God laughs her arse off

They say that when humans make plans, God laughs.

The Pelican had been Bobbing on the harbour for about 18 months and was  overdue for a bum scrub.  That had given me a long time to think about a few things that needed doing, so I had Big Plans. Yes, as always, I had a spreadsheet. Yes, it contained dates, estimated hours per job, and costs per job. Laughable? Probably.

There was a long list of jobs, but the essential ones were:

  1. Antifoul
  2. Reseal skin fittings / replace seacocks as required (3 were weeping)
  3. Cut and polish the oxidised gelcoat
  4. Discuss the rubrail

The yard would do the antifoul and skin fittings. The gelcoat restoration was the big job with an expert in the area estimating 20 hours of labour, not including set up.  The job involves cleaning the hull, wet sanding with 600 then 1000 grit paper before using an electric polisher with a gelcoat compound and then with a polish, before a final two coats of wax by hand. [For those who are interested in gelcoat restoration the process is outlined here and involves achieving a polish by structural means rather than using polishes that include artificial shining agents.]

We booked the haul out with the marina for Friday 21st October and planned to sail up early on the Friday morning so that we could spend the next 4 days smashing through the work. I cancelled my appointments (and income) for the Friday and moved my Saturday clients to another weekend. On the Thursday the marina informed me that their boat lift had broken down; this would delay their schedule by about a week.  In the distance,  kookaburras laughed.

I couldn’t afford to cancel another Friday’s work so we sailed up on the Sunday, slept overnight at The Basin, and delivered Bob to the marina on the Monday.  He went up on Friday. On Thursday my friend, Enrico, who was to help me with a chunk of the manual labour texted me to tell me he was down for the count with the flu.  A child walking by our house giggled happily.

Saturdayhaul out scum

We spent Saturday wet sanding.  First we removed the waterline scum which accumulates when your gelcoat is oxidised and therefore porous.

We ended up doing two light strokes with 400, half a dozen with 600, and 10 or more with 1000. It made an appreciable difference, cleaning up the hull and leaving it smoother.

haul out wet sand 2 sidesHere is a photo with the starboard side finished to 1000 grit (it’s still wet so not a fair comparison):

On Saturday I had a discussion with the boatyard manager, Corey, about the rub rail. He expressed some alarm, saying he’d never seen anything like it and it had caused some discussion amongst the boatyard staff.  We examined it together and decided that the timber really should come off but he was altogether unwilling to advise me to remove it; he wasn’t sure what was underneath nor what it would cost to deal with what was uncovered.


I removed a section to get an idea about what lay beneath. Upon inspecting the join from outside and inside (at a section where the glass join remained unpainted) we decided that the timber was not structural. So we bit the bullet and I spent the whole of Sunday ripping off rotten timber and dirtying our newly cleaned hull.  This was not in our schedule.  From a nearby radio canned laughter could be heard.

And here is our deconstructed rub rail (full bucket of rotten timber on the left):

rub rail on ground



flange and lide joinSo, what’s the story with our deck-hull joint? Most yachts are constructed so that the deck and hull come together directly with the toe rail on the same plane as the hull. The diagram on the right illustrates a typical ‘flange and lid’ joint.

The photo below shows the clearest picture of the profile of Bob’s rubrail and hull. You can see that the toe rail (aluminium rail with holes) and cream deck behind it are both elevated and inward from the top of the hull (which is the turn where that nasty silicon is hanging off).

rubrail half half


joint as is

Deck-hull joint as we found it, with timber rubrail

With my crappy graphic design skills I’ve modified that diagram to show Bob’s deck hull joint configuration as we found it.  Our deck edge and toe rail are set maybe 4 inches in and higher than the top of the hull.

Why would this be?  Well, we scratched our heads quite a bit during this process trying to figure it out. One guy’s theory was that we had a Joe Adams-designed Mottle 33 hull and an Adams 31 deck; sounded unlikely but I realised I’d never actually measured the hull so I measured the length just in case and it came in exactly as per the Adams 31 dimensions. Damn; I wouldn’t have minded that option!

joint as is now

Deck-hull joint as we left it, without timber rubrail. What you might call a ‘Flange and dogleg and lid’ joint!

