January 1 - August 2, 2011 (Part 1)

In the interest of FINALLY getting an update out, we thought we'd divide this update into two parts. This update focuses on the refit work.

HIGHLIGHTS

* EW Gets New Clothes

* And A New Engine

* A Disaster That Didn't Happen

* Ken's Secret Desire

* Beth's Secret Desire

* A Hundred Little Touches

* Slowly Freezing To Death

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January 1 - August 2, 2011

The months flew by as our boat project progressed, but the end didn't get any closer. It didn't help that we kept adding to the project list.

We're just going to give you the highlights.

New Paint - Deck and Topsides

This whole project started because we had gelcoat cracks in the deck. Cosmetic only -- we ground a bunch of them out and never found one that went into the strength layers. Just an excessively thick, rigid gelcoat over a stretchy vinylester lay-up.

But the cracks were everywhere. In one place we had 15 parallel cracks across the side deck in the space of about six feet. It LOOKED HORRIBLE.

The answer was simple enough: Remove every bit of metal from the deck, grind the gelcoat off completely in the worst areas, grind out every single crack, thin the gelcoat everywhere else, build it all back up with epoxy, and paint it.

Then put EW all back together again. Any wonder we had a late exit from NZ this year?

It helped that our painters, led by Gavin Keane (the guy who owns Pacific Gloss), treated our boat the way Gavin treats his grand daughter.

Gavin may look tough, but he's a sweetie.

 

On left: Mann, Gavin's seven foot tall lead painter, surveys his work.

On right: EW masked and sprayed.

 

We only made one change that could get us killed -- the painters sanded off all of our non-skid.

If you fall off a short-handed cruising boat, particularly at night when the other person is sleeping, you probably don't need to worry about saving for your retirement.

So we needed to get the non-skid right. We experimented with different grits, and settled on a mix of coarse and extra coarse grit, added to the paint and sprayed on. The mix allowed the big, extra coarse particles to sit farther apart, and gave a better grip than either grade by itself.

Now if you skin your knee on EW, you will need a skin graft.

 

Viola! A brand new paint job (in Matterhorn white) with non-skid.

 

Close up of non-skid and bordered sections. The borders provide a nice smooth surface for attaching fittings.

With the deck fittings off, we renewed the caulk for all on-deck attachments -- something we would have needed to do anyway, given that EW was 15 years old.

And while we were at it, we decided to repaint the topsides, too.

Again, Gavin's guys did a fantastic job.

At last, EW emerges from the paint shed in early March.

Karl adjusts the cradle under Ray's watchful eye. Yikes, that big ugly hunk of steel is close to our new paint!

We didn't get the first scratch.

New Name

While we didn't change EW's name, we did decide to change the position and style of the name.

Our old name seemed a bit cartoonish and garish to us and we wanted something simpler and more delicate.

Turns out that simplifying our name was really complicated.

Beth worked for weeks experimenting with different name styles.

 

What font? What size? What color? Shaded background or not? What location? Slanted or not? Parallel to the deck, or to the boot stripe, or to neither? We got lots of input to the questions (especially from Steve and Dave).

We ended up choosing a font called "Ohio Script" in blue-black with an aluminum colored shadow. We also moved the location from the stern quarter to the bow. Fast Signz did an expert job making and installing the lettering.

We're really happy with how the name turned out -- the result was well worth the effort.

Meanwhile fall was coming to New Zealand. Did we mention that our lovely apartment on shore didn't have any heat?

It could be a bit crisp in there some mornings.

New Bottom

We had planned a simple bottom paint job, but we noticed that some areas of the old bottom paint had started to come off right down to the barrier coat.

We decided to strip the bottom back to the epoxy.

It turned out that our bottom was so uneven that it was difficult to scrape off the paint without damaging the barrier coat.

So we decided to fair the bottom and add an epoxy barrier before applying new bottom paint.

Are you starting to see how boat work grows?

Traditional bottom fairing consists of slathering on lots of hard fairing compound and then sanding most of it off. You pay to put it on, you pay to sand it back off, and you pay for all the material that ends up on the ground.

So Steve and Gavin invented a different method. We applied a somewhat softer material with brushes, then squeegeed it back off while it was wet (and re-used the excess).

 

And then finished with a little sanding.

