Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Bilge Soup

I spent an hour today cleaning a foul soup of diesel, engine oil, and rusty water out of the bilges. Between the diesel that went into the bilges at the end of last year, and the oil and diesel that went on on the way to Tollesbury I've ended up with about 10 litres of oily liquid in what used to be a water carrier. Luckily our local re-cyling centre in Stortford takes waste oil, so hopefully I can get rid of it there. Otherwise I don't know what I'll do with it!

I only had a couple of hours available, so spent the rest of the time bending on the mainsail. It's now shackled to the throat halyard, tied on to the gaff with robands, and lashed down to the boom. I tied it up and put the cover on after that, but had to warn Julian it was not ready to be hoisted. He knew that though; the gaff span is not fixed in place yet!

There's still a lot to do if we want to head out on Sunday. Fingers crossed we'll get it done!

Monday, 28 April 2014

A busy weekend

I spent all day Saturday and Sunday on Robinetta, while Julian came along on Sunday. Barry the engineer also turned up on both days, to remove and replace the leaking fuel line and make sure that the engine cut off pull leaver would work. He also showed us how to isolate the diesel tanks, so we can finally stop the fuel running from one tank into another and overflowing when we're heeled!

I did a lot of little bits of essential cleaning and tidying up. We now have a storage locker each, for clothes and other personal items (essential for keeping our small cabin tidy), and the tools and spare shackles/blocks that we don't need to hand are in plastic toolboxes under the benches. All the food is in the galley area; taking out the oven gave us a lot more space! There is somewhere to hang the toilet toll and a dirty laundry bag, and I installed a "privacy curtain" between the cabin and the heads.
Everything not absolutely essential in our small boat needs two purposes to justify being there. Julian was talking about a second hanging wardrobe space for keeping shirts un-crumpled, but there's no place to put one. I've ended up taking a suit protection hanger on board, the sort where you put the clothes on a hanger inside a cloth cover that can be folded up. When privacy is wanted this can be hung on a hook between cabin and heads, where it fills the space almost completely. At other times it can be folded up and hung out of the way on the rail that supports the cabin roof. Only time will tell if this gets annoying!
The bilges are still oily, so I've bought a Maxi-Boom bilge oil absorber and left it under the floorboard in the hope that it will stop us polluting when we pump. I will wash the bilges properly before we leave!

On Sunday Julian finished re-running the electrics near the heads, and got the running lights working. He also sent me up the mast twice to re-run the peak and throat halyards. We have the roller reefing line in place too, so we'll be a sailing boat as soon as I get the main bent on. We want a longer piece of rope for the peak hardener, but that's a minor job.

Next weekend is our intended departure date. Julian needs Saturday for wiring the autopilot to the chart plotter, so we've decided to leave Tollesbury on the first tide on Sunday, and head to Brightlingsea for a shake down sail. We need to buy a new lamp glass and know we can get it at French Marine, plus its well within our comfort zone for a nice gentle start to the adventure. Being within the shelter of the Blackwater we'll go unless its blowing a force 8 on the nose!

Friday, 25 April 2014

More engine problems

Barry ran up the engine having replaced the leaking oil pipe, and the good news is that the engine did not get damaged by its short run with insufficient oil. Hurrah!

The bad news it that when he was checking the oil system for leaks under load, shining a very strong torch round the engine compartment, he saw a fine jet of diesel spraying out of a pipe just behind the fuel lift pump. It looks as though this, not the fuel pump, was the cause of our diesel leak at the end of last year. The pipe had been rubbing on the engine block and worn through in a position that is incredibly difficult to see. Fuel that sprayed out but fell against the engine ran down so that it looked at through it were dripping out of the pump. It seems that we now have a working spare (second hand) fuel pump in case the new one goes wrong....

I've asked Barry to replace the pipe for us, and I'm feeling less annoyed that I did not have time to wash the bilges out on Wednesday!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Oily bilges and varnish layers

I've been to visit Robinetta in her temporary base at Tollesbury today and yesterday in order to get on with the varnishing. I sanded the Epifanes off the grab rails where it was flaking, and re-coated them with the same stuff. It's been on there with only the most basic care since the spring of 2008, so I feel confident it lasts. I've also used it on the foredeck cap rails. Two coats isn't really enough, so I'll try to get more on if the weather allows.

