below the deck.  It took some effort to source the material from off-cuts because a sheet 1.2m x 2.4 m costs $700 and I got the material that I required from BCJ Plastics for about $100.
Flooded floor

Cover of drain floated off, leaving open drain hole trap
A troubling issue is the state of the club's works and in particular shed facilities.  This is winter and we are getting a lot of rain.  During rainstorms the water comes into the shed from the drain,  forcing us to lift all material and electrical leads off the floor.  The sheds have no lighting.  The skylights provided are of not much assistance on cloudy days and we must use artificial lighting when working inside of the boat.  Dangerous caustic fluids invade our floor from the next shed, and fumes give Bruce headaches when spraying is being done in the adjacent shed.  As I told the Cruising committee in an email, I am paying a first-world price of $67 per day for a third-world facility.

During the week Bruce noticed the persistent flow of water into the bilge and tracked it down to a suspect leaky water tank.  We removed the tank and confirmed that it was leaking due to corrosion at the welds.  I decided on the spot to replace both tanks, remembering the rusty water that I had been forced to drink during the four months from Mexico round the Horn to Argentina.

Port tank removed for replacement
Partly because of this unexpected expense I had a re-think about the bow plate and decided that rather than spend the $1000 quoted by Colling for a thicker bow plate of 3 mm I'd rather spend the money on Zelko's good work and continue using the existing bow plate.  It presents well after polishing and its battles scars gave testament to previous adventures. We cancelled the order and yesterday I visited Collin to retrieve Pachuca's bow plate.

We have gone as far as I can see in taking the boat apart and we should soon begin the task of putting it together again.

Ahead are repainting of the boat's topside, deck, and mast.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Deeper into the Mine

My last blog entry was accurately titled "Over the Worst" but we are nevertheless going deeper and deeper into this mine(field) and steadily taking the boat apart.
Pachuca in the work shed

The remaining antifouling has been removed from the starboard side and as I had expected we found less osmosis on that side of the boat. Bruce attributed that to the fact that for some reason the ultra hard "Copper Coat" antifouling was much thicker (and harder to remove!) on the starboard side.  With that difficult and toxic task completed Bruce was able to focus his attention on other matters.

The mast has been completely stripped for painting after a lot of effort spanning two days by Bruce and Steve the rigger.  All of the lines have been removed and several  of them will be replaced, no surprise given that they were on the boat when I purchased her in 2005.  It was discovered that the mainsail outhaul line had a twist in it inside of the boom which explained why try as I might I had not been able to keep the foot of the sail properly stretched.  Also removed were the mast steps, wind instruments, radar dome, standing rigging, hounds, crosstrees, etc.  A small  crack was discovered on one of the lower crosstrees that was a failure waiting to  happen, and there was the inevitable corrosion which has been dealt with.  The masthead "Windex" wind indicator fell apart and my reaction was surprise that it had lasted so long because life for that fragile instrument at the top of the mast for a decade through several storms and countless gales had been as difficult as it gets on a boat.

Stripped Mast
To prepare the deck for painting we removed the stainless steel platform in front of the mast then all of the fittings associated with the life raft.  We then removed two bolts that had been embedded in the deck above the navigation station to support the cumbersome old-style radar that had been on the boat when I purchased her.  I had cut off the lower half of the bolts but had not been game to cut into the decking to remove the upper parts.  The heads of the bolts had been bleeding rust onto the deck and had to be removed before painting.

Removing radar bolts
Over the telephone Bruce had told me that Steve had recommended that we remove the mast stump - the part of the mast that passed through the deck into the cabin and was supported by a thick (12mm or so) plate below the floor because we should see what was in that area.  My initial reaction was shock at the scale of that task but I agreed.  By the time I visited the boat the stump had been removed with the assistance of a small crane and I helped Bruce remove the supporting base plate.

What we found was a sorry mess.  Corrosion had turned parts of the aluminium material to a white paste and the drains connecting that section of the bilge to the rest of the system were blocked up.  Sooner or later the base would have failed leading to catastrophic consequences for the mast.  After Bruce had cleaned up the piece we had a discussion about its condition and agreed that the entire piece should be replaced.  The new piece will have smaller and better targeted openings for the bilge drains and be anodized rather than left bare had the original plate been.  Greg the marine electronics man (who had been my go-to man since the Angie days in the mid  80's) knew Pachuca well and mentioned that the aluminium supporting plate had been retrofitted when problems had developed where the mast threatened to punch its way through the hull.
Mast stump removed, looking at aluminium base

Underside of plate.  Black cables are for lightning protection

Sad condition

Removing that plate provided good access to the forward keel bolt and having the boat resting on its keel provides the perfect opportunity to see if we can (or even want to because they can be over tightened) tighten the bolts and we will seek advice on this.  (There is no movement or leak from the keel, but hairline cracks in the antifouling appears at the extreme ends of the join to the keel, considered normal and inconsequential, and reflect the fact that the end keel bolts must leave some distance to the ends of the join.)