We ended up looking a bit like a tiger shark. Ken liked this look.
Result: A reasonably fair bottom at a fraction of the cost. We're not competing in the America's Cup here.
At this point every inch of EW's exterior had new paint. She gleams!

 

Meanwhile, back at the apartment, it was getting colder.

And colder...

New Engine/Spiffed Up DC Generator

Our 88 hp Yanmar has always been a great engine, but a little underpowered for EW. We can sail easily at 10 knots, but the engine would bust a gut trying to go 8 knots.

Changing the engine on EW requires having the pilothouse off. We're not planning to do that again in this life, so this was our chance.

Also, the diesel companies are all moving toward electronically controlled engines, under pressure from environmental regs.

We feel that those engines are ok for coastal work, but not ready for prime time in remote places. In particular, a nearby lightning strike can destroy the electronics.

We met an Amel that had this happen last year to their brand new electronically controlled Volvo.

So we decided to make an investment in Japanese machinery -- a new Yanmar 4JH4 HTE, 110hp engine.

We also grabbed the opportunity to add a high capacity engine-drive emergency pump (pulley assembly shown in lower right). Very handy if we need to get rid of water in a hurry.

 

Grant operates his mini-crane while the guys guide our brand new 110 HP Yanmar down the hatch.

 

New engine in place. At right, you can see the engine with the safety cover installed. Steve modified the original Yanmar cover to accommodate the emergency pump.

We also spent alot of time getting things lined up properly.

Turns out our old installation had a terrible angle for the aquadrive -- causing it to split boots periodically. Fortunately it had never actually stopped working.
We hired Tim Brown, an independent marine engineer, to help us with the alignment. We now meet the manufacturer's specs, for the first time in 15 years!

Steve built a plexiglas cover to protect our PSS shaft seal, as it seemed a bit vulnerable to getting stepped on.

Just after we did this, we talked with the owners of another Sundeer 56, "Manta" who recently had an engine room flood at sea after a mechanic cracked the PSS seal by stepping on it!

The Kubota (DC generator) also got alot of TLC. We had the mechanics at Ray Roberts Marine completely revamp the pulley system and add a belt adjuster (huge nut and bolt in middle, right of picture). Ken was on a mission to reduce belt dust and make belt tightening an easier operation.

 

At left, our little Kubota looks forlorn, waiting to be re-installed. At right, the Kubota is all hooked up with new hoses and ready to run.

 

We hired Scott Williams, a professional electrician, to re-wire the control boxes for the Kubota. The original installation would periodically vibrate to pieces.

Refurbished Pilothouse

Our aluminum pilothouse structure had come off so the workers fixing our deck could chase all of the cracks to their source. Of course we took the opportunity to sand and re-paint the aluminum.

It took a bunch of big guys to carry the thing.

Note how Mann dwarfs all the other guys. All these guys are over six feet tall.

 

We hired a crane to put the pilothouse back onto the boat.

 

Finally Dave and Steve bolted and caulked it down. With lots of very aggressive sealant under its big flange, the pilothouse isn't going anywhere (unless the rest of the boat comes along).

A Disaster Is A Detail That You Discover Too Late...

When the bimini structure was off the boat, we made some changes to improve drainage for our solar panels. In the process we found something that could have turned really, really bad at sea.

We wanted to tilt the solar panels a bit to improve drainage. We also wanted to make some changes to keep water from puddling on the canvas.

At right, you can see the new tilt to the panels, and also the water tray that Steve added to direct the water aft and off the bimini.

 

We also added strategic bits of stainless to help the sunbrella drain. The little t-bar extension helps hold the aft end of the bimini up. The thin bars just in front of the t-bar create a bit of arch.

 

Then we discovered a disaster-in-waiting.

Nick (of Alloy, Stainless & Marine), our stainless expert, noticed cracks in at least six of the cast stainless fittings holding the bimini together. We were horrified!

You couldn't see the cracks until Nick had polished off the surface corrosion.

If Nick hadn't found these cracks, the whole solar array would have come adrift in our next heavy weather.

This big, heavy structure wouldn't have been easy to cut loose. Ken is thinking about adding an angle grinder to his tool kit.

And we're trying to keep our stainless polished.

Nick cut off all of the cast fittings and replaced them with much tougher extruded pipe.

