Haunted by Bad Luck

Our fiberglass material was finally delivered – the rebuilding of the hull could begin! Finally, we thought, the destruction would stop. Unfortunately, that was not the case. We would learn a lot, but we were haunted by bad luck.

For more than 10 years, Dave and I have had a leisurely latte in bed every morning. The one who wakes up earlier (usually me) would bring the other one the coffee. As you can imagine, coffee accidents do happen sometimes – also at the beginning of this week. Dave accidentally knocked over his coffee cup, which was on the shelf next to his head. Despite immediate intervention, the whole cup spilled over e-reader, tablet and mattress. Which meant: the mattress cover had to be washed. A tedious affair, and it happened on a day when the sun was hiding behind clouds and the stuff just wouldn’t dry out properly.

Meatballs to cheer you up

So, a great start to the week. The only positive thing about it was that we found out that our mattress was upside down the whole time. The memory foam was facing down. But the delicious spaghetti dinner with homemade meatballs and all kinds of desserts at SV Catspaw made us forget the annoying start of the day.

Something is wrong

The next surprise came the following day. Since we have to replace our two leaky water tanks, we sent their specs to a US company that produces plastic tanks. As possible options that came closest to our existing tanks, they sent us two different models: one with 14 gallons (53 liters) and one with 18 gallons (68 liters) capacity. We were a bit surprised because according to the listing of our boat we had a water capacity of 132 gallons (500 liters). Something didn’t work out.

Our own calculations

We rummaged through our math skills and calculated the volume of our tanks based on the specs that the previous owner had given us. We were shocked by the result. And did the math again. But the capacity of the two tanks remained at around 19 gallons (70 liters) each. That meant a total of only 36 gallons (140 liters) and thus a whopping 86% less water capacity than assumed. With an average consumption of approx. 5-10 gallons (20-40 liters) for two people per day, our water would last only for 3-7 days.

Incidentally, the same applies to our diesel tanks. This was the solution to the engine problem on the crossing to Puerto Peñasco. Our diesel tanks do not hold 117 gallons (443 liters) as assumed, but only 60 gallons (230 liters). Not an unsolvable problem, but still unnecessarily annoying. We had to think about a possible expansion of our tank capacities, with Marga from SV Dogfish supporting us.

Attention open bilge

Before we finally gave up our water tanks, we wanted to test again whether they really were leaking. So, we filled them up to see what would happen. Meanwhile, I briefly went to Oxxo, a kind of petrol station shop, to restock beer. I opted for the cheap Coors Light for once and seemed to have drawn a curse on us. I ignored the biggest warning: I had to show my ID. In Mexico. And I’m almost 32 years old. And of course, I didn’t have it with me. So, I went back, got the ID and bought the beer anyway.

An unnecessary accident

So, we had our bilge open to check whether our tanks were tight. While I was taking the homemade pizza out of the oven, I warned Dave to be careful about the open bilge. When I walked to the table with my slice of pizza on my plate, my foot slipped and I stepped into the bilge. Nothing happened? You wish. Pizza was on the floor, the plate shattered into a thousand pieces, my foot ached, I could already feel the bruises that would be visible on my arms and legs the next day and the main water distribution was broken.

The latter was particularly annoying, because water was now dripping into our boat at a rapid pace. I broke the connection between the tanks, the water pump and the various faucets, with which we could have emptied our tanks again. We didn’t feel like scooping all the water out of our bilge the next morning. That had to be done the same evening.

The water has to go

When we tried running the water pump, a gush of water spilled into our bilge. Although we were on the hard and therefore nothing could happen, we had a brief moment of stress. So, we had to improvise and reroute the water pipe so that we could get the water out of the boat. At the first attempt we connected the pump directly to the tap and Dave (cursing to himself) did the dishes straight away. Since the whole thing was going too slowly for us, we hung a hose directly on the pump. So we conveyed the water outside through a hole in the hull (a removed thru hull). Sorry to the 140 liters of water we wasted! The quintessence of the whole drama? Yes, our tanks are (still) leaking.

Misfortunes never come alone

In order to protect ourselves from burglars at night, we had gotten into the habit of removing the stairs before going to bed. We used a ladder to climb onto the boat and then pulling it up. We did the same that evening, but with the difference that Dave was electrocuted while climbing up the ladder! What had happened? We didn’t know. It had rained and we had gotten a new shore power plug that day. Dave called Dave from SV Cavu for help, who carried out the error analysis with us at 10 in the evening. The multimeter showed 105 volts between the ladder and the railing – so the shore power and its grounding were the problem. We traced the problem all the way back to its source: a reversed extension cord with a disconnected grounding (which generally shouldn’t have been used).

