18 April, 2016

Locked behind the Bar

The Clyde River enters the ocean at Batemans Bay where Malua is currently in the marina.  I have to cross the bar to get out to sea.  It is quite a benign bar as sea bar go with little swell and very few breaking waves BUT the bar is shallow.  And when I say shallow you can see from the above photos taken just after crossing the bar it was less than 1.7m over the datum of .9 which leaves Malua who draws 2.1m very little water under the keel.  A slight swell and we touch bottom.
The bar has been a limitation for the development of Batemans Bay for years especially the on-water activities.  I made my first presentation to the NSW authorities in 2003 when they where developing an estuary strategy for the Clyde.  Unfortunately I left to go sailing in the Pacific before the final draft was published and there was a big gap between cup and lip and the importance of dredging the bar was hidden in the detail of the report.
The battle continued for years with submissions to Council, the local politician and finally the issue came to a head and the Council along with Department of Lands let a tender for the dredging of the bar.  The contract as in most cases was won by the cheapest bid and a small river dredge appears at the start of winter to remove the sand from the end of the breakwall.  The sand was pumped on to the local beach but the dredging came to a halt more often than it was working either from a broken pipe or bad weather.  The operation was a farce.
Some sand was removed but actually all the dredging did was remove the lip at the end of the shallows and stirred up the sand over the width of the bar.  For a time the bar was deeper but as soon as the infamous bad weather of an east coast low appeared so did the sand and we are back to what it was before.
The issue is that the breakwall that was built some years ago was designed incorrectly and has a curve towards the sea side of its length so the river water containing the silt turns just before it reaches the sea water and the Ph changes and it drops its load.  Furthermore the speed of the flow changes as it is hit by the cross current flowing at right angles to the river mouth within the bay and the sand is deposited right at the end of the breakwall.  The solution is to extend the wall towards Snapper island some 800 m from the end.  This would improve the river flow and hold the sand in suspension and stop the lateral drift of sand on the bottom.
You may ask why have the authorities not modelled this river mouth to determine the optimum solution?  These days it can be undertaken on a computer for a few dollars.  Way back in the days of old when I was at Stellenbosch University they modelled a river mouth as a real model along with water, waves, sand and small boats.  It was a delight to watch the sand move in the bay then see the result when they placed a proposed breakwall in the bay and what would happen to the sand.  The final result was tested under many sea conditions and the results passed to the builders.  The outcome a breakwall and a safe harbour for ships and yachts.
Oh no it is too expensive to do a study on the Clyde River mouths so we will again throw good money after bad and let another tender to dredge the bar this winter.  Well, it will be too later for me to take Malua out sailing except at the full moon spring tides which is just once a month.  So Malua is now trapped behind the Clyde River bar and I watch as other set sail for distant shores at the end of the cyclone season.

20 November, 2015

Malua Finally on the Hardstand

Coming out the water
While cruising in Europe and the USA I would take Malua out of the water for the winter and return to Australia for the summer.  This worked very well in that the boat only spend six months or so in the water and the anti-fouling worked quite well.  Traveling in the colder climates also helped but when in the Tropics the anti-fouling took a beating from the many things that wanted to hitch a ride either across the oceans of in the sheltered waters inside a coral reef.
While I was in Fiji I took the opportunity to put a coat of anti-fouling on in anticipation of not spending the money to haul the boat the following year here in Australia.  Well things changed.  Firstly, the one of the three blades fell off the self aligning propeller.  This may have caused the shaft to bend or more likely the shaft bent when I hit some piece of wood during the 12,000 nm trip from the east coast of the USA back to Australia.  The result was that I made it into the marina in Batemans Bay but even with a new fixed prop on the shaft I could not venture out of the Marina.


The time had come to take Malua out of the water.  The stars and moon where aligned in that we had a full spring tide in the morning.  I arranged to take the boat out and then four days later to put it back in the water before the tide waned towards the neaps.  That meant that everything had to go according to plan and nothing delay the splash back in the water.
The day arrived and Kevin had adjusted the cradle to suit Malua according to a photo take 10 years previously.  I inched the boat forward between the cradle arms expecting the keel to touch bottom before I was right on the cradle but everything aligned correctly and we secured the boat to the arms .  With a jerk and a bump Malua started to move forward and rise out of the water.  This is always a scary moment as more of the boat and keel is revealed.  Is the keel on the cross members correctly?  Is the boat upright? Will the boat tip either forward or backwards as the cradle moves up the rail tracks?  All questions I have been through many time and as always Malua with it long wide keel sits steady on the cradle.  Batemans Bay marina has a series of rail tracks and cradles firstly to lift the boat out of the water on a inclining cradle, then a transfer to a horizontal cradle and the lastly to a cradle or transferrer that moves the boat across the hard stand.  Finally the boat cradle is pulled off the transferrer on to tracks on the hardstand.  It is quite an operation but Kevin and Mick are now quite skilled at the task.
The first operation is to wash off the growth from below the waterline in a way that does not totally remove the existing ant-fouling.  Unlike many other boats Malua has travel many miles through the water in all sea conditions so the ablative anti-fouling was well worn off and the bottom smooth.  Furthermore I have almost every year sanded the excess paint off the bottom so there is no inactive build-up of useless anti-fouling.  Once that job was complete I was then able to tackle the main task of being on the hard.

