24/05/2020 0 By Chris Phillips

As with my last post, I write having recently returned from the wilds of Argyll and Bute after another successful week’s work on Meander’s latest little refit.  Again I had the company of my parents, Lyn and John, and also we were joined this time by a newcomer to Meander’s life, Brandt Steyn.  Brandt is a young Australian of South African extraction who sailed with Lord Nelson when we were Down Under, and who is currently doing the rounds in Europe before deciding what he wants to do with his life.  Like a fool, he volunteered his services for my week on Meander, and I took him up on the offer.  Once again, we had taken a wee cottage at the nearby Barcaldine House, so accommodating the extra bod was easy enough.  Dr and Mrs Steyn, if you are reading this, he was very well-behaved, and was a great help on the boat (in fact, he’s quite good at painting, so if you need the house redecorating…).

It was good to see that our man in Oban had done a good job of securing the engine and aligning it to the shaft, having first replaced the standard sump with the shallow version so the lump would fit in the space available.  So for most of the week, John and I were working on the peripherals of the engine; he reinsulated the engine compartment whilst I relined the port cockpit locker to allow a more efficient use of the space (more room to dump stuff and things).  His job involved getting covered in sticky glue whilst getting high on the fumes, whilst mine involved being folded up in the cockpit locker, occasionally upside-down.

A poor photo of the new engine installation

Once those two jobs were completed, we tackled the fuel system, which had received a large amount of attention in order to improve the filtering capability.  You can just see at the back of the photo a white board with two primary filters / water separators, and these can be lined up individually, so if one is dirty, you can switch to the other.  Unfortunately, in order to connect this lot, the diesel tank had to be emptied, which involved much faffing about with different sized containers and syphon pumps, but luckily we just had sufficient temporary storage capacity in 2 jerry cans and a big red bucket to take all the fuel whilst we disconnected the old (leaky) outlet pipe and installed the new shiny one.  Once this was in place, and the main shut-off valve installed and shut, we could then transfer the fuel back into the tank.  Not wishing to tempt fate, but it seems the additive I put in the fuel (Fuel Set) is very effective – the diesel looked pretty clean with no sludge coming out, and no sign of water either.  Then, once this difficult bit was finished, which involved lots of being upside-down in the cockpit locker, John was able to complete the fuel system whilst I did other things.

The electrics, of course, also had to be connected, prompting possibly the most comical moment of the week.  The battery connections are in a quite awkward position low down on the port side of the engine block.  Access to this is best from the locker under the cooker in the galley, which itself can be entered (at least head and shoulders, and a couple of arms too, if you get the sequence right) from the port cockpit locker.  When calling out for her youngest son, Lyn received the disembodied response: “I’m under the cooker”.  If you could see how small the access to this space is from the galley itself, you would understand just how funny that might have sounded…

Whilst all the contortions and shenanigans were going on in and around the engine compartment, Lyn and Brandt were on prepping and painting duties (Brandt, incidentally, intends to start a Merchant Navy cadetship soon, so I feel I have done him a favour by starting his training early); the list of things to paint was quite long: the deck; the cockpit; the bulwarks; the hull; the spars to be varnished (all 6 of them, not including spinnaker pole and newly-acquired whisker pole).  When we arrived at the boat on the first day, the weather had gone from very cold and dry the day before to mild and damp, so absolutely everything was dripping with condensation – not a condition conducive to coatings remaining stuck to their substrates.  However, as the week progressed things got drier, and we (mainly Brandt and Lyn, with a little help from me) managed to get the deck, cockpit and inboard side of the bulwarks painted, and the spars prepped for the 4 coats or so of varnish that they require.  The topsides also received some attention, with a few cracks filled and the resulting bare areas sanded and primed, before receiving a spot coat of topcoat, along with any other bits where the paint had failed or got thin.  This is now ready for a full coat on my return in the Spring.

Freshly painted cockpit

The new propeller (very exciting) was temporarily fitted in order to ensure the engine was in the right place; this now needs to be removed again (unfortunately I was unable to do this as I didn’t have a puller with me) to ensure all is well with the shaft taper and key before I can fit it permanently.  Most of the internal fittings are now back in place after the coachroof job in the summer, with just a few remaining, including the curtain poles of which I had difficulty making head or tail when I looked at them this time…

Brandt in snow

After a successful week (on the whole), we awarded ourselves a day off on the last day, which was a beautiful clear and crisp one.  This was so we could show Brandt some of the stunning surrounding countryside, and we went to Glencoe just up the road.  We had some chilly fun going up the chairlift to the ski station, having a compulsory snowball fight and sledding down a hill, scattering children and dogs as we went.  Apparently they don’t get much snow on Kangaroo Island, so this was all quite new to my Antipodean apprentice.

So what about this year?  I plan to get Meander back into the water in late April or early May, having completed the last bits of work and commissioned the engine.  Rerigging will take a couple of days afloat, as I have just purchased a brand new furling gear for the jib (also very exciting), and will need to fit that, as well as making a few running mods as I bend on the various sails – things I have thought of to improve the ease of management of the boat under sail.  I hope to have a reasonable length of leave in June / July to take her for a good few weeks’ sailing, maybe trying once again for St Kilda, or maybe Orkney this time – who knows?  Obviously I’ll be crying out for crew again, so sort out some holiday and join me – or send me your young relatives who have nothing better to do with their summer holidays!  After this season, I’m starting to get bigger ideas – nothing concrete yet, but some ocean sailing maybe leading to a long-term project.  Watch this space…