The bang that woke us at 4am back in December was our 11-ton boat’s bow hitting the pontoon. It was also, sadly, an awakening that we had experienced before.
Outside, 60kts of southerly winds were blowing into the marina off the Mediterranean, creating constant, yet irregular, waves and snatching surges that tested the integrity of lines, fairleads, and plenty of other marine hardware around the marina.
Unfortunately three of our fairleads, along with the teak running rail, didn’t hold up to the test. They’d ripped out of the GRP, and the temporary restraint we’d had to rig through the bow roller to save the boat from more damage produced a small crack down the bow as the lines pulled the rollers apart. It was all we could have done, under the conditions, to keep our boat safe and tied in to the berth; we faired much better than several other boats. We tied in as best we could, putting additional lines on, we put threaded rod through the bow roller to stop it separating even more (causing more damage to the hull as well as the roller itself), and put some duck tape (yes, one of the best fixers known to man!) along the area exposed by the missing teak to prevent as much water ingress as possible.
We set about trying to get quotes for repairs, and get everything agreed with our insurers. This being Spain, things took a little while to get going, but finally – in July – everything was in place to lift out and get it all sorted.
It was the most Spanish of experiences. The long wait, the rapid action, then lunch…
The haul-out: One Monday lunchtime, the yard suggested I bring the boat round to them at 7am the following morning… We really needed the damage repairing, but I had been apprehensive about doing the manoeuvre and lift on my own with Hugo and the pets on board. Luckily, I had the offer of help from our neighbours Dorothy and Duncan (who were bizarrely unfazed at the early hour), so at 7am, I duly set off round to the yard with Duncan on the lines.
In a departure from the stereotype – but actually in very typical Spanish fashion – once things were in progress, they moved like a well-oiled machine, and by 8.30 am we were in the slings and out the water! Being a long keel boat, we’d been advised by our our pontoon friends Ruth and Peter to tie the slings together. Their boat had been dropped at another shipyard as the forward sling slipped off the smooth gradient of the keel, and the bow had taken a dive. Not what my blood pressure needed…
It’s always unnerving to see your home hanging from a crane, but again, the guys were great, everything went smoothly, and we were on the blocks by 11.30 and ready for works to start… but of course it was lunchtime and then, in the early afternoon (summer hours, due to the heat) it was home time for the guys. So we were on our own in the boatyard. Just us, some stray cats wandering about, and the smell of old fishing gear from the port next door blowing through the boat…
Outside the working hours, the boatyard was eerily quiet – it was lovely to watch the sun come up in the morning, see the container ships and fishing boats come and go, as well as explore with Hugo, and have a new view while sitting on the bike of an evening! We also had what amounted to a private bathroom, which was a lovely change from communal facilities for the last 4 years!
It took a while to get started on the second day but again, things were on the move and very efficiently too – removing the rigging that needed to be removed – the forestay, anchor, bow roller and all associated fixings – a bigger job than it sounds due to the size and structural integration of all those elements into the hull. The guys would work in 1.5 hour blocks, so it took a bit of time to really see the progress, but progress there was. The lads were really friendly and polite, and also left the boat tidy and clean every evening. They had even found a staircase for us (rather than the normal ladder) so it would be easier for me with Hugo and the pets. Obviously, Walter and the local felines instantly also saw this as an opportunity to socialise without having to leap 4 metres to the ground…
Once all the hardware had been removed, the first job was to remove the damaged fibreglass and build it up again – also doing some internal reinforcement, just as a ‘belt and braces’ addition. The anchor roller also went off to be repaired and reconditioned. Due to fibreglass being such a horrid substance to work with – and also due to the curing conditions it needs, this part of the work had to start at 7am, when the temperature was low (well, in the mid-20’s), although it was still sauna-like in the anchor locker. By the afternoon (when it reached the mid-high-30’s), it would be impracticable to do the glass work, so all the preparation was done the day before ready for an (alarmingly!) punctual start the next morning as Hugo and I were finishing our porridge! The new GRP and resin work was left to cure, then painted. Then the teak guys were brought in.
