Boat Maintenance in Pretty Places

Blog post by Patrick Moreton

From when we first saw Blue Zulu we knew that the major job of replacing the teak deck would need to be done before we set off on any major trip. The boat was hauled out in November 2015, having stripped off all the deck fittings and old teak in preparation for replacing the teak. This was a great opportunity to do the job of redecking Blue Zulu properly, and with the help of the excellent shipwrights of Moreton Marine in Cowes the new deck was laid and caulked by Christmas ready for all the fittings to go back on in the New Year.

As the boat was out of the water we decided to remove the old Perkins engine for a refurb, as we had been having a few running and alignment problems with it. We craned it out and put it into the workshop along with all the fittings from the deck, all the rigging, sails, headlinings, upholstery and anything we could get off the boat to prevent it getting dirty / dusty / in the way while we were doing the deck, and making some adjustments to the interior. As is always the way, as we started taking things apart we revealed more problems, and ended up needing to replace a fuel tank and the water system and main tank, as well as relocating the batteries and calorifier, and rejigging the interior joinery to facilitate our full time life on board.

To add to our jobs list, in late January there was a fire at Samuel White’s Yard in Cowes, and the Moreton Marine workshop burnt to the ground. We had about 10 minutes to remove as much as we could from the workshop before the fire service arrived and cordoned off the area, leaving most of our tools, equipment and belongings from Blue Zulu to the fury of the blaze.

We relaunched the boat at the end of June (we were meant to go back in by the previous Christmas!) and the final jobs list included:
– New teak deck
– Replacement engine and drive system from a Perkins 4.236 with V-drive and shaft for a Yanmar 4JH4-TE with SD60 saildrive, and new 4 blade Featherstream prop.
– Replace fresh water system
– Replace passage fuel tank
– Fit Eberspacher heating
– Remove and replace cockpit drains and through hulls (survey requirement)
– Various interior adjustments
– Replace upholstery
– Renew all the headlinings
– Replace all standing rigging (insurance requirement) and service genoa furler
– New mainsail, mizzen and genoa
– Reanodise spars (not masts)

Having taken the kids out of school at Easter, and having rented our house at the beginning of June, by July the rest of the family were on the boat and tempers were fraying as we used up all the favours we could from our friends in Cowes. After a farewell party at Shepherd’s Marina we really had overstayed our welcome, and we threw off the dock lines on 21 July, ready or not….

….we had done so much work on the boat – we must be nearly done!

Boat Maintenance Log:

August 2016
Crossing Start Bay the engine started spluttering and cutting out – something was up with the fuel supply to the new engine. A mechanic come on board to check the system and gave us the all clear. Must have just been an air bubble somewhere….?

03/08 Having been struggling with the furling gear on the headsail, we had been raising and dropping the genoa every time, while waiting for delivery of new headsail from Ratseys when we arrived in Plymouth. After fitting the new sail we were still experiencing problems with the furler – 2 hours at Allspars in Plymouth sorted the various issues, the main one being the bearing at the head of the sail was fitted upside down!

04/08/16 Motorsailing into Falmouth a strange vibration started to become apparent from the prop – was the very expensive new prop about to drop off? A dive over the side after anchoring in Falmouth showed that the rubber boot covering the hole for the saildrive had come free and was flapping about. After testing a few glues we had a very precarious 12 hrs alongside the town quay drying out and resticking the boot. Fingers crossed….

10/08 Heading off to Finisterre and the noises from the prop started again. Dropping into Helford we removed the rubber boot completely, and took the opportunity to give the engine its first 50hr service before heading out the same evening.

The Spanish Rias treated us kindly and we had some very happy cruising around the North West corner of Spain. Before leaving and heading down to Portugal we took the opportunity to haul out and fit a new saildrive boot, this time using the 2- part inflatable dinghy adhesive. Having been promised a 3 hr slot at the yard in Bayona, we got allocated an hour to get the boot refitted and boat relaunched before the staff went home for the weekend.

Meanwhile the usual boat maintenance of Jabsco toilets, faulty bilge pump float switches, unfathomable wiring issues and the new cockpit table which had been started in Cowes kept the resident boat builder busy, with help from the finest chandlery in NW Spain – Efectos Navales Jesus Betanzos in Vigo.

