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Barry's Blog #136 - Destructive maintenance

On October 26th 2019 as A B Sea was hauled out of the water I stood at the helm filming and said "It'll be 5 months before she sees that water again." Then the shit hit the fan with Covid-19 and here we are almost 8 months later and we're still sitting on the hard in the boat yard at Limni on the Greek island of Evia.

I'm reminded of that moment because this week has been a very busy week at the boat yard with several Greek fishing boats going back into the water and the departure of three of our friends yachts. First to splash was Konnie and Arno in their steel hulled junk rigged yacht, followed by Mark and Marie, then Bob and Andrea. They all headed off north which is the direction we'll be going so hopefully we can catch up with them somewhere in the Aegean Sea.

There's only ourselves and Renata and Wolfgang left here now and they too will be leaving sometime next week.

The courier

Speedex couriers managed to deliver two separate packages to us here at the yard, but somehow they're still finding it difficult to deliver the cutlass bearing. Sigh.

Anyway the packages we did get delivered contained many items that allowed us to move forward and tick some boat jobs off the list.

All of the items we need to prepare the keel and hull for antifouling came in one package and we got straight to work putting the first of several coats of epoxy primer onto the exposed parts of the keel. The drying time between coats is 24 hours so each day is a small step forward.

The second package was a collection of individual items that we'd ordered from SVB, a huge online marine chandler based in Germany. Those items allowed us to complete many small but still important jobs.

First to get done was sealing the gap around the top of our fridge. It was a big enough gap that the fridge compressor was working overtime trying to maintain the temperature. The fridge compressor is a big consumer of 12 volt electricity and while we're attached to shore power it's not a big deal how often it comes on, but once we're self sufficient that electricity comes from our house batteries and we want to conserve that power as much as possible.

Looking back to the great battery melt down of October 2019, I'm thinking that many contributing factors collectively caused the batteries to die.

1) The unequal length of the battery connection cables caused unbalanced discharging and charging.

2) The fridge compressor running overtime throughout the night put unnecessary strain on the batteries.

3) Not having a desulphator attached to the batteries allowed sulphur to build up on the battery plates.

4) The Victron battery monitor unit had not been calibrated correctly by the guy who installed it.

All of those issues have now been addressed so we'll see how we go with our batteries once we're back in the water and reliant on our 600 watt solar array to keep the batteries topped up.

Another job we completed was putting a new salt water flush connection onto the back of the toilet bowl so then we could put the toilet bowl back into place in the aft head.

Destructive jobs

If you've been following my blogs for some time you'll know that I've been finding many of the boat jobs have been causing me stress. I will say that I'm very practical and pretty good with most hands on work but the simple fact is that I've never done any of these jobs before and that makes them quite daunting to me.

Another stress inducing job needed to be tackled before we leave the boat yard and head for Turkey. This job was to find a way to open the stubbornly stuck deck filler of our port side water tank.

The aluminium deck filler cap has an indented shape that a winch handle can fit into to twist it open, However over the 25 year life of A B Sea the shape has rounded out to the point that the winch handle can no longer get a purchase. I asked around on various websites and forums for ideas of how to get it open and did try several of the suggestions but sadly they all failed.

There was one suggestion that I instinctively knew would work but had been putting off doing because it had the potential to be quite destructive. It involved using a locking/unlocking key from an angle grinder, a drill and a leverage bar.

Knowing that we'd be leaving the boat yard soon-ish and that we'd need our full complement of 600 litres (158 gallons) of fresh water to enable us to get to Turkey without having to source fresh water refill quays along the way, I got the tools together and went on deck.

The plan was to only drill the two holes just deep enough for the angle grinder key to fit and hopefully not fully penetrate through the filler cap because if I did it would allow salt water to get into our fresh water when waves break over the bow.

The drilling went well, the key fitted perfectly and the filler cap twisted off nicely. I thought I'd had a boat win and happily placed the end of the hosepipe into the filler and turned on the tap. It takes quite a while to fill a 300 litre tank and while I waited I did a closer inspection of the filler cap. One drilled hole was perfect, the other hole was slightly offset from centre and had penetrated through the side of the filler. It was ever so small but still big enough to allow salt water to get through. As a temporary measure I've sealed the hole with Sikaflex but when we get to Turkey I'll order a new deck filler cap and replace it. With the unreliable Speedex courier and the cutlass bearing delivery saga I simply cannot take the chance of ordering one for delivery to the boat yard this close to our departure.

In next week's blog one of the things I'll be telling you about is just how close we came to having the cutlass bearing sent back to the UK without us ever laying our hands on it. Until then stay safe and healthy.

To watch the video that accompanies this blog click here.

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