Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Haul out

We've had lots of action on the boat since we got back from our honeymoon! We sailed back to Golden Bay for Easter, and I'll chuck some pics from that up eventually. But we hauled her out 2 weeks ago, and have been working nonstop since then. Well I have anyway, Garth has been doing actual work during the day, which he gets paid for. I've been doing mass amounts of unpaid manual labour. But hopefully it will all pay off in the end.

Our original plan was to haul out, wet sand back the antifouling to prep for new antifouling, and then repaint the bottom. So it should have taken a weekend or 2. And we wanted to sand and repaint the deck while it was out, if we had time - we can do that while it's in the water but it's better to do it out so as not to make a mess in the marina. If you have somebody following the sander around with a handheld vacuum cleaner it's not so bad, so the deck wasn't high on our list of priorities. So far we've had the boat out for 15 days, and it's going to be a long time before it's ready to go back in the water.

The process of hauling out was quite frightening, having never done it before. This massive thing that we've invested all of our time and money from the last few years into, the culmination of a lot of effort and planning and the thing which the next few years of our lives depend upon, is safe and strong in the water. But it's delicate and fragile out of the water and watching it hover over concrete was quite unnerving. Especially after  a once in 50 year weather event the week before had destroyed quite a few boats, one of which was still on it's side a few boats down from us, with half of it crushed in on the concrete from when it fell out of it's cradle.

So the image of what happens when a boat hits the land was still fresh in our minds. But everything went smoothly, we water blasted it and it was given a nice new home. Although hopefully it's just a temporary home.

We spent that weekend wet sanding, with mass amounts of help from Dale, Becca and Craig, as usual. Then I came back on Monday on my own to finish off the sanding and met with George Saunders, a boat builder who was fixing up some little things for us. He took one look at the boat and went 'Oh hell no, you have to strip it.' My response was 'no...no... it's fine... we'll just antifoul it.' He was adamant, and told me that I absolutely had to strip it. I really didn't want to. But he explained that the mass amounts of antifouling and the overall bumpiness all over the boat from dodgy repairs and uneven antifoul would be making it much slower. We'd also found a lot of osmosis in the gel coat, which I'd spent the entire day before sanding back and prepping to cover up, and I suspect he thought there was probably more underneath the paint that we couldn't see. I felt like he just knew it had to be done, and he was right.

Osmosis is water bubbles in between layers of the paint, and the gel coat is the layer over the top of the fibreglass which is formed when the boat is made. If the bubbles get bigger and infect the fibreglass, that's really bad. But they were minor and just in the paint and gel, so fixable. But he eventually convinced me that it had to be stripped, especially after he said I'd 100% have to do it in the next year if I didn't do it now, and it would cost twice as much in Australia. So I gave in. Thank god I did, because we've found lots of surprises underneath the many layers of paint and I'm very glad to have found and removed them.

I'm not sure if it was because I was doing it on my own, I'm a girl, he's a really really nice person or if he just knew exactly how much work I had ahead of me and took pity on me, but he was amazing. He drove me down to a secret marine shop I didn't know about that charges trade prices, got me a paint scraper and blades, saved me some money on all future purchases, and took me back to the boat and showed me how to strip off the paint. It seemed easy enough. He even loaned me a heap of extra scrapers so people could help me, and was pretty much amazing. So he left me to it.

It was not easy. I'm going to rename the boat Patches, because that is primarily what it is comprised of. And getting the antifouling off the patches is really really difficult, because they're a much harder surface and the scraper doesn't dig in very well. Then I found that a lot of the patches were on top of antifoul, so they had to come off anyway. So I spent Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday scraping off the paint. Dale actually took a day off work to come and help out on Thursday, because he is amazing. After I had Thursday and Friday off, I went back Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. It's still not done, even though over the weekend we had Dale, Becca, Craig, Josh, Johnny, Will and Garths cousins Kim and Lindsay all helping. We could start sanding it on this past weekend, but the paint is just so horrible and thick it takes a long time to get through with the sander, even though everything is now gone but the primer. We're aiming for the gel coat, which is under the primer. It's scary taking the primer off with the paint scrapers, because when they dig into the glass we have to fill in the holes with an epoxy filler. So sanding is slower but safer.

Everybody has been coming over to chat to me. I mean everybody. Again I'm not sure if it's because I'm a girl, because they're impressed with how many days I've been there mostly on my own or because they feel sorry for me, but all the boat people keep dropping by to put in their 2 cents. I don't hate people as much any more, or boat people at least. Everybody's been really friendly, and they love coming over to chat about boats. I tell them about the osmosis and how I have to take it back to gel, and there's always a sad sympathetic sigh. I wish I'd known why last week, but I can see now it's because this is a ridiculous amount of work. As in, after the 1st day it was the most manual labour I'd ever done in my life. And now it's been 9 days. I've spent a lot of time just staring at it feeling and overwhelmed by how big our boat is. George has been reassuring me when I'm not sure if I'm doing it right, and there's been a really nice boat builder working next to me who keeps coming over to chat as well. I need to get better at remembering names. I'm so socially awkward I make an attempt to introduce myself and then am so busy panicking at having to socialise that I don't pay attention to them when they reciprocate.