I've put two coats of International Original Varnish on the rubbing strip on top of the cabin sides, and on the main hatch. It's the stuff that Paul Drake asked me to  get for the mast, and he did the previous coats on those areas. It also ended up being used as a varnish coat on top of the Varnol on the cockpit sides after I brushed out some drips and just kept going. Julian put a new layer of Varnol on them before we left West Mersea, so they were in good condition, but we will run out of Varnol soon. Paul came by while I was doing this, and doesn't think it will cause problems!

The cockpit got a second coat of Woodskin (one more and it will be done), and then I mopped the diesel oil out of the bilges. Not a fun job, and I still need to clean them properly, but at least Robinetta won't be polluting the marina so much when she pumps out!

The new oil pipe was fitted yesterday, and Barry gave me the old one to have a look at. He is going to refill the oil and test run the engine tomorrow. Fingers crossed it did not get damaged!

Monday, 21 April 2014

First night aboard

We slept on Robinetta for the first time since last summer Easter Saturday. The long trip is starting to feel close. We spoke with Barry Watt who Paul Drake got to look at her and he explained the problem we had with the engine coming over from Mersea. Apparently Yanmar diesels have a mild steel oil pipe running below the raw water pump at the front of the engine. When the pump leaks, sea water falls on the mild steel pipe. A recipe for corrosion. So that was our oil leak. Barry will replace it with a cupro-nickel pipe.

We fitted the new spirit cooker, which works really nicely, and wired in the new tiller pilot. I moved all the electric cables away from the area where the stove will go if we get around to fitting it.

We are still sorting out the halyards.

Thursday, 17 April 2014


The gaff I made for the new sails worked OK but seemed to bend far too much in strong winds and had lost some glue. I put lots more glue in the gaps and glued a piece along the top. According to John Leather's Gaff Rig Handbook this was common practice. Alison did a fine job of varnishing the whole thing.

The other problem we had was that the spar end never fitted the saddle that well. Moray took the lugs off and re-welded them on outside the saddle lugs. and re-galvanised the spar end. Hopefully this will also help the twisting problem we had.

Sunday, 13 April 2014


Ben and I got Lady Grace out to Robinetta this morning while Alison and Ben's partner Emma took the car around to Tollesbury. The weather was lovely but the wind was a little cold and westerly.

We tightened up the shrouds and fore stay and set the stay sail. Ben fitted the chart plotter and ensign and we sorted the floor boards which Alison couldn't get flat. I had to take the chocks out of the mast ring and move the mast around to make room for the floor boards. We need to reset the chocks and fit a new boot.

We did the engine checks and ran the engine for about 10 minutes before heading off.

The journey to Tollesbury was without incident. As we got near to the D pontoon I heard a funny noise from the engine which soon turned into a solid overheating whistle. We were near enough to drift to the pontoon where Alison took our lines while I tried to cut the engine. The stop knob was completely stuck and the cable fitting pulled out of the cockpit side. Ben managed to jam it with his foot and pull hard enough to free it and stop the engine.

After a fine carvery lunch we went back for a look and Alison found a bit more water in the bilges but when she ran the pump engine oil started pouring into the bilges. We will get the engineer at Tollesbury to have a look.

Friday, 11 April 2014


Earliest launch time was at 0950 according to the yard, so I made an effort and got there by 0900. There did not look like there was nearly enough water to launch, but almost as soon as I arrived and got on board Ollie was in the bosuns chair being hauled aloft by the crane.

The rigging was soon sorted out, and then Robinetta was hauled away by the tractor to let the crane reach a twin keeler that drew 3'6". The depth of water available still looked dodgy, but they put her in and she floated. The skipper and mate were both there, and they motored out under their own power to their mooring while the yard's work boat headed off to collect a small motor boat that needed hauling out.

