We’re back in Switzerland and Milagros is on the other side of the world in Puerto Peñasco, but we still can’t get her out of our heads. We are trapped in a temporary long-distance relationship. There will be a lot of work with our boat refit when we return to Mexico and sometimes, we ask ourselves, “Are we bold or just insane?”
Here and there
I’ve been back home since the end of October and David since the end of November. We’re both “caught” in some kind of intermediate dimension. Milagros is on the other side of the world in Puerto Peñasco, but we still can’t get her out of our heads. We are here, but at the same time in Mexico with Milagros. Our thoughts revolve around the upcoming refit: What do we have to think about? In what order should we complete the projects, taking into account all relevant factors?
A thin line
It’s a rollercoaster of emotions because we have never done any of the work before. We’re going back and forth between: “Yes, of course, we can do it, others have done it too” and “Are we insane?” The line between courage and carelessness is thin. Perhaps our Swiss mindset with very high standards in terms of quality and execution of the work is a bit in the way… However, this could also prove to be helpful. We’ll see. We want to do as much of the work as possible ourselves. On one hand that’s the best way to get to know our sailboat properly, on the other hand it is cheaper (or should we say less expensive?).
The boat refit
We have identified 3 major projects of highest priority, which I will explain in more detail below:
- A complete paintjob
- Replacement of the fresh water tanks
- Replacement of the rigging and mast maintenance
After Milagros was hauled out, it was immediately apparent how urgently her hull needed treatment: Osmosis blisters had formed. What are osmosis blisters you may ask?
Down to the base
The hull of Milagros is made of GRP. GRP is the abbreviation for “glass fiber reinforced plastic”. GRP is a composite of plastic such as epoxy resin and glass fibers, and is used for the hull and deck construction. Osmosis bubbles form when the GRP comes into contact with saltwater, and occurs with fiberglass boats when the underwater hull is not properly protected and moisture can penetrate through the gelcoat, e.g. through small cracks. Gelcoat is a hard lacquer that is applied to the GRP as a protective layer. It protects the GRP against moisture, UV radiation and pressure damage.
How the blister forms
The penetrating moisture collects in small cavities, decomposes the resin that connects the glass fibers and forms an acid. As a consequence, the acid draws – through its chemical effort to thin itself – further moisture into the cavity. This causes the pressure in the cavity to increase and pushes the gelcoat outwards as a blister. The gelcoat might burst eventually and the GRP is exposed to seawater without protection. The further advanced the osmosis, the more the GRP decomposes.
Survey vs. reality
Fortunately, we already knew that there would be a lot of work involved with the hull during the boat refit. The paint of Milagros was in poor condition since we had first seen her. However, we did not know that the underwater hull was looking as bad as it is. Our surveyor had found a few larger bubbles at the time, but according to him they were not much of a problem. Well, the opposite is the case: We have a ton of small osmosis blisters and definitely have a problem with osmosis.
Step by step
So it looks like we might be diving into a combination of the following jobs:
- Sanding the entire hull, possibly removing all of the gelcoat down to bare fiberglass. Everything will depend on what we’ll stumble across during the sanding process.
- Rebuilding a gelcoat layer and repainting the entire hull including antifouling and anti-slip. The antifouling is the last layer when painting the underwater section of the hull, which prevents the growth of marine organisms.
2. Replacement of the fresh water tanks
We urgently need to address the problem of the corroded weld seams of our stainless-steel water tanks, which was also known before the purchase. They corroded even further last year. So that we can properly address the tanks, we probably have to remove a large part of our galley. We will either completely remove the tanks and replace them with plastic ones, or we’ll find a solution without having to remove the tanks. We’ll have to look at the situation on site.
3. Maintenance of the rigging
The third big boat refit project includes:
- Replacement of the shrouds and stays (the steel cables that hold the mast in position),
- Inspection of the chainplates (fittings to which the steel cables are attached), and
- Stepping and unstepping the mast for inspection and revision.
When it comes to the replacement of the shrouds and stays, everything here has to be precisely measured and ordered. We are currently still debating whether we want to use Dyneema (a synthetic chemical fiber) instead of steel ropes and have already contacted specialists.
But we are not sure yet whether we should tackle the paint first and then the water tanks. Or rather sand everything down first, let the hull dry while replacing the tanks, and then paint. Or do everything at the same time. Or start everything later and everything else first. Or just break down and loose hope. We will see…
More to come – maybe?
We have also identified a couple of other projects within our boat refit that could turn out to be major ones:
- Installation of inspection hatches for the diesel tanks and level gauges,
- Inspection of the propeller shaft and all that comes with it, since we have observed some corrosion after the haul-out,
- We need to check if we have a problem with stray current as our sacrificial anode was being eaten up way too quickly. Stray current is current that flows outside the intended electrical circuit and can be hazardous to both the boat and people.
In addition, for our own safety we have to add a liferaft and AIS (Automatic Identification System), as well as upgrade the bilge pump, which currently only works manually, to an automatic one and add some more.
Important, but not urgent?
And then of course there are still some upgrades, installations and projects that are not top priority, but we would still like to tackle:
- Replacement of the vacuum head in the aft cabin with a composting head
- Re-routing our reefing lines and the mainsail halyard into the cockpit
- A new dodger (the existing one is exactly in our line of sight when standing behind the wheel and no longer waterproof) and add a proper bimini
- Installation of a shower including a waste water pump
- A new gas stove
- New cockpit cushions and a lazy bag
- A light wind sail
- Installation of a wind indicator
- Engine service, etc. replacement of some seals
- Connect our inverter so that we not only have 12V power, but also 110V (our boat is an American lady).
- and muuuuuuuuuuch more
We have planned about 6 months for the entire renovation – so the goal is to be back in the water in July. Ready, Set, Go!
Can I help?
Yes of course you can – if you have any interest and spare time, you are welcome to visit us in Mexico. We are grateful for any help with the boat refit and look forward to every visit. Even if it is “just” to inspect the boat in real life and have a beer with us. You could also just watch us work while you enjoy yourself.
When does the refit start?
The countdown is on – our flights are booked! We’ll head out to Mexico on the 12th of January 2021. This time via Zurich – Frankfurt – Mexico City – Hermosillo to Puerto Peñasco. Let’s just hope that Covid-19 does not lock us down again.
What do we do in the meantime? We’ll report on that next week.
Did you like this blog post? If you want, you can support our work on Patreon with a monthly contribution of your choice. Thank you for your support!