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

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.

Stripping the Antifouling

I managed to visit Pachuca twice during the week.  

Bruce had wanted to avoid soda blasting the hull in to avoid pitting of the gelcoat and tried using chisels.  But after the slow pace of progress with chisels he reluctantly went to his second option, very caustic and toxic chemical strippers.

Bruce has encountered unexpected difficulty in stripping the antifouling from the lower part of the hull.  The problem is that in Port Townsend USA only hard antifouling was available and I had three coats of hard fouling heavily laden with copper laid on the hull.  This turned out to be very effective, and Bruce showed me the copper that was in the material that he had removed, but it has become a big removal problem. He has purchased yet more caustic remover and expects to finish that work by the middle of the coming week.

After 1.5 hours using a chisel

The requirements placed on me have steadily increased, and I think that I've finally reached the "bottom line". My brief is to remove EVERY bit of equipment from Pachuca.  That means emptying the quarter berths the storage under the quarter berths, the food and consumables in the cabin storage, and probably (to be confirmed) the sails in sail lockers. 
Yesterday morning I got a taste of what will be a very big job.  I spent two hours patiently extricating large plastic boxes heavy with material, ropes, tools, etc, staging them in the cockpit and platform at the top of the steps, then putting my shoes back on (had to be removed to avoid tracking antifouling into the boat), then patiently and deliberately taking each item down the steps and walking it to the trailer.  Care was of utmost importance because on mistake could cost me damage ranging from a sprained ankle all the way to a broken neck or even worse.
Using caustic stripper

Bruce at work well protected

Osmosis Treatment

About 4 weeks ago I had a chance encounter with Bruce of Albatross marine on the jetty.  Bruce had introduced himself months earlier and several times told me of the boat services that he offered.  This time I asked him if he dealt with osmosis (, a potentially serious problem in older fibreglass hulls where water breaches the gecoat (outer coat), works its way into the fiberglass and a chemical reaction ensues and round blisters appear on the hull below the waterline.  Left untreated the osmosis would work deeper into the fibreglass eventually threatening the integrity of the hull. 
I had noticed the bumps on the hull during the last maintenance haulout, photographed them, drawn a rough sketch of them, but did nothing about them immediately because the sailing season was ahead.
Bruce replied that he did deal with osmosis, so I asked him when was the best time to treat it, expecting him to reply that the high summer was the best time because the heat and low humidity would help dry the hull quickly.  To my surprise his reply was "now".  He explained that he could either deal with it now, before the heavy rains of July-Aug arrived, or in the spring.
Given that I had freed up my winter months by postponing my trip to the USA due to my rental property problems I decided to proceed now to get the project out of the way during this winter time of low demand for the club's hardstand services, not to mention the services of marine specialists. 
I did this knowing that it would put a temporary strain on both my time & energy and finances.  However, I knew that I had one thing going for me: this is the best time of the year for me health wise.  In the spring and early summer I am a different person, with low energy & stamina, particularly if I have been through a heavy influenza infection.
Bruce and I had a meeting on Pachuca about a week ago and discussed the scope and time line of the project.  Bruce could not give a firm quotation because he would not know the extent of the problem until the boat was out of the water.  In order to do the work the boat would have to be moved into a paint bay to be fully protected from the weather.  Any money saved by working outdoors would be lost by delays due to adverse wind and rains.  In order to move the boat into the bay the mast would have to be removed (double gulp!). 
"OK, Bruce, do you paint hulls too?"  Indeed he does, showing me the excellent  work that his very experienced painter had done on his own boat, which was on the hardstand.  So given that the boat would be in the paint bay it made sense to paint the hull.  This would help me fulfill a promise that I had made to Pachuca that I would shout her (Australian for "provide her with") a new paint job if she got me back to Australia alive.  (Bruce declared that sentiment "cute" with a tap on my arm.)

