4 february 2020: Mister sandman, bring me a dream!

It’s been exactly 4 weeks now since my arrival here in Pangkor Malaysia, certainly a good time to perform a first assessment. To be honest, it is hard to draw hard conclusions yet on the feasibility of having Saliara ready for the end of this year. The time spent here until now was more at the benefit of settling the scene in all dimensions. I have been able to identify several themes where the awareness has progressed to a level for me to feel more and more confortable:

  • Technical: woodwork, sanding techniques, electricity, cooling, energy management, and others;
  • Orientation: have become familiar with the environment, know my way around town, have identified the most common hardware and general stores, but most important no longer afraid to drive on the other side of the road :-);
  • Human relations: starting to know the staff here in the marina but also the people from the famous “cruising community”, i.e. all the people that live a life like mine (with the minor difference that most of them have already zillions of sea miles behind them!);
  • Supply sources: major ones identified, but there will be more to come for sure, especially when starting to perform some more specific works on the boat;
  • Timeline: euuuuh, let’s have this mature a bit more!

All right, let’s get back on the latest developments here concerning the works on the boat. In the last post I talked about the saildrive a lot, this brought us all the way to the lower drive case where the propulsion shaft is located with the famous seals that protect the drive from the external environment. Of course, the saildrive is more than just the lower drive case, there is also the main drive case connected to the engine, the vertical transmission shaft and an important element in between also, the rubber membrane or diaphragm (large size rubber plate that separates the engine bay from the seawater environment.

Knowing that these saildrives were installed in 2004, my only logical conclusion was: a good overall servicing is paramount! What that means in human language is, “boy you have to disconnect the complete saildrive, take it out of the engine bay and inspect/service it”! Easier said then done, certainly for a DIY dude that has never done this before. But those who know me by now might have this gutsy feeling that it takes more than that to stop me from trying! A bit of online search and some YouTube tutorial videos can sometimes do miracles!

The only way to disconnect the saildrive from the engine is to extract both from one another. This sounds easy, but don’t forget all of this is happening in a very small engine bay with most of the time limited accessibility to the different part of the system. In order to extract the saildrive there is only one solution, that is to move the engine backwards 5 to 10 cm in order to create the room for the saildrive to shift out. Disconnecting the engine is not complicated, it is attached to the hull frame with only 4 main bolts. The issue here is that the engine has only 3 holding points: two on the hull frame and one on… the saildrive! Bottom line, if you take one of these holding points away the thing becomes unstable, right? First thing to do is to add temporary struts for the engine so it can stay in a stable position once the saildrive is removed.

The saildrive is attached on the hull via an upper and a lower metal ring, both of them actually clamping the rubber diaphragm, keeping the complete installation watertight this way. On the last picture you can see the upper metal ring already disconnected. This was the result of a complete afternoon of frustration working in a very tight compartment. All that could go wrong went wrong, at a certain time the upper ring was stuck completely, loosened on one side and still sticking to the bottom on the other. Knowing the bolts are about 3 cm high, it was not easy to get it out if not in a full straight motion (like in the tutorials… not in real life!). I made it a personal matter to get it loose before day closure and managed to quite late in the evening. Ending a day in a small victory is still better even though all before has failed miserably!

So I knew what to do that same evening: find a video on YouTube where a guy demonstrates how to disconnect a saildrive from the engine. So I did. It did not bring me a magic solution but two major principles instead: never give up and don’t be afraid to use force if necessary! The next morning, my plan was made and I was sure I would succeed using a combination of brutal force (Johnny Rambo) and smart principles (MacGyver).

I took everything out of the boat, down to the workbench so I could have more room and a better posture to perform the maintenance of the saildrive.

Now the fun of cleaning all these beautiful sea creatures!

So much for the saildrive! That same day was ended with a bit of preparation for future tasks. I know I will need a big sanding board once the fairing process will start. Fairing is correcting all imperfections on the hull surface (or other portions of the exterior). Good fairing can only occur by the use of a bigger sanding surface, otherwise the sanding will still keep on creating new low spots over and over again. No use looking for such a sanding board in a hardware store, it’s much more fun to make one by myself! 50 cm by 15 cm, there you go!

Saturday evening, one of the cruisers (Booker) had her birthday, time for a pontoon party! My first one by the way. The principle is simple, bring some food, some drinks, a chair and join the community.

The title of this post might make you ask yourself, what does he mean with this? The answer is quite simple: I’m entering the sanding era! The thing most boat workers love or hate, it all depends. Sanding is a ever recurring task when you are refitting a vessel, certainly one in fiberglass with gelcoat surfacing. In my case, I have to simply sand the almost complete hull to get the old paint and the initial gelcoat off, while searching for spots where delamination of the fiberglass layers might have occurred.

As from today, I try to exercise a few hours of sanding every day either in the morning or late afternoon. Certainly not when the sun is high in the sky… Mask and ear protections on, not even possible to listen to music 😦 . But hey, what has to be done has to be done! Mr Sandman will be there every day from now on, expect more stories in that area during later postings.

Feb 3d 2020, a special day! The marina calls me and advises my shipment of parts I ordered from Australia has arrived at the customs office in Lumut and I need to go there to sign for reception. Happy face on my face! I jump in the car and head for the customs office!

One of the critical elements I was waiting for is the set of hydraulic actuators required for the new steering system.

The rest of this wonderful day I spent preparing a series of templates that will soon be required for the repair of the higher part of the hull. In the sanding portion of this post, you saw the surface I’m cleaning for the moment: it is the junction between the hull and the deck elements from when they came out of the mold during assembly in 1993. More on the intent in a later post, but for the moment just take away the fact I want to get rid of this ugly angle between both surfaces (old style) and make it become a smooth curve (new style).

That’s it for today! As you can imagine, there is still more than enough work to be done. Another day, Mr Sandman is going to embrace Mr Sandman first!