Then I remembered a conversation with Ian from whom we bought the boat. Ian was a tall man and he mentioned that the guy who built the boat was taller again and had constructed the boat so that it had more than 6 feet of headroom below. That clarified it! What the builder has probably done is to add a dog-leg section between the hull and deck in order to increase the headroom below. I assume he also slightly reduced the width of the deck in the process. I plan to access another Adams 31 in order to confirm this.

After stripping the timber and cleaning it up, ‘Cookie’ at the boatyard cut out all the old bolts, countersunk the holes and replaced them with new nuts and bolts as well as sealing the exposed edge between the hull and dogleg.  This is how it turned out in the end. We have plenty of time to decide how to make this edge prettier.

rub rail not sealed

‘Flange and dogleg and lid’ joint as it is





Dry reflections

So Monday morning we set up to start hitting the hull with the polisher.  I hadn’t used an electric polisher before so I sought some tuition from Mark at the yard who’s the local polisher-dude. However, after about 30 minutes of learning to use this machine above head height my arms were completely ‘pumped’.  We had very limited time left to get this big job done and I was physically and mentally hitting a wall. We made a decision to get Mark to spend a day on it instead.

Nice arse!

Nice arse!

I realised it would be far easier to use the polisher at or below shoulder height so I took to the cockpit gelcoat areas to give them a bit of a lift. It was far easier and I realised that it would have been best to learn to use the polisher at this level first before tackling about 100 square feet of vertical or inverted boat hull. Maybe I’ll do my car during the year before I have another go.

Pics are the results of Mark’s efforts on top of our wet sanding.


Em had to work on Tuesday and I had to work in the evening. I had planned to keep hitting it but when Tuesday morning came around I could hardly move.  I lay around for a while before eventually dragging my sorry bones to the boatyard so I could do a couple of hours before heading to work in the afternoon. After 20 minutes Corey decided the boat had to be moved. They set the lift up under it and loosened the supports. Just then he was interrupted for 20 minutes so the whole moving process took about 30 minutes. This time I laughed.

Returning to Sydney Harbour

We planned to sail Bob back the next weekend; however, this time the sub-lift broke down and the prop was still to go back on after installing a new bearing.

There’s this story about God telling a bloke called Noah to build a big boat. I’m not sure how old he was when he began but apparently “Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of water came upon the earth.”  I bet he thought he thought he’d knock it over before his 50th birthday and that he was still putting the finishing touches on as it started raining.

I suppose God’s gotta get his kicks somehow.  Glad I could be of service.

God: "Re project plan.xls - ROFLMAO!!!"

God: “Re boat project plan.xls – LOL” Devil: “It even had labour hours and costs per job!” God: “ROFLMAO!!!”



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First sail to Pittwater; now with video

[Sorry – video didn’t get sent with the last post, so re-posting with video. If you can’t see it, click here]

Well, it’s taken us 2 years but we finally made our first trip along the coast in Pelican Bob. We decided that prices for marine services in Sydney Harbour are too high so we headed up to Broken Bay / Pittwater for slightly cheaper services. We’ll let you know whether that was worthwhile.

In the meantime, here’s our video of the trip up. We had a one to two-and-half metre sea state and fresh southerly winds.  The best thing about the trip was that Em loved it.  She was very tentative about heading out of the heads at all when we first started sailing, then enjoyed it.  She was cautious about doing a 20 nm coastal trip and when I saw the wave predictions I was concerned that she would find it all a bit too much.

Actually, I was a bit nervous about the trip too. I hadn’t skippered a coastal trip before nor sailed in waves that size. The fact that we had weeping skin fittings also made me a little uneasy. But we had a fantastic sail and as one of our friends said after seeing the video, we look like a couple of pigs in sh*t.  Can’t wait to sail back with a faster, safer boat.

Posted in Adventures in Sailing, Coastal Cruises | 1 Comment

The Big Re-rig: Part 2

The Re-rig, Episode 2:

In which a rower gets shat on, Roger throws a tantrum, a painter says, “Don’t paint”, a demonic child is exorcised, a secret clue is discovered, and a skipper gets high.


Joe Walsh

Joe and I. I just couldn’t operate my camera well enough to get him smiling.