Bruce mentioned that the mast could be stored in the paint bay next to Pachuca, sparing me the cost of storing the mast in the hardstand area.  But wait a minute! If Pachuca is in the paint bay and the spray painter is painting her hull, why not also paint her mast while everything was set and geared up?  So  we are going the Full Monte ( and treating the osmosis, repainting the hull, and repainting the mast.
But Wait, There's More!  Bruce will also repaint the non-skid parts of the foredeck, first removing two redundant spinnaker fittings (I don't do spinnakers any more.) and removing two bolts that formally held the old radar unit and are bleeding rust onto the deck.
Some people call it mission creep.  I call it synergy.
Bruce volunteered that boats of my vintage can expect the advent of osmosis after about 30 years.  Pachuca was built in 1983, about 35 years ago.  "You mean that it was inevitable, not my fault, and I don't have to feel  guilty?" Bruce must have thought that charming because he put his hand on my arm and assured me that no, it was not  my fault. 
We agreed that the job would be done.
At Works Jetty between Trevor's boat and the rocks

The first task was to put the sum of $10,000 into the Albatross Marine trust account (gulp!).  Bruce could not give a firm quotation because he would not know the extent of the problem until the boat was out of the water and the hull scrapped off.  All he could offer was his hourly rate.  In the end, as in many endeavors in Australia, it came down to personal trust.  By then I thought that I had Bruce's measure and I trust him to do the right thing.
On Saturday morning I met Bruce in order to ferry Pachuca to the works jetty in order to put her in position for the removal of her mast.  My task was to head for the rocks lining the shoreline, do a tight left turn, then somehow do a tight right turn and get abreast of the works jetty between Trevor's (owner of the Yacht Grot chandlery) large boat and the rocks.  Trevor had moved his boat back along the jetty to make room for me but I commented that it had not been enough.  As we approached this tricky maneuver Bruce must have heard my fretting and seen the light and at the last moment we tied up at the end of the works jetty the obtained the cooperation and assistance of the workmen on Trevor's boat to manhandle the boat back probably 3 meters in order to make more room for Pachuca. 

Tired as I was from the work at the rental property (another problem) I stayed back and worked several hours isolating the mast cables from the rest of the boat, which turned out to be a more difficult job than I had anticipated for reasons that I will not explain here.
I was back at the boat at 7 AM on Monday morning to tidy up the cabin after my efforts of Saturday and prepare for the removal of items from the deck.  Bruce arrived at 7.30 AM and we off loaded the inflatable dinghy, life raft, and boarding ladder to the works jetty and loaded them into Bruce's van. 
Crane lifting the mast
Then there was the laborious job of dropping the mainsail, releasing about 6 lines, then removing the boom.  After that we went below and spent a difficult 45 minutes threading cables up past the mast stump into the mast itself (I won't go into that here.)  The rigger Steve  arrived at about 9 AM and began his work, which included the application of heat and a special tool to complete the wiring removal job.  At 9.30 AM John arrived with his crane. The crane hoist was lashed to the mast and took some of the load while Steve completed the task of freeing all of the standing rigging.  The removal of a pin to separate the mast from the stump was a particularly challenging job.
Eventually the mast was removed, laid on wheeled supports, then the crane departed.  The crane weighed the hull at 10.8 metric tons and the mast & rigging at 350 kg.  
Soon we ferried the boat to the lifting bay.  We had trouble  backing Pachuca out from her cramped location because every time that went into reverse to back the boat out the stern would move back to the jetty and in front of Trevor's boat due to Pachuca's "prop walk" (  In the end Bruce agreed that instead of pushing the stern off the jetty then trying to back out past Trevor's boat we would push the bow off and allow the gentle breeze to swing the bow around.  In the end we (I, actually) managed to do a 180 degree turn in a tight confine using short bursts forward then short bursts back to let the prop walk swing the boat to the right.
Soon we were in the lifting pen, the boat was lifted out, hull cleaned off with the powerful spray, then placed into the sheltered painting bay.  At the spray bay the man sprayed through some of the "osmosis" bulbs and found that they represented only a separation  of anti fouling from the hull and underneath was solid and undamaged fiberglass.  Bruce stated that there was nevertheless indeed osmosis on the hull but volunteered that it is not very bad.  I will know more once Bruce had stripped the hull clean.
In the shed, mast by her side
But all was not finished on that day.  Before retiring  for some R&R I fulfilled my commitment to lift all of the cabin floorboards to facilitate the drying of the hull (aided by de-humidifiers that Bruce will run), remove all  of  the canvas work, and clear the decks and cockpit of all ropes and gear possible.
Regarding the boat, I think that I am "over the hump" as far as my time and energy is concerned.  Bruce uttered a monologue about how from now on he would do his thing and I would do my thing,  visiting the boat and feeling free to ask questions.  "OK, I get your message.  In fact, Bruce, my style is to back off, allow professionals to do their thing, and not to stand over them scrutinizing everything that they do."  Bruce's response was a warm smile and a firm handshake.
That means that other than the frequent visit to see how things are going I have no "hands on" obligations to the restoration of Pachuca and can focus my efforts to the rental property problem.  In short, I think that I am Over The Hump.  (Sigh!)

