Mighty Clean Engine Bilges and Starboard Hull Almost Ready!
06/27/2013, Whangarei, NZ
Things are moving along quite well, and this week we have been seeing great progress with lots of joinery going back into the starboard hull. The stringer & bulk head work on the starboard side has been complete for a few weeks so Dan has been attacking the re-installation of all the joinery. Not an easy task!
Notice the cupboards installed to the right, and the settee was installed to the left by the end of the day.
Since the reinforced bulkhead is about two inches wider than before - all the original shelves, door frames, cabinet/closet doors, headliners, etc., all have to be modified and refit back into place. Lots of tedious work (all because of two inches)! But Dan is doing an awesome job and it is looking great! We even have the new washer/dryer installed - and it fits better than the old one!
John is making sure all the various electrical components (such as the compressor for the freezer) are reinstalled in more readily accessible areas just in case he has to get to them for repair. Nothing like having a few miserable experiences trying to get to various boat parts to make you jump on this opportunity to put it right while the boat is wide open!
After doing some maintenance on the sail drives and engines, a broken rusted bolt was found on the connection of the transmission to engine, so we decided to have both engines removed and serviced (another opportunity to do some preventative maintenance). Luckily with engines and saildrives removed we found another major service item and that is the flexible coupler between the engine and transmission. With both engines removed, it meant that there was just enough room for a person of about my size to fit down in the bilges and do one full turn without hurting themselves. So I was nominated to spend a day and a half in the engine bilges attacking a long overdue clean-up.
I donned my newly acquired headlamp (after having lived by headlamp at night aboard Charisma for 2 weeks - I now envision all sorts of uses for them!), one of John's fashionable work shirts, protective gloves, and I began my onslaught of both engine bilges. Now they are all sparkly clean and ready for engines again. I still wouldn't eat off of them, but for now you can get down in there wearing a clean pair of shorts and t-shirt, and still come out spotless.
Well - almost spotless bilges!
John continues to organize and route all the wiring and plumbing, squeezing himself into places I never thought he could fit. And I have about wrapped up the cleaning and foam replacement of the headliner pieces that need to be reinstalled. I have also grabbed all the first aid and medicine supplies to re-inventory back at our B&B to see what we might need to restock while back in the USA....
Which brings me to another subject! We will be arriving back in the USA on 1 August and staying thru February of next year! Our New Zealand Visitor Visas are expiring here on 1 August. We could probably have them extended again, but there is just not enough time, even if Orcinius is ready to be put back in the water, for us to do an extensive sea trial and make sure all the systems and parts & pieces are ready for a long passage north. Then, only to turn around 6-8 weeks later and make the passage back down to NZ for the cyclone season. It's a lot of wear and tear on both the boat and the crew for such a short period of time. So we are heading back to enjoy some beautiful NW weather and to get all caught back up with family and friends! YAHOOOO! See y'all soon!
So How’d That Little Sail from NZ to Fiji Turn Out?
06/25/2013, New Zealand to Fiji in early June
Well, that little sail from New Zealand to Fiji aboard Charisma was a bit more than we all bargained for. We were expecting (hoping and wishing) for an 8-10 day passage. It ended up being a 13 day slog and my second longest passage to date.
An exciting night at sea!
We updated Charisma's blog almost every day while underway, but with the trip behind me now, I thought I would put some of my own thoughts down on paper, while I still remember the highlights, and low points. (And post some pictures here in case some of you didn't follow their blog).
Just waving goodbye to John the day we motored out of the marina was extremely difficult. I had been having some second thoughts about doing this little venture (a few weeks prior, over a couple shots of tequila onboard Charisma, it had sounded like a grand idea!), but the closer the day came, the more misgivings I was having about going. You know how some people think other people are crazy for jumping out of a perfectly good airplane? Well, this is kind of how that felt - only I was the crazy person. I was stepping off a perfectly solid concrete dock on a bright sunny day, and stepping aboard a 37 foot sailboat with only 1 head, 1 engine, and 75 gallons of fuel (Orcinius has 3 heads, 2 engines and carries 250 gallons of fuel - Oh yeah, and did I mention, we don't heal?). So this is not the kind of sailing I had become accustom to over the past couple of years. We are Cat-people now, and not ashamed of it. What was I getting myself into? But I made a commitment to Bob and Ann, and I was going to stick with it.
The Bucket Brigade in Action!
