Bringing Luci back in shape takes more time and effort than we expected, but the result is well worth it.

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Whangarei (NZL)

“Two weeks on the hard should do it”, Ivar announces with confidence. Back from our two-month road trip around New Zealand, we’re stood at the marina reception. Lucipara 2 desperately needs some tender loving care, aka proper maintenance. We ask Lisa, the friendly marina’s receptionist, to arrange a timeslot to haul out and get a spot on the hard. That’s easier said than done, we can read off of Lisa’s face. She flips through her large diary but doesn’t find an opening for us. Due to the pandemic, half of the yard is occupied by boats whose owners are abroad. They cannot return to their boats until New Zealand’s borders reopen. It means that only a handful of spots are available for yachties like us wanting to do maintenance.

“It doesn’t look like I have a spot for you anytime soon, but I’ll put you on the list for next month”, Lisa concludes as she closes her planner. Although disappointed, we don’t really mind waiting a few weeks. Sailing 30,000 nautical miles in five years has left its marks on our loyal steel lady. Plenty of chores on our to-do list can be completed while Luci is still in the water. “If we do those first, then we’ll only have the paint job left for when we’re hauled-out”, Ivar thinks out loud. Floris is a bit sceptical. Will it indeed be possible to complete the boat maintenance within Ivar’s time schedule?

Difficult to Let Go

Attacking the long to-do list is off to a good start when, at the agreed time, a large crane drives onto the yard and parks next to Luci. It’s here to help us take off the masts. While the crane extends its arm to just above our main mast, Floris hoists Ivar up so he can attach a sling to the top of the mast. Ivar then places the other end of the sling on the crane’s hook. He quickly comes down, so we can loosen the stays while the crane keeps the mast in place. As soon as Ivar raises his thumb, the crane operator comes into action to lift the mast. Nothing happens. The crane’s engine hums louder until Ivar feels the entire bow come out of the water. “Stop!” he shouts and gestures. “Something might break!” What is holding the mast in place? Could it be rust under the mast foot?

The crane operator has an idea. He lowers the mast forward, then he straightens it again and lowers it backwards. He repeats the manoeuvre five times before he pulls the mast up again. It works! Large crusts of rust come off from between the mast foot and the deck plate as the foot finally lets go. “Two steps forward, one back”, Floris laments. Removing rust there was not on the to-do list. It is now.

Rust, Rust, Rust

The mizzen mast does not fight back and comes off easily. Both masts get a place on the yard. Having the masts horizontal makes working on them so easy. We first remove the rigging. In the past two years, we have had to replace three damaged stays, so they are all nearing the end of their 15-year old life. We have asked Matthew the rigger to make a new set and give him the old set for the exact sizes. Next, we replace halyards and install a new masthead light, the previous one having been destroyed by angry birds. We pamper the wind generator on the mizzen mast – normally barely accessible – by giving it a set of new bearings (which could feature in a separate blog, as the procedure involves the freezer and oven!). Finally, the heavy-duty tools come out, as Ivar grinds the rust away at the mast foot and the deck plate. Several coats of paint later, everything looks tidy again.

Rust also appears to be the culprit in other places. It has damaged our wood-burning stove and chimney pipe. It turns out that our favourite fuel, driftwood, was not the best choice. It may have been available everywhere but we didn’t consider the salt it contains. The combustion chamber and pipe have been corroded so badly that repair is no longer feasible. We buy a new stove and ask welder Adam to fabricate a new pipe.

We find more corrosion surprises on the boom. The stainless steel bolts from the boom-mast connection have corroded much more aluminium than was visible from the outside. Again, Adam comes to the rescue. He cuts out the corroded aluminium pieces, welds new ones in place, and mounts it all back with proper insulation and monel rivets (the ones that don’t rust!). It’s another unforeseen but necessary repair job.

