60 days and 8 hours til departure!
Excalibur is now out of the water, and it’s time to get down to work.
I’m living on the boat, which sits on a big metal cradle in a boat yard like Bobby Cobb in Cougar Town (I don’t know why anyone would get this reference).
The toilet is now out of action as it’s frowned upon to empty your toilet straight out onto the hard, so it’s either climb down a ladder and head to the toilet block, or use a empty 2 ltr bottle. For the most part I use the 2ltr bottle. Mornings start, with a 2ltr bottle. Apple juice for this very reason is now banned from the boat for health and safety reasons 😉
The punto’s parked next to the boat, and serves as a storage shed on wheels and a Screwfix shuttle bus. The heads serves as the tool shed as at some point over the next 5 weeks we’ll need every tool on this boat.
Over the weekend I drilled a hole in the wrong place for the bilge pump, and then abandoned that job as I need a different hose. I drilled a hole for a deck glad for a solar panel, and then abandoned that job as I’ve lost one of the solar cables. The first day was a bit of a washout.
I had a moment of genius and worked out that to get stubborn countersunk bolts out of the boat, which meant I was able to remove the pintle (bracket) that holds the top of the rudder on, so I can now get a new bushing to fit the gudgeon. The rudder is super simple and that’s what I like about the boat. The rudder effectively has a bracket with a hole in it, and the boat has a bracket with a pin, the pin slots into the hole. There’s normally a bushing, which is a mushroom style insert which allows the rudder to swing left and right without grinding away the bracket. After some research delrin looks like the most acceptable type of material for the job.
I’ve removed the genoa track on the port side as the decks delaminated around the track, so the cars no longer move up and down freely. This job took all morning and some of the afternoon. Again the countersunk bolts are threaded into the deck with a nut on the other end. Getting the nut off is easy, but turning a slotted bold with a screwdriver is impossible.
The trick I discovered (and probably everyone knows about except me) was to put two nuts on the bolt, tighten the nut nearest you to the other nut so it doesn’t move. Then tighten the nut, so you’re effectively undoing the bolt. It free’s the bolt up and then you can take the nuts off and undo the bolt from the deck.
So that’s the good news as it was a pig of a job. The bad news is the deck is rather springy, so we will have to remove more of the deck than first anticipated and replace some rotten foam core. It’s going to look like a dogs ear, as we’ll never be able to match the colour and pattern of the existing deck, but on the upside it’s not a show stopper as long as the rain holds off. It’s raining today.
We also noticed one of the cleats on the mast has a crack on it so that also needs replacing. Glad that didn’t give way whilst one of us were up the mast!
I did some prep below the waterline ready for antifouling.
I also hooked up the Victron Solar bluetooth regulator, which was really easy to do and now I can check how much energy we’ve produced from my phone. Shame its raining. My next job is to hook both regulators up to one battery feed.
I’ve established the make of our engine mounts, Metalasktik Cushyfloats. Sounds like a range of mattresses. These guys sell the mounts http://robush.com/metalastik-mounts/
All in all I’m really happy with where we are. My biggest fear is relying on a boat yard to do the work, as I got strung along by a boat yard before and had to do all the work myself. The big upside from my last 3 days is that I can find someone to make a bushing myself if need be, you can clean our diesel tanks ourselves So replacing the engine mounts is the only job I’m relying on someone else to do.
Other than that life is not bad in Gillingham! The suns been out all weekend. People are extremely friendly out here. The ARC flag draws quite a lot of attention, and it’s easy drop tools for a chat and see half the day go by so I might have to take it down.
The pub/cafe on site is brilliant, it’s like a British version of the Home & Away cafe. Everybody knows each other. I roll in covered in filth at lunchtimes for a ham and cheese sandwich on mighty bread and a beer. Sit at the bar and chat to other guys from the yard. Everyone has a story, a DIY issue. Lunch goes on the tab, and around 6 O’clock I go back in for a simple meal of burger and chips and another beer.
Life feels pretty good covered in oil, paint and blood. An honest life compared to the office life.
