Reunited, yes, but it was not a seamless or satisfactory ‘coming together’…
The keenly awaited, programmed date was initially postponed because of rain on the basis that the mastic to be used on the joint would not adhere properly in wet conditions. This I understood and accepted but, due to the vagaries of the British weather, it actually turned out fine on the original day and the re-scheduled date evolved to have rain forecast in the afternoon, so the pressure was on for an early start and a seamless morning operation.
Whether it was because the exercise was seen as being particularly challenging or maybe because the marina travel lift was fully committed, it was seen appropriate, by the marina, to commission an independent crane operator.
I had suggested this some time ago, before the issue was escalated, but the notion had been blocked, citing: insurance, outside contractors working in the marina, risk assessment, safe work method statement, working at height regulation, all the usual health and safety excuses people tend to hide behind.
Presumably, the pressure that had been applied by my contacting the Board Directors, managed to circumvent these factors and the ‘lift’ went ahead – with an independent crane contractor.
As agreed, I was not to be present (apparently, my exacting standards and need to be involved would apply too much pressure on those involved – incredible) – and a good job too, because I would have been incandescent with what transpired!
Firstly, the crane contractors, in lifting the keel to an agreed position, managed to damage the grounding plate. They sheared off 18 inches of cast iron flange and also broke the repaired fairing. Grrrr!
The other, more damning event was that they did not have a spreader framework on the lifting tackle, so the strops could not purchase in a more than vertical fashion on the hull. The absence of the spacers therefore tensioned the sides of the hull together – not the correct way to lift a boat !
Chris, my trusted and frustrated contractor, assessed the situation and I understand that he was in two minds, nearly calling a halt and aborting the exercise. In the event, he decided to press on and I agree with his reasoning: The yacht was light with no keel, tanks or internal equipment installed. The gunwale was protected by spacers so the strops bore on the hull, not the cappings.
The crane hook was very high, so the angle of purchase was as near vertical as possible without a spacer framework. We had waited a long time and fought hard to obtain the craneage, further delay was unthinkable.
So, she was lifted onto her damaged keel with slow cure mastic applied to all the contact surfaces, the grounding plate bearing the whole weight while the bolts have been tightened. In a few days’ time, the bolts will be pinched up to an even torque. This delay should mean that the mastic will be partially cured and not ‘squeeze’ out of the joints, hopefully forming a watertight seal.
We had always intended to ‘splash’ (launch back into the marina) to prove the watertight integrity of the assembly, before the inside was rebuilt but when I tried to arrange the lift, it would seem that this part of the operation had not been ‘factored in’ and the best timing they could offer was in 3 weeks time! Maybe it was my frustration and incredulity that this had not already been arranged, but I received a haughty and dismissive response to my request for an earlier ‘lift’.
In the light of this delay, the likelihood loomed that Hejira would not be operational until the autumn, well past the sailing season and over a year since the refit commenced.
Casting around it became clear that our extremely cautious approach to prove the ‘watertightness’ of the keel/grounding plate connection was not something shared by others. Significantly, the original constructors, Northshore, apparently, always launch after installing the interior, without any additional checks.
So assessing the factors at play; the internal rebuild would preclude any redress to the concealed bolts if it were necessary, the inaccessible bolts are about 50% of the total, the other 50% being accessible and with the likelihood of a problem being only about 2%… We had a pragmatic decision to make, given the probabilities.
So, we have decided to forego the expediency of testing the integrity by submersion and, instead, proceed immediately with the internal fitting out with our fingers firmly crossed.
We may even be able to salvage some sailing later in the year.