The Return of Theophilus

31 May 2023 | Whangarei, Northland, New Zealand
25 May 2023 | Whangarei, Northland, New Zealand
20 May 2023 | Whangarei, Northland, New Zealand
14 May 2023 | Whangarei, Northland, New Zealand
09 May 2023 | Whangarei, Northland, New Zealand
04 May 2023 | Whangarei, Northland, New Zealand
02 May 2023 | Whangarei, Northland, New Zealand
30 April 2023 | Whangarei, Northland, New Zealand

Dirty work

31 May 2023 | Whangarei, Northland, New Zealand
Jay Brosius | Sunny, scattered clouds mostly, occ showers, high around 70
Been plenty busy as usual. Jobs always end up being more complicated than imagined. Our imaginations do not seem to get around all the little subsidiary tasks that end up being part of a big task objective. So the unconsidered subsidiary tasks end up taking a lot of, and expanding the time devoted to the accomplishment of the major task item. So it always seems to be.

Another delay its waiting for parts. There is a surprising amount of nautical stuff available here in Whangarei, but not everything. And your boat may not use the brands and items that are otherwise in common use. So ordering from Auckland, or from Australia, or even from US or Europe is not all that uncommon. Australia would be the biggest foreign parts inventory source.

Nonetheless, tasks accomplished now include the new vinyl flooring installed in the main salon. New batteries are complete (lithium batteries require quite a bit of work to re-adapt the charging and monitoring regimens to the different needs of Lithium). I have to say that China is really dominant in this field by all evidence here.

Lots of dirty work. The black-water holding tank is now cleaned out — I ended up calling in a septic tank pump-out company: The “Bog Doc”. The holding tank pump's been overhauled, and bilge pumps starboard and port re-configured to do a better job keeping the bilges evacuated (the bilges are the lowest sumps in the boat under the floor where any water and other stuff collects, usually less than pleasant.

Messy jobs, smelly, and rather long, but pretty important in the scheme of things. Anyone complaining about changing the kid’s nappies should try this job.

They say that the La Niña weather pattern that has brought all the rain here has finally ended. I guess we’ll see, but days recently have been sunnier and better on the whole, with occasional showers, than previously. Everyone’s crossing their fingers.

Work interrelationships

25 May 2023 | Whangarei, Northland, New Zealand
Jay Brosius | bright sun, clear sky, 70s
Yesterday morning was the best weather day I have seen in NZ since arriving. A clear blue sky, small puffy clouds on the horizon, temperature in the mid 70s. Lot of work going on in the yard. Me, I spent the day inside preparing the boat for a new vinyl floor. Essentially the old floor needs repair in some places in order to be a good foundation for the new floor. I had to piece in some new vinyl into gaps in the old vinyl to get a smooth continuous surface. It also needs a thorough cleaning to ensure there is nothing on it that would interfere with adhesion. I write this at the beginning of the day, and so far the weather looks comparably good. Marvelous!

This vinyl install had to wait days till the battery install was finished so that I could use the room for the batteries to store things now on the salon floor to make way for the batteries. But when the electrician had some work delays, I tackled the toilet vacuum pump checkout. Hmmm, won’t cut off…must mean that there is a vacuum leak somewhere. So out came everything in that compartment to access and remove the pump for service. Fortunately I had a collection of spare parts I could use, new values and pump bellows, so I overhauled the pump using them, and cleaned out the chamber underneath. Yup, bald duckbill valves. Messy job! Reinstalled and connected up, it did pull a vacuum and cut off. However there is also a vacuum leak at the toilet base, which I have yet to tackle in order to do the floor. As often the case, a checkout can become a bigger job if things don’t check out.

And in the process of checking out the pump, I found water in the bilges in that compartment under where the pump sits. Obviously not sea water, had to be rainwater. I was pretty sure I knew the problem, the ring bolt at the bow on deck that went through to the inside for its nut and used to hold the lifeline forward ends had been overtightened when installed by the builder, causing a local minor dished spot in the deck I had noticed. Now the bolt’s old sealant was leaking, it had been poorly sealed, and with every rain the dish was collecting water, which ran down the bolt shaft and dripped into the hollow boat forepeak space below. From there it could start finding its way aft (a little leakage aft can notify that there is a problem forward). So I had to remove the ring bolt and find a way with better washers and sealant to fix that leak. Done.