And we greatly improved and strengthened the attachment to the push pit rail.

Beefing Up The Deck Structure

Sundeers have a very strong lay up, but we had noticed an area that could use strengthening. The thick balsa core stops just inboard of the hull/deck flange, leaving about 1.5 inches supported by neither core nor by the flange. Several pieces of heavily loaded hardware (including stanchion bases) were bolted through this unsupported area.

This area can flex quite a bit, and an ordinary backing plate doesn't really help much.

But we found a solution -- a thick backing pad of molded fiberglass epoxied to the flange, the unsupported deck, and the deck under the core -- tying all these bits together.

Here's a close up of one of these plates under a stanchion.

These pads (courtesy of Northland Contract Boatbuilders), dramatically improved the stiffness of all the deck hardware and stanchions.

So now we have more than thirty of these plates, under each major piece of hardware near the rail.

Dreams Of Sugar Plumb..ing

A lot of our plumbing was fifteen years old.

Replacing sewer hose is just Ken's favorite job in the whole world.

Many hoses were old, brittle, and basically disintegrated when they were jostled -- like this bilge pump hose.

Others, like the sewer lines, were full of stuff you really don't need to hear about.

Ken pulled out more than 50 meters of old bilge sewer and drain hose, as well as four old pumps.

Ken with his new super duper pipe manifold. The Kiwis kept referring to Ken as "the terminator" when he walked around with this thing.

 

New manifold and hoses on left.

New holding tank pump and bilge pump on right.

 

New wash down pump for anchor cleaning, with second bilge pump above it.

 

Ken also revamped much of the plumbing in the engine room using high quality New Zealand-made Hansen valves and fittings.

 

Meanwhile, back at the apartment...

Ken's Dream

The thing about cruising is that it gets your fantasies down to earth.

Lots of cruisers report a similar dream -- they dream that they've found a WHOLE LOCKER of UNUSED STORAGE SPACE. We're no different -- we have stuff jammed into every imaginable nook and cranny, making everything hard to get when you need it.

Here's an example -- this in our aft shower. Can you see the shower stall in here?

So when Steve innocently suggested that he could make a lot more storage space in our aft cabin -- not expecting us to agree, given our tight schedule -- Ken jumped on the idea like a tiger (shark). Steve tried to back out, because his other projects were stacking up, but we had no mercy.

Steve's idea was, as usual, simple and brilliant. Take our two separate bunks in the aft cabin, extend the top bunk out to make a double bed, and convert all the space under the top bunk into drawers and lockers.

Here's what our aft cabin, top bunk looked like before the change. (That's a mirror in the background.)
Here is a picture of the aft cabin at the beginning of the work. Steve has already removed the top bunk.
Structure of new space -- with a large cabinet on the left, space for two banks of drawers on the right, and a long locker outboard.
Steve, with his brain child.
Here's a view with all the drawer space forms complete, and some bed foam laid on top.

The final result. We got a huge cabinet (far left side), 8 long drawers for tools, nuts, and bolts, one very large map drawer, and a long locker (underneath the space behind the lee cloths).

At sea we enclose the inboard berth in two sets of lee cloths -- very snug and comfortable.

Beth down inside the bowels of the long locker. She lined it with a thin foam so items wouldn't rattle around.

Ken thinks this would make a fine place to stow Beth.

Beth's Dream

Beth loves the new engine and the new cabinets and drawers, but she's really more excited about another new toy.

Our old Force 10 stove had no thermostat, so she'd have to adjust the temperature every three minutes when she baked something.

Beth complained about this a lot, but Ken never thought it was a big deal.

Then last year he actually baked something himself.

So now we have a new Force 10, with a thermostat.

Beth cleaned up the old stove for sale, and got lots of advice from other cruisers

Ken gave her a hard time for spending hours cleaning that thing. But our stove sold for $800 after one day in the "used boat stuff" store in Whangarei. The previous record for a used Force 10 stove had been $400!!

Little Touches

Steve and Dave replaced all of the opening deck hatch lenses and repainted all of the hatch frames and hatch components. Dave re-varnished the trim.
Beth re-oiled all of the non-varnished cabinets and interior surfaces.

 

Steve and Dave talked us into replacing our old plywood cockpit table with a table made of proper marine wood.