I'd have to say there were 3 major low points for me on this journey. The first being Ann's announcement on the second day that the head was no longer functioning. (All I can say is thank God I was not the last one to use it!) So the first thought that ran through my mind was how am I going to avoid having to go "number 2" until Bob gets it fixed. It's all about timing - and volume. I knew immediately that I was going to be in minimal intake mode in order to achieve minimum output to the max extent possible. Not that I eat much while at sea anyway, but this just made it that much easier to avoid breakfast, and to not eat anything much fancier than a cracker or two for lunch. So my second lowest point happened the following day when, after Bob did an assessment of the troubled toilet, he announced that he was not going to be able to fix it until after we arrived in Fiji. Whoa!!! Time out!! This is not what I signed up for! Take me home now! It was one thing to carry the blue bucket half full of your bodily fluids through the salon and up the companionway - with the boat lurching and bucking with every wave - and usually with a captive audience on each side of the cockpit doors. It's a whole other ball game trying to discreetly carry your bucket full of pooh along through the bucking gauntlet, trying to keep one hand for the bucket, and one for the boat. I tried my best to time it while at least 1 crewmate was asleep in their bunk, but alas my digestive system had its own time schedule. But then it's amazing what you can become accustomed to, and by the fourth or fifth day it became the 'same old same old' as the person emerging from the head would just announce "blue bucket coming through" and you either got out of the way, or called down from the cockpit "hand it up - port side", and you indifferently grabbed your buddies bucket and did the dump. Nothing to it.
Ann way ready to be way done!
Each of us seemed to experience a low point or two during the trip just because of the lousy weather and the slow progress, but thankfully we seemed to not all three have the blues all at once. My third major low point was the Wednesday night prior to our arrival. We had been at it for 10 days and we were supposed to be in Fiji by now - throwing back a cold beer and hanging out with the locals. But here we were, still over 300 miles from Savusavu, and we were still looking at weather files predicting heavy winds and high seas, and I had not slept well for quite a few days. There was also the definite possibility that we might not even make Savusavu by the weekend as the winds were suppose to gradually clock around and be directly out of the north - exactly the direction we wanted to go. That evening, Ann had gallantly made a nice dinner of scrambled eggs on toast - I have no idea how she managed to make that happen in the galley with all the crazy movement on the boat. But I hardly ate 3 bites of it. I just wanted to lay down, go to sleep, and wake up with sunshine and palm trees swaying on shore. Luckily, Ann and I were tag teaming our watch from 9pm to 3am, so she let me go below after dinner and as I was so exhausted, I finally got a few hours of decent sleep which made all the difference. I was back on track by midnight and feeling much better.
Playing some Banana Grams!
But don't get me wrong, the trip wasn't all misery and suffering - we had a lot of fun together, and I witnessed a few things that literally amazed me! There is one night that will always remain in my mind; it was also the night we had our biggest seas. It was the same night that I was really down in the dumps and hit the bunk early for a few hours. Ann had been keeping watch from the confines of the companionway as it was still pretty cold outside and every once in awhile we'd take a big fat wet wave in the cockpit. After I woke up around midnight, I took Ann's place in the companionway, and popped my head outside to see what was going on. Once I stuck my head up, I couldn't stop staring. The seas were huge, and the moon was backlighting them from the east, making them stark black against the moonlit sky. The seas, as predicted were easily 20 feet high, but not breaking, and just marching their way across the ocean. It was quite eerie, watching them black against the backlit sky. We were like a fly on the wall, and they just let us be as they passed us by. I was worried that we might be taking the seas at the wrong angle, too much on the beam. So we decided to get Bob out of bed and let him have a look. He also stuck his head out the companionway - once he took a look and decided we were doing just fine, he then couldn't stop staring. He was probably up there for almost half an hour - just watching. It was mesmerizing. As Bob described it "these waves are absolutely majestic"! That's exactly what we were witnessing, huge majestic waves marching across the sea backlit by an incredible half-moon. Amazing.
Ah yes - the traditional Evening Charisma!
The highlight of each evening was the traditional Charisma sundowner. No matter how nasty it got topside, or down below, we never once veered from this time honored tradition - hurray! Some days it took both Bob and Ann together to do their gymnastics below in order for a successful rendition of the Charisma to come to fruition. But just like the blue bucket, we never spilled a drop. Everything has their priorities.
I also learned to live by headlamp after dark. As long as I could find my headlamp before the lights went out - I was in good shape. And it was actually kind of fun, and a new challenge, finding my way around the boat with the dim red light glowing above my forehead.
And that windvane monitor - that was amazing! I had never been on a boat that used one before, so when I first checked it out on Charisma while we were getting underway, I had my doubts. There were no wires attached to it, no switches or buttons, no visual display, no electricity?? How the heck was it supposed to steer the boat? We use an auto-pilot onboard Orcinius to steer the boat - lots of wires, buttons, a display, and it sucks a lot of electricity. Well this little monitor held its own, and took everything the seas could throw at it. Even when we were taking some big waves flying into the cockpit, it just kept plugging away, pointing its little paddle into the wind and keeping us on course. Very cool!
Nice photo ladies!
Ann and I also shared a lot of good laughs, and a few scary moments throughout the trip. Using Bob's GoPro, we filmed a documentary of how to empty the blue bucket while on a port tack. We still have some editing to do on the footage, so that is yet to be forthcoming. We played a lot of Bananagrams, Angry Birds, and Guess The Code with our handy iPads. Ann and I had our nightly rituals - ginger cookies at 11pm, chocolate at midnight and again at 1am, flossing at 2am, and then staggered teeth brushing before Bob came on watch at 3. Unless, of course, all hell was breaking loose and we were just hanging on for dear life behind the wheel in near-gale force winds! We finally figured out it was better to get Bob out of bed sooner rather than later when things on the boat seemed to be getting out of hand. And finally, Ann and I swapped a lot of stories and learned a lot about each other over the course of spending many hours on watch together. What was interesting, the more I learned about Ann, the more I learned about myself. That was the best part of the entire trip - doing lots of female bonding and turning the scary stuff into great adventure and fun memories.
