From A for Acceptance to W for Wrecked

After our paint shock, we go through all five stages of grief. Nevertheless, we successfully get some projects done and learn new skills like drilling internal threads and installing grounding cables. But the lows are not long in coming: We nurse Dulce, lose lines and find corrosion.

The five stages of grief

The realisation that all the work on our freeboard was for nothing sits still in our bones. After this paint shock, we went through all five phases of grief in a very short time.


First came denial. We thought it must be a misdiagnosis and if we just let the paint dry long enough, everything would be fine. It couldn’t be that bad. Or could it?


Then came the anger. Trying to find someone to blame in frustration. Was it our own fault? Was it too humid or too hot? Did we not clean the surface properly? Was the paint sprayed on too thick? A faulty primer? Was the compressor dirty? Was the manufacturer’s data sheet insufficient? Questions upon questions that we can never answer conclusively. It’s probably a combination of a few factors. And we knew from the start that virtually all the negative reviews of this paint contained exactly our problem.


Next, it was time to negotiate. We thought we should just leave the paint on and deal with it later. But our egos wouldn’t allow that. After all, the freeboard is practically the only visible part of our refit. And there was still that small spark of hope that maybe the paint would cure after all. But even 2 weeks later, the adhesion test showed only a barely noticeable improvement.


After that, we fell into depression. We regretted the decision to have chosen this paint. That we had used a one-component primer. And that we hadn’t noticed it earlier. And anyway: why doesn’t everything just work on ships? Why are we doing all this to ourselves anyway? With the same money we would have already travelled halfway around the world with the backpack. We should sell the boat.


Finally, the acceptance came. A salesman from Alexseal – our original paint choice – took pity on us and offered us a super deal, which we accepted gratefully practically without hesitation. We resigned ourselves to the fact that we would have to sand for several days (again!). But we decided not to start sanding until the paint was on its way to us. Because of Covid, there was a shortage of raw materials in the US, so certain paint components were always missing. And as we all know, nothing is simple. So, in the meantime, we moved on to other projects.

Composting head

Our composting head from Airhead was delivered a few weeks early and still needed to be installed. We had already screwed the whole construction together and now we still had to install the ventilation. To do this, we removed the ceiling panelling to connect a small fan to the mains and install a switch for it. Actually, this fan should run constantly to ensure optimal composting. However, the fan is only 3 feet away from my head when I sleep. Therefore, I want to have the option to turn it off at night in case its noise bothers me too much. And hey, that was the first switch either of us ever installed in our lives. And it worked. Once again, a small success.

Our new mast platform

While we were waiting for our new boom fitting, we started to reassemble the mast. So, we had all the excess holes welded shut by Pancho and painted everything with aluminium primer and white paint. We designed a platform to install our new anemometer and Windex on top of the mast. The aim was to keep the navigation light, anchor light, antenna and both wind indicators out of the way. We cut the platform from our old water tanks, had Pancho weld it and then painted it.

Internally threaded what?

To attach them to the mast, we had to drill new holes, which also needed an internal thread. To do this we drilled core holes and then cut internal threads. Mat kindly showed us how to do this properly and also provided us with the tools we needed to do this. For the 1/4-20 screws (1/4-inch diameter with 20 threads per inch) we needed a 13/64-inch drill bit. This is of course not included in our basic drill set. And we don’t have an internal thread set either. But now we have nice new threads in a couple of places on the mast.

Dulce in distress

One morning just before noon we found the yard cat Dulce out on our deck. We had wondered where she was, as she has been living on our boat during the day for months, enjoying the air conditioning. She usually leaves the boat when we go to sleep and comes back in when we wake up. The day before, however, she had not shown up. Now she was lying there completely exhausted and dirty. We carried her below deck and checked her for injuries. Fortunately, we found none, except that all her claws were completely worn out. She could hardly walk and looked pretty destroyed. And her breathing was very fast.

What should we do?

We decided to observe her for a while and if she didn’t get better, we would take her to the vet. We put her water and food down and let her rest. In the evening, as we celebrated the birthday of Nic, our neighbour on SV Rua Hatu, with fresh oysters from the barbecue, it suddenly occurred to us that Dulce might have to do her business. We quickly filled a paint tray with Dulce’s toilet sand and brought it to her. Not even 10 seconds later she was using it as if she had never done anything else.