Then Zelko came into the picture.  Zelko is an experience boat builder from the days when Marco had his small shipyard.  His expertise is in teak.  Among his many achievements, he did all of the teak work on Greg Norman's gigantic (69.5 meters/223 ft) $70 million yacht built by Austal Shipbuilding a few miles to the south.  Bruce and Zelko go back a long way, and Bruce brought him on board to discuss some requirements. 

In order properly repaint the deck and to eliminate possibility of leak the boat's toe rails must be removed.  The big problem of this task is gaining access to the hundreds of closely spaced bolts running along the inside edge of the hull.  We have been immeasurably helped by my having stripped all of the obnoxious mold-growing material that had been glued to walls and ceiling from one end of the boat to the other.  This gave us relatively good access to most of the screws.

Note main table at left.  Entire bilge will be prepared and painted.

Section after cleaning.  Single lead  keel bolt at end compartment.
The ceiling of the main cabin must be dropped.  I've done this several times and will do the work on my next visit.  However, a cabinet on the starboard side was built after that section of the ceiling was put  up. so we had to spend some time cutting the panel in two and removing the two sections.  Then there as the more difficult problem of exposing the area above and behind the built-in drawers.  Zelko had a good look at the problem and came up with the plan of cutting the supports of several of the drawers (which are now in my garage), which he would rebuild later.  This plan made my thinning hair stand on end but I trust that Zelco knows what he is doing.

While we were at it, we discussed the Bruce's discovery that the deck was flexing under foot load on each side of the cabin, something  that I had never noticed.  With those areas exposed Zelko will  be able to fit 2 or 3 small deck supporting beams along those spans.

We then went topside and discussed the replacement of the two plyboard pieces that support the life raft.  My design and material (marine ply of course) was strong and snug fitting along the curve of the deck, but I had made the mistake of using nails of mild steel which had over time bled rust down the  sides and onto the deck.  Zelko will rebuild them of teak using my pieces as patterns.  We then discussed the replacement of the bases of the rail stanchions, which is currently a mixture of original teak and modern polymer material that I cut and installed in Mexico.
Life raft supports.  Lower part built by me to eliminate deck curve.

Another thing that we will fix is the insane path of the port water tank filler hose that passes diagonally through the electrical compartment.  We will move the filler forward to above the water tank where it belongs, and as the starboard side is set up.

I also took Pachuca's bow plate to Osborne Park on the other side of the city for a quotation on a new one of thicker plate than the current 1.3 mm. The job will be made much easier by the fact that the fabricator will have a perfect pattern to work from  and will not have to visit the boat.  ... Why the other side of the city?  Bruce told me that the further away you get from Fremantle, the cheaper the stainless steel work gets.

And we also discussed removing the heavy aft batteries in order to gain access to the area below the cockpit.  I require this access to replace the connection between the HF radio tuner in the lazarette and the ground shoe on the starboard side of the hull.  The thin and broad copper ribbon has proven to be hopeless for strength and durability and I will consult Greg about using a heavy cable instead.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Over the Worst

The worst is over with the unexpectedly difficult job of removing all of the antifouling.  Bruce has managed to break through the layers of super hard "Coppercoat" that had been laid before my time, without damage to the gelcoat.  I've been shown the weight of the material removed and expect Pachuca to ride much higher in the water when she is launched.  I must give Bruce credit for avoiding the fast and easy way of soda blasting, which would have damaged the gelcoat resulting in much remedial work later.

This week I worked with Bruce to remove Pachuca's stainless steel bow plate which shows the scars of its successful role in protecting the hull from anchor damage.  We managed to remove the three bolts fixing the plate at the bow with some difficulty but the screws along the outer edge were easy to remove.  Then it was a matter of prying the plate from the spots of adhesive that bonded it to the gelcoat.  We now have a choice of polishing up the bow plate or having a new one made.  Making a new one would be relatively easy giving that the fabricator would have a pattern to work with, and Bruce will seek a quotation.
Bow Plate Off

Stern Fittings Off

For me our most satisfying work was a the stern of the boat, where our goal was to remove the fittings that support the Monitor self steering and the boarding ladder in preparation for the spray painting of the hull.  This necessitated my removal of the gas cylinders and their plywood box from the lazarette, taking great care when detaching the gas regulator and gas sensor.

But then Bruce observed that the two large aluminum bollards at the stern did not appear to be on proper bedding.  I agreed that it could be the case, given that I had never touched them during my ownership of the boat.  I then pointed out my concerns of a large diameter brass fitting for the boat's bilge pump. In  calm conditions this fitting was above the water, but it rough conditions, the fitting would be in and out of the water as the boat pitched.  Bruce looked around the edge of the fitting and he could see my light inside of the lazarette, indicating a huge potential for leaking.  This could very well explain the enormous amount of water that the boat has always shipped when sailing hard to weather.  Over the years I had eliminated the bow and toe rail areas as well as hosing and keel bolts as the source of the leaks, and I had had all through-hull fittings below the waterline replaced in 2007. 

I knew that there was a problem in that area because the in rough conditions there would always be water sloshing in the lazarette before finding its way into the bilge.    If this turns out to be the source of the leaks then I deserve a big kick in the backside and an apology for all who have crewed on the boat for not having having dealt with this at the beginning.

