Mon 7 Jun, HHN day 55: Reflections on Cloudy Bay’s Covid-induced refit, and an outlook of our future cruising plans.
As I flew home to Oana, on Turkish Airlines via Istanbul, I had time to reflect on the last 7 weeks of fairly intensive maintenance on board Cloudy Bay in Herrington Harbour North Marina. Now that I come to summarise all the work done, in reality it was actually a mini re-fit. Preparing us for several more trouble-free years of sailing. Well, never trouble free of course. But let’s just say trouble reduced and a greater peace of mind, as we set off into the more remote cruising area of our overall circumnavigation adventure.
When we scurried back to the safety of the Chesapeake this time last year (June 2020), having sailed up from the Cayman Islands, we thought Covid would have blown over by the autumn (ha ha, right?) and we could set out again for Panama. But not to be, and actually quite a good thing for us considering what we found wrong with the boat.
First, a rig inspection by Stephen of East Coast Marine Rigging revealed a cracked swage on a backstay insulator. Then later we found things like the seals on the rudder bearing just about to fail, and hydraulic furling gear also in desperate need of some TLC.
So my 7 week visit last autumn (2020) was all about getting the rig down and preparing Cloudy Bay for her first ever real winter temperatures.
With the rig down, there was indeed a horrific crack in a backstay swage which would certainly have failed very soon, resulting in a disastrous “timberrrrr!” as the mast fell. And as I further dismantled the rig, my plan soon matured into a total rebuild of everything from the decks upwards.
The hydraulic furlers and outhaul all needed new seals & bearings, and many fittings on the mast were removed to arrest aggressive corrosion, mostly due to dissimilar metals in contact. The spreaders were particularly corroded on their ends, leading to all the spreaders being completely broken apart to attend to this. And the mast top and bottom had to be removed to allow the full in-mast furling system to be extracted for service.
These 7 weeks of autumn dismantling were then followed by a winter at home in Bucharest, researching and procuring all the necessary replacement parts in the most economical way. It was quite eye-opening to see the price differences of standard go-to marine suppliers and those of the original manufacturer. For instance, all the seals, shims and bearings for the hydraulic furlers were 1/10th the price when I got right to the source: ERIKS. Meanwhile back in Maryland, the new standing rigging was manufactured by Stephen and the East Coast Marine Rigging team during their quieter winter period.
As we started 2021 we were fully vaccinated by early February, but Covid was still far from tamed. In fact, globally, the situation seemed worse than ever. So we decided to defer our relaunch again, until autumn 2021 and to do another maintenance visit to Cloudy Bay, in that short period between Maryland’s winter cold and summer heat.
This spring visit has been all about getting the dismantled rig systems totally rebuilt with the necessary new parts. The aim: to be ready to simply raise the (new) rig again in October.
I also had on my list many other big-ticket maintenance jobs that should normally be done every 10 years or so. Now was the perfect time, with all summer to sort out any big surprises. These included dropping the massive spade rudder to rebuild the JP3 bearings; renewing the PSS stern gland seals; professionally refurbishing the CV joint, Aquadrive, Gori propeller and replacing the Volvo exhaust elbow.
Other jobs in the engine room and aft bilge area were rebuilding all the brass water pipe fittings, including the inaccessible jungle under the how water tank; rebuilding the plumbing on the deck wash pump; a new heat exchanger on the generator; new oil reservoir and hydraulic hoses on the swim platform hydraulic system, and sending our linear drives for service at Raymarine.
And elsewhere on the boat: rewiring the pedestal electrics whilst adding an LED dimmer switch & USB socket; refurbishing the gas locker and bow locker; sending lift-raft for service, receiving a new JS-Drogue, working out a better system to secure the cabin floor boards; having the fuel tanks polished and cleaned; and renewing hydraulic oils in the 3 hydraulic systems (furling, vang & backstay, swim platform).
In summary, I didn’t get through my entire to-do list (does anyone ever complete a boat’s to-do list?). But I did end up doing so much more than what was just on the list, if you know what I mean. For instance: “renew PSS stern gland” turned into refurbishing the entire drive train from engine right to the tip of the propeller.
There were also lots of areas where a simple service plan led me to time consuming modifications and improvements. The lower rudder bearing is a perfect example. Sea water had broached the single O-ring and entered all around the bearing housing, causing severe corrosion. In fact, it was clear this O-ring had been irreparably damaged during its original 2008 installation ☹. After fixing the damaged housing, I designed-in 2 extra O-ring barriers.
Another example is the swim platform oil reservoir which had a split in its plastic. When installing a new plastic reservoir it was clear it would also soon break. That happened because the original installation method meant the weight of the hydraulic system was stressing the plastic. So the mounting had to be modified to allow plastic tank to simply hang as designed, without any lateral stresses. And so another apparently simple 1 hour job ended up taking almost half a day.
Other than the Volvo elbow and the Gori Prop, I had never tackled any of these maintenance items before, so the learning curve was steep. But systems that I used to fear with trepidation, like the furling hydraulics or the rudder bearings, I now have every confidence I can tackle any time. And given the remoteness of where we plan to cruise next (Pacific, SE Asia, Indian Ocean, south Atlantic) we will feel much safer armed with all this new knowledge… assuming my aging memory doesn’t lose it all! But that’s a good reason to have lots of maintenance video footage!
So what’s the news on our future plans? We will come back to Cloudy Bay late September or early October and hope to get the rig up and get launched by early November. Then we head south with 2 possibilities.
Before we pass the Panama Canal, we want the Pacific to be completely open again, for totally unrestricted cruising. If we are green to go on that one, then we sail directly to the ABCs (Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire), cruise there for a month, then westwards to Panama via Columbia. Passing into the Pacific in early 2022.
If the Pacific is not fully open, then we will simply have a relaxed winter season in the Caribbean. And maybe only the Bahamas. Relaxed being the key word, not rushing around like the Speedy-Gonzales that we normally imitate!
Meanwhile, Oana continues to be very content with this break from the boat. For this summer we have planned several motor cycle tours across Europe. The biggest being from Bucharest to South France via the Balkans. There, we plan to visit friends, and maybe even Noah on Uncle Moe (Hallberg-Rassy 55) if he is still in that region. We will also experience some yacht racing in the Black Sea and a trip to our friends at Hallberg-Rassy, Sweden, in late August.
And of course lots video editing in-between. I have come back with over 750 video clips from the last 7 weeks. Those will certainly gobble a lot of our time!
And most importantly, as soon as possible, get to see family who still remain isolated from us. Particularly my daughters in Perth Australia where my eldest will have our first grandchild in August. Just now trying to put it out-of-mind that very likely we won’t get to see and hold the baby for some time yet ☹. We need to ensure English roots are established before he/she starts surfing and chewing garlic (the baby will be Australian born, with French father!).
As we close our blogging down again, we thank you for having the patience to read over the last weeks. We have tried to be as informative and light hearted as possible. We’ll be back again in just a few short months. Till then, as they say, watch this space, and maybe we make a post about our summer motorbike adventures.
Ciao from writer, Glen, and re-writer into readable English, Oana 😊