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Sparkle’s Makeover

Sparkle BEFORE!

Sparkle has been Dazzler’s trusted Apex tender since 2005 when she was purchased new. Relatively speaking that’s a long life for a rigid inflatable boat (RIB) tender. In 2009 I made chaps for Sparkle and they lasted through the harsh climate of the northern Sea of Cortez during the summer months and all the sun exposure during the rest of the year.

When we departed Pacific Mexico for the South Pacific islands and other countries, her chaps were in good condition or so we thought. LOL. While in the Marquesas some local kids were jumping off all the tenders tied at the wharf, including Sparkle, and her chaps became ripped beyond repair. I know that things around the sea water and in the sun don’t last forever and I had been preparing myself for the inevitable thought of having to replace Sparkle and her chaps somewhere in the South Pacific. The chaps part was easy as we stored extra fabric to make new ones. The new tender was a different issue. While searching through the Apex website, I saw that there was an Apex dealer in Papeete. Great! We’ll try to get one there.

Well, the Apex website was inaccurate. Yes, the local boatyard/chandlery did sell Apex tenders at one time but not anymore.

So why didn’t we just get a different tender. Well, I’ll tell you Shouty! Sparkle’s outboard is a 20 HP Yamaha that we weren’t planning to replace, so a new tender had to accommodate the size, weight and trust of the 20 HP outboard. Second, and more importantly, we only have so much deck space to store Sparkle on the foredeck while we are making passages so we had to find one that would fit.

Those of you that know me know I don’t rush into large purchases. So we spent over two years looking for available tenders, their price points, Dazzler specifications (space and outboard) requirements, how many more years of cruising we are planning to do and of course it had to look pretty. LOL. All the while we held our breath hoping that Sparkle’s glue joints would keep holding air.

Fast forward…We arrived in New Zealand last November and it was looking like we would be spending close to $6000 NZD (@$4000 USD) for a new tender here. And just like that, the clouds parted and a light shone down from above and it delivered unto me the answer. “Dan a small NZ company called Seafarer Inflatables can replace the existing inflatable tubes of your RIB at a fraction of the cost of a new tender.” This was something I hadn’t even considered with my new age western mentality of replace rather than repair. Wow! It was an incredible possibility. What do I have to lose with an inquiry? Nothing, right! So, during one of our trips to the Auckland area visiting our friends, Jilly and I stopped by the modest facility of Seafarer Inflatables and met with the owner Neil Curtling. Neil was gracious with his time and spoke with us about the cost of having Sparkle’s tubes replaced with a new fabric called TPU. Neil quoted us a price of $2400 NZD that would be about $1500 USD with current exchange rate. Say it all together with me now…“WOW!” That’s a savings of over half the cost of a new tender.

I have to say Neil’s newly constructed tenders are nothing but gorgeous as well. But, for us we were a bit more focused on budget and quality tube replacement.

I know what you’re thinking. “What about the 15 year old fiberglass hull?” I’m with you. If you go to Neil’s website www.seafarerinflatables.co.nz you will see that as a part of re-tubing the tender, his specially trained technicians will also make any repairs needed to the hull while it’s all apart. In Sparkle’s case this turned out to be an added benefit.

What’s not to like about this home grown Kiwi business? Neil told us that his average turn around time would be about 10 days depending on any repairs needed. We arranged to drop off Sparkle at Neil’s makeover salon before we left for the states in January so she would be ready to pick up after our return.

A bit about the Valmax TPU fabric choice we made. We could have chosen between PVC, Hypalon or TPU. Neil highly recommended the TPU fabric for all tenders spending time in the tropics. Neil’s website states, “We only use the finest quality German Valmax PVC & TPU fabrics, welding these fabrics is our specialty with our unique duel lap seam welding system. Our thermobond welding machine has been customized to suit our manufacturing systems to enable the most reliable high quality welds & allow us to 100% thermobond weld the tubes.”

Additionally, at the EREZ website you can read more about the fabric specifications.

A side note that has some level of importance here. We were faced with the dilemma of transporting Sparkle to Neil’s facility and then getting her back up to Whangarei. We were going to rent a truck but when our good friend and Scottish Kiwi Allan Gray found out our transportation issue, he gladly volunteered to use his van. Not only did he use his van, but he actually took off from work and drove Sparkle and I to and from Neil’s. Wow! Not many people today do things like this. Thank you Allan and Wynn Fraser Paints!

