Archive for the ‘Upgrades’ Category

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Homemade helm seat

June 19, 2017

The cockpit on our Macwester Malin is deep compared to most centre cockpit yachts that we’ve seen, and as a result when you need to keep a close eye on things there’s really no substitute for standing behind the wheel.

On longer journeys we either stand, or sit on the raised, padded cockpit cushions. Having made good use of the helm seat on Ragdoll during our Irish Sea trip (here) earlier in the season, I decided that it was time for us to have a third option, and so set about making a helm seat from leftover material that I had stored away. As you can see from the photograph above, I didn’t have any suitable hardwood for the seat top and given that the seat is detachable, I used softwood instead. If that becomes a problem, then I can always make V2 from hardwood.

I didn’t faff around with anything too complicated. I just took some measurements and then cut, shaped, and joined pieces of wood until they were robustly constructed, finally fine-tuning the aggregated item to be a snug fit over the lower washboard from our aft cabin. I purchased some waterproof-backed canvas-like material for about £7.00 from eBay, and my step-daughter crafted a simple cover for the leftover foam that I previously cut to shape with a sharp Stanley knife. I used velcro to attach the cushion to the wooden base. Total spend less than £10.

The finished helm seat doesn’t look entirely out-of-place. Yes it’s fair to say that the new navy blue cover isn’t a precise match for the existing blue canvas wheel cover, but the wood staining and varnishing isn’t too far away.

I tested the new seat over the weekend and it worked well, with no movement in any direction whatsoever. So I’m pleased with the fit, even if the finish could be a little better.

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Engine bay hatch upgrade

May 24, 2017

The engine bay hatch on our Macwester Malin also doubles as most of the cockpit sole. At some stage in the past a previous owner had covered the GRP hatch with strips of wood as shown above. Over the years since we purchased Indefatigable Banks back in 2011, the wood has slowly deteriorated and one of the strips (see top right of image above), which was broken when we made the purchase, has unsurprisingly totally failed to re-grow back to its former state.

With this in mind, I decided that it was time to bite the bullet and renovate the hatch. The largest part of the project was preparation. The wooden strips were bolted and glued on, and didn’t pay the slightest bit of attention to my reasoned arguments. Eventually, I lost patience and got physical with sharp …and blunt instruments.

Removing the wood and glue was laborious. The next stage was filling the holes left by the bolts, and repairing the isolated areas where my prolonged, careful and caressing approach to removing the wood had ripped off the gelcoat. All in all the preparation took around three days. Maybe a knowledgeable individual with more technical ability than me would have cracked through it quicker …but I’m stuck with me.

I purchased some Tiflex flooring to match the flooring that I used in the new heads and in the forepeak (see here). I also bought a couple of 60mm diameter Osculati 316 stainless steel latches. I used the hatch as a template to cut the Tiflex. Then leaving it to cure over a number of days, the Tiflex was bonded to the hatch using Sikaflex 291i.

I decided to use Sikaflex 291i because I read that the two-part adhesive alternatives tend to be near impossible to remove, whereas Sikaflex will give a permanent bond, but when the time comes to remove it, the process will be slightly less onerous.

Fitting the hatch and tweaking the latches to make sure that they were a tight fit took a few hours. Once the hatch had been fitted, I also made some repairs to the area surrounding the hatch where there had been legacy fittings. I subsequently used “Bar Keeper’s Friend” to clear accumulated grime, as the bright GRP of the renovated hatch had made the surrounding area look pretty shabby.

From start to finish the whole project probably took me around five days. That was longer than I had hoped, but I was pleased with the results. In practical terms, the new floor will be less slippy than the wood when wet, there are no longer any holes left by legacy fittings that let water ingress into the engine bay over the winter, and the new Osculati latches do a much better job of securing the hatch.

All-in-all then, another upgrade that makes our Macwester Malin better than it was before I started. So that goes down as a victory in my book.

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Prepping for season 2017

April 4, 2017

With the fuel system overhaul behind us, we turned our attention to getting our Macwester Malin ready for crane-in. As you can see from the shot above, she’s got a fresh coat of antifoul paint coupled with a new boot top. The main sail and genoa are back on, and the mizzen followed later.