Finally, and this we knew, it’s time to replace the anchor chain. We waited too long to galvanize it again. As a result, the links corroded so much that they got too small for our anchor winch. Into the metal recycling bin it goes. We use the opportunity to order a longer chain. In deep water with bad weather there were instances when our short anchor chain gave us trouble. Carpenter Patrick helps us enlarge the anchor chain locker so we can store the longer chain. In the meantime, our anchor is sandblasted and coated with a new zinc layer. “And now I don’t want to see any rust for a very long time!” Ivar proclaims. If only his wish could come true…

All Enjoy Our Oyster Bar

A month later, a spot on the hard finally becomes available. It’s time for action: Floris unties the ropes from the dock and gives Ivar the sign to manoeuvre Luci out of her berth. He barely manages and has great difficulty steering her to the boatlift. We see why when Luci is lifted out of the water. The hull is covered in shells. Even the propeller is completely overgrown. It’s quite a sight and draws out bewildered looks from everyone in the marina. “You could start an oyster bar”, yard manager Karl jokes. He hands us oversized spades. “We keep these for the more serious cases”, he laughs. They do the trick. We scrape away all the oyster shells and barnacles. Their remnants fill ten wheelbarrows. Sadly, we find no customers for them and we have to close our oyster bar before it even opened.

Of course, we knew that our bottom needed urgent care, yet the amount of fouling exceeds our wildest expectations. Our antifouling worked perfectly for more than two years but each time we removed barnacles, some antifouling disappeared with it. As it was a requirement to arrive with a clean bottom, we meticulously scrubbed off all barnacles in French Polynesia before setting sail for New Zealand. It meant that there wasn’t much left of the antifouling. Lying idle for months in the warm, nutrient-rich water of the Hatea River did the rest. The local oysters had plenty of time to labour their way through multiple layers of paint. Their efforts mean a lot of extra paintwork for us. In a few spots they even damaged the primer, exposing the steel of the hull.

Another Setback

Above the waterline, Luci’s blue has got the blues. Now that we’re so close to the hull, we can no longer deny it: the paint is peeling off almost everywhere. “That job cannot wait until we’re back in the Netherlands”, Ivar decides. His original (overly optimistic?) plan was to touch-up some bad spots. The additional paintjob is added to the list, and it’s not an easy one. We head to the paint store for two-component paint and the appropriate primer. “I should have used this kind of paint a long time ago”, Ivar repeats to himself over and over while he sands off layer after layer of the old one-component paint. It’s a setback and a lesson learned but also an investment in a longer lasting paint system.

Blessing in Disguise

While Floris sands outside, Ivar tackles a rusty spot on the inside of the hull, in the bathroom. (Yes, more rust. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!) Floris can hear Ivar fanatically hammering the rust away until it is replaced by loud curse words that will not be repeated here. Ivar has smashed through Luci’s hull. A gaping hole appears where the rust had weakened the hull, much more than he suspected when he first saw the rust. “How is that possible?” he wonders, disappointment having replaced anger. “I cleaned and painted the entire hull inside and out before departure.” Apparently, he didn’t treat this spot well enough at the time. Floris puts the suffering into perspective: “At least you waited to make the hole until we were on the hard!”

Welder Adam comes to the rescue again, this time to mend the hole in the hull. Alarmed by this new setback, Ivar inspects the rest of the hull as if he were Sherlock Holmes. He discovers more rusty spots (hooray!) under the cabin floor and in the engine room. Fortunately, they are superficial. His zero-tolerance approach does mean a lot of extra grinding and painting work, of course.

Building Back

Once the endless sanding and rust removal is over, our mood improves. The first coat of primer does miracles, as it covers the hull in a pretty shade of grey, making us blind to the many hours of labour that paved the way for this moment. Once dry, we apply multiple layers of copper-free antifouling. Seajet donated the cans when we were in Tahiti – thank you! The radiant light blue colours beautifully with the dark blue of the hull’s new paint. The propeller also gets a layer of special antifouling, which makes it look like gold.

With some help from Matthew (oh, and the crane), the masts are raised again and the new stays attached to the deck. They fit perfectly. Lastly, we get new stickers of “Lucipara 2” and “Amsterdam” and diligently apply them on the hull. Finally, Luci is ready to go back into the water. Within Ivar’s two-week timeframe? Not nearly – it took more than six weeks!

Thank you Luci

Once we float again it’s easy to forget the chores. Sailor’s dementia not only applies to nasty passages, but also boat maintenance, it appears. A feeling of gratefulness prevails. After all, Luci brought us safely all the way to New Zealand and deserved the big pat on the hull. She looks shiny and is in excellent shape (she better be!) for part two of our world trip in search of sustainable solutions. Nevertheless, we abandon her within minutes of berthing, as we are going to housesit for a week. In the jacuzzi on the patio we recover from weeks in maintenance mode. It’s high time to give ourselves some TLC!

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