Chapter 109

Holiday Leave for the Brisbane to Noumea Race

This year I ended up with two extra assignments at work. Firstly I was to be the Department’s representative on a committee preparing a submission for the Royal Commission into grain handling, storage and transport. The Department’s interest in this went as far as estimates for marine works for channel dredging, wharf construction etc., and attendance at meetings to ensure the tight time-table for the report was met. Secondly I ended up Chairman of Organising Committee for the second Ports and Harbours and Offshore Engineering Conference to be held in Brisbane, October 25-27 in 1988.

This arose from Hector McDonald, who was Senior Engineer Beach Protection with the Department, he was also on the National Committee of the Institution of Engineers Australia who ran and organised these conferences through a local group, and I ended up with the job. Regular meetings were held and a conference organiser attended from the Institution from Canberra as they financed the conference and there were set procedures to be met, such as finding a suitable venue, advertising the conference and a call for papers, time slots to submit synopsis and select, or reject it, then another time slot for the paper in full to be forwarded and printed and be available for the conference. I was like the mail box and had the Department’s full backing. We ended up with an Engineer from Harbour Works as secretary, Chris being in my section and a member from Port of Brisbane Authority; as well there were several Consulting Engineers who specialised in marine projects. The new Hilton Hotel was selected and met Head Office approval and the conference was set for October 25to to 27th, 1988.
There was talk about early retirement coming in soon so this gave me a good time to plan retiring and go sailing after the conference, leaving before Christmas, 1988. I would be 59 in January 1989 and was still in good health and enjoying the boating life, so If I was going to Noumea this year I needed a new mainsail and ordered one. The new mainsail made a big difference and now we could point into the wind and really sail. There was the regular trip at week-ends down the Bay and then Oscar and I took the boat to Doboy Creek to be slipped. When the boat was up on the slip and the hull dry I noticed a weep of water about 150mm up from the keel on the starboard side amidships. It could easily have been missed, but on checking the inside of the keel in the saloon area there remained about 150 mm. of salt water in the keel as bilge water, so it looked like electrolysis. The 40 gallon steel water tank in the bilge was too large to get out of the saloon, but I was able to get it up clear of the water. The tar epoxy treatment had broken down and there were four pits into the hull side from 1mm. to 2mm.deep. The hull thickness was 5mm. As it was a week-end I finished doing the anti-fouling and on the Monday I had John Gilbert oxy cut the tank in the saloon to permit its removal. Rust in the corners of the tank showed it was at the end of its useful life. John welded up the four pit holes and I applied more tar epoxy. If this occurred here, then what was happening under the engine with two tanks in the keel?
I decided the problem was too serious to ignore and had to be checked thoroughly and I cancelled the plans of sailing to Noumea. I put Rebecca on the slip again to check under the engine. So back we went to Kangaroo Point. The recreation leave I had approved was used for this investigation, so on Saturday, 30th May, Rebecca was back on the slip. It meant removing the steering pedestal and steering lay shaft, dropping the rudder and removing the cockpit floor, disconnecting the gear box from the propeller shaft at the flexible coupling and raising the motor into the cockpit. To remove the two tapered tanks, it was necessary to cut the top corner of the rear tank to clear the stern gland and then a halyard was used from the mast head to lift the tanks out of the bilge. These two tanks were rusted in the corners and now unserviceable. It was a messy, dirty job cleaning out the bilge, but you could get down into it and see what was happening and a break down in epoxy left several pit holes in a row. I decided to cut out the pitted plate about300 x 75mm and weld in a new plate, then seal off the area under the engine with a steel plate with plugs installed to permit filling or emptying this area. The affected areas and surfaces were primed and painted with tar epoxy. The rudder was reconnected and steering refitted and we were back in the water Saturday, 7th June, rafted alongside Flamingo. I had bought four new engine mounts and though they were the same brand I found the stern one fouled the starter motor, so I had to cut one back to size and elongate holes in the feet of the mounts. Goleby & Bain came and did an engine service and checked the alignment of the engine. On Friday, 13th June, I fixed the floor in place and headed for Manly when Ian arrived to take me to the Gold Coast for a week-end……….some holiday!