The Tyro Saga 12 – Afloat at last!

January 2017

Shortly before Christmas, I had an email from Sarah with the unwelcome news that they needed Tyro out of the yard and back in the water pronto. Apparently there were a lot more boats that needed to come out and nowhere to put them. They could let me stay out, but I’d have to pay the full fee of nearly £200 a month instead of the £80-odd a month that I didn’t know I’d been paying so far. Since hitting me in the wallet always hurts it took me about ten seconds to decide what to do.

Cover still intact, and rolled back, shortly after arriving back on board.
The stern seal under water

We negotiated Wednesday 4th January as the only mutually acceptable date and proceeded to check the availability of the engineer (to commission the engine), a friend (to help move the mast, the boat and what have you) and the weather (to allow me to get the antifouling on. All three seemed agreeable, so the date was fixed. HW was due at 1410, so that was the time to go for (as there’s negligible tidal stream then).
Thus it was that New Year’s morning saw me not recovering from the previous night’s celebrations – in fact suffering from an unpleasant cough and cold – but on the M3 heading boatwards. She was where I’d left her in October (not a foregone conclusion as shown by previous chapters) and with the tarpaulin covering her nearly intact. However there was a hole close to a puddle, just above the lazarette which you will remember, dear reader, has a leaky seal. Sure enough, once I’d found a ladder, bucketed out the puddle, folded back the tarpaulin and opened the engine hatch, I discovered six inches of water in the engine bay. Fortunately it hadn’t reached my shiny new engine, but only the new stern seal which is watertight anyway. Once I’d rearranged the bilge pump I was able to remove most of that (120 or so strokes of the handle) and pump out almost all the rest with the little portable one. No damage to the engine, fortunately, and even the cut and unpainted surfaces of the mild steel bearers seemed rust-free. The interior of the boat was also dry (apart from the water that had run forward into the bilge) with no sign of mildew growth. A narrow escape then, and one requiring installation of an automatic bilge pump to prevent its recurrence. Afloat, it shouldn’t be a problem, as the boat will be level and the water won’t run into the lazarette anyway.

The port keel after the winter’s depredations

So on to the main matter of the day, the preparation of the bottom for anti-fouling. Most of this had been done, you may recall: the whole of the bottom roughly sanded, the rust on the keels ground off and treated and the whole of the keels primed and anti-fouled. Months in the weather, however, had brought about the usual depredations and the keels needed a repeat treatment. So I plugged in my 50m extension lead and set to work with wire brush and flap wheel on my drill to grind out the new rust spots. Being disinclined to lie in the puddles beneath the boat with an electric drill in my hands, I fear the insides of the keels got short shrift but they’ll have to do. Rust treatment was painted on and in the half-hour that took to dry (and a good deal longer) I rearranged the tarpaulin as a (somewhat flappy) tent to shield the primer from the incipient rain.

The primer (or what was left of it) had thickened in the can and looked distinctly dodgy, but after a good stir seemed to be thin enough to daub on. So I did that, and discovered that I’d left all three of my bottles of white spirit at home. Fortunately I discovered a little in a jam jar, enough to clean the brush sufficiently.
As dusk and rain fell, I was cold, wet, tired and my cold wasn’t improving so I repaired to the very pleasant Air B & B for a hot cuppa, a tepid shower and an excellent Indian restaurant recommendation. Fast wifi, comfy bed, and a reasonably good night’s kip.

Monday 2nd January

The day dawned bright and clear with wall to wall sunshine forecast, and after scraping the frost off the windscreen I repaired back to the boat. Notwithstanding the overnight rain (of tropical intensity, if not temperature) the primer had dried. I applied some to the rudder (which I’d forgotten the day before) and, since the forecast was for sunshine all day and dry for the next couple, then set about removing and folding up the tarpaulin (eight metres by five). No mean feat, singlehanded, but with no wind it was accomplished.

The last patch to paint

After assembling the materials and masking off the boot-top line I started to apply the Oxford-blue anti-fouling. Start with the most difficult bits, I thought. Good idea. Except that under the boat were several large, cold, muddy puddles with sharp stones in them, so I needed to find a suitable board on which I could lie on my back and wield the roller. The folly of this was revealed when the spray started to descend upon my face and hair but needs must and I persevered, making a mental note to wear a protective suit next time. The paint covered exceedingly well; approaching the end I thought I was going to run out but there was just enough, as it turned out, with a little left over to dab on the bottoms of the keels once the boat gets airborne. Considerable quantities of the paint had managed to transfer themselves to my person, some of which was later removed with a scrubbing brush and coal-tar soap. And I needed a haircut anyway.

The finished job

After a very late lunch I tidied up and closed the boat up (I’ve lost the padlock, so if you’re reading this before I’ve replaced it, feel free to steal the boat: I’d rather have the insurance money) and repaired chez Aged Parent for a hot bath, fatted calf and bed, more or less managing to stay awake on the M3.

