I decided to refinish another section of brightwork during a small window of good weather. As long as I got the section stripped and sanded, applied the primer and 2 coats of Awlwood Clear, the remaining coats could be done as the weather allowed. So in a fury of 3 sunny days, I stripped, sanded, primered, and got 2 coats of clear on the cockpit inner cap rail and the cockpit vertical teak planks (the cockpit horizontal planks will be done later). The lower parts of the vertical planks have been an eyesore for some years due to water wicking under the varnish at the joint between the vertical and horizontal planks.
After the 3 sunny days, it rained in Seattle for almost 2 weeks until we finally got another few days of clear weather, during which time I applied Awlwood Clear coats 3 through 8.
In my last post, I wrote about how bad Apropos’ teak brightwork looked and how I would have to tackle it “some day”. Well, I decided to get started on it after seeing the long-range weather forecast showing sunny conditions for most of September and into October.
Over the previous 12 years, I applied 2 “refresher coats” to most of the exposed brightwork–cap rails, turtle/hatch, coach-roof trim, cockpit, boom gallows, etc. The brightwork that was normally covered by canvas would get refresher coats every other year–deck boxes, grab-rails, helm seat, butterfly hatch, etc. But after spending 2 years in the tropics, sitting on land for 6 months in Fiji, and sailing 16,000 nautical miles in the ocean, all of the varnish was in very poor condition. The worst were the cap rails, outer planks, cockpit, and coach-roof trim since they were exposed to UV rays most of the time. I decided to attack these first.
I used a heat gun and scraper to remove the old varnish. It’s time-consuming but effective, and I got better at it the more I did. When I first started, I hadn’t removed much from the boat besides small things like cleats and fender protectors. But as time went on, I realized how much easier (and how much better of a job) it would be to remove as much as possible, so I ended up removing the stanchions, lifelines, bimini, genoa tracks, whisker stays, and the stern pushpit. Even though it took over a day, it was worth it as it made the varnish removing, sanding, taping, and applying the new finish much easier and faster. Since I was working with the boat in the water, I was able to use the finger dock when working on the port side. For the starboard side, I borrowed a small Boston Whaler from a friend and used it to move along-side Apropos. I tarped below the outer planks to keep the removed varnish chips from reaching the water and vacuumed up gallons of it from the tarp. It took about a week of full-time (10-hour days) work to remove the varnish from the cap rail, outer planks, and coach-roof trim.
Next came the sanding to remove any scrape marks left behind after melting and scraping off the old varnish. This also removed the gray areas where the varnish had completely lifted, exposing bare teak to the elements. I first used a 5″ orbital sander with 120 grit paper and followed it by hand sanding with a 15″ long-board to get the surfaces as level as possible. This took a couple of days. A friend helped with masking the joint between the cap rail and outer planks and I applied a marine sealant to fill the small void, possibly the cause of some of the water entry we experienced during the trip.
Now that the surface was ready for re-finishing, I made sure to cover it with plastic to keep the overnight dew from reaching the bare teak.
Finally it was time to apply the new finish. I looked into alternatives to varnish, and decided on a product called Awlwood system made by AwlGrip. It’s a one-part system that catalyzes by the moisture in the air (as opposed to a 2-part system that requires a hardener). It’s relatively new, but testing claims it outlasts traditional varnish and can go several years between refresher coats. Some of the downfalls with it–it’s expensive at $65/quart, and it takes some getting used to applying. Since it catalyzes with moisture, you need to work with a small amount at a time. I settled on 4 ounces and found that I could apply that amount in 20-30 minutes, before it became too thick.
The first step with the Awlwood system was to apply a primer coat for the clear coat to adhere to. The primer coat contains a yellow dye to give the teak a more consistent and deeper tone. It was easy to apply with a cloth–similar to applying stain. This was an important step and without it, the top coat would just peel right off.
Finally, the clear top-coats were applied using Awlwood Clear. They recommend 8 coats, and one of the advantages of the product is that multiple coats can be applied in one day. A 4-hour dry time is needed between coats, and it took me 3 hours to apply, leaving an hour to rest in between! I settled in on applying 2 coats per day for 3 days, lightly sanding at the beginning of each day to remove imperfections. I found tiny bubbles forming in the first few clear coats (not sure why this happened, but a friend who used the same product on teak also found this). A light sanding each morning removed these imperfections and allowed the next coat to flow better. Prior to the 8th (final) coat, I let the 7th coat dry for 24 hours, gave it a final sanding, then applied Awlwood Clear thinned 5% with Awlwood Brushing Reducer and was pleased with the final outcome.
