Winter Maintenance Complete and Ready to Roll
Now that the winter chill has gone and the European summer is just around the corner it is time to start our 2018 travels. We arrived back in Travemunde, Germany on Wednesday morning last week, excited after 8 months at home, to be back on board and getting Ada Hardy ready to go to sea.
There is always a lot of work the first few days after a long winter layover. Karen takes charge setting up our home for the next four months - unpacking our gear, cleaning, making beds, grocery shopping, etc., while I start with getting all the deck gear back in place after have been stored below for the winter and starting up and testing the ship systems.
Normally it takes us about 3 days to get everything unpacked, provisioned and up and running again, but we anticipated this year was going to take a bit longer because of the significant amount of maintenance work carried out over the winter which I wanted to sea trial thoroughly and sort any issues before we head off on our 3 month journey north along the Norwegian coast. We've been here now for 6 days - head down, arse up - the Germans might be good at engineering work but they are shit at cleaning (or so Karen says!). Anyways, we're all done now; all boat systems are tested and working, fridges and freezers are stocked, fuel tanks and liquor cabinets are full and deck chairs are out. Bring it on!!
Yet again, one of the most frustrating and time consuming tasks has been getting our Australian stainless steel gas bottles filled. We carry 3 x 8kg gas bottles which easily last us a typical 4 month cruising season and depending on how often we eat ashore or how many guests we have, can at a stretch make it through 2 seasons. So every year or so we need to get our bottles filled. This may sound like a simple task but it is not. Firstly, nearly everywhere in the world works on a "swap and go" system these days which means we would have to give up our beautiful stainless steel bottles and suffer working with bottles that do not fit in our specially designed gas bottle locker. The other problem that arises is that even if we decided to use a local gas bottle the connections are also different everywhere in the world so we would need to arrange a local plumber to come and change our connections to suit. The alternative is to track down the nearest gas bottle filling depot and come armed with (hopefully) suitably sized adaptors so they can fill our bottles.
I thought that in Germany this would be fairly straight forward, because Germans being Germans (efficient and all) and that I had on board an adaptor that had worked for us throughout Europe over the past 5 years. Well it turns out that Germany uses a different gas connection to the rest of Europe and their fill depots are huge but few and far between. It took me 4 days to find the necessary hardware to allow our bottles to connect to the German system and then another 2 days and over 200km of driving to find a depot which would fill my bottles! Anyway, its done and we're good to go until we need to fill again in Norway next season - where they use a different system again!!
I have known for a number of years that Ada Hardy would be spending a winter layover in either Holland or Germany round about now and, due to the Dutch and the German's superb reputation for marine engineering, have held off carrying out important engineering related maintenance until we got here . Our boat spent the winter at a marina and full service boat yard called Böbs-Werft, in Travemunde, Germany, established in 1905 and now under the fourth generation of family management. I stumbled across Böbs-Werft thanks to Google while we were working our way up the European Atlantic coast last year and liked the look of their story on their website. They were very responsive to my email enquiries so I took an "educated risk" and booked her in for the winter and an extensive engineering maintenance program.
I must say that I am extraordinarily pleased with the work they have done despite struggling with adding 50% to convert Euro's to Aussie $'s and then adding another 20% for VAT and yet managing to stay under budget!! The major projects completed over the winter include:
Completely disassembled the anchor winch, replaced the seals, re-galvanized all steel parts, replaced the hydraulic motor, painted everything and put her back together again. This was an expensive little project but long overdue after 30 years of service which will see this essential piece of equipment through for the next 30 years.
Removed all flexible hydraulic pipes serving the steering system and replaced them with new. Most of these reinforced rubber pipes are original (i.e. 30 years old) and whilst still in good working order were also long overdue for retirement. At the same time, the steering pump was removed, tested and found to require extensive repairs so we replaced it with a new one.
Removed the hydraulic steering slaves and had them professionally pressure tested. Interestingly the cylinder ends are welded on so you cannot replace the seals but they passed all the tests so they were reinstalled as-is.
Re-configured the hydraulic pump for the stabilizers which has been giving me grief since the day I installed it! The pump is driven by 2 very long (1,550mm ) 'B' sized belts off a pulley on the main engine crankshaft. Because of the length of the belts they need to be tensioned quite strongly to stop them slapping and wearing out quickly, which in turn places a lot of radial stress on the pump bearings. The pump has always been fitted with an Overhead Load Adaptor but still the bearings have regularly failed after approximately 400hrs use. The new set up has the pump pulleys mounted on a short axle with a hefty bearing either end. The axle is then connected via a flexible coupling to the hydraulic pump. Hopefully this will give me many hours of hassle free operation.
Removed the rudder and checked the bearings and shaft and found everything to be in good order but replaced the top bearing nevertheless for peace of mind.
Removed the propeller and shaft and found everything except the aft cutless bearing to be in good condition. There was a bit of crevice corrosion on the section of the shaft that lives in the stern tube, as would be expected after 10 years with long periods of inactivity during the winter months, but nothing alarming. The bearing surfaces of the shaft were repaired and polished and the cutless bearing replaced with a new heavy commercial duty Thordon bearing. The propeller had a couple of minor corrosion crevices repaired and was re-balanced.
Removed all existing bronze skin fittings and sea cocks and replaced them with new glass fibre reinforced nylon ones from Trudesign in New Zealand.
The final project was to have new drop down awnings made for our fore deck "living room". To date we have worked with Sunbrella mesh drop down sides which provide excellent shade whilst allowing the breeze to blow through through and they also did a reasonable job keeping the worst of any rain out. We felt however, now we are in colder climes, that a higher degree of weatherproofing to keep the wind and rain out was in order. I am extremely please with the work done by Carlo Haase of Persenningmacher.de and look forward to some cold, windy, rainy nights to test them out!