Beavering in the Boatyard - Florida, USA

10th January - 10th May 2012

Back in Green Cove Springs Marina, we were on a mission. Anju had to be pulled out of the storage yard where she'd sat for 18 long months. We were hoping to bring her back up "to scratch" after the months of neglect and had four months to do it in!

A major clean inside and out was the first thing required. Hoards of ant carcasses, the odd cockroach carcass and plenty of green slime were removed from the deck and cockpit thanks to our friend John's pressure washer. Luckily the bug bodies were confined to the outside of the boat and not too plentiful. This was probably helped by our resident lizard, named Eddie L'izard, who had taken up residence under the windlass cover!

Eddie wasn't the only local wildlife. One day we got an excellent view of the boatyard's resident osprey devouring a fish as he perched precariously on the tip of the mast of a moored boat.

Reaching the other side of the pond!

Eddie L'izzard

Osprey wondering how to raise the fish to his mouth without falling off!

Once Anju had been thoroughly cleaned, our first task was to strip everything off the masts, which had been lying in the yard throughout the storage period. They badly needed repainting, re-wiring, re-rigging and whatever other issues we might find once we started. We removed, measured and labelled all the wire standing rigging and set to work to find a supplier to replace it all. Enquiries were made nationwide and conveniently the cheapest quote we got was just an hour down the road in Gainesville. We drove over to check out the quality of their work and get the new rigging on order.

Scraping paint off the spreaders - glamorous work.

So where do you want them?

While you're up their Dennis, don't forget the TV antenna!

In the meantime we scraped, chipped and sanded the old, flaky paint off the masts and applied new paint to both masts, the spreaders and booms before reassembling the lot, ready for the crane. Time was of the essence as the only local crane large enough to re-fit the masts whilst the boat was in the yard was leaving the area very shortly.

There was some stress and frustration but eventually our new rigging was ready for collection. Everything prepared, the crane arrived and thanks to the assistance of the guys in the yard, particularly Dennis' monkey-man antics at the top of the mast, Anju got her shiny clean masts back, complete with new VHF antenna and a new TV antenna.

Relieved that the masts were back in place before the deadline, we decided to treat ourselves to what turned out to be our only "time off" in four months of hard work, 7 days a week, 10 hours a day!

It wasn't to be a restful break, we headed down to Naples, a drive of 350 miles south, to visit Eugene and Kirsten, who we'd last seen in Tobago seven years earlier. We also had chance to lunch with Dan and Carmel our other friends in the area and catch up with their news too.

I think it's time for a break!

On the Beach with Kirsten and Eugene

Lunch at Tommy Bahama's with Eugene, Kirsten, Dan and Carmel.

Early Monday morning we were back "at work". Somehow a new project was added to our job list. In order to make more space in the cockpit helm position and allow a seat to be installed (what a luxury!), we decided the aft cabin door had to be removed. It was a large cumbersome and heavy wooden door which we decided could be replaced with a hatch in the cabin roof. This would improve ventilation and light in the bedroom whilst doubling as an emergency exit.

It's always a daunting prospect taking a circular saw to your boat, as they say "the first cut is the deepest" (and scariest). In only two days the hole was cut, the hatch installed and Harry could weld up the doorway.

It's foggy in here!

Our next challenge was, with the help of welder buddy Harry, to remove the existing doghouse and construct a new, bigger, better protective enclosure for our cockpit. This would give us the luxury of being able to stand up straight and stay dry when sailing. With the old one, we always had to choose one or the other! Of course the project began with us dismantling half of the saloon of the boat to remove the insulation to prevent fire during cutting and welding. This didn't stop it getting pretty smoky in the boat when the plasma cutter came aboard! With the plasma cutter it took no time at all to remove the old doghouse.

Hats-Off to Harry!

OK now what?

Cutting out the first piece from sheet steel

Well that's one bit done...

We had a rough design in mind but, as always with a boat which is not necessary exactly symmetrical, and in Anju's case definitely not, our plan was tweaked as we worked tacking the framework together. Our plan was revised from having two large windows in the front to three, adding strength and after about a week of cutting, welding and grinding our doghouse was in place. We got to work painting it, lining the inside of the roof with insulation and glazing it with acrylic sheet. Once the doghouse was finished, it only took us three weeks to learn to duck as we climbed inside. We eventually learned that steel is very unforgiving to skulls! Many braincells may have been harmed in the learning process!

