Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Cockles, mussels and other sea life

Sea Piper hasn't been totally stationary since my last Blog update - more like this Blog writer has been a little slack.
While we spent October 2011 on land (In Victoria working and for our eldest grandson's 18th birthday), November saw us return to Townsville and take Sea Piper on several beautiful sails using the marina as a return base. The weather was superb during this month (and we are reliably told for the entire time we were down south in October).
We then packed the boat up for the Wet season - Code Zero and head sail down, along with the wind generator and bbq. The main sail and tender were lashed and every other exterior item either stowed or lashed down. The process took half the time of the previous year - it obviously helps when you know what you're doing.
After an excellent summer in Rochester we returned to Townsville in mid-March to lift Sea Piper out of the water for anti-fouling and the replacement of some skin fittings (the salt water inlets in the hull below the waterline - these provide salt water to cool the engines, and for the deck washes, toilet flushing and kitchen sink rinsing).
For the first seven days of our return the Wet season kicked in and it poured, and poured, and poured some more coupled with a mini-tornado that ripped through several suburbs near the airport (thankfully not near the marina though we experienced very strong wind gusts at the time).
The weather delayed our trip to the slipyards by almost a week. When the call came to bring her around, our good friends from Double Vision came on board with us to take her around the breakwater and into the Ross Creek to the slipway.
Rather than a lift out, this historic slipway uses a steel trolley with four upright posts to lash to the boat. The trolley is mounted on rail line with the whole lot run out into the deeper water via a huge 1920s winch. The winch is used to pull the boat out while the reverse procedure uses a windlass and a snatch block to drag the trolley back in when antifouling/repairs are completed.
Our first attempt to slip her into the trolley was aborted as the structure wasn't quite wide enough. With four hands on board (one on each corner of the boat) this was accomplished smoothly with each of us pushing back on the trolley uprights to glide the boat back out. (There are no photos of this as we were all a bit busy at the time!)
While we tied up at a nearby empty marina berth-end and had a cuppa, the shipyard blokes modified the trailer with an oxy torch and sledge hammer before sending the trolley back out into the water again. The second attempt went as smoothly as could be. Once we were lashed on to the posts the winch took over and gently edged us onto dry land. (My compliments to Sea Piper's skipper who maintained an admirable calm during the whole process. Not a swear word heard!) 
From then on it was sheer hard work. The slipway blokes pressure-hosed the hull to remove the majority of the barnacles and other marine growth, then Royden took to the grinder to remove flaky paint and any other debris that didn't belong. This is a long and dirty process, covering man and boat with tiny particles of black anti-foul.
Oh dear!
It was a relief to move on to the replacement of the anodes and the skin fittings to the two motors and the toilet saltwater inlet and lastly to the application of new anti-foul - Royden on the brush and me on the roller.

There's a lot to be said for a $5 paint-suit
Summarising it here, it doesn't sound like much but the whole process took six days, pretty well non-stop physical work, especially for Royden. Needless to say we were exhausted at the end of each day.
However to see the job completed with shiny props, new anodes and skin fittings, and a smooth barnacle-free black underside was very satisfying.
The final test of course was the refloat which took place on the high tide (5am) in the dark last Friday. As we slowly edged back into the water and before untying from the trolley, we checked the new skin fittings at least 10 times each!
All was well and we enjoyed a beautiful pre-dawn motor out of the Ross Creek and back around  the breakwater to the marina where our good (and early-rising) friends were waiting to catch our ropes and secure Sea Piper in the marina pen.
It was a very interesting experience to live in the blokey atmosphere of a boatyard/slipway for a week but, oh, it was lovely to be somewhere clean again.

Looking good - blue masking tape still to be removed.

Not all work - however at this point the job is finished!


  1. She looks very pretty!

  2. You are both amazing. The final product looks fantastic.

  3. DOH - not sure how this technology works. Kim & Matt