28th July 2023
Nanajuana Boat Yard, Rio Dulce, Guatemala.
When Roadrunner tricks the masterful Wile E. Coyote into a tunnel the lucky critter can always see the light at the end. Unfortunately, as the cunning Roadrunner gives his cheerful ‘meep meep’, that light isn’t an escape to utopia, its an incoming freight train that pulverises poor Mr Coyote into a pancake only to be fixed in the ACME hospital. After weeks of Ruffian being deconstructed and pulled to bits we think we are now seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, but that light might just be a freight train hurtling towards us.
The tunnel was feeling very dark and forbidding as we embarked on the cabinetry stage of our fix. In getting ready for Jose more deconstruction took place as head-linings were removed, lights disconnected and raw glass and ancient crumbling foam exposed. The aft cabin was now another area of chaos. Full of confidence and skill Jose entered this chaos, assessed the damage, got out his angle grinder, and a big chisel; Ruffian started screaming under his attention. The sounds of splintering wood and pounding chisels filled the air as bits of teak, plywood and veneer littered the floor all around.
With each strike of the hammer more damage was exposed and we felt that we’d be hit by a freight train at any moment. What looked like superficial damage hid a crack that snaked its way under glass, into a locker and disappeared into inaccessible parts of Ruffian. This was a scenario we dreaded as our thoughts revisited the pain of insurance companies, quotes, and maritime lawyers. All work was stopped, but that freight train continued along the tracks.
Under the expert eye of surveyors, boat builders and carpenters our fears faded and a plan formed allowing work to continue. The sound of breaking wood was now replaced by the smell of newly cut timber and curing epoxy. Wood was scarfed between the old and the new, epoxy gave a bond stronger than steel and with clever use multiple layers of thin sections of joinery Ruffian was starting to return to her strong former self. She was lacking in beauty and refinement but, in time, these will come.
It started to feel as if there might be light at the end of the tunnel as the Solar Arch and Davits were nearing completion. Hopping out of the back of a bouncy pickup at Arturo’s workshop the arch was taking pride of place. Every weld and joint had been polished to a high gloss, every cable had been traced back in and routing wire left in place to pull more cables through. His eye for detail was impeccable; any exposed surface had been protected, holes had been counter sunk and every sharp edge chamfered. The refurbished arch was a work of art.
With the impending arrival of all this steelwork work progressed at speed on Ruffian. Above deck rough footings were glassed, faired, filled and finished while underneath surfaces were exposed cleaned and readied. Any wood was covered in liberal coatings of Cetol, brackets cleaned and readied for installation and space cleared awaiting Arturo’s arrival.
Right on cue the arch trundled into the yard being supported by Arturo’s happy crew and was hoisted onto Ruffian. The holes in the deck lined up perfectly with those in the feet of the arch and bolts slid though with the gentlest of touches. With liberal use of the marine sealant*, backing plates that were strong enough to support an elephant on a trapeze, and bolts that were tightened up to the ideal torque; the arch was on. It was straight, strong and unyielding.
Using the same uncompromising approach the davits were then attached. Their wobble was gone, all play had been removed, they were square to each other and looked like they’d never been the victim of the brutal bashing from the 50ft French catamaran.
It’s starting to feel as if the light that we can see at the end of the tunnel is not an oncoming freight train and we’re not going to be squished like Wile E. Coyote. This could all change as we might exit the tunnel, feel like were free, only for an ACME anvil to land on us in true Roadrunner style.
* 3m 4000 UV, tough flexible and semi-permanent and designed for the marine environment
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