Tuesday 3rd Dry, cold & bright

A text from Bob (the engineer) indicated he was intending to arrive today. This would have been unfortunate, as I wasn’t. A return ‘phone call sorted it out, and warned him that I might not arrive before he does tomorrow. Sarah has confirmed we’re going ahead as planned. My cough is no better.
According to the (updated) list of jobs to do, Bob needs to fit the fuel return, sort out some wiring and fit the bilge pump. I’ve decided not to re-use the old tacho and temperature gauge, at least for the time being, as I don’t know how reliable they are, and they’re at home anyway. They can wait. I (or my helpers) need to polish up the sacrificial anode, refit the log and heads inlet pipe and check everything over.
Then we can launch, commission the engine, motor round to my berth, carry the mast and foil down to the pontoon ready to lift on, mount the A-frame on the transom to take the mast, lift it on board and rig the tarpaulin over it as a tent, down to the gunwales.
The electrical situation (and hence the new bilge-pump functioning) is somewhat compromised by damage to the solar panels. I left the two big ones that charge the domestic battery propped up in the cockpit on Sunday, and when the wind got up and I was busy with the tarpaulin, the whole unit blew over. It landed on the edge of the opposite cockpit seat causing a series of cracks right across both panels. They still seem to work, but that may only last until water permeates the electrics.

Wednesday 4th Bright, cold and calm; sunshine later.

After a very poor night’s sleep (apprehension, illness, inactivity) I managed to haul myself from my mother’s spare bed in time to be on the road at 0730. The traffic turned out to be less horrendous than expected, however, and by 0915 I was at Winchester services and stopped for a nap. Unsuccessfully, of course, but I did have half an hour’s rest with my eyes closed.

On the quayside, ready to lift in (this and the next three photos ny Steve Roberts)

By the time I arrived at the yard (1030 for a 1400 launch) I found that Alan had already performed his juggling act with the boats and Tyro was in the slings on the quay ready to go. By the time I’d borrowed a ladder and set it up, and collected some water to make coffee, Bob had arrived, and (as usual) he quickly got to work to connect the fuel return to the primary filter, as discussed. And by the time the kettle was on, Steve and Olly arrived.

Tyro airborne
…and in she goes

After coffee all round I connected up the one remaining pipe to its seacock and refitted the paddlewheel log in its hole. Then I went round to Force 4 to get the remaining bits for the bilge pump while Bob finished sorting out the engine electricals; when I got back Steve and Olly, with help from Lewis, had moved the mast to the brow ready to go down to the pontoons. Barely had we completed that job (and Bob fitted the skin fitting for the pump) when Alan decided that the time was right (an hour earlier than advertised, but he’s not a man to argue with) to lower her into the oggin. So I unlashed the ladder, exhorted the others to take photos and prepared all the seacocks for inspection. Up, across and down went the boat, all very smoothly (he does this nearly every day, with a boat hoist almost as old as I am) and he even asked if there were any leaks before removing the slings. There weren’t, so we manhandled the boat round the corner to make way for another boat coming out.

Bob tried the engine. It didn’t start. Then he opened the fuel cock. It still didn’t start. After several protracted attempts (I was impressed how well the battery stood up to this) interspersed with twiddling various settings, it ran! No cooling water came through, until we’d primed the pump; then there was a leak from the cooling water pipe, fortunately above the seacock. Then we couldn’t get it to stop – problem with the electronic solenoid switch. A couple of phone calls to the manufacturers and considerable fiddling later, that was working too (but I was shown the manual by-pass for this in case it failed again), and after attaching the gear-change cables to the lever the right way round, we were fit to motor round onto my berth.

A relieved skipper – afloat at last

Very relieved that all was (eventually) working, I was even more pleased when my well-thought-out but slightly unorthodox method of turning the boat round into her berth also worked well. We tied her up, fixed up the A-frame on the transom, lifted the mast on and lashed it down. Steve and Olly rigged the tent over the mast while Bob and I carried on with the bilge pump and then decided that they’d call it a day. Many thanks to them, and mutual offers of sailing.

Tyro back on her berth in the gloaming, with her temporary canopy

By the time I returned from a second shopping trip it was dark, and Bob had finished. I had a floating boat, a working engine and bilge pump – but a very untidy and messy saloon. However, I was pretty exhausted and did little more than gather up my tools and secure the boat before consigning her to the tender cares of Lewis, who lives on site and had volunteered to keep an eye on her. I’m now back chez Aged Parent after a better night’s sleep, and my cough and cold are slowly improving.

So, a successful launch, I should say. Even if I did forget to shine up the anode and wax the propeller. Thanks to all who have offered advice, and especially to Olly and Steve for turning up and helping.

