Busy First Day Back on Tahina

It was very pleasant being back on Tahina the first night. Nice to be home, to sleep in familiar bed, and to be in a familiar place.

The next day, I got up early and started reviewing my list of all the things needing to be done to prepare Tahina for another season. We always have a list of things needing maintenance or repair. New Zealand is a good place for boat projects because they have access to lots of boating parts, supplies, and skilled people to do the work. And, New Zealand does have a couple of places that work on catamarans – Whangarei has one of them called Norsand Boat Yard. At the end of a couple of hours, I had re-organized the list of projects according to categories like: plumbing, rigging, engines, electrical, household, etc. It was a bit longer than I expected, but no major show-stoppers for the 3 or so weeks we planned in our schedule. The list was manageable.

I also ran a bunch of chores during the day: paid the marina bills, picked up mail (including our passports and visa extension), got a haircut, found out out spinnaker was fixed and paid for and picked it up, and bought a jumper cable so we could hopefully start the generator. The jumper cable got the battery power back up no problem, but the generator still won’t start. There’s something in the electronic starter box that is shutting off before it attempts to turn over – and no alarm code comes up on the control panel. So, I’ve called an engine mechanic who is sending someone in a couple of days to look at it.

Next, I went to the Norsand boat yard to meet with the yard manager. I ran into our friends Steve and Helen on s/v Dignity and chatted with them a while about their boat projects. Steve showed me their progress. He also introduced me to Peter, the yard manager, who I had not met in person yet.

Peter told me he had just completed work on another St. Francis 50 built the same year as Tahina. Not only that, but he is quite familiar with St Francis and even knows the builder Duncan Lethbridge personally. Apparently the other St. Francis 50, s/v Sirius, had been in Australia and was recently bought by a new owner. Unfortunately, Sirius had at least one similar problem as Tahina. He also had a crack in the fiberglass beams designed to break waves underneath between the two hulls. Peter recommended that if ours is the same it will require a lot of fiberglass work because they will have to grind away the gel and apply more glass to increase the strength of the beams, and then re-apply the gel. It took more than 40 hours of labor – a lot of money at local labor rates. I spoke to Dan – who is the skipper on s/v Division II and is parked near Tahina – he is the guy who did the fiberglass work on Sirius, and confirmed it is a big job.

[UPDATE 8-April-2011 – after examining the following potential issue, it was determined Tahina does NOT have the same issue and that the cracks are only surface-level and are quite common on the cross-beam area for cats. St. Francis has agreed to help pay for repairs on Tahina with the problem with the underside ribs.]

But, the bad news didn’t stop there. Peter also said Sirius had a problem where the cross beam attaches at the bows. The backing plate apparently wasn’t big enough and Sirius had cracks in the fiberglass at this very critical structural location. They had to take off the cross beam (which means taking down the jib-furling unit) and then re-glass and install new backing plates. Now, I had read that a boat built by St. Francis two years earlier, called s/v Swingin’ on a Star had the same problem with
their bows and they also had to make this repair. I assumed it was just a mistake in manufacturing with their boat (based on some comments made on his blog). I had checked Tahina’s bows on numerous occasions, but not after the last passage to New Zealand. So, just in case I checked our bows later and, much to my disappointment, I found some surface cracks on the gel around Tahina’s starboard bow/crossbeam attachment point. This means we have yet another big project while at the boatyard. Bummer. I’m waiting to hear back from the manufacturer what they think about all this. If you have a St. Francis 50 built around 2007, you should definitely check out these two issues – since the manufacturer didn’t tell me about either one, its possible later models also have the issues.

While still at the boatyard, I also dropped by and visited with m/v Emily Grace. Had a nice chat catching up on their boat projects and our travels to the south island. But, I had to leave before long to pick up the spinnaker.

None of the projects are major show stoppers. But, the two fiberglass projects will probably double our planned bills, and our 3 week window of work may stretch out a week or two longer. Have you ever heard what BOAT stands for? Bring On Another Thousand ($). If the projects delay much longer than that, we may have to re-consider our plans to go up to American Samoa for provisions.

Despite the bad news, the day was productive for me. Karen slept a good portion of the day trying to catch up after all our recent travels. She also was experiencing allergies – possibly due to the slight mildew in the boat.

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