Category Archives: Repairs

Ouch

Disaster Strikes – Maramu

One of the reasons we decided to tie up to the old basin was because there was a maramu (storm) in the forecast and we wanted to avoid a disaster.  The four boats in the basin took all of the necessary precautions – or so we thought.  Let me paint a picture.

The old military basin is an upside down “U” shape with the entrance at the opening of the U.  The wall on the right, facing the lagoon is taller and has a 42’ mono and Sea Jay 50’.  The taller wall proved to be a life saver for these two boats.  The opposite side of the U, where we are, faces the shore.  The wall is at an angle where we are tied up and then it straightens out where a mono and our friends on Hoodoo are located.

Preparing for a Maramu

Holding us to the dock were (2) bow lines (one from port and one from starboard bow peaks), (2) spring lines and (2) stern lines (port and starboard).  In addition, we had (4) large, round A4 fenders and (2) F4 fenders between us and the dock and al of the fenders were touching the water when we went to bed.  Everything was secured and stowed on the deck and bow.  But we did leave up our sun/rain shades to try to prevent a flood of water coming into the cockpit.  We also left out our cushions which are “secured” to the boat.  

We’ve been through several maramus and we were not expecting a disaster.  Normal water level is shown below.  The tide flooded the basin so much that the bottom of Sugar Shack’s Port hull threatened to land on top of the dock.

Maramu Strikes

Fast forward to 11:30pm at night when Matt and I are woken up by a horrible bashing noise, winds blowing over 42kts, thunder, and lightning, and pounding rains.  We jumped up and realized SS was banging (not rubbing) against the concrete wall.  The lagoon was filled so high that it flooded the basin raising the water level at least 1.5 meters.  That in and of itself would not have been bad if it was not accompanied by a meter swell which tossed SS almost on top of the dock several times. 

It took Matt, Yanell, Missy and I everything we had to keep her safe.  In the pouring rain, we added (4) more F4 fenders between the boat and tried to push SS off the dock.  About an hour later the storm subsided and we saw the damage — a rather large 1/4” dent that was about 1 meter wide with lots of scratches.  Nothing we can do in the middle of the night.

Maramu is Not Done with Us

Then at 0230 another, stronger storm hit.  We had lowered all the fenders and placed fenders floating in the water to prevent SS from continuing to bash against the concrete.  What a disaster! Running between SS and HooDoo to make sure all of our boats were safe.  If you can imagine the rain falling so hard that it actually hurt our faces!  We could not wear hats because the wind would blow them off.  It was terrible.  Unfortunately, SS took the brunt of the storm because we were closest to the entrance and on the slanted part of the dock.  We blocked the majority of the waves and storm from Queen B and HooDoo.  (Nice of us, right?)

Around 0400 the weather calmed enough for Matt to go out in the dingy to put an anchor out in the middle of the basin.  He then attached it to our starboard mid-cleat to pull the boat further off the wall.  Around 0430 we finally got an hour of sleep.  By sunrise we were evaluating the damage and trying to figure out what else we can do to prepare for Thursday’s storm.  We added a stern line from starboard to a mooring pulling the stern further away from the wall and adjusted all the lines and fenders again. Luckily Thursday night was only 30-35kts of wind, little rain, and no flooding.  We scared it away with all of our preparedness.

The Damage

We almost lost one of our 2-meter cockpit cushions and a sunshade.  Both caught up by the lifelines and saved.  We had one sunshade tear before we could get it off and we lost 2 fender covers.  But the worst damage is the hull which could have been a much bigger disaster.  We don’t think there is structural damage.  We have a thin layer of fiberglass, then honeycomb, then fiberglass.  But there is about a 1/4” dent with lots of scratches that stretch across 2 meters of the port hull.  We will have to repair it when we are hauled out (Tahiti or NZ).

Sea Jay lost a small cockpit cushion but found it the next morning as a local was carrying it and walking away.  Lucky them.  HooDoo and Queen B have some small scratches on the hull that will buff out.  Yesterday we spent the day adding anchors and lines to all the boats to keep them off the dock making the basin an obstacle course but will help us avoid further disaster. 

The good news is that we are all safe and unhurt.  The boat can be mended.  We are lucky.

