After living on Wasco for a year or so we decided that there were a few things that would make her more comfortable as a long-term home. Some of them were purely comfort (as in “that seat is really comfortable under my behind”) and some of them were comfort/safety from an operating perspective.
The old trampolines that came with the boat had a tendency to develop holes where you didn’t want them (a catamaran trampoline is basically all holes to start with, so the distinction is pretty important). On a couple of occasions we put feet through the netting and had to make repairs. Being able to put your feet through the netting doesn’t inspire confidence at o-dark-thirty in the rain with the wind howling while you’re forward trying to wrestle the jib that refuses to furl.
We decided to replace the existing netting (most likely nylon) with new Dyneema/Spectra (UHMWPE) netting. UHMWPE is very strong (each strand in our netting is rated at 385kg ultimate strength) but unlike nylon it doesn’t stretch much. The kids we know won’t like that since the trampolines are no longer “trampolines” in the sense that you can bounce on them, but the non-stretchy nature of UHMWPE means that they can be manufactured to closer tolerances (meaning smaller gaps around the edges) and that they provide very firm footing during those o-dark-thirty events. Since our goal was to make the boat more “comfortable” when sailing we opted for the UHMWPE.
Most of the heavy lifting was done by Gordon at Multihull Tramps in Oz, but we had to clear out the old nets, reset some of the track, install new track where the liferaft used to be installed (we also moved the liferaft because we didn’t really care for its positioning in the nets) and then install the new nets.
The boat never had any kind of railings, just some lifelines except on the port quarter where a PO had made a sort of railing by running a piece of tubing between two stanchions in order to mount the man overboard stuff. The problem with lifelines on multihulls is that our sheers tend to be very straight fore-and-aft. On a monuhull the bow comes to a point and the stern usually has at least a little taper. This makes for a natural “arch” in the lifelines as they wrap around the boat and a body hitting that “arch” on the way to falling off the boat is trying to stretch that arch – something that doesn’t happen too easily. On a multihull, without that natural arch effect, the lifelines have to be kept much tighter to provide the same comfort/safety. But rarely do the boatbuilders recognize this fact, and so lifelines are generally less than satisfactory on multihulls.
We decided to add solid railings bow and stern. These serve many purposes; they’re a place to stand and brace when working near the ends of the boat, they provide handholds when going up and down the stern steps, they provide a nice, sturdy place to mount man-overboard equipment (and barbecues), and, if designed properly they provide a substantial foundation against which lifelines can be tightened. We now have pulpits on both bows, railings on both sides of the stern ladders, and a “chicken rail” at the mast – all in the name of giving us a nice place to grab and hold on when working on the boat.
The Hard Bimini
One of our biggest complaints in the comfort department was our cockpit. A giant area capable of hosting a pretty large party, it was covered by a cloth Bimini with a hard walkway down the center. This worked for shade, but in rain or heavy weather water managed to find its way into the cockpit in so many ways. It dripped down where the cloth joined the hard walkway, it dripped through seams in the cloth, it pretty much dripped everywhere. And even after it stopped raining it continued to drip for a while. There’s a reason waterboarding is considered torture.
We decided to replace the combination top with a solid hardtop. In the end it adds about 40kg to boat, but we thought it was worth the weight. It doesn’t look like much, but building the hardtop took the better part of a month in the yard. In order to keep it light we went back to our roots and built it of cold-molded mahogany plywood and kauri framing using WEST Systems epoxy. In the end it came out looking pretty good, but there was a lot of sanding involved. We replaced the front windows and had the rest of the side curtains adjusted to fit the new Bimini and now have a pretty secure shelter in the cockpit.
While it looked good, the cockpit seating was never very comfortable. It just wasn’t nice place to lounge and enjoy the show while other boats anchored around us. Since we were putting up a hard top we decided to re-do the seating in the cockpit as well to make the outdoor space more liveable. Most newer catamarans seem to have this pretty well nailed, but Wasco and the other older Outremers seem to have overlooked this feature.
We tore out the old seating module that had low backs, and things protruding into your back, and round curves everywhere so you couldn’t tuck yourself into a corner or lay down and replaced the whole thing with wider seats that have square corners. We raised the backs so they actually support your back, and got a new set of cushions made to provide comfort. We could sleep out there now on warm nights and can easily lie back and read or play games – all in the shade of the new Bimini.