Second problem was removing the water. Much of it was inaccessible, being at the bottom of a collision space sealed from the rest of the boat except by some seepage. My existing hand pumps could not reach it. So another trip to the boat parts store to see what they had as suitable resources. I found a nice portable submersible 12-volt pump that when fitted with a long hose and all taped to a staff could be extended down into that space. Success. I know the other bow is going to be the same, so I’ll have to repeat the ring bolt fix and pump-out on that side too. More time-absorbers not on the list.

Moving the sails back into the room where the pump is once the pump is good and the water is cleared from there and the forepeak space forward of it — I use that room as a sail locker — would clear the salon of bulky sails in bags so I could start flooring work.

See picture of today's salon. The tall blue bag with white sticking out in the background contains a small #2 working jib foresail, the yellow bag contains my main sail, the black bag with the center hole contains an asymmetrical spinnaker, the red bag contains the storm jib, the plastic bag in the foreground contains a parachute to use as a downwind sail (been around for a while but not tried yet), and the big grey foreground bag contains my genny foresail. The #1 working jib is hoisted and furled right now.

Amazing how many jobs interrelate and depend on each other.

The new solar panel has arrived, and the new davits frame in the rear is just about ready for it. They may come by today to start installation.

refit, refit

20 May 2023 | Whangarei, Northland, New Zealand
Jay Brosius | variable, frequent rain and higher winds.
It seems things are getting busier and busier. But you've already heard this from me, right? Each day I make a list of things to be done that day, and try to hit them all. But as often happens something causes some deferment such as the weather, shopping needs, parts unavailable, interruptions by other tasks, particularly those underway by the trades here for me including electrics, stainless fabrication, steering updates, rigging. And occasionally a friend drops by for a chat.

Speaking of chat I had a very interesting dinner out with friends from Brookings SD, who have been sailing now for over 12 years, rounded the horn and toured Chile, and then toured the South Pacific. They have spent a lot more time at it than I have, but reminiscing about great spots and experiences we both had was a lot of fun. Their aim once they complete refit is to sail non-stop to Chile (a couple months), round the horn again, visit South Georgia, then up the West Coast of Africa then bend over to the USA. After that its exploration up the coast into Canadian waters. Impressive! They like high latitude sailing. But their boat is not yet ready to depart and awaiting parts from overseas. So since they have a 3-month visa limit, they will return home to SD for a while, then return here to continue once the rigging parts arrive.

I also touched base again with a GP doctor here this past week who is from Sioux Falls, SD. That makes three of us here from South Dakota, one of the least populous states! After spending a year here in medical practice he will be returning to SD next month. He goes to the same church Laura used to go to, and thought he recognised Laura's name!

Yesterday I finally used my precise and tediously made craft paper template to cut the vinyl for the new flooring at the flooring shop (they were very generous with help). But I am not yet in a position to install it since the main salon is full of stuff moved out of other rooms to facilitate new batteries and electrical work. That work may be pretty much completed tomorrow. If so, then it is on to the vinyl install after cleanup. It's sheet vinyl, cushion-backed, a random grey variegated pattern. Once installed I can then apply the lower wall covering to cover the earlier raw wall strengthening work, at which point that project will be done. I had bought the vinyl 7 months ago, and they had been holding it for me since then.

I've recently built an anchor chain tray to guide the anchor across the from netting without hurting the netting using a field expedient: a certified scaffold plank. I also installed the working jib sail onto its roller furler after having a rigger go up the forestay and tighten the loosen set screws. Did the winds here shake them loose? Did the installer years ago forget to lock-tite them to lock the threads? Loose screws caused misalignment which in turn prevented hoisting.

I've also installed a mechanism I had made several years ago for the inner forestay (used for smaller sails for heavier winds), but still need a good way of keeping it out of the way when not needed, which is the vast majority of time.

The new batteries going in this week are lithium and promise to be far better than anything previous. They will tolerate many more cycles, keep a steadier voltage, endure longer storages, and provide more capacity. It will also give me much more control over the system using bluetooth if desired, a standard feature on a lot of stuff these days. I have to admit things like bluetooth on a boat run little against my grain for keeping it simple, but I am careful to scope out simpler fall-back options and allow for them. I'd say that the voyaging community is more cut-off from ready access to parts when underway than any other form of travel. So redundancy and simplicity is the name of the game in setting things up.

