Back to Work

27 November 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
I had an unsettled night worrying about the cutlass bearing.  If they’ve damaged the threads beyond repair then the job will turn into a long nightmare.  I was up at 05:00 because I couldn’t sleep and spent two hours editing my photographs to take my mind off the damn cutlass bearing.

When we arrived at the boat yard, Jannie gave the cutlass bearing housing back to Arno, who spent all morning hand-filing the thread.  He kept walking over to the boat to try it and then, shaking his head, he’d walk back to the workshop to do some more tedious filing. 

Propeller, Stripper and Cutlass Bearing all fitted

I occupied myself by dropping the anchor chain to the floor, inspecting it and flipping it end to end to even out the wear.  One end is still heavily galvanised whereas the working end was starting to get patches of rust.  I reattached the anchor and pulled it back into the chain locker.  Glenys finished off removing the silicone sealant from the front heads and has started to mask it off ready to re-apply new. 

Just after lunch, Arno finally managed to get the cutlass bearing to screw onto the stern tube, so I whacked on some sealant and we screwed it in place - thank God it was sorted out.  I then replaced the propeller and the Rope Stripper, so all my “below water” jobs are done.  We now just need Jannie to complete the bearing for the rudder shoe, but he didn’t have time today.

The yard labourers applied the first coat of anti-foul paint, so if Jannie gets his job done, we should be on target for a launch on Friday 1st December.

28 November 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
It’s quite nice being in the Treetops apartment, but there’s a lot of wildlife around.  I think that there are some Hadeda Ibis roosting in the trees at night because at dawn, I was woken by their loud raucous calls (like a loud crow).  We also had a troop of Vervet Monkeys bounding about on the corrugated roof making a right old din.

At the boat yard, I asked Jannie about the rudder shoe, but he’s not managed to make any progress - he promised me the job will be done by 14:00 and that we can fit the shoe in place this afternoon.  We had some errands to run, so I dropped Glenys off at the Boardwalk Shopping Mall and then drove around to various suppliers.

Toilet Holding Tank

I bought a new set of bearings and seals for the engine sea water pump - I need to service it, so I’ve bought another spare kit.  The Volvo dealer in Cape Town has quoted me 4,600 Rands (£230) for a “pump repair kit”, whereas I actually paid 180 Rands (£9) for the two bearings and a seal - Volvo is such a rip-off.  

I took my empty cooking gas tank to Builders Warehouse, but was unable to get them to fill-it.  They freaked out that it wasn’t a South African tank and didn’t have a fitting for the valve.  I found a place just across the road behind the BP garage called Sha’s Hardware & Aluminium, who filled it in 30 minutes.

Back at the boat, I started to fit the new valve to the toilet holding tank - nasty sweaty job, working in a confined space, covered in slime from the toilet hoses.  I’ve put thread sealant on the valve assembly and fitted it in place.  When the sealant has hardened tomorrow, I’ll fit the pipework.

I spent the rest of the afternoon changing the low pressure pump on the water maker.  The water maker fuse switch has been tripping out for months and I thought that the pump was at fault, so I bought a New Pump from the manufacturer, Echotec in Trinidad.  As I was removing the wiring, I found a very Dodgy Connector in the 220V wire, which has probably been the cause of all my trouble.  I think that the old pump is okay - bummer!  Ah well, the old pump is very, very rusty and is probably on its last legs - it needed to be changed.

The seemingly simple job of swapping the pump has turned into an epic - I need to change some of the water pipes because the new pump has slightly different size connectors.  Also while I’ve got the pump out, I’m going to clean up the various fittings and filters in the cupboard, which where the two water maker pumps are located. I’ll have to finish the job tomorrow.

Watermaker Pumps

At 14:00 the rudder shoe wasn’t done.  At 16:00, the bush has been split in two, but there’s a couple of hours work still to do - Jannie has promised me that it will be done by 11:00 tomorrow.  I’m hopping mad.  I gave them the job on the 9th November they said that they would have it done in a week - it’s now been 2½ weeks.  It’s typical boat yard crisis management - Jannie is trying to manage the boat yard and do some precision machining - he should have sub- contracted my job.

I quit at 17:00 and went back to the apartment to drink a few cans of beer to calm me down.

29 November 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
We’re supposed to launch on the 1st December and by 11:00, they still hadn’t finished the rudder shoe.  I hassled them every 30 minutes until finally at 12:30, Dave came to dry fit it on the boat.  I’d already removed the steering cables from the quadrant, so that there was no friction in the steering system and I could move the rudder with my little finger.

After the assembly was fitted, the rudder was significantly harder to turn, so something was binding.  At first, Dave said that it just needed grease, then Jannie appeared and said that he’d be happy with the movement.  I dug my heels in and loosened off the screws, so that the bearing wasn’t binding on the shaft and showed them how easy it should be to move the rudder.  

New bush in rudder shoe

Dave then spent the next four hours, scraping the bore, refitting it and repeating until finally at 16:00, both he and I were happy with the fit.  It was too late to complete the rest job, so we’ll finish it tomorrow - we should still be good to launch at 14:00, the day after tomorrow.

