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Published: September 30th 2013
We spent a three nights at Marlin Marina, Cairns. Before we left we had a day with Naomi's parents and visited a dam up in the hills where we had a BBQ lunch next to a small playground for Alex, all overlooking the lake. Then moved on to Crystal Cascades for a planned swim but the area we chose was rocky, making it tricky to take Alex in for a paddle. We were running out of time so didn't have time to find a better swim hole and actually see the cascades.
After a stop at Whitworths - bought an anchor for the dinghy - we went back to the boat for dinner. Tested the VHF radio and it seems to work fine now.... weird.
The previous night Don and I had played with the hydraulics for the lifting keel as they have not been maintaining pressure lately. I had found the fluid reservoir had a crack in it, which we closed with some epiglue but there appeared to be water in the oil. With filling the system things seemed to improve but it became evident more and more sea water was getting into the system. This
explained all the oily water we had found in the bilge as the reservoir had been overspilling with this mixture of brine and oil.
In the morning I had called Norship (a ship yard up the river) and they had sent a guy to have a look at the hydraulics - he was only there five minutes as he couldn't check anything until the boat was out of the water. I later got a bill for over $150 for this visit- almost half of which was billed by the boss who I only spoke to on the phone! Apparently this was for the phone calls he had to make and to enter our impending job in the computer system! Day light robbery!
We had a haul out booked for 1pm wednesday so with a night to wait we headed out to Mission Bay and anchored just behind Cape Grafton. We have a wire guard below our propellor so for the haul out we needed to pass a rope under the boat to pull through the lifting strap. Naomi wasn't keen and I got really nervous hopping in the water. It took me a long time to
build up the courage to swim below the hull to pass the rope through. Now that we are in genuine crocodile country that may have played on my mind, but it was really more to do with the water being murky and I hate the thought of something suddenly coming out the gloom... what a pansy!
After that we took the dinghy to the beach which had a bare shack on it - apparently it belonged to the nearby aboriginal community. We approached the shore slowly as the water was very shallow and a few metres from the beach Naomi got a real fright as there was a disturbance in the water. Turned out it wasn't a crock but a concrete stump just below the water that waves we breaking on. There wasn't much to see on the beach apart from the shack and a few palm trees - its hard to relax with the threat of crocks around.
Had a call from Norship to say our haul out was brought forward to 9am, so we we up at 6am the next morning to get there in time. Got to the shipyard up the river and
were brought to wait in the lifting pen. After hanging around for about an hour, which gave me time to tie up the dinghy (there was nowhere at the shipyard so left it next door at the Cairns Yacht Squadron) our crane wheeled slowly toward us. I reminded one of the workmen that the sling needed to passed under the boat, so he halted the crane and it turned out that despite me explaining it over the phone to the shipyard manager and on the booking form (with picture) they were not aware of this. Then it turned out that despite its size they were not able to lower the sling low enough - they suggested I dive in and cut the cable ! The boss eventually asked me to see him in the office - he was still being his sarcastic self but he did apologies for his mistake.
He directed me over to the Yacht Squadron as they have a small lift but the foreman there was sure he would be able to pick us up. We rescheduled for 10am the next morning, so I took the dinghy back to the boat and we reversed out of
the pen. Headed back down river and anchored - a busy place near the shipping dock and under the airport's flight path. Now we had another problem, as the lift is small we had to drop our front stay (the metal wire from the top of the mast to the bow) and we had never done this before. With relaxing the back stay and pulling down on the front stay with ropes, we could pull a pin out to release it- then tensioned some halyards to the front of the boat either side to support the mast. Took the dinghy up to the Marlin Marina (free daytime tie up) and took Alex to the waterpark.
We were at the Yacht Squadron and tied ourselves to a floating berth at 9:30am. Waited around for about an hour and noticed how narrow the pen was - only 25 cm spare either side! Just as we were called into the pen a stronger breeze started blowing upstream and twice I approached the pen but bailed when I could see the boat sideslipping. In the end I nosed upwind toward the pylon and they pulled us in - fortunately they had
recently changed for the pylon for a plastic covered flexible one so it didn't scuff up the side of the boat.
I spent two hours cleaning the hull with the high pressure hose and got a shock when lots of well circumscribed patches appeared as the primer was exposed, and even fibreglass in some places! The hull had had a complete overhaul of the hull for $15000 by AME at Gold Coast City Marina last year so I was not impressed by their work (not for the first time but that's different story).
As we got moved to our spot in the yard the foreman was concerned that our boat was up so high. As he had run out of tall supports he wasn't sure how secure our boat was. As we were the last lift of the day he left us overnight hanging in the slings of the crane.
I got the shipwright back to look at he hydraulics and he said we needed to keep the keel down to get the ram out and the pin holding it was jammed. Pippa had come along and taken Naomi and Alex to a nicer environment. Meanwhile I
took the foreman's suggestion and had a dig a hole so we could lower the keel into it the next morning! I was digging the hole because the yard didn't have enough equipment. If this sounds strange to non-mariners, it is ! Its like taking your car to a mechanic to check something under the car and being told they will do so once you've built the inspection pit for them! Had to have Coates deliver a ladder to get onto the boat too as the yard do not supply them- including the delivery charge the ladder hire cost $50 for one day ! I carried it back the next day - it was only about half km away but felt a lot longer carrying a 12 foot A-frame ladder.
So for the last 5 days the boat has been on the land - well poled in the air really. The jammed pin was released but a hole had to be drilled through the hull to push it through and the shipwright was not impressed with the state of the hydraulics - suggested the whole ram may need replacing!
Pippa has been entertaining Alex and Naomi
away from the dusty shipyard and on friday lent us one of their cars. Handy for getting a few things from Bunnings, and visiting the Muddy's waterpark. As we watched Alex play I cleaned up some stainless steel - got some odd looks from other parents - I think the blue rubber gloves scared them. We drove up to Pippa & John's place in Kurander to have a night away from the boat yard- they have a lovely wooden house surrounded by rainforest up there that is very conducive to drinking excessive amounts of rum.
Today (Monday) we did get some good news that the ram is not completely buggered and may be ready by the end of the week. Bad news is I dropped by prescription sunglasses and scratched them. Also I made a bit of a mess drilling holes in the dinghy so we can attach wheels to it - got very annoyed at my incompetence.
So we will be here another week waiting for the hydraulics which will give us time to fix up the hull - ourselves this time! So maybe we can be back on our way north by mid next week.
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