You probably can’t spot the replacement sprayhood windscreen that we had replaced professionally over the winter. To be honest, we’re a little disappointed as the quality of the replacement material isn’t as good as the Dutch original. However, the windscreen needed replaced and the new one is an improvement, despite falling short of our expectations.

My little helpers kindly re-varnished and painted the dinghy (above left). Then with one week to go, it was time for my least favourite pre-season task, which is as much fun as wading through mud …mainly because it is wading through mud. As the tide receded I reluctantly dragged on my waders and trudged out to our mooring. It was heavy going, as the large and heavy tools and the large and heavy chain relentlessly sank into the energy-sapping putty. All in all it took me two and a half hours to make some alterations to the mooring ground chains including swapping out a couple of shackles, and re-installing the Hippo buoy. On the plus side I avoided face-planting the brown stuff.

Back onboard, I replaced the engine anode, and then proceeded to bleed the fuel system. I had studied the manual and was struggling to understand where the air actually escaped from the system. My chum from Joint Venture offered to help and he realised that our Lombardini diesel has a self-bleeding system, so all that’s required is to prime the fuel …and the air escapes back into the port fuel tank all by itself.

Unsurprisingly, the engine took a few attempts to start due to the fuel system overhaul, however everything was fine when it was up and running. I let the engine warm up a little before shutting it back down again.

We checked the gearbox oil which didn’t need changing. I then set about draining the engine oil. As you can see above, our Lombardini has a dedicated pump on the starboard side of the engine to empty out the oil. I cut a small cross-hatch in the side of a used water bottle and pushed the bottle on to the oil outlet before pumping the oil out. Easy.

I refilled the engine with fresh oil, and then tightened the fan belt which was a tad on the loose side. After a few more checks, I turned on the ignition and the engine burst into life first time.

That’s it. Our Macwester Malin is ready to get her bottom wet. With just four sleeps to go, crane-in and season 2017 is up next!

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Fuel system overhaul – 2017

March 20, 2017

Interested in cleaning out diesel tanks? Like talk of filth, choking and pumping? Or perhaps you’re struggling to sleep? If so, this is the post for you!

Over the last few years I’ve had nagging doubts lurking in the deepest recesses of my mind about our Macwester Malin’s fuel system. These question marks were completely unfounded, however when you buy a used yacht, you really can’t be certain of the integrity of components until you get up close and personal with them.

Our Macwester Malin has two large fixed fuel tanks, and three or four years ago I decided to stop filling them up at the end of each season and run them down instead, so that I could open up the inspection hatches and have a look inside (see above). Part of the overhaul project included dismantling and cleaning other components such as the pipework that joins both tanks, changing both fuel filters, servicing the Jabsco raw water cooling pump, and trying to find out why our Malin’s diesel tanks occasionally leak when they’re brimmed and our yacht is healed over.

Given there was up to a 100 litres of diesel in the tanks, I bought a 12v pump capable of transferring 45 litres per minute, and 10m of hose. Unfortunately the hose wouldn’t navigate a join in the fuel-fillers, so the skipper of Joint Venture helped get the inspection hatches open and we emptied the tanks in a matter of minutes. The bottoms of both tanks were pretty filthy, but the good news was that this filth didn’t appear to be diesel bug. The filters inside the tanks were completely choked (see below), and my chum reckoned that problem would have led to engine problems within the first 24 hours of engine usage during the new season. That being the case, my unfounded nagging doubts (a.k.a. paranoia) turned out to be a good thing.

As there was still a smattering of diesel on the bottom of the tanks, I agitated the murky contents with a stiff brush and then cleaned out what I could. Then, by decreasing the hose diameter incrementally, I pumped 25 litres of clean diesel back into the tanks with a little bit of pressure, and went through the agitation process once more before pumping it all back out again. After drying, I brushed the bottom of the tanks, and finally used a vacuum cleaner to suck up any remaining loose debris.

A week later I had another session brushing the bottom of the tanks in the first instance, and then using a telescopic magnet to reach the distant corners. I was surprise by how much debris was still inside, so I kept using the magnet until the diminishing returns diminished to the point of being unrewarding.

We dismantled the filters and pipe that links both tanks and I took those home for cleaning. I considered mothballing the starboard side tank, but having looked at the options and taken advice (thanks), I decided it was better to keep them both operational on the basis that it’s arguably the best way to stop the tanks from rusting.

