Well that was one hell of a week!! We are elated to report that we have replaced all four chainplates and 90% of our passage prep list is complete! I am typing this with multiple cuts on my hands from wrestling with stubborn cotter pins on our turnbuckles, but the sweet smell of victory reins triumphant – we did it, and in record time! Let’s sail home to Fiji! We have started looking for the right weather window and expect to sail north by mid-April.
Earlier this week we started installing the stanchions (which we had previously removed and sent down to Auckland for passivization and electropolishing) while at anchor but we kept hitting major snags. First we didn’t have the right bolts, and then a much larger issue presented itself… In the cyclone last year, about 20 or so boats were kind enough to give QUIXOTIC a nice little bump on their way down the creek. Well a few of these boats snagged one or more of her stanchions and pulpits and in doing so completely ripped out the bolts, stripping all the threads on almost all of the stanchions on the port side. The builder had glassed in the nylocks behind a backing plate so that the bolts did not stick out into the cabins – a nice system, when it works; a nightmare when it doesn’t. So we decided to drill through the backing plates and through the bolts all the way into the cabins. But once drilled there was no backing plate in the cabin and they also came down on a curved angle so using washers as backing plates was out. The prospect of making these backing plates – or rather wood backing blocks – ourselves was daunting. So we decided to sail for the marina and see if the local talent could work some magic and creates these blocks for us. To our relief and amazement, on Tuesday when we put into the marina, and in less than 2 hours, SeaPower, a local outfit here, had come aboard, measured and made mock-ups, cut, shaped, ground back the interior to the glass, and epoxy glued the new teak backing blocks in! It looked awesome and the next day the mermaid carefully painted all the backing blocks and the finished product is a thing of strength and beauty that should last the life of the boat.
While the stanchion project was in full swing we removed the running backstay chainplates (that we found cracks on last week) and delivered them to NSR (a local rigger) to create out of new 316 stainless steel stock. Cutting chainplates and polishing them is one of those projects that we can’t do ourselves and this was sure to cut into our funds, which it certainly did! While they were duplicating the running back chainplates we supported the rig with halyards and extra lines in preparation for removing the main chainplates. We were under a bit of time constraint because there was rain forecast for the weekend through all next week and it was going to blow hard – not good for an un-stayed rig! So we put major pressure on NSR and they said it could happen by Friday but no promises. On Wednesday we got the running back plates back and had them installed by the evening, running backs tightened and the starboard main chainplate off. We delivered the starboard plate to NSR by 8am Thursday morning and then had the new one (3mm thicker) back to us by 3pm and by nightfall QUIXOTIC had a new starboard chainplate. We repeated this same procedure today (Friday) and had the last bolt cranked down and last bit of 3M 4000UV sealant cleaned up as the first rain drops began to fall and the skies darken – MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! Then it was a few more hours in the rain tuning the rig, cranking the Mermaid up the rig to remove the temporary stays and then putting everything away. But we did it, as planned, and the rig is 100% again and ready for the elements!
There are heaps of other items we ticked off the list this week. Not the least of which was completing the 50 hour service on the new engines. I did all the service myself but brought in the professionals to teach me how to properly check and adjust the valve clearances; now that I know how to do it myself I will do so going forward. We also had new 316SS exhaust risers made for the new engines. Our mechanic, Brian, suggested it and we agreed it made sense. See, the stock elbows only dropped 10mm or so and the port one had a flat section where raw water can settle and the concern was in big seas if we fell off a wave the water in the waterlock could slosh up into the engine. So being extra cautious, we had the new high rise elbows made and I have installed it on the port side, where the angle was much more of a worry than starboard, where the angle is much better and less of a concern to me. It looks awesome and should provide a good 3-5 years of service before the sulfuric acid eats through the stainless.
A funny story about installing the new exhaust port and flapper… So we didn’t want to be rushed when we dried out on the hard (for the first time) so we decided to replace the broken exhaust port while in the marina – in hindsight, perhaps not the best choice in the world. I stood on the dock and the exhaust port was clearly 3-4 inched above waterline – cool, I can change that no problem! Famous last words right? Well I removed all the 6 screws holding the port in and removed the hose from inside the boat. Then I got everything ready to put in the new one: Sikaflex 291 black – check, new 316SS screws – check, new port – check, sandpaper – check, acetone – check. We were ready to pull the old one and put in the new one, I had the Mermaid there to assist and even thought to have towels just in case there was a wake. Well, the moment I had the old port off and there was a huge hole in the boat with the screw holes exposed, an enormous dredge barge with a big backhoe as an oar roared its engines and stared heading our way – uh, oh! Alyssa called it to my attention just as QUIXOTIC (which has an un-stayed rig mind you) stared rocking and pulling at her lines. I saw the wakes and yelled for the towel. I shoved the towel over the port and screw holes and held on for dear life as the wakes overtook our position and QUIXOTIC rocked up and down. All the while I was swearing and pulling my back holding that damn towel over my previously dry port and screw holes! When the chaos abated, I removed the soaking wet towel and somehow I managed to keep the port and screw holes dry. We managed to complete the install of the new port and new flapper with only a few more close calls. Another box ticked off the list!
Tomorrow we will wash the boat, fill our water tanks, pay the marina and get the hell out of dodge. We plan to gunkhole down the NZ coast to Auckland where we will pick up a new hobie hard kayak. Thanks again to our friends Jason and Emily (sv LYRIC) for falling in love with our inflatable hobie kayak and buying it from us to take home as a souvenir!
I have decided to take some time off from my online consulting business so we can relax and get ready to sail north. We will be taking some much-deserved relaxed sailing time down the coast. We’ll write again before we take off for Fiji. In the meantime, please continue to spread the word about QUIXOTIC Charters! We have made some bookings this week and keep in mind that the limited time offer of 20% off ends May 1st! Come hang with us in Fiji!
Lewis & Alyssa
Opua, New Zealand