A Summer Splash!

Mike and Liz Downing
Fri 3 Feb 2012 11:12
Yes, summer finally arrived in the last 2 weeks of January. It's been mostly dry with some lovely hot sunny days. There's normally always a wind so it never really feels too hot and, with a southerly blowing, the temperatures can drop right down at night - 26 during the day and a chilly 13 at night! But no rain, so it's been dawn to dusk working to try and catch up, and with all the painting finished at last, Aurora B was launched (or splashed) last week. The boatyard here were very accommodating allowing us to spend 2 nights (and so a full day) in the travelift to properly sand, undercoat and antifoul (3 coats) the bottom of the keel. We wondered what it would be like sleeping in the boat while suspended in the sling, but it was remarkably stable - more so than being on the ground where the really big timber trucks hurtling by on the road would make the boat shudder. The Travelift has a measure of the weight it's lifting and Aurora B weighed in at 19 tonnes - more than we thought, and that was with the water tanks (700 litres) empty.
What a relief to be back in the water. With the fine weather we had the sails returned from the sailmaker and back on in a couple of days, so she's a proper sailing boat again. Since then it's been tackling jobs that we couldn't do in the yard, the main one being to replace the main batteries. One of our 4 batteries failed last April (getting dangerously hot - too hot to touch) so they have now all been replaced by 5 slightly smaller batteries. Although smaller, they still weigh 70lbs each -  not something you want to try and carry up a ladder once, let alone 5 times! The 5 give us a total capacity of 525 amp hours, the same as our 4 old batteries (which were 88lbs each), but the new ones are sealed (VRLA AGM)  batteries rather than traditional flooded batteries which we had to top up. The new ones are maintenance free, safer (no battery acid to spill) and more efficient, at least we hope they are at £235 each! Being a completely different size, they've required a lot of rewiring and we've taken the opportunity to upgrade the size of the cabling, which in some cases was quite a bit too small.
Along with the batteries, the new solar panel has now also been wired up, and together with the 2 panels we already had, generates up to 16 amps on a sunny day (our own solar system!). Like the space shuttle (ref Apollo 13 movie) we closely monitor amps  - we count them all out and we count them all back in! At least we have a battery monitoring device that does that all for us. The panel should keep the freezer going and help keep the batteries well charged, which in turn should make them last longer (that's the theory and we hope it's right!). 
So it's been quite an upheaval inside the boat with a lot of the lockers in the aft section having to be emptied to gain access to the cable runs. With the final bit of wiring completed yesterday we can now seriously start re-stowing everything for going to sea. We haven't checked on the progress of the 'hunt the container' game going on outside the harbour, but as soon as it's considered safe we'll start our sea trials - having had quite a lot done, and some below the waterline (stern glands and rudder bearings and seals), we need to check it all out and make sure it all works. We also need to make certain we remember which ropes to pull, and when!
We didn't have to go far for some entertainment last weekend. It was the Tauranga Air Show, held every 2 years at the Tauranga airport. With the marina being close to the end of the runway we had a grandstand view of all manner of planes, including 2 spitfires flying side by side and extremely noisy jets flying at not much more than mast height.
The weekly shop!  Countdown delivers the groceries right to the bottom of our boat ladder in the boatyard.
The keel lifts off the ground for the first time since last June! But only about 10 inches - any more and
the radar dome and solar panels etc on the back would hit the travelift beam. This was our home for a
day and 2 nights.
Our shining propeller covered in Propspeed - a squidgy substance that's supposed to keep barnacles and 
all other marine life at bay. It doesn't poison them, they just can't get a good grip on it and fall off when
the prop turns. At least that's what it says on the can. It's the first time we've used it and we hope it's as
good as they say.
10 inches or so off the ground is just enough to be able to sand underneath and apply paint using a
small roller. It's the first time we've had the opportunity to do a proper job on the bottom of the keel
(sand, prime and 3 coats of antifouling). Usually it just gets a quick wipe and paint immediately before
being lowered into the water.
Aurora B starts her short journey  ........
........ to the sea (Mount Maunganui in the background.) and ......
.... splash!!
Back in the marina - all clean and shiny. Shame that won't last long!
Planes loop the loop at the Tauranga airshow.
The new domestic batteries in the battery locker, with wooden wedges tapped in and screwed at each end
to keep them apart (for air circulation to keep them cooler) and stop them moving when heeled. Our old
batteries were the other way - 90 degrees to these (across the ship rather than fore and aft), and so the new
ones had to be completely re-wired. The blue top battery is our engine start battery, but we can parallel
this with the domestic bank if we need to.