Friday, March 30, 2018

Bunbury Cruise 2018

The following is my report to the FSC Cruising Committee.

Report on the 2018 Bunbury  Cruise

I am pleased to report to the Committee that the 2018 Bunbury Cruise which ran from 17 February to 16 March was an unqualified success, with all boats and crews returning safely.
Eight boats participated in the cruise:
·        de la mer out of HYC skippered by Rob James with a rotating crew
·        Diva out of FSC with Ron & Marlene Viney
·        Georgia out of HYC with Hugh & Robyn Nankivell
·        Libertus out of RFBYC with Rick & Kerry Blair
·        Manta Ray out of FSC with Frank & Lucinda Daly and Graham & Sue Suttle
·        Pachuca out of FSC with Robert Morales and Brenda Newbey
·        Stealaway with Roger Bishop & Trish Fox and Bernie & Sue Siddall
·        Volare out of RFBYC with Zac & Anne Armanasco
Frank & Lucinda Daly were in the unusual position participating aboard their newly acquired motor cruiser Manta Ray while enjoying the company of their sail boat Stealaway on loan to friends Roger and Bernie.

The start of the cruise was somewhat challenging because of the unusual prevalence of S and SE winds. The official departure date was Saturday 17 Feb but at the crew briefing on 8 Feb we gave wide discretion to the skippers to depart at anytime they deemed best, with the request that all boats be at Koombana Bay by Wed 21 Feb.  By employing a variety of tactics all boats achieved this goal, the last boat arriving on 21 Feb.

Georgia was already in Geographe Bay, as is her custom.  The bulk of the fleet departed during the period 17-20 Feb.  Most boats spent a night or MOFSC with one of the boats spending the night on one of the moorings off Doddie’s Beach near the entrance to the estuary.  There was then a much motor sailing to Bunbury, with one sail boat motoring the entire way.

Pachuca set off at 0730 on Tues/20 from FSC bound for Bunbury, blessed with a crew of two experienced sailors and an eager university-age blue water novice.  After studying the wind predictions we had fallen into the old Pachuca trap of deciding to sail all night in order to avoid the prospect of adverse winds the following day.  Unfortunately the SE winds turned out to be much stronger than predicted and we had a rough and wet night.  The seas built up and the young lad took to a bunk with severe sea sickness in the company of a bucket.  At 2100 in pitch black darkness we put in the first reef when the apparent wind reached 22 knots.  The electric bilge pump that had faithfully served me around the globe failed and we resorted to the less efficient manual pump.  

When two of the floor boards began to float Stuart commented on the amount of water coming in.  I replied that there was nothing to worry about because Pachuca has a small bilge, which he did not find reassuring.  “Where is the water coming from?” he asked.  “I don’t know” I truthfully replied, and was confronted with a look of horror mixed with terror.  I explained that Pachuca always ships water when going hard to weather with the deck awash, and neither I nor anyone I had consulted had been able to explain why.  (After all of these years I am beginning to suspect that the water is coming down the mast, given the huge amount of encrusted salt that I regularly find at the base.  I plan to soon do some testing with a hose.)

When the apparent wind started nudging 28 knots we put in the second reef at about 2 AM, much too late but because the boat is an IOR ocean racer with a heavy 9.2 oz cruising headsail she could carry the canvas.