Weather Predictions Get it Wrong

Matt took a screen shot of Predict Wind’s screen which showed what was predicted and what came through.  Unfortunately, it does not give minute by minute updates. In addition, it never accurately showed the wind strength, amount of rain or correct wind direction.   But it gives you an idea of how “off” weather predictions can be. In and of itself that is a disaster. 

This post was written in June 2020.  Our blog posts are usually 8 to 10 weeks behind are true adventures. 

Smack, Crack, Fall. Alternator Down

This post is a long time in the making so bear with me.  It all started back in mid-February 2020 when we were trying to leave the Marquesas.  One alternator decided it did not want to be attached to the engine…

We rose early on the morning that we planned to leave for the Gambiers.  Not because we wanted to leave early, but because we anchored on top of another boat’s anchor.  We had to start the engines and move our boat forward so they could safely retrieve their anchor.  Not a big deal, but an early morning.

The Bay of Virgins (in the Marquesas) is a gusty little devil, with katabatic winds coming down the valley.  All good, took a while but we were able to maneuver out of the other boat’s way without dislodging our anchor.

While Matt waited for the other boat to sort out their anchor, he heard a loud clunk.  Sort of a smack, crack, clunk.  He figured I had opened or closed a bilge or something.  But, no, not me.  He did not mention it to me right away so I was clueless.

A few hours of going over the forecast and future forecast, we finally decided to get going.  As usual the “pre-flight engine checks” were in-order.  This time a surprise of all surprises. 

Surprise Surprise

When Matt opened the port hatch to the engine room, he saw the auxiliary alternator that charges the house batteries, was missing in action.  WTF?  This is a 50lb, white alternator.  It’s a hard thing to miss. 

The belts were not on the front of the engine.  Turns out the engine mount that holds the heavy alternator gave out, ¼ steel plate broke right off.  The plate that holds the alternator is also part of the engine mount.  So, when we go to fix it we will have no use of the port engine. 

Pretty sure that was the smack, crack, clunk, sound he heard earlier.  Guess we will be looking for a welder in the Gambiers.

Project on Hold

A week after we arrived in the Gambiers, we attended a Sunday Funday BBQ in Taravai where Matt was able to ask several people about local welders.  It appears there are two people who have the tools and capabilities.  One cruiser had something welded by the main group of welders and he was not impressed with their work.  The other is a friend of a friend that we would have to hunt down.

Looks like we will put this project on the back burner for a few weeks.  This is a secondary alternator that is used to charge the house batteries.  So, without it we just have to use the Starboard secondary alternator to charge the batteries.  We have 4 alternators (two for the engines and two for the house batteries).

Lucky Break

Fast forward past some down time, then the corona virus 45-day quarantine, and we are at 3 months later.  Our friends on Storm Along have a metal boat and Niels is a welder with all the welding equipment. He has agreed to help us out if we can get some extra steel for the support brackets.

We come up with a game plan.  Matt and I need to find some steel to reinforce the plate in three sections.  Then we will meet Nils on the beach to weld the plate back together.  Now, to find some steel.

Stefan to the Rescue

Fast forward a few more weeks and we are back in the anchorage of Rikitea in Mangareva.  We asked our local friend Stefan if he knows anyone who can do some welding for us.  He works at the school which has professional technical training and we heard they teach welding.  He asked what we needed and to our great surprise he had all of the tools, equipment, steel, and supplies.

Stefan cut three pieces of steel to Matt’s specifications.  The triangle will be welded to the vertical and horizontal pieces.  The long flat bar will be welded between the alternator plate and the engine plate on the bottom. The short flat bar will be welded between the same two plates but on top.

Welding Begins 

We met Niels at the beach with all of equipment.  We used our 220v Honda Generator for power.  It worked great for the grinding and for short welds.  Niels was able to make the initial weld holding the two pieces together.  Then Niels and Matt started off by grinding the pieces for a better weld.

Then the boys attach the first support bracket across the bottom of the two plates.  The image below shows them testing placement, then grinding the bar, then Matt holds it in place for initial small welds and then Niels tries to do a long weld.

Unfortunately, the Honda generator was not strong enough to power the welding equipment which required a 100 amps (at 220volts).  Looks like we need a Plan B.

Plan B

We visit the local “Commune” where the islands has most of its machinery and a welding shop (the place mentioned above that did not do such a good job for another sailor).  They graciously allowed us to use their power to complete our job.