That day Bruce drove to Kewdale to have the bollards soaked in acid to help free the bolts, which will be removed with the use of heat if necessary.  They will then be refinished and come back as new.  Why the trouble?  New ones will cost over $100 apiece and will have a different footprint than the existing ones.

 In clearing the lazarette the layers of thin and wide copper foil that acted as conductor between the grounding plate on the hull of the boat and the HF radio tuner disintegrated like confetti before my eyes, no doubt facilitated by the enormous amounts of salt water that had sloshed around that section of the copper day after day.  This means that we will need to gain access to the below-cockpit space by removing the three extremely heaving batteries.  I will consult with Greg Hansen on setting a more durable ground cable.  I can't complain too much because the ground plate and copper connector that I installed in Mexico had done a brilliant job of providing me with good long distance HF communications.  I reliably spoke with South Africa twice a day until I reached Cape Leeuwin.

This all represents the inevitable mission creep to be expected in a project like this.  I told Bruce that now that we are into it, let's do it right, and I'll worry about the money (gulp!).  He gave me a pat on the shoulder in appreciation.  Putting myself in his place, the last thing that I would want is for the client to be carping about delays and whining about costs.  You either trust the man or you don't. If you trust him then support him, and if you don't then replace him with someone else.

The grey circles on the hull mark the areas of osmosis.  They are not exactly trivial as I had thought, but not particularly bad either.  I expect the starboard side to be much better because there were no bulges showing through the antifouling. I'll know when Bruce has finished sanding the remaining area aft of the keel.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Unloading Pachuca

I managed to spend some productive time with Pachuca this week.

Bruce is having a difficult time in stripping the lower part of the hull of years of antifouling to expose the original gel coat.  One problem was the layer of hard antifouling that had been used in the USA (because the self ablating soft antifouling was simply not available without a special order).  Below that he found an even tougher layer of "Coppercoat" that had been laid down in the early 2000's, before I purchased the boat.  Coppercoat was extremely effective material, heavily impregnated with copper and very weighty.  Unfortunately it has been a devil to remove.  Bruce has changed tactics, employing a high quality sander in conjunction with the chemical removers.  The result has been good, with none of the pitting of the gelcoat that would have resulted from soda blasting.  But it has required at least on week of effort more than had been planned.
Most of hull and all of keel have been stripped

On a brighter note, the degree of osmosis has been much much less than expected - down to the trivial level, in my opinion.  Bruce can tell the conditions under which a hull's fibreglass was laid by the degree of osmosis.  He stated that Pachuca's hull must have been fibreglassed in very good conditions of temperature and humidity. 

We had a meeting with Greg Hansen to discuss the setup of the boat's radar dome.  I was very well prepared with printouts from my blog that explained in detail (with photos): (a) The reason why the radome was moved 500 mm down from its original position on the mast (Edgar the rigger thought that the initial position brought it too close to the forestay), (b) That the cable failed within a year and was replaced under warranty in Hawaii, (c) That the second cable failed again and was repaired in Argentina, (d) That the Argentina repair failed and the cable was replaced when I was back in Fremantle in 2013.  The failures were caused by the fact that the cable passed from the radome up the mast 500mm then did a sharp bend though the opening in the mast then down the conduit.  That sharp bend through the mast was the source of the problems and I wanted to take advantage of the fact that the mast was down in order to restore the radome to its original position so that the cable could past horizontally into the mast and do a 90 degree turn into the conduit instead of the current 180 degree turn.

Greg looked at the setup and noted that the cable was very loose where it entered the mast, allowing it to move back and forth in rough conditions, and we did see chafing in the cable.  Moving the radome would bring on the risk of problems with the forestay and Greg recommended that a second stainless steel  protective ring be welded onto the radome guard.  However, his preferred option was leave the radome in place, elongate the entry hole and make the cable loop above the hole so that it could make its entry aligned more or less with the conduit.  Below the entry the cable would be strapped down to the mast with stainless steel saddles, eliminating all movement.

After considering my choices I telephoned Greg three days later and asked him to leave the radome in place and take the measures that he had outlined. 
Garage prepared for Pachuca material.  
Note Monitor wind steering raised to rafters.

I was back at the boat at 7AM the next morning and Bruce and I spent 3 hours unloading the boat.  Most of the material went into my trailer that was fitted with the plyboard sides known in the trade as "hungry boards".  We also crammed what we could into the X-Trail.

Bruce and I then went over the accounts.  I had burned through $10,000 in three weeks almost to the day and I agreed to transfer another $10k into his trust account.  I'll have keep my financial guns loaded because once the lower hull is completed the sides and deck of the boat will be repainted, as will the mast.  I'm a synergy man and I figure that given that the mast is off, everything is in the shed, and the trades people are in position and focused then we may as well do the lot.
Unloading trailer full of Pachuca stores

Welcome to boating and the follies of a CUOF.  But the expenditure is not all that outrageous.  I commented to Bruce that somebody was going to get a fine boat someday but I had no regrets because I wanted to do the right thing by the boat that had taken me safely around the world.  Bruce replied that there are other sailors who think like me, although too few of them.

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