Category Archives: Catamaran Salvage & Repair

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The Epic Fijian Launch of the Catamaran Quixotic!

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!!**

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Quixotic Update – Antifouling Paint is ON! She’s Gorgeous!! Get the Coconut Logs!!

Quixotic is looking gorgeous! She has a brand new quadruple coat of epoxy barrier paint and three fresh coats of Micron 66 antifouling paint! The steel sleds have been welded and reinforced. The guys are gathering coconut logs. We are beyond eager to splash this week.

There is still plenty of final cosmetic finishing to do once we are in the water. We have yet to wet sand and buff/wax the new gelcoat. But we figure, if it’s not below the waterline then it can be done in the water.

Our plan is to get the sleds under her keels tomorrow (Monday), paint under the jackstands and glue the saildrive boots on Tuesday, start rolling her down to the low tide mark on Wednesday and either late Weds or Thursday, at high tide, we will push her off the coral ledge into deep water and see if she floats…

It’s dumping rain as the SPCZ descended over us last night. The wind was howling and shaking the mast – the whole boat was vibrating, which was a bit unnerving. The rain is suppose to dump for the next few days. The guys won’t be pleased but I said to bring your raincoats because we are working in the rain. We’re going in the water this week come hell or high water!

Here are some pics of our gorgeous sexy new cat. We sure love her lines!

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Quixotic Update – New Gelcoat!!! Get the Coconut Logs Ready!!

After a week of playing chicken with the rain clouds and despite three broken Chinese paint guns, we finally completed spraying on new gelcoat! She looks amazing even with the 100’s of bugs now adding character to her topsides…

We are getting painfully close to the finish. It’s suppose to rain all weekend so the painting will resume Tuesday on the bottom. In the meantime we will continue the monumental task of sanding all the new gelcoat in preparation for a good buff and wax. When you spray the gelcoat, the finish is textured orange peel instead of glass smooth – so that requires a lot of sanding with 600 then 800 and then 1500 grit wet sandpaper before its smooth enough to buff and wax.  

We thought about painting the boat with two-pack paint but decided against it for numerous reasons: one – lack of access to a high-quality marine LP paint; two – complete lack of a controlled spraying environment free from dust, dirt, leaves, ash, bugs, and all manner of other flying debris that would certainly ruin our paint finish; three – the ability to sand out the bugs and the ability to fair gelcoat and then apply more and sand again, which we have done 2-3 times; and lastly, gelcoat is harder-wearing and will scratch instead of chip off. The main concern I have is longevity of the adhesion to the old gelcoat…only time will tell how long it holds up. It seems to be a strong bond now but ask us in a year or two if we made the right decision…

We have also serviced the starboard saildrive, ground the old paint off and started applying the interprotect epoxy primer. We chipped the old rubber boots off and we plan to epoxy glue the new ones on and then use epoxy filler to fair the edges; we hear they are notorious for coming loose…

In other news, we thought we found evidence of a rat that made its way aboard through the saildrive hole. There was a small dropping and some chewed foam on the nav table. That kicked us into high gear! We went straight to the grocery and bought glue traps and some coconut cookies. We set the bait stations and sealed off the hole.  Well after a few days all we caught was my bare foot! We came to the conclusion that it must have left the same night. We hope at least!

Plans are well under way to construct the coconut log railway to get Quixotic back in the water. We are planning to put two coconut longs under each keel and extend the railway 50 yards behind the boat into deep water. We then plan to put 2″ steel pipes perpendicular to the logs and place steel plates over these pipes. The keels will rest in a U-channel beam welded to the steel plates. The whole thing should slide carefully back downhill. We will hold her back with a truck or tractor.  That’s the plan at least. Stay tuned for the actual account!

Here are some shots of all the paint prep and finally her new gelcoat before the sanding and buffing…

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Quixotic Update – So Close!! – The Pictures Tell the Story….

Quixotic is officially seaworthy again! We are almost done fairing, sanding, and preparing the hulls for paint this coming week. The interior is completely painted and looks incredible. The crossbeam is back on and the rig tuned, the baby stay chainplate area has been reinforced and re-installed. The stanchions and pulpits have been straightened, welded and reinstalled. We are also putting 5-6 layers of glass on the bottom of her keels so when we beach her she has some extra protection from small rocks damaging her newly glassed keels. So that means that Quixotic is now structurally returned to her former glory and is in many ways stronger than before the storm. Now all that remains is reinstalling the rebuilt saildrive and rebuilt engine and dolling her up with new flowcoat polyester topside paint and then applying her epoxy barrier coats and anti fouling paint. Then it’s coconut log rolling time for the big splash!!  I’ll let the pictures below provide a more detailed update…

In other news, Ellie has been officially transferred to Kurt and Dan, her new owners. We have been spending long days with Kurt going over all of her systems and spares and making sure we do a proper hand-over. We will miss Ellie. She is a beautiful, strong boat that has seen us safely across oceans and taken care of us in seas both rough and calm. Take care of her Kurt and Dan and she will always return the same to you.

