Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall charting our adventures as we sail around the world. This season we spent 5 months exploring Vanuatu and are now on the east coast of Australia.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

A successful, if slightly surreal haul-out

Maunie has her bottom exposed for the first time in 12 months
Having your boat hauled out onto 'the hard', as it's known, is a necessary evil of boat ownership and isn't something that most crews enjoy. Back int Britain, many boats will be lifted out at the end of October and returned to their natural environment in March, giving their owners plenty of time to attend to maintenance work and apply a new coat of anti-fouling paint through the autumn and winter months. In reality, most leave it to the last minute, only to discover it's the coldest, wettest March since records began.

For us 'liveaboards', the boat is in the water for the full yet year with just a brief haul-out, to attend to things 'down below', once a year. We have the advantage of being able to pick a location and time of year where the warm sun is shining but it's usually a stressful, back-breaking and expensive few days. We hand our floating homes into the care of (we hope) skilled boatyard operators who crane them out and chock up them securely in the boatyard. However it;s seldom straightforward and we know of 2 boats that had disasters in reputable yards in New Zealand in the past year; one got the lifting strop of the crane in the wrong place so it bent the 40mm diameter propeller shaft, whilst another suffered huge damage when a prop failed and the 20 tonne, 4 year old 46ft yacht fell over onto the concrete resulting in a £300,000 repair.

So, in context. our unplanned haul-out in an unknown-to-us Fijian yard was potentially going to be fraught. The reason for our decision to do it was an unpleasant rattle from our expensive Brunton's Autoprop feathering propeller (only a year after we treated it to a full rebuild in New Zealand) and we just didn't want to wait until our return to NZ in case there was something seriously amiss. 

So, on Monday morning we arrived at the dock to meet Vinay the yard foreman, Avi the crane driver and Jonni the pressure-washer expert and general sage. It was slightly worrying to read the small print of the contract which stated that the yacht captain was entirely responsible for the positioning of the lifting slings under the boat and that, in the unlikely event of a disaster, the yard would accept absolutely no responsibility! Anyway the team of three were extremely attentive and we managed to get the slings in the right places for a smooth and safe lift. It was only once Maunie was safely propped up in the yard that Avi confided that he was nearly at the end of his three-month probation period so was still, technically, in training!

First stage of the project - take boat from water and place on land - successfully completed, we then set about investigating our rattling propeller and discovered that it had worked loose on the tapered propeller shaft. 
The propeller, cleaned and removed

The tapered section of the prop shaft with the brass 'key' visible. The spurs ahead of it are the Stripper rope cutter which we have, we have to admit, tested in anger!

There was no danger of if falling off, thankfully, but it became clear that someone (not us!) had made a mistake with the measurements when we ordered the propeller 5 years ago and, no matter how hard the securing nut was tightened, it wasn't securing the thing tightly onto the taper. It had held in place by friction and goodwill until a few weeks ago and the rattle we could hear could, if left unattended, have damaged the bronze propeller beyond repair.

Step forward another Vinay, this time the foreman of an onsite engineering business called Baobab Marine. He called his boss in and between us we decided a new spacing washer was required - the following morning a made-to-measure washer, machined from bronze, arrived from the workshop and the problem was solved.

What really impressed us was the interest and enthusiasm of all the guys we worked with in the yard. There was none of the usual 'seen it before' weariness that we have encountered elsewhere and they all wanted to know how the feathering propeller worked and what the rope cutter was for.

The slightly surreal aspect of the project was that the yard rules forbade us from living aboard Maunie (as we'd usually do) whilst she was out of the water so we found a wonderful alternative of a one-room apartment a few hundred yards away. This came with a proper kitchen, a washing machine and drier (which saw a lot of use!) a big TV and DVD player and a superb pool. So, we were able to escape back to luxury in between bouts of hard work and even managed to host a drinks party for the crews of three other boats who were as surprised as we were that a haul-out could be so easy!

The living room of our apartment
The propeller, serviced, refitted and coated with a non-stick coating called Propspeed which has done a very good job of keeping the barnacles at bay over the past year

Polished and ready to return to the water

Avi, the trainee Travel-lift driver, at work
Overall the project (including the cost of the apartment) cost about the same as we would have paid in NZ (with no luxury apartment and, of course, and we won't have to haul out there now) but it was infinitely more agreeable. The process is one of those expensive moments in sailing though - we spent about £500 all-in - which does make us focus on the costs of boat ownership. Again, Fiji scores highly, not just in labour costs but in other aspects; cooking gas for example.

Our selection of gas tanks
On Maunie we have Camping Gaz 2.2kg cylinders as our main supply, plus a 4.5kg Calor Gas bottle but in New Zealand we had to buy some expensive 1.8kg aluminium tanks as no-one would refill our tanks. Here in Fiji, no problem and the Camping Gaz tanks cost about £5 each to fill whereas when we left England we were paying about £24 each. Any explanation of the difference would be welcome!

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