(Or Pipistrelle’s Spring Clean)
Well, it’s that time of year again! End of the summer in the Southern Hemisphere heralds ‘spring cleaning’ on Pipistrelle. There’s much ‘out with the old; in with the new’ this time.
For a variety of reasons, not least of which is replacing the generator engine (more of that later) we decided to do some of the work in Whangarei, with the majority ‘saved’ for Gulf Harbour Marina.
First on the list were the sprayhood and bimini which were new in 2006 and had therefore lasted extremely well in the tropics, where the UV does incredible damage. Having stitched and restitched over the last couple of years, applied wax to seams for leak prevention and Vaseline to zips to stop them seizing up, they were nearing the end of their life and the fabric was wearing thin. So we decided both should be replaced, accepted the quote from Palmer Canvas in Whangarei to use a material called Stamoid, as yet unknown to us. This is a very tough but lightweight, marine vinyl fabric with excellent UV and weather stability. We are delighted with the result. Seizing the opportunity for enhancements, we opted for a ‘smiley face’ central zip opening in the clear sprayhood screen – a huge benefit at anchor in the tropics when we need shade in the cockpit but have a through breeze at the same time. Again in an attempt to reduce sun in the cockpit we have also had detachable side-screens made in a mesh fabric. These are dual purpose, letting air through and repelling 90% water.
Second was the saloon upholstery. We removed all the cushions to have them steam cleaned with good results and a fresh, clean perfume.
Cushions are known as ‘squabs’ in NZ. A sprayhood is a ‘dodger’, and a dodger is a ‘leecloth’. But a leecloth below is definitely a leecloth. All very confusing when we supposedly speak the same language!
Third, our mattress, and what a saga that turned out to be! Abacus in Whangarei were geared up to do the job once we had tested foam samples of varying firmness and agreeing what would suit us best. But the selection process is not like going to John Lewis (in the UK) and lying on a full length mattress to try before you buy. To cut a long story short, we chose the density we thought would be most comfortable (firm), Abacus suggested using a 10cm softer foam as a topper but retaining the original thickness. Good idea. So we removed the old mattress, complete with cover and the job was done. We retrieved the new one, made up the bed and snuggled down for a good night’s sleep – which unfortunately eluded us because it was like lying on a board! Back to Abacus whose solution was to cut off some foam each side so that it did not fit so tightly inside the cover which they did. That did the trick! But we are still getting used to the new firmness.
Fourth, and still in Whangarei, we took off the stackpack (mainsail cover) and had yet another piece of fabric inserted for easier unzipping and zipping. The mastboot has also been lengthened by about 30cm. With these two fairly minor alterations the mainsail no longer has to be squashed into the stackpack and the luff is completely protected from UV.
And so to Gulf Harbour where we were having the generator removed for the Kubota motor to be replaced, as the engine had clocked up 4,750 hours, equivalent to roughly 270,000 miles in a car! Whilst it might have lasted for the next 9 months, if it failed, there is no engineering support north of Fiji. We decided that while we were in the marina waiting for reinstallation, we may as well use their haulout facility to do the annual painting and decorating jobs.
Steve and Graham from Category One Engineering did a splendid job of getting the generator out of the engine room and off the boat with not a scratch to any wood or paintwork having planned the process carefully and applied protective coverings on all surfaces in their path. By means of a mechanical hoist, various pulleys and halyards and swinging the boom over the pontoon the engine was thus removed.
That was Monday’s job done.
Our appointment with the lift was on Wednesday at 10.00 sharp – with instructions not to arrive a minute before! We were escorted from berth to lift, Bob taking Pipistrelle astern along the long entry dock and expertly negotiated the slings. We disembarked, Pipistrelle was lifted, her hull pressure hosed and moved onto our stand, all within 30 minutes. In our experience with lifts in various parts of the globe, half an hour has to be a record! A highly professional and efficient operation. At 48 ft, Pipistrelle is no midget, but at 115 ft, Silver Tip (also registered in Guernsey but built here) our neighbour in the larger lift managed to dwarf us!
So there we were, high and dry with 14 steps of the ladder down to ground level and of course back up again. Good for the leg muscles if nothing else! There are benefits to having no facilities on board to speak of – meals ashore for one thing! And the principle disadvantages can be safely left to the imagination…
Whereas we had the hull wet sanded and the topsides polished and waxed by professionals ‘A Touch of Gloss’, who turned out to be the very same company the previous owners used while they were here in 2002, Bob took on the unenviable task of antifouling. Elaine polished the family silver, or rather cleaned and polished stainless steel on deck once more in an attempt to prevent or at least minimise corrosion.
With the generator out, Bob thought it a good opportunity to decorate the engine room. We consulted colour charts and finally decided on magnolia. After two coats it’s now clean, bright and cheery – good enough to use as a temporary dining room, despite the chandelier not having been delivered yet, and indecision about curtaining! Oh and we also have a newly painted interior part of the propeller shaft – in ‘gold leaf’ thanks to good old Hammerite!
New saucepans have also been bought in a sale to replace the very old set we had, and we finally managed to source a replacement 1 ltr kettle to use either when we have shore power or when the generator is running. Picky we may be, but anything over a litre is too bulky to store.
So apart from painting the mast (not all of it) just spots, we’re nearly at the end of this round of refit. Whew!
Interspersed as always by social events, our working gear was exchanged for party wear (girls anyway) and a birthday ‘do’ on Cobalt for Kathryn’s celebrations. The stay in Gulf Harbour was highlighted by the arrival of Ellen and Wolfgang (Abora) back from Germany for which Heribert and Hildegard (Wasabi) drove down from Opua. It was the first time since August in Fiji the group of us had all been together! When we will meet again, we don’t know as Abora will stay here until November while Ellen and Wolfgang go off to do other things, and Wasabi is now sold. H & H return to Europe mid month.