“On the Hard” in the Rio Dulce

Email us directly aboard Catalyst at: rs.linehan@embarqmail.com

Follow Catalyst’s voyage at:  http://www.winlink.org/dotnet/maps/PositionReportsDetail.aspx?callsign=KG4QFO

Dear friends and family.

As a change of pace and because of what’s been happening to the boat, this log will be written by Rob.

By boatyard standards lot’s been accomplished in the last three days.  The boat was moved to a new, closer to us location, and work on the grinding commenced Sunday.  The yard had anywhere from 4 to no people working on it for three days.  The yard seems to do a little bit of work on everyone’s boat to try to make everyone happy.  Sometimes the opposite happens, as no one thinks they are getting proper attention.    Anyway, over the last three days they have ground off pretty much all the old paint down to the barrier coat layer.  For those unfamiliar with the process, I’ll explain what they did by first explaining as best I know what paint was on the boat that needed to be ground off.

When they build a boat, it is usually made of fiberglass.  Fiberglass is usually opaque in color.  Although fiberglass is very strong for its weight, which is good, fiberglass absorbs and retains water, which is bad.  In order to keep the fiberglass from absorbing water, the builders apply a gel coat.  The shiny gel coat is the white color you usually see on the water side of boat hulls.  The gel coat can be very thick, like ¼” or more, or paper thin.  The less gel coat the less the boat weighs.  Catamarans should be kept light weight, hence we have a thin (may 1/16” to 1/8” thick) gel coat.  The thinner the gel coat, the more fragile the protection for the fiber glass is.  Even gel coat eventually absorbs water, especially if its sea water.  When this happens, the fiber glass gets wet.  Sometimes water gets between the gel coat layer and the fiberglass, and never gets out.  Both of these are bad.  Really bad.  To keep water from getting past the gel coat, the first coat of paint to be painted on top of the white gel coat of a new boat is a special paint called a “barrier coat”.  This effectively waterproofs the gel coat, to keep water out of the fiberglass.  After a barrier coat, there is a primer coat of paint applied.  On top of that goes two coats of paint.  About every two years because of the type of paint we have, the boat needs to be painted.  The paint we use is ablative, meaning it sort of wears away, and as it wears away it exposes new chemicals in the paint that help to keep barnacles and other marine growth at bay.  Our boat has been painted six times since it was new.  After a while, even though the paint sort of wears away, there is a buildup of different layers of sometime different brands of not exactly compatible  paint.  The different paint swells at different rates in the water.  When the paint gets to the point that its blistering and cracking, it’s time to grind (sandpaper on a rotary grinder) the paint down to the barrier coat and start all over again.  This is the situation the boat is in right now.  They have ground through several layers of paint.  The total depth is about 1/16 to 1/32 of a inch they ground away without grinding into the barrier coat.  It’s a delicate, messy, unhealthy job.  Old chemically laden paint dust flies everywhere.  The workers wear special protective clothing, but often times they get too hot, and take the special overalls and breathing filters and eye protection off.

The messiest part is now done.  The next step will be final cleanup of the grinding, then repair on the keels where it appears that a repair job was apparently improperly done sometime in the past.  It’s unclear to Sue and me when this would have happened.  We have bumped the boat’s keels a couple of the times, but I don’t believe hard enough to have caused serious damage.   It appears repair work was done improperly sometime in the past and water eventually found its way into the fiberglass.

For those unfamiliar with cruising boats, the above repairs are not really that unusual.  Most boats, if they are used very much,  have something like this happen to them.

The other thing keeping me busy has been reinstalling the short wave radio and wiring it for sending email over the radio to shore stations.  Once a radio has been installed properly the first time, the radio is pretty uncomplicated if you are just going to talk and listen over the radio.  However, if you want to send email, you have to hook up a fancy German modem (about $1200) and your computer to the radio. It takes several special cables and adapters to make sure all the electronics are communicating properly.   I hooked up the radio, modem, and computer, and turned them on.  The radio and modem didn’t turn on.  I disconnected the computer and modem from the radio and the radio still didn’t work.  I replaced a fuse deep deep inside the radio, and it started up just fine.  I changed the method of hooking everything together, using a simpler way and different cables.  I plugged the modem in, and I blew the radio fuse again.  I replaced the fuse.  I plugged the modem in to the computer, but not the radio into the computer.  The USB port I had used on the computer didn’t seem to work.  Thinking it was the special simple cable that was causing problems, I replaced the cable and plugged the modem back into the computer.  Smoke came out of the computer.  That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that happen!  Apparently the modem is sending too high of voltage to the computer, and we’ve lost all our USB ports on our main computer.  Just before we left, we bought a backup computer because our main computer was acting squirrely.  Little did I know we’d be using the backup computer before the boat even hit the water, but that’s the situation.  Our main computer works, but transferring data is difficult.  We’re not going to be using the radio’s modem for anything on this cruise.

What this means is all of our email will go over the wi-fi of the various shore locations and internet cafes we are anchored by.  We will still be able to check in with other cruisers and shore stations by talking to them live when we make long passages so people will know where we are if we run in to difficulties.  The good news is we won’t have to ask people to not send long messages due to slow short wave radio band with.

Luckily, this year we will have better access to internet than ever before so there should only be occasional periods when we will be out of touch by e-mail.

After the radio modem problems occurred, I decided to spend the rest of the day polishing and preparing the propellers.  Not too much to go wrong there!

Tomorrow the boatyard employees are supposed to have off, but Karen, the manager, says they will be here.  She took today off, so I hope she’s here tomorrow.

We can still check e-mail on our winlink mail address through the internet, but it may be easier to return to sending e-mail to us at the rs.linehan@embarqmail.com address since we won’t be using the SSB for e-mail.

Fair Winds,

Rob and Sue

On the hard in the Rio Dulce

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