I spent the whole day on the water-maker.  I first cleaned up the inside of the cupboard and wire-brushed rust from various filters, the high pressure pump and mounting screws.  I then re-plumbed the pipework from the seacock to the low pressure pump and changed the electrical wiring.  After fitting the low pressure pump in place, I then changed all of the soundproofing material inside the cupboard walls because the old stuff was crumbling away.  I was just about finished at 16:00.

Whenever, I wasn’t in the front heads doing the water-maker, Glenys masked off the front heads ready to apply new silicone sealant.  She also spent hours polishing the stainless steel on the deck, which was starting to look pretty bad.  The inside of the boat still looks like a bomb has hit it, but it won’t take long to tidy up once we have launched.

30 November 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
At 08:00, I greeted the Zulu yard workers with “Sau-bona”, which they tell me is “Good Day” in Zulu - they always smile broadly and repeat it back when I say it, so I’m mildly suspicious that they’ve taught me a swear word or it means “Big Arse”.  I’m going to confirm the word before I say it to the ladies in the supermarket… 

Finally Fitting the Rudder Shoe

By 08:15, the yard was at work on our rudder shoe.  The major job today is to pour polyester resin into the inside of the rudder shoe, which moulds it to the skeg.  I first asked Khumalo to remove the screws and smear with releasing wax, so that the screws will not bind on the polyester resin - this will make it easier to remove the next time.  The ends of the bolts were ground flush and a centre punch used to bind the end of the bolts.

Pouring the polyester is a messy job and the viscosity of the resin is critical - thin enough to flow, but thick enough to have strength.  Initially, Khumalo had it too thick, but after adding more resin, we used a piece of cardboard to direct the mixture into the narrow ½” gap at the top of the shoe - most of it seemed to go in, so I think that it’s a good job.

Khumalo then put epoxy filler in the 1” gap at the top of the rudder shoe - hopefully, the epoxy filler will be a little more flexible than the Polyester filler that I used last time, which cracked because it was brittle and didn’t flex.  The final job was to put some sealant on the bolt heads and pump grease into the new bearing.  We will wait until tomorrow to paint on a couple of coats of anti-foul paint before we launch at 14:00.

In between supervising the rudder shoe, I re-fitted the new valve and pipework for the front toilet.  After an epic struggle, I discovered that one of the joints on the valve is moving - the two year old thread sealant that I’ve used must have gone off.  I nipped into town to buy some new sealant and then with a heavy heart, pulled the pipework apart, cleaned the threads on the valve and reassembled everything.  By 16:30, I’d got it all back together - hopefully the new sealant will work. 

1 December 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
It was launch day and we were a little late arriving at the boat yard because we had to clear out of the apartment.  We arrived to find that the travel lift was already being trundled into position to lift Alba.  I rushed on deck and removed both forestays, which is very scary because the mast is not supported very well.

Going back into the water

An hour later, we were lifted in the slings and they were able to knock away the props supporting the boat.  One of the yard guys then finished off the antifouling, so we were ready to go into the water. 

Yannie, who runs the boat yard is a little chaotic and I had to ask for the bill.  When he produced his figures, it was roughly what I expected, but he’d not charged us for 4 tins of antifoul paint and the work on the new cutlass bearing.  I was an honest Indian and pointed out his error, which added an extra £450 onto my bill, but he gave me a £50 discount for being honest. 

Yannie has a policy of “No Cash, No Splash” and wanted the bill paid before he would launch us.  To make matters worse, he doesn’t take credit cards and wants cash.  It was a bit unreasonable, especially because he only gave me the bill one hour before we went into the water and, with a bill of £1,000, there was no way that we could get our hands on that much cash without getting our credit cards blocked.   We came to a compromise that I’d pay him 50% now and 50% tomorrow.

The launch went very smoothly and we motored into our marina berth, happy to be afloat.  It was boiling hot in the afternoon, so we only managed to replace the forestays and do a bit of tidying up, before we collapsed in the heat.  We went to the Friday Braai evening with “Full Circle” and treated ourselves to a huge T-bone steak and a bottle of wine.

2 December 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
After breakfast, before the wind picked up too much, we fitted the genoa and staysail.  I then poured three jerry cans of diesel into the tanks while Glenys continued to tidy up the boat and put the carpets back down - it feels like home again.

Happy again

We’re hoping to get a weather window to leave Richards Bay in the middle of the week, so Glenys wanted to re-provision with enough food to last us for a month until we get to Cape Town.  While she was wandering around the supermarket, I did a couple of runs to the garage to get more diesel and we now have a full fuel tank and full cupboards.

In the evening, we went to the bar for dinner and met Svein and Irene from “LovindaToo”.  Svein plays guitar, so we ended up on their boat playing guitar until midnight.

3 December 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
We had a slow start to the day being slightly worse for wear after drinking too much red wine last night.  I worked on my blog while Glenys quietly browsed the internet.  The weather here is amazing.  At 09:00, it was blue skies with a gentle north-east wind. At 10:00, the wind suddenly switched to 25 knots from the south-west causing us to jump up and sort out our mooring lines.  

Des Cason came for a visit, so a lot of cruisers turned up at lunch time to say hello and thank him for his weather forecasting.  We had a Sunday lunch and couple of beers and then chilled out for the rest of the day.  In the evening, the strong south-west winds were accompanied by a terrific thunderstorm with huge bolts of lightning - I'm glad we're not out at sea.