The Propeller Shaft

I had sent the Brunton's Autoprop back to the UK to have a new blade fitted and for it to be balanced.  As expected they did a very good job and not that expensive – less than a quarter of a new prop supplied here in Australia.  The next element in this puzzle was the new prop shaft.  I could not take it out to measure it while in the water nor could I rely on the plans because David was not know for his compliance to specifications.  I had obtained from him a certificate that the supplied shaft was 316 grade stainless steel in the form of an invoice from the suppliers.  I used this to go back to J H Porters to ask them to made a shaft exactly the same as the one referred to in the invoice.  They looked up the workbook of 2000 and found the shaft dimensions.  I was confident that they would make the same shaft again but was I confident that the invoice supplied to me was the correct one?
Previously I had made a number of pullers and pushers to draw the propeller off the shaft, pull the shaft out of the boat and to pull the shaft bearing out of the skeg.  I had undertaken the skeg bearing replacement in 2011 so I knew the procedure.  Out came the shaft and the bearing without a hitch but when I lay the new 1 ½ inch shaft next to the new one I found to my horror that the new shaft was 20 mm too long.  What was I going to do in the three days I had left.  Stuart, a good friend who lives locally had a large lathe and was quite able to turn the shaft down to the correct length and to create and extend the 7/8 inch thread for the end nut. 
New shaft too long
We spent an hour or so getting the dimensions right and testing the engine flange and end nut before I return to the boat to slip the shaft through the skeg bearing, through the drip-less watertight fitting and on to the engine shaft.  I then had to connect the rubber vibration coupling and all was good.  Just as the sun set and the call of a cold beer came, the last nut was tight and the shaft was in place.  A well executed plan.  Thanks Stuart for all the help.  I would not have been able to get it right without your skills.

Spit and Polish

The last time I put any polish on Malua was some years ago when I took the boat out the water for two days for a lick of anti-fouling and a quick polish.  I am not a great supporter of some odd-job fellow hanging around a marina hard stand claiming to be able to polish a yacht.  I either do it properly or not at all.  So this time I had a full day, the equipment and all the polish and cleaners I required.  It is not an easy job even with a good electric polisher.  You will all remember: Wipe on – wipe off.  The same principle applies with a fiberglass boats.  First start with a good wash down to take any salt and grit off. Then with a foam pad apply cleaner and restorer which may have a bit of abrasive compound depending on the amount of oxidation.  This should be applied liberally and polished in until all is gone.  Then a soft cloth to wipe and polish the excess.  The next step is the wax polish with a high content of Carnauba wax.  This is applied with a lambs wool buffer at a slow speed.  Only take on a small area always in the shade and buff until the wax is well applied.  Then wax-off with your hand and a good lint free cloth.  At this point Malua was shining better than new.


The preparation of the underwater surface of the boat is always a challenge.  Take off the unused portion of the anti-fouling, give the surface a good grip for the new paint but don't take too much off to touch the undercoat.  In areas that the anti-fouling has ablated off back to the gel coat then it is time to apply some undercoat.  Malua's underwater surface is in excellent condition with only the aft part of the rudder with any build up of old anti-fouling.  You are required to sand the old coat to give the new covering a good grip but not too rough to spoil the finish.  It is a horrible job because one get covered in anti-fouling dust, so you have to wear a good filter mask and cover your body with a overall.  I have perfected the movement with my orbital sander so I don't strain my arm and don't get dust in my eyes but at the end of the job one is covered from head to toe in blue dust.  Next a good wash down of the hull and oneself to get the dust off then let the surface dry before applying the new anti-fouling.
The application is very dependent upon the temperature.  Too high and the paint  evaporates as do all the active ingredients.  Too cold and the paint wont set.  I had to wait in the USA for the temperature to rise above 10 degree C to apply the last anti-fouling but I can say it worked a wonder unlike the coat applied in France where the temperature was well over 35 C and the wind was blowing.  Deadlines are never good in sailing!
I had purchased two tins of Micron Extra from West Marine when I was in the USA.  I have found the local Australian stuff suits the environment but is next to useless.  Furthermore the only blue available here is light blue and I had previously used Dark or Navy blue.  It suited the boot strap and looks good.  I was faced with the challenge of using the three liters of dark blue remaining however the boat requires five liters to give the bottom a good coat.  The strategy was to paint the water line and then paint down the hull as far as the dark blue would go.  I covered the bottom to almost a depth of one meter before I ran out of paint.  I used the old tin and poured the light blue in to attempt to darken the new paint.  So the process proceeded for the next four hours as I  rolled on the anti-fouling.  I had finished just after lunch, leaving time to touch-up the bootstrap and other small scratches. A multi-shaded ant-fouling.
Shades of blue
Smooth bottom

Now for the launch to go back in the water.  The high tide was at 11:20 am with a 1.71 m above datum.  That would give us about 10cm to float off the cradle.  The launch cradle slowly moved down the incline into the water.  The water rose around Malua and to my great relief lifted off the cradle and floated again.  No pulling lines and no revving astern to move the boat.  Malua was free with new anti-fouling, a top-side polish, new shaft and the great Autoprop back in place.  Now all that was missing was sufficient water over the bar for me to go sailing.