Ship's Log               s/v Uliad 


 March 2 :


       After our fabulous tours of New Zealand for the past 6 weeks, it is now time to get back to work.  We were scheduled to haul out Uliad today for a fresh coat of bottom paint, but the weather and a lack of room in the boat yard meant we'd have to wait a few more days.  We took the opportunity to do laundry instead and get to work on my tax filing paperwork.  Yes, I still can't ignore the long arm of the IRS down here.


 March 4: 

     Uliad has taken to the dirt again.  Our haul out involved casting off our lines and motoring all of 30 yards to the slipway where Karl and Shane were ready to hoist us up.  Hauling out always causes me anxiety for a whole bunch of reasons.  Tops on the list is the fear that one of those big slings is just going to snap.  But on a more realistic note, you never quite know what you'll find when you're hauled out.  Barnacles, for sure.  A pressure wash took care of most of them, but then they leave behind this tiny calcified dot that has to be scraped away to get down to bare paint.  So the whole family spent a good couple of hours on this unpleasant task.  No holes were found in the bottom, but I did notice that the cutless bearing needs to be replaced.

     The cutless bearing is a grooved rubber tube that the propeller shaft goes through as it comes out of the boat.  They are designed to be replaced when the rubber wears out and the shaft starts to get a little play.  But for something designed to be replaced, they're usually really really hard to get out.  So I immediately went over to the office of the local marine mechanics to see if they could come and help me with that chore.

Kathleen & Emmett scrape off barnacles

     The final anxiety is, I suppose, the pending unpleasantness of life on the hard.  Boat yards are always dirty, dusty, and noisy.  Then there's the fact that you now have to climb down a 10 foot high ladder every time you need to use the toilet.  Sinks and showers can no longer be used at will.  Time in a boat yard is like purgatory...a time of punishment that is necessary to get you to the heaven that is cruising.  Kathleen always approaches haul outs with an eye roll and dreams of checking into a hotel.  Me, I just put my head down and plow ahead--working as long and as hard as possible to get it over with as quickly as we can.  And for all her threats, Kathleen always ends up there too, with a roller full of toxic bottom paint in her hand.  So let's see how quickly we can get this over with! 


March 9:

     Safely tucked in our steel cradle, we started in on Uliad's bottom paint.  Now bottom paint is also called "anti-fouling" because it's designed to prevent slime, weeds, barnacles and any other living thing from setting up residence on the wet part of a yacht and "fouling" the surface.  The smoother, the better when it comes to gliding through the water.   Anti-fouling paint is thick and gooey with all sorts of toxic sludge to prevent this marine growth, so I've always had a healthy respect for the stuff.

     So when it comes to preparing the bottom--by sanding the hull and stirring up a bunch of toxic paint dust in the surrounding air--I've always been more than happy to hire that job out to someone who has less concern for their brain cells than I do mine.  In fact, I'd pay someone to do it all, except for the fact that bottom-painting tends to be a job given to some dim-witted guy (and this is probably one of those "did the chicken or egg come first" conundrums) who forgets to paint some parts and gets paint on other parts that were supposed to be left bare.  So I've learned from experience that I'm usually better off actually applying the bottom paint myself.  Much to the chagrin of the boat painter who ran right over to give me his quote while Uliad's hull was still dripping.

     Between rain showers, we spent the first day chipping off a few areas of loose paint, then priming and fairing where necessary.  Oh, and a good scrubbing and waxing along the waterline where it's always hard to do while in the water.  By day 2, I had my masking tape along the waterline, ready to start applying that toxic sludge.  Then a coat to the leading edges of the hull, keel, and rudder, and along the waterline,  These areas wear paint faster so they get an extra coat.  By day 3, the whole bottom had its first coat.  Having covered up the crusty bits, our bottom was looking smooth again.  Day 4, the second coat of paint went on and by day 5, we use up the rest of our paint to get a third coat on.  And have the yard guys come and move the jack stands to get paint on those places where they were covered before.  By now our hull is looking smooth and sweet again--ready to slice through the water like a knife!

     During these days, I've also been making an attempt at some finish work on the bowsprit--the paint job that we had done 3 years ago has chipped off there and needed some touch up.  So this has involved chipping away all the loose paint, priming all the bare metal, filling in with fairing putty, then sanding it all smooth so the old chip edges won't show up when I spray on the topcoat paint.  The paint shop manager just ignores me now as he walks around the yard... but I sure hope that bowsprit ends up looking nice as it will be pretty embarrassing to come back to him and admit that I should have hired him before. 


March 10:

     The cutless bearing came out pretty nicely as follows:  First I removed our Max prop--which has given me a chance to take it apart, clean & polish the blades,  and grease the gears.  Then the mechanics came by with a big pipe and a sledgehammer and drove it back in the stern tube about a centimeter before it jammed and wouldn't go in any further.  This led to a discussion of removing the prop shaft, but after measuring it carefully, it was decided that the shaft wouldn't come out of the stern tube before hitting the rudder--and removing the rudder from the boat would be another huge job. 


