May 30, 2013

Maintenance: Seals for cockpit locker lids - trial and error

Cockpit locker lids have caused me a headache multiple times. The original seals were bonded tightly, but after over twenty years of service, the seals started to be a bit worn out. As their ability to keep the water out was compromised, we decided to renew all the seals. Well more easily said than done! The first attempt was made in June 2011 while sailing in Sweden: we bought a self-adhesive gasket tape from a local maritime store, but after one month or so, the new seal was already pushed out of its position. Every time the lid is closed, the seal is compressed and eventually looses its shape and becomes unstuck. Furthermore, the displaced tape leaves a nasty sticky surface, that collects all the dirt in the boat. So the self-adhesive tape clearly is not a long-term solution for the locker lids!

U-shaped seal
The second attempt was made in the spring 2012; we came up with a genuine solution (we thought) of glueing U-shaped seal on the locker side, so that when the lid is closed, the seal is pushed more firmly into its position. First we tried glueing the seal with Sikaflex, which made the surfaces so slippery, that it was difficult to get the seal to stay in place long enough before it started sticking. Then we tried an epoxy glue, which had a good grip, but this was not a long-term solution either, since the epoxy is not flexible. And flexibility is what is needed since the rubber is flexible. Furthermore, the U-shaped seal was too thin, so rest of the summer I was glueing those self-adhesive tapes every two weeks or so to keep the water out.  

U-seals did not last the whole season
Quick fix with a self-adhesive tape
This spring it was time to get this thing fixed, since I was totally done with playing with those seals all the time. With the help of another HR29 owner from England, we found a good quality material for the locker lid seals: that is solid neoprene or chloroprene rubber (CR), which is the best rubber material in terms of withstanding the weather at least according to our local chandlery. Another important thing was to find a strong waterproof adhesive which is still flexible. The local chandlery suggested using Fix All's High Tack adhesive which was very easy to apply. Also a 3M 5200 adhesive sealant could be a good option.

Only time will tell how well this (hopefully) final attempt works, but at least the start has been promising, since the seals have stayed firmly in place!

Preparation is the key: the gelcoat was abraded, then cleaned and degreased with acetone. 

Making corners to the seal

 The surface was cleaned once more with a normal masking tape before glueing the seal

Left to dry at least for 24 hours

Locker lid with a new seal in place

May 28, 2013

Start of Sailing Season 2013

Nice warm weather and good easterly wind was scheduled for Saturday, so we were in hurry to get everything ready before the evening. Among other things, the boat needed thorough cleaning from all the dust, before taking in the new mattresses, which we got just in time on Friday. More about those later...

Usually, when collecting the boat stuff from various places after the winter, something essential is missing on the first trip. This time the genoa sheets were not where they should have been: that is the genoa sail bag. Also we could not fit the longest mainsail batten in our car and as the fresh wind was scheduled for the whole weekend, we decided to leave the mainsail stored on the boom and sail only with the genoa this weekend. Temporary genoa sheets were made of our second anchor rope.

We got everything ready in the early evening, but as it was getting late, we decided to head for nearby Nauvo, located just some 10 nm to west. The guest harbour was almost full of boats in the evening, but we managed to get a good berth.

On Sunday we had a 16 nm leg to our new home port in Hirvensalo. The wind was gusting about 12-13 m/s in the afternoon, so we got a fast ride back home. All in all, everything was ok and working after the winter, but there are still plenty of things to do to get everything ready before the first longer trip, which is scheduled for the coming weekend and for the beginning of the next week.

Minna treating the new mattresses with furniture protector.

Fenders up and towards the glittering Airisto...

First sail of the season  

Spotted Viking Grace  


Nauvo Guest harbour

Morning coffee onboard 

May 26, 2013

The launch and stepping the mast

We launched finally on Thursday and the mast was stepped on Friday. It is interesting when we have spent a lot of time during the winter to fix things at the boat, but still the last hour before the scheduled launch was so hectic to get everything done. I guess that it is another law of boating: the boat is 'ready' when the tractor/crane arrives...

For example, a jammed septic tank through-hull ball valve caused some grey hairs, but fortunately it came alive after spraying some penetrating oil.

 The mast was cleaned and treated with lamp oil

Cleaning and oiling the rigging screws

May 22, 2013

Ready for the launch!

During the last few days we have been busy in getting everything ready for the launch, which is taking place on Thursday. The underwater hull is now coated with five layers of Teknos Inerta 5 epoxy primer and two layers of Hempel Hard Racing (black) antifouling. Also the antifouling waterline was rised about two centimeters as the white stripe near the waterline was coated with white Hard Racing.

