Thursday, April 12, 2012

Hard work, frustration and an excellent shakedown cruise



The 2009 season was approaching fast; it was now the second week in March and with our first trip planed for the 21st May it was time to get preparations under way. Little did I know as I pulled the winter covers off Epenetus that my early season plans were about to go somewhat adrift.

End of the previous season


Checking around the hull I found two small areas of soft laminate which on the surface appeared to be only very minor. As I started to dig it soon became apparent that the cause of this lay under the rubbing strake, which was then removed. As Saturdays go, I’ve had better I must admit, because the more I probed the more I found and within a couple of hours I had eleven areas of soft laminate and three holes! It appears that the unknown adhesive used to fit a large part of the rubbing strake had broken down and allowed moisture to penetrate into the hull to deck joint, where it had laid undetected, slowly seeping along the laminates, doing it’s worst for some considerable time. Interestingly the worst area was around the starboard chain plates where the laminates had rotted from the inside out due to the moisture being trapped between the hull and the packing piece, which on inspection was rotted practically all the way through at one point; I now know that it takes approximately the same amount of time to rot through 1 ¼ inch of solid teak as it does an Atalanta hull which is somewhat less than a third of the thickness.      



Laminate damage 


As you may or may not know, repairing damage to laminates is not a difficult thing to do and there has been a lot of very useful information published on the subject by the Atalanta Owners Association; but it can be a very time consuming job. However, nothing gets done by looking at it so the following weekend armed with an eight by four sheet of Agba, epoxy, Stanley knife, chisel and a staple gun I set to work. Despite numerous interruptions from just about everyone who happened to be walking through the boat yard plus being at the mercy of the weather, the repairs were completed over five weekends. It was interesting the amount of attention the repairs attracted, although by the end of the job I did feel that if I was interrupted to explain the construction and repair techniques for Atalanta’s just one more time my head might just explode.    



Laminate repairs with one which had to be redone (grain the wrong way)

By now we’re well into April and the hull and decks are sound once more, hopefully for a good number of years to come, but now I had a dilemma. Do I paint over the repairs, refit the rubbing strakes and go sailing, we could still make the Brixham Heritage Regatta on the 21st May, or now that I’ve started do I take the chance to overhaul as much as possible. With only weekends available and working on the theory that when it comes to boats an hour saved now usually costs you ten hours or more in a year’s time, there really wasn’t a choice was there. Sailing time just had to be sacrificed and the following jobs completed:

·        Rub down and total repaint with three coats of Joton 88 vinyl guard primer and three coats of Pioneer top coat
·        Chain plates re seated
·        Hull to deck joint sealed with epoxy and new Iroko rubbing strakes fitted
·        Toe rails repaired and overhauled (I think the time to replace them is coming up soon, maybe a year or two)
·        Hatches and engine cover repaired
·        Rubdown and re varnish the mast
·        Running and standing rigging overhauled  

·        Chart table replaced
·        Two bronze mushroom vents fitted to improve ventilation  
·        Instrument wiring renewed
·        Bumpkin and Hasler SP3 Wind Vane fitted

Plus all of the usual pre season stuff like servicing the engine, antifouling, checking keel mechanisms, servicing rudder and steering gear etc.

There are still a lot of jobs to complete, like scratched windows to renew, internal fittings to replace, aft cabin to refit out, fore cabin to re paint, cockpit combings to replace etc, but nothing which will come to any harm or can not wait for a while. I can’t delay any longer; I’ve been flat out all week and working on the boat in the yard at weekends for months now; the sun has been shining and I’ve been watching boats leaving Axmouth for France, the Channel Islands, Falmouth, the Silly Isles and all ports in between, for the sake of my sanity It’s time to go sailing.    



Launch day



Well it’s the last weekend in June; the sun is shining and its launch day at last. With the aid of the club hoist the mast was raised and Epenetus was lifted with no problems and gently lowered into the water, so far so good. The keels and rudder lowered as they should and no signs of any leaks, perhaps all is going to go off without incident for a change, wrong. After many attempts to start the engine we were left with one flat battery and one dead battery, still after half an hour and a little improvisation we were in business and motoring off to our new pontoon berth (infinitely better than the old trot mooring).



Epenetus on the water at last


Shake down time – A weekend trip to Brixham as it turned out


The fourth of July might mean something to our American friends but this year (2009) for me and George it was shake down time at last. High water at Axmouth was 0450 so we slipped our lines at 0520 (a little late as ever) and worked our way out into what had been forecast as a Southerly 4 to 5, perfect for sailing west. Surprise, the Met Office was slightly adrift with their forecast, as we discovered on approaching the harbour entrance, thick sea mist and force 2 at best; I knew that I should have got up earlier and walked up to the beach to check then I wouldn’t have rigged the number 1 instead of the Genoa.

