"Has anything gone wrong with the boat?" People of all walks of life love to ask that question. It's up there in regards to most common question with, "have you had any storms"? and "Do you get seasick?"
Maybe it stems from people's fear of the unknown or a way of subconsciously talking themselves out of taking any risks. Even a lot of the cruising community are guilty of asking what has gone wrong within 2 minutes of saying hi, although they are such a friendly and supportive bunch I like to think that they ask to see if they can help out or lend any experience.
I'm sure that it's written somewhere that if you look for the negatives and focus on them you will hold yourself back from reaching your goals and dreams.
So as not to paint too rosy a picture in our videos here are the details on our setbacks/failures/breakages after a season in the pacific.
- Failed stainless cable in steering system
- 7 out of our 10 solar panels failed
- Unacceptable level of corrosion in all 5 of our stainless steel skin fittings/sea cocks
- Struck log and damaged port bow
- Failed foot block in steering system
- Damaged mainsail
Failed stainless cable in steering system
I heard a noise out of the steering system the day we cleared into New Caledonia. We found one of the two cables connecting the port wheel to the steering rack with multiple broken strands. The cable had been in service for 6,000Nm. Further inspection revealed all cables with broken wires at the turning blocks. This suggests that the wrong size stainless cable was used for the size of the turning block, insufficient d/D ratio as its known in the game. We carry a roll of 4mm, 6mm and a length of 12mm Dyneema on board to get us out of trouble. In 4hrs from noticing the issue we had broken down the steering system, replaced all the stainless steel cable with 4mm Dyneema and were up and running all whilst at anchor, without the need to leave to boat. This is the beauty of having all materials required to repair a break down like this on board. Give the DIY crew a point. We now have 6000Nm on the Dyneema and see no wear. The system has been tensioned and aligned on 3 occasions over that time but has settled in now and there is still a little room left on the turnbuckles to allow one more tension before we will need to re eye splice the Dyneema to shorten it slightly but it hasn't needed it in the last 4 months.
7 out of our 10 solar panels failed
Over the season our solar panels have been dropping like flies. Initially it looked to be corrosion in the junction box, but after removing one of the junction boxes and testing the panel it produced no voltage and no current. I contacted the manufacture and it appears that model of panels had inferior cells and was removed from production. As I was out of 12 month warranty they would not replace them with their new panels which they state have improved cells. The system worked well initially which I documented here so I did not want to deviate far from what we had. We have ordered some new panels from an Australian distributor and I will follow up my initial solar panel blog and update it once we are back up and running. On a good day we can still run off the remaining 300W but not if we need to run the water maker or doing overnight passages with the pilot and instrumentation on so we have had to knock up some hours on the engines and burn some fossils to make up the power deficiency...
Unacceptable level of corrosion in all 5 of our stainless steel skin fittings/sea cocks
From within a few months of launch we had rust steaks from one of our Stainless Steel 316 seacocks at a threaded connection to the skin fitting. There is not an item on Roam that I didn't get advice on, or find positive feedback for. The whole boat is built with equipment that was vouched for or recommended by people I respect or know personally. In this case it looks like we were let down by some poor materials and depending on who you talk to some poor advice. Anyway after 18 months in the water we had rust streaks/minor leaks from all 5 of our Stainless Steel Sea Cock arrangements and my concern level was growing. I follow Signature Yacht Services on Facebook as they are always working on cool boats. I had noticed them post about swapping out Stainless Steel skin fittings before so I dropped them an email. Well things happened pretty fast after that and no sooner than us getting back in Aus we were booked in at The Boat Works in Coomera on the Gold Coast to go into Shed i16. Craig from Signature Yacht Services had ordered the replacement parts and had everything ready. We elected to go with Glass Reinforced Nylon fittings from TruDesign in NZ. Lloyds Rated etc. Eliminating metal based products from every area on the boat we can had been a motto for us for a while so carrying it on to our sea cock arrangements made sense. The draw backs of "plastics" in this case are less robust and can melt in the case of fire. We are happy with the positions of our sea cocks in regards to potential damage, so I am happy with their durability there. We have one fitting in the engine room so in the case of a minor engine room fire even if the fitting melts our engine rooms are separated from the rest of the boat by a main bulkhead so flooding that compartment in the case of fire may well be a positive...
This was the first time Roam has been in the "hands of professionals" as we are typically DIY people to the core. However this time it just made sense from the get go. Craig at Signature Yachts response to my initial email was very reassuring "if we are organised this is not a big job and can be done in a working day". He wasn't joking either. From the lift out at The Boat Works to being over the line with the skin fittings reinstalled, externally primed and ready for antifoul touch up was a total of about 7 hrs! My slow and steady DIY head was spinning but it was great fun.
Struck log and damaged port bow
I was hand steering whilst sailing hard on the breeze between Musket Cove and Cloudbreak. We were doing about 10-11kts and I hit a "medium" sized log with the leward bow. It didn't contact the daggerboards, engines or rudders luckily. It didn't stop us but the boat shuddered pretty good and knocked off about half our speed instantly. It got us right on the water line as that bow was pressed. During the build we wrapped carbon/kevlar on the lower half of the stems on Roam and it may have helped prevent further damage. The next 300mm of the bows are solid foam before the first bulkhead. It looked like I had just dinged the paint so I ordered some Dr Sails underwater epoxy to home and had it brought over by our next crew to visit. I then Sealed it up and forgot about it until "next haulout".