I went to the chandlers and bought 3 metres of 4mm soft rope to use as frapping lines. Julian had used the old ones for something else, and the last thing I want is the rigging banging against the still soft varnish! (although its a lot harder now than at the weekend).

The water still seemed too shallow for Robinetta when that had been dealt with, and the tide was beginning to ebb, but the yard decided to put her in anyway. They had a very full launch schedule for the next week and she could stay in the mud in the dock until we collected her on Sunday. They got the strops on her and lifted her out of the cradle, then I rushed round slapping anti-foul on the cradle support patches. It's not an ideal way of doing it, but a lot better than nothing!

Robinetta settled slowly into the water beside the work boat, and floated! Suddenly the idea of getting back on board in a relaxed way and frapping the halyards, while checking to see if she would take up, went by the board. if they could get her onto a mooring, then they would!

The work boat was facing the opposite way to Robinetta, but never mind, they backed out of the dock, then turned to go forward, but that meant that Robinetta was being moved stern first. As a long keeler with a big rudder she is very hard to steer back wards, so it was an interesting voyage across to the Thorn Fleet where they planned to put her.

I paid very little attention, as I was rushing round frapping lines and tying the boom into its cradle (which I'd forgotten yesterday). I also pulled up a floor board just to check there was no water flooding in. Everything seemed okay, but I would have quite liked to stay on board for a while. The work boat had other work to do, so once Robinetta was safe on the buoy I had to leave her there. Here's hoping the float switch activates the bilge pump if needed, and that the engine works when we go on board on Sunday to head for Tollesbury!

I took some video footage of the launch too, which I've just cut together and uploaded to You-Tube.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Mast Stepping

When I got to the yard on Thursday morning Robinetta had been moved close to the dock, but the tide was ebbing and the mast was still lying beside her waiting to be stepped, so it was obvious that she would not be launched today.

I helped guide the foot of the mast into the mast step, then began to run the rigging. A problem emerged, as despite all Julian's care the aerial and mast head light cables had been taped to a short (rear) rather than a fore (long) shroud. This meant that all the shrouds needed shifting anti clockwise, and the cables retaping. I talked to the yard, and they agreed to correct it before launch on Friday.

The rest of the rigging went well, and I got the boom onto the gooseneck without any problems. We had used a set of temporary crutches at the stern all last season as I kept forgetting to varnish the proper ones. I remembered over the winter so they are now back on the boat looking very shiny; unfortunately they are slightly shorter than the others, and I kept banging my head coming out of the cabin.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Dressing the Mast

 Julian spent all Sunday dressing the mast, while I worked in the cabin, putting varnish on some surfaces that had not been touched since we bought the boat. The main reason for doing them now was because I needed to put a coat of varnish on the cockpit where putting varnol on a cleat had eroded the epifane that the cleat contacted. The Epifane there has peeled off completely while still being solid in other places. Both cleat and cockpit  are now epifaned! (only one coat yet though.)

Julian did sterling work on the mast, although the varnish was still very soft and he had to be careful not to damage it. One of the strops had vanished over the winter, so he made a rope one to replace it. It should last until the next time the mast comes out!

 When it was done it looked like this:

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Varnish and Woodskin

First day alone to Robinetta for a while, and a lot less gets done! I washed down the boom and had a good look at it. It's been sitting under the boat all winter (it would normally be on top) and got a bit damaged, so I sanded down the damaged varnish and gave the whole thing a thin coat of varnish. I'll try to give it another coat tomorrow.

The mast varnishing is finished, because Paul came every day last week and put on a coat. It's now had 6 coats, and that will have to do it, because the mast needs to be dressed tomorrow. The varnish is still very soft (certainly compared to the year old varnish on the boom!) so I did not put on another coat today. I think it's more important to let it harden off a bit.

I gave the bulwarks a coat of toplac, and finally decided what finish to use on the cockpit bare wood. I've gone with Woodskin. It's touch dry in four hours, but can't be overcoated for three days, which means I don't need to rush to get another coat on tomorrow!