This was always going to be a big job but could no longer be avoided. A couple of the local Seabreeze Forum guys recommended Joe Walsh at Woolwich as a good and less expensive rigger. I had a chat to him about what I needed done and he seemed like a down-to-earth guy so  I headed down the harbour to drop the boat off.  [If you don’t read to the end of the post, I was pretty happy with Joe and his team]


Delivering with mast

Feet up, motoring to Woolwich

A few days later I picked the now mastless Bob up and motored back. I was quite surprised how good a mastless yacht looks.  It looks like one of those super-fast power boats… until you hit the 6 knot hull speed limit.

I was planning to do a lot of internal work on Bob while the mast was off – rewiring and that sort of thing. I was under the false impression that without the weight aloft (well, without any aloft at all) she would rock a lot less on her mooring. Well, I was completely wrong; the rolling was attrocious! Every small and large wave made her pitch and roll like she was a roller coaster ride. “Tickets! Get your tickets! Craziest ride on the harbour! Only several thousand dollars a ride!”

Something missing

Something’s missing

What a load of shit!

The other thing I hadn’t expected was how effective rigging is for dissuading gulls from living on deck.  The following pictures show what I came back to after maybe a week. Time to drag out all that annoying netting the previous owner had stashed below.  Additionally, there are some gulls nesting on a couple of neglected boats near us and they’ve been dive bombing us and screeching as we row the tender to Bob.

Bird shit dodger

Roger’s dodgy dodger

bird shit bow

Poop deck









The other week when rowing out, I saw one ‘protective’ (read ‘aggressive’) gull heading straight for me at about 6 feet off the water. At the last moment he swooped upward and dropped a bomb of white poo right on me. Since reading Jonathan Livingstone Seagull as a teenager I have loved gulls. I have envied their flying abilities and dismissed anyone who says they’re annoying, picnic-ruining scabs. I now regard them as arseholes with wings. I’m considering buying a slingshot.

Learning to paint; boom!

Before dropping the boat off to Joe I took the boom home so I could get my painting technique down before starting on the mast. The plan was to sand them back and repaint with a 2-pack paint for a shiny, glossy, white finish. I sanded the boom back, treated it with an acid-based metal prep gel, then undercoated it. I then sanded and undercoated again to get a smoother surface. That wasn’t quite right so I sanded and undercoated again.

Okay. Time for the 2-pack. Here’s where I discovered how difficult 2-pack paint is. It’s really meant to be sprayed on. That requires special equipment and is dangerous, so brushing was the next best option. I just couldn’t get it quite right. I think I did three coats by the end. Rather than get better at it I think I got worse.

At the time of the final attempt I was incredibly stressed about a number of things I had going on in my life and, when I stuffed up the painting again, became enraged and ended up smashing the damned boom with the brush, destroying it and throwing hairs all over the 2-pac paintpaintwork, although ‘paintwork’ is a very generous term in this case. I just had to take a photo of the very worst area. I’ve discovered that painting does not come naturally to me. My main problem is trying to get too much paint on at once so that it sags. I blame the kindergarten staff who never let me do finger painting with my toes like some of the other kids got to do. I think I might get better results using my feet.

Choose your poison

Sanding back to bareMeanwhile, at the boatyard, I was busy sanding back the mast.  Joe let me use his sander and paper and gave free advice; that’s my kind of boatyard.  I was fairly aggressive with the sanding, going back to bare metal quite a bit. When Joe’s painter, Gus, came past we got into a conversation about what I was doing. He asked me why I wanted to paint it. I was taken aback. What other options were there? “If it were my boat I’d take it back to bare aluminium and treat it.”  He explained that once corrosion begins, the paint bubbles and holds moisture in, looks ugly, and needs repainting.

Gus worked for 30 years painting cars so he knows a thing or two about it. Imagine the rigger’s painter convincing me not to paint, doing himself out of a job!  He showed me yachts with bare masts and I could see that they didn’t look too bad.  Additionally, I wouldn’t have to purchase all that expensive paint, spend many, many hours on the job, or learn to paint with my toes. I was sold!