Steve produced a work of art, and Dave varnished it to perfection.

 

Steve replaced the water-damaged wooden cabinet door in our forward shower with a watertight metal door.
We'd been bothered for years by the uneven arrangement of our scuppers. The white trim rings accentuated the problem.
Steve fabricated new rings from black plastic material and now you can't even tell they are there! We also replaced the hatch on the swim platform (in center of picture) with a more watertight model.
We added stainless strips on the side and end of our swim platform. These strips protect the edges of the swim platform from chafing dock lines and visiting dinghies.
We greatly improved the wiring access to the pilothouse. The pilothouse is our nerve center at sea, and we wanted room for expansion.

We added a removable fan over the galley area to vent cooking orders.

We also added a similar fan to the forward shower hatch to vent moisture from the shower.

We repainted the boom and the lower 12 feet of the mast, and re-bedded rivets and screws that had started to corrode.
Our old cockpit hatch gaskets moved around, allowing water to leak through. The new installations have a metal strip along the outer edge that hold the gasket in place.
The hatch on the right in this picture didn't used to exist. We added it to vent the forward shower. We also added coamings around both small hatches.

 

We also added a coaming to the forepeak hatch.

The coamings, combined with new snap down sunbrella covers, prevent green water from shooting through the hatch seals at sea.

Ronnie of Undercover Canvas redid all of our on-deck canvas. It all looks very "tidy", as Ronnie would say.

 

The aluminum trim rings surrounding the hull windows had degraded. We had Boatbuilders make a mold of the old rings and fabricate new rings from fiberglass.

No more corrosion!

The yard's metal shop (Alloy Stainless & Marine) created little shelves out of heavy aluminum plates for storing our scuba tanks in the forepeak when we are underway, while still allowing access to the through-hull fittings.

We never liked our old SSB ground system, because it connected a copper strap to a very wet spot down in the bilge. The copper would rot out in a month.

So, in her capacity as EW's electronics officer, Beth experimented with a new technology. The new "KISS system" consists of a long sealed cable housing which contains copper wires cut to lengths appropriate for SSB radio use. The cable can be installed up high, away from the destructive water of the bilge. So far it seems great.

Beth installing the new KISS SSB ground system.

Back In The Water At Last

And here's the NEW Eagle's Wings, back in the water. We thought the boat looked terrific. We loved moving back on board as soon as we could -- right where we belong!

The only problem with a nice new paint job is that it's never clean enough!

Here's Beth pressure washing some bird poop.

Putting Eagle's Wings Back Together

It had taken us 10 years to put Eagle's Wings together the first time. Now we had to do it all again in about six weeks!

It took more like three months.

Here's some of the rigging we had to reinstall.
Absolutely everything had to be reattached or re-tied or rewired. Here Beth works on the pilothouse wiring.
It didn't help that Ken managed to sprain both of his ankles when he stepped into a hole obscured by a carpet on the swim platform. He hobbled around on crutches for several weeks.

You may wonder what took us so long to get everything back together...

Well, Beth bought almost a hundred little plastic jars and spent hours sorting nuts, bolts, and screws for the new tool drawers.

And Ken was doing a "Ken job" on lashings all over the boat -- here's the scuba tank installation.

 

Meanwhile, things were getting desperate back in the apartment, with temperatures hitting 52 F in the mornings. Ken had started wearing long underwear pants.

On his head.

Beth began mainlining chocolate frosting to keep her internal furnace going.
At least when the US adopts Sharia law (which various websites assure us is going to happen any day), Beth will be ready.

Sea Testing

With so many changes to EW, we felt we had to take her for extensive sea testing. Plus we had to break in the new engine.

We took EW out several times -- once for 3 days -- and really pushed her.

Our old 88hp engine could barely hit 7.5 knots, and would lay a smoke screen if we tried to go that fast. The new engine went 9.8 knots without breaking a sweat. Hang onto your hats!

We surfaced a few minor issues, but we were very happy with our "new" boat.

On our way to the sea test..

We know we said this update was only going to be about our refit work. But we just can't help ourselves. New Zealand is such a gorgeous place -- it takes your breath away.

And the beauty around us served as a reminder of why we are out here doing what we are doing...

We'll catch you up on what else we did in New Zealand in Part 2 of the update...