Saturday, March 23, 2013
Darwin - What wet season ??? Changing a Keel
We have not had a wet season other than a few days rain. The first sign of the monsoon season this year was around the 20 January when we had four days rain, however, when the low pressure intensified in the Gulf of Carpentaria and formed into a cyclone it took the rain with it and dropped it on Queensland and NSW. The fact is that when we researched the weather through weather sites I have previously listed in an effort to decide whether we came to Darwin for the cyclone season, many indicated that the activity would be in the east and it has really shown that in the past couple of months.
There have been three cyclones on the Australian coast so far this season two in the west one that stayed off the coast and one that is crossing the coast as I punch the keyboard and the one that formed in the Gulf causing the flooding all down the east coast.
We had seen some rain and drop of temperatures so the monsoons have returned but that low pressure off WA that is now a cyclone 'Rusty' has dragged the monsoons with it away from Darwin.
There have been many storms around the top end but it often moves away from Darwin City itself, I have watched it on the met radar heading towards Darwin City and Harbour area and split into two and go around us. I have a theory why some storms do this and that is the new topography of Darwin. Darwin has a lot more tar and cement these days including high rise buildings, the heat that these surfaces generate may well affect air flow, tall buildings like hillsides also affect air flow and this may affect changes to the norm in the past. Well it's a theory.
We have really had an easy time most days as it has been too hot to really get into anything outside, Nancy has been doing her photography as you may have all seen through her blog site, (her link is on this page to the right). I have been doing a few repairs to the boat and assisting Rob when he needs a hand on 'Babe', his yacht that we have been changing the keel and all its surrounding parts. A very big job but it is nearly complete, we actually put the new keel in for that last time today. I must say it has been an experience and I have learnt a fair bit about cutting large holes in yachts and fibre glass work.
('Babe' on the hard at Dinah Beach Club, photo by Dale the welder)
(Left - Old keel casing, right New keel casing)
(Left top - Old keel, Left Bottom- Keel bulb waiting for new foil)
(Right from top- Keel hole after keel casing removed, Keel hole from inside with string lines to ensure new casing bed is perfectly square, keel hole cleared of bad materials ready to rebuild.)
(Over the last few months Dale has been fabricating the new keel foil in his workshop as you can see it is quite a fabrication)
(Note the wedges made to lift the inner structure hard against the outer casing before welding)
One of the biggest jobs I have had to do on our boat besides the gel coat repairs around the area of the trampolines that I have already covered was the removing of the fuel tank for repair. I have found that the Leopard 42 Catamaran was designed with easy access to most areas engines are easy to pull in and out, same with water tanks. The fuel tanks are easy to remove with the exception that you need to get to the filler hose behind the aft bulkhead of the forward head/shower to pull the hose clear to lift the tank out. To get behind the bulkhead you have to remove the vanity cabinet and its surround the deck head and then struggle with a tight fitting section of bulkhead. I have now fixed that problem by cutting the bulkhead section just below the area of the vanity surround, shaving the sides so it is a loose fit. If I need to get to the filler hose or the hoses for the head I can now do it by removing four screws.
I have a list of jobs to be completed over the next few weeks and usually work from early morning until around midday when it get too hot.
I have had to replace the engine start batteries as the one on the starboard engine failed so I figured it won't be too long before the port engine battery throws the towel in so replaced both. I also learned that the smart marine electricians in the Abel Point Marina complex that did some work for me at a very high hourly rate also supplied these batteries (AGM) and told me they were good start batteries but now I find out they do not have the ratings for start (crank) batteries and that is why they have failed. Most start batteries (good ones) should last 3 to 5 years if you look after them, these lasted 2 years. What is ironic is this company 6 months after I had used their services sent me an email stating that people had complained about their hourly rate and have now dropped it to $80 per hour. If I have to use someone's service I do not mind paying if it is good service and they supply good items. But I would say even $80 per hour for the speed these guys worked is too much. Well there's my gripe for the day.
The big problem yachties have is that boats normally relate to being wealthy and in a lot of cases this can be correct, but there is a lot of us out here sailing that definitely do not fall into that group. I went into a marine electronics place the other day a sign on the wall stated the hourly rate was $120 per hour it did say that they charge in 6 minute increments and we wonder why we live in a throw away world. You really have to look at what you want repaired or replaced.