I reassembled the pipework that links the tanks and re-installed the clean filters inside. When it came to re-sealing the inspection hatches, I bought 100g of Hylomar Blue gasket & jointing sealant, along with two 200mm x 200mm x 3mm sheets of nitrile which made up the new gaskets.

For the record, this was the first time that I had changed the secondary fuel filter, and I soon realised that it was impossible to simply unscrew the filter (see above), as there wasn’t enough room to drop it out of the housing. I therefore had to remove the housing from the engine block to get the filter off. None of this effort qualified as additional work, as I had to remove the secondary filter and the filter housing in order to get an allen key into the lower bolt that attached the Jabsco raw water pump to the engine block any-which-way. The good news is that the secondary fuel filter was clean and contained nothing but clean fuel.

My friend from the club took the Jabsco pump away and drilled out a bolt that had been left behind when the top of the bolt sheared off. The following paragraph is a particularly boring one for my future reference, so please feel free to skip on to the next paragraph.

The raw water pump is a Jabsco 29470 2531C model. The impellers we have always used have ten blades. The Lombardini part number for the ten blade impeller is 0042002040, while the Jabsco part number is 18653-0001-P (although “–B” is the same as “–P” without the gasket). Having spoken with Jabsco, a six blade impeller is also suitable (part number 653-0001). Jabsco stated that there was no difference in performance or longevity and it was okay to use either. In the end I bought the Jabsco SK405-0001 service kit which came with a ten blade impeller (although the SK405-0001 service kit typically comes with a six blade impeller), mainly because I wanted to replace all six of the bolts, because with the benefit of hindsight, I now think the existing bolts were non-original and could explain why one of them sheared off. The cost for the kit was £50 including VAT and delivery. Did you read all the way to the end of this paragraph? …well I told you it was boring.

Our chum from Ragdoll popped over for a look inside the tanks. He was briefly over at Port Edgar, before heading back to James Watt Dock on the Clyde, where Ragdoll was waiting ahead of a trip south to Liverpool. Having had a good poke around and performed a HD video survey, he gave the tanks the thumbs up. Not perfect, but pretty solid and serviceable. I bought some replacement braided hose and set about re-working the venting system as that appeared to be an unorthodox sealed configuration that might be the cause of the diesel leak. I didn’t get too far into that project before I spotted that the tanks actually are vented overboard not sealed, as the hoses running around the engine bay are not connected. Instead there is a hidden crossover and the hoses vent over the opposite side of the hull from the corresponding tank.

Granted, overhauling the fuel system wasn’t the most exciting of pre-season maintenance projects, and combined with my crane-out finger injury, it delayed the work that I still have to do to complete the heads compartment, but we now have substantially improved the fuel system, and that should mean that we’re less likely to have fuel-related problems out on the water. It’s fair to say that as we haven’t actually had any fuel-related problems since we bought our Macwester Malin back in 2011, that doesn’t feel like much of an achievement. However another way of looking at it is that we were destined to have fuel problems in the first few weeks of the season, and following the overhaul we’ve substantially reduced the likelihood of that happening.

In a last-ditch attempt to make this post a little more exciting, the shot above shows the Cutty Sark’s rigging …taken at the weekend in Greenwich, London. The crew and I walked around her and mused about the adventures she’s seen; inevitably our thoughts drifted to the adventures that lie ahead for our Macwester Malin over the coming months.

With just two weekends left to prepare for crane-in, it’s going to be a challenge to squeeze in; getting the engine recommissioned (including bleeding the fuel system), anti-foul painting, re-installing the mooring, repairing the dinghy floor, restocking, refitting the anchor, sails and the cockpit tent.

Guess what I’ll be doing at the weekend?

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Last hurrah 2016

October 12, 2016

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Early on Saturday morning, just as our chums from Calloo were returning from Port Edgar, we were heading over there for our final overnight trip of the season. It would have been great to catch up with them, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be.

Out on the water, we passed Christina II, and spotted a solo seal basking in the autumn sunshine on Dhu Craig.

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As we passed under the Queensferry Crossing it seemed likely that the gap would close soon; in fact that turned out to be the following day (although there are still two gaps yet to be closed elsewhere).