The final step was to re-bed the stanchion brackets, genoa tracks, whisker stay bases, etc. I polished all the stainless steel stanchions, push-pit, bimini, and genoa tracks using Fitz Polishing Compound prior to re-installing them.
While polishing the stainless steel around the bowsprit, I noticed that one of the whisker stay stainless steel turnbuckle bodies had nearly failed. A stress crack on the starboard turnbuckle probably occurred somewhere between Fiji and Seattle on a starboard tack due to heavy shock-loads on the bowsprit when beating upwind with the genoa. A complete failure of the turnbuckle could have overloaded the bowsprit and, in a worst case scenario, brought down the rig!
The entire job took about a month of full-time work and covered the largest area of brightwork on Apropos. But there is still lots to do–cockpit, deck boxes, butterfly hatch, grab rails, helm seat, instrument turtle box, winch bases, cabin doors, companion way hatch, wheel, boom crutch, and several small pieces of teak. These will have to wait until next spring when the weather is drier–phase 2.
Now that we’re back from cruising, it’s time to clean, repair, and restore Apropos. Being in the tropics for almost 2 years and sailing 16,000nm in the ocean is hard on a boat. We had every nook and cranny of the boat packed–under floorboards, under cabinet drawers, the v-berth (“garage”), etc. The first thing I did was to remove a lot of “stuff” and give the boat a thorough cleaning. A solution of tea-tree oil and vinegar was used to wipe down all the walls and inside cabinets and drawers. Next I tackled some of the recent problems related to fuel. I emptied both fuel tanks and scooped out the debris at the bottom. Almost all the refueling outside the US was done with jerry cans and never did we see any sign of dirty fuel in the bottom of the cans, so I assume the debris was from the growth of microbes. I always add a small amount of Biobore fuel additive when refueling, but maybe the tropical heat, and having the boat sit in Fiji for 6 months, accelerated the microbe growth. While I had the tanks empty, I also took the opportunity to replace the 4 old gate-style valves with ball valves. Refueling the tanks from empty also allowed me to precisely measure the tank capacity. I’ve always knew the total diesel capacity to be about 120 gallons (from the boat specs), and assumed the 2 tanks were equal capacity. I now know the port tank holds 64.4 gallons and the starboard tank holds 55.6 gallons!
Moving to the outside of the boat, I gave it a good wash to remove the salt that accumulated from the Hawaii to Seattle passage. I also removed some of the solar panels, the dinghy and outboard engine, the life raft and stored them in the garage until they’re needed next summer. Then I stepped back and looked at the poor state of the sun-wreaked varnish and thought about the monumental task “somewhere down the road”.
A quick trip to Lautoka for provisioning, banking, and renewing a cruising permit was followed by a flurry of activity back at the marina. We finally got the boat out of the pit and into stands to do the bottom paint. With 4 of us working, we sanded and scraped, then rolled on 3 gallons of Interlux Micron Extra bottom paint and changed the zincs, then were launched into the water at the end of the day. Here’s a short video showing just how fast we worked!
After getting a quote in Seattle for painting the hull, we decided to have it done in Fiji where labor rates are much less. To make up for the gelcoat mistake (see post from September 2015), they gave me a reduced price on labor and didn’t mark up the paint & supplies. I was confident in the painter’s skills and when I was in Fiji, he showed me another boat he had recently done.
Instead of gelcoat, most boats are using a polyurethane paint nowadays. It has better UV protection and isn’t susceptible to chalking, discoloration, or leaching. Polyurethane also maintains a high gloss appearance and flexibility even in full sun exposure and harsh environments. Repair of surface damage is easier than with gelcoat.
One drawback with using polyurethane on the hull is that the topsides will still be gelcoat, so the boat won’t be uniform. Exact color matching isn’t an issue since the outer hull isn’t right next to the topsides.
Since I wasn’t there when it was painted, I won’t know how well it turned out until I return in April. I’ll have new decals made in Seattle to take along and apply them in Fiji.
Karen and Jacintha flew to Sydney while I remained in Fiji for another week to finish prepping the boat. I had a very busy 7 days doing most of the work myself and finding more tasks that needed done along the way. The remaining tasks to be completed (from the last blog post) mostly got done:
Change generator oil, STORE BELOW.
