(the long version)
Two weeks to go …
After a long layoff it’s time to cast off once again. House warmed, new school settled into and life back on land more or less readjusted to but the summer is here and it’s time to give a little TLC to Khujada 2 before blowing the cobwebs away.
Antifouling and anode replacement were due w/c 10th July a couple of weeks before our three week adults only holiday (children in summer camps and / or with grandparents in the south of France).
On the morning of our lift whilst preparing to depart, the rudder refused to drop, and furthermore pumping the hydraulics, rather than descend the rudder, instead merely descended the reservoir fluid level. Boats need to be used and leaving one unused in its marina berth is asking for trouble, so I wasn’t too surprised that something went awry prior to the first outing in a year.
With the rudder up an already tricky boat in terms of manoeuvrability (a centreboard doesn’t offer anywhere near the longitudinal stability of a keel; anyone who’s helmed an Ovni in tight spaces will understand my trepidation), there was no question of trying to cross the channel with Secret Agent, a Bavaria 34 friend of ours, without repairing it properly – losing steerage in the middle of the Channel shipping lanes is not an enticing prospect.
To understand what’s wrong means taking the boat right out of the water, not just propping it up on a Sealift for four hours to slap on two coats of paint. A problem, since Endeavour Quay, our usual liftout just round the corner in Gosport, had a substantial backlog of customers after a fortnight-long service hiatus acting as ground base for a racing fleet of Forty4s. The Gosport crane was out of the question after I’d just tuned the rig (not willing to remove the backstays again). Port Solent was the next (final? only?) option – they offered me Tuesday 0800 – not ideal since about an hour up harbour into very shallow waters less than two hours after low spring tide (pour les Francais, grand coefficient).
One week to go …
The yard manager rang me on Monday to explain that the lock (Port Solent is right at the top of Portsmouth Harbour so a lock is essential to keep the ebbing tide at bay) would be closed for six hours from morning until early afternoon for hydraulics maintenance (ironically the same type of work as I was visiting for), and that the team would be attending fire incident training in the afternoon, so we rearranged for Wednesday 0800, leaving me just three days to fix the hydraulics, paint, protect and otherwise prepare the boat before we were due to cross the Channel to Cherbourg.
Three days to go …
Clement weather mitigating the heavy steerage (helming an Ovni with the rudder up is not dissimilar to drive a modern car without power steering), I arrived in the lock punctually for 0750 on Wednesday, the lockmaster helped me moor alongside the floating dock and then closed the gates.
The water rushed into the lock from the marina, with everything running like lockwork until a small bang announced a hose blowing off the hydraulic ram, leaving one gate stuck closed. The irony of a hydraulics failure – moreover the day after its maintenance overhaul that had delayed my visit – was not lost on me.
An hour later they’d not managed to open the gates manually so we decided to squeeze through with marina staff fending off on either side. We just about snuck through with little room to spare, reversed into the liftout bay and Khujada 2’s bottom saw fresh air for the first time in over two years … it was about time.
Once safely on stand it was time to investigate.
Removal of inspection plates meant cleaning up first – just like pressure washing the hull to clean off the weed and barnacles, a lot of fouling had made its way into the rudder’s ram cavity so a lot of scraping later and I had a cleaner space to work within, the ground littered with crustacean cadavers and even the odd crevette.
Enrolled a poor chap trying to finish up for the day into climbing into the cockpit and pumping whilst I looked for a leak.
Miraculously – I’m always rather surprised when I manage to identify root cause all by myself – there’s a glycol leak clearly coming out of the top of the ram.
I removed the ram and found an elbow connector was clearly loose.
I removed it and found most of the thread gone.
Hypothesis: loose fitting of the hose’s elbow connector into the ram had resulted in wear of the thread and an eventual leak.
If true, then I may just need a new elbow fitting. Feeling hesitantly pleased with myself after sounding out the locals on hydraulics outlets, I have a plan.
Two days to go …
By lunchtime I’d found a shop that could order an equivalent part for me although it would not arrive before Friday lunchtime.
Not stainless steel, but it might make the difference between a sailing holiday and … well, no sailing – not at all sure how long to have the right parts sent from France.
In the afternoon I wet-sanded down the hull to remove leftover barnacles, and get on with applying primer to any areas I can find where the antifoul has worn through.
Bought antifouling materials (note to self – buy in advance next year to save time, although to be fair, I had expected Sealift to be doing all the work and providing all the consumables – we’d agreed all I would bring would be the paint and the anodes – but that’s what happens when you have to change plans sometimes).
Removed old anodes, applied new. Realised missing propeller anode – our agent had none in stock when we’d last ordered. Too late for courier from supplier, so only option was to drive to Poole on Friday if we were to have any chance of getting the boat back in the water for Friday afternoon – looking increasingly slim. Placed my order.
Mixed the 5 litre pot of Trilux 33 – it only took half an hour and several thousand revolutions’ stirring – an exhausting process even after leaving it upside down in the back of the car.
Finally ready to roll, I donned respirator, suit and eye protection and set to it.
I’m always happy to get advice from older, more experienced heads – in this instance a retired Scandinavian ship’s captain explained that I should apply the roller transversally across the hull, not longitudinally, assuring me it would last twice as long. Whilst I find this assertion less than convincing the direction of application of paint is all the same to me, so from now on it’s not abaft but abeam.
Drove back up to London to pick up Albane who’d got back from the south of France and to pack for our holiday.
One day to go …
Friday morning came, car packed, picked up hydraulic connector on way down from London, dropped Albane in yard to get on with second coat of antifoul and headed off towards Poole to join the early exodus of Dorset-bound traffic, secured necessary parts and drove back up to Port Solent.
Albane had completed the antifouling – good effort – in my absence, we fitted the propeller anode, polished and regreased the propeller, and then fitted the new part to the ram, covering it liberally with some of the spare propeller grease for protection. Checked operation – it worked – no leak.
We were – finally! – ready. Unfortunately two hours too late for the final relaunch of the week – yard doesn’t do Saturdays or Sundays – which meant 10am Monday was our new departure date and we’d have to catch up with our friends in the Channel Islands.
(Yes, we could have finished two hours earlier – probably two days earlier – equally it could have taken a lot longer to fix the rudder issue, so I was very happy to be ready to leave just two days later than planned).
- Hex keys
- White spirit
- Boiler suit
- Ear defenders
- Angle grinder
- Extension cable
- Grease, grease gun, nipple.
- Loctite (waterproof).
- PTFE tape.