Getting there, time for the roof. All we need is something to weigh it down to make the curve. Step up volunteer number one!

Harry, my shoes melted! I'm stuck to the roof!

Let loose the crazy woman with her angle grinder.

New doghouse, all finished.

At some point during the welding work, the resident crazy woman decided it was high time to remove all the blue paint which had covered Anju's topsides in thick layers for many years. This led her to spend a precarious month perched high on scaffolding generously lent to us by "Bottom Dave", without whom this task would not have been possible. Our nickname of the "woodpeckers" was back, as we chipped, scraped and ground the old paint off the hull. As this tedious work progressed inch by inch, many people offered suggestions. Strangely nobody offered to take up a scraper of their own!

Finally after a month, Anju was stripped bare, Christine was three-quarters insane and Phil set to work to apply new paint!

Patching up the waterline.

Stop reminding me about the other half!

Of course, once the hull was shiny, the deck had to be repainted!

Painting (thanks Luc for the photo).

Hull and deck freshly painted.

John from Raven had been working on his boat during our time in the yard and we'd become good buddies. His technical metalworking know-how helped us out on many occasions. We shared our woes and ideas at daily happy hour as our projects progressed. As the time for us to head back to the UK approached he invited us to have dinner with him and his wife Leanna.

We drove over to his house in Jacksonville in Harvey the RV and drove into the spot where he wanted us to park. Unfortunately Harvey's large bodywork was not taken into account in the process and somehow we ended up wedged between the garage and the porch. Much sweat, stress and skilful manoeuvring of Harvey by driver Phil and half an hour later Harvey was liberated. It was definitely time for a beer which we enjoyed with a great steak dinner at a nearby watering hole!

Dinner with Leanna and John

Our prolonged stay in the yard gave us the chance to catch up with Dean and Nancy from Pegasus, who spent a couple of weeks working long hours on their own boat. Once they launched we enjoyed a celebratory dinner together on their boat. It was great to be back on a boat that was actually in the water, even if it wasn't exactly floating as Pegasus sat stuck in the thick Green Cove Springs mud!

Our departure date was upon us and it was time for Anju to return to storage until our planned launch in January 2013. For the first time she was to be moved on the yard's new hydraulic tractor and trailer. We duly moved everything we'd need for our road trip when we got back onto Harvey and watched her make her way slowly and cautiously back to the appropriately named "Australia" storage area. It's tradition that she resides there when stored now, being the only genuine Australian in residence!

Now all that remained was to pack our bags and enjoy Harvey-the-RV's air conditioning until it was time to head for the airport. We sat inside enjoying a cup of tea when something really strange happened. A driver-less car passed backwards right by our window and kept going until it slammed into the rudder of a nearby boat. Apparently the delivery driver hadn't left his automatic vehicle in "park" while he delivered his parcel.

Anju on her way back to "Australia".

Our trip back to the UK was not uneventul either. As we arrived in Atlanta's busy airport and took to train to our departure terminal, the train suddenly came to a halt and we were all told to disembark. The whole terminal where we were due to catch our plane was sealed off due to a security alert. Thousands of bewildered passengers milled around, not knowing how long they would be marooned between terminals. Being familiar with Atlanta's airport, having spent many long hours wasting time there between flights, we headed back to one of the other terminal buildings. Here we had an excellent view of the Air France plane surrounded by a sea of blue flashing lights. Oh well, if we weren't going to get on a plane, we may as well have a snack! However we were just finishing our sandwiches when the terminal was re-opened, so we could catch our flight.

In the UK the excitement wasn't over. We'd booked our train tickets in advance and arrived early enough to collect them and make it onto a train an hour earlier than we'd expected. However the ticket collector on board wasn't very friendly and even though we'd got away with this in the past, she told us either to buy a new ticket for the train we were on or get off the train, spend an hour in Shrewsbury, the next stop and get onto the train we were booked on! Well, we'd heard Shrewsbury is nice that time of year!!

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