Features December 1, 1999 Issue

Offshore Log:
A Long Worklist for a Long Stop in New Zealand

Nick Nicholson’s six-month stop in Auckland is an opportunity to make repairs, upgrades, and perform some much needed maintenance on his 40-foot Saga double-ender, Calypso.

Three years and almost 14,000 miles of sailing have taken a toll on Calypso. As cruising boats go, she still looks pretty good. But she has covered almost 9,000 miles in the year since her last haulout, and it’s time for some serious attention. We’re not just into preventative maintenance now. We’re into the replacement of items that are starting to wear out.

New Zealand will be our last opportunity for a serious refit until we reach Europe some 18 months from now. Labor rates here are excellent, as long as you have US dollars in your pocket. Skilled labor—welding, woodworking, electronics repair—is about $45NZ per hour: that’s less than $25US.

It’s a good thing that labor is reasonable here. We have a lot of labor-intensive jobs on the worklist.

At the top of the replacement list are the two headsails. The leech and foot of the roller-reefing genoa are badly rotted after three years of continuous exposure to the sun. Even though the sail could be repaired, it isn’t worth the trouble, as it was the wrong choice in the first place.

Reasoning that most cruising is done in light air, we selected a 135% furling genoa as the primary headsail. That was a big mistake. Comfort, rather than the best boat speed at all times, is the cruiser’s priority. Upwind, our big headsail has proven too large in winds over about 14 knots true. To keep the boat properly balanced when reaching, we usually reef the headsail before shortening the main, so on a reach we begin to reduce the headsail in about 18 knots of breeze.

Running downwind, our 20' spinnaker pole on a 16.5' “J” measurement allows us to set only a 115% headsail efficiently. The entire genoa has been rolled out only about 10% of our total sailing time.

Looking at our sailing log, it appears that a headsail of no more than 115% of the foretriangle area would be suitable for most of our sailing. Add to this the fact that we have spent a surprising amount of time going upwind in fairly strong winds—which makes an even smaller headsail desirable—and it looks like we’re going to end up with about a 112% genoa to replace the old one. This sail could theoretically be rolled up to 100% of the foretriangle area and still be used for upwind sailing.

The construction of the new headsail is still a subject of discussion. Our Dacron genoa proved to be a hopeless bag when reefed. We may opt for a higher-tech design and material.

Likewise, our storm staysail has been a disappointment. When it was radically altered last year in Trinidad to accommodate the roller-reefing inner forestay and to clear the dinghy stowed on the foredeck, the shape of the sail was effectively destroyed. The aspect ratio of the sail is so high that it will not set properly for reaching or running. We’re still at the drawing board on this one, but the new staysail will certainly be made of Dacron, since it is our heavy-weather foresail.

The mainsail is the big question mark. It has suffered a lot of chafe against the shrouds. The reefing lines have chafed holes in the reinforcement at the reefing clew rings. Despite having enlarged the reinforcing patches at the reefing tacks and clews, the sail is showing a fair amount of distortion in these areas.

On top of this, the sail is much too flat for upwind sailing in lighter winds.

At the same time, the main is not a bad sail, and it seems a shame to discard it if it can be saved. We’ll look at the cost of repair and re-cut and weigh it against the remaining useful life of the sail and the cost of replacement.

Ordinarily, we would salvage most of these sails. However, the cost of sails is so reasonable in New Zealand—about half the cost in the US—that it seems a shame not to replace them if they’re getting near the end of their useful life.

Calypso’s Perkins 4-108 has not had an easy life. The engine sat in the boat for a decade before being fired up, and even though it was turned over by hand regularly during this time, that was not enough. The engine has shown excessive oil consumption since new, and has also been plagued by oil leaks. It has never failed to start or run properly, however.

Of its 2000 engine hours, probably only 500 have been used for propulsion. The rest of the time on the clock has been spent charging batteries and freezing the refrigeration holding plates.

The mechanic who checked out the Perkins in New Zealand says it’s a shame to tear the engine down, since it starts and runs well, but he expressed concern about the oil consumption. We decided that the engine would be pulled—not a small project—and torn down as far as necessary.

The exhaust system will also be re-engineered. The existing exhaust outlet is too close to the waterline. In fact, it is actually immersed when the boat is fully loaded. Changing this will require some fiberglass work to fill the existing hole, re-siting the outlet, and changing the exhaust hose.

We are also thinking of replacing the existing Vetus LP-50 plastic waterlift muffler with a custom-built muffler of high-temperature fiberglass. The LP-50 is marginal in size for our exhaust hose run, and we cannot fit a larger Vetus muffler into the same space.

We will also install a proper oil pressure gauge, rather than relying on idiot lights. This has been complicated by the fact that our isolated-ground engine requires a two-wire oil pressure sender, and these are hard to come by.

With the engine out, we will pull the shaft to check for wear and corrosion, and replace the stern bearing. The badly rusting shaft coupling will be sandblasted and painted. In fact, the whole engine is due for a re-paint.

We’ll also have a look at the engine mounts, which are rusting due to several exhaust system leaks which have sprayed hot seawater onto the back end of the engine.

Our last exhaust system problem—leaks due to a failed hose clamp—poured sooty exhaust into the engine compartment. Soot on the alternator from this incident warns that the alternator should be torn down and cleaned. We will also check for alternator bearing wear at the same time.

Because the big Balmar alternator is our only charging source, we carry an identical spare alternator as well as two complete re-build kits, including bearings and diodes. With these, any competent auto electric shop in the world can overhaul our alternators.

