A sailing blog about a skipper and his yacht

The Cub

For quite a while I had wanted a rigid tender for Sea Bear. Something that would row better and didn’t involve all the faff of inflating  and stowage, preferably one that you could stow on the foredeck. Of course that was a bit of a problem with a small boat- lack of room and of course you wouldn’t want a tender that was too small and would feel unsafe in waves or if you had far to go.

Still I came across a picture of a Vancouver 28 with a rigid dinghy on its foredeck and had an email exchange with the owner so I knew it was feasable. After some research I settled on a Eastport nesting pram dinghy, one that would seperate into two halves – that would make stowage less of a problem. So started the project to build the Cub.

Boat kit

Boat kit

I could have course built it just from plans but an easier option, the one I plumped for was a kit with all the parts pre-cut. It dully arrived and so the build began.  I am fortunate in having a garage so the initial stitch up of the panels with copper wire of the hull took places here. 

hull wired up

Hull wired up

The next stage was epoxying it. Now successful epoxying requires a minimum temperature of at least 16 degrees but it was winter and the garage was cold. I decided that heating the garage was out of the question cost wise. The solution, clear out the living/dining room in the house, spread out a big tarpaulin over the floor and work in there. I was using eco epoxy which has little or no smell or fumes so that was OK.  

epoxying the seams

Epoxying the seams

Gradually it all came together, bulkheads filleted in, seats supports added, gunwales affixed and rubbing strakes and skeg added. Then it was time to give it coats of epoxy inside and out.

complete & ready for sanding

Complete & ready for sanding

The boat is built in one piece and then sawed in half so that it can become a nesting dinghy. A step approached with some trepidation.

sawing in half

Sawing in half

in two halves

in two halves

Before painting and varnishing it all need sanding down and long and arduous process as paint and varnish won’t stick to un-sanded epoxy. 

I made some built in bouyancy from polystyrene foam insulation sheets epoxied together, shaped, sanded, coated with epoxy and painted. 

The final step was painting on the name and so Sea Bear Cub she became.

sea bear cub

I think she looks a pretty little dinghy, let’s see how she performs. 

The completed dinghy

The completed dinghy

Fitting out 2022

I spent a week down at the boat yard. The big job was re-fitting the engine after it’s re-build.  After a clean up of the engine bay and a lick of paint the boat yard hoisted the engine aboard and it dropped straight in place. It was just a matter of refitting the alternator and water pump and connecting everything up. 

After bleeding the fuel system and with a pipe from pump to a bucket and hose pipe at hand we were all ready to start it up. Oops, turning the key and pushing the starter button – nothing. Obviously something wrong. An inspection soon revealed a wire carefully tucked out of the way of for lift-out not connected – soon remedied. Engine fired up – all well – what a relief.

Engine back in – all connected

Of course there were lots of other jobs to do.

Overhauling and re-greasing the furler, re-reeving the running rigging, up the mast to refit the wind instrument, re-fitting the sails and canvas work, plenty of cleaning, waxing the hull, re-greasing seacocks to name but a few. But eventually all done and now just wait for a launch date from the yard. Something to look forward to after all the hard work.

Sea Bear in Yard

Sea Bear in Yard

Rebuilding the engine

This off-season I had decided to tackle the engine. Although over the years it had been pretty reliable it now looked a little tatty, the paint particularly on the rear of the engine was gone with lots of rust showing. I considering getting a new engine, perhaps a beta marine instead of the Yanmar but decided to best thing was to hoik the old Yanmar out, strip it down and inspect it and then make the decision..

Once the boat was out of the water, shored up in the yard, It didn’t take long to disconnect it and then the yard hoisted it out for me and lowered into the back of my trailer. I could take it home and strip it in my garage. It would give me something to do over winter.

The engine before rebuild

First look  made me glad I had taken it out and I was soon stripping it down which revealed a few problems so a list of work and parts needed started. Digital photography is a great boon these days. Quick snaps of the disassembly process with a mobile phone give you a record of how things come apart and even of what they are! It helps  to have a nice spare bench to lay out all the bits in order, grouped together or in separate trays. As work progressed I reckoned that with a rebuild there was no need for a new engine, and the extra work and expense that would entail.

Rocker cover off – spot the missing valve cap

Dismantling the head and lifting off the rocker assembly, I at first thought I had dropped one of the valve caps but close inspection and I realised it had been assembled with one missing. Worse was on removing the injectors, one came out easily enough the other was stuck. Eventually I freed it and then the reason for it’s ‘stuckness’ revealed. It had been assembled without the essential domed top of the injector chamber and heat shield washers. There were some curses for the bodge artist who last had had the engine apart and put it back together with the parts missing. No wonder that it hadn’t been running so smoothly.

Cylinder head before cleaning

The internal water ways in the block and head were badly ‘limed” up so I cleaned these by sealing off the outlets and filling the passages up with cheap white vinegar. This fizzed reassuringly with plenty of bubbles so you knew it was doing it’s work. Flushed out after an overnight soak the passageways were nice and clean.

The block cleaned off and primed

With the block stripped of old paint, wire brushed and de greased, it was time to repaint. What to use? In the end it seemed a choice between tractor enamel or Rustoleum, I opted for Rustoleum as there were favourable comments about it on various forums. 2 coats of primer and 2 of top coat were used and the rest of the engine parts similarly treated. The resulting colour was a little more silvery than the original Yanmar paint. Time will tell if it is nicely durable.

Repainted block & head

Gradually the engine went back together, a new oil seal behind the flywheel, valves ground in, a new external oil pipe, new valve oil seals and cap, new injector nozzles, the correct ignition chamber parts and some other bits. I even built a sort of frame for the trailer to which I could bolt the engine so it didn’t slide around when I would take it back to the yard. By the end of January it was all done, ready to fit back in the boat. That would wait until later when the days were a little longer and hopefully warmer.