We also want to thank our friends Chris and Monica on sv SeaGlub for enabling our boat transition to happen. Thanks again guys! Can’t wait to be anchored next to you when SeaGlub finds her way to Fiji!

Here are some pictures of the progress and of Ellie. Cheers!

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...and made damn sure it was straight-as-an-arrow...

Quixotic Update – We Have a Keel!!

The past week has been extremely busy with much glass dust flying and fumes rising from the Fijian work site. We are happy to report that the keel has been made from a mold of the repaired starboard side and it now has 4-5 layers of quadraxial glass. Today we fit the stringers/bulkheads into the keel for extra strength and support. We have also received the foam core material from Hawaii (thanks again Jono!) and the guys have skillfully and artistically carved the foam and replaced the core. When you look along the port side now it’s almost flush with the surface and you can finally see her real shape again – we’re getting excited!

The bows have also had the foam core replaced and glassed over. Today we are carving the last section of bow out of foam and will glass a polyester mold over the foam. Once removed we will lay up epoxy-soaked glass and enclose the tips of the bows.

We are using a combination of epoxy and polyester resin. Epoxy for the repairs below the waterline; epoxy for the inside of the bow repairs (for the superior adhesion properties); and we are using polyester for the outer layers on above-the-waterline repairs (so the flocoat paint will adhere chemically to the repair). There are more opinions on which resin to use than there are grains of sand in Fiji, but this approach seems the most logical to me – and this is in line with the builder recommendations – so this is how she’s being repaired.

In other news, we are preparing Ellie for a voyage out to the Lau Group; we leave next week. My wonderful Mother, Danielle and her husband, David, will be joining us for a week. We plan to dive, fish, hike, explore, sail and relax. We will also be bringing some supplies and warm clothes to the villages we visit (yes – they find winter very cold here despite the temps staying above 70F). Stay tuned for updates and pictures from the adventure!

Hope all is well with all our friends. We look forward to catching up once all the dust settles here.

Cheers,

L&A

Savusavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji

Fijian ingenuity - blue tape and plastic wrap so the mold doesn't stick!
Fijian ingenuity – blue tape and plastic wrap so the mold doesn’t stick!
And we have a keel!
And we have a keel!
We took molds for alignment of the keel
We took molds for alignment of the keel
...and made damn sure it was straight-as-an-arrow...
…and made damn sure it was straight-as-an-arrow…
Divinicell closed-cell marine foam core material epoxy-glued in
Divinicell closed-cell marine foam core material epoxy-glued in

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Fijians love playing with timber.... and they're experts at it!
Fijians love playing with timber…. and they’re experts at it!
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Quixotic Update – We have bows again!

Quixotic is being brought back to life as our A-team of Fijian fiberglass artists charge forward. She now has bows, most of her topsides are enclosed again and the keels are prepped for glasswork. Alyssa flew to Australia last weekend to visit her sister and she brought back a whole checked bag worth of engine and saildrive spares along with other crucial parts. The superyacht ENCORE, that we sailed on in Hawaii, is bringing us the much-needed closed-cell foam core material that we will use to finish repairing the topsides. ENCORE left Hawaii early last week so she is due in here end of this week; at 150ft of waterline, she makes very fast passages! Thanks again to Jono, Jarnie and the “Encorians” for the help!

The local welder has straightened the bent crossbeam and reinforced some key areas with aluminum plate. It doesn’t look pretty, but it’s functional and will serve until we can afford to buy a new one. We’ll probably end up painting it to cover up all the scratches from the dozen or so boats that hit Quixotic the night of the cyclone. But for now it will be like a piece of German engineering – more function than form. If anyone asks about all the scratches we’ll just tell them that we have had incredibly bad luck with other boats dragging down on us in anchorages!

Our local welder, Rotesh, is also going to start fabricating stanchions for us. We’ll use the base plates that are still on the boat and salvage what tubing we can. For the tubing that is bent beyond repair we will replace it with some new material that has been brought in from NZ and AUS. In the end, our new stanchions will probably match our crossbeam and be more function than works of art…but hey, it’s better than falling overboard and it will serve for now. Instead of sitting in the bow pulpit chair, go lay in the nets!

We have decided to glass over the bottom of the port hull. She was originally built with holding tanks in her keels, one of the main reasons her full flooded in the cyclone. We will feel much more comfortable knowing she is watertight with or without her keel, so this week we removed all the hose and inspection ports and will be laying glass over the bottom before attaching the new keel. We will also be filling the new keel with marine grade foam flotation for extra insurance/buoyancy. If and when we charter, we’ll just tell the guests to use the head on the starboard side during the day. It will also save me the disgusting job of dealing with another holding tank! 