I am finding it hard to write things when we are marina bound, the jobs on our boat are not interesting enough to write about and when we finish 'Babe' I will put a few pictures and a little movie together about it.
(When reshaping the keel hole we found some bad construction work so had to do further modifications to ensure a strong and sturdy structure for the new keel casing and keel)
(Left - New keel hole, Rob checking all secure, Right - Rob relaxes after another milestone completed with me using the test timber for a perfect rectangle hole to the correct size)
(No, not a glass bottom boat. The Perspex is a template for drilling the holes in the stainless steel keel casing securing plates, time for a beer)
(New keel casing put in place, Centre top, Dale has welded stays inside the casing when they are broken off the casing will spring tight against the sides and the sealant oozes out from it, Rob ensures the sealant is around the bolts, later we glass over the whole area sand and the form the keel hole again)
(Checking the operation of the hydraulic keel, the keel in place)
Monday 11 March 2013
The big day when 'Babe' hits the water. As we got everything ready and waited for the crane to arrive Rob happened to say. "Last time we did this it poured rain". Well it happened again the crane arrived and the sky opened up and it poured. I must give it to the crane operators crew they just kept on working and we all ended up drown rats. The good part about it is the rain is warm and it probably kept our temperatures to a good level.
(Top left - 'Babe' is lifted off the blocks, top right- Rob and I looking the part, bottom left- touching up the antifouling, bottom right- ready to splash)
('Babe' (The Pig on a Mission) going back in the water.)
Once in the water Rob and Dale checked for any leaks before the crane removed the slings and then we were off we had a tight schedule to get to the marina lock no later than 1715 hours because after that the high tide goes above 7 metres and there is a safety limit where the lock gates do not operate above a 7 metre tide, too much pressure on the inner drop gate.
We went through the lock and got alongside at Rob's dock at his house once all secure we had a beer in our dripping wet garb. Alison had to shuffle the crew back to their respective places so I walked back to the marina and got showered and changed. We then all went to the Dinah Beach Club for dinner and a few more drinks. Well we had to wet the 'Babe'.
Rob was saying it would be good to go in Sunday's Wet Season Race there are only two races left in the season, there was still a fair amount of work to do to 'Babe' before that could happen.
The next job was to get 'Babe' ready for the second last wet season race which was at 1330 hours on Sunday 17th. Well Saturday and Sunday morning was very busy we worked till death knock. This was the shake down for the new keel. Some of the tasks were the sail bag and sails had to be put back on and all lines, sheets and halyards plus some hardware that Rob still had to shape and fit..
Rob had booked the lock opening for 1100 hours Sunday come Sunday that was put back to 1200 hours with a questionable tide depth. We could not wire up the new depth gauge so it was going to be navigation by brail. The new keel is 200mm deeper than the old one 'Babe' now has a draft of 1.8 metres. We got out without touching the bottom. I had mentioned to Rob that I had checked the wind charts or should that be no wind charts it was going to be 0 - 5 knots from the SW.
When we got into Darwin Harbour near the start line the wind was absent all the yachts had the sails up and some of us were going backwards with the tidal flow, fortunately the tide was about to change in favour of the race direction at least on the way out but not coming back.
Five minutes before we start and no wind an occasional light breeze, it took ages to get over the start line but then once we crossed the afternoon sea breeze kicked in and we got away. One of the problems we had at the start was one yacht that should have given way to us did not and we were about to 'T' Bone it and we had to take evasive action to avoid it and that took us off the wind then we had no steerage, then another yacht was heading towards us that we had to fend off. Nearly everyone had trouble getting over that start line.
It was very hot out there and we all looked for the shade once we finished sail movements. Rob was pleased with the new keel, he felt that he is pointing better into the wind and we actually gained on quite a few yachts and passed them once we had the wind the only problem we had was the downwind return we had not loaded the spinnaker and it was really needed, we lost some ground on the return but still we went well.
After the race we returned to "Babe's' berth and then we went to the club for dinner and a few drinks, or was that a few more.