Dirt-Dwelling for more than a while
17 May 2020
Bob & Lesley Carlisle
GOODBYE FOR NOW GIRLS.
17th May: After almost two months of living and working on the family farm, we've now moved into my parents place in Leyburn. Dad had to go into hospital for a week and even when discharged was clearly weak, unstable and disorientated, so the general opinion was that Les and I could perhaps be of more use in lending a hand to Ma & Pa rather than milking cows; at least neither of them kicks me or craps on my head.
As anticipated, having got the Corona Virus contained, indeed virtually eradicated the New Zealanders are not compromising that by letting us or or anyone else fly in anytime soon; disappointing, but we can't fault them for making what to us seems a very smart decision. Reading between the lines of their news reports, our best guess was further confirmed during a conversation with their Customs & Excise Department: It's going to be at least a year, probably more and possibly much more before they'll let us come back to Moon Rebel in Whangarei.
Not good news, but these things are all relative and hearing from friends who're 'locked-down' on their boats in various anchorages around the world, makes us count our blessings; several are in the Hurricane/Cyclone/Typhoon zones yet unable to move anywhere else. The Maldives and more northern islands of the Caribbean chain strike us as being particularly scary locations to be; we and Moon Rebel might be 12,000 miles apart, but both we and she are at least 'safe' by 2020 standards.
So where does that leave us? Well, the yard-bills are likely to reach £4-5000 before we ever get back, we knew of £2000 more that we needed to spend before relaunching anyway (excluding the gearbox, of which more later) and I suspect that a further year ashore will add at least another £3-4000 to those bills, with the life-raft, epirb and standing rigging all reaching/passing their expiry dates, an already tired mainsail sitting on the boom and the batteries & electronics no doubt slowly fading into oblivion even as I'm typing this.
We did finally extract a response from Seapower regarding our gearbox: All the bearings were trashed, it was no longer their fault - “just one of those things” - and you'll have to pay us £1100 to get it rebuilt. My reply was: Just send it back then; yes I realise it'll have to be fixed and that we'll have to pay someone to do that, but I'm damned if it'll be you that I pay, to fix something that I will always believe got broken by your mistake in the first place.
Having spoken to a Yanmar Engineer in Whangarei and been advised that not only could they fix it, they could also probably discern what'd caused the damage and should they agree with my opinion, would back us up in making a civil claim to recover the repair costs from Seapower. This would apparently be very easy, cheap and most importantly quick via NZ's Small Claims Tribunal system, albeit that I'd need to get back there to do so. Sadly I then fucked-Up, by letting Sea power discover that this was our intention and I've been unsuccessfully chasing the return of our gearbox ever since; not easy for someone to check the damage and reasons for it if they can't get a look at the gearbox. I'm sure that 'a' broken gearbox will eventually arrive at the boatyard, but given time (of which Seapower now have plenty) I suspect that that it won't necessarily be 'our' gearbox that appears, but how do you prove that a year or more later? So there'll be those repairs to add to the total too.
So with £12,000 or more to spend before we can relaunch and half of that to be paid before we even see Moon Rebel again, what will she actually be worth when we've done? Well in New Zealand or Australia, perhaps £14-15,000, though to sell her in either, we'd lose around 20-25% of that to their import duties and that valuation is based on Pre Covid-19 values too, we both suspect that the current 'Buyers Market' for boats is likely to get a whole lot worse for vendors by the time this virus is finally under control and the world's oceans are re-opened.
So, with the assistance of the boatyard and NZ Customs (thanks guys!) we're hoping to progress and conclude the sale of Moon Rebel, before the yard's storage bills have time to escalate; we don't anticipate seeing much if anything ever reaching our own bank account, but at least we'll avoid accruing a heap of unpaid yard bills whilst the boat slowly rots away. We've seen more than enough 'Junker-boats' cluttering up the world's boatyards and anchorages, we really don't want Moon Rebel adding to that blight. Besides, having only paid £26k to buy her in the first place and enjoyed (well, for the most part!) nine years of cruising between Greece and New Zealand, we don't reckon she owes us anything anyway. Should we want to return to the Cruising life in a year or two's time, I suspect that the money we're not spending on Moon Rebel now will go a long way towards buying us a more than equivalent replacement and we'll get to choose where we start from – going from a couple of years ashore straight into a ten day passage back up to the Pacific Islands might prove a bit much?