Quite a number of people have told me independently that they have never seen such rainy weather in New Zealand before. Most days it does rain or shower on and off. A lot of days also have high wind episodes too, including today. But the temperature have been very steady at around 70 give or take just a few degrees. That is nice. Evidently this area of the world is subject to a rare "triple dip" La Niña, a La Niña 3 years in a row. It has been aided by the Indian Ocean dipole, which is its version of the same thing, which is also clobbering from the West of Australia. The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a known on-going multi-year swing pattern of water temperate oscillation between the East and West areas of the Pacific. For Australia it often means drought or flood depending on what part of the cycle is happening.

A lot of boats left at the end of last week in good weather then for the islands. More will follow at the next weather window.

I still have 19 things on my list (so far) (of many more than that) that are must-do's before moving on. Some are individual things to buy, some are partially completed tasks needing winding up, some are checks on function or serviceability, some, like bottom antifoul paint, are not yet started. Working this list is the focus day to day.

Getting really busy

14 May 2023 | Whangarei, Northland, New Zealand
Jay Brosius | Sunny at last

Things are certainly heating up these days when it comes to boat work. I have completed templating the main salon flooring and am ready to go to the flooring centre to cut my vinyl to match. This is something I will do as soon as time permits. Tomorrow has been the working plan.

Aahh, but “as time permits”, there’s the rub. I’m getting a lot of overlap. Having spent a lot of the week on preparation for new vinyl, I spent all weekend working on electrics for the boat, because that was when an installer here was available. As I have mentioned, the existing batteries on the boat were toast. They no longer took any charge at all. So after having 3 sets of these AGM batteries fail, I decided maybe I ought to try something else: lithium batteries seem like the way to go. So I am installing a 12-volt lithium battery bank for the boat’s house battery, which supplies electricity for living aboard and running the boat, everything except starting the engines, which have their own batteries, which are good. Lithiums last a lot longer than lead-acid batteries, can be discharged more deeply without problems, are more efficient, and are much lighter in weight. But with a mix of battery types, conventional lead-acid batteries for the engines and lithium for the house battery, two different types of charging are required, and greater separation between them in terms of connections are also required. So there’s lots of rewiring. Lithium batteries are not simply drop-in replacements.

A fellow in the yard here who is expert in lithium batteries is helping me (actually I am paying for his services but he is quite reasonable), and with his prior experience with such installs knows what to do and how to do it right. So far the whole thing is working out great. Interesting fellow, turns out we have a lot in common. Over the weekend we’ve pretty much completed the rewiring and equipment updating. The batteries will go in some time this coming week after their slow charge and balancing is complete at his facility.

But then I am also arranging for a new, less limiting solar panel mounting scheme to feed the lithiums, and the fabricator will have a sketch for me tomorrow for my approval.

And just this evening at sundown I found some issues with the roller furler foil that is preventing the installation of the jib sail (the foil surrounds the forestay and has a slot for hoisting the leading edge of the sail. The sail can be rolled around this foil when it is not needed, rather than dropping the sail). So tomorrow morning I must walk across to the rigger and get him to work the problem. It appears that the foil segments have become misaligned. Are the crews just loose or are the bearings worn? Giving the foil a shake seemed to move the alignment.

Finally, a shop here is repairing a cockpit deck hatch whose core had become soft. He’ll probably be here tomorrow to re-install the hatch he worked on last week.

So that’s 5 things now I must act on tomorrow. Aargh. Well, we’ll do the best we can. Onward!!

At least… this weekend was very nice weather, and today (Sunday) was perfect. Nice change from all the rain.

Inside work escaping the rain

09 May 2023 | Whangarei, Northland, New Zealand
Jay Brosius | steady rain, heavy at times
It’s been raining off and on for the last 7 days. Today was steady rain, heavy at times, till sundown. Ugh. I left the boat only once, to do to the restroom, and donned my foul weather gear to get there. Now, after 10pm it is quiet, with the tentative promise of better weather tomorrow. Nice to be inside in a dry boat when that heavy rain is coming down.

So today I spent the day measuring for new vinyl sheet to cover the floor of the main salon after clearing out the salon. I’m not sure whether I will use the craft paper to create a template or transfer my measurements, taken to the millimetre, directly to the final sheet for cutting. But now I am only a few minutes more work from being ready to go to the flooring store and start cutting if I do the latter.

And more good news. Today my new battery charging and management electronic came in, and the new batteries themselves have arrived in-country. So that should all go in by this weekend. I’m still waiting on word about the hydraulic steering.

In the last couple of days I have finished installing all the white panels to cover the wall fibreglassing reinforcements I had done. Next flooring, then wall carpet over the lower wall repairs, and done.

