…of Mice and Men

As the military says, “no plan survives first contact with the enemy” and so it goes that come my anticipated departure date from work in London I was still be there and not setting sail on Coralee, my newly purchased Nicholson 40′. So why have my plans been changed? I had hoped to spend a productive few months from Oct 2016 fixing up Coralee before Spring 2017, when I would take her to Cornwall for a season of shake-out sails and charitable volunteering. Work, however, escalated significantly in late 2016 preventing much of the yacht repairs processing. On the plus side, I was offered new responsibilities and the year ahead looked challenging, different, and exciting; all this while offering me more time to get Coralee ready and possibly save a bit more into the cruising kitty.

If one adds a year to my initial plans then things look pretty similar but not identical. Had I started my adventure in 2017, I would have had a reasonable shake-out period but would have needed to sail pretty much straight to the Canary Islands in Sep 17. This unexpected extension should allow me to spend more time in 2018 sailing down the West coast of Europe, taking longer getting to the islands and enjoying a late summer’s sailing.

Presently, Coralee remains at the yard, thankfully under cover in the shed, and in various states of (dis)repair. At time of writing, two-thirds of the blown-out teak deck have been stripped laboriously and by hand; a few of the deck fittings have been taken up, leaving much of below-decks untidy with head-linings strewn across the bunks. The hull is now pretty dry and awaiting a Coppercoat treatment.

When initially measured, the hull was wettest towards the aft of the keel and on investigation, I found that the deep bilge had water in it. I vaguely recall that I spotted water in the bilge when I moved her from Lymington but I had forgotten to investigate any further – at the time I had no reason to think that this was any more than just a few inches of water. So a few weekends back, I tried to pump the water out with the main bilge-pump but typically this didn’t work, so I found the only hand-pump that would draw a head of water and began drying the bilge. Unfortunately the pump was a tiny 6″ oil hand pump, so 2 hours and 10 gallons later (all of which had to be carried down the ladder in a jerrycan) I could see the sole of the bilge 2m down! With a dry bilge my attention turned to repairing the main bilge pump as well as improving the emergency bilge-pump situation – the prospect of attempting to save a sinking ship with an oil-pump that draws under a 1 litre per minute is not appealing.

Crawling into the aft-cockpit locker once again (it is proving a surprisingly comfortable working area), I stripped the Whale pump and found that there was no inlet valve plate, meaning that the full 3-4 m of water head was having to be held [unsurprisingly unsuccessfully] by the single outlet valve. Fitting a new inlet valve fixed the pump but to test it, I had to put another gallon of water into the bilge – at least this was fresh water and probably helped clean it out somewhat.

I’d never wish to go to sea without a fall-back way to clear the bilge, so with the main pump working, I turned my attention to the emergency bilge-pump options. On discussing this in the local chandlery, I was reminded of a solution that I’d seen before on some yachts; that of a small Whale pump mounted on a plywood board and with a length of hose on either end. So with 10′ of hose I’d already bought, I acquired a “Whale Urchin” (a fixed-handle bilge pump) and put 6′ & 4′ of hose onto it. This works very well and I can drain the deep bilge into either a bucket or into the galley sink, giving me greater confidence in keeping Coralee afloat in the worst of situations.

The list of work is still long and the decks continue to take much more time than I could have ever imagined, but with 10 months still ahead, I am more confident that I can get her to the standard I’d like before we set sail in Spring 2018.

Fair winds,
Coralee and John