Final part of “Yacht repairs in Rio” – shits getting real!
It’s quite hard to look back at all the repairs we did, the hours of walking the streets of Rio de Janeiro looking for a tiny bolt or washer, sweating, frustrated, messed around countless times by things being delayed and not feel a sense of disappointment, disillusionment, a bit of heartache at the way it all ended. For 3 weeks we put everything we had to get that boat shipshape and safe for the trip to Cape Town. Was it all worth it? Well, the obvious answer is yes, of course, but we still have heavy hearts as to the way things ended with this boat. She wasn’t ours but we treated her as if she was.
Part 2 of our Rio craziness mentioned that we had a lot to do to make the vessel that we were asked to deliver to Cape Town, seaworthy and safe. I am not going to go into endless details but these are some of the problems we faced:
Toilet – 2 holding, macerators broken, re-routed the shit, pumped out by hand not fun. Eventually gave up on the whole shitty mess and changed back to the original system where everything shot straight out of the boat. The video clip shows the scary moment when we unplugged the bung we had at the bottom of the boat, the seawater gushing in, and a little bit of poop splashing the boys! Yuuuuuuck! However, there was no question about it, the heads HAVE TO be working when you are sailing. Non-negotiable, none of that “you can always use a bucket crap”, NO.
Batteries – 1 x decent deep cycle battery 150 amp-hours. As explained previously, the power on the boat was so low that the engine had to be run for quite a while each day, just to keep basic things charged. Huge waste of diesel. Took forever to order the batteries and then get them delivered. We met a wonderful guy, Matteo, a local who was invaluable in helping us source and order parts. Even he, as a Brazilian, said he was embarrassed by the lack of service in his country!
Solar panels – 2 x 150 watts, again, took forever to source and find someone to deliver to the marina. Eventually had to use the chandlery in the marina to buy the solar panels although slightly more expensive, it would have taken weeks for them to be delivered. There is a 100% import duty charged on all things yachtie related in Brazil. You do NOT want to buy things in Brazil, take as many spare parts and tools as you can, either via boat or via plane. We had one entire suitcase dedicated to tools and gadgets plus my son and co. brought more in their luggage.
Engine – did not always start, faulty starting relay and electrics, fortunately, Captain Mike put his electrical skills to work to try and sort it out and he did. Also had a lot of water surrounding the engine that was alarming. He found the leak at the shaft and fixed that too.
Instruments – Raymarine instruments not working, Captain Mike isolated problem and fixed.
Nav lights – missing, came from SA, replaced.
Genset – gushing oil out through manual oil pump, no power, got Mattheo to look at it with Captain Mike, they battled for days, it worked eventually but was quite temperamental and actually more a frustration than a help. Good to have as a backup for power though even though it was not reliable.
Autopilot – display unit dead, replaced
Invertor – small one on board located it and connected up as this had not been done
Anchor winch – slow and jammed, fixed by patient Captain Mike!
Gas bottles – 2 x empty gas bottles on board, sourced and filled 2 more, quite a feat but we did it. Took a week!
Bilge pumps – float switch electrics faulty, new one brought form SA
Shower pumps – clogged up really badly, spent ages trying to unclog, messy job but had to be done
Water leak – we were losing about 20 litres of water a day, a substantial amount as water is so precious! Once Captain Mike sourced the leak under the sink, he replaced all the pipes and the problem was solved. Please remember that all these little jobs required walking, sometimes quite a distance, to source pipes, washers, etc. Never did find everything we needed in one shop!
Fridges – one completely out of action, a pain in the butt when you have 5 people on board and only one fridge for a crossing!
Deck leaks – we were warned about these by the previous skipper and hosed off the deck a bit to see if we could see any leaks, we didn’t . Boy, were we wrong! When the storm hit us we had water POURING in through every conceivable crack, hatch, porthole, you name it, water gushed in and soaked everyone and everything for hours on end.
Mast – this was the big problem, one of the main reasons we were sent there. Assess and fix mast if necessary. Originally it was thought Mike would be able to fibre-glass the crack and we would be good to sail. On assessing the crack and the state of the mast, the way it had sunk, and the tension on the rigging, he called in a naval architect and his partner who have built boats all their lives. They came out to the boat, inspected, and gave us good advice. After consultation with the owner, it was decided to lift the mast, in the boatyard, and insert a metal plate below the mast. A huge amount of preparation to do this! Hire a crane. Book the boat in. What materials are needed, source them, pay for everything, mostly in cash which involved the local ATM and 3 bank cards to draw our allotted (Brazilian) limit every day. Frustration like you cannot believe to organise.
In the middle of this, we had an unexpected visit from very threatening looking Brazilian coast guards. Men in black shades, cradling mean-looking guns, one came on board, thought he was friendly but he turned out to be a nasty motherplucker. We managed to manoeuvre the boat into the boatyard for the first day, Michael was a tad nervous as its the first time we had actually helmed her. Did it beautifully, like the pro he is. Did fall into the murky water as we were tying up, gave us all a good laugh, and relieved the tension!
However, at 9 that night we were informed that the boat could not stay in the boatyard and had to return to her swing mooring every night. “Friendly” coast guard had instructed them and they were not going to disobey. Huge mission to get the boat back out in the hot sweaty night to a mooring ball we had no idea how to pick up in the dark, fortunately, one of the guys came out and helped us. Bloody Brazilian bureaucracy.