We’re hoping to make a lot of progress this week with a lofty goal of having a keel by Friday and be finished with the bows. Our current timeline has us completing the major fiberglass work in two weeks. Then we transition to glasswork on the inside, followed by paint – inside and out. We are thinking of putting some absurd amount of epoxy barrier coat on, like 6 coats, why not…

Enjoy the weekend! 

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Of course there was more bike riding this week...
Of course there was more bike riding this week…

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This time out to the property… love that view!
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We rode out to our neighbor Chota’s farm…
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…and of course gorged ourselves on Celestiny’s awesome Indian cooking!

 

 

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Quixotic Update and Vanua Levu Motorcycle Adventure!

Progress marches forward as our elite team of Fijian fiberglass artists continue repairing Quixotic. We have removed all the damaged glass and prepped the areas for new glass, which we’ll apply this week. The weekend was busy as we hired another group of locals to deep clean and remove all the fiberglass dust – and there sure was a lot of glass dust! They showed up on Saturday afternoon a bit daunted by the task at hand… I was also a bit confused by the “team” they brought as the average age of the “workers” was about 10 years old… But any moral dilemma I was harboring was quickly dispelled when the Fijian child forces got to work! Those kids can sure clean fiberglass dust!  Is it still wrong??  Anyway…. by Sunday afternoon Quixotic was cleaner than she’s been in months. I’m sure the guys will be impressed with their clean work environment tomorrow morning.  

Today I had an epic motorcycle ride into the interior of the Vanua Levu and over the highest mountain range. I am blown away by the beauty of this island. The rugged, gorgeous peaks, the pine forests spread over lush foliage, the tidy and colorful villages with friendly waving locals, the powerful rivers cutting through valleys; and the icing on the cake: a smooth, twisty, well maintained highway with almost no one on it! I have died and gone to biker heaven. I even found an overgrown dirt road up to a cell tower that I followed and was rewarded with a panoramic view of Savusavu bay. My ride today ranked in my top ten best bike rides of all time. I’m excited to explore the rest of the island.

Here are some pics of (part) of the cleaning team and from the ride today.

Cheers from paradise!

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Quixotic Update – A Catamaran OR a Block of Swiss Cheese??!?!?

Bula Vinaka All!

Our incredible team of local Fijian fiberglass workers continue to charge forward and dig out all the delamination from Quixotics’ hull….and see for yourself in the pictures – it’s a LOT!  There are now enormous holes in her hull and topsides, ready for glasswork. Today we actually started putting new glass back ON the boat as opposed to just grinding broken glass OFF her. Alsace Miller, the “Sensei” of our fiberglass team, mixed up some polyester and chopped strand glass and started fairing the void in the starboard keel. Looks like we’ll be able to grind the shape back into it tomorrow and then we’ll lay up a few layers of the very strong quadraxial glass that arrived today. We plan to reinforce the keel before taking a mold for the port side. When we’re finished, Quixotic’s keels and areas of repair will be much stronger than before; basically the original polyester glass will have to break before our epoxy-based repairs would let go. We’ve been given a lifetime warranty from Sace and he is adamant that the repairs will outlast us! Sounds good to me!

Here are some pics of the progress…..

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We're not sure if they are doing it right but they sure made some big holes!

Quixotic Update – The Heavy Lifting Begins!

The past few days have been busy. The Mermaid and I spent a backbreaking day pressure washing the rest of the mud out of the port hull and engine compartment. We removed the saildrive, changed the oil and treated some surface rust. We disconnected the forestay and ran some more lines to support the rig. Then Sunday afternoon we called it a day and I finally got on the motorcycle for an awesome ride up the coast. This island is so beautiful!

Although we worked our asses off this weekend, our efforts paled in comparison to the progress made the past two days with the addition of five hard-working local Fijians to team Quixotic. In one day we had the crossbeam removed, a wood shelter built, and the entire boat jacked up and level on wood blocks. Today we started cutting away and grinding the broken glass. I ordered the quadraxial fiberglass cloth that the boat builder in South Africa recommended we use; a 100 lb roll is coming directly from the manufacturer in Australia and should be here by Friday. 

Have to get to the ‘yard’ so I can open the shed for the guys to get their tools. I’ll write another update in a few days. Here are some pics of the progress…

Cheers!

Step 1 - pressure wash mud out of closets!!
Step 1 – pressure wash mud out of closets!!
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Jacking up the cat – Fiji Style!

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It can't be ALL work and NO play. Sunday bike ride!
It can’t be ALL work and NO play. Sunday bike ride!
Shelter built
Shelter built

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Not enough clearance? No problem mon! We dig holes under keels!
Not enough clearance? No problem mon! We dig holes under keels!

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Sweet ladder they built in like 3 minutes flat....seriously
Sweet ladder they built in like 3 minutes flat….seriously
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Alsace Miller – the local boat builder and our project manager

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We're not sure if they are doing it right but they sure made some big holes!
We’re not 100% sure if they are doing it right but they sure made some big holes!

Stay tuned for more updates!