Mast bareSo I sanded the mast back to bare aluminium using the technique Gus showed me for getting a nice straight pattern. I suppose you could redo it using finer and finer grades of sandpaper to get a super smooth finish, but it’s a lot of work and I quite like the end result; it looks so much better than a worn paint job.

When all the corrosion had been removed from all holes where fittings had been and from the inside of the base of the mast, and the entire 12m x 0.5 m mast had been sanded back, Gus treated it with a metal sealant. This is poisonous stuff, not for sale in NSW, so I was happy for him to apply it.


Gus treating aluminium mast

Gus treating my mast with poison


Poison #219 (metal sealer)









Lights at the end of a tunnel

New Anchor Light

New anchor light and VHF aerial

Of course, with the mast down it was a no-brainer to have the anchor light, steaming, and deck lights replaced with new LED units.  Our old anchor light never worked so I would have to leave the deck lights on. I do think deck lights are probably more effective in most situations I find myself in; however, a working anchor light is a legal requirement so I could be found negligent without one (despite the fact that they can be mistaken for background lights on a calm night in Sydney Harbour).

New deck light

New steaming and deck light unit

All these lights are supplied with new wire which leads me to highlight the BEST part of all this re-rigging. Okay, I take your point – not having the mast fall down is obviously the best part but besides that.  We installed a length of conduit inside the mast to hold the wires and coax; NO MORE CLANGING NIGHTS!!!

If you’ve never slept on a boat with loose cables inside a deck-stepped mast I’ll help you; imagine you are a tiny person lying in an amplifier box which is attached to a metal cylinder – think tubular bells or wind chimes. Imagine a gigantic, demonic, child insomniac with a bad caffeine habit is striking just one note repeatedly and incessantly. This child demon has a rough idea that rhythm exists, so approximates it, but he likes to change it just when you’re dropping off to sleep.  Hallelujah conduit the maritime exorcist! Praise the Lord for PVC extrusions!

Time to step up

Deck plate

Old deck plate

At some point soon after the rig came down I set about the task of removing the compression post which sits underneath the mast so I could take it home and repaint it. The compression post sits on a block of hardwood on a metal grid at the base of the hull above the keel, and is bolted to the mast plate with the deck sandwiched between the two.

I noticed a small fracture line on one of the corners of the mast plate. When I turned the bolt on that corner the metal cracked right through like a Chocolate Digestive at afternoon tea time. Bad news. The metal looked compromised right through; like when you dunk your biscuit for that fraction too long and it flops into your lap before you can get it to your mouth. Joe confirmed that it belonged in the junk heap and an alternative should be deck plate cracksought.

New deck plateThe spar company that made the mast no longer exists (Joe actually used to work for them at about the time Bob was built).  As no suitable alternative could be found and a new one would cost a bomb, Joe had one fashioned from a small section of a larger mast, welded to a couple of thicknesses of stainless steel plate, holes drilled and countersunk, then powder coated.


New deck plate in placeI think it turned out nicely, especially considering the price.







Under pressure

Compression post coming out topWhilst the mast was down it was time to pull out the compression post and tend to that. I pulled it out, brought it home, sanded it back, ground off any rusty spots, and repainted it a lovely blue to match the decor. I don’t have a photo of that but trust me, it looks nice. Why? Because I used enamel rather than the evil 2-pack.

I discovered an interesting thing while doing this job. Someone has written a name on the bare compression post.  I assume that this is the name of the original owner who had this post manufactured. So, if your name is “D Rothweil” or similar and you once owned an Adams 31, drop us a line – we’d love to hear from you.

D Rothweil



Gettin’ High

spreadersGosh, I’m exhausted just thinking about all the work involved in this project!  Em was down for the count with a torn tendon so I was all on my lonesome with this one. Anyway, once everything was done Joe, Sam and the others put the stick back up.  All shiny, new leather ends on the spreaders, new halyards, reconditioned furler, etc – a full re-rig.  Many thanks to Joe and his team.


You may notice in the photo above that we now have steps all the way to the top of the mast.  Joe actually chose to manufacture some old style steps for the first section to replace a few that fell apart; that way he would be able to reuse the existing holes rather than drill new holes and risk compromising the strength of the mast.

