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Friday 23 April 2021

More March Excitement

A few days after the Tsunami Alert I wrote about in the previous post, we had Larus hauled out in Riverside Drive Marina to refresh our Coppercoat antifouling on the hull.  

Coppercoat is billed as providing protection for up to 10 years. Around 2010 we applied Coppercoat for the first time.  It was a major job as we had all the gelcoat peeled from below the waterline as Larus had the some osmosis, which was not particularly surprising in a 30 year old GRP/fibreglass ya.  Once peeled and allowing the hull to airdry for months, we replaced the peeled gelcoat with fibreglass and epoxy and then applied the coppercoat.

At the 7 year mark we reapplied a top-up coat in Trinidad.  In light of our latest endeavour, I suspect we were rushed, missed out some steps, which gave a reasonable but much less satisfactory finish.

Most antifoul products are a paint that erodes off or poisons to keep the pests at bay. Coppercoat is a hard surface, which slows the growth of underwater plants and critters. It can and must be scrubbed occasionally to keep it in the best condition.  This isn't much of a problem in tropical water.  Every few weeks you can finish off a swim by giving the slimy buildup on the bottom a quick wipe.

In the cold water of NZ, that is far less appealing as Tim discovered during our first winter here.  The addition of a 5mm wetsuit with hood and a Deck Snorkle made cleaning the bottom more doable but never much fun in 15 C water temperatures.  We noticed as the winter went on the hull needed to be cleaned more frequently and it was decided that we had to have another go at doing it properly.

When applying Coppercoat, it's necessary to keep the hull completely dry. Any drips of water from condensation in the morning or a trickle of water from a sink will affect how well the Coppercoat cures and that will affect how effective it is.  To reduce the chance of drips from the sinks, we decided to book 2 weeks in some local and very budget accomodation.

It was a boathouse and just a few minutes walk from the Riverside Drive Marina. The row of boathouses are over 100 years old and are probably worth more than one might guess.

It was very hard to stand far enough away to take a photo that actually gave you a feel for what it was like. 

This is looking from the river end of the property, past the owner's powerboat, into the living area with sink on the right and dining room table and chairs over looked by the dolpin on the back wall. In the far distance on the right-hand side is the front door.  The toilet and shower are on the right just before the door.

From the 'dining area' looking into the bedroom/kitchen.  The bedroom/kitchen was the only place that could be locked securely. The rest of the appartment was accessible from the river.  I think that the bedroom/kitchen area was the original boathouse.

This is the only photo I have of the bedroom kitchen.  It has a little electric oven/hob combo, a microwave, a fridge, a good selection of crockery and cultery and the most appalling selection of pots and pans.  This photo was taken 1) standing on the bed and 2) to show the three skylights in the roof.  
I think the skylights would have been the original lighting before the buildings had electricity. There is no way to close them or turn them off so when the sun was up, we knew about it.  As well as the skylights and small bedside lamp, the only other lighting in the room was a 6 foot long bare florescent tube in the peak of the roof. We only used it when we really had to because of its harsh and truly terrible brightness.

In this photo the front door is behind us the river is dead ahead.  There was a sink with hot water so we tended to do all the washing out here. Any cooking the the bedroom/kitchen made it really hot so we did most of our cooking out here too.  I brought pots and pans, our induction hob, our fruit and veg baskets, oils and spices and anything else I didn't want to go 2 weeks without like muffin tins and a mixing bowl.

I don't think the photos do it justice, and there were some issues, but it had a certain charm. Eventually we found and put up the hanging chair. It was positioned at the far end of the corridor by the water's edge where Tim could sit, cold beer in hand, and watch the world float by.

This was the sort of early morning view I enjoyed.  I had startled two herons picking through the mud as the tide was out.  They squalked loud enough to startle me and flew to the top of a pile. Sadly, the photo was on my phone and the light was very low so it's not very clear but you get the idea. It was pretty special.

We started work pretty much immediately for fear of losing the good weather.

Tim sanding with a random orbital sander. It is connected to our wet/dry vaccuum and attached to the sander with a long hose.  We found it to be very heavy.  When we first applied Coppercoat in the UK we hired a big compessor and used an air sander which has much less weight in the business end.  I have no memory of the first time, but can't imagine forgetting what will hopefully be the last.

When Larus was first lifted out, from a distance she looked pretty good, the hull quite smooth.  Once you got up close however, the illusion disappeared and it was apparent that a lot of worked need to be done.  In this photo the port side has been sanded. The green colour is from the copper oxidizing from the old Coppercoat and is perfectly normal.  As one sands, a more coppery colour is exposed.

The whitish areas are where we sanded through to the fibreglass base we applied before the first coat in the UK.   As well as machine sanding, all the areas the sander that couldn't reach were sanded by hand, mostly my hand.

A quick shot of our propellor looking bronze again.  We used a hard rubber disk that fits on a drill to quickly remove every trace of white calcium coral and barnacle bases.  Normally, we do this job with a chisel and very fine wet and dry sandpaper in 10 X the time.  We learned about rubber sanding disc from the guy who applied the PropSpeed. Propspeed is new to us, it is essentially a very slippery coating that growth can't stick to. It seems to work so far, if we can get two years it will be good value, if only one year it will be pricey,'  wrote Tim.

I can't believe I don't have a photo of the strange gel like yellow coating.

This was probably at the end of the second day of sanding as we are looking pretty chipper.