Remove BBQ grill, STORE BELOW.
Remove dodger and bimini canvas, STORE BELOW.
Remove solar panels and STORE BELOW.
Run trace lines through masts and remove halyards.
Polish and wax hull.
Fix bilge pump leak.
Fix gelcoat dings, bubbles, and scratches (hire out).
The hull polishing/waxing didn’t get done because of the delay in the gelcoat repairs (see below), so the workers promised to do that after I left. Some of the stainless steel polishing got done and the rest will be done when I return.
Ten years worth of docking and maneuvering and hoisting the dinghy into and out of the water, along with the new bubbles caused by the tropical heat, had all taken a toll on the once pristine gelcoat on the hull. I decided to have the repairs taken care while Apropos was in the pit and before I flew out. They first opened up the bubbles and found they were only in the gelcoat, not the fiberglass, so that was good news. These were mostly near the waterline and for some reason the majority were on the port side. After grinding and filling all the defects with a poly filler, they hand-sanded to get a smooth surface. Next they tinted the gelcoat and sprayed or brushed it on. After drying for 24 hours, they wet-sanded the gelcoat to blend in the edges. Unfortunately, the new gelcoat turned out to be way too bright which made all the repairs stand out. Apparently the gelcoat was not tinted enough for a good match, and the only way to fix it now is to gelcoat or paint the entire hull! My flight was leaving in less than 24 hours so there was not much I could do about it. I’ll have to have it re-done either when I return to Fiji or when I get the boat back to Seattle.
At the marina, there were day-laborers for hire at an hourly rate of $6Fiji (only $3US), so I hired Bruce to polish some of the stainless steel. There’s a lot of stainless steel on Apropos–stanchions, bowsprit, turnbuckles, pushpit, wind vane, etc. And to think I almost had it done in Mexico for $200US. He did a great job and got about 1/3 of it polished and it only cost $18US, talk about cheap labor!
Finally, I hired Moses as a caretaker of Apropos while I’m gone for 6-1/2 months. He will stop by once a week and open the hatches to air out the cabin, wash the decks, check the battery condition, and inform me of any problems.
Some Final Thoughts on Fiji
We enjoyed spending over a month in Fiji. The people are so friendly and everyone greets you with a smile and cheery “Bula” (hello). From the remote and poor village of Nasea to the urban area of Lautoka, the Fijians are very welcoming and generous. Some of the best diving and the most beautiful beaches in the South Pacific are in Fiji. The cruising is more challenging here then in other South Pacific islands because of all the reefs and narrow passages, so we were more conservative with our planning and did no overnight passages. We saw and heard about several boats running aground, most escaping with little or no damage, but one that was a total loss.
As I was about to step onto the airplane to leave Fiji, an airport employee saw me carrying my ukulele and asked if she could see it. I listened to her play it while finishing my coffee, thinking about how lucky I was to spend so much time in Fiji!
We departed Ixtapa for the 240 mile trip back to Banderas Bay, making stops at some of our favorite places as well as some new ones.
After a very long 36 hour motor-sail up the coast to Manzanillo, we anchored in the bay next to the Las Hadas resort, where we relaxed around the pool for 2 more days. This was our favorite stop on our southbound run between Banderas Bay and Zihuatanejo so we were looking forward to spending a few more days there. The beach and resort were set locations for the movie “10” with Bo Derek and Dudley Moore.
Melaque and Barra de Navidad
Since we bypassed this bay on the way down to Zihuataneo, we decided to stop for a few days. The two small towns are at opposite ends of a large bay surrounded by sandy beaches and palapas. An added bonus was that SV Family Circus and SV Pelagic were both going to be there. After dropping the hook, we immediately took the dinghy ashore and met them at a beach-side palapa for drinks. Some highlights of our 3-day stay included a potluck aboard Family Circus, a visit to the French Bakery in Barra, a sleepover for Jacintha aboard Family Circus, roasting and drinking coffee aboard Pelagic, and exploring the small, quaint towns that seem to be like what small US towns were like in the 1970’s. Jacintha was sad to say goodbye to Amaia and Alina but we hope to meet up with them again in the South Pacific.
The next morning SV Ohana pulled into Melaque bay and we met them for a late lunch and a walk through town. Jacintha had a fabulous playdate with Hannah making music videos on the ipad whilst we had drinks and nibblys with Jake and Danielle.