Crack in bulkhead – below deck, this was caused by sinking mast – this formed part of the mast repair and was solidly fibre-glassed by the experts
Boom – cracks close to mast attachment. This little gem presented itself while they were working on the mast, one of the guys spotted the problem. Two-thirds of it had cracked. Huge problem to remove, find someone who could weld it, have it trucked to him and then get it back a week or so later. A complete logistical nightmare.
Life raft – Captain Mike checked it although we were assured by the owner it was serviced when he bought the boat. It wasn’t. No stamp to indicate it had been looked at. Same procedure again, who can service it which means, fetch it, fix it and return it in as short a time as possible? Took 2 weeks to get it back, in fact, it was due to arrive on Friday, 6 December and we would have left port and started our journey but because it “was raining”, it arrived 3 days later and delayed us. Owners accused us of “stalling” leaving Rio, if only they understood our frustration and exhaustion plus the pressure of being responsible for someone else’s boat.
No bedding – took a walk to the local mall and did some shopping. I nearly stuffed that up, the mattresses were extra long and I should have measured, also should have looked up “Queen size” on Google Translate before I went! Shops were hectically busy, everyone going crazy before Christmas but we found a wonderful view from the top floor of the mall and spent some time recovering there, forgot about the boat problems and just enjoyed the moment and appreciating the beautiful city we were in.
Provisioning – this was also a mountain in front of me as I had never needed to provision for 5 people for 6 weeks. I have done a separate article on how to provision, I learnt so much doing this!
Sat phone arrived from SA – a new toy for Captain Mike to play with! This was invaluable when we hit the storm. Nothing like hearing a familiar voice on the end of the line while you are being smashed around barreling down 6-meter waves in 150km winds and torrential nonstop rain! Little did we know how valuable this piece of equipment actually was!
Water – wow, this caused a LOT of discussions! The tanks took 600l which equated to 5 litres per person per day, however, this included water for washing dishes, clothes, and yourself and did not include drinking water, of which we needed 1.5 – 2 litres per day per crew member.
We contemplated 25 l containers strapped to the deck but had to shelve that idea when we looked at the deck. The boat is a racing boat, very little deck space, would block emergency access to the sails in front etc, just wasn’t practical. We sourced water in plastic bottles. I know, I know, against our instinct we had to go with plastic bottles. Lots of them. Not an ideal solution, not an easily made decision. On our own boat, we have a watermaker and bigger tanks, we will not need to be so extreme. At the end of the day, there is obviously no way in hell you can scrimp on water.
Fuel – this was done on the last day, Monday 9 December. We were waiting for the life-raft which had been promised would be delivered, boat water tanks were filled, final fresh provisioning is done by 3 of us and stored, captain Mike organising the drinking water, again, hot, humid, sweat pouring off all of us, sun blasting us from above, pool and showers closed as they spring-clean at the yacht club on Mondays (shit!), nervousness, excitement, tempers really close to the surface for all 5 of us!
Although we were in Rio and everyone thought we were having a glorious time holidaying and partying, it was really a test of our mental strength every day and sometimes we naturally, took it out on each other. The language is really an issue there, the lack of knowledge about where to source a simple tool (they do not have a hardware store, for example, you buy a bolt here and a screwdriver there, never in the same shop!) The frustration, the heat, the vast amounts of money we were spending – Rio is EXPENSIVE -, stressing about the repairs, a lot of pressure on your shoulders when you are repairing a boat that is someone else’s dream, making decisions, trusting your gut, very intense.
My son, Adrian and his new wife, Tana, plus a young, just qualified yacht-master who needed to do an ocean crossing for his next qualification, joined us in Brazil on 3 December.
What a treat to have my “children” with me to experience Rio! We only had a week before we wanted to do sea trials so they all jumped in and helped to get the show on the road. We were waiting for several things to be completed as mentioned above, such as the boom which was still being welded somewhere in the countryside, battery and solar panels installation, gas canisters, tools, safety equipment plus other odds and ends still to be sorted. The week flew by with all the bits that needed to be done, we often went our separate ways with different tasks.
One thing we knew was, we all wanted to do the Statue of Christ tourist thing. Apart from one Sunday when Michael and I visited a local market plus a short trip to check out Copacabana beach, Mike and I spent all our time sorting out boat issues.
Off we went in 2 taxis at 9 am, bloody early for us. Informed us that we can only get up the mountain at 4.50 pm! What the hell, book the tickets, let’s walk around and see what there is to do. What an amazing day! Up a side street, local market, music, caipirinhas, laughter, making memories. Then off to the mountain, the tram, the views, the mist that lifted for us, the lights twinkling below, the stillness, peacefulness. Champagne, toast to life, last people called to “please leave now”, more champers, laughter, chatting to strangers, happiness, love, excitement, back on the boat after a quick pizza at the yacht club, wonderful memories, wonderful day.
The next day was Monday, all the above put in place and off we sail to Ilhe Grande, some 70nm from Rio de Janeiro.
Next post on its way….Ilha Grande, The Atlantic and That Storm.