Thank you Allan!

After returning to NZ we retrieved Sparkle from Neil’s tube make over salon and dropped her off on the ground next to the mothership at Harbourside Boatworks in Whangarei. What an amazing job Neil did! Neil did have to make some fiberglass repair on Sparkle’s sides. Apparently, her joints between the hull and the interior floor had become separated. Neil prepared, epoxied and clamped the separated joints for an additional cost of $250 NZD.

All we had to do now was give Sparkle a new paint job to complete the transformation. Off to Wynn Fraser Paints to get supplies. A good quality linear polyurethane primer, and a top coat paint and all the consumables. For the non skid areas I used my favorite paint product of all times, Kiwi Grip.

I had a plan of completing the interior first and then the bottom and aft edge of the transom. All in it took about 10 days from start to finish with only two days delay due to rain. And the results…Amazing! Sparkle looks like a brand new tender. Even Nick and a few other workers at Harbourside thought it was a new tender. I guess I got lucky. They say even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while. LOL

That’s it! All in, the upgrade make over was about $2000 USD for what looks like a new tender that can handle the 20 HP outboard motor and is ready for new adventures to wherever the winds blow us. The only thing left to do is make a new set of tube chaps. That’s a story for a different post.

Until then, keep the water on the outside and your beer cold! Cheers!

Captain Dan, SV Dazzler

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Want A Lift?

Okay boys and girls today’s lesson is about Water Lift Silencers. What in the world is that? Well, I’ll tell you Shouty. It’s that round thing under the deck behind your engine that helps the exhaust push the water out the exhaust port usually somewhere near the aft your your boat. It can easily be located when your engine is on and the water and gases are spewing out into your wake.

There are all kinds of lift silencers but this one is mine. Dazzler is fitted with a very old fiberglass style with both the exhaust in and out ports on its top. It is a cylindrical sealed can with an approximate 1.5” flange on its bottom for fastening it to a platform.

So what’s all the trouble with these things? Do they have a life expectancy? Can they go bad? If so, what causes them to go bad? I sum up these questions with our experiences over the last several days.

First, I’m not sure if this is the original lift silencer on Dazzler or not. I suspect so though. I have owned her since 2003, and she is now 32 years young. I knew where it was located, but honestly didn’t know much about how it worked or what to look for in the way of issues. One of the two previous owners had it installed or installed it themselves. When it was installed, the angle of the elbow that connects to the back of the engine apparently was modified from a 90° elbow to an approximate 30° down angle. During the modification process, as determined by the crack I found, a regular 90° elbow was cut to accommodate the needed angle and a putty similar to the Minute Mend that I used to make our emergency repairs was used to complete the modification. Perhaps the instant epoxy has a use life also. Years of vibration and almost 6000 hours on the engine had finally hit that magic age of disintegration. LOL How do I know these things?

Well, two days ago the engine stopped spraying water again. No big deal as we’re just putting up the sails again. We sailed through the rest of the night and into the next afternoon before I had to tackle the new water leak situation again. It seems that I missed this crack because I couldn’t see it during the second fix. Hence I pulled the entire silencer out of the engine compartment to better diagnose and attempt to fix ANY and ALL cracks this time.

I guess third time is a charm. After grinding the areas around the several additional cracks I found, I filled up the canister with water to see if it had any other leaks. It’s flat bottom is also fiberglass and is joined to the flange of the bottom of the canister. When it was installed. The installer drilled through the flange and into the mounting deck. This held it firmly in place but it also put eight screw holes into the flange that apparently should have been avoided as all eight holes leaked water. I’ll tell you how I tried to fix this issue later. While the minty flavored dog poo was setting up From the new application, I refitted the silencer to its mounting deck. I used some wazoo pipe thread sealer I found in Papeete on the screws before I inserted them and fastened the silencer down. Yes, I magically found all eight same screw holes without too much difficulty. Not bad for upside down blind left handed screwing. Actually, I used a Sharpie marker and marked one of the holes and as for the rest the silencer just kind of fit in place. Both hoses were connected as designed. We waited an extra 10 minutes for it to set before I fired up the beast. You’d have thought I was waiting for Santa to come down the mast or something. I was impatient so I found putting away tools occupied me for several minutes while I waited. We fired up the beast and tada! No leaks from the hose connection. Yay! The bottom of the canister was a different story.

