23 February 2021

Heater project interlude - mast pad replacement

The story begins week or so earlier, when the captain notices that one of the shrouds is a bit slack and tightens it.

Some days later, looking up, he notices a loose bolt. It's one of the four bolts that go through a wooden pad on the ceiling, through the deck, through another wooden pad on the deck and finally into the base plate of the mast. He asks the mate to put a spanner on the nut on the mast plate while he tightens from below. The bolt just keeps on turning, and the mate realises this is because the wooden pad under the mast is rotten in that corner. Further investigation reveals that the visible edges of the pad just break away like a crust, and that what is within has the colour and consistency of mud cake.

It's very disturbing to find that you have about 200kg of mast sitting on a bit of rotten wood. It's also disturbing to think that you have been putting quite considerable pressure on said mast while sailing recently. The captain is cast down, not only by these thoughts, but also because he can't envision how the issue can be fixed. The mate has a simple solution: "Ring Ian Brett". Ian is the rigger who replaced all the rigging on Nahani a year or two ago. So we know he is extremely good and professional, and he knows the boat. The captain makes the call and after a conversation with Ian he is much comforted. Ian suggests replacing the wooden pad with one made of plastic and recommends a provider of same. He also thinks it will not be too hard to do the replacement exercise.

Captain, much cheered, gets on to the plastics man, who recommends polyethylene. Much measuring is done and he is provided with a specification for a slab of plastic about 300 by 330mm, 30mm thick. A beautiful, heavy black slab, neatly rounded at the edges is subsequently delivered. Lots more measuring is then done to work out exactly where to drill the four holes for the bolts, as they have to line up with the existing holes in the deck and in the base of the mast. Finally we are confident that we have the measurements right, and the holes are drilled.

We are in regular contact with Steve Edwards, builder of Nahani, at the moment because he and Chrissy are coming to visit in March. We tell him the sad story and he points out that the underside of the block will need to be shaped to match the slight curve in the deck. We purchase an industrial strength sander for the job and the captain has a messy afternoon covering himself in little bits of black plastic as he does the requisite curving of the bottom of the pad.

At some point, the mast has to be raised to do the exchange of pads. Someone else is hiring a crane for a mast removal job, and we consider sharing that crane. But he is planning to do it with the boat in the water, and trying to do a tricky lining up exercise could be difficult or impossible if there was any wave action at all. Ian Brett thinks that because we only need to raise the mast a few inches, it can be done using the small fixed crane in the boatyard. We decide that this looks like a better option, and book in to have the boat hauled out. The bosuns are skeptical about lifting the mast from such a big boat with the small crane, but we have faith in Ian.

Monday is the day, but we have to wait until late morning as there are four other boats to come up or down the slip. By then, it's blowing hard from the northwest, making it hard to get out of the pen. After a couple of anxious moments the mate suggests that we need a third person aboard to help control the boat as we back out, and Paul from Moonwatch kindly obliges. With his help we get out safely and make a pretty good entrance into the cradle, but with a bit of a scrape on the jetty on the way in.

The next issue is securing the boat in the cradle. This is normally done with heavy-weight tie-downs between the cradle arms and the mast, but if you're planning to move the mast, you have to find an alternative. Ian advises the bosuns and we eventually have tie-downs crossing in front of the mast, and ropes crossing in the cockpit. It takes a couple of goes to secure the boat properly - on the first attempt she has a distinct lean to port.

Criss-crossing straps

Leaning to port

Once we're straightened up and on our way up the slip the second time, Ian starts work. On his instructions, the captain has already loosened all the turnbuckles on the stays and shrouds, so that these can now all be slackened off easily.  The idea is to loosen them enough for the mast to be raised, but leave them all connected so that the mast will stay vertical when lifted from near the base. By the time Nahani has been pulled up to the top of the slip, washed down by Mark the Bilge Rat, shunted across to the crane and moved into position under the crane, Ian and the captain have almost completed the task of loosening everything. The mate, down below, has retrieved a bit of the furler that fell to the ground as the forestay was loosened.

Men at work: washdown happening below, rigging work above

Boat with large mast beside a very small crane

Ian swings the crane into position, and fastens the crane cable securely to the mast. Nahani crew watch anxiously as he cranks the crane winch. At first there is resistance as one side of the wooden pad isn't rotten, and is stuck firmly to both the base of the mast and the deck. There is a bit of work done to prise it loose, and the wooden pad is broken up in the process.

The old pad, on the way out

The debris is cleared away, the mast raised a little further so we can clean up underneath. To our relief, there is absolutely no rot in the deck, so the new pad can be put in without any further work required.

The mast suspended, clean, undamaged deck below

Well, almost. As we chip out the old wooden block, a beautiful silver coin emerges. Steve and Chrissy had warned us that they had followed the tradition of putting a silver coin under the mast, and there it is, a large and lovely South American coin. Even though he is keen to get the job done, Ian is prepared to stop and rout out a space in the base for the coin, so that we can keep the tradition going.

The coin, in place on the new pad

Now we're into the fiddly bit of lining up four sets of holes and getting the bolts through from the base of the mast, through the new pad, the deck and the pads below. Much going up and down between deck and cabin area, and finally a bit more drilling, but finally it's all lined up, silicone sealer is applied between pad and deck, and around each bolt, and it's all tightened up. The mate has the job of cleaning up the excess silicone as it oozes out. Once cleaned up, it looks quite splendid.

So elegant
Note how nicely it sits on the slight curve in the deck.

Captain and rigger now go around the boat tightening all the shrouds and stays again, so that the mast can be safely released from the crane. Meanwhile the mate is tidying up and cleaning up. During all this time none of us has had anything to eat except some of the very good fruit cake that was a gift from Escapade, so knock-off time is very welcome. It's too late for the bosuns to put us back in the water, so the mate gives her weekly U3A Shakespeare lecture from a boat high on the slip. When that finishes we go for an excellent meal at Kathmandu restaurant in Battery Point.

First thing next morning the mate does some preparatory work on deck. The boom is lifted from its temporary cradle of fenders tied above the solar panels, so that the fenders can be used when we return to the berth. Nahani is put back in the water, and we return to the berth, making a not very elegant landing despite calm conditions. There is quite a bit more work to do to complete the project - lots of things to put away for a start. With power back on, the deck can be thoroughly vacuumed - there seems to be bits of of the old mast pad and bits of plastic from the new in every inch of the scuppers, and under every rope or other object on the deck. Sheets are put back to their normal positions, halyards are tightened. We decide we will treat ourselves to some new rope bags around the mast, and order those. The boom strut is fitted back in place, reversing the preparations made before we went up on the slip. Rubbish is taken ashore as we go to lunch in the club. In the afternoon Ian returns to tune the rigging properly, which takes another hour or so. The captain thought that the raising of the mast might require disconnection of the electrics (cables that go up the mast to navigation lights, deck lights, etc), so he did so in advance. As it happens, it wasn't necessary, but they have to be reconnected again, another fiddly job.

By the time we are back to normal above and below decks, it's too late to contemplate recommencing the heater project. Tomorrow. 


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home