Life aboard Charisma Underway
As for bigger boat vs smaller boat, everything has its pluses and minuses. I know that John was probably thinking that I was going to really appreciate all the amenities on Orcinius after so called "roughing it" on Charisma. But I already knew that I have it really good on Orcinius, I didn't need to get on any other boat to appreciate that. I did learn that Charisma is a terrific boat in heavy seas, she handles them quite well. We experienced minimal "bashing" into the big ones, and slid safely off the steep ones. And we didn't want for anything while underway (except, of course, a second head). Even though there wasn't much room to roam down below, we didn't need much space to have our creature comforts. I had my Bailey's in my coffee each morning, and my bunk was a comfie settee with a lee-cloth to hold me in. And closer is definitely better when you're trying to get from one end of the boat to the other when all things are rockin. So while I'm not ready to switch back to a monohull, Charisma performed just fine under these trying conditions and I wouldn't hesitate to venture anywhere with her - as long as it lasts less than 13 days!
Great friends after having a great adventure!
So Ann kept asking me why did I do this - volunteer to do one of the most long and uncomfortable (if not down-right miserable) passages we cruisers will encounter. It certainly wasn't on my bucket list of things to do - I didn't want to be another casualty of "When Bucket Lists Go Bad for Boomers". But somehow this journey was calling me, and I needed to know I still had it in me to do a passage like this on a monohull, (after all I was on the brink of 50). And somehow I had an inkling that Ann and Bob could probably use just one more set of hands this time, just to make the going a little bit easier. Now that it's over, I'm glad I went and faced my fears. But it also reinforced what I already knew - that I don't need to have big seas and big wind to have fun, just a nice sundowner, great friends, and a solid boat like Charisma to keep us all safe and sound.
Curry Lunch on my Birthday
A delicious curry lunch today!
06/04/2013, Savusavu Fiji
Hello from Fiji! And happy happy birthday to me! There were a few moments last week when I wasn't sure I was going to be celebrating my 50th in Fiji, but we finally made it with a few days to spare. It is good to be back on dry land! We are having a great time here, and I am gradually catching up on some much needed rest. Tonight we are meeting some cruiser buddies for a nice dinner in town. John and I are staying in a villa a few miles from town at the top of a very steep hill - we are enjoying some gorgeous views! Time for me to get ready to head into town and bring in my 50th year! All is well and all for now!
05/25/2013, Whangarei NZ
Ok, Ok, I know this doesn't look like much but it is quite an advance. What you see here is the real proof that nothing else has to be cut out of the boat to put her back together. You see it because that white stuff is a flow coat sealer to re-seal the hulls and stringer. Go to the gallery where I have posted a few more pictures. I am not yet at liberty to post those of the damage but you can imagine that based on the view in the gallery.
A couple other pictures in the gallery show the affects of building a mold against the hull. This would not have been possible had the hull not popped back to it's natural shape after the intervention worked was removed. Anyway after I gave the go-ahead to proceed back in April, the molds were made, removed and holes cut out of the damaged area. Then the molds were re-installed and glass was layered on the inside with a 50 mil overlap to bring the patch to the original intended thickness of 8 mil. What you see in the patch with the Outside View of Panel is only the beginning. They also added three layers of glass on the outside to feather it out and reinforce the patch. This was done on both side.
About a week ago we got the final drawing from the engineer as to what needed to be done to the main mast bulkhead to bring her back to a solid bulkhead. It was not possible to completely remove the entire panel which consists of several pieces of plywood glued together edge to edge to span across the hulls and wing deck to support the mast and shape of the hulls. The cracks in the bulkhead passage ways were cut away and the ply was tapered to accept another piece of plywood tapered to fit. It was all epoxied into place and on Monday last, the glassing started.
While we waited for the engineer's drawings on the bulkhead, new stringers were shaped and glassed together and installed with filets and four layers of overlap glass tabbing. The overlap was 50 mils (2") on each side. The stringer are very solid.
Next week comes the tabbing of the main bulkhead to the hulls. On the starboard side which has the while flow coat they will start putting the joinery back in after hosing down the entire hull to get as much dust out as possible. The wires and plumbing will also re-installed. Most of the wires were not cut but all of the hoses fore the plumbing had to be removed to install the stringer. Virtually all of the glassing will be complete this week.
Oh there is one more picture in the group that needs explaining....getting to bulkhead. Because the engineer required the entire bulkhead be glassed over, the entire sette' in the main salon had to be cut out. It will be interesting to watch these guys work magic to put it back in.
I will have to say that watching them work, they are very skilled and professional. I am glad this work is being done where it is.