A sort of, but not quite, ‘as it happened’ account of our time in the dry-dock:
Friday 19th January – As if going into the dry-dock wasn’t enough for one day, some guys came first thing to look at the Yanmar generator we’ve had in the engine room for years that we don’t use any more. They want it, which is great news because we really need the money, but they want it today (they don’t work Saturdays as they’re SDAs). So it has to be chain-blocked across the engine room, then up through the hatch in the bedsit. (And then they didn’t come for it until Sunday in the end.)
Trying to work on my book (which I finally started, after months/years of prevarication, at New Year). Stomach churning when I saw the tug moving out, then even more so when Capt Bim (Capt Burt’s tug) started up at the other side of the dock.
On the dock taking photos, but really hiding away and not wanting to be on board. Nipping out between boats, peeping around the corner and clicking the camera from a distance – quite amazing any of the photos have the Buzzard in them.
Capt Burt doing some brilliant manoeuvers, getting us right to the entrance of the dock, one line on and then they didn’t keep tension on and we swung across the gates and he had to go around to the other side and push us back the other way.
Finally in the dock at around 3.30 pm … started pumping, including our 3” as one of their pumps is broken. Five o’clock and everything stopped because they finished work. We put a gangplank across, level with the gunnel. First thing in the morning and the water’s come back in and we’re almost at the level we were the day before.
Saturday: start pumping again at 8.30 in the morning. Two men working at any one time while six sit/stand around watching. Big chain blocks have to be attached to stop it falling one way or another, which they put on then take off then adjust and move and re-adjust. Then the diver (Jack … one of the most normal/good workers we’ve met so far) has to place the supports in the right place. And then more pumping and more pumping.
Slowly, slowly going down but as the water goes down there’s a rising stench of sea-bottom that I hadn’t been anticipating, and which got way worse when we started scraping the hull.
Having to use the wash rooms – only one communal one obviously made for men as you have to walk through the urinal part first, so I try to avoid it during the day when there’s always lots of guys around. At least they’re not as disgusting as some I’ve seen, or at least they weren’t the first day I went in but perhaps they only get cleaned once a week because they’re getting skankier by the day.
Trying to work on my book again today but the generator’s been going to run our pump and I can’t concentrate … so I’m writing this instead.
3 pm .. dock almost dry and they stop pumping because it’s going home time (they leave early on a Saturday.)
Had a few well deserved beers and went out on Capt Bim to help a tanker leave Lowmans Bay. Had to pull it away from the dock so we were out for a few hours. Like I hadn’t had enough of tugs for one day? Then we went to Gemma’s as we had no beers on the boat, and for bbq chicken, which they didn’t have so it was chewy local pork instead.
Early rise on Sunday. Helping Spense cannibalise the AC unit we finally lifted off our top deck, and get some galvanized strips. The yard doesn’t work but we had Jack, Boysey (or Bushy or Bugsy), and some other young lad to scrape. They did about two and half hours work, got a good third of the whole boat done, and then the foreman shut them down because they shouldn’t be working for us. They helped clean the sea-cock instead. And the ice-cream man came and I got everyone choc-ices (the coconut ones are my favourite).
Manic Monday morning. Guys everywhere: scrapers all under the boat scraping, the Venezuelan engineering guys working out the best way to get the rudder off – probably cutting it. The crane hovering and lifting the scaffolding down, the welders ready to weld tabs … and lots of guys watching, again; from what I’ve seen so far I’m sure the average ‘work to watch’ ratio is normally somewhere in the region of 1:3, and quite often up to 1:6 or more.
Mike, Kem and Ghost(!) are working on getting the back deck cleared so we can put the rudder there, and finishing off the sea-cock.
The REALLY GOOD NEWS is that the bottom isn’t anywhere near as bad as we’d thought it might be and, apart from the button patches and places we knew there was a problem, the rest looks ok, and on a fair bit you can still see the two-part epoxy we put on in Maryport. Of course it’s ok being good on the whole, but then it only needs one hole …
The rudder took longer to get off than anticipated. First they settled on cutting it at the top before the flange, and the bottom skeg, which they did. But they couldn’t get the bolts out at the top, so eventually they ended up having to cut the nuts, I think, there were definitely lots of sparks flying at one point. This was after 4 pm so most of the workers had already gone home. Then the rudder was lifted off and away by their big 35 tonne crane, which makes ours look a bit on the puny side, and they started on the prop and shaft. Luckily this went well and within an hour it was on our back deck.
Edwin and Michael came to visit/help. Probably could have done without it, but hey, what can you do? Edwin cooked whole roast chicken on the Buzzard (can’t remember the last time we had that on board), following his grandmother’s Romanian recipe. The only downside was that it wasn’t ready until about 11 pm and we didn’t get to bed until midnight which was not so good with another busy day ahead.
Tuesday. Spense on board at 6.30 delivering more galvanised strips. Then Mike down the engine room by 7.30 working on the intermediate shaft, which is finally out. Now they’re working on getting the stern-tube out, the 5200 is hanging on in there and causing a few problems.