September 2016

As we continued down the Portuguese coast to Lisbon and onward to the Algarve the weather started to improve dramatically and we settled into cruising life, while keeping in the back of our mind that at the end of the month we would be doing our next offshore passage to the Canaries. We cleared a week and hid up the Ria Guardiana for a few days maintenance to ensure we were totally ready for the crossing. A good chandlery in Ayamonte and a great hardware shop in Vila Real de Santo Antonio at the mouth of the river helped complete the insulation of the engine room, the cockpit table, various bits of interior joinery and varnishing, proper anti-siphons and new pipe work for the heads and showers, and get started on fitting the new watermaker which had been sitting in its unopened box since early 2014.

October 2016

We had great wind for our crossing to the canaries, and didn’t have any problems until motoring in to Isla Graciosa at the top of Lanzarote, our old problem with the engine came back to haunt us. The engine was starting and running fine at low revs, but as we increased the load it would start to cut out. We bled the air out of the fuel system and each time the problem seemed to be fixed, until the next time….

Picking the brains of fellow cruisers confirmed what we thought, that we had air getting into the fuel system, so we ran through the whole lot again, but things were still not right. A local mechanic in Marina Rubicon the South end of Lanzarote had a look, and noticed that the fuel primer pump was getting pulled down when the engine was revved, indicating a blockage rather than air in the fuel supply. We took apart the fuel chest and gave it a good clean, bit the bullet and removed the old copper pipe running from the tanks replacing it with rubber hose, as well as replacing the fuel return with hose.

We left Rubicon and headed South for Isla de Lobos feeling very smug that we may have finally solved the problem, only for the engine to start spluttering again as we rocked and rolled in the wake of a ferry. After a moment of dread we switched the fuel chest back to the correct tank and all was happy again.

November 2016

After our experiences of crossing Biscay, and from Portugal to the Canaries, we had decided that windvane steering would be a great help on crossing with shorthanded sailing necessary, particularly during the night. We invested in a Hydrovane self-steering system, which arrived in Tenerife, and after a day of battling with couriers, customs, etc. we had our 4 boxes ready to fit. Great instructions and a straightforward self-contained system meant it was relatively easy to fit in the comfort of a marina. With this fitted and the watermaker (Schenker – also fairly straightforward to install) working well we felt a couple of steps closer to being properly equipped for offshore sailing, and headed South again, towards the Cape Verdes.

December 2016

A lovely couple of weeks cruising the Cape Verdes tested the systems on board for life away from the convenience of marinas and town quays. We had to generate all our own power and water and gaps started to show in the way the boat was set up. The capable little Fisher Panda 4 kva generator has been working away, but the charger installed is not powerful enough to charge the batteries without running the generator for many hours. It was also discovered that the snake’s nest of wires did not include any charging for the generator’s starter battery, so the old charger may be able to be used for this straight off the generator, while the main charger which runs off the generator and the shore power needs to be upgraded to a more powerful unit. The other issue we have had is the high rpm of the generator had rattled loose some of the wiring, so we replaced the spade connector a long buzz bar which will hopefully hold things tight for a while.

A very decrepit fridge compressor finally gave up the ghost here too, so we decided to get a new compressor and fridge plate delivered from Penguin Refrigeration in Havant. It took the package 3 days to get from Havant to Praia in the Cape Verdes, travelling via Belgium, Germany, Morocco and Senegal, but to get it from the customs compound to Blue Zulu (about 10 miles) was a much longer process!! The Frigoboat “plug and play” system slotted in very nicely and we had reliable refrigeration for the crossing fitted in about 4 hours.
We left from Mindelo in Sao Vincente, Cape Verdes, and arrived in Barbados 13 days later in good time for Christmas. The only problem encountered on the Atlantic Crossing was a worn out fuel return line in the generator which started rapidly filling up the clam shell casing with diesel a couple of days out from Barbados. And we ran out of fishing lures!!

So the Christmas list grows for our visit to the tax free chandleries of the Antilles….
….I wonder if Father Christmas can fit a solar panel in his sack ?

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