|Sapphire in the 50 ton lift.|
I finished my Locum in Darwin in March and returned to the boat in Opua. I had a big list of things to do on Sapphire to prepare her for my trip out into the Pacific Ocean, a trip I planned to commence in May once the Cyclone Season was over. In the picture above, Sapphire is tucked in among the SuperYachts at Ashby's Marina. She came out to get her bottom cleaned, at which time inspection revealed a crack between hull and keel from which water drained when it was prodded with a screw driver. After much deliberation and opinion of various boatbuilders and sailors it was decided the keel had to come off to fully investigate the problem. As it turned out the original - now 30 year old glue holding the solid lead keel on with the help of seven long keel bolts was degraded and powdery and only effective in about 20% of the interface between keel and hull - so it was all cleaned up and the keel glued back on. What you should have noticed in the photo is the mast is also off - this became necessary when we discovered that the last keel bolt was directly under the mast, so out it came as well! This then provided an opportunity to thoroughly check the mast and the mast seat inside the boat and to recondition the boom, which I had damaged in an accidental gybe in mid tasman. Once the keel was back on the hull was cleaned and repainted with antifoul, the mast replaced and two weeks after coming out of the water for a 2 day visit for antifouling, she was finally back in the water. Living on-board a yacht on "the hard" is a strangely disorientating experience as the usual movement and swaying is absent, the boat is rigid and lifeless.
The next big job was installation of a Solar Panel above the cockpit canopy. I investigated mounting it in such a way that it could be rotated to point directly at the sun - this would make it work at its most efficient - but decided I would rather have it firmly mounted and not have to worry about fiddling with it, so a stainless frame was made and the 85watt panel attached, quite fortuitously fitting in perfectly behind the backstay and in front of the aerials and cockpit light. I have already discovered that the Solar Panel had made a huge difference to the power economy of the boat and I wished I had installed it long ago.
The Air Breeze wind generator on a pole off the back works really well and can generate more power in strong wind than the Panel can in bright sunlight, but even in dim light the Panel puts out a little charge whereas in lighter wind the Air Breeze hardly any. Its a sort of Hare and Tortoise thing - in the end the Tortoise wins by being steady and consistent. I asked the Marine Electrician to supply me with a spare set of blades for the Air Breeze and he informed me as they were the older style "white" blades, the Air Breeze company would supply them free as the original white ones were prone to degrade in sunlight, become fragile and disintegrate dangerously! When I reached up to see what mine were like, I discovered they were indeed brittle and fragile, so I replaced them immediately with the new black plastic ones and coated the old ones in several layers of paint before stowing them to use only in emergency.
|"Prop Speed" on the folding propellor keeps it clean for much longer|
The other jobs included replacement of the original spinnaker pole with a brand new one made of modern materials making it light enough for me to feel happy abou trying to work out how to use it! The original one was too heavy and therefore dangerous for me to ever contemplate using it on my own. I also had chafe protection added to the life lines and shrouds, I had the sails at a Sail Loft for checking and minor repairs, I bought 50 meters of anchor chain to replace the mostly nylon rode of my existing "ground tackle" and I bought an "Anchor Buddy". This simple device is a 13kg weight that slides down the anchor chain and significantly increases the holding power of your anchor. For me, without a windlass to pull in the anchor and chain it seemed the best way to increase holding power without getting an even heavier anchor, of which I have two. They are both Rocna anchors.
I also had fittings attached to boom and deck to enable a Third reef line, reattached a Vang, and for the removable inner forestay purchased a new fitting to make attchment and tensioning much better than it had been with the block and tackle arrangement originally provided by Sydney Rigging. I also cleaned out the fresh water tank and removed and resealed the leaking clear panels that were supposed to only let light from the cockpit recesses into the cabin.
All that remained was to go for a test sail, then stock up on food and water, wait for a weather window, and cast off.