     The stern tube has a little slot on each side, which I always presumed was to allow us to put in some sort of long bar and tap out the cutless bearing, but when the mechanics made up just such a bar, they couldn't get the bearing to move before their tool started bending from the sledgehammer blows.  I was starting to feel panicked.  This was spiraling into a huge job.  But just then, one of the mechanics came up with the idea to cut out a small portion of the stern tube, which would then allow them to put in a steel half-pipe above the bearing and tap it out while leaving the stern tube in place.  10 minutes later they were hacking at my beloved boat with a grinding wheel and an hour later they were back with the new half-pipe tool they had welded up and just like that, the cutless bearing popped right out with a few hammer blows.

About to cut out a section of stern tube...     The cutless bearing finally comes out

     This morning they were back with the new bearing which tapped right into place, followed by the welder with his MIG machine to weld back on the section of stern tube that had been removed.  As soon as it had cooled, I was there slapping on primer and tomorrow morning the affected area will start getting its coats of bottom paint.  Looking like we'll be back in the water in a couple more days...right on schedule! 


March 14:

       Back in the water today!  We can use our sinks, empty our grey water, flush our toilets!  We no longer have to climb ladders or walk through a muddy yard to get home again!   And best of all, after completely disassembling then reassembling our feathering prop, I put the engine in gear to find that I actually did it right.  I was really sweating that I'd hit reverse only to have the boat start moving forward or something.

Uliad launched again after bottom painting

       So my instincts say to stop and celebrate, but my mind knows that there is an equally big job before us now:  getting Uliad ready to go to sea.  After over a year at the dock, we need to repack our lockers, provision with groceries, and get rid of a bunch of stuff that we've accumulated but won't need anymore now that we're not land-dwellers any more.  So to start that process, today I'm putting the "for sale" sign on our car. 


March 21:

    After another long hard week, we're about ready to go.  We've packed on all the groceries that can reasonably fit, we've stowed away all the "land" items like my folding bicycle.  I've gone through and double checked that all the lights and radios and various onboard systems are still working.  (thankfully they are!!).  And for the last several days, we've been hunkered down as a storm washes over New Zealand with high winds and heavy rains. 

    I thought I had a buyer for our car--he was supposed to come today with the money.  Now that we're all finished with our final shopping errands around town, I was looking forward to turning over the keys... but so far he hasn't shown up, which has me feeling a bit nervous. 

    Then there are the final farewell parties that all our friends here have been planning--our next few evenings will be full with those and then Friday morning we should finally be ready to unplug that shore power cable for good and start cruising.  After all the stress and hard work these past few weeks, I can't wait for that feels like that's the time I'll finally be able to relax again... 

    When saying goodbye to lots of people, its often best to have a departure day set, even if it's not the real departure day.  I'm starting to think that we'll have our parties and say our farewells, then motor a few miles down the river to anchor for a day or two and finish getting things in order.  It just gets too complicated getting those last projects done with people dropping by or calling to see if we can have one last lunch date. 


March 23:

     Kathleen apparently didn't share my excitement to finally get moving again.  She had a couple items left on her schedule for Friday and pushed hard to leave now on Saturday morning with the high tide.  One day in the grand scheme of things doesn't make much difference.  So why am I in such a rotten mood all day today?

     Perhaps it was the car.  Several interested buyers fell through, so I finally ended up taking it back to the auto auction house where I bought the car six months ago.  The whole process was remarkably easy:  Give my name and contact information, hand over the keys, and wait for a call next week after they auction it off to the highest bidder.  So easy in fact that I have to wonder how they prevent fraud?  They never even asked for me to provide ID or proof of ownership for the car they're now selling.  Perhaps they access online registration files these days.  In any event, if we get back anything close to what we paid for this car, I'm going to leave NZ in amazement at how easy they make it to buy and sell used cars here.  None of that sitting in a dingy office while the salesman goes to check with his manager....

    Perhaps it was the 5 mile hike across town after dropping off the car.  Perhaps it was the incessant rain of the past week.  But probably my restless, irritable mood just has to do with this nagging need to get out of here and go find something new. 



March 24:

     And then, just like that, the day was finally here.  We set our alarms to be up by 8am, which would leave us an hour and a half to put things away, top off the water tanks, and disconnect the shore power cord for the last time in a long while.  All our neighbors at the dock turned out to hand us our lines and give Uliad a friendly shove and we pulled back from the marina right on schedule at high tide.

     Accompanying us for the next few days was our dear friend Robin--who jumped at the chance of another boat trip.  She arrived with two big bags of food, which were welcomed even though with all our provisioning, we've just about run out of room to put it anywhere.  Oh well, lots of time for eating in the next couple of days.

     Uliad seemed to glide happily through the water with her freshly painted bottom.  In fact, I realized after a mile or so, she was moving a little too well.  Normally, she can go about 8 knots in still water with the diesel running at around 2000 RPMs, but I was hitting that by 1500, and the engine wouldn't go over 1700 RPMs without overloading and pumping out black smoke from the stern.  I started going through my mental checklist of what could be the problem and after deciding that the engine was sounding normal and not losing power, I shifted into neutral and found she would run up to her usual RPMs without trouble.  So the problem seems to be with the pitch of the prop blades.  Which means that I must have assembled the Max Prop with the wrong blade pitch settings back in the boat yard.  Dang!

