It took a whole week and a lot of Fijian manpower but by Saturday afternoon Quixotic was afloat!! The newly-built Fijian keel had all her weight on it and we can gladly report that both keels carried Quixotic back into the water safely! It’s a long story with tremendous ups and downs, a fair share of agonizing slow preparation, some nail biting anticipation, and a crushing discovery… but ultimately ending with cheer, elation and a happy ending. Our amazing friends came in huge and helped greatly! Thanks again guys! Glenn & Deb (Beach Access), The Pirate Bruce (Skabenga), Craig & Leanne (True Blue V), Bob & Joyce (Chara)!! We are both incredibly relieved and utterly exhausted…just in time for another big push getting our new floating home ready to sail and live aboard comfortably. It will all come together in due time….Fiji time that is…
If you’re in a yard back home and want to “splash” your yacht, you simply schedule the travel lift for the next day. The day comes along, your time slot arrives, a big diesel-powered machine lifts her up with straps, moves over the water and lowers her in. The whole process takes about 20 minutes and is totally painless and mostly stress-free. Not here. Not on a beach in Fiji. No Sir. There isn’t a travel lift on this island. There isn’t even a flatbed trailer that could do the job. No crane big enough to lift her. Just timber…..and manpower….and some steel….and Fijian optimism. Well, in the end, it took a long time as we moved her inch by painful and careful inch up on to her home-made steel sleds; then up higher to put pine posts under her sleds and on top of our 2×6 railway. It only took a day and a half to get the sleds under her. And only a day longer to get the pine logs underneath. All week the weather was very uncooperative – dumping rain with howling wind just to test my nerves as I watched her shake back and forth on the single Chinese jack that already had a huge dent in one side and was spewing hydraulic fluid with each pump. I was in charge of every block of timber that was placed and I gave the order for every movement of the jack…and it took all my focus and understanding of physics to safely move her under the conditions and limited resources we had at our disposal.
One of the days we were lowering her new keel on to a sheet of plywood, I was listening intently, and just as the plywood was taking the weight and slightly crushing under the immense load, I hear a huge CRACKING sound! I said “Stop lowering!” and then asked the others where the plywood was crushed or was that the glass. Well, the boat was fine, the plywood was fine, and one of my jackass workers decided it would be hilarious to slam a piece of plywood together on the other side of the keel. I was pretty upset and after a bit of reprimanding, the next hour of jacking was very quiet and the lift was successful.
We ended up lowering her down the slope by controlling a 5-1 purchase block and tackle system, had two trucks chained to the plates as backup, and then had 6-8 Fijians push her back 6 inches at a time. We started at 0700 and she was floating by 1530.
The only other drama we had was that I went aboard to inspect her for leaks just before the final push. I installed a thru-hull so needed to inspect that. We also installed the port saildrive and needed to check how we did – well no leaks from the thru hull or saildrive…success. Unfortunately, the rest of the inspection didn’t go so well. I looked under the port floorboards and saw water. SH!T! But from experience I immediately tasted the water and it was FRESH! Ok, bullet dodged, all well. Then I moved to starboard hull. No water in the bilge – good. New crack along the bottom of the aft bulkhead – BAD. There was so much stress under that bulkhead while moving her that the glass broke in the void between the hull and the bottom of the bulkhead. This void should not have existed – when you glass in a bulkhead it should be flush against the bottom of the hull so that she can take loading properly, especially when jacking or blocking. Well, we found the one area she couldn’t handle the weight and it gave out. We put wood piles fore and aft the keels to stabilize her but since the ground was sloping with highs and lows there were times she had all her weight mostly on one pile. This made a six inch crack along the bottom of an aft bulkhead. So back to the story…
My heart sank when I saw the crack. I saw water weeping out. I tasted it – salt. Heart sank again. Now the sweat was coming on. What do we do? I am precariously dangling over the edge of a coral shelf about to launch her. I have 20 people outside waiting in anticipation for the green light to push. Are we sinking now? Do we have to pull her back on land? NO!!!
So I went topside and called for my fiberglass master – Alsace Miller – to come look at the crack. He said we should let her float and see if the glass comes back together. It was only leaking a drop every minute anyway. I agreed but wanted to leave the sleds submerged in case we needed to pull her out. I came topside and saw Alyssa’s face with a look of despair…the same feeling I was having…now mixed with more nerves about launching a sinking boat!
Well, we pushed her over the cliff and she gracefully took to her lines and floated perfectly. We pulled lines over to the dock and brought her alongside. We immediately went to work seeing how much water was coming in. It was only a weeping and seemed to be getting less. We dove over the side but no one could see a crack or any signs of stress. Strange. In the end it was decided to keep her in the water and stop the slow weeping with Marine Tex. If we could stop the leak then we could grind back the paint and fiberglass and epoxy the entire floor and compartment. Well, that’s exactly what was done today and she is stronger than the day she was launched. I also spent a long time with SCUBA gear looking for any sign of damage and couldn’t see any. It’s possible there was water under that bulkhead and the crack in the paint let it out. It’s also possible that the SSB groundplate that is installed near that bulkhead is allowing water into the glass and then accumulated in that area only to be released by a collection of amateurs moving a large catamaran with timber and dreams. I’ll have to wait until I reach a modern yard with ultrasound and moisture meters. Until then, we are no longer sinking, the compartment is hugely reinforced and now definitely a strong jacking point! I also plan to carry more JB waterweld in the meantime!
The day ended with a proper party aboard Quixotic! Our amazing team: Alsace, Rodney, Natani, Francis, John, Ilikaia, the Hulk and Papa Charlie Brown were here with guitars, kava, beer and huge smiles. We all enjoyed music and celebrating the successful launch of our amazing catamaran. We are all very proud in the work that was done. Quixotic is now and forever part Fijian!
We will have to upload video later this week so you can all see the big day. In the meantime, here are some pics!! Cheers!
**UPDATE: Natani has made the repair to the aft bulkhead and I’ll sleep much better tonight. We ended up glassing both sides of the bulkhead with 6+ layers of glass and epoxy. The lockers have been painted with two-pack epoxy paint and is curing while I post this. She’s water tight baby!!**