Fortunately, her condition improved overnight. After 24 hours, she managed to clean herself. But she still looked quite stiff, as if she had been through a great effort. When she bit and scratched me as I petted her, we knew she was fine again. We will probably never know what really happened to her. Maybe she fell in or got trapped somewhere and could only free herself with difficulty. Or maybe she was hit by a car and wore out all her claws trying to hold on to the asphalt. All we know is that her personality has changed somewhat. She is calmer now, much less rambunctious and has lost a little elegance in her jumps.

Make it fit

Unfortunately, the lows were not long in coming again. When we tried to put the spreaders back on, they didn’t fit. All four of them! If we hadn’t taken them off ourselves, we wouldn’t have believed they once fitted. We just couldn’t believe that the aluminium had suddenly increased in size. But with every single spreader, the Dremel had to go to work and enlarge one of the holes for the screws. For whatever reason…

Pulling in the lines

Before we started working on the mast, we had replaced all the halyards with placeholder lines. Now we wanted to haul in the lines. Three of the four lines that run through the inside of the mast go to the top of the mast. When we started to pull the first line back into the mast using the placeholder line, the other two placeholder lines accidentally came with it. So, we lost two out of three in one go. Once in the mast, we could only pull them out at the bottom. However, we still had one left with which we could pull more lines through the mast.

A near disaster

But when the remaining placeholder line with the line attached got tangled, the swearing started. We tried everything, including turning the mast (which meant removing the spreader on one side again). Eventually we found that the thin placeholder line was stuck between the tube for the power cables and the screws of a mast fitting we had attached the day before. The much thicker line just wouldn’t fit through there and got stuck. We wiped the sweat from our foreheads and pulled the lines back in one by one. All’s well that ends well. We were lucky.

With difficulty

Then we were able to reattach the mast sheaves over which the lines run at the top of the mast and reattach the tangs with our new bolts. It sounds easy, but it was a test of patience. I’ll leave out the details though. It was just tedious.

Working on the cooling system

While I watched Rob from SV Mapache cleaning the parts of his disassembled engine, we started talking a bit about engines. I told him that we had moved the expansion tank (part of the engine cooling system) inside the engine compartment and that brown, thick coolant was dripping from the hose. When was the last time we changed the coolant and cleaned the heat exchanger, he asked me? Um, well, we’ve never done that in the last two years. But since it’s something that should be done regularly, it went straight onto our to-do list. It was a task that could be done well in the midday heat.

Design flaw

In the engine manual, I found the drain hole for the coolant and initially drained the two gallons or so. When I opened the lid and tried to get the heat exchanger out, the exhaust was in the way. Now I really had to unscrew the exhaust! This seems to be a design flaw in the exhaust, because as I said, the heat exchanger should be cleaned regularly – preferably once per season. A dirty heat exchanger can lead to overheating (especially in these latitudes) and thus shorten the life of the engine.

Cleaning with muriatic acid

Rob also needed to clean his heat exchanger, so he came by one morning with a bucket and muriatic acid. We mixed the acid with water in a 1:3 ratio and let the acid clean the many small copper tubes. In our heat exchanger, 3 of the pipes were clogged with pieces of rubber. Sometime before our time, an impeller of the water pump must have lost a few pieces. This reduced the cooling capacity by about 10%, which is not insignificant.

The Hydra of the boat

As always, the completion of a task led to new tasks. For one thing, we had to order new bolts to fix the exhaust, as the old ones were quite rusty. Secondly, we discovered a damp spot on the exhaust with heavy corrosion, which was hidden by the heat shield. Now we have to find out if our exhaust has a hole and needs to be welded.

Electrical installation

Some time ago we fixed the problem with the stray current. The neutral phase and the ground were mistakenly connected to each other, which among other things had caused David to get electrocuted from the boat and the paint had peeled off due to corrosion on our mast. However, we had other things to correct about our grounding. Firstly, the ground of our AC system (110V) was not connected to the ground of the DC system (12V), and secondly, the housing of our inverter was not earthed. And because it’s so nice, we also discovered that our galvanic isolator (protection against leakage current from outside) was wired incorrectly.

Cable tangle?

We needed green (colour code for AC mains grounding) AWG 6 cable, terminals and crimping pliers for that size. And here, as always, the classic: we had none of this on board, because it went beyond the standard sizes. But once again we were able to get everything from other sailors here in the boatyard. So, we dug through our cables and tried to understand which cable now had to go where. Luckily our personal electrical consultant Cavu Dave was there to help us. In the end, everything found its place and everything now seems to be in order.

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