     So now I have to decide if I want to jump into ice cold water with a wrench and a scuba tank to fix that now, or live with it until Vanuatu, when I can jump into clear warm water to re-pitch the prop.  Hmmmm.

     We arrived a few hours later in our old favorite spot near the mouth of the Hatea river where we can hide out for a day or two and I can pack away the mooring lines, fenders and that big yellow shore power cord in the bottom of the lockers so we can get at all those other things that we're more likely to need now that we're sailors again.

Off the dock at last--the happy crew



March 26:

     We had a relaxing couple of days at Urqhart's Bay.  A surfing friend of Robin's came by with some surfboards and took Emmett over to Ocean Beach where he could catch a few waves while we wandered around on shore.  Meanwhile, Robin was so taken with the sailing life, that when I announced that the weather would be good for a trip up the coast the next day, she was quickly on her cell phone to see who she could get to cover call at the hospital for a couple of days so she could join us on the voyage.

     Schedules.  How quickly I've forgotten about them.  I bet I was asked a dozen times in the past week, "So...what is your schedule?  What day are you going to be where?.  What day are you leaving?"  And each time I have to remind them that we don't live on that kind of schedule anymore.  If we don't feel like moving, we'll stay put that day.  When the weather is right we'll go.  Sadly, we can't promise to meet you in a certain bay on a certain day...we just don't know.  This is often met with a briefly incredulous look and I hope I'm not offending anyone.  It's hard for most people to wrap their heads around the idea of not keeping to a schedule. It was hard for us to get used to the idea at first, too.  And as a result, I remember getting pounded a few times in rougher weather than was really necessary.  Of course, not having a schedule doesn't help much for land-based friends trying to visit us. That's the hard part about cruising (and also the amazing and liberating part)--it's really not at all conducive to pre-arranged schedules the way everyone lives.  Just when you have a plan, the weather forecast changes, or something breaks onboard, or whatever.  Fortunately for Robin, I can pretty confidently predict at least 2 or 3 days ahead, though.  So I promised our friend I'd get her to somewhere she can get a ride home in time for work on Thursday and off we went.

     It turned out to be one of those rare perfect sailing days.  We had 18 knots of wind on the port quarter and flat seas pushing us along gloriously....almost as if the great Pacific Ocean was welcoming us back with open arms.  Kathleen was rather nervous about being back at sea after so long on shore, so she ended up taking some sea-sickness medicine beforehand which knocked her out all afternoon so she missed the whole thing.  I was tempted to shake her awake just to make sure she'd believe me when I talked about what a perfect day it was, but eventually she came around in time to motor into Whangamumu Bay for the night.  And for Robin's part- I had to remind her that not every day at sea was as nice as that.


March 27:

      Whangamumu Harbor is the site of an old Norwegian whaling station until the 1930s, you can still see the concrete ramp where they winched up the dead whales to butcher, and the concrete vats and old iron boilers they used to render the whale oil.  We took a nice wander through the ruins and up the hill this morning. 

      The Norwegian whalers chose well.  The harbor is very protected in all weather, and proved to be a popular spot for the fishing boats to come in for a quiet night's sleep.  By dusk, there were probably 15 boats anchored in here, but by the time I stuck my head out of the hatch this morning, almost all were gone.  The whales are safe now, but the fish had still better watch out. 

     After our hike, we motored out of the harbor, too.  Then we turned north to round the scenic Cape Brett and enter the Bay of Islands.  This is where we'll drop off Robin, and hang out for the next week or two making our final preparations for our big sail north to Vanuatu.  Another lovely sailing day; this time with Kathleen conscious to enjoy it, too.

Rounding Cape Brett  Kathy & Robin approach the hole in the rock


March 31:

     Kathleen spent the day enjoying a visit from her friend Caroline, who drove up from Whangarei to see us.  Meanwhile, I spent the day doing school with Emmett, and working out a few small electronic gremlins that have popped up onboard.  With regards to the former, we have moved on to the 7th grade of our home school curriculum, after testing showed that Em would be better challenged by skipping most of 6th grade.  So he's definitely had to turn it up a notch in his academics lately.  After nearly two months off while we were travelling in New Zealand, it takes a while for him to get his nose back to the grindstone!

     As for the electronic problems--stuff always pops up when we start using all the systems again, so I've been holding my breath waiting to see what it will be.  So far the issues look pretty minor- a couple of corroded wires appear to be causing problems with my AIS antenna and with the water maker salinity sensor--both easy to fix while there's a marine shop nearby.

     So today we drove the boat over to Opua where the boat stores are.  There also appears to be a nasty tropical storm gathering to the north of us which is predicted to bring us 30 to 40 knot winds next week, so we want to be snugly tucked in somewhere well in advance.  So now with the boat store nearby, a well set anchor, and a strong Wi-Fi signal, we're ready to wait out the storm.





                                                                                                                             created by Steve Erickson 2007-2012
All rights reserved
HomeAbout UsAbout UliadEmmett's PageFAQsContactShip's Log

  Graphic Design by Round the Bend Wizards