After experiencing our first winter for many years (Covid having kept us in New Zealand) we were happy to feel the tropical sun, balmy wind and be surrounded by warm water once more back in Fiji. Our achy joints could relax and our sweat glands came back to life!
Sadly our sailing days were numbered for a while. After cramming as many people as we could onboard to enjoy the Musket Cove Regatta, it was back to work for Timo, and time to begin our refit...
Our first hurdle (quite literally as it turned out) was getting the boat out of the water, something that our 4.2m draft made particularly challenging... We waited for the next Spring high tide and dinghied up and down the entrance channel to Vuda Marina checking the depth with lead lines and handheld transducers. As suspected, there was an area of the channel (at the entrance to the new basin) that fell 60cm short of what we needed...
Time was ticking as we waited for the next Spring tide, time which we spent inventing strategies for getting NV out of the water before cyclone season began. We discussed options for craning the boat out directly from outside the basin, or ways to heel her over enough to reduce the draft. We tried filling the dinghy with water and hanging it from the end of the boom held out at right angles to the boat, but this only achieved a few degrees of heel, nowhere near enough to reduce our draft by the necessary 60cm.
Finally a solution presented itself in the form of a giant 12 metre inflatable tube which we could attach underneath one side of our hull lifting it out of the water and giving us sufficient heel. The details of this operation can be read here Hauling Out with a 14ft Draft - Sail Magazine and you can watch the event itself thanks to the great video from Rob Rickman below (please support us and subscribe to our channel!).
I've also included a little sketch of the heeling angle calculation here.
The excitement didn't stop there. We got our mast down days before cyclone Yasa raged havoc through Fiji. The use of the hydraulic jack to tension (and de-tension) our rod rigging gave us cause for concern upon realising (only the night before) that the stainless steel bar which slots into a hole in the base of the mast, wasn't a good fit for the mast or the hydraulic jack! After a very helpful conversation with the mast builder in Australia, we tried our luck at de-tensioning the rig by hand. If the rig is under extreme loads this has the potential for damaging the thread and we were very careful to pay attention to any heat being emitted. Fortunately we proceeded without issues, a sign that our rig had not been under maximum tension.
We spent our Christmas break disassembling the heads including the walls! This is so we can make another double cabin where the heads originally were and instead move the heads to the port side of the bow. New Year's Day was spent repositioning the freezer and rearranging the galley to use the space more efficiently to make more space for this new double cabin. In these early days we were still living onboard, and every work day meant hours in preparation covering our living space with protective plastic sheets and vacuuming and wiping down all surfaces with a wet sponge at the end, to ensure we'd got every last spec of fibreglass dust from the grinding.
Fortunately these days were short lived, and Timo's company kindly offered us the use of a house up the road, which also gave us the chance to empty the boat completely so the real work could begin. This was an especially welcome relief for me as Captain Nemo had started to grow in my tummy, and I was extremely grateful to not have to climb the 4m ladder up to the boat every time I needed the toilet...
With the boat now void of everything except tools, Timo set to work cutting out the previously decommissioned water ballast tanks, creating a new sofa area in the saloon and space for double pipe berths aft of the companionway. He also opened and cleaned the remaining water ballast tanks ready to re-install with fresh water. He spent weekends resealing and re-enforcing deck fittings and installing a workshop in the bow. We put in 2 new hatches in the cockpit, including one at the very aft of the boat which meant we finally had easIER access to our super skinny stern. We began work on the underneath of the hull, stripping off all the old antifoul to read and understand all stresses and history of the hull, ready to paint with fresh Interprotect epoxy primer and International Ultra 2 hard antifoul.
My new reality of growing Captain Nemo meant I had to stay away from a lot of the toxic work, and instead learnt to use the sewing machine to make new sail bags, cushions and finally Covid masks! I sanded and varnished the floor boards, serviced the winches and dis-installed the electric winch motors ready to reinstall the original coffee grinders, painted our carbon to protect it from the UV and spent hours hunting online for various parts and how to get them here, including rolls of carbon fiber and the pieces to make our own vacuum pump!
You can see more details of our progress here.
As is usual with projects like ours, the more you do, the more you discover you want to do. The further you strip back the boat, the more things you find to fix and the more ideas you have for alterations. Our 'to do' list which I wrote on the wall back in February seems to have only grown in size. This combined with the lack of open neighbouring borders means we've decided to stay in Fiji another year. With cyclone season looming once more on the horizon, this means leaving the boat out of the water, and potentially taking the keel off this year to make us less vulnerable.
Big jobs still left to do...
- remove keel
- remove rudder to check bearing
- install water ballast with drinking water
- make new heads
- finish workshop
- finish cabins
- finish saloon
- paint cockpit
- install original coffee grinders
Wish us luck!