Why now?

But why hadn’t we been electrocuted earlier? Quite simply: by chance we had plugged the borrowed shore power plug into the extension cable correctly (actually the wrong way round). This was possible because the ground pin was cut off. It wasn’t possible with the new connector because it was intact. Therefore it could only be plugged in the correct way around. Although the problem was caused by the extension cord – we ordered new ones – it shouldn’t actually happen. So, we have a problem with the wiring somewhere on Milagros, which we now have to investigate.

Reconstruction of the hull

Our fiberglass material had finally arrived and we could start rebuilding our hull. On the one hand we wanted to fill the slightly deeper drill holes and other larger recesses with thickened epoxy and on the other hand we wanted to build up the dished osmosis bubbles with fiberglass. We would also like to put a few layers of fiberglass over the seam where the two halves of the boat are held together and, where necessary, rebuild the structure.

Acetone procurement

Before we could start, we still had to get acetone. Since we forgot to order acetone, we looked for it in Puerto Peñasco. It is said that acetone is not that easy to get here in Central and South America because it is used to make drugs. After a bit of asking around, we were sent to a beauty salon that also supplies other salons. They need the acetone, among other things, as a nail polish remover and we were able to stock up on it as well.

We learn to fiberglas

Since we had never worked with epoxy resin and fabric before, Dave from SV Cavu taught us the art of fiberglass step by step.

  1. Mis en place: Mix the epoxy and hardener in the correct proportions, have the brush and fabric ready, put on protective equipment
  2. Clean the desired area with acetone
  3. Apply a thin layer of epoxy resin
  4. Cut out a suitable piece of fabric and place it on top
  5. Apply epoxy until the fabric becomes translucent
  6. Cut out a slightly larger piece of fabric and place it on top and repeat the whole process until the bulge is filled.
  7. If the result is not as desired after 24 hours, the waxy layer that forms during hardening can be washed off with a rough sponge and soap. Then the affected area can be sanded. The process can then be restarted.

So, we are now busy repairing what appears to be millions of drillholes (we may have exaggerated a bit when drilling) and dished osmosis blisters. It can only be years before we’re done…

We test the next steps

When all holes, blisters and other areas have been repaired, the plan is to smoothen the entire hull with a two-component filler. Then we can apply primer and antifouling (below the waterline) or paint (above the waterline). That’s the short version.

Marga from SV Dogfish had the idea to carry out paint and treatment tests in some places on the hull. So, we could see which combinations would lead to the best result = smoothest result. Since SV Alegría were currently working with two-component filler and primer, they let us recycle their leftovers. So, we prepared five areas of our hull in different ways and painted them with primer. The five areas were:

  1. The bare and quite rough fiberglass as is
  2. Bare fiberglass lightly sanded
  3. A layer of epoxy resin and lightly sanded
  4. A layer of thickened epoxy resin and lightly sanded
  5. A layer of filler and lightly sanded
The different testing areas

Although, as expected, the result with the filler was clearly the best, we had secretly hoped that there would be a surprise. The (nasty) surprise came from somewhere else, but more about that next week.

86% less water capacity. Ouch, that hurts! Want to help us out? Click the button below (no need for an account!) or head over to Patreon.

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6 Comments

Wow I am learning so much from your blog. Feeling you pain through the woes of boat building. We think of you all the time. Say hello to SV Catspaw from us. Be safe and Happy Spring!

I am also a Peterson 44 owner. Did the water tanks you you show come from under the galley counter? Do you not have tanks under the saloon sole? Most of the Petersons to my knowledge have a total of 4 tanks. Two under the galley and two more under the saloon sole. I know Dogfish is another Peterson, what sort of tank age does she have?
I am enjoying your blog. S/V PO OINO ROA

Hey Jerry, great to hear from you and thank you for your feedback! Yes, the two tanks are below the galley. They are the only water tanks we have… Our two diesel tanks are below the dining table and under the floor between settee and mast. The previous owner has most likely changed the size and location of both the water and diesel tanks. We’ve already discussed the tank situation and possible options with Marga, Dogfishs owner. Are your tanks in the original spots? Greets, Pati and Dave

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