The topsides were treated already in the autumn with Farecla's rubbing compound and Autoglym's Super Resin Polish (red etiquette). Now in the spring, only a quick treatment with Autoglym's Extra Gloss Protection (gold etiquette) was needed. This hard wax should give a durable protection against dirt.

According to the current plan, DD is launched  tomorrow and the mast is stepped on Friday. On Saturday we are going to put on the sails and continue cleaning and loading the boat. If we are quick, we might have a chance to go sailing already on Saturday. Otherwise, the start of the season is on Sunday, when DD is sailed to her new home port.

This year we treated the topsides with Autoglym's products. And yes, it is mirroring...

May 17, 2013

Maintenance update: Checklist

-Teak deck repairs  Check
-Rudder blade repair  Check
-Epoxy barrier coating 5x  Check (4/5)
-Deck vent/windlass re-installation Check
-New seals for cockpit locker lids  Check (2/3)
-New zinc anode  Check

To-Do list
-Antifouling (2x)
-Propellor re-installation
-New main sail halyard
-Hard wax for the hull and coachroof
-Epoxy barrier coat for the bilge
-New fresh water hose
-Varnishing of the companionway door 
-Mast step re-installation

We are on the better side of this winter's renovation project and the launch is scheduled for the next week. During this week we have been busy with installing the deck vent and anchor windlass, glueing new seals for the locker lids and finishing the teak deck repair.

Speaking of the deck caulking method, previously I have leveled the fresh caulking with a tip of finger (moisten with some washing-up liquid). The good thing with this method is, that if the teak is masked well, there is no need for sanding. However, the job is quite messy and the outcome relays on the masking of the teak. Thus, this time we tried a bit different approach: the new caulking was simply let to dry as it was, standing proud of the teak. After a couple of days, the residuals were cut off with a sharpened trowel to the same level with the teak. In some curved seams, there was need for some sanding, but especially the straight seams were perfect after the cutting.

With the rudder, we drilled a couple of holes in the lower part of the rudder as there was about a cup of water trapped inside the blade. To my knowledge, water in the rudder is a common problem with older HR's (sometimes referred to as the Enderlein drip). In general, this problem is rather common for almost all brands, regardless of how old or new the boat is, as the joint between a fiberglass and metal is difficult to get totally watertight. That is especially true in the case of a rudder, which can be under a great strain when sailing. I think that Baltic Yachts has come up with the best solution so far, as today Baltics have all-composite rudders, and that includes the rudder stock.

Still a lot of things to do, but there is some light visible at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully, at this time of the next week, Dolphin Dance is ready for sailing.
Leveling the residual caulking with a (sharpened) trowel
Small brush set is handy for teak deck repairs
Applying Sikaflex primer
Before installing the deck vent, the deck core was carefully sealed to prevent future leaks. 
Installing anchor windlass. 

May 13, 2013

A New Home Port!

For this season, Dolphin Dance has a new home port as we got a berth for this summer from a marina located in Hirvensalo. The main reason for changing to a new harbour is getting closer to the main sailing areas of the Archipelago Sea. The marina is located only about a nautical mile from the Airisto fjard, so this reduces significantly the motoring time out of the harbour. From our previous home port, closer to the Turku city center, there was almost an hour of motoring along a narrow channel before reaching wider sea areas.

The new harbour is located only a twenty minutes drive away from our home, which is good news when one has to work on a boat or check that everything is ok. We are also keen to make shorter evening/day sailing trips this year, as the sailing grounds are more accessible.

New berth with fingers on both sides.

May 9, 2013

Safety on board: avoiding ships

Discussion has lately been vivid on the subject of sailboats vs. ships on various internet's sailing forums. Locally, we had a recent court case where two skippers of yachts, participating in the sail race, were fined for steering their boats too close to the 250 meters' long tanker ship. More serious incident happened in UK during the Cowes Week 2011, when a yacht, participating in the regatta, actually collided with a tanker. Yachting Monthly wrote on their May issue about the incident, where luckily were no casualties. Check out this following video of the incident:

These two cases, and the discussion around them, made me revise the COLREGs (Collisions Regulations) and re-think our routines for avoiding ships. After all, a collision with a ship is one of the most serious incidents, which can happen at the sea.