Now the weather has turned bad. As in it's supposed to rain for 7 days straight. Which is not ideal when it's costing me $36 a day just for it to sit there. But the port side is nearly ready for epoxy, which is the first layer on the way to painting. People keep telling me different things - Garth wants to put on epoxy and a barrier coat to replace the gel coat, then primer, hard antifoul in one colour and soft antifoul in another colour. Lots of people have said not to worry about the epoxy and barrier coat, and other people have told me that the primer won't stick to the glass without epoxy in between. So we're not sure what to do. The professional painting guys keep telling me not to worry about a barrier coat and that the 504 epoxy, which I think is just primer, will stick to the glass and be fine. They are very insistent. But Garth wants to seal it all up with a barrier coat, and that's probably what we'll do. But it amazes me that so many people can have so many different opinions on it - surely one way works better than the other?

The guys from the h20 paint place have been helpful though, they told me that usually you strip the boat when it has 5000 somethings... he used some kind of measurement that I'd never heard of. And ours has 10,000, so twice as much as it should. All that weight will be slowing us down! I filled up an entire wheelie bin with antifouling, and I'm sure a good chunk of it got away even though I tried my best to gather it all. It's nasty stuff for the environment. It's nasty for my skin too, as I spent the first few days wearing a mask and goggles, with jeans and a jumper. It got down my neck and in my eyes and up my nose - whenever I blew my nose it was coming out black.

So I upgraded to a full on biohazard looking respirator mask and swimming goggles, because my face went all red and puffy and itchy and I kept getting sent home from work for turning up looking like I was dying. My boss told me to go to the ER. Antifouling is made to kill everything that tries to attach itself to the boat, so I guess it makes sense. But a normal mask and goggles just don't cut it - my whole sinuses felt like they were on fire and my eyes were sore and itchy and messed up for days. My face is still puffy, and I've only been doing the primer for the last few days. At least now when I blow my nose it comes out white, which is primer, so that means I'm making some kind of improvement...

I kind of like that I'm doing a lot of this work myself - I like getting to know things about the boat and getting all up close and personal with it. And I'm really really glad we stripped it - we've found  lots of patches that could have gotten water under them and become bad, because they hadn't been sanded back first. There was also water in the rudder, which we wouldn't have found out otherwise. And it's good to just start clean - we know exactly what's there now, and there won't be any more surprises in the hull. I now know it very intimately.

So we've got a bit more sanding to do. I've prepped most of the port side except for a bit at the stern, and I sanded out all the nicks and filled them with epoxy filler. I thought making up epoxy would be scary, but it's pretty easy. I felt like I actually knew what I was doing when I was scraping epoxy all over it, because that's a bit more complicated than just sanding. So I have to sand over the filler to smooth everything over, Garth has to prep around the big patches and I have to finish the keel and rudder. THEN the port side will be done. The sb side still has lots of primer on, which shouldn't be too hard to get off, and some thicker stuff over that. Plus it needs some filling. But I'm going to head out in the rain one day soon so that when the weather clears up we'll be ready to start painting, and then this whole nightmare will be over.

We've also had our first Category 1 inspection (you can read the regulations here if you're interested but they're a bit intense), which went really well. Robert, our inspector, was just there to look at it out of the water and make sure the hull and everything below the waterline was safe and sound. We've been really worried about this inspection for a long time, because we didn't know what to expect. If they found something stupid like our cockpit drains being too small or something really annoying that didn't effect our safety but wasn't to the book, they could fail us. And then we can't leave the country. So we haven't registered it yet, as only New Zealand registered boats need this inspection - if the boat is registered elsewhere you can come and go as you please out of New Zealand. So because I'm an Australian, we left it in case we had to register it in Australia to get around Cat 1. But after meeting with Robert and going through the list, we can see there won't be any problems getting it. It might cost a bit more than we wanted it to, but it was good to see just why they do it - he was telling us about lots of boats that fell apart or had dramas when they left the country and got lost at sea. I guess because the weather around here can be quite nasty, and there's nothing nearby except Australia, it's pretty important. And we don't want our boat to fall to pieces in the middle of the ocean, so it's a good thing they make everybody do it even though it's annoying.

Robert only brought up things that were legitimately concerning, and we're glad he found them. There was a hollow in the keel, where a repair had been done over the top of the antifouling instead of sanding it back to the fiberglass. Water had gotten in and it was separating from the keel. that's bad. So we've had that fixed, and it was a lot bigger than we had thought, so it's a good thing he found it. There was also a crack in the rudder we hadn't noticed, so I'm really glad he found that too. He went over the list of things we needed to do, and everything he mentioned seemed valid and important. Silly things like tying wire around the base of the engine in case the rubber connecting it to the boat wears and breaks. It seems pointless, but if the boat rolls and the rubber breaks and the engine falls through the roof (which would temporarily be underneath it), that's bad. So we're really happy about little things like that. We have a bag of wooden plugs as well, that fit into all the holes in the boat for when a valve or something fails and water starts rushing in. They have to be attached with a lanyard near all the seacocks that they fit into. Simple, but we keep them in a locker in a bag, and when water is rushing into the boat it might be a bit dangerous to go through them all in search for one that fits. So instead of being scary and horrible, he was really nice and helpful, which was a big relief. He went though the whole list of things we need, so we know exactly what has to be done before his final inspection 2 weeks before we leave.

So everything is starting to fall into place, and if we get our act together we should be ready to leave in the next 2 months. I'm hoping we won't miss the entire ski season, but until we get the boat back in the water there'll be no skiing for us.

- Monique

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