As we were out of the water to fix the skin fittings I showed it to Craig at Signature Yachts. "Too easy" was the response and in literally 5 mins he was personally into the repair. Turns out we had cracked the glass and in the time until I had sealed it with the underwater epoxy we had water ingress to the sacrificial foam bows. Craig ground out an area about the size of your thumb, filled it and wrapped it with carbon and passed it over to his painter.
The Boat Works has a pretty sweet deal where you don't pay hard stand over the weekend. Craig was happy to have us at Shed i16 over the weekend so we got stuck into some other jobs that we hope will mean we don't need to come out of the water for another 12 months.
I'm a DIY guy through and through but I have to tip my hat in a massive nod of respect to the team at Signature Yachts Services. Several points to the pros. We were sorted and back in the water so much faster than if I had done all the work myself. Not to mention how long I would have spent on the internet or talking to people about what products to use. They do this work day in day out and it shows. The bow repair would have taken me 5 times as long and I would have had to buy small quantities of all materials and consumables including every grit of sandpaper and likely would not have met their standards. They have every piece of equipment or consumable on had at their work shop so if any other jobs pop up, as they tend too, nothing is a big deal. We had a great time at Shed i16 and learnt a couple of things too. To Craig and his Team, Thanks. You guys got us sorted in no time to a high professional standard. It was clear that the team, who are all sailors themselves, are passionate about their work and it was great for me to be able to work alongside the whole Signature Yacht Services crew. Roam is in better shape than ever.
Failed foot block in steering system
During the passage back from Fiji we had a nice reaching session with a following swell. I was enjoying hand steering and during a surf at about 18kts I broke a foot block in our steering system. I pulled its fasteners out of the central rack. I swapped wheels and pulled Roam off the surf. We checked that nothing was going to foul the other wheel or the pilot and carried on. Roam's pilot is well situated so it can steer either rudder in the case of rudder damage and is "down stream" of either wheel so is not effected by a failure in either wheel system. In the case of this failure only the port wheel is out of service. We haven't fixed it yet and have done another 2000Nm with just one wheel. I have ordered replacement higher load foot blocks and will remove and upgrade the steering rack when back in Tas.
I was pissed off with my self on this one. We have 10,000 Nm on our sails and have not had a sail f@#k up yet. Anyway Roam has a cradle on the cabin roof that we rest the boom in. Offshore when going from a 2nd or 3rd reefed main to no main, we have started dropping the boom into the cradle with the halyard/sail and flaking the sail with the boom in the rest. This stabilizes the boom and is a lot easier to work on the cabin roof with no risk of anyone getting swiped off. So when we arrived behind Fraser Island after the Fiji passage we did it from a full main. But we didn't ease the out haul first. Liss put slack in the halyard and the boom didn't come down. I was on the cabin roof and gave the boom a hard shake to get cars moving. However as the first intermediate car between the tack and reef one was still in tension by the outhaul it didn't move. The rest of the luff was slack and I point loaded the car. Bang. I thought a batten had broken it was so loud. We had put a 100mm vertical split in the sail about 250mm in from the luff. None of the major fibers were broken but the laminate had split.
Since we were heading past anyway we elected not to repair with the kit we have onboard but call into Sydney and get the sail back into Rob at Ullman Sails and have him fix it. Turned out to be an easy job taking less than an hour to fix. Whilst we were there we gave the genoa a birthday touching up some minor wear. We get a lot of questions about Roam's sails so I'll do a separate blog on them soon. Whilst at the loft we recorded a good chat with Rob and Bruce about why we chose to go with the membrane sails on our cruising boat, the design and decision making process we went through.
So now we are at Moruya on the South Coast of New South Wales hanging out having a good time waiting for a Bass Strait weather window. We have completed 2/3's of our repairs before we even get home and I have the others on order and should arrive by the time we get back.
There are a few other jobs we will do on Roam over summer to make her even better and we aim to be ready to set off for the next sailing season in March/April with eyes on even further into the Pacific. All of the above jobs could have been done "out there" but Roam is a new boat and we all needed some work to top up the bank balance so we elected to come back to Australia to do it right and set ourselves up for an even greater trip next year. For the next couple of years we want to keep exploring more of the Pacific as this year we hardly scratched the surface, there is so much awesomeness out there. Each season we get the confidence to go further and stay out a little longer. All the time we are looking to improve the boat in every aspect.
We have had the best year. Roam is a new boat and as we continue to put miles on her and put her through her paces we learn how to get the best out of her and what she likes. We have had our share of breakages and failures. However with each one we find out where a substandard piece of is in the system and replace it making Roam better for the experience.
Any failure can be frustrating and feel like a set back at the time but when all said and done you look back on them as a learning experience where your boat is in better shape because of it.