Keel Work Begins

As detailed in my last post, the keel on Further is in need of a bit of work. In April, the boat went into the water for the first time in almost eighteen months and within an hour or so there was a small trickle of water getting inside the boat via one of the ten keel bolts. Keel-bolt issues are not to be trifled with (do a Google search about the Cheeki Rafiki to see why) so even though the trickle slowed significantly over the subsequent weeks, I still chose to get the issue addressed once and for all.

The thing is: I’ve known since I bought the boat that at some point the keel was going to have to be looked at. Any time Further was hauled out water would drip from the bottom of the keel for a much longer time than expected. And there was clearly a hole in the fiberglass at the forward end of the bottom of the keel (see the image at the top of this page or go to previous post for a close-up photo of the hole). But it was never really a problem. The keel bolts are all in excellent condition and there was never a significant flow of water into the bilge. I realize now, though, that there was always at least a little skiff of water in the bilge and I’m thinking now it was coming in via the keel bolt.

I think now that what happened is that being out of the water for a year and a half allowed the keel to dry out completely, so that when Further splashed in April the water flowed in via that known hole to the bolt and into the bilge. After a while, as the keel became saturated, that flow slowed to where it had been in the past.

Of course, that may all be a massive rationalization but we’ll see in the near future.

Anyway, the company doing the work had said they’d start the week of June 21. I checked Further on Friday the 25th and, as is par for the course for the marine industry in the Annapolis area, they hadn’t done a damned thing. I sent an email that day that played innocent and asked only if there was anything to report, and that while I knew there can always be surprises once projects like this get started what they thought the ETA might be. A reply came quickly saying they were going to get started next week (June 28th) and that the job should take two to three weeks.

You can clearly see saw marks and other signs of excavation around what had been a hole in the forward end of Further’s keel.

At lunchtime on Wednesday, June 30, I again visited Further and still nothing had been done. Needless to say, I was starting to get a little perturbed. Shortly after I’d left the boatyard, however, I got a phone call. The owner of the company was on the other end of the line saying that they’d begun work and that they didn’t think it was going to take as long as originally predicted. Breakthrough!

So yesterday I visited Further again and took the attached photos. In them you can see clear signs where a saw and other power tools have excavated two holes in the keel, both the one at the forward end and another near the aft end. And you can see where they’ve filled gaps in the lead keel and in some of the fiberglass around it.

And you can see where they’ve filled in some gaps in the glass and around the lead keel.

This work will sit for some time and then the keel will again be fully glassed over. And then, theoretically, Further’s keel will be good to go. The company asked if I wanted them to do some other hull work we’d discussed (removing some defunct through-hulls and filling in the holes) since they now figure they’ll have more time than they originally planned for. I’ll decide on that in the next day or so but I might instead opt to use that money for some other projects (i.e.: an arch to mount solar panels and other stuff above the stern). Or, heaven forbid, to save it for future use. I know, right?! How mature of me!

In any case, that’s the current status report on Further’s keel. Keep your fingers crossed but maybe, just maybe, we’ll be back on the water sooner rather than later. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll be back in salt water in the next few weeks.

Holding Pattern

Well, not sure what to tell you but I figured it was time to provide an update. Here in the Mid-Atlantic (I’m still in Annapolis) it’s not even 24 hours after the summer solstice and we’re in the midst of a nice, steamy stretch: temps around 90, humidity in the 90 percent range, severe thunderstorms in the forecast for later this afternoon and the season’s THIRD (already!) tropical storm sliding off into the Atlantic a bit south of here…but hey, everything on the climate front is just normal. Riiiiiiiiight…

On the Further front, everything IS just normal—well, normal for the past year and a half. Which is to say: with issues.

A view of the hole on the bottom of the forward end of the keel. Click to see a close-up of the frayed fiberglass (it’s pretty cool lookin’).

Further came out of the water last week in advance of addressing the keel-bolt problem I mentioned a couple of posts back. But there’s a potentially positive development on that front (knock on wood). Here’s the word I received from the company fixing the keel after their initial look:
“There is an encapsulated ballast at the bottom of the keel which has several holes in it. We would grind away roughly 4-6” and allow it to dry out. After that, we would repair and re-glass the bottom of the keel. Next, we would open up the top-aft of the keel and inspect.”
Check out the attached photos of the holes.

And while it’s still going to cost a good chunk of change to fix, it’s not the wrist-slitting amount I feared. Let’s hope.

Scary, right? But on the plus side, they’re NOT saying they need to drop the keel. And to be honest, I’ve known about those holes at the bottom of the keel for some time—every time she was hauled out, water would drip out from the keel for an unusually long time. The marine surveyor when I bought Further should have alerted me to the issue but I don’t know that it would have stopped me from buying the boat. I might have insisted on a reduction in price but…oh, well.

Anyway, yeah, the holes are scary but if they’re the source of the water coming up to the one (of ten) keel bolts, hopefully re-glassing the bottom of the keel will seal things off and we’ll be good to go. Again: knock on wood.

You can see the super-wide-diameter wheel in this old photo. That outer ring has been removed and…
…here’s the new, normal-sized wheel back in its place with its comfy leather cover.

Further is jacked up a couple of feet higher than normal so they can fix the problem, but I’ve still gotten on board in recent days. I re-covered Further’s wheel with leather after I had the several-inch extension that had been welded to the old wheel to  removed. Those of you who’ve been on the boat will notice that you no longer have to perform gymnastics to get around the wheel to take the helm. I also repaired a small-but-important piece that was missing from the windlass, the beefy powered winch on the bow used to raise the anchor. And I pulled out all 200 feet of anchor chain and relabeled it in 10-foot increments. So stuff is getting done.