It seems to cause controversy whether a sailboat is a give-way or a stand-on vessel in respect to the ship. By the way, COLREGs do not give a right of way to one vessel over another; the stand-on vessel has to keep a steady course and speed and be ready to take action, if the action taken by the give-way vessel is not sufficient to prevent collision. As a general rule, a powerboat gives way to a sailboat. However, there are exceptions to this rule if the former has a restricted maneuverability. Following is the order of increasing maneuverability; a boat lower in the list has to give-way to the vessel higher on the list (source
  1. a disabled boat
  2. a boat that is difficult to maneuver, like a dredge or barge in tow
  3. a boat whose maneuverability is restricted by size or draft, like a freighter
  4. a boat engaged in commercial fishing, like a trawler
  5. a boat being rowed
  6. a sailboat
  7. a recreational powerboat
When talking about the large ships, it is good to presume (also by common sense or self-protection instinct) that they have restricted maneuverability due to their size, and thus a sailboat is a give-way vessel in respect to the ship. This is especially true in shallow and narrow waterways of the Baltic Sea archipelagoes.

M/S Queen Elizabeth in Stockholm Archipelago
However, in practice the situation is not always as simple as that, since in offshore it is often the case, that ships do alter their course several miles in advance to avoid a crossing course with a leisure boat. Therefore, it is important to monitor if the ship has already taken actions to avoid you. Inexpensive AIS-receiver is particularly handy in this, since it has information on the speed and course of the ship.

A fishing trawler in Skagerrak
When visual, AIS or radar contact is made of the another vessel, it is important to assess the risk for collision before taking any significant action. In addition to the radar and the AIS-device, a bearing compass is helpful tool: it is good idea to take a bearing of the ship, when you see it in the horizon and monitor changes. If the bearing remains the same or changes very slowly, you are probably on a collision course.

There was an interesting story also in the May issue of the Yachting Monthly about collision between a 50ft sailing yacht Whispa and a freighter Gas Monarch in 2007 in UK waters. Due to the dense fog and misinterpretation of the radar image on the location of the ship, the sailboat altered her course 50 degrees to starboard which actually put the vessels onto a collision course. Without (mis)use of radar, the vessels would have passed each other within a good distance. Thus, actions based on a imperfect knowledge may lead to a worse situation, than keeping an initial steady course. As always, there were many contributing factors to the incident  the complete report is available at

When it is assessed that vessels might be on a collision course, and you are a give-way vessel, it is important to make an early and significant alteration to your course to clearly signal for the other vessel your intentions. Course change should be merely several tens of degrees  preferably 60 degrees or more. If still  after the course change  the situation seems unclear, it is wise to call the ship's bridge by VHF to discuss how the situation is handled. AIS receiver is handy in this situation as well, since it usually shows the name and the MMSI-number of the ship, so you can call it by the name. Even better, if you have a VHF-radio with a DSC-function: you can then contact the ship directly.

AIS receiver is handy in monitoring ships

As a conclusion, it is also good to keep in mind that ships do not always keep a proper lookout and the radar does not see everything. Therefore, a good supposition is that the ship does not see you. Also if crossing a busy shipping lane, the crossing should be made as close to the 90 degrees angle as possible.

So far the busiest shipping area, that we have experienced, was in the Southern Baltics near Bornholm. However, I guess that the North Sea and especially the English Channel are much more challenging in this respect. I have mostly written about good weather conditions, but poor visibility makes the life a lot more complicated. What kind of experience and tips do you have about avoiding ships?

Morning rush hour in Stockholm Archipelago

May 6, 2013

Maintenance update: When shall she be floating again?

Two years ago, Dolphin Dance was already floating in the beginning of May. Last year, she was launched on the 1st of June and this year we are aiming at somewhere in between. At the moment this schedule seems realistic.

The most time-consuming part has been fixing and replacing the teak deck caulking. Basically the whole deck is now checked and all the susceptible caulking has been either removed or dealt with Capt. Tolley's Creeping Crack Cure (See our older blog post on this). I also injected some epoxy under the teak deck to fill up empty spaces, where water could be pooling. Removing and cleaning the old caulking is incredibly time-consuming, but filling the seams is on the other hand pretty straight-forward job.

During the countless hours of kneeling on the deck, I have wondered the whole rationale behind having a wooden deck in a fiberglass boat. Well, hopefully the coming years will be easier in this respect, since after all, teak deck is almost maintenance free, if it is kept in good condition. On the other hand, I like the looks of a silver grey deck, and hopefully walking on a warm wooden deck on a nice sunny day will make it worth the effort.

The propellor is now removed, since zinc anode needed to be changed. Also all the cockpit locker lids are now removed, since they need to have new seals. More about this later.

How about you, when are you planning to launch or have you already?
/Antti & Minna

A work camp? Hopefully, also a sailboat in a couple of week's time. 

Removing propellor (2-blade Radice)

Injecting epoxy 

Applying new caulking 

Removing old glue and dirt from the locker lids

Quite a few boats already launched. And the number is increasing day by day.