We survived the night and motored the last 5 nm into Koombana Bay and dropped anchor at 11.30 AM.  By then the boat was dry, the young crewman had revived and recovered, the wind had eased, the sea was calmer, and all was well with the world. 

We then spent two enjoyable days of visits to Bunbury, some swimming off the boat, drinks at the club, and plenty of good food and drink around Pachuca’s dining table.  I did comment to my friends that they had wanted a sail and had been blessed with a tough overnighter just like the old days.  

On Friday 23 Feb Brenda arrived and my three crew returned home. Hopefully two of them will return next year.  It was good to have Brenda on board for the pleasant and genteel phase of the cruise.  She had learned from hard experience to avoid the passage from FSC to Bunbury at all costs.

And it was good to be back at Koombana Bay, where we found KBYC as hospitable as ever, and we enjoyed the club bar and restaurant whenever they were open and 5 PM sundowners in front of the club when the it was closed.
Two of the boats, Stealaway and Volare  proceeded to Dunsborough Bay Yacht Club at Quindalup on Fri/23 as planned but the bulk of the group made the crossing a day later on Sat/24.  All of the boats tied up to free moorings as usual, but this year we found that most of the moorings had no ropes and incoming boats were helped by those already safely moored.
DBYC is at the stage that all large clubs passed through in their early years.  When you see the Vice Commodore tending bar and a division captain washing dishes you know that you are in the presence of a real everybody-pitch-in club, and that helps to provide an intimate family feel.  The club opened the bar every evening during our stay where we were able to mingle with each other and many club members on the veranda with its spectacular view of the bay and beyond.  And on the evening of Mon 26 Feb we all enjoyed in the company of club members and other guests at the sumptuous pre-paid “Weber of Beef” dinner that had been arranged by Lauraine, the club’s social events manager and past Commodore of the club.
Warm Reception at the DBSC Bar

On 28 Feb we set off for a 3-day stay at the Port Geographe Marina, enjoying the 10% discount for boats that stay 3 or more days.  That evening we enjoyed the hospitality of Dennis and Kitty Gee at their splendid canal-side home.  Dennis and Kitty were the consummate hosts as usual, with Dennis managing to mingle with the crowd while single-handedly cooking what appeared to be a mountain of steak, sausages, and fish.  It was a wonderful evening where Dennis regaled us with a short history of the Bunbury Cruise since our visits began.

We relaxed on the second day and on the third day had the bus trip which has become one of the highlights of the Bunbury Cruise.  Bunbury Cruise co-coordinators Frank & Lucinda Daly and Ron & Marlene Viney did an outstanding job of scouting for venues, planning, and execution.
We boarded the bus at 8.45 AM and proceeded to The Goose near the Busselton jetty for coffee and muffins.  We then walked over to the jetty for the train ride to the end of the jetty then a visit to the underwater observatory.  Most of the group had never experienced the observatory and found it fascinating and entertaining.  At 12.45 we arrived at the Aravina Estate for an outstanding lunch with plenty of wine provided.  Afterwards many of us enjoyed the interesting vintage car collection on the premises.  At 2.15 PM we arrived for a return visit to The Yallingup Shearing Shed, a surprise hit from last year’s bus trip, which is not surprising given its excellent range of high quality wool clothing, hats, bags, and other items that are difficult to find elsewhere.  At 3 PM we were back in Busselton for a visit to ArtGeo, an arts and crafts precinct.  (I cannot comment on ArtGeo because I did not get past the fascinating visit and history of the old jail, but I was told that the glass-blowing was particularly interesting.)  At 4.15 we were parked near the IGA at Busselton for a quick shopping for groceries and were back at PGM at 5 PM.
Lunch at the Aravina Estate Winery

