Boat Work Update Number 6547

I haven’t been writing much, mostly due to the rather absurd amount of boat work that we’ve been doing, but it has come to my attention that my lovely friends and family would like to know where the hell we are and what we’ve been doing, so brace yourselves for the boat work saga.

Last I wrote we had done three weeks of boat work and were hoping to be done by the end of February…oh silly past Monica and Kane…if only you knew what was to come. Given I am writing this post from our boat while on the hard at Boat Works in the Gold Coast, that wish did not come true. Instead, we worked on the boat at the dock until we thought we were good to leave the dock, left the dock, that did not go as planned, ran back to our safe little dock with our tail between our legs, did more boat work, could not find someone to fix our fridge for neither love nor money so booked a marine fridge mechanic down Gold Coast way and set sail on March 16th to arrive for the appointment on March 21st.

We left Mooloolaba excited to be saying goodbye to our berth and heading south with what we thought was one final problem to fix. We had a lovely day anchored off Big Sand Hill in Moreton Island where we got a taste of the cruising life. I paddle boarded, Kane chased bait balls from the dinghy, we made coffee, we read, we lived, slowly. It was a beautiful 12 hours. Alas, the stress was to return that night when, as it was our first night at anchor in not flat water, we heard what I now refer to as the doom knock.

Ah the quiet sailing life…before we knew we had a rudder problem.

Thud, thud, thud… Thud, thud, thud… Thud, thud, thud…

It wasn’t too loud, but it was consistent and new, something we have learned is not a good thing on a boat. We’ve come to know most of Avalon’s sounds, but this one was new, so we got up to investigate. After a few hours, Kane located the source of the noise…it was our rudders.

“Is that normal?” we asked ourselves, unsure, as new boat owners, what sounds were to be expected and what weren’t.

“Maybe ask the Seawind Owners group,” I suggested to Kane. See, Seawinds are a much beloved build that has a very active, and extremely helpful, Facebook group that I refer to as the brain trust – they have saved us much time and money in learning our boat, as most of them have sister ships to Avalon so they know these boats well.

He did as I suggested, posted our question and we waited.

The answers came back and it wasn’t good. No one with an 1160 had rudder knocking and not only that, the next day when Kane dove the anchors to further investigate the problem we found there was about 5 cm of rudder shaft exposed between the hull and the fibreglass body of the rudder – there should be hardly any shaft exposed. Well shit. We had a problem and to top off the shit cake it was a problem with the one part of the boat we thought wouldn’t be a problem, given the rudders had been rebuilt and replaced as part of the sale process less than 6 months ago! That fact has not stopped stinging, the fact that “professionals” did such an amateur job, but that’s for later in this story.

So where are we? Oh yes, on Moreton Island, with the dawning realisation that we might not be headed north on our adventure as soon as we thought. Anyway, we still had to get down to the Gold Coast to fix the fridge, so we pulled up anchor and headed further south, first to Dunwich on Stradbrook Island, then to Jacobs Wells in the Gold Coast river system where we had a less than restful night learning how to anchor in a wind against tide situation, and, finally, to the Gold Coast City Marina where a very nice man fixed our fridge in one day and for less than he’d originally quoted (this is like winning boat work lotto, this never happens, but at this point we needed the win to distract us from the unfolding rudder saga).

When Kane first dove the rudders he thought the bearing might be toast, and, while that job wouldn’t be fun or cheap, we could replace the bearings, all be it out of the water, which is also, neither fun nor cheap. However, as we sat in a marina berth in the murky, bull shark-ridden Coomera river, another idea came to Kane – what if the rudder shafts were machined incorrectly? It wasn’t out of the realm of possibility, after all the machinist had stuffed up the rudders once before, which contributed to our delays in the sale process, and it was Airlie Race Week while we were there, so the yards were slammed with work. They were rushed, they could have made a mistake.

He needed to dive the rudders again to measure them to know more, but, given the very large splash and bump that rocked our 38ft catamaran by some unidentified animal only a few minutes before he said he was going to dive the rudders, I suggested we move to the clearer, and less bull sharky, waters of Moreton to do this. He agreed after I told him about the bump (it had occurred when he was at the marina office checking us in).

So, off we went again to Moreton, but this time with a working fridge! Yay for boat work actually going, at least partially, as planned! But the rudders were still there waiting for us to peel back the layers of this rotten onion of a problem…

Long story short, Kane dove the rudders for hours, up and down, measuring, cleaning, measuring again, and pissing off a small crab that had made it’s home on top of our rudder in the lovely 5 cm of space the yard gave him to homestead on. After Kane had evicted the poor crab and got out of the water some time later, the verdict was in, the rudders were not round. They were at least 1-2 mm too narrow in one dimension, which is what was causing the knocking while at anchor.

