We have been pottering along, doing boat chores when the weather permits. As is the usual case with boat chores, a seemly straightforward job blows out to a major project. Every time we remove a bit of lining we dread what new horrors of workmanship lay hidden underneath which will require hours or days to put right. It has been especially frustrating this winter as with the constant rain. We just cannot get any of the big jobs done. We tend to have three lists: List A - things that must be done; List B - things that should be done; and List C - things that would be nice to do. It seems lots of things have been added and done on the C list but very little ticked off the A and B lists - mainly because the jobs on the A and B lists are big ones that require several days of clear weather to complete and we really are not getting this weather window.
A major project has been the mast steps installation. The main mast had steps up to the spreaders but no further and the mizzen mast had no steps. Going up the mast is a frequent task for general maintenance and inspections. It is very difficult trying to winch Bob up the 17m while he dangles in a bosun’s chair. Steps make going up the mast so much easier and safer. (But of course Bob is always attached to two separate halyards one a bosun chair and another on a safety harness.)
We priced some new mast steps at the local chandlery and the cost was mind blowing. Anything that has 'marine' around it is double the price for a similar 'house' or 'car' object. So of course we try to source products that are not so overpriced. Bob is a whiz at ebay. We found used mast steps for one-quarter the price of new. But they all require a bit of a clean-up with files and sandpaper and close inspection for any faults. Then there are the rivets used to attach them to the aluminium mast. These are made of special non-corrosive aluminium called monel. They retail for about 3 euros each and we need three per step - 90 in total. So Bob found a source in England that sells them for less than £1 each (one-third the price with exchange rate). Then of course these have to be shipped to us. Fortunately Greece is in the EU so shipping is fairly straightforward. It was a nightmare in Turkey.
Bob installed one of the steps on the mizzen mast as a trial and it went smoothly but the drilling of the holes leave small shards of aluminium all over the deck. We did get a quote for riggers to do the installation but the cost was quite prohibitive. Doing it ourselves costs us a fraction of the price quoted by the riggers. But of course it is a huge job with Bob dangling up the mast welding a rivet punch and fiddling with drills and tools all tethered so if he they slip they will not go crashing onto the deck.
We finally got three days (not in a row) of clear weather so we could finish installing the mast steps. Bob can now go up the mast like a monkey with me winching the tether lines taunt but not having to winch Bob’s weight.
Now that the steps are finished we can do the other two big jobs. First job done was to install the repaired wind instrument. This was another example of how working on an old boat in foreign ports is not quite the same or as straightforward as house repairs in Australia which usually involves going down to the local Bunnings and getting everything you need in one place. Our 38 year old B&G wind instrument was on the blink. The speed was always under reading and the wind directional indicators were intermittently a bit off. So as with everything you wonder if it worth fixing a 38 year old instrument or is it better to get a new system.
A new system is over a thousand euros so Bob spent hours determining exactly what was wrong with the current system and then many more hours on the internet finding alternatives to getting a whole new system. B&G no longer support our old model but there is a company in England which does repair them. The anemometer needed new bearings and the cable needed replacing. We thought we might be able to do some rewiring of the existing cable but in this case it was worth getting new. So we shipped the anemometer to England and in about 10 days a renewed anemometer and 25 m of cable was shipped back to us in Greece. Up the mast Bob went again, installed the anemometer at the top of the mast and then we had to thread the cable through the inside of the mast. We had visions of the cable getting stuck halfway down but the whole process went smoothly. The next day a good wind blew up and it was a delight to watch the instruments reading true.
The next big job will be to replace the rigging. Although the rigging shows no obvious problems, it is over 10 years old so we should refresh it. Again we can save thousands if we do it ourselves as long as the rigging company swages the cables for us. This will be done over the next few weeks, weather permitting.
So we extended our contract for another month at the marina and each day shows more signs of spring. There are cherry blossoms budding and the beautiful blue Mediterranean skies make an appearance every few days. Spirits are lifting and chores are getting done.