On Sat 3 March most of the group made the short passage from PGM back to Koombana Bay. At this point two boats departed from the cruise: Georgia remained in Geographe Bay as is her custom, Libertus set off for home due to other commitments.  Volare headed for Busselton to spend 2 days at anchor before returning to Koombana Bay.
One of our boats exited PGM then turned north past the second instead of the third red floating marker with the result that he ran hard aground.  In a great exhibition of grace under pressure and seamanship he managed to refloat his vessel on his own by emptying one of his water tanks and another tank of “unmentionable”, listing his boat using the boom, and whatever measure he could think of.  (A lesser person such as myself would have freaked out and called for help.)
Rob and Zac helped me set up inflatable dinghy on the Pachuca's davits
Stealaway spent one night at Koombana Bay then set off for FSC due to personal commitments.  The remaining five boats spent 5 relaxing days of visiting Bunbury, swimming off the boat, seeing friends and relatives, sundowners at the club, etc.  During this time we rode our dinghies to the Parade Hotel for lunch and one morning enjoyed cooking breakfast at the public gas barbecue between the channel to the inlet and the Dome Cafe.
Pachuca at Mandurah Marina
On Thurs 8 March the diminished fleet of 5 boats made the long passage from Bunbury to MOFSC, Mandurah.  The winds were strong at first but sagged in the early afternoon forcing most boats to do some motoring.  I had planned to moor Pachuca at Doddie’s Beach due to her large draft but Frank Daly was thoughtful enough to record many soundings during his passage from Roberts Point into the MOFSC marina and based on his information we decided to give it a try and for the first time in 3 years Brenda and I enjoyed a stay at the marina.  (Thank you Frank!)  That evening we had dinner at the club with Rick and Teresa Oswald, past participants and wonderful friends of the Bunbury Cruise, and on the next night we held our End-of-Cruise dinner at the club restaurant, enjoying their spectacular value $15 specials.  This marked the formal end of the Bunbury Cruise.  The next morning we departed MOFSC to make room for the influx of boats from a FSC-Mandurah race and went our separate ways.
Rob, Zac, Robert having a chat at Koombana Bay
Back on our home turf it was up to the BC co-ordinators to calculate the state of the Bunbury Cruise budget with the invaluable help of Hugh Nankivell, the BC Treasurer, and plan the venue and time of the post-cruise Photography Dinner, at which time we will have the privilege of having our photos submitted in the various categories judged by Garth Lynch, a professional photographer.

I am pleased to report that Rob James has facilitated the hosting of the Photography Dinner at Hillarys Yacht Club on Wed 4 April.  The Bunbury Cruise has an estimated surplus of $461 (which includes a float of $136 from BC 2017) which we plan to disburse as a subsidy of the Photography Dinner meals.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Solar Panel Replaced

After I commissioned the new solar panels in early November I noticed signs that things were not quite right. One day I noticed erratic levels of amperage being delivered to the house bank though the sunshine was relatively steady.  The wind charger was unsteady as usual, delivering 0-3 amps,  which would not explain the behaviour. The next time I visited the boat the amperage input was steady and normal.

But I had not seen the panels delivering more than 5 amps and I would not be satisfied until I saw about 15 amps being delivered.  The maximum of 5 amps that I had been seeing was normal given that the battery bank was always topped up with the regulator on "float".  The only way to test the system would be to lower the battery voltage enough to force the regulator to go into the "boost" phase and see what the panels delivered in bright sunshine.

Last week just before the Bunbury Cruise Information Dinner I visited the boat,  covered both panels with heavy wool blankets, turned on the refrigerator and chart plotter, then left the boat for the night. 

At 10 AM the next day Stephen and I visited the boat to find the house bank down to 12.7v and the regulator on "boost".  While Stephen watched the instruments below I uncovered the panels exposing them to full sunshine.  Stephen reported a delivery of 7 amps.  I joined him down below, confirmed his finding, and grumbled that 7 amps was disappointing, as though only one panel was working.  Stephen suggested that we investigate this by covering one panel at a time.

We covered the port panel and the voltage dropped to 0v.  We then moved the blanket to the other panel and the voltage resumed to 7v.  OK, so the starboard panel was not producing.  We then checked the voltages at the end of the connections that were part of the panels and confirmed that the port panel was at 7v and the starboard panel was at 0v.  Note that none of my wiring was involved in this examination.

I contacted Battery World and we arranged a visited on Wednesday of this week.  I met Brian at the gate and soon we were on the boat.  After peeling back the Bimini cover Brian probed both panels and confirmed that the starboard panel was dead.  We removed the 6 bolts holding the panel onto the frame and soon we had it loaded in his van.  I asked him what to expect next.  Brian would check the panel but unless he found a simple fix a replacement panel would probably have to wait until after Christmas. 