So immediate plans: We'll be with Mum & Dad for a few more weeks, whereafter we'll find a house to rent (we've got really good tenants in our own house, so we don't want to disturb them) and whilst I won't be going back to the farm at milking time, I can continue to stave off boredom with the programme of nettle and thistle spraying that I'm midway through, whilst still social-distancing. I intend digging out the motorbike next week too (it's getting a bit warmer) and see how much time and effort that'll take to get back on the road, assuming of course that it's actually still there, I've not even looked into the garage in more than four years! It was in perfect running order when I parked it in there, but as that was October 2010, I'm not optimistic of it starting with the first press of the button; a new battery's already on order.
Stay safe everyone and hopefully I'll have a photo of a shiny and roadworthy BMW headlining the next Blog.
From International layabout to 'Essential Worker' in just a couple of days
31 March 2020
Bob & Lesley Carlisle
THESE ARE SOME OF THE ICE CREAM LADIES
It seems I was being prophetic in the last Blog:
it (Moon Rebel's gearbox) could be a nasty/expensive repair job - and hence Seapower's enthusiasm for 'doing the right thing by you' appears to be waning...I'm not optimistic that we'll be returning to find a repaired gearbox waiting for us.
...the way this Corona Virus seems to be spreading through China and out to SE Asia and beyond, we might find that our larger problem is in getting back to the boat in a month's time?
20th February: We flew out of Auckland with our bus trip from Whangarei to the Airport being our first trip outside the town since Christmas. Wow, people weren't exaggerating when they said that the North Island's suffering from a drought! The trip back to Gatwick was long (about 28 hours) but surprisingly easy/comfortable; glad that we'd chosen a flight routed through the Middle East rather than China or Singapore/Bangkok.
We got back just after the worst of what sounds to have been a very wet winter, but visiting friends around the south of the country we found the weather cold, then having driven north to Wensleydale we were quickly reminded of what 'real' cold felt like. A pleasant time catching up with friends and family for the first time in almost 2½ years - we've been away even longer since our last visit home than when we rode the motorbike to Australia in 1987-89! - but as Covid-19 tightened it's grip on the world we were unable to visit several of our friends and as we were living with my parents, who're both late-80 we were increasingly concerned about bringing the virus back into their home.
We did see a few friends at least, managed to watch Burnley play a couple of times - not the best of games, but at least they didn't lose either of them - and the family gathering for Dad's 88th birthday party was a cracking day! On the downside, we spent a good deal of time on the phone/internet chasing Seapower's progress on our gearbox repair, until eventually, though sadly not unexpectedly, they replied to tell us that the gearbox's bearings were trashed, but that they'd now remembered a completely different course of events and it wasn't their fault at all, so we would have to pay them $1800 to have it repaired. I was damned if I'd allow them to make a second profit for repairing what we still consider they'd damaged in the first place, so declined this kind offer and requested that the broken gearbox be returned.
Even that proved to be a problem: When we wouldn't employ Seapower for the repairs they then advised that we would have to instead pay them for the replacement engine mountings they'd provided to replace the 'too soft' engine mountings which they'd originally fitted. These were now apparently correct and they even sent a specification sheet to prove it, though from 12,000 miles away, we of course couldn't check whether the mountings fitted were actually the same make/type as those for which they'd sent a spec-sheet for? We clearly weren't going to get our gearbox back, so decided to forego those too - I will NOT spend any more money with them! - and advised that they could collect them when they brought the gearbox back. We'd decided to just strip out everything that Seapower had fitted, get the gearbox repaired by A N Other and then install a completely new set of mountings that we can trust; cost aside, we can't afford head back out into the big-blue without being confident that the boat's 'right'.
That plan like everything else subsequently got quashed by the Covid-19 virus, so the gearbox is still with Seapower, who presumably (no replies to our last few emails) are like most NZ businesses, now closed for the duration. For the last week or more before heading back, we'd also been checking the internet a couple of times each day to ensure that our flight was still going and that the borders were open and all looked promising right up until the day of departure; the flight was still scheduled, NZ was accepting visitors and whilst Qatar itself was closed to all but residents, transit passengers could still pass through. These still hadn't changed even when we looked at 07:30 on March 19th, but though the NZ Government website was still saying that we were welcome to return, a New Zealand newspaper's website had an article reporting: "New Zealand's border will be closing to all but nationals/residents from midnight tonight." That was 11:00am UK time and we weren't even due to fly until 14:00.