Commune Building in Rikitea

Commune Building in Rikitea

Matt got to grinding the remaining parts while Niels welded.  Perfect set up to complete our project.

The welding was complete about 90 minutes later.  The big ugly weld was not Neils but the previous weld we had done in St. Lucia.

Next, Matt sprayed a anti-corrosion paint and two coats of Volvo green paint to match the engine.

Project done!

Underwater Mechanic

Matt wears many hats on the boat.  Engineer, electrician, mechanic, refrigeration, fix it man, chef, etc…Today, he wears his underwater mechanic hat. I will show you how he changes the zincs on our starboard prop while underwater. 

Conditions

We have to have pretty good conditions in order to do this project underwater.  First, little to no wind.  We don’t want the boat swinging around while Matt is trying to “hold on.”  Next, we zero current and shallow waters.  If something is dropped, we want to be able to see it and retrieve it right away.  And lastly, a sunny day with no rain is preferred.

Preparations

There are lots of things needed to prep.  We dig out the hooka.  What is a hooka?  It’s an underwater breathing apparatus that is operated by a 12v charge.  It is similar to scuba gear but does not require a large tank or BCD.  Matt connects the hooka to a battery and it provides oxygen for him to breath while underwater.  We also prep a bucket, tools and spare zincs.

As an underwater mechanic you need something to put your tools and parts in while underwater.  Matt ties a line from the boat to the buck and submerges it underwater.  He can then put his tools and parts inside the bucket thus reducing the risk of losing them to the sea.

Here is Matt all suited up, the hooka connected to the port engine and the bucket before and after submersion.

Preparing to go underwater

Preparing to go underwater

The Prop

We have two volvo folding props.  We can change the small zincs without having to disassemble and remove the entire prop.  However, in order to get to the larger zinc we have to disassemble and remove three small 1” screws, 3 axels, 3 zincs, 3 blades and the hub just to get access to the large zinc.  Yep, all underwater.

The Process

Our specialist, the underwater Mechanic, gets started.

Matt working on prop

Matt working on prop

First, Matt removes the first small screw, places it in the bucket and then removes the first axel. Middle photo Matt uses the end of the alan wrench to push the axel out. Once these two items are removed the first blade will come off.  Great!

On to the 2nd blade.  Using the same method our underwater mechanic uses the allen wrench to remove the screw, then the axel and then the blade.  This looks easy peasy!

I spoke too soon.  Matt removed the screw (top photo) and used the allen wrench to try to remove the axel.  The first two just look a little tapping.  After several minutes matt starts “jamming” it in with more force and still the axel does not budge (look at his white knuckled fist on lower photo)

He goes to his tool chest for a different tool.  Searching in a black bucket underwater can’t be easy.

Stuck Axel

He grabbed several tools trying to get the axel out – on both sides.  Even using the rubber hammer on each tool he still couldn’t get it out.  He even tried using a clamp and that did not work. Imagine how fun it it so try to hammer something with the water preventing you from using full force.  Poor thing did this for well over 45 minutes banging his fingers several times.

He was relentless on this axel which would not budge. 

After two leg cramps and exhausting all thoughts on how to remove it, he decided to try another time.  So, he put everything back on and called it an exhausting day.

Second Time is Charm

Matt put on his underwater mechanic hat a week later with better success.  He found a spare axel and started with the troubled axel first.  Coming at it fresh, with a better tool allowed him to finally remove the stubbornly stuck axel and prop.  The other two were fairly easy as they were last time.

He brought all the pieces on board to clean and reassemble.  The top photo shows you three things.  The green arrow points to the hub or the main part of the prop.  The blue arrow shows you an axel and the red arrow points to the used large zinc that is being replaced.  The bottom two photos show new and old zincs (large and small).

Matt cleaned up the hub, removed all barnacles, growth and corrosion.   The middle, left photo shows you how small the screws are that Matt has to handle underwater.  The bottom left shows you the size of the axels and the prop blades.  The bottom right photo shows you the numbers that Matt has to match up to the blades. The #1 blade goes in the #1 spot.  Keep in mind, this is all underwater!

After everything was cleaned and assembled in the cockpit he went back underwater to finish the assembly.  The large zinc first, then the hub, then blade #1, axel #1, and screw #1.  Once secured, he repeats the process for blades 2 and 3. 

Project complete!