Non straight stainless straightening and slicing.

That's the feet off.

20th July 2023

Nanajuana Boat Yard, Rio Dulce, Guatemala.

In Cuba, not content with just harming our hull, the catamaran’s calamitous captain had also done untold damage to the stainless structures of Ruffian. The gantry* was bent into unholy angles, the footings deformed and the davits wibbled and wobbled. Now, under Arturo’s expert eye it was time to straighten the stainless.

Like all boat jobs, preparation is the key to success and knowing that Arturo was going to turn up armed with hacksaws, angle grinders and a significant will to remove the gantry, we got ready. Through the boat cables were traced,removed and labelled, while outside aerials , antennas and sensors were detached. Then Arturo and his band of merry men arrived.

The first we knew of his presence was the shrill sound of hacksaws working their way through the stainless like hot knives through butter. In no time the feet had been removed and we were now really committed to this course of action.

With the feet removed, more angle grinders spun into action. Sparks flew and bit by bit each weld was cut through revealing the inner confines of the gantry. Throughout all this serious metalworking we were heartened to see that Arturo took health and safety seriously. Those potentially flammable flip flops were replaced by bare feet, everyone looked cool with their sunglasses protecting their eyes and when working at height, simple balance negated the need for anything else.

The gantry finally succumbed to gravity and fell to the ground. The true extent of the damage could then be seen. The feet had deformed catastrophically, the 2 inch steel bent like rubber and welds had worked and cracked. It could have been so much worse, but it was still incredibly bad.

The removal of the gantry and the davits, exposed parts of Ruffian that hadn’t seen the light of day for years. This was the opportunity we needed to clean, refresh, revarnish and reseal things that we hope will not be seen again for a long time and spelt a whole new list of jobs that were not on our already extensive jobs list.

Just as the last coats of varnish were dry and the last of the ancient sealant removed Arturo turned up with new feet and a newly fabricated aft gantry all ready to attach to the front half**. The welds he’d made looked perfect the the joins were nearly invisible. It was now time for him to calculate compound angles, measure to locations in the middle of space and create a level were nothing is square and even. His expert eye negated all of this, the grinder was applied, quickly followed by his TiG welder,the gantry was fixed in place and looked amazing.

Although we thought the gantry looked happy Arturo felt it needed some ‘workshop time’ and so whisked it off in the back of his pickup to make the final welds, polish every surface and make it complete. In this transportation his view of H & S continued as his crew jumped into the back of his pickup and held the metalwork as he bounced along the unmade roads.

With the whole structure away we could now properly examine the underside of the deck and access the damage to the backing plates and deck. The backing plates had taken a huge load and done their job. That massive load had been distributed, the deck had been saved, but any semblance of structural integrity in the backing plates had been destroyed. Backing plates were then replaced, stronger than ever, thinner than ever and neater than ever.

Its starting to feel like we are turning a corner as its simply not possible to deconstruct Ruffian any more. All those balls we are juggling around stainless, glasswork, woodwork, mechanics and logistics are being held in the air but none of this is fun and its all thanks to the catarmaran’s calamitous captain.

* Gantry or solar arch to our non-English speaking readers.

** It had been decided during negotiations with the insurance company that the forward half the gantry could be saved, and only the back half would have to be rebuilt.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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