We spent our first 6 days in Tonga acclimating ourselves back to boat life, cleaning the bottom, and starting the myriad of small projects we brought the parts for. But on Tuesday, the 20th, we got hauled out by The Boat Yard in Neiafu to accomplish a few larger projects.
As we made the passage to Tonga, we unfortunately found a leak in our port aft head thruhull, which was leaking salt water (and probably black water) into our hull. The holding tank was empty and we’ gave it a good cleaning before we left SH in Neiafu. The harbor of Neiafu is flat calm most of the time, so the leak wasn’t too concerning. The thruhull itself is actually right AT the waterline – just enough that we have to haul out to fix it.
We ordered a replacement thruhull while we were in the states and brought it back with us. There are several parts to the holding tank system. There is a vertical hose from the deck down to the holding tank. The holding tank is mounted to the hull with a few brackets, and also has hoses coming off the sides to the head. From the bottom of the holding tank, there’s another large white hose, which connects to the black 90 degree valve, which is screwed into the thruhull. All this is incredibly tight. There is hardly any wiggle room to get parts separated and loose.
But, we did manage. We took apart everything below the holding tank. This allowed us to inspect the system for a clog – this holding tank is frequently troublesome, and we found the culprit – a cut out from the original installation, that was allowed to drop into the tank and no one fished it out. For more info see here.
Back at the thruhull I scraped the wet balsa from around the hole and applied a heat gun to dry it out. Then, we put epoxy in the core, sanded it down to fit the thruhull, and put a sealant in as we reinstalled the thruhull. We don’t know why it was leaking really – it must have been the sealant, because the thruhull itself was fine. Fortunatey, the core of the Helia is small squares of balsa, each square lined with epoxy. This ensures leaks don’t permeate throughout the hull.
Sail Drive Damage
We got a pleasant little surprise when we went to clean our hull last week. We wanted to scrub off the small amount of growth before we hauled out. David popped into the water to clean off barnacles, and noticed that our sacrificial anodes were COMPLETELY GONE. Not only that, but they’d been gone for so long that there was some damage to our sail drives and rope cutters.
To those unaware, all boats have sacrificial anodes on them. Often, these are just called zincs, as mostly they are made of zinc. When you have multiple metals underwater, and there is electrical current in the water (which there always is), the weaker metal deteriorates through electron loss. Zincs are weaker than most metals commonly found on boats (weaker than the aluminum of our sail drives), so they erode away first. Usually we replace our anodes once a year, and this is something David can do with a bit of free diving, although we typically do it during a haul out. Our anodes were most recently installed in Whangarei, so they lasted less than 4 months.
Once they were gone, the aluminum of the sail drives was weaker than the bronze of the propellers or the stainless steel of the shaft. Why did this happen? There are two possibilities. One is that our boat is having an electrical issue, and is producing a stray current. We’ve done some testing with a multimeter and we don’t think that’s the case. The second possibility is that there was a stray current somewhere where we were staying. Unfortunately, we didn’t check our zincs before we left the boat in Neiafu. So, we don’t know if the current was in New Zealand (they are doing construction in the Opua Marina) or in Neiafu (where, I don’t really think anyone is paying attention to it).
We took apart our propellers and cleaned everything. The yard applied etching primer and then primer and we added back on our Pettit Vivid antifoul, the same stuff we applied in Whangarei. We had to have the rope cutter repaired, by machining a new post for the fixed blade and welding it on.
When we arrived in Tonga, David did the routine rigging inspection and noticed that one of the wires in our port cap shroud was broken. This is a pretty big deal – the shrouds hold our whole rig up, and should last 10 years. We filed a warranty issue with Fountaine Pajot and they filed with Zspars, the manufacturer. Zspars denied the claim, saying the cap shrouds must have been installed improperly. Fountaine Pajot stepped up to the plate for us though, and sent us new shrouds. The best part was that FP was able to ship our two new shrouds to Hawaii. These were the two boxes we took on the flights with us. The shrouds were actually fairly easy to replace, although we needed some helping hands from the guys at The Boat Yard, just in terms of having David up the mast, me working the winch, and two people to guide the shroud up or down to the ground.
We don’t know why this damage happened. The shrouds are tightened to FP specifications and we check them all the time. We are very pleased that FP was able to ship to us so quickly.
Main Sail Repair
Before we left Tonga we took our sail off and left it at Vava’u Canvas Repair. Phillip repaired the torn part and we put the sail back on by ourselves. Going on went much better than coming off! Now that we knew what we were doing it was a lot easier. You have to de-tension the shrouds, to allow the mast to flex forward a little bit. Then, using the removable track, you move the cars one by one off the mast, while being careful not to lose any ball bearings.
We lost 3 ball bearings taking the sail off and 1 installing it, but thankfully we’d bought two bags of ball bearings (12 each) while in the states.
Spinnaker Head Block
On the Helia, the top of the head sail rigging is attached via a U-bolt with rivets. In our regular inspecting, we noticed the rivets had corroded away, so we needed to come up with a replacement system. We had a welder here in Neiafu (Friendly Islands Fabrication) construct this piece for us and rivet it to the mast.
The weather in Neaifu has been pretty tricky. There was allow pressure system crowding out a high pressure system, causing persistent, dribbling rain and high winds. We had to delay painting the sail drive due to rain. Due to the clouds, our solar panels couldn’t keep up with the fridge and freezer, so we had to shut everything off. Once the system passed though, the yard is in the lee of Mount Talau and it was dead calm and HOT.
Thankfully our friend Kjell put us up at his hotel, Mystic Sands. This place is amazing. It’s small and quiet, with just six rental units. Our back porch leads directly to the beach, and there’s an infinity pool, kayaks, snorkel gear, and a palapa. If we don’t leave early for the yard, Kjell arrives around 9 am and sits to chat with us for a little while. And, bonus, it’s just a 10 minute dingy ride to the yard!
Now we’ve been pretty productive. There are still a few things to do around town, but our hope is to launch Tuesday and leave for the Ha’apai group in a few days.