Tuesday, 28 April 2009

A feat complete

The lack of posts is indicative of how busy we've been but against the odds, we managed to put the insides of Monty B back together, move out of one flat and spring clean it, redecorate the previous flat and squeeze our stuff (which has somehow expanded at an exponential rate over the winter) into a 30 square metre space in some kind of organised fashion. We've also managed to fit in a 3 day holiday in Croatia (mate Danny's birthday spent in luxury villa near Dubrovnik) and a weekend trip to take in silent, unspoilt beauty of Skadar Lake (hosted by our Skadar resident pals, Ben and Emma). More of in another post.

There is still shed-loads to do and this week's plans have just been scuppered by the arrival of a nasty low pressure system with accompanying rain and wind.

We are currently on anchor in Muo, opposite Kotor Old Town, swinging around like crazy and being buffeted by harsh, gusting SE winds. We've been on out on anchor for nearly two weeks and it has been pleasantly calm. I'd forgotten what this felt like (and so had Louis, who is quivering on our bed being comforted by a sick Tim - sick in that he has been stung by one of Montenegro's evil bees which floor you for a few days). All very refreshing and .... elemental.

Monty B's hull strengthening programme

A bit of background here: in February 2008 we noticed that our hull had an indentation on either side which had, most likely, resulted from our rig being over-tightened before we left Greece combined with the heavy weather that we experienced on our journey from Greece to Montenegro in December 2007 (see blog entries http://yachtmontyb.blogspot.com/2008/03/potential-nightmare-scenario-1.html and http://yachtmontyb.blogspot.com/2008/03/right-place-right-time-right-people.html)
We were extremely concerned when we noticed the damage and were initially told that we wouldn't be able to sail in anything other than light winds until the hull was strengthened. In the spring, a second authoritative opinion was that the problem was nothing like as bad as it appeared and it was merely one of the batons in the hull that had warped slightly. This turned out to be true in the end, but the indentation is not a good thing and we want the peace of mind that Monty B is a truly strong sea-boat that will last last many more years which is why we decided to go ahead with the work.

So we took it pretty easy over the summer, sailing in nothing over a F4, with the expectation that the help that was offered to us by the local boatyard back in Feb, would materialise in the autumn. It didn't. All very Montenegrin.

But we struck lucky once again when a good friend of ours, Tony, who is a master of all things maritime and a trained chippy, offered in his rare moments of spare time to help us do it ourselves. We had consulted many casual experts on a way forward with this and Tony's plan, to create two new wooden ribs and a stringer made a lot of sense to us novices and looked achievable. Little did we know how much work would be involved at that point. Tony spent his precious days off his stressful day-job, working his chippy and boat-building magic.

So the work began in February.

We started by stripping out the entire saloon. The moulded seating had to be cut out, all the wooden supports and panelling and ceiling panels were removed which was no mean feat. Then the beginning of the truly messy tasks began with sanding down the fibreglass in the areas of the hull where our new ribs were going to be fitted. This took in the region of 8 person days and resulted in the first picture below. The supports you can see are steel ribs which are chainplates for the shrouds and you can also see the glassed-in steel batons that support the hull. It was the lower baton that had warped slightly causing the hull indentation.

The second stage involved cutting some difficult to track down marine ply for the ribs and stringer. This alone took two weekends. The result is the second picture below. This shows our port side with the newly built wooden ribs (the verticals) and new stringer (the horizontal) which provide exceptional strength to the hull. The new ribs were glued in using West System epoxy (another 10 extremely dull pages could be written on the trials and tribulations of getting our hands on that stuff, here in Monte).

The next stage was to glass in the entire structure then fair the visible parts of the rib. This is the part of the tale where we learnt how bloody noxious epoxy can be as during day 5 of exposure, I was dizzy and sick. Burping epoxy is never a good sign. Unfortunately, it had pissed it down most days whilst we were working so it was hard to ventilate the area. I stupidly only used a ventilator on day 5 after discussing how I was burping up epoxy with an Aussie superyacht skipper a few nights previously in the pub (I am nothing but a classy chick). Ironically, this is when I got sick.

Anyway, a week later this was all done and we vowed never to do fibreglass work for more than two days at a time, ever again.