The cushions inside the boat were dead. Too many butts, for too long had caused the foam to go the way all foam goes eventually – flat and hard. Really not comfortable. After searching around we ordered in some Sunbrella fabric from the States and had a local shop make us up a new set of cushions with a nice, firm foam. Such a pleasure.
Can you see the difference? Probably not. Maybe from the back?
Some PO had made the realistic decision to raise the waterline because even with very little aboard this boat she rides pretty low (isn’t that the case with pretty much every cruising boat?). Unfortunately, they didn’t do anything with the swimsteps. When we launched last year the steps were about 25mm (1″) above the loaded waterline and as a result they were pretty much always wet. Hard to keep clean, and you’d get your feet wet getting in and out of the dinghy if there was any chop at all. We decided to raise the steps about 100mm (4″) in order to keep them out of the water most of the time. It sounds easy in the writing, but the execution took some time and effort. We haven’t yet really been sailing with the new configuration, but we’re quite happy so far (and our feet are much drier). Unless you look closely you’d never know they weren’t part of the original build.
Wasco was built with a surprising amount of very smooth deck area – no non-skid of any kind. In places where you might typically walk around, sometimes when it’s wet and windy. One or more POs had installed non-skid tape (that 3M stuff, 50mm [2″] wide) in various locations, but it really wasn’t satisfactory, tended to peel at the wrong moment, and trapped dirt in the glue around the edges. We pulled all of that up, cleaned and sanded the gelcoat, and then painted large areas with Kiwigrip non-skid. A huge improvement, we’ll evaluate over time how well the Kiwigrip lasts/performs.
Engine Oil Pan
Our port engine developed an oil leak sometime during the last season, and it slowly got larger and larger. It took a long time to find, but we finally traced it to a hole rusted in the bottom of the oil pan (that is only 4 years old on a “marinized” engine). We couldn’t locate a Perkins dealer who could get us the pan, so we had to go to Volvo and pay their price.
We decided to see if we could replace the pan with the engine in the boat. It turns out you can, but not without the use of a fair amount of TV-MA language. The pan is held on by 24 bolts, 21 of them came out as designed and took about 45 minutes to remove. The last three came out by alternative methods and took two days of off-and-on effort. Once we dropped the pan we had to see if we could get it out from under the engine without lifting the engine from its mounts. Turns out that with some very careful maneuvering it can just be done. The clearance could probably be measured with a feeler gauge.
With the pan out, and working with a mirror, we were able to clean up the old gasket and bottom end of the engine and replace the pan with the new pan and gasket. Of course, the bolts that came out were really not suitable for re-use so we went back to Volvo for them. They wanted $8.50 per bolt (x24) for what it turns out was an M6 x 20 machine screw. And they only had 21 in stock. In Australia. Extra courier charges and Customs clearance to get them quickly. Fortunately, our friends at Donovan’s Engineering Supply (a hearty recommendation to the folks at Donovan’s, we visited them pretty much every day and they could sort out pretty much anything) were able to come through with an alternative (in stock, and less than $1 apiece). Done and dusted, the oil now stays in the engine where it belongs rather than messing up the bilge.
Bottom (Antifouling) Paint
A haulout almost always includes painting the bottom. As we mentioned in previous posts we were extremely unhappy with the performance of the Micron bottom paint that was put on during the last haulout. Erika took all of that off (talk about a lot of sanding) when we first got out of the water. Just before we went back in we put on two coats of Jotun PenGuard epoxy primer followed by 3+ coats of Jotun SeaForce 90. It’s supposed to be good for 5 years, again, we won’t really know until we’ve put some miles on. We also changed the color from blue to red to match the Pacific Northwest colors of Wasco. From the comments made by other Outremer owners in the yard we may be branded as heretics for moving away from blue, but we think it looks really nice.
That’s most of the last three months. The list of chores in the yard ran to two pages, but those are the big ones. We also disappeared home for a few weeks over the holidays, but otherwise we spent three months with the true definition of cruising – fixing boats in exotic places with the wrong tools. Now we’re back in the water. Wasco feels great. All the changes have really added to our enjoyment and comfort. Now we’re even more eager to make the most of our time and money and head west to Australia. We’ll make our way north to Opua and start looking for a good weather window to head to Oz. Our plan will be to head to Brisbane and then up the Great Barrier Reef but I guess we will see if that’s where the wind takes us.