I had these installed so that I can do my own work aloft. Sure, you can get someone to winch you to the top of the mast, but personally I prefer the idea of climbing than dangling.  So here we have it; the climax of the re-rig – the skipper getting high…
Top of mast medium








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The Big Re-rig: Part 1

As far as I could tell, the standing rigging (all the stainless steel wire rope holding up the mast) was 30 years old. Our insurance company said they wouldn’t cover us for damage incurred as a result of the rigging failing. People warn that SS rigging looks good until it fails suddenly.  So I knew that it was only a matter of time before we needed to replace the rigging but, you know, it’s hard to replace something that looks fine and seems to work just because something might happen when there are other things begging to be replaced.

A could of months ago we had a very windy day.  May 4th historical data shows wind gusts of 30kt but I think it was stronger than this. I motored over to have lunch with my friend, Enrico, who had ventured out in his kayak. On the way back I decided to experiment with letting out a small amount of foresail to sail back to the mooring. I let out a little, then a little more of the big genoa. Although not much was out, it was like a plastic bag on a string rather than any recognisable sail shape. I hauled in a bit whilst the sail was under load. This wasn’t easy. When I got near the Bay I tried to furl the genoa in all the way. It was extremely difficult, even head to wind. I managed to get most of it in and motor back.

Upon inspection it was obvious that the furler was very sick.  Here’s a video of what it was doing:

I managed to take a photo through a small hole in the furler to reveal broken wires on the forestay. Not good.

Broken forestay wires

Broken forestay wires









Putting these two things together it seemed that there were probably broken wires would up like a spring inside the furler extrusion.  The forestay keeps the mast from falling down. So I ran all the spare halyards to the bow and found a rigger.

Time for a full re-rig.

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2013 Spring Project 4: Foam and fabric

Here is the cabin settee when we bought Bob.  I’m sure it looked very cool in 1985.

The settee when purchased

The settee when purchased








Besides needing a fashion update, the foam inside was falling apart and leaving foam dust underneath the cushions.  This meant the job would be more complex and expensive than if we simply had to change the covers.

We sourced the foam from a couple of factory outlets in southern Sydney. We got high quality foam, thicker foam for the aft cabin berths and had the factory cut it to size and shape using the old, manky foam as a template. This probably wasn’t necessary in the end but at least we know the foam will last a long time. With the settee foam we decided it would be cheaper if we got a couple of big rectangles of foam and cut the pieces to size ourselves.

I did some research online about different ways to cut foam.  A lot of people had said how difficult foam is to cut. In the end I decided the easiest way would be to buy a special foam-cutting blade and cut it with my jigsaw.  I got this Festool blade from Sydney Tools:

The right tool for the job

The right tool for the job

Using the old cushions as templates I marked the foam and then placed it on a couple of trestle tables with a narrow gap down the middle.  It turns out that foam is very difficult to cut if the foam is allowed to bobble and wobble around, but if it is held relatively firmly it is pretty easy.

A nice clean cut

A nice clean cut







The foam cutting setup

The foam cutting setup








This setup worked wonderfully for cutting the foam straight through at 90 degrees.  When we had to cut it at other angles for certain cushions though it was a bit trickier; I think this was because it was harder to get the foam not to bobble around without the shoe of the jigsaw to hold the foam in place.

Once all the foam was cut to size we needed to cover it. We had already bought the cover material from an online fabric merchant based in the USA.  Unbelievably, it was cheaper to buy it overseas (about $160) and have it shipped ($180) over than to buy it in Australia.  I really should get into the importation business.

I had this idea that we would learn a lot by making the covers ourselves. An experienced fasion designer and seamstress friend stated in no uncertain terms that it would be very challenging and helped us find a lovely woman in Chinatown who made each cushion cover for $30 ($50 for the two big berth covers).  Yes, we had to schlepp the cushions in to town in two lots and back again but I’m sure this $340 saved our marriage!

All in all this project probably cost around 1.3 Boat Dollars.  They make zero functional difference but they make us very happy!

The new digs

The new digs


The new forward cabin uphostery and foam, Xmas style.

The new forward cabin uphostery and foam, Xmas style.

PS: Yes, I know I’ve skipped Spring Project #3 but it’s coming…

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