Once we had sanded the whole hull, we filled all the rough patches and indentations with an epoxy filler and then sanded most of it off and leaving a much smoother surface.

Tim testing how smooth the suface is.  We could have filled and sanded again but we decided that will happen the next time we redo the Coppercoat.  We had had quite enough sanding by then and time was getting tight.

I've mentioned before, but it bears repeating, that it is so important to keep the hull completely dry once you start applying the Coppercoat.  To this end, we did a couple of things.

If you look just above the blue line, which is low tack masking tape to stop us rolling Coppercoat onto the white topsides, is a thick strip of black VERY low tack tape.  Only the top edge of the tape has been pressed to the hull.  Under the loose bottom edge we put bits of balled up masking tape.  This made a flaired mini skirt so that any drips running down the side of the hull due to condensation or water down a skin fitting would fall away from the hull.  

This worked brilliantly as people who do this sort of work on boats all time could (and did) tell us.

We'd had a really good run of fine weather for the sanding, but the forecast became worse the closer we got to 'D' Day for applying the Coppercoat.  Tim devised a brilliant solution; another cunning 'skirt' to keep rain off the hull. The tarp was in a number of sections and attached to the 'toe rail' at deck level by cable ties.

The lower edge is tied down to various lumps of wood over night or if it started to rain.

While we were working, we tied the ropes on the lower edge to points on the deck so that the skirt was lifted.  It worked so well that Tim of approached by many in the yard offering to take the tarps off our hands once we were done.

This is probably the second coat of the copper and expoxy mix because we had the presense of mind to take the odd photo. 


Coppercoat is applied using a small mohair rollers.  The first layer of epoxy we rolled on had no copper added to it.  It is a barrier coat and prepares the surface for the epoxy and copper mix.  

Applying Coppercoat is a team activity as you always want to be rolling to a wet edge.  Our friend Colin, from Burmese Breeze, came to our aid in a big way by helping us from when we started at 11 in the morning until 9 at night when we finally finished.  Sadly, the only photo I have is of Colin from behind.

Colin did the top third, Tim the middle third and I did the lower third - tallest to shortest.

It took us far longer than we had anticipated and the last application was by torch/flashlight.  We did manage to apply the recommended 5 coats of Coppercoat over the base coat.  It was a very long day and once done we all went back to the boathouse for lasagne, debrief and mutual back patting for a good days work.

The next morning, this was definitely a sight for sore eyes.  The Coppercoat looked glorious.  The next step was to lightly sand the whole hull yet again to remove the top layer of epoxy and expose the copper.  This is a new step and was not recommended when we first started using Coppercoat. It makes sense though as it's the copper that deters growth.

About a third the way through the sanding, Tim caught the palm of his hand with the edge of a rotating sanding disk. I carried on sanding while he went off to have it dealt with.  

The cut wasn't a hugely long or deep but it did need 3 stitches and the dressing changed every few days at the White Cross Medical Centre in town.  NZ has a marvellous system where anyone injured by or in an accident is treated at no charge.  

In time the sanding was finished, the topsides washed and waxed and we were ready to be launched the next day.  

We are very pleased to have this job done and even more pleased not to have to repeat it for another 10 years.

After a short break to visit the Bay of Island and spend some time at anchor, we booked into Whangarei Basin Marina for a week to replace our steering pedestal. 

When we bought Larus back in 1998 she had 20 year old Rack and Pinion Steering.  It was in a bad way and to fix it would have cost 5 times more than replacing it with hydraulic steering.  Rack and Pinion gives more feedback from the rudder, but as well as being cheaper hydraulic steering is easier to install and almost maintenance free.  We kept the compass and in time fixed an autopilot to the top of arch.  This worked extremely well for us until the the helm pump (the hyrdaulic pump located in the pedestal) started to, when working hard, dribble oil from the filling point on the top of the pump. When it began to spew rather than dribble, we decided to take action.

Tim searched everywhere but no one now makes pumps small enough to fit the old pedestal.

So we bit the bullet and ordered a new 'Jefa Steering System' (pedestal) from Denmark. 

 Throttle cables are go!

It is just as well we saved all that money years ago. The pedestal and delivery from Denmark probably cost 5 times as much as the one we replaced.

But it is beautiful!  

It is also less tall than the old one with the autopilot on the top, which means that people sitting in opposite corners of the cockpit can see each other.  Once again, it was a lot of work to install and Tim did it himself.  There were many alterations to be made - supports changed under the cockpit, new holes drilled, the teak grating altered, holes cut into the pedestal face for the autopilot, compass light (no more using a torch/flashlight at night) and for the cockpit anchor windlass control.  All of this took about a week.

There are a few loose ends to tidy up.  We are having a cover made ffor the pedestal and a separate one for the folddown teak table. There is no way to attach our teak cup holder to the pedestal so we are looking for a new solution.  We have some ideas but haven't found what we are looking for.

Right now, the 23rd of April, we are out at anchor in Urquhart's Bay.  Tim dived the bottom yesterday and found it absolutely perfect, thank goodness!

In the next blog, I'll tell you about our olive picking experience with Rob and Jan at their farm near Maungakaramea, not far from Whangarei.


1 comment:

  1. Nancy, having read this and then more details in email, I am ridiculously impressed by the determination you two had to get this job done and done well. It really is gorgeous, as is the new steering! xo