Saturday, June 22, 2013

Our Thoughts On Steel So Far

Anchored in Rodney Bay St Lucia
It was nine years ago that Sim and I jumped on that plane and flew out to Antigua to start our cruising life on Alianna. She was a sorry sight and it took us a while to learn her ways.   I can’t believe it has been so long.   And now here we are four months on since moving aboard Wandering Star and we are still in the learning curve stage, the meets and greets as it were; becoming familiar with all her little idiosyncrasies, her creeks and groans, her smells and her ways.  All our senses are on constant high alert; what was that noise, is it a halyard too tight, or a water tank too full. Does the engine sound right, what’s that gurgling sound?  These are questions that will one day be as familiar as we are to each other.
So what is it like owning a steel boat?  They say that when you buy a steel boat that whatever rust you think you have discovered in surveys etc is only the tip of the ice berg and though we feel we have done pretty well there is no denying the little rust spots that have been popping up after a windy and salty sail.  In the dead of night when you can’t sleep, you toss and turn with rusty spots flashing in front of your eyes.  But as daylight dawns you take stock and realize with a little bit of work (which is what we wanted right – to get our teeth stuck into something?) that it is manageable (we hope). 
So what have we learnt so far? 
Steel boats are a lot noisier than similar fiberglass boats, especially those with swim platforms.  At anchor she slaps and smacks as waves and swells roll past but we have become pretty familiar with this now.  Sailing she seems to slice though the water and isn’t too bad unless it’s a little rough. 
Noise echoes down the boat.  You have to trace it like wiring or plumping and work our where it is coming from.
We are trying hard to keep tabs on all the little rusty spots, lots of areas are inaccessible and until we get to Grenada we can’t really start to tackle them. Water is getting into the anchor lockers at sea and despite a fibreglass housing that was made salty water is dripping into the bilge.  There are a couple of other areas below the waterline that we are keeping an eye on and trying to hold at bay with a healthy squirt of "Corrosion X".  This will be the biggie – and we haven’t even started to attack this yet. . When we do we will have better confidence (we hope) about how we can manage a steel boat.
She sails pretty well; any inadequacies are on our part – not hers.
It is honestly astounding how dirty a white boat gets and I am flabbergasted at the amount of cleaning that is required to keep the painted deck and topsides looking shiny and white. Not something I am on top of yet!
We have a fair amount of aluminum paint blistering but this is cosmetic and not structural and we will deal with small areas at a time.
All in all we feel quietly comfortable in our steel boat.  She is strong and sturdy.

Wandering Star
In the mean time while we waited on weather in St Lucia to continue our journey south we tackled some non invasive jobs on the boat.  Sim has repaired leaks in our dinghy by a new method that I read about awhile ago on the internet, I forget where I apologize.  But it goes like this. Find your leak in the usual manner of running a soap brush over dinghy until you find air leak (which will bubble).  Clean area and cut a small patch to just cover hole and then cut a larger patch. Sand these and the area to be patched lightly with 240 or so grit. Deflate dinghy slightly and apply smaller patch with super glue and hold it in place until it sticks.  Wait for an hour or so just to be sure.  Clean up any excess glue with acetone, inflate dinghy then apply second patch with a two part dinghy glue. Et voila. So far so good – the patch is holding and we didn’t have to wait 24 hours for it to cure. And while Sim was been tinkering on deck, checking rigging and cleaning stainless I have been making window covers to provide some shade below.

Newly repaired dinghy.
New window covers to keep it cool and shady below.



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