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Hauled and keeled

Alchemy gets the straps at East River Shipyard. Photo (c) Bradison Boutilier

Another long break in posts, our maintenance blog. This has been, due to the demands of living in rural Nova Scotia and the sheer amount of time it takes to get to the East River Shipyard (30 minutes) or the closest grocery store (65 minutes) under absolutely ideal conditions of a) fully functioning bicycle; b) weather of mild to moderate wind, above zero degrees Celsius temperature, and no ice or snow; and c) the short days mean when we work on Alchemy, now "crated" in a shipyard's shed in East River, Nova Scotia, we are focused on getting work done in constrained time segments, themselves dependent on limited daylight, limited cold tolerance and willingness to travel by bike on a secondary highway in gales of various intensity.
Removing the rigging was fun...not. But it was necessary.

So there's that. An example of  this year's decommissioning involved laying the mast on the ground beside the boat and removing all the standing rigging, which comprises 12 15 metre or so lengths of 8 mm (5/16th) stainless steel wire and the 1.5 metre bobstay, as well as disassembling the Pro-Furl unit without damaging it, as it wasn't particularly worn out, but the furling function could be improved upon, and our model of furler was hard to get replacement parts for. 

The unrigged mast on its way to the mast rack.

All this careful removal was in aid of the complete replacement of the standing rigging and the recycling of the Sta-Lok terminals on new wire; the turnbuckles, forks and related rigging pieces are in good enough shape to continue using, but the wire, as far as we can determine, is original at nearly 33 years old, and we did not wish to go offshore, or even coastal in salt water, with rigging that old. While it looked in good shape and we'd had no signs of decay, we mostly motored to Nova Scotia and had not, arguably, stressed it overmuch in the more benign fresh water environment of the Great Lakes.

Said mast, bereft of wires, racked. I would lash it more firmly later on: it's damned windy here.

This isn't the first time we've rerigged, but it's not a job for the faint-hearted. It's expensive, although The Yacht Shop in Halifax is cheaper than most Toronto shops and they understood my questions readily, and restoring the rigging in the spring will require even more work. We have the somewhat questionable presence of three out of the 26 mechanical terminals on our rigging, 23 are Sta-Loks and three are Norsemans. There's no discernable quality difference between the two: they both work the same way via the compression of an internal "cone", which compresses the splayed wire ends to make a durable friction fit in this fashion, but the Norseman company changed hands some years ago and while parts can still be obtained, we feel that all the terminals, should they require service, should be of the same type. Same with getting a new furler on the new forestay: as we did with replacing the engine, there is much to recommend replacement over repair of mission-critical parts of the boat before they break and the crew learn that the needed parts are hard to replace or obtain.

Alchemy on the move and into her winter quarters, which keep the snow out, at least.
Photo (c) Bradison Boutilier

After the nice fellow from the rigging place came and took away all the old rigging for measurement, replication and recycling, and we had done the customary work of winterization of the plumbing and the raw water circuits, as well as the disconnection of the significant number of cables and wires from the mast and off the deck, we were put in our winter shed. East River Shipyard is an exceptionally busy place: it serves both recreational boaters and local fishing/lobstering vessels, the latter of which have short windows in which to make money and must be launched rapidly. In addition, the ownership of this yard changed hands earlier in 2020 and they've been on an expansion tear; since our arrival in the area on October 6, two vast boat sheds have been erected on poured rebar and concrete platforms and filled with boats. So we've been moved more than once out of the way of "ongoing building" as well as being moved around a bit inside the shed itself as more boats have been slotted into place. All I can say is that they know their business here, and I can see no scratches or dings I did not put on the hull myself.

These guys handle hydraulic trailers the way Mrs. Alchemy handles injured songbirds...gently!

The shed is pretty basic and unheated, but then we aren't paying very much to be "inside" and we can run from a 30 amp service any time we are aboard. This allows us to keep the batteries fully charged much of the time, and will permit an equalization in the spring. There's new LED floodlights overhead and if I really need more amps, we've left one of the Honda gensets aboard if I want to run 15 amps of heaters or extra lights.

One of the jobs we elected to farm out is the sounding of the hull. We are at the shipyard in the first place to have the bottom paint ground off to the bare metal and to have it coated with a galvanizing layer, then a two-part epoxy barrier coat and then a few coats of anti-fouling paint suitable for seawater. While it would be possible to do this oneself (and indeed, we are doing the topside painting for the various nicks and dings we've created to date), I lack the enthusiasm for the hours of grinding I would need to do and the equipment to spray the various coatings on in a fast (to avoid time spent in open air for the bare steel of the grinded hull plates) and efficient (to maintain an even depth of coatings) job.

Reasons we were concerned: after 19 months in both fresh and salt water, the anodes were pretty corroded...were the steel plates they were protecting also in trouble? We had been in some pretty basic marinas with potentially dodgy shore power: the rather heavy decay of these anodes could be perfectly normal and a sign they were working as desired. But we had to know for sure.
The father and son team of inspectors were fast and efficient, which is one of the reasons we decided Nova Scotia would be a better place to get work done than Toronto

But we had to get past the rather daunting hurdle of confirming the hull was sufficiently thick in the first place. Thanks to the purchase survey I had from 2005, I knew how thick the hull plates were at the time of building, and so had a baseline. I even had a plate sounder with which I had done some initial investigation a few years prior; what I lacked was the expertise to interpret my results, plus the experience to know exactly where I needed to sound, or determine the thickness of, the steel hull plates.

The process used by the pros was methodical as one might expect. A few square centimetres of paint down to bright metal was removed and sounded. Results were recorded and compared to the stated plate thicknesses I provided. The drawing the son made was pretty nice for a sketch on a clipboard.

Nice work, isn't it? I've kept the PDFs, which are equally pretty in the report.

The evidence of the rust-creating ability of seaside air emerged within hours. We had to  spray two coats of Tremclad onto all the "test sites" after a manual sanding and application of "Ospho" to convert the rust after just one day. These polka dots will, of course, come off in the spring when the boat is hauled out of the shed to be grinded and sprayed. The good news of the report was that all the plates, save that on the bottom of the keel was actually slightly thicker than specified, suggesting that wastage of the hull over the years had been "none to minimal" As for the plate on the bottom, it was supposed to be 3/4" thick, but surveyed so consistently at 5/8" thick that I suspect the thickness reported in the purchase survey was incorrect. Regardless, plenty of metal is where it should be, and peace of mind on this point has been achieved.

The second biggest job is to fix the rudder to hydraulic ram connection, and to better keep water from getting into the boat where said ram exits the stern.

With the ram end "cuff" unbolted.

But the disassembly was on us. I was given the good advice to record my steps.

With the HDPE "ram plates" loosened.
Exterior plate off revealing the "gasket". We want to explore having a PSS-type shaft seal here. The grey goo is butyl tape,
The hole through the plate is angled precisely to let the ram move linearly in and out, pivoting on the rudder tab.
This is the "ram pin", which I think is a modified trailer hitch in SS. The threads are shot and that's why the nut originally on there failed. The hole was my attempt to do the job right, which proved impossible in water. The right way would be to have whatever nut is used to be cotter-pinned straight through the shaft so it could never work its way loose.

What remains is to get our son down to the boat to help us remove the now-disconnected rudder from it pintles. It's made from aluminum, and I can grind it back and repaint it myself with a couple of sawhorses, leaving lots of room for the pros at the yard to do, once things warm up sufficiently in the spring, the bottom job.

More to come as we soldier on.

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