I write this in March, with Hejira ashore undergoing a major refit.
Having carried out the remedial work and with the keel refurbished at the original foundry in Cornwall, I have been waiting since last December for the first lift of a probable total of at least four to complete the exercise.
The awaited ‘lift’ is to reunite Hejira with her keel/grounding plate in order to prove the alignment of all the new bolts, replaced during the keel service. Once proven, copious mastic will need to be applied before bolting the assembly back into place. She will then need to be floated overnight to check the water integrity before lifting back ashore for the interior to be restored. This precaution is absolutely compelling as, to discover a concealed leaking keel bolt after the huge job of the reinstatement of water and diesel tanks, two AC units, batteries, holding tank, hydraulic systems and bulkheads, would be impossibly frustrating.
I am told that the marina is still struggling with a backlog of 150 boats requiring lifting with the travel hoist which has been largely out of service since last year. The incumbent Northney travel lift operator resigned before Christmas, then the itinerant replacements from other marinas in the MDL conglomerate, condemned the whole travel lift system. This necessitated servicing and refurbishment which further delayed the resumption of operations.
There is currently no sign of the first lift in the process being firmly scheduled.
I have been in regular contact with the excellent contractor, Chris Murch at Northney, who is trying to manage the situation and who is as frustrated as I am. Another problem is that the first lift (after lifting the keel into the correct position) is a very delicate operation to align the 27 keel bolts with the hull and this demands an experienced operator. The ray of hope (am I clutching at straws…?) is that newly recruited MDL travel lift operators are about to receive training from an instructor at Northney Marina. What a good way for the (presumably highly experienced) operator to show off his/her skills by seamlessly marrying the keel to the hull to a round of applause. It would be heard all the way back at my home in Sunningdale!
In the meantime, my plans are being seriously moderated. Iceland and probably Ireland are off the agenda for this year and my aspirations have become more local.
The saving grace (more straw clutching?) is that, when the refit is finally completed, and the new systems commissioned and thoroughly ‘shaken down’, Hejira will be in great shape for more significant adventures in the future. Bring it on !