Cue cursing worthy of our current sailor status and many fraught, long discussions of how the hell we were going to fix the problem.

It wasn’t causing issues…yet, but the extra stress that the oval shape of the shaft would put on our bearings meant they were likely to go quickly and in a bad place (anywhere in the north is way harder to get boat work done than down south where parts are easily accessible). Rudders are also rather important to a boat’s safe functioning, you know, given they are a key component of the steerage system, so after a lot of back and forth with friends and family and the Seawind Facebook group, we decided we wouldn’t sleep at night until we knew what we were dealing with – so we bit the bullet and booked a haul out at the Boat Works for April 12th.

In the meantime, we decided we weren’t comfortable with the anchorage options around Gold Coast so we ran back up north, to our lovely little end berth behind the Kawana apartments, to lick our wounds and re-group. We spent two weeks back in Mooloolaba, two weeks where I got a lot of boat sewing projects done and we actually got to do fun things for ourselves, like workout, eat healthy, and do a free diving course that we’d been meaning to do for years. I needed that relative break, to breath, to relax, and to prepare for what was to come when we went south again.

After an equal parts fun and hectic sail south, we got to the Boat Works, oddly relieved to finally, truly, know what we were dealing with.

We hauled out as planned, got the rudders out with lots of help from people around the yard, and, much to everyone except Kane’s surprise, he was right. The rudder shafts are oval, they were poorly machined, and to top it all off, the yard did an absolutely shocking job of EXPOYING OVER ANTIFOUL rather than preparing the surface of the old rudder properly by sanding it back. This particular realisation lead to much exclaim at the liveaboard hardstand one night after dinner.

“Good god, what did they do?” laughed a new friend of ours, a fibreglasser.

“Aww they’re f*&$ed!” yelled a very nice welder from the boat across the yard from us.

“Gonna have to bin ’em.”

“They charged what for this shitty work?!”

The comments and shock went on and on, after all it is shocking that a professional boat yard would do such bad work that less than 6 month old rudders that have barely been used are not salvageable. We have gotten many opinions, and one that we trust the most of all, Craig Humphries, who is the go to Seawind shipwright down here, sealed the deal for us – we got screwed, the rudders are bad and need to be rebuilt.

That night we sat at the liveaboard BBQ area and felt well and truly sorry for ourselves, starring glumly into our bowls of chicken curry and dejectedly sipping our beers.

“This wasn’t supposed to happen.”

“We can’t afford this big of a repair, right now, we’ve already spent so much money…”

But it didn’t matter, we had bad rudders and we could not safely sail without them, so after some beers with people who have started out as strangers and become friends, we got to work figuring out how to fix the problem.

A few days of calls, quotes, and walking around talking to absolutely everyone, later and we have our answer. We have found a reputable yard (confirmed with many word of mouth recommendations and the fact that they were the go to shipwrights for when Seawind was manufactured in Australia) and we are getting both rudders replaced, for the tidy sum of $4000 each – which at $8000 is likely what we’ll be able to sell our car for once this month on the hard is over, which never ceases to make me laugh/cry, two rudders or one car…good god marine stuff is expensive.

Anyway, that’s the short version of the boat work saga, hard as that is to believe, and poor Avalon will now be a boat out of water for at least a few weeks (we are hoping no more than a month) and Kane and I will be tackling the long list of boat work jobs that we had originally planned to do in November when we hauled out after the season, but now have the time and impetuous to tackle (one day we will write a big list of all of the jobs/upgrades we have done, but that day is not today).

I truly hope the boat work gods are kind to us this time around, we really need a few wins.

P.S. Oh and one final note – a positive one this time – I am so happy to be here at Boat Works doing this work. The people that work here are super kind and helpful, the people that get work done here (at least in the liveaboard section) are super kind and helpful, and the facilities are second to none when it comes to a liveaboard hardstand – they even have free washing machines and a communal veggie garden! So, while it is never fun to be on the hard (think of it like camping in a working parking lot), if we have to be on the hard, I am very happy that it is here, at Boat Works.

P.P.S. And yes, I know we are extremely privileged to be able to do this, it’s a huge privilege to even own a boat and to have these problems, I very much understand that; but it doesn’t take away from the fact that it is also really hard at times, and I want to be honest in our experience, so talking about the hard stuff, as well as the good stuff, is important to me.

P.P.P.S. I have gone back and forth about whether to name the yard that did the rudders originally and caused this problem, but what has sealed the deal to decided to name them (it was Hawke’s Boat Yard in Airlie Beach, QLD) is the fact that we emailed them with videos and pictures of the problem, asking what could be done about it, and it has been radio silence for almost a week now. They want to ignore us, they don’t seem to want to take responsibility for their shoddy work, and I feel that, for that reason, other sailor’s should be warned about the care (or lack there of) that Hawke’s Boat Yard seems to take with its work.

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