I also rigged an inner forestay for a smaller jib and its halyard partner (a jib sail is a triangular sail hoisted in front of the mast. Offshore boats usually carry several different size jibs). This will give me a way to rig a jib suitable for higher winds without having to fully unroll and extend a larger roller furling jib, slide it down out of its foil slot, manhandle it to the deck and secure it, and install a smaller jib in its place, all difficult in higher winds. With an inner forestay the smaller jib can be already hanked on and ready to go (hanks are strong brass clips on the leading edge of the sail that slide on the forestay, which is the wire going from the bow to a point high up on the mast). Furl (roll up) the larger jib by pulling on one line and hoist the smaller jib by pulling on another. Done.

Smaller jibs could include a “working jib”, a yet smaller jib for even higher winds, and a storm jib for even higher winds. There is also a very large one called a “Genoa”. As a practical matter one very seldom encounters actual storm conditions requiring a storm jib, years could go by without encountering one at sea. One likes to plan one’s trip to avoid them. But prudence requires paying attention to means to deal with higher winds, or for that matter other unexpected events and situations. All in hand.

In fact in three years passage-making and many more years cruising and crossings I have never had to deploy my storm jib, though I did deploy a storm anchor once.

Speaking of man overboard. Ships over 300 tonnes worldwide are now required to carry Automatic Identification System (AIS) transceivers, which automatically transmit position, course, speed, size, origin, destination, status, identity. Each vessel then shows up on every other vessel’s chart plotter with a label and if necessary a warning regarding any possible pending close approach. This arose out of the Safety Of Life At Sea (SOLAS) international convention. I have one of these tranceivers on this vessel. The neat thing is that you can now buy a little wearable one of these for each crew member, which if he goes overboard, will broadcast his exact position and place a special mark on everyone’s chart as a MOB at this spot. Good idea. You can also get similar personal devices that report an alarm and exact GPS position via satellite. But the newer AIS MOB beacon means all nearby vessels will see it rather than an emergency centre thousands of miles away, who in turn must find the nearest vessel to go rescue. These didn’t exist when I cruised earlier. Neat!

We use a lifeline on board to which we shackle ourselves so that we are tied on board if/when that is necessary.

In a related matter, redundancy and backup systems and methods are the name of the game in passage-making. I’ll talk about that in another installment.

The picture is of the cleared out main salon floor of the boat so I can take flooring measurements.

Rain, and interior repairs

04 May 2023 | Whangarei, Northland, New Zealand
Jay Brosius | rain, with wind
Rain, rain. Not a whole lot to report. The last few days have been beset with rain, with a few pauses. The rain is accompanied most times with pretty good winds, 15-20 knots worth, blowing from the North, where this moisture is coming from. So in these last days I have been working inside the boat to apply finished surfaces to the areas where strengthening and reinforcement had been done earlier. I’ve added some more new running rigging to the boat, but that’s going slowly due to the rain. I seize any dry spell I can get to continue it. I’m ready to install the jib sail, but must wait for a dry period with low winds to do that. For that matter the same with the mainsail. No sense in having a huge sail get away from me in the wind, or get furled up all wet inside the wrap. There’s not a whole lot of activity going on here in the yard by others due to this weather. However the dredgers behind me are continuing their work, which can be done rain or shine.

Another thing that is pacing the work is the back-order of parts. This includes steering, batteries, and some fibreglass work. I’m just hoping that I can get all that in and then installed without any major delay.

At least the temperatures here, despite our closing in on winter, are mild, in the upper 60sF in all this rain. No need for any heat or heavy clothing. A lot of locals where shorts, more common than back home.

I hope to get the forward bulkhead finished in the next day or two, then on to the floor of the main salon as the last significant repair to restore the interior to its condition prior to the structural work. This as usual will be the wet weather work. If dry, I’ll be outside.

The picture shows the forward bulkhead with the doorway to the head compartment partially restored with white panels over the fibreglass beside the doorway. The entire bulkhead had been stripped for fibreglass work, destroying the earlier while covering laminate. I am using 1mm thick PVC sheet to repair the walls, adhered with very high bond 2-sided industrial tape. The last single piece goes over the upper raw area over the archway shown. The head compartment with its toilet is on the other side of the bulkhead. That’s an extension cord coming down from the overhead hatch to power the boat work while here in the yard.
Vessel Name: Theophilius
Vessel Make/Model: Kennex 380
Hailing Port: Rehoboth, Delaware
Crew: Jay

Who: Jay
Port: Rehoboth, Delaware