A slightly more civilised start time for these two gentlemen, who smoked cigars constantly as they worked from their hop-up steps (no new-fangled electric scissor lift for these guys!). I had selected the new fairleads from the catalogue a couple of days prior, and they prepared everything to both install the three fairleads and also to ensure that the fixings were bedded in to the resin and GRP, rather than just fixed to the teak (which we suspect may have been the cause of their failure as they were not previously – or at least insufficiently). They did a really neat job, and then, it was ‘just’ left to re-mount all the hardware. The anode (a sacrificial ‘third metal’ that helps prevent corrosion to other metallic parts on the boat) also needed exchanging, so that got done, and the jib plate bolts had, as it turned out, really taken a hit, so they needed to be replaced too, but everything was ready to go.
The mast is held in tension by wires that run from the top of the mast down to the deck at the four points of the boat; the forestay, twin backstays, and the shrouds (on either side). Normally, when detaching one part of the rig (in this case, the forestay that runs down to the front of the boat), it is usual to de-tension the backstays to give some slack to the opposing wire (they’re not attached, but the mast is slightly raked rearwards, making the tension on the forestay extremely high). However, when they had removed the forestay, they had done so without de-tensioning the backstays (hence quite a loud ‘pop’ when it came off…), so there was no way they’d be able to get it back on without de-tensioning the backstays. I told them that I had marked the two backstay bottle screws so that they could de-tension them to get the forestay back on, and then re-tension them to the same place. Somewhat put out by being told that they may need to do something that had been suggested by a woman, I put the kettle on and watched the events that I (smugly, I’ll admit) knew were about to unfold…
Firstly two people were trying to pull the forestay far enough forward to get the pin in to attach it to the deck – they managed to get it about a foot away from the fixing.… The next time I looked three other colleagues had been called over to help, to no avail – although it was entertaining to see five of them jammed in the tiny pulpit at the bow all discussing how to do it… And I confess that it’s possible that a little bit of tea was involuntarily snorted out of my nose as I saw one of them bring the small forklift over to try and get some more weight on it rather than just do as I’d suggested….
So….. 10 minutes later, the forklift was back where it had been brought from, and one of the lads was de-tensioning the backstay…. And 15 minutes later the forestay was back in place. A few years ago, I suspect I would have been annoyed about having had my suggestion so definitively ignored, but these days it just makes me smile; it’s an attitude that is very prevalent in Spain, and one that – while I haven’t yet allowed myself to get used to it – I have certainly learned to tolerate. And at the end of the day, I got a good laugh out of it as they somewhat sheepishly started undoing the bottle screws as I sat there looking on (having had my offer of assistance declined..) with my morning cuppa!!
And with that, works were complete! We arranged to drop back in the water the following morning at 0830 after I’d taken Hugo to school, and I spent the afternoon taking some more photos of the completed works, as well as making sure all the drainage holes were properly cleaned, that the wheel (that gives us the boat speed) and all the inlets and outlets were free of the bivalves and general blockage-inducing items that tend to accumulate in them. Of course, with some new GRP and paintwork, it really shows up some of the other areas of the hull, but – as with everything – once one bit is clean, the rest suddenly looks dirty! The only remaining job is the antifouling, which we decided not to do this time as we are selling the boat and will most likely do it when we come out of the water for the survey. The quality of work done by Ascar has been very high, and I was really impressed with the professionalism and also the friendliness of the team there – it all happened very efficiently, and their courtesy towards Hugo and I, and respect for our home was much appreciated. We would definitely recommend them, and our thanks goes to Fran and all his guys there.
The following morning, things again moved in Spanish style: seemingly no activity at all, followed by a flurry of high-efficiency… and Rose Rambler entered the water at 0950! One of the yard guys came back round to the berth with me, and – as I made a slight joke that my surrounding neighbours would have extra fenders out on seeing a woman at the helm – he was at pains to assure me that not all Spanish men thought like that. I had to laugh as it hadn’t been my intention to insinuate that (some of our fellow Northern European neighbours would have been equally alarmed, I’m sure…), but it’s something that is a bit of a hot topic in Spain at the moment, and luckily we both shared the laugh in good jest. And even more luckily, I didn’t confirm any fender-wielders’ worst fears by fouling up the approach, and we glided seamlessly in to our berth. It was high time for his coffee break, and high time for a celebratory beer for me with our friends Sarah and Nigel, who had been eagerly awaiting our reappearance!