As it turns out, one of my Diesel engine repair manuals by Nigel Calder talks a little about the water lift silencer. Apparently a back pressure 1.5 PSI is present to help force the water out to the back of your vessel. That’s good because I’m not sure I could seal it up for any more than that. Additionally, Mr. Calder recommends breaking lose your exhaust connections and inspecting the inside of hoses for excess soot, oil or anything else at least once a year. Catch it before the surprise of not working properly when you least expect it. It will be on my annual inspection to do list from now on.

To answer the question of what the life expectancy is would be like answering the riddles of the universe in one word. They may, but I would recommend routine checks while servicing your engine. You know hands on eyes on while it’s running if possible. I have to admit that this was not something on my radar of things to check. To make sure it doesn’t develop a crack like ours did for whatever reason, defect, installation or old age, I’ll be checking our new one during regular engine services in the future. I only look upon our repair as an emergency repair and yes, we will be getting a new one in New Zealand.

I write this for all my boating friends out there that at the very least ask their own questions. I wonder if mine might be leaking? Do I have one of those? Is it in good working order?

If this helps just one other person to avoid potential exhaust water lift silencer issues then right on!

Now it’s back to sailing in a cold, cloudy environment. We are less than 200 nautical miles from Marsden Cove Marina where we will check into Country with Customs, Immigration and Bio-Security. We have about 14 knots of wind out of the North on our port quarter, the seas are relatively flat and we’re making 7 knots. Hang on Grape Ape! He likes to be part of everything. What are you gonna do? Teenagers!

Cheers!

Captain Dan

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Miracles Happen

If you’ve been following along our journey you know that several days ago our water maker sprung not one or two, but three leaks! We’ve been limping it along while we tried to figure out where we could get a replacement cylinder. Dan was able to repair leaks one and two but the threads in one of the Clark pump cylinders had a small fissure in it which meant we’d need a new one. Finding parts like this in a place like Fiji was surely going to be an issue and we were prepared to order one from the states and have it shipped here.

The morning after the leak was discovered Dan went to shore in Denarau and stopped by Baobab Marine to discuss the best way to get one of these cylinders. They carry Spectra parts but didn’t have the cylinder we needed. They told him it would take a couple of weeks to get one in. Okay, that’s not a horrible thing as we could continue to limp along with it but he was pretty certain we could get it sooner if we had it shipped to someone in the states and had them ship it to us. It would have gone to our “go to” person, Dan’s sister, Tina. She’s a gem and always there to help with stuff like this.

Dan came back to the boat and because it was the weekend and Daily Watermakers in San Diego was already closed so we had to wait until Tuesday to call them and place the order. We’re a day ahead of the them.

Tuesday came and Dan got on the phone right away to see what we could do. They know him well at the Spectra store and after hearing Dan’s diagnosis they were certain he was correct. They also had some potential good news which is that there is a store in Lautoka that may have a cylinder in stock. Lautoka is not far from Denarau so we were excited at the prospect of being able to get one locally. Dan place a called to Oceania Water Group. Miracle of miracles happened as they told us they not only have one, but two in stock! The look of relief on Dan’s face was fantastic. 

The next morning we took the boat up to Vuda Marina and anchored outside the marina. We went to shore and took a taxi into Lautoka to find Oceania where they indeed, had the cylinder we needed. The people there were amazing and incredibly helpful. They carry all sorts of water maker parts and filters. We will certainly keep them in mind if we ever have an issue again and we are in the area.

So, what was the final cost? Well, ironically we found that we paid less for it here in Fiji than we would have if we’d have had bought it in the states and had it shipped to us. We figure we actually paid about $50 USD less. BONUS!!!

Total time from the first leak to completion of the project…5 days!

Total Cost: $300 USD (This includes our taxi ride into Lautoka!)

After picking up a few other provisions in town we were dropped back off at the marina where we had a beer to celebrate before returning to Dazzler. Within two hours Dan had the new cylinder installed and there wasn’t a drop of water to be found.

The most important part of it all is we are making water. Dan took me to shore where we celebrated with a yummy dinner of Mongolian Beef at the Boatshed Restaurant overlooking the water. The sunset was beautiful, the food spectacular and the beer ice cold! Yes, all is right in the world of Dazzler again!

Until Next Time…

Jilly & Dan