Calypso has suffered cosmetically, too. All the on-deck varnish must be stripped to bare wood. Much of the varnish on the port side was blasted away on the 1,200-mile final leg from Tonga to New Zealand, when we spent a week close-reaching on port tack in strong winds and big seas. Heavy spray over the deck took the varnish off to the wood. Remember, pressure washing is often used to remove grime and loose paint from houses. It does an equally good job of removing tired varnish from teak on boats.

Bleeding fasteners in our stainless steel rubbing strake have left rust streaks down the topsides. The half-oval strake will be replaced with brass half oval and silicon bronze fasteners. We’d rather have a green rubbing strake than orange stains on the topsides.

The topsides will get their annual gelcoat touch-up, an acid wash to remove rust stains, a buff-out with 3M polishing compound, and a heavy coat of wax.

The two-part polyurethane paint on the deckhouse tops is looking faded and chalky after three years of exposure. The deckhouse sides have also suffered a fair number of dings, primarily from safety harness hooks. Both deckhouse tops will be repainted, but we’re undecided about painting the vertical surfaces, which still look pretty good despite the scrapes and bruises.

While this attention to cosmetics may seem excessive, the long-term value of a boat is largely determined by its cosmetic condition. Our last year of cruising alone is the equivalent of a decade of seasonal sailing back in the US. Cosmetic wear and tear is a major problem for cruisers, and points out the obvious advantages of a modern, low-maintenance exterior finish. Unpainted aluminum boats are starting to look better and better.

Belowdecks, the primary cosmetic issue is damaged varnish on the cabin sole. Once again, safety harness hooks are the prime culprit, but dropped tools, winch handles, and galley utensils have also been responsible. We will have fabricated a canvas cover backed by rubber non-skid for the galley and nav station cabin sole, which takes the brunt of the abuse. In port, this cover will be removed.

The Icom VHF and SSB radios and Northstar GPS have functioned flawlessly for three years. An original hiccup with the Northstar proved to be operator error. Until it decided to go on strike in Tonga, the B&G Hydra instrument system had also been reliable. Now, however, it is clear that it has a problem. We are fortunate that New Zealand has a B&G servicing agent, as we rely heavily on the wind instrumentation to help in sail selection and weather forecasting. It has proven remarkably difficult to estimate true wind velocity and direction offshore without the help of the instruments, particularly when sailing off the wind.

The Furuno 1831 radar will get a checkout here, as I am not confident that it is working properly all the time. When you are at sea, with no visual targets, proper operation of radar is almost impossible to verify.

On Deck
All the winches are scheduled for teardown, cleaning, and lubrication. We also hope to finally complete the deck hardware layout, including mounting the secondary winches that have languished in the “to be installed” locker since the boat was launched.

Additional Lewmar clutches to handle the spinnaker pole foreguy and running backstays are also on the list. Several bits of stainless steel fabrication—secondary winch islands, additional chafe plates, stern rail modifications, protective cage for the mast-mounted radar reflector—must be completed.

Despite its low-drag shape, the Lensref radar reflector, mounted on the mast, has taken a beating from halyards. A ship that we spoke to by radio when approaching Auckland reported that our radar image was the same as that of a 70-foot steel fishing boat at a range of about three miles, which is some comfort.

All the running rigging—primarily Yale XLS and New England Ropes Sta-Set and Sta-Set X—has held up well, and would undoubtedly make it the rest of the way around the world. Being conservative, however, we will probably replace the main halyard, starboard genoa halyard, and staysail halyards, which are showing wear and compression at the sheaves.

The furling lines on both foresail reefing systems will probably be replaced with stronger high-tech lines of the same diameter as the existing lines. Because the headsail is reefed a significant portion of the time, the genoa furling line takes enormous abuse.

The finish continues to peel off the handles on all our Lewmar Superlock clutches, but this is only a cosmetic annoyance.

Our New England Ropes T900 (Spectra/Technora blend) running backstays, a recommendation by Phil Garland of Hall Rigging, have been a complete success. Wire running rigging in any form, as far as we are concerned, is dead as a dodo. There is virtually no wire running rigging on any America’s Cup boat in Auckland, and there is no reason for there to be any on your cruising boat, either.

Safety Gear
Both the Beaufort liferaft and MOM 8-A man-overboard modules are almost a year past due for a repack. We have simply not been anyplace in the last year where servicing them was possible. Except when we are at sea, the liferaft canister is protected by a fitted canvas cover. We will have a similar cover fabricated here for the MOM, to offer additional protection from UV.

It’s also time to update our basic flare package. Old, out-of-date flares that appear to be in good condition will go into the abandon ship bag. There’s no such thing as too many flares.

Steering System
Our rudder will come off for inspection of the stainless steel pintles and gudgeons. We will renew the UHMW (ultra high molecular weight) plastic bearing washers, which we suspect are pretty much worn away, if they still exist.

With the rudder off and the engine out, we can remove and rebed the one gudgeon which has been leaking slightly since the boat was first launched.

We will also go completely through the complex Whitlock Mamba steering installation to try to get rid of a small but annoying amount of play. Its rudder-mounted drive arm rose joint is also a pile of rust—we were warned by Whitlock that it would be, since it is not designed for external mounting—and will be replaced.

The maintenance and upgrade list for New Zealand goes on and on: bottom paint, prop service, re-galvanize anchors and chain, checkout of all ship’s systems. We will be here for a full six months while I measure America’s Cup boats, but every spare moment will go to my own boat.

There’s one final item on the upgrade list: a safety belt for the galley. This was a request from the ship’s first mate and cook, who flew from the US to New Zealand to rejoin the boat for the rest of her world cruise. If Maryann wants it, the belt will be of solid gold, for Calypso has been a lonely place without her.

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