Last week, the marina Travelift parked around Papillon. The operators adjusted the straps, picked up the boat and drove her to the water's edge. We climbed aboard and were lowered into the murky Brisbane River. And once we splashed down, Erik and I inspected the boat.
We found four leaks.
To be clear, there was no gushing inflow. No heroic manning of the pump, no shouting to the operator: "Lift us out right now!" No, it was mere seepage around a bolt in each of our oldest throughhulls - areas that had remained dry (and therefore untouched) for years and years. But now their day had come. Those bolts were allowing a tiny ingress of water, maybe no more than a drop or two per minute. Enough to need to pump the bilge regularly; not enough sink us if we kept on top of it.
Erik and I sat in the cockpit and debated rather half-heartedly. Did we want to get hauled back out? No. Did we want to spend another week in the yard sorting this out? Double no. But would it be responsible to cross an ocean with our children as things stood? Obviously not.
So out of the water we came.
Throughhulls are a tricky business. In general, the fewer holes you poke in your boat, the better, and Erik has sealed off as many as he could over the years. But throughhulls are impossible to avoid altogether. The engine needs cooling, the toilets need filling, and your hull is surrounded by lovely, cool water ideal for the purpose. The trick comes in isolating bronze throughhulls from our aluminum hull. Those fittings are just dying to corrode our boat into Swiss cheese. Isolation is doable with some gymnastics, but not all solutions are created equal. And it seemed that the old solutions, although they lasted a long time, could stand some serious improvement.
In came the experts. Out came the welders. We decided to close one throughhull outright - an event that never fails to fill me with the warm and fuzzies - and to replace the other three. And look at how pretty those throughhulls are now:
|So much new aluminum plate; my heart is all a-flutter.|
|Erik's fancy rain shields to protect the fairing compound.|
|Sanded to perfection!|
|Fancy green epoxy primer coat not shown, as Erik moved too fast for me to get a photo. Is someone eager to get back in the water, do you think?|
We have a friend who is a dedicated mountaineer. Years ago, he climbed Denali. When he was only two hundred meters from the summit, conditions changed for the worse. And even though he had been weeks on the mountain and was so close to the finish line, he turned back. As he explained it, you are too pumped and exhausted to make good decisions while you are on the mountain. You have to make your hard decisions ahead of time: if this, then that. Then you follow through with that plan, no matter how you feel when you are up there.
In short, good safety practise isn't there for when everything is working - it is there to make sure you make the safest choice when you really don't want to. So we did. And I know I feel better about sailing away knowing that Papillon will be dry along the way.
We splash down at eight o'clock tomorrow morning. Wish us luck, everyone!