Manzanilla (not to be confused with Manzanillo, which is further south), is in the same bay as Tenacatita. It’s at the south-eastern part of the bay and therefore doesn’t offer good protection from the typical winter north-westerlies. Since the wind was coming from the south, plus SV Seahorse V and SV Velvet Sky—both kid boats—were there, so that’s where we ended up! We had a fantastic potluck aboard Seahorse V and Jacintha got to play with Billy, Gracie, and Bucket. Captain Steve had just caught a Dorado that was great tasting along with a bacon-potato dish, fresh guacamole, red wine, and a chocolate cake.
As we are getting closer to our departure date for the South Pacific, we are having to say goodbye to boat friends we have made who are headed in a different direction. This is the case for Seahorse V, Velvet Sky, Ohana, and Pelagic, who are all headed south to Central America and beyond, or for some, spending another season in Mexico. It’s been especially hard for Jacintha to say goodbye to the friends she has made.
We had a nice 30 mile sail from Manzanilla to Chamela. A southern 15 knot wind kept us moving at 7 knots the entire way. We brought in a small Skipjack Tuna just outside Manzanilla and a nice Yellowfin Tuna at dusk just before arriving into Chamela so it was an interesting night time anchoring session. Good thing the bay was very wide.
Chamela is a small village with a few tiendas and palapas. The main street is paved but the side-streets are all dirt. The bay is big and offers protection from north-westerlies. When we arrived just near dusk, there was only 1 other boat anchored there. By the following evening there were 10. Chamela is 100 miles south of Puerto Vallarta and is a popular stop because it’s the first good anchorage for boats heading south or the last one for boats headed north. During our 2 days there we rowed the dinghy ashore, played on the beach, and bought some fresh produce at a tienda. Karen and Jacintha swam back to the boat as I rowed the dinghy.
An overnight passage of 90 miles brought us to Yelapa, a funky little village in Banderas Bay about 15 miles southwest of Puerto Vallarta. We decided to stop there for a day before heading to the La Cruz anchorage. It’s surrounded by rugged mountains and has no road access, so people arrive either by boat or horseback. Electricity was brought to Yelapa just 14 years ago. We tied up to a mooring buoy and took a panga to shore where we ate at one of the beach restaurants and bought slices of coconut and lemon meringue pie from the pie lady who walked the beach balancing a basket full of pies on her head.
The highlight of the stop was horseback riding up into the mountains to a waterfall. We thought it was going to be a typical guided tour type ride, and were surprised when they let us go off on our own with two horses—Jacintha and I on a larger one and Karen on her own. The trail crossed a shallow river and meandered up the mountainside past homes and restaurants. The trail was mostly cobblestone and barely wide enough for the occasional 4-wheeler to get by us. It was also very steep and I kept thinking the horse would slip on the wet cobblestones. We were told to go until we reached a church, then turn left. Luckily for us, the horses have been on the trail many times so they knew where to turn! When the horses stopped, we knew we were at the place where the man told us to tie the horses to a pole. Then a short walk and we were at the high cascading waterfall with a pool at the base. The water was a bit cold but we all jumped in and enjoyed the refreshing pool. On the way back, the horse Jacintha and I were on must have been hungry as he galloped most of the way, ignoring any commands of WHOA and pulling back on the bridle. Karen’s horse, on the other hand, stopped to relieve itself and then stopped again at the river for a drink, so they arrived 10 minutes later.
Some boat related things:
Changed the engine oil & filter in Manzanillo since we’ve been motoring a lot and it was easy to dispense of the used oil at the fuel dock. I normally change the oil every 100 engine hours, but when using the engine so much while cruising (especially in Mexico where winds are light), most cruisers go a couple hundred hours between changes. The last time I changed the oil was in La Paz, 300 engine hours ago—that’s a lot of motoring in 2 months!
Spent 2 hours using the hookah system to dive under the boat to clean the barnacles off the bottom. The bow thruster cavity and stainless steel thruster props were heavily coated with barnacles since I hadn’t cleaned there before. Other challenging areas were the main propeller and the very bottom of the keel. I also made sure to clean the knot paddle and thru hulls well. The hookah has proven to be invaluable for bottom cleaning as well as replacing zincs and dealing with fouled props. We hope to use if for shallow recreation dives in the south pacific.