Tuesday felt like a totally different world. Gillingham experienced torrential rain and constant thunder and lightening. I jumped in the car at lunch, the man in the security hut now recognises the car and opens the barriers in advance with a hand in the air (a little bit heil hitler) as I drive past. My mission was to visit a rigging company in a nearby dock to get some guardrails made up. Pier rigging is based in a busy yard with concrete mixing trucks and massive tippers hurtling in and out of the yard dwarfing my little Punto. The yard also has a security hut and barriers. I’ve never met so many friendly people in one place, and this security guard was no exception. First thing he shouts out as I wind down the window whilst the window wipers go ten to the dozen “OH ELLO SKIPPA!!!” (never met the guy in my life). He’s full of beans and asks whether I have a big boat or a small boat, and shouts directions at me over the sound of thunder. Turns out Pier rigging is closed. I turn the car around and head back to the barrier. The security guard sticks his entire top half of his body out of the window, looks up at the sky and shouts “They’ll be in one of two places, the marina or McDonalds!!”. What a character. Reminded me of the Michael off Alan Partridge!
Off I go again. Next stop, a sailmakers at the far end of a lonely quayside. I tell this like I’m in a movie as that’s exactly how it felt. I saw an old guy hobbling in front of me wearing a woolly hat and a donkey jacket. I slow down, wind down the window, still thunder and lightening and torrential rain coming down. When I ask the guy for directions, he turns round slowly (very much like the old man Marley in home alone) to reveal a weathered old face wrinkled face, skin completely grey, not one visible pink pigment.
Very pirates of the Caribbean. He pointed me in the right direction and hobbled off. The sailmakers share a warehouse with another firm. These guys will make up our jackstays, which we’re going to secure to the coach roof so we can harness onto them whilst working on deck. Back to the marina I go, another salute from the security man and my lunch was over.
One of the guys from the yard helped me get the liferaft off the boat with his forklift truck. I’m using a company called Premium Liferaft Services who will take it away and service the liferaft for us. To conform to the ARC Rally safety standards we need to ensure we have a supply pack that’s rated for 24 hours plus, and a serviced raft.
A guy in a chandlery showed me a neat trick for tying my leecloths taught. I admit I don’t know many knots, so this one is what truckers use, and it useful to keep the tension taught on the rope whilst tying it off.
Tomorrow morning I’m off to a company called Medway Slings who’ll make up some guard wires.
Our solar panels and wind gen are now wired in. There was some debate on how to wire up two separate MPPT controllers, but after a chat with Marlec, they said just hook them both up to the batteries no problem. Connecting to one of the panels on my phone using bluetooth is pretty cool.
Today I rushed out at lunchtime to go to the sailmakers and specify what I needed done to my jackstays. I’ve read up on the subject (as dull as it sounds), and there’s quite a bit too it. Jackstays must have:
- set length of over lapping for stitching
- specific pattern of stitching at the ends
- preferably contrasting coloured stitching which makes inspecting the integrity of the stitching that much easier.
With that in mind I spoke to the ol’boy who said he’d used a different stitching pattern for years, and never had any trouble. I left him to it, £6 for the stitching ready on Monday.
Next off was Medway Slings, these guys are going to make up some shorter guardrails for our gates (£20 each for 4 small wires). The boss man overheard me talking about jackstays, concerned he came out and told me to bring them along to check the other companies work, and rattled off all the small details that make up a safe set of jackstays. His concern was that there’s an agreed standard of stitching and that there’s no acceptable deviation from that standard. He showed me webbing they make up for lorries, and man the detail these guys go into was impressive. It’s all about safety. For the sake of £10 I decided to get them to make up another set, and I’ll use the others for something else.
This type of scenario is typical when getting boat jobs done. One man will tell you “that’ll do” and the other man will suck his teeth and tell you “Nah I wouldn’t do it that way”. When it comes to safety I’d prefer to err on the side of caution. The webbing will take a shock load of 1 tonne so that should be suffice!
…and that’s been my week. Today (Friday)
Oh and we’re getting Jerry the rigger to give Excalibur a rig inspection in July in Gosport. Jerry’s a top chap, and requested we be there at the time so he can teach us a few things about what to check for. He know’s we’re on the ARC and is one of the most genuine guys I’ve met in the trade to date. We’ll see him again in the Canaries where he’ll inspect all 200 boats rigging before we depart.