A month on the hard

It has been a while since I posted an update. Ah Ma is finally out on the hard and has been sitting there for almost a month now. When she was lifted out of the green murky waters of the Kawakawa river the bottom was like a horror movie. A thick layer of oysters covered her bottom. I was surprised that the propeller was still spinning and even more surprising changing between reverse and forward.

Haul Out, Bay of Islands Marina

A quick wash-down with the high pressure wash removed most of the shells, but left the bottom covered in the marks where they bit themselves into the antifauling. A lot of sanding was necessary to clean up the hull and prepare it for the new layers of paint. But this had to wait as it was the weekend of Matariki. The Maori new year celebrations that have been elevated to a national holiday by the local government. Over the long weekend the rains returned and this left a big pool of water under the boat on the hardstand. We were placed in an old wet sanding pit, so that water collected under the boat and needed to be pumped out by a pump, located in the locked shed next door. This left the weekend useless as I could not attack the bottom myself.


I used the rainy days to get the heaters going. The two Webasto heaters, hidden in the deepest corners of the stern did not fire up. I had the fuel pumps replaced as there were obviously beyond repair. But still the old heaters did not start up. A flashing light on the display showed a cryptic error code. Either one flash, no fuel, or two flashes, no ignition. I bled the fuel lines and tried to the best of my knowledge to prime them again, making sure fuel came up to the units. One of the heaters sprung back to life, but the other one kept refusing to start up.

After many attempts the heater threw new error code, 12 flashes. This meant I either had to find myself a certified Webasto engineer with a laptop that could connect to the control electronics, or reset the control electronics. Easier said than done. For this I needed to power cycle the burner whilst the control panel was still powered. Under normal circumstances this would be a simple job, as there should be a fuse between the burner power supply and the power source.

Not in my case though. I spent a couple of days tracing the cabling trying to locate the fuse, but discovered the fusing was done on the DC switch panel, with one fuse that controlled both the panel as well as the burner. I had to locate the feed to the burner and simply cut it to get the power cycle. This took some efforts. But with a little help from the local electrician we finally I succeeded. The 12 flash error code was gone. After some more priming of the fuel line and forcing some pressurized air through the burner it finally picked up. I left it running for a couple of hours so it could burn itself clean.

As the week progressed a few dry days presented themselves. The lads from the yard made quick work of sanding the belly of Ah Ma whilst I attacked the propeller with a hairbrush. Soon the hull was as clean as it could get and the prop was showing its shining copper again. The engineer that had been working on the boat turned out sick for the week, so works on the replacement of the bowthruster had to wait some more.

Whilst waiting i decided to add some flair to Ah Ma by installing an underwater light. I had been researching this for weeks and was not quite sure if it would be a ‘wise’ thing to do. Lots of these lights are cheap Chinese devices. More holes in the hull is usually more problems. But at the Burnsco marine shop they had a promotion for some real New Zealand made Hella lights. Not cheap, but proper marine grade stuff that would definitely not leak or break after a week (fingers crossed). I asked the local boat builder to help me drill a hole and mount the unit properly. This is not something I would like to play around with and doing it wrong. This was an easy job, and within a couple of hours, the new light was mounted, near the swim platform, between the rudders.

As the next week started the sun came out. I had good hoped the works would progress quickly now. The replacement bowthruster would be a drop-in replacement. Just a one day job I was assured by the guys at the diesel engineering shop. Nothing was further from the truth. When the engineer returned from sick leave and had a look down in the front, he came up with a puzzled look on his face. He called in his boss. They quickly came to the conclusion that the current assembly was fiber-glassed into position. And with the simple notion of “this is glass work, we don’t do that” they left the job.

As you can imagine, I was less than pleased. For weeks I was told not to worry, and that it would be a simple one day job. But no one actually took it upon themselves to verify if this was indeed the case, not until a couple of days before the planned splash date.

The local boat builder that helped me put in my underwater light earlier came to have a look. After a quick assessment of the situation he came to the conclusion that this would take a couple of weeks and of course quite a bit more money than I anticipated. Lucky that I bought the bowthruster at quite a large discount in Cyprus. It was a wrong order for some other boat, so their pain was my gain.

As I stayed on the hard a bit longer than anticipated the boat had to be moved to another spot in the yard. I didn’t mind this at all, since the new spot does not have a pool below it, and it is in a sunnier spot, so painting would be better there. Yet another half a day lost, moving the boat across the yard.

The boat-builder got started on the assembly for the bowtruster, cutting out the old unit, making a casing for the new unit, and making the hole in the front slightly bigger, as the drop in replacement part was not quite a drop in after all. It was a little bigger that the original, go figure. As we were talking boat talk on the job he told me he came across some video of a similar boat that had ‘exploded’ rudders. They blamed it on a collision with Orca whales, but that seemed a bit far fetched. On close inspection of my rudders we found the probable cause, which was frankly quite scary. The rudders on the Bavaria are a sandwich of the panes of fiberglass. The should be a layer of fiberglass across the leading edge of the blades. But there was none!

Rudder repair

We immediately decided to address this issue as well. It would be a simple job of grinding back the edge a bit and laying 3 layers of super strong glass over it. Of course after this the glass needs to be ‘bogged’, sanded and feared. But this is something I can easily do myself.

Then of course there was more rain during the week, so no painting or polishing. During a few dry days in the weekend I treated the trustworthy propeller to a nice coat of prop-speed paint and some fresh squirts of oozing grease.

I also attacked the cast iron keel. I could not stand for it to start rusting in it’s half sanded and scraped state. So I went to the hardware shop, bought myself a circular sander and a bunch of 80 grit paper. As I was happily sanding away on a Sunday. Removing all the remaining antifauling bringing the keel back to bare metal I was visited by a girl from the marina office. I was not allowed to use my own sander, as it was not ‘approved’ equipment. I had to rent one of the machines from the marina to do the work, ugh..

Painting the keel

After sanding a section I immediately slapped on some primer paint to cover up the cast-iron and prevent it from rusting again. And after a weekend of sanding, grinding and painting, the keel was covered in pretty pink paint, and so was I. I found it quite pleasing mindless work.

Another Monday had arrived, and finally the sun was out again, and a whole lot started happening at the same time. The boys from Yachtcare took up the job of polishing and painting the bottom, whist the boat-builder was laying up fiberglass on the rudders and I was painting up the last layers of primer on the keel. In a day the bottom of Ah Ma transformed from a sad scarred skin to a sleek black whale again.

As I sanded down the fins of the rudders and primed them in a nice layer epoxy primer I came to the decision to make them a bit more interesting. I bought myself a little jar of bright red antifaul and painted the wings of the dragon a flashy bright red. It is all coming together now.

As I am writing this, Monday the 25th of June, another weekend and Monday of rain and storms passed over the North Island. The planned splash date of the 26th will not be made, it will probably be another week..

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