Motoring out and just clear of Beer Head the mist cleared and the wind came in. Just as well because at that point the exhaust note changed, bad news. On inspection the engine was running dry, impeller trouble! Fifteen minutes later and a bit of jiggery-pokery and all was well once more.

We set the sails and put Epenetus on a course of 220 magnetic, engaged the new (to us) Hasler wind vane and off we went. Our force 5 came in from the south and the Met Office was suitably redeemed. The Hasler vane performed fantastically with no more than a few very minor tweaks required over the next four hours (mainly to avoid net markers) as Epenetus romped along in the sunshine never dropping below 4.5 knots.

A call came in on channel 6 from another Axe Yacht Club boat which was heading for Brixham so we decided to sociable and join them.

Problem number two the sliders on the mainsail jammed in the track so we then had fifteen minutes of fun trying to get the main down. Oh what joy! Still a short while later we were tied up on the events pontoon in Brixham and enjoying a well earned beer or two.



Brixham in the sun


Sunday morning and after a late and leisurely breakfast, along with some debate on the weather forecast (south 4 to 5 going south west 6 to 7), we slipped our lines at 1120 and were clear of the breakwater with our sails up by 1145. We had a fantastic sail back with a lightly reefed main and number 1 jib in winds of a good 6 and occasionally 7, accompanied by some lovely big waves coming from astern. Once again the wind vane put in an admirable performance with only a couple of lively incidences when the steering lines became detached from the tiller whilst surfing down waves (a little modification required I think).

Arriving back off the Axe at 1630 we were somewhat early for the 1810 high water; however we dropped the jib (ripping the fore hatch off its hinges in the process) and took a sail by the entrance. Not good, breaking surf in the river mouth!

I should explain at this point that the entrance to the Axe is very narrow (approx 20 feet wide) with a shifting bar and a ninety degree turn to port just inside the entrance. Add to this around an hour before high water the river in the entrance will be flowing at anything up to six knots, ho and there is no stand it’s going in or coming out. I know it sounds terrible but treated with a little respect it’s not that bad and once inside the harbour is beautiful with total protection in all weathers. 


Going well under a reefed main


What to do? Faced with a south west wind and a building sea the options are usually to hide in the lee of Beer head, wait until high water and re assess or go to Lyme Regis. Well in the gusts the wind had more than a bit of south in it so Beer Head looked a little rough. The logical option is to call up Lyme Regis harbour master and see if we can get in there. At this point the weekend started to go a little wrong. I picked up the radio and keyed the microphone, pop! All power lost in an instance! Plan B, get the hand held. No, that would be sitting on top of the fridge in the kitchen at home, just where I had forgotten it on Saturday morning. Oh bugger!

The sky darkens and the wind starts to come up, this is not so good. Nothing for it we’ll go in, perhaps by high water the entrance will be a little better. After a short trip across the bay in search of some elusive shelter in the lee of Beer Head, I try to drop the main. Well you guessed it the mainsail jammed in the track and had to be lowered with a mixture of jiggling it up and down and brute force whilst all the time trying to hang on.



The elusive shelter behind Beer Head


The engine was persuaded to play ball and it was back across the bay to the harbour entrance. We were still too early, the river was running and there was still a lot of surf in the entrance, however there was enough water. The keels were raised to 3 foot 6 and the brakes slackened just in case we clipped the bar. We lined Epenetus up with the wave train and the river entrance, waited for our wave and approached at full speed, surfing into the river at what must have been in excess of thirteen knots over ground. The current pushed us tight towards the wall as expected and the stern missed the wall as we took the turn to port by no more than six inches. With the adrenalin pumping we were home, having had a fantastic sail covering 28 miles in 4 hours 45 minutes, giving Epenetus a good workout, the crew was still in one piece and having managed not to break anything too expensive. Now that’s what I call a shake down cruise.

Interestingly just over an hour after tying up on our pontoon Dolphin, a Westerly Pagent arrived in having left Brixham just five minutes behind us. The crew were exhausted, speaking of an uncomfortable and often wet trip, finding it hard going to keep a good course. All rather strange, Epenetus had made light work of it whilst we drank coffee, ate lunch and generally had a very pleasant trip. Don’t you just love these Atalanta’s?  


A not so relaxed and somewhat battered looking Dolphin





1 comment:

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