Engine on frame in trailer

Not (quite) all work no play

They say a man can’t live by work alone so it’s not been all work and no play. More work on Sea Bear yes, a SS bash plate for the bow. I thought the existing anchor a little on the light side so a new 15kg Manson supreme anchor with 50 m of 8mm graduated chain and 50m of 14mm anchorplait rode to complete the new anchoring arrangement. I replaced a lower shroud which was mysteriously bent. Stripped re-painted and re-assembled the pumps for the heads and cleaned and regreased the seacocks. Stripped and overhauled all 8 winches.

Bash plate

Bash plate

For a break I headed north in the van up to Maitai bay on the Karikari peninsular. I had been there before but such a beautiful place and good campsite it was worth a second visit. A lovely spot for a swim and I also took a long walk along a deserted beach then a track up to Tapakakeno hill with great views up and down the coast.

Maitai Bay

Maitai Bay

I also visited Puheke beach and walked up Mt Puheke again good views. I hadn’t been my intention but I found myself drawn to visit Cape Reinga, almost the most northerly point of North Island. It is wild empty country up there.

Cape Reinga

Cape Reinga

A steepish gravel road for which NZ is famous for took me to a campsite at Tapotupotu beach.

Tapotupotu campsite

Tapotupotu campsite

Next morning it rained so I headed back south but stopped awhile at the Te Paki giant sand dunes, the rain stopped and I had an exhausting climb up the highest dune, one step up then sliding backwards in soft sand.

Te Paki sand dunes

Te Paki sand dunes

Resumed working on the boat, much cleaning, some revarnishing. I fitted some lazy jacks to help handle what would be a very slippery and stiff new mainsail. Refitted the stripper rope cutter to the propshaft. Rebuilt the spare autopliot with new drive belts. Eyespliced a chain hook to a length of 3strand rope for an anchor strop. Stripped and greased furling system.
Checking over the engine, I replaced the water pump hoses, decided I needed a new water pump for it. Took off the monitor self steering for a crack in the tubing to be repaired.
More cleaning, cutting back and polishing the gelcoat of the topsides and cabin so Sea Bear looking much better.

Starting to think of the coming sailing season it was time to review my stock of charts. Another trip in the campervan down to Auckland to visit the chart agent and buy some charts and pilot books. I took the opportunity to visit the Waitakere Ranges to the west of Auckland, I had been rained off here last year. It was a shame that quite a few of the tracks were closed due to Kauri dieback disease but did get a nice walk in through the forest. Off then to Piha beach, a great west coast beach famous for its surf, Walked up Lion rock.

Piha Beach from Lion Rock

Piha Beach from Lion Rock

Another walk up the Kitekite valley to get to the Kitekite falls. The plunge pool at the bottom was just too inviting so a bathe was taken – refreshing the verdict.

Kitekite falls

Kitekite Falls

Next stop was Karekare beach, a short walk through trees to the black sand beach. The sand was just too hot for my bare feet. It’s a big empty beach with wild surf and dangerous rip currents so I didn’t swim here. Back over to the East coats and Snell’s beach then up to Goat Island marine reserve. The idea was to swim with the fishes but soon after arrival a rain squall turned up, heavy rain and a choppy sea. A section of gravel track over the hill took me back northwards, this one not dry and dusty but muddy slippy and running with water and it rained all the way back to Whangarei and most of the next day too.
Good weather soon returned though, it is still very warm here in the day, still shorts and vest weather but you can feel a gradually change of the seasons, the nights are drawing in and the odd morning is a little chilly at first.

I thought that by now I would have already been back afloat, but there is still awhile until the end of the southern cyclone season and the time to sail away from NZ. Most of the work is now done on the boat but there are always little jobs like checking the navigation lights still work – ah well then lets check the deck plugs, ah a bit of corrosion, a broken wire sounds simple but takes hours to fix, my soldering iron is not working so a visit to the second hand tool shop for one, new plug needed – off to the chandelery for one, before you know it the day has gone.
I swarmed up the mast today to check all the standing rigging swages, clevis pins and split pins and lubricate the halyard sheaves. The climbing know how helps here and a harness and a shunt on a tied off halyard makes it safe enough.

A rear gantry for Sea Bear

Sea Bear now has a rear arch fitted. A process that started way back in April has now come to fruition. I had a local fabricator make me up a stainless steel tubular structure which is now fitted in place.

New rear gantry fitting

New rear gantry fitting

Next step is to mount a solar panel on it.

Back in the water.

At last after much work over the winter Sea Bear is back in the water. The stormy weather of the early part of the winter had delayed progress a little, but now just about all jobs were done. As well as the usual maintenance, the old standing rigging had been replaced, a new furlex fitted, and whilst the mast was down I had mast steps fitted and some clutches to make halyard control better, the old jammers on the coach roof which had proved not so good at jamming, were also replaced with clutches.

refurbished cockpit

The refurbished cockpit

The teak laid cockpit seats had been refurbished and looked like new. The CQR anchor had been relegated to backup duties by a new Mason Supreme anchor, we were getting all modern and up to date you see. Below decks, the old engine mounts, one of which was well and truly shot, had been replaced. I had fitted a new AIS transponder and replaced the depth and log instruments with more modern versions and all internal light bulbs replaced with LEDs and finally a water filter fitted for the drinking water.

In the boat yard ready & waiting for launch.

In the boat yard ready & waiting for launch.

It was now just a matter  of getting her put back in the water. I’ll confess I find launch day about the most stressful day in the sailing year. It’s not just the hoist but what the weather will be like, the waiting and have you remembered everything.

Craned into the dock

Craned into the dock