Dug out the shade cover for the boat and found it makes a huge difference in keeping the boat cooler during the day. The cover came with the boat but we improved it by buying custom-made, collapsible fiberglass poles (just like tent poles) and sewed pockets into the cover. We moved the solar panels onto the bowsprit so they still get the full sun.
Karen worked on making some canvas cockpit pockets. The cockpit always seems to be littered with small things such as iPhones, iPads, Kindles, hose nozzle, deck plate wrench, sail ties, snacks, and so forth. The dodger has 2 small built-in pockets that are always full. The new pocket will be large enough to fit an iPad, which we use for navigation, and will attach to the weather cloth.
As the saying goes: Cruising is fixing your boat in exotic places
I spent a good part of the day fixing things:
One of the dual Racor fuel filters had been dripping fuel into the bilge (onto absorbent pads) for a couple of weeks. I’ve tried replacing o-rings on the threaded drain knob at the bottom of the bowl several times in the past, but it continued leaking a few ounces per day. It was a nuisance cleaning up the pads and once I forgot to check things for a week and had to remove a half gallon of diesel from the bilge using a drill pump. I noticed if I tightened the plastic drain too much, the o-ring compressed too much and it leaked faster. But even loosening it by various amounts wouldn’t stop the leak all-together. Removing and inspecting the drain plug, I noticed the bottom of the plastic bowl was a little uneven, so I filed it smooth with a very fine file. I also put a bit of silicone gasket sealer on the threads next to where the o-ring seats. After screwing the plug back in and re-filling the bowl with diesel, it seems to have stopped the leaking–at least 24 hours later, I’ll keep an eye on it!
Our Fleming self steering wind vane, nicknamed Ian, never really worked right and I think I finally found out why! Another cruiser (Scott from SV Velvet Sky) was telling me how well his wind vane steered his boat and offered to take a look at mine. His is a Monitor, but works the same by turning the wheel in response to veering off a set course with respect to the wind. The problem with Ian, is that he seemed to turn into the wind all the time and never corrected course. Analyzing how the wind affects the vane, which affects the servo-pendulum rudder, which in turn moves the wheel, we realized that the lines going from Ian to the wheel drum needed to be reversed, or criss-crossed, to make the wheel turn in the correct direction! I decided to cross them where they were routed through the lazarette, which was more difficult than crossing them near the wheel drum, but provided a fairer lead through the blocks. Can’t wait to test Ian out on our next sail!
The head felt like it wasn’t flushing properly. The Y valve that steers waste either into an onboard stainless steel tank or overboard was getting harder to move, and with the valve in the tank position, you could hear some of the water going overboard. So I disassembled the Y valve and right away could see the problem–lots of calcium deposits had built up so the valve wouldn’t completely move to the tank position. This was not a fun job, but was finished in about 2 hours and now the Y-valve operates much better.
This is Apropos’ home for the next 4 days. The Seattle crew flew home today and my new crew (Karen and Jacintha) arrive tomorrow. The Sausalito Art’s Festival is going on this weekend and is a 5 minute walk from Schoonmaker Marina, so it’s the perfect place to be. There’s even a sandy beach right near the boat.
Yesterday I replaced the port-side deck-to-tank hose that was preventing me from filling the port tank. The old one was not rated for diesel and turned spongey at the bend where it connected to the tank. This is probably the source of our fuel problems a few days ago. West Marine was nearby and had the correct hose.
Today I gave the cabin a good cleaning. The brass pole is a barometer of how clean the boat is since I cleaned it last–so the boat is CLEAN!
Running Rigging–After 10 years, the running rigging on Apropos was looking tired. I replaced the main halyard, mizzen halyard, drifter halyard, main and mizzen topping lifts, and jib halyard. I also added halyard clutches on both masts for line control.
Still to go are the jib sheets, stays’l sheets, and main sheet.
Lazy Jacks–Lazy Jacks help with lowering sails and are invaluable for short-handed crew. The lazy jacks keep the stack from falling all over the deck when flaking is not possible due to emergency situations or when sails need to be lowered quickly. I made my own lazy jacks after reading several articles from sailing magazines. I first made them for the mainsail, then copied the design with minor changes for the mizzen. Both designs use spreader mounted blocks, mast-mounted Spinlock cam cleats, 3/16″ AmSteel-grey line, stainless steel rings and eyestraps. The main was fitted with a 4-leg system and the mizzen a 3-leg system. They are easily deployed and stow against the mast when not in use. The AmSteel line and splicing to the ss rings minimize sail chafe.