Our berth for the weekend was on the east side of the marina, which is closest to the Forth Road Bridge and gets much less protection from the breakwater. Not ideal. We had asked for a better berth that we knew was free, however the staff refused claiming that it wasn’t available (not surprisingly the berth we requested lay vacant for the duration of our stay).

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We had no fixed plans for our time in South Queensferry. I checked that our new wheel cover fitted (which it did). We strolled around the pontoons after returning from the local mini-market. Later, the crew hosed down our Macwester Malin one last time.

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It was peaceful, uneventful and enjoyable. After dusk it became apparent that we weren’t going to get a decent sleep in the aft cabin (due to our bumpy berth), so we moved the bed linen through to the forepeak and spent the night there. That was after I nipped round for a quick chat with our friends on Ragdoll, who had arrived late on Saturday. Team Ragdoll were getting up early in the morning and heading over to Granton with the skipper of Solveig, a Westerly Konsort.

Latterly, we decided not to tag along, and opted instead for a relaxing day in the marina.

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The next morning, we chomped through our ubiquitous bacon and eggs for breakfast. The shot above shows Inchmickery and the Cow and Calves, (the three dark blobs) in front of Inchkeith, which I snapped on our way to Granton.

It took us until around 10.30 to accept that we both really wanted to be out on the water. After all, with crane-out the following weekend …it was our very last chance.

We noticed the depth beneath our keels fade away to just two metres as we left Hound Point behind us and passed over a sandbank. I say ‘passed’, however what we actually did was slow to a crawl …and then gingerly retreat in the opposite direction.

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A while later, as we approached the pontoons at Granton, it became clear that there wasn’t much space for us. In fact, there was no space at all. What’s more, Ragdoll and Solveig weren’t sitting on the pontoons as we expected.

That being the case, we decided to turn around and head back east. We thought that we might have one more attempt at landing on the pier at Blackness Castle before the end of the season.

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The photograph above, shows our Macwester Malin’s bow pointed towards Inchkeith, which if you know the Firth of Forth at all, is in totally the opposite direction to Blackness Castle. I can only put our abject failure to do what we planned to do, down to fevered, last-day-of-the-season madness.

inchkeithraft2016

Fast forward thirty or forty minutes and RagdollSolveig were rafted up just a few metres away from the harbour at Inchkeith; we joined them there. We had a couple of drinks and spent some time shooting the breeze. Apparently our friends on Pampero, a Moody Eclipse had also stopped off on their way up to Anstruther.

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Eventually our thoughts turned to mugging fish, and before long a couple of rods magically appeared. The crew (my crew) was new to fishing and didn’t have much luck. Time for me to step up the mark and show the lil lady how it’s done.

Yup, I didn’t catch anything either. In fact, nobody had a bite all afternoon. Personally, I blame the seals; there were more congregated off our collective sterns than I’ve seen for many a year.

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We probably spent more time at Inchkeith than we should have. Understandably, we didn’t want to think about heading back up river, however we knew that it would take 2.5 hours motoring and twice that sailing given the lack of wind. A couple of hours before dark, we reluctantly slipped our lines and pointed our Macwester Malin’s bow back west.

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As we sailed under the Queensferry Crossing, the small gap that we saw the day before had been plugged. In plugging the gap, the Queensferry Crossing entered the record books as “the largest freestanding balanced cantilever in the world”. More here.

We pressed on, and once again stumbled across Erin just off Rosyth [above]. The light was beginning to fade as we reached Brucehaven, and we made for the harbour wall. As darkness enveloped us, we ate a fishless meal and waited until the tide reached our mooring.

We set sail again about 7.30pm in total darkness. Once our eyes had adjusted to the night sky, we still couldn’t see a damn thing. Nonetheless we navigated our way to our Macwester Malin’s mooring and promptly ground to a halt about 15 metres short. Having looked at the tide tables, I reckoned that we should have had a meagre 10 cm under our keels by 7.30pm, but tide tables are just predictions …and we evidently didn’t have enough water.

Unfortunately it was too dark to see where the tide had actually reached. We tried again taking a different route, but it took a third attempt to make it on to our mooring. Obviously, there was no physical damage to our yacht as our mooring is nestled amongst thick, soft mud …and any damage to my reputation might actually represent an improvement of sorts. So it was all good.