Then, it took six days for Tim to reconstruct the saloon while I sorted out the rest of the boat, ready for moving back in. I have to hand it to the lad: he takes perseverance to a whole new level. Almost every single element of the saloon had to be recut to take account of the new ribs and stringer - and the most hair-tearing out moment came when the fibreglass seat mouldings touched the stringer itself - so some of the new stringer had to be planed back. Aghhhhh! (It was at this point that I got told not to come back to the boat until I calmed down).
The pics below show the saloon put back together. The only visible part of the new structural support are the painted white ribs, running parallel with the steel ribs, which actually look quite good in the flesh.
The final pics are our beloved Monty B back to being our home again.

So, that was that. It was a huge job but the end result is that we now have an immensely strong sailing boat that we now have supreme confidence in. We are utterly indebted to Tony for his guidance, hard work, easy manner and giving up his precious free time to help us give Monty B a many more years of a happy life. Also many thanks to Laura, his fiancee, for giving up her man on so many weekends.

For us, the experience has been irreplaceable. We have learnt loads of new skills, it has built our confidence in many quarters and we now know a hell of a lot more about our boat. Seeing her stripped down to the barebones shows you what yachts are all about. Though I have to say, we are very, very glad to have finished.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Day 7063

It feels like I have spent the last 7062 days working, dawn till dusk, beneath the decks of Monty B. I haven't, of course, but after finally getting the boat onto her cradle (the boatyard kept her on a buoy for 7 days until I went mad in Serbian), we have worked our pale, winter asses off.

Monty spent 8 days in total in the yard and we achieved almost everything that we had wanted to get sorted out of the water. Which isn't bad going considering that were planning on having her out for 3 months. However, in lieu of time has been a large amount of money. We ended up paying men to do jobs that we would have done ourselves, had we had time. But I, for one, am quite pleased that I didn't have to spend the winter inhaling old antifouling and breaking my back holding an electric sander above my head for hours on end. Terrible admission, I know, but as I have now certainly lost my "inhalation of highly toxic chemicals" virginity, I am glad that I have paid some old guy to get the cancer rather than me. Particularly as they are happy to use the age-old health and safety technique of holding a cigarette in the mouth, puffing on it continuously whilst dry-sanding years of old antifouling paint. I couldn't do that, you see. I've given up smoking and respirators just don't cut it (for a claustrophobic).

So, we had donkey's years of old antifouling removed, two coats of epoxy primer and two coats of antifoul added, a new dark red boot stripe and Monty's bottom was reborn. She looked like an Orca with her slinky, black below-waterline hull and fin keel. Gorgeous girl.

The second good decision made was to employ a very un-Montenegrin Montengrin, Miko, to repair our stern. Half hippy, half Francophile, Miko showed us how fibreglass work can be treated as an artform and taught me the value of patience. After many days of his detailed, deliberate, painstaking brushwork, we now have a beautifully rebuilt stern. And he has become a new friend.
While all of this was going on, we were sweating it out below decks (summer has arrived). Seacocks replaced, plumbing all checked, continuation of hull-strengthening involving daily epoxy poisoning and cleaned out fuel-tanks. God, was that it? Surely we did more than that..... oh yes, lots of chemical cleaning of the hull (which we've decided needs repainting in full next winter).

As agreed with boatyard (for once, as it was in their favour, they did what they said they would, when they said it), we were plonked back in the water on April Fools Day (30 minutes after midday so all the seacocks worked).

The difference in handling was unbelievable! The photos show how many tons of mussels we had clinging to the bottom (though the cold water of winter had done for most of the barnacles). But it was still slowing us down and affecting handling much more than we ever realised. It was like driving a new boat!

Plus having seen Monty stripped down to her bare bones, inspected every inch of her and cleaned and serviced all the motorised parts, we are now fully confident in her ability to do her job.

Now we just need the sails back on.

Back in Kotor harbour, after a day off nursing celebratory hangovers, we've been working full on days ever since in a race to finish the re-structuring work so we can put her back together and move back in. It has just taken us three days to do what we wanted to do in one.

We have about five days of work left to make the boat fit for living on and only two days to do it. Bugger.

So tired. Body threatening illness at the beginning and end of every day. Next day off in 4 days time and even then I'm meant to be DJing. So tired, so tired........................ keeps me out of trouble though. And it is all GREAT! No horrible surprises, everything went astoundingly well in boatyard, such a relief!