Whilst not an 'official' statement it didn't bode well, but as we were already at a hotel near Gatwick Airport, we returned the hire car and then went to the Qatar Airlines check-in desk, where it seemed they weren't aware of the news item that we'd seen and were initially happy to have us board the plane; we didn't want to get stranded somewhere enroute and asked them to double-check. They apparently telephoned the Immigration Department at Auckland Airport in New Zealand, who confirmed that the news report was now 'official' and that we couldn't go back there - it could've been worse, the previous day's flight to Auckland had been turned around somewhere over the Indian Ocean and was now returning to Qatar We were disappointed, but not distraught, whilst we wanted to get back to the boat, I suspect that had we managed that, we'd probably have arrived and spent our 14-day quarantine period and beyond wondering whether we might not have been better off staying in the UK with family anyway?
With that door shut we reclaimed our bag, bought ourselves a coach ticket and got ourselves back to Ripon; it, along with Leeds were like ghost towns and even London was eerily quiet as we drove through. We didn't want to return to the aged parents; who knew what we'd picked-up on our travels? Besides which, what were we going to do there if the country was to be 'locked-down' as Italy, Spain and France already were? My brother Ian (the farmer) collected us from Ripon and took us back to his place and the following day I began my refresher-course in dairy farming, I reckon it's more than thirty years since I last milked any cows in serious numbers, but like riding a bicycle it seems to be a skill you don't forget.
So for the next few weeks/months at least, I've stopped being a cruising-yottie and am now an 'Essential Worker' striving to help feed the UK population.
A bit late with February's Blog?
13 March 2020
Bob & Lesley Carlisle
DOESN'T EVERY YACHT CARRY A COUPLE OF BAGS?
Too busy, or perhaps depressed? The boat repairs progressed slowly during the last week of January not helped by my first stubbing/cutting a toe, so I was unable to kneel-down on it, then I fell through the saloon floor, which was loose where I'd got the water tank out and gouged three big chunks out of my shin. We did at least get the gearbox reinstalled, but only to discover that the 'whine' which I'd suspected I heard on the way to Whangarei was definite; it's only done about 25 hours since Seapower at Opua checked it and declared it was 'as good as new'.
We strongly suspect that the engine mounts which Seapower fitted are too soft so have allowed the gear selector to rattle against the engine box, effectively slipping it in/out of gear a hundred times a minute? We contacted Seapower and Bruce the boss came to inspect/listen to the problem, he didn't think the problem was too serious (that's one of us) and agreed to supply replacement engine mountings and collect the gearbox for inspection/repair once we'd hauled out in the Riverside Boatyard.
To add to the bad news, we've had a crack appear beneath the forecabin floor, not through the hull itself, but in the fibreglass 'capping' to the keel ballast; not much we can do until we're ashore and able to inspect further, but it looks like we might well have corrosion in the ballast and depending how extensive that corrosion/expansion is, it may prove to be VERY serious, potentially costing more to repair than Moon Rebel's limited value? This discovery put yet another dampener on our progress with the boat repairs, there wasn't much point in pouring money and effort into her if we're going to have to scrap her next month.
About the only bright spark has been our booking flights and a hire car for our first trip back to the UK since October 2017; we'll be back there from 21st February to 19th March.
5th February: We managed to get Moon Rebel out of the Marina during a windless moment yesterday afternoon, assisted by about four people and a dinghy/outboard – we'd always known it would be a tight squeeze. The haul out was much less stressful with Mo & Karl getting Moon Rebel ashore in the Riverside Drive Boatyard, jet-washed and secured in a steel cradle by lunchtime , our only problem was with power – the only handy/working power point needed a new Zealand three-pin plug and we didn't have one; shit and division! Surely it was time for a change of luck and this latest , albeit minor, problem was the catalyst:
When we'd made enquiries as to who might be able to advise on and hopefully fix our corroded ballast problem the answer was invariably 'Steve's the best, but he'll be far too busy to take on the job'. As I was swearing at the power socket a chap who we subsequently discovered was Steve offered to lend us a power cable with the correct plug and when I explained why I needed it – to plug in an angle-grinder to cut out the floor crack – offered to come and look at/advise on our problem. Investigating this was of course at the very top of the list – no point in fixing anything else if this can't be fixed.