The updated “to do” list looks like this, with jobs needed before we can sail asterisked:

*Assemble & fit new headsail furler & forestay (just the bottom bit to do)
*Clean & oil masthead sheaves (for halyards)
*Rig standing rigging (incl. new forestay)
*Rig running rigging (don’t forget the lazy jacks!)
*Fit new (LED) tricolour light } plug in & test
*Fit new VHF aerial } both of these
*Step mast and tension standing rigging
*Check engine alignment
*Fit boom & its rigging
*Bend on sails
*Secure batteries in new position

Tyro under way and making way towards her berth, for the first time in a year and a half

Work out how & where to store solar panels
Repair/bodge up cracked solar panels
*Reconnect autopilot (could wait if sailing with crew)
*Tidy up and clean whole boat!
*Reconnect starboard side light
Clean, repair, renovate & oil rubbing strakes
Touch up damaged areas of topside paint
Clean around exhaust outlet
Sell old propeller
Try again to sell old engine or parts thereof
Connect cable to fuel cut-off
Remove chipped/cracked/peeling non-slip paint
Repaint with non-slip paint
Repair all chips and cracks in gel coat
Renovate and polish gel coat
Ditto & oil teak grab handles
Find and cure leaks through cockpit seats
Straighten cheeks & overhaul bow roller
Fix lifebuoy light
Install extra cleats fwd & midships
Fit ensign beckets to backstay
Make leadline
*Rig dodgers
Acquire & fit jackstays
Terminate guardrails correctly & tension
Lead lines aft (needs blocks, winch(es) & cleats)
Tidy up wiring in battery compartment
Replace galley, fo’c’sle & heads lights with LEDs
Fit bunk light for stbd quarter berth
Tidy up all outstanding wiring
Fit solar charging sockets for both batteries
Get manual for radio/CD player
Wire compass light on own circuit
Install shore power system inc. battery charger
Clean out FW tank & pipes
Refit (overhauled/new?) FW foot pump
Clean & paint all lockers
Ditto stbd quarter berth
Secure bookcase
Fill old holes to stbd of companionway
*Re-hang curtains
*Bring cushions back on board
Rebuild cabin sole to reinforce & incl. hatches
Install calorifier
Install cabin heater
Replace gas bin with proper locker
Seal lazarette lid closure

February 2017

The list of jobs has got no shorter since launch. And I don’t think I took any photos….

Bit at a time then.  Heading back early in the month for a short stay, the target is to complete the following:

  • Check engine compartment and elsewhere for ingress of water; remove any found
  • Seal lazarette lid and holes in its base (around gas and bilge pump pipes)
  • Thoroughly dry and clean engine bay
  • Check position of boat wrt ‘hole’ and adjust as necessary
  • Replace temporary mooring warps with correct ones c/w spring
  • Sweep up all mess from drilling etc.
  • Repair solar panels – Transpaseal?
  • Straighten cheeks of bow roller
  • Get help to turn mast end for end ready for rigging
  • Old engine – remove saleable bits/ditch rest/ OR just ignore it and hope it’ll go away….?
  • Secure batteries in position & plan 12v electrical layout
  • Bring home Solent charts for correction

Arriving back at lunchtime at low water neaps on a cold and blustery day, I was happy to see Tyro sitting bolt upright, squarely in the mud.  The warps were as I had left them and the tarpaulin, although not quite intact, was at least no more damaged than when I had left it.  So far so good. 

Then I lifted the cockpit sole and engine hatch.  Not quite so good – a couple of inches of water in there.  Which means that the automatic bilge pump wasn’t working.  Still, it was the work of a minute to pump it out – I tried the electric one first, which worked, showing that the float switch hadn’t been doing its job.  What’s more, when it could pump no more there was still some water in there that the hand pump would remove – and that’s also above the bottom.  Some adjustment required, I fancy.  And the valve in the pipe from the new electric pump was leaking somewhat, so that’ll need fixing.  Later inspection (once I’d cleaned out all the oily water from underneath) reminded me that Bob had fixed the pump and switch to a little platform but hadn’t been able to find anything to fix that to, being unwilling to drill holes in the bottom of the hull.  Good point.  I shall have to do some fibreglassing/epoxying.  Or maybe use some polyurethane sealant.  Whatever I use, the surroundings will have to be clean and dry.

The battery clearly had some charge in it – the meter was reading 12.9V – so the cracked and plastic-bagged solar panels had been putting out some amps in my absence.  Lewis had suggested covering them with sticky-backed plastic, but a tour of the local hardware shops was unsuccessful. 

Newly-washed halyards brought back on board, along with the genoa with its new luff tape (which I must test tomorrow) and a single tool box containing all I thought I might need.

