Paradise Lost

Here’s a salutary tale for anyone thinking of having their bottom scrubbed: it can lead to major surgery.

Our plan of a quick lift, scrub, and splash back in the water at New England Boatworks (NEB) was quickly scuppered when we found that the cutlass bearing was worn. This bearing holds the propeller shaft in position so it doesn’t bang and clatter under the boat. Although the wear wasn’t too bad, we thought it best to get it done now; otherwise, it could lead to increased vibration when underway and potentially another expensive lift out. 

Then, we found that some of the Coppercoat had flaked off the boat. And when we scraped these small areas to get to a solid base, the small areas became large enough to tighten the buttocks of any boat owner. I thought the whole coating would fall off. But, fortunately, the largest of these flaky areas stopped at around 30 cm in diameter. 

We now know there to be an incompatibility between Coppercoat and the epoxy coating used underneath it (gasses released by the epoxy during the long curing process cause the Coppercoat to lift). This is frustrating as the epoxy coating wasn’t needed. It was more of a case of might as well do it while the hull was prepared. But the good news is that the gassing should now have stopped and we shouldn’t need to do this again.

Clearly then, our estimate of five days was wild optimism.

Given that we had to take care of these essentials, we thought we might as well do all the rest of the things languishing on the boat to-do list. This included servicing all eight winches, polishing the hull, fitting new hatches. 

And fitting a new diesel tank. 


The tank has occasionally seeped diesel from somewhere in its bowels for a few months. We initially thought it was the filler pipe, then the pipe vent, the inspection hatch, the fuel sender gasket – before getting to grips with the thumping reality of a new tank. These are not cheap. But even a small amount of diesel can create an eye-waveringly bad pong. We discovered this when we returned to Lady Jane after our time in Italy. Our bedroom smelt like a service station.

So, we called in the services of NEB.  Someone quickly came to the boat to look at the job and gave an on the spot estimate of 27 hours to remove and replace the tank. A bit steep I thought, but that’s my default position anyway. He went away promising to send a quote by the next day. And after a week of chasing him, we got it – inflated by another 13 hours. To cut a long story short we agreed to disagree and decided to get another quote from elsewhere and to do the rest of the work ourselves.

NEB is an ideal place to do this. There is a chandler on site stocked with things that boat owners really need. And the staff there are super-helpful. Thanks to Sue, Leigh and Martha we laid our hands on everything we needed. And there’s an on-site restaurant for the times when there’s no energy left to lift a pan.

While we waited for this masterpiece in creative estimating, we started on our long list of things to do. And over the last few weeks, we have accomplished a lot: The old hatches came out easily, the new ones went on less so. The winches are all serviced and smooth, the hull is polished and shiny, the Coppercoat patched up and sanded, the propeller cleaned and greased, and the cutlass bearing is replaced. It’s been early starts and late finishes, frustration, broken nails, but also satisfaction at doing all this ourselves.

So, with all this going on it’s been difficult to find the time to update our blog. Besides, sealant and blood encrusted fingers are not the perfect keyboard companion.

All Work and No Play

There’s a cliched saying about sailing being about fixing your boat in exotic places. Although I don’t think hard standing in Portsmouth, Rhode Island quite qualifies as an exotic location. But Rhode Island is lovely, and we thought we would see more of it by car. So we hired one. And I booked a Ford Fiesta online on the basis that it was the cheapest one I could lay my tight hands on. 

The car hire place is located in Middletown, so I downed tools and headed over there in an Uber, arriving just before they closed for the day at 1500 on Saturday. The rental fella gave me a choice of cars for what I had prepaid. I said I’ll take your recommendation. He suggested a Kia because it’s brand new. Unless, he said, you fancy something else… like a Mustang. 

Now, this set up a conflict with my inner tight arse. Yes, I wanted a Mustang but didn’t want to pay a ridiculous amount to rent it. He said it’s usually an extra $200 per day. I reached out for the Kia keys. He said you can have it for $50 per day. I snatched his hand off. And it was the GT version – bulging with American muscle I think he said – and a convertible. This was the ideal car to use to get to Home Depot.

Maria, of course, was expecting me to come rattling back to the boat in a Fiesta, and I wish I would have captured her look on camera when I rocked up in the Mustang.

Mustang Surprise

Mustang Maria

That car is incredibly fast even without playing with any of the sporty buttons. And for the old boy racer within, it even has a drag racing mode that launches the car so quickly it could knock your dentures down the back of your throat. This was the ideal antidote for the times when we felt we could take no more filling/ sanding/polishing and wanted to blow the dust away. 

We also took a trip with the Rail Explorers on the very-unusual self-propelled mini train down the old railway tracks that run down the back of the boatyard. We heard these trains running while we were sweating over hatch refitting, so we thought we’d give it a go ourselves.

Day Trip to Boston

On one of those days when we felt it was time to take a break, we downed tools and went for a ride in the car to Boston. Just over one hour later we parked the car at one of the fanciest car parks we had ever seen and headed over to the hop on and off stop to join the tourists. 

Boston, at least from Rhode Island, is a great place for a day trip. It’s home, of course to a large part of American history – the Boston Tea Party. And to a large part of TV history – Cheers, where everyone knows your name.

Here are the photos:

Launched and Tanked

On 10th September NEB launched Lady Jane back in the water. These are always slightly tense times, but the guys here are very good. They held her in slings while we checked for leaks (none) and forward and reverse propulsion (all good) before letting us go. 

Out next stop was Bristol Marine for tank replacement, just over one hour north. The yard manager there, Greg, arranged a mooring for the evening prior to coming alongside their work dock the next day for the tank to be removed.

And as planned, early on Tuesday morning, soon after tying up at the work dock, Brian came onboard to start work. The tank was out and the boat cleaned and tidied by mid-afternoon. Very impressive. Not only did Brian excise the tank, but he also took it over to Luther’s (the people making the tank) to ensure the fittings were all put in the right place. I went with him in the truck. 

Tank Out

Tank Off

Tank Down

Luther’s have been making tanks longer than Methuselah has had a reputation for longevity. And aluminium marine tanks are their speciality.  We have high hopes. Certainly, the finished ones I saw at the workshop looked impressive. So, we are hoping for a leak and smell-free environment for a few decades. The new tank is due to be installed on 24th September, so we are hoping to start heading south soon after that.

Early the next day, the Bristol Marine folks towed us back to the mooring. I think all of us got a shock. We didn’t expect them to arrive so early. And they didn’t expect us to be onboard. 

And here we wait until the tank is ready. Although we are planning a road trip – this time in a Ford Fiesta.