Back in the Water & Preparing for the Azores

Back in the Water

Baybreeze went on the hard from mid-November last year to mid-March this year – a winter lay period of four months. I had planned to put a couple of coats of anti-fouling on the hull and to strip and re-varnish the toe-rail and many other minor maintenance jobs. However, I just managed one coat of anti-foul requiring 5 litres of International Micron Extra 2 and a new bootline strip (international Trilux Bootline – 375ml) in a slightly different ‘blue’ colour – figuring that there was sufficient anti-foul remaining from over ten years of anti-foul treatment to keep the marine organisms at bay. The hull is due for a good ‘sand’ blast to remove the many old anti-foul layers – a job for the next layup.

I made an attempt at gelcoat repair of a couple of small nicks on the hull though not too successfully as the colour matching was poor. I was advised to obtain the exact match gelcoat from the Island Packet boat builders, so this is a non-urgent job for the future. After this I polished the gelcoat topsides using an orbital sander with a foam polishing disk velcroed on and 3M’s Fibreglass Cleaner and Wax. This seemed to work well and the hull ended up looking immaculate and beautifully shiny. The nice thing about a hull with a shallow 1.3m draft is that it’s easy to get to without requiring scaffolding, just a metre-high platform.

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The autoprop folding propeller was cleaned of marine growth and its bearings greased. I was unable to remove the bow-thruster propellers for a better clean but its anode appeared plentiful. All other anodes were replaced with new ones. She was then ready for launch.

On launch, I was hoping to be re-allocated a new berth, one that wouldn’t require a dog-leg maneuver to get into and out of as the present one does. Traditionally-designed long keelers like the Island Packet are far more difficult to maneuver than a modern twin-engined power boat. I was hopeful that a swap could be made. Alas! I continue to hope.

Preparing for the Azores

Preparation for the Azores trip is now well underway. I will have a couple of experienced crew on board, yachtmaster and Jester challenger Len Hiley and also Tony Stattersfield, each themselves boat owners. We are planning a departure early in June with an overnight dash to Plymouth, then a cruise to the Azores when a weather window permits, a look at some of its islands, then returning to the southern Ireland coast before heading for the Scilly Isles and then home to Shamrock Quay. It is planned to take around six weeks and should qualify any of us for full membership of the Ocean Cruising Club.

A two-day shake-down cruise is planned for next week to familiarize the crew and to iron out any deficiencies with the boat. I have already decommissioned the Digital Yacht Wifi/AIS receiver and have installed in its place an Icom MA-500TR AIS transponder and so now Baybreeze’s location, when the transponder transmits, can be gleaned from a number of websites such as vesselfinder.com and marinetraffic.com providing her position is not too distant from a coastline. A new Icom M-423 VHF radio with a smaller spatial footprint has been installed and  links with the AIS transponder to allow rapid and easy communication with a user-selected AIS target should the need arise. Also installed on the push-pit rail is a dual-band Echomax radar target enhancer (RTE) which enhances the echo whenever it’s painted by a radar signal. The RTE, as with the AIS, allows an alarm to be set to warn of approaching ships – very handy for single-handers and short-handers.

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Two house batteries each with 105Ah capacity had to be replaced over the winter. There are a couple of flexible solar panels mounted on deck, each rated at about 40 watts, which have been very useful in keeping the batteries topped up and fully charged. I decided to have installed a wind generator and chose the US-made Air Breeze from the excellent reviews it has received. This is a robust light-weight (6.3 kg) unit that self-regulates to prevent battery over-charging and has a stop switch which essentially short-circuits the unit to prevent turbine rotation. All the installation work for both the electronics and the wind-charger was admirably and efficiently carried out by Landau UK, based in Swanick, Southampton.

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Other aspects of planning include victualing, a watch-keeping rota, spares availability and safety procedures. For the trip, I also plan to maintain a blog and boat track while underway using satellite communications with the information accessible via a web post page. Stay tuned!