Unfortunately they’ve found a few more holes and thin bits that need patching. The biggest being under the engine-room floor which they’re having to cut and weld right now. The rest Mike reckons can be Navicoted and/or button-patched until we come back in next time.
Mike’s been running around for the last five days now, at the moment looking blacker than a black man, although some of them are pretty black right now too. Guess you can’t take out greasy shafts and clean bilges without getting some of the black stuff on you (and the carpets and walls and handrails …and me). Although I know it’s hard work and there’s a fair amount of stress involved I think he’s actually quite enjoying it, getting to be project manager/boss of more than me and any motley crew we happen to have. Wish I felt the same.
All being well we’ll be done and floating again by the end of the day … although it’s 1.30 already and he hasn’t started on the button-patch/Navicoteing, and they haven’t welded in the patch yet either.
Wednesday. Still in the dry-dock. They got the stern-tube out and the patch cut in the engine-room, then all went home because it was 4 o’clock. It gave Mike a bit more time to tighten the button-patches and slap on the Navicote, but it means paying for another day which is something we sure could do without. We got Capt Burt to bring yet another case of beer, supposedly for celebrating being out of the dock, so instead we had a couple with the guys helping us and then called it done. Then went and sat under a boat in the yard, in the rain, to get the internet …
Roderick came by to bring us a roast breadfruit but we were too tired to cook, I couldn’t even eat. Up at six this morning, Mike to go sit under the boat in the rain again to check what amazing things have changed on the internet since last night. Spense here at 6.30, so I was up too. Not feeling my best, guess the whole thing is getting to me, the dirt and stress and people everywhere, oh and the cost and the money we need for the next phase … trying to be positive but it’s hard sometimes.
In hindsight, I don’t think they had any intention of getting us out of the dock yesterday. They hadn’t taken down the chainblocks from our counter-stern or moved the skip with all the scrapings in. It would seem they want us to pay for another day, even though there’s a boat waiting to come in as soon as we leave. But they do seem to be getting on with it all today so I guess it will happen this afternoon. Only Capt Burt has just brought OceanWolf in next to Alliance and I can’t see how there’s going to be enough room … but I know they know what they’re doing and I won’t be on board, or watching, and all will be fine.
They finally finished welding in the patch in the engine-room, it’s now 1 o’clock and they’ve started filling the dock. Weird. Unlike coming down which was slow and quiet, now the water’s rushing in and it’s loud, louder than my heart which is beating faster than it should be. Lets just hope all the welding, the blanking plate, the button-patches and Navicote hold.
1.38 and I think we’re beginning to float already, or at least I can feel the boat moving. Except it wasn’t really, just where the water was thundering into the hull, because the first half hour they were only rinsing out the crap in the bottom of the dock so the water’s clear for the next one and Jack can see to put the blocks under.
As the water finally starts to come up there’s a slight leak in the bilge, which may be where they’ve just welded, or it might be a new hole in the other side of the keel. OK, the leak in the bilge is no big deal and Jack’s put some Navicote on. Then there’s another hole underneath where the button-patches are, big enough to need another patch, which Jack went down and put on. But so far no more leaks.
I’m doing my breathing exercises.
And then I left the boat because my stomach was churning and I really did need the bathroom, and I didn’t come back until we were out and back in our original spot at the other side of the dock. I went and sat under the verandah of the canteen just outside the gates and had a beer and tried not to think about what was happening on the Buzzard.
It wasn’t until an hour or so later that I saw Capt Bim start up and the process of getting us out the dry-dock begin. Of course by this time it was just gone 4 o’clock so the workers had left and there was only Boysey and Jack to help move the ropes along.
But finally all was good, no obvious leaks. Although it was a bit disconcerting standing on the dock and having all the looky-loo guys saying how much lower in the water we seemed to be, and were we sure there wasn’t water coming in.
Capt Bim left to go bring a freighter and tanker in and get us yet another case of beer, because apparently they don’t last long on here. Mike had a shower and the back water tank ran out, and he couldn’t prime the front one because we’re now up at the stern so we don’t have water until he gets it sorted.
We made a quick visit to Wolfgang on OceanWolf as they fly to Canada first thing tomorrow and wanted to give us the meat in their freezer. Capt Bim came back in with the beer but had another job so couldn’t come and help us drink them as planned, which was probably just as well because we were so tired that, after some smoked pork (from Wolfgang) and fried roast breadfruit (from Roderick), we were in our bunk by 9 pm.
The bilge alarm didn’t go off in the night, not even the often heard phantom one, so that’s really good news. Although there is a small amount coming in through the button-patches, and Mike’s just found another small hole on the port side which will need a patch. So now it’s time to get the water sorted, get the engine room cleaned, bring the stern-tube and intermediate shaft out on deck, and then move on to phase 2, whatever that may be.
It’s now midday and he hasn’t had time to fix the water yet. Which means I can’t start on the much needed laundry and cleaning, which so desperately needs doing. And I know he’s busy and has better, more important things to do right now, as he always does, but it’s hard when the whole boat is so dirty and I desperately need to get my hands in hot soapy water.
Finally we have water in the back tank, and after a fun-filled, action-packed week, normal(ish) service is resumed.
Love to all ….