Steve clearly was very busy, but he always managed a couple of visits each day to advise me on how/what to do next and even lent us a power-chisel to break out the corroded mess we found beneath the floor; he was also the one to work out what the problem was and why it wasn't actually as serious as we and everyone else had believed: The problem was due to the GRP ballast-capping having been badly installed in the first instance, so any and every leak from the toilet, shower and washbasin in the last forty years has leaked through it and into the steel-punchings that'd been used for ballast, the problem having been exacerbated by the original builders not having mixed/sealed the steel-punchings in epoxy; it looks like they just shovelled them in and sort-of capped that with a couple of layers of fibreglass.
It was looking increasingly worse until Steve confirmed that this corroded mass wasn't actually very large – perhaps 200kg? - and even more importantly, was completely separate from Moon Rebel's main ballast, which was fine and not corroded at all. We suspect that this bit of ballast was actually poured-in after first-launch when the builders discovered that the boat was floating 'stern-down' and it does nothing more than help to trim it level. All that was needed was to break-up and remove the worst of the corroded steel, then top it up with something heavy before capping it properly to ensure it remains water and preferably air-tight too in the future; that though looked to be close to impossible without chopping the heads compartment to pieces to get access – just the reason why it wasn't done properly in the first place!
Steve to the rescue once more: “Pouring epoxy into that'll cost you a fortune, it'll soak-up $800 worth at least and it still ought to be capped with GRP, it's hardly a fancy/valuable boat, so why not just use concrete instead? That replaces the lost weight caps/seals it and you can spread/trowel it into the small space under the heads compartment.” Perhaps not very stylish, but once the floor's rebuilt nobody'll see it but us, so one morning and $30 woth of concrete later our 'disaster' was over.
10th February: With terminal-disaster averted/repaired we got back onto the original 'jobs to do list' top of which now was getting the rudder out to replace seals and bearings. Taking two hours to remove the four steering-quadrant bolts didn't bode well, but thereafter all went smoothly/easily and only an hour or so later it was removed completely and Terry 's Engineering Shop (less than 100m from Moon Rebel) were making us a new lower/shoe bearing – the upper ones look a b*st*rd to remove/refit, so we'll live with the originals – the worst of the wear/increased friction looks to be due to the bottom bearing anyway. On the downside we discovered that these bearings and seals are Imperial rather than metric sized and those aren't readily available in NZ. Ordered what we need on the internet for delivery to Mum & Dad's in Leyburn, but this job's not going any further until we get back from the UK.
With the rudder off and the gearbox removed once more and ready for collection by Bruce from Seapower, I couldn't put off trying once again to remove the fuel tank – time to test the straw-clutching plan and truly Gobsmacked when it worked! With the water-pressure out of the equation and the whole of the boat's weight going down through the keel, the hull had 'sprung' and probably by as much as 10-12mm rather than the 3-5mm we'd hoped for. The tank lifted out easily and in less than an hour it was out of the boat and lowered to the ground, though that once again was the end of the good news: The base of the tank was rotted out badly and the area it'd been sat in was a stinking, oily, shitty mess; I tried arguing that as it was a cleaning-job and inside the boat therefore a 'pink-job' did not sit well with Lesley, so I spent my birthday crawling deep into the bilge de-grunging things whilst Terry got back on the job and repaired our tank – he just cut off he base and welded on a new one, result, we'd assumed that the tank would be scrap!
We progressed the smaller jobs through the following week though all the tanks are tested and refitted – only a temporary refit for the holding tank as that too needs some welding another job for Terry! We discovered a short-circuit in the automatic bilge pump (12v coming down the earth wire's not good – why didn't the fuse blow?) and now suspect that our corrosion problems to tanks and windlass might've been exacerbated by that? The zinc anodes have been eaten away far more than usual too, so I spent one morning giving all the seacocks and skin fittings an especially hard battering with a rubber mallet; if they're going to break/leak we want to know now.
Just before our departure to the UK Bruce finally arrived to collect the gearbox, though it seems that he too is coming around to my opinion – it could be a nasty/expensive repair job – and hence his enthusiasm for 'doing the right thing by you' appears to be waning; we shall have to see what happens, but I'm not optimistic that we'll be returning to find a repaired gearbox waiting for us. All things are relative and with the way this Corona Virus seems to be spreading through China and out to SE Asia and beyond, we might find that our larger problem is in getting back to the boat in a month's time?
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