Late on Thursday morning - the next day - I got message  that the panel was faulty, which I had expected, but they had a brand new replacement panel in the shop ready for pickup, which was a very big and surprise.  Brian told me that while discussing the problem with KT, he ask if they could send a replacement today.  To their credit KT sent the replacement almost immediately. 

No doubt KT will be most interested in determining the fault because according to what they told Brian, they have never had one of their panels fail.

I picked up the panel, went to be boat, where the first thing I did was check out the voltage under sunshine.   I read 21.5v under partial shading, which was good enough for me.  I then worked methodically without rushing, and two hours  later had the new panel mounted, connected, cables tidied up, tools put away, and cockpit swept of aluminum shavings from the drilling.  Because the house bank was full and the regulator was at "float" stage another test with the house bank low enough to put the regulator into "boost" phase would have to wait until my next visit. 

But I am optimistic.

Battery World O'Connor's handling of the matter was exemplary, and I cannot speak highly enough of them and, for that matter, KT.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Ready for Sea

Ship's chronometer repaired

Progress on boat projects has been by fits and starts over the past winter because the house renovation effort demanded first priority.

In June I had the new house batteries installed and in July with Stephen's help I mounted the new solar panels then managed to haul the boat out of the water for three days of hull maintenance.  Soon after that I managed to find time to change the engine oil and filter.  I also removed the canvas spray dodger and bimini to Debbie at Ocean Canvas for repairs of zippers and snap locks.  And about a month ago I delivered the boat's chronometer to Jim, a clock repair man in Guildford.

The chronometer had been of particular concern to me.  It had begun to stop intermittently and it appeared to me that the electric drive mechanism had to be replaced.  I was wondering if a clock repairer would take on an electric drive replacement.  Repair of the clock was important to me because the inscription on the brass surface described is a retirement gift from my colleagues at Murdoch Univeristy.  Jim did a wonderful job.  He even purchased new hands for the chronometer but decided that the original simpler ones looked better.  I told him how much I appreciated his restoration because the chronometer meant a lot to me. "I know" he replied.

As the bathroom renovation wound down I had opportunities to spend a day or two at a time on the boat and in the last two weeks everything came together when Debbie delivered the repaired canvas ($260) and Jim delivered the repaired chronometer at the quoted price of $70.

Work on installation of the new regulator for the solar panel took two visits. During the first visit I simplified the wiring by removing the switch by which I had been able to direct the solar power between the House and Starter banks and also direct the wind charger  power to both banks simultaneously.  All power from the sun and wind is now directed to the House bank because that is the one that requires replenishment while cruising and I know that I can always join the two battery banks if the Starter bank is too weak to start the engine.
Panels joined under starboard panel

Victron Controller

On my last visit I confirmed my doubt that I had gotten the polarity right in wiring up the solar panels because the output cables were not labeled + and -.  Over a 5-day period the House bank voltage had dropped from 13.7V to 13.3v and no power was going into  the bank. I reversed the  polarity and soon everything was working well.  (Yes I know, as Stephen pointed out I could have saved myself a lot of trouble by probing the cables with the volt meter.)

I also mounted the chronometer and finished installing the repaired canvas. For good measure I replaced the LED light strip in the head.

Unless there is a surprise in store Pachuca is ready for sea, with 1020 a/h of new AGM batteries in the House, a new 230 a/h AGM battery in Starter banks, solar panels that rate at more than double the output of the older ones (150W vs 65W), and a new Victron controller with MPPT technology.

I plan sea trials to see if the the new can support without battery drain  normal cruising electrical requirements including running the power hungry refrigerator.

On a final bright note, during last weekend's "open house" Peter Austin asked me if I needed crew  for the sail from Fremantle to Bunbury in the coming Bunbury Cruise.  He beat beat me to it because I had been planning to ask him.  After we agreed he asked if his son Tom could come too.  Yup!  Then he asked if Stuart a long time mutual sailing friend could join us too.  Yup!  So there could be four of us making the sail.

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