Working with friends.

Out with the old. In with the new.

18th August 2021

Portimão, Portugal – Portimão Boatyard, Portugal

People often ask what we did for work. In the corporate world we could reply with lines such as ‘Helping organisations drive efficiencies, reduce risks and increase operational effectiveness through smart technologies’. This week if someone asked what we did for work we’d reply by saying ‘Grafting from dawn till dusk, in searing temperatures, using hazardous chemicals in order to allow Ruffian to safely venture offshore.’ In comparison to our new work, corporate life has never felt so easy, clean and cool.

Before Ruffian’s bottom had even started drying, she was being treated with care and love by all those around her. As the strops from the hoist were put under her, she was raised and lowered time after time with the utmost attention to get them in the perfect place, thereby allowing her to be placed in the corner of the cleanest, most orderly and spacious yard we’ve ever been in.

As soon as the last of the chocks were hammered into place securing Ruffian to land, the hard work of organisation started paying dividends. People swarmed around Ruffian like bees around honey, taking to their jobs and working to our tight deadlines*. Chief among these was Joao Neto, who instantly proved himself to be the master of everything he purveyed.

Within the blink of an eye Joao had made a jig to push out the cutlass bearing, whipped off the prop, undone everything inside and disappeared with our shaft, leaving us the brain numbing and hand cutting job of removing the pesky barnacles that had welded themselves to everything.

In the morning, as the searing sun was just peeking over the horizon Joao returned with good news. The shaft was straight and we could commence with lining everything up. Like a surgeon tackling a tricky complex operation he took to the engine bay and taught us the intricacies of lining everything up. As we spun the shaft the engine was lifted by mere millimetres and distances were measured in thousandths. Scientifically the coupling bolts were undone and done up, the excess movement came down and down until the magic gauge read nearly zero, Joao, ever the perfectionist, was nearly happy and Iain and Fiona were nearly educated.

The jobs on the spreadsheet were slowly being ticked off with Ruffian being painted and polished, rams being drilled and fitted and steering cabled greased and tensioned. All these jobs were completed in the hottest week of the year as heathland fires burnt around us and with a big day in the middle. Fiona’s birthday.

Fiona was in for a big treat on her special day. Things started out with the poo pipe experience where she opted to remove the built up of calcium (Uric scale) from the pipes that lead directly from the loo, but respite was due as everyone we knew in Portimão arrived to give moral support and sing happy birthday to the stares of everyone in the yard.

In the salubrious surroundings of Ruffian’s shadow, surrounded by dust and grime, gifts were opened, bottles popped and cool, cool orange juice was supped. The break couldn’t however continue as Fiona had the birthday solar panel experience to complete.

As the legendary Neil and Rod imparted their knowledge and expertise to us the power generation systems on Ruffian were transformed. The, once cutting edge, old solar panels were removed and bigger shinier, more powerful ones put in their place. Controllers were changed, wiring upgraded and suddenly huge amounts of free energy flew into Ruffian. Moving from 140 W to 430W will have a revolutionary impact on our lives.

The solar power wasn’t going to be the only revolution to our lives, we are also due to get our Covid vaccine, which would not only give us immunity from a deadly pandemic, but also and more importantly a Covid vaccine passport. Walking into the vaccination centre we were suddenly part of a streamlined process. We were whisked from checkpoint to checkpoint and then the moment was upon us. The needle went in, the magic juice injected and out we went. This seemed like such a simple solution to such a big problem, and it’s taken such a long time to get here.

The next job to get tackled was replacing our heavy, long, unwieldy and rusty anchor chain. The challenge of how to get the new one to Ruffian from the chain shop, which happened to be in a different country, while the whole of the Algarve was alight with heathland fires. To the rescue came Jill and the power of the Vauxhall Insignia.

Weaving our way around the fires with helicopters swooping overhead and planes dropping water payloads, Jill expertly guided us into Spain. In true Spanish fashion we loaded the car up, the chain snaked out of the shop, over a busy pavement, and onto the roundabout where amazingly we’d found a parking space**.

Returning through the forest fires we once again took our lives in our hands and this time saw the impact they were having. The skies were turned dark by the smoke, the side of the motorway was burning around us and firemen worked frantically to damp things down. Into the distance we could see mile after mile of charred landscape and felt the shattered lives of the farmers and wildlife who’d been so badly impacted.

With a flurry of last jobs being ticked off the painting was finished, new seacock installed, through hull bonded and we were ready for launch. Ruffian was slipped into the slings and she retraced her steps back to the sea.  

Lowering us into the water we had lots to check to ensure that the sea was being kept outside. Rushing around we confirmed that the new anode pins were secure and dry, seacocks were not seeping and then we checked the engine bay. Facing a torrent of water gushing through the new shaft seal Iain got out the tools while Fiona talked pigeon Portuguese to the hoist operator and got Ruffian raised out of the water again. Grub screws were undone, bellows compressed and we were lowered again. Disaster was averted and Ruffian was dry.

All the hard work of grafting from dawn till dusk, in searing temperatures, using hazardous chemicals will allow us to safely venture offshore, but none of this would have been possible without the amazing friends we have in Portimão and the incredible skills we found in Joao Neto and Vas from Slickhull.

*Everyone we spoke to thought that we were hopelessly optimistic in having a 7-day turnaround.

** When we say parking space we actually mean that we simply abandoned the car on the roundabout and felt the honks and looks we got were all in appreciation of our good luck.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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