The windlass before…
…and after, with its new recovery fallsafe pawl. (I know: the what?!)

If the keel can stay on that will mean the mast won’t have to be removed, which would be nice. Yes, I mentioned some things in that earlier post that I need to do that would be facilitated by removing the mast, but in the long run, keeping the keel on and fixing those items with the mast still in place is preferable. We shall see…

So right now I’m in a holding pattern awaiting the completion of the keel work. I spent a month-plus living aboard but between the work and the beginning of the aforementioned Mid-Atlantic summer heat and humidity, a boat at a dock is not a comfortable place to live. So I’ve been back on land for about two weeks now. In fact, I took a quick run up to New England last week, during which I grabbed the small, window air conditioner I had on board when I lived aboard down here during previous summers. So once Further is back in the water and IF I wind up moving back on board, I’ll at least have A/C while I’m at the dock. (In case you’re wondering: When the boat is at anchor it usually lies head-to-wind, so opening hatches gets a nice breeze blowing through the cabin. At the dock, you’re stuck where you are, and a lot of the time the breeze goes sideways across the boat, leaving the cabin stifling.)

I can’t find an affordable place to stay in this area for the week-plus leading up to the Fourth of July so I’ll likely clear out for cheaper (and hopefully cooler) accommodations before returning to hopefully relaunch Further and actually get her out sailing. Friends I visited in Florida back in March sailed through here a couple of weeks ago and are now up on Long Island Sound, making me VERY envious. I hope to be following in their wake by mid-July-ish.

One Week on the Water

The gaskets came in. What the sea strainer is SUPPOSED to look like.

That title is a bit misleading. A week on the water typically means a week out cruising and having fun. Yes, Further is IN the water, but it’s not like we’ve been out sailing around. But there is an update to report…

After several efforts, I was able to find the correct gaskets for the sea strainer — the filter where seawater is pulled in to cool the diesel engine. I got them installed and…voila! The engine started right up. I let it run for a couple of minutes and everything seemed fine. A little smokey, perhaps, but that’s no surprise after it’s been sitting idle for a year and a half.

A day later the mechanics came back and tried unsuccessfully to get the transmission to slip. That said, it’s not like they were running the engine full-bore and in gear (not while tied up in a slip). So at this point, I need to take Further out and open her up to see if I can replicate the problem. And maybe, just maybe, there’s no transmission issue at all. I kinda doubt it but hey, one can hope. (“Hope isn’t a business plan,” I can hear a former boss reciting.)

I also sat down and chatted with the tech who looked at the leaky keel bolt. He said even the quick-fix option, which the company won’t countenance, required lifting the boat out of the water while the nut is removed, some sealant squeezed onto the bolt and the nut replaced. He thought that with just the one bolt leaking that was definitely an option but again, one I’d have to do myself. And another person I spoke with separately asked if I needed to do the fix this year, but that kinda flew in the face of everything I’ve seen about keel-bolt issues.

The company recommended doing a proper fix: hauling the boat out, dropping the keel and fixing whatever is letting the water in there in the first place. That is, as you can imagine, much more involved and much more expensive. But after doing a bunch of research and talking to some other folks, I’m kinda thinking that I’m gonna take the plunge, bite the bullet and go this route. I figure if I get it fixed once and for all, it will be set for the rest of my life. And since Further is from an era when boats were built as strong as battleships, it seems a worthwhile investment.

And there’s a side benefit to doing the job right. Before the keel can be dropped the mast has to be removed. And to be honest, I had several things I wanted to do to the mast this spring, including replacing the old radar as part of an electronics upgrade, fixing and replacing some of the lights on the mast, and replacing all the halyards. All of those chores can be much more easily done with the mast on sawhorses in the yard versus hoisting someone up off the deck. I also had a rig check scheduled for this week in order to check the mast, spreaders, shrouds and such, and they can do that then as well.

So I figure I can have the boat hauled, have the mast pulled and checked by a professional, do the work I listed above myself, and also a few other add-ons to Further I’ve been contemplating that would require a haulout (watermaker, anyone?). Then the pros can drop the keel and fix the bolt issue. Further can then go back into the water fit and rarin’ to go.

To that end, the company just emailed to say they have me on the schedule to start work the week of June 21. In the meantime, I’ve paid for this slip through the end of May and am living aboard (cheaper than a hotel or AirBNB). So I’ll stay here and shoot for a haulout at the end of the month. That’s good timing: I get my second Covid shot on May 18 so I’ll be good-to-go on June 1 if, as they’re saying, you have to wait two weeks for full effect of the vaccine. But starting now and into June I’ll get everything ready so that when the time comes to do those projects on the mast and the hull, I’ll have everything ready to go. And I’ll also keep chipping away at the extensive to-do list I already have.

Had this impressive-looking gust front move through a few days ago. It’s been a windy spring on Chesapeake Bay.

Now I need to decide whether to bend on the sails (including the new genoa which is still in the bag…exciting!) and sail a bit this month. That would mean removing the sails again before hauling out but it also gives me three weeks or so to bop around on the bay and see if I remember how to sail. The tech I spoke to said the boat would be safe but just to keep an eye on the keel bolt while I’m out there.

The weather forecast isn’t too great this weekend but yeah, I think it’s time to get after it again. If anyone is near the Chesapeake and wants to go for a ride…