With season 2016 relentlessly drawing to a close, next up for us is crane-out.

As ever, that has come around way too soon.

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Lazy May weekend in the sun

May 17, 2016

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Early tides meant an early rise if we wanted to get away for our Macwester Malin’s 2016 shakedown cruise over the weekend, and the crew spectacularly failed to be enthusiastic about a 6am rise on Saturday morning.

I had loosely been planning an overnight at Port Edgar, but that will have to wait.

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The weather was better than forecast, however I took the opportunity to squeeze in one or two tasks below decks while we were stuck in the putty. Installing an access hatch in the v-berth was high on my agenda, as that means it will be much easier to open/close the heads inlet seacock when the v-berth is in use. As you can see above, this area still needs some further work …but it’s definitely going in the right direction.

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With the tide back in promptly on the Sunday morning, the crew ventured out in the dinghy while I ticked off some more items from my pre-season to-do list. You can just about see her out in our dinghy at the Ghauts above, drifting beside a chum in a kayak, yakety-yak-yaking, while his son was wading back and forth across the Ghauts.

Having completed my tasks, I found myself hanging around on deck waiting …and waiting.

GhautsRun02

Eventually the crew returned and, racing to beat the falling tide, we took the dinghy back out to the Ghauts as we had planned earlier in the morning. The shot above shows the crew discovering that the water wasn’t quite as warm and inviting as she had imagined.

With the salty wet stuff continuing to ebb away, we parked our dinghy on the pontoons while we still could.

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As the water receded further still, we pulled on our gum boots and walked back out to the Ghauts, and then from the far side, walked east along the water’s edge. We spent the rest of the day pottering around on deck enjoying the heat of the sun and generally taking things easy. Although we didn’t make it off our Macwester Malin’s mooring, we actually had a really enjoyable and relaxing weekend.

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Before I finish, I want to take a moment to thank our club’s rear commodore piers and moorings for taking swift, hands-on remedial action, when it came to light that the owner of the yacht beside us hadn’t made a particularly great job of replacing his stern mooring chains. I had become aware there was a problem (1) with our neighbour’s starboard stern chain shackled on to our port stern chain (as flagged-up by the passing skipper of Pampero), however our rear commodore discovered it was much worse than we had anticipated (2), with our neighbour’s port stern chain simply lying in the mud unattached.

All fixed now though …thanks the K-man.

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Macwester Malin heads refit – part five

May 13, 2016

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Although not strictly the heads compartment, a related area that I tackled at the same time is the floor in the forepeak where the original heads had been located. This was also where the replacement Porta-Potti lived. It’s been a bit of an eye-sore since we bought our Macwester Malin back in 2011 and now was the perfect opportunity to put that right.

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When I removed the old wooden floor, I was relieved to find pristine GRP underneath. I used the old wood as a template for trimming-out the replacement Treadmaster rubber flooring. This is an even bigger improvement than the photographs above suggest.

I have also purchased a beige access hatch, which will be fitted into the vertical GRP to the right of the image above, to enable easier access to the inlet seacock when the v-berth infill is in place. Just waiting for the 140mm hole saw that I need to arrive.

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It didn’t take more than a couple of minutes to fit the air vent, as I had already cut the hole in the ceiling panel, and pre-drilled the screw holes through the vent itself.

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I used a small amount of silicon rather than an adhesive to bed in the light switch. I want to be able to remove the switch easily in the event of any electrical issues in the future.

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I made sure that the hole for the stainless steel loo roll holder was a very tight fit, as there was no obvious way of securing it in place, and as with the light switch, I didn’t want to use an adhesive. Again, I may need to remove the fitting, given the hole it sits in provides access to the pump on the right.

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I left a 3mm space to the left of the wood surrounding the Treadmaster rubber flooring, as I will source something to cover the damaged veneer. That’s probably going to be acrylic, although I’d like to source a solution a with a more natural texture if possible.

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The shot above shows how the heads on our Macwester Malin is looking just now. Although there are still a few items required to complete the refit, not least fitting a door frame and door, our new heads compartment is functional. No doubt I’ll finish off some of the smaller items during the season, but installing the door and door frame is a job I’ll do after crane-out 2016.

Enough of this DIY nonsense.

Where’s my tide tables? Surely it’s time for our long overdue shakedown cruise!

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