The following day, as forecast, was wall to wall sunshine. I stopped off in Portswood for a fry-up as I knew I had a long day ahead of me and then headed for the boat.   First off and since there was plenty of tide, I started the engine to charge the batteries properly – and because I could. I actually remembered to open the seacock first, and also assessed its leak, which turned out to be from the home-made replacement gasket below the cap.  I tightened the wing nuts, which reduced the trickle to a drip, and I shall have to make a new, thicker gasket, and/or replace the cork one with rubber.

With the engine running and in gear at about half-revs (no tachometer yet) and as the tide had started to ebb, I adjusted the lines to move the boat astern a yard or two.  This would ensure that she rested level or slightly bows down so that the rain wouldn’t run into the lazarette.  I hope.

Once the boat was in what I hoped was the right place I started the search for the correct mooring warps, as those we’d used on launch day were dug out in a bit of a rush.  By the time I’d got those sorted out and in full use (no easy task, of course, since there’s still only one cleat on the foredeck) the tide was receding rapidly (the ebb takes only four hours in Southampton) and I wanted to watch as she settled down.  Success: once the tide had gone I went so far as to test the cabin sole and sink with a spirit level and found that the boat was level athwartships and ever so slightly bows down, which was exactly what I wanted.  Whether it will still be there tomorrow remains to be seen.

After a fortifying cup of coffee I set to work below to clean and tidy.  I swept up the drilling débris from fitting the new Morse lever and the bilge pump controller; sponged out the remaining water and dirt from below the engine (I shall be interested to see how long it stays dry); got the heads working again by means of a few drops of vegetable oil down the shaft and some energetic pumping, and emptied out the lazarette in an attempt to find the route by which the water was getting into the engine bay.  This generated a lot of rubbish – jars of old diesel, bottles of old oil and other assorted grot.  Also, some damp ropes which I duly hung up to dry, with the exception of the mainsheet which I earmarked for a journey home and a wash.  By this time (despite my substantial breakfast at the Jackpot caff) I was ravenous, so broke for a mug of soup and a sandwich.  After ditching the gash and a tidy I took myself off to find the sticky-backed-plastic to repair bodge up the solar panels.  Lewis recommended a shop nearby which came up with the goods, but he also recommended applying it in the warm.  Since it’s still February and I have no heater in the boat I decided to defer this repair till at least my next visit.  The panels seem to be functioning adequately in their plastic bag and the engine is now available to charge the batteries as well. 

On the third day I determined to fix the lazarette seal and solve this major leak problem once and for all.  I also wanted to work through a few of the other jobs in section 2 & 3 below.

To start with I thought I’d run the engine again.  Once again it started first time.  That’s where the similarity ended.  On opening the throttle the engine didn’t always speed up, and when it did, slowed down again.  Air intake was OK – must be a fuel problem.  A text to Bob elicited a return ’phone call in which he suggested the same – dirt/diesel bug or air in the fuel.  But why had it run perfectly the previous day?  On inspection the primary filter had some small air bubbles in it which seemed reluctant to be bled out, so that might be the culprit.  Maybe one of the pipes is letting air in – or maybe it’s a problem caused by the unconventional connection of the fuel return pipe to the filter.  Whatever the cause, it’s unlikely to be major; Bob will have a look at it when, I hope, he comes to check the engine alignment when the mast’s up.

Attempts to straighten the bow roller cheeks were also unsuccessful – the stainless steel plates merely bounced back under the hammer blows and, fearful of work-hardening I desisted after a few attempts.  No idea how to do this, and fitting a new bit of kit would be a major and expensive job, perhaps best tackled when I get the headlining in the fo’c’sle off to fit the extra cleats.  In the meantime I shall have to put up with the roller not rolling very freely.  I also failed to find the split lengths of hose for protecting the mooring warps from chafe, so they’ll have to do without.  The (less hard-wearing) lines in use for the last month don’t seem to have suffered.

And then I resolved to attack the lazarette lid.  Assembling the materials (a roll of closed-cell foam (ex-Karrimat or similar), scissors, sealant (to use as glue) and sandpaper) I started to attack the potential site of the new seal with the last of these when Billy (on a day off from his new job) suggested that I was wasting my time.  He explained that it was only leaking in slowly anyway and to stem a small leak required perfect watertightness, impossible to achieve without perfect materials and large forces.  Ever willing to avoid a job I accepted his assessment – and, crucially, his offer of pumping the bilges regularly – which would achieve a similar result.  It should be OK once I get the boat level.

He also agreed with Bob’s assessment of the engine problem.

I was therefore able to call it a day.  After adjusting fenders, tidying up, packing and saying goodbyes I hit the road to return in March to get the mast up and start sailing.  Unfortunately I noticed as I was leaving that the boat was still a couple of yards too far forward.  It’ll have to wait.

It is my fervent hope that before the end of my next visit, next month, I shall actually go somewhere in Tyro.

About the author: Steve Freedman
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