Updated: Apr 7
After deciding we liked the boat and wanted to buy her, the next step was to have her professionally surveyed - primarily for insurance purposes but also for our peace of mind.
We had not seen below the waterline and, if onboard was anything to go by, we'd be in for some work here too. The big concern for us was whether the survey would shed light on any additional "issues" that would have to be dealt with before we could sail... From the images and video walk-through, Adam had supplied, the pre-departure work-list was alreday pretty extensive so we were hoping not to add any additional items. Having said this, research indicated that below waterline issues on Vag 47s were few; hull make-up seems to preclude many issues related to osmosis which would be great NOT to have to deal with, however, rudders and their bearings seemed to suffer less well... Then there were the skin fittings and a shaft bearing to look out for too... Not to mention the engine, standing rigging, sails and...
I flew out the night before, via Barcelona...
... and arrived on the morning of the survey...
I arrived at the broker's office and was taken to Flying Cloud. The hoist was booked for 1100 and it was now 0930. The only problem, I was told, was that the engineers had been unable to start the engine - an elderly Ford Lehman 2712E... Not the best start... I said I'd take a look, see if I could get her to 'see reason' but before I could do that I noticed that the helm wheel was missing. With or without an engine, we'd need that rudder working ! I found the wheel but no woodruff key to locate it to its shaft ! To add a wee bit of pressure, the surveyor was arriving at 1200 and the 'marineros' (the boat-yard workers) knocked off for lunch at the same time... and took their siesta till 1600. Bloody hell !!
I searched high and low for the woodruff key to no avail. There was, however, a pretty good toolkit on board and an Allen key fitted the wheel / shaft slot just fine... well, fine enough to get us to the hoist... Then the marineros arrived and, no time to spare, Flying Cloud was rather ignominiously and unceromoniously dragged over to the ship hoist.
Not quite the auspicious / problem-free first meeting / start I had hoped for...
To cut a long story short; the lfit out, the survey, the hoist back in and the tow back to her berth went without any unforeseen issues... except, being ashore and propped up, I was unable to chase the engine non-start issue.
The out-of-water part of the survey (including Infra-red hull scans) was complete...
Tomorrow was going to be turn for the on-board systems including engine, masts, rigging and sails...
That night and most of the next morning, whilst waiting for the surveyors to 'do their work', it was time for me to coax the engine back to life. After tracing the fuel systems, sorting my way through supply, return and bypass valves, cleaning filters, checking oil levels, bypassing a creased copper fuel pipe, bleeding the engine and re-bleeding the engine, manually linking the two onboard battery banks (the isolator switches seemed not to work on 'Both" or '2'...) we finally heard a pre-start coughing but little else. I knew she had fuel and air, the starter was turning her over without issue but no more than a grudging spluttering cough and growl...
Then a thought occurred to me... all the sea-cocks had been open when I arrived on board (I had even commented on the complete lack of engine raw water strainer...)... in fact all sea-cocks were pretty much siezed and I'd spent much of previous day (and then some) freeing them off enough to move - albeit grudglngly; a fact all too apparent to the surveyors.
But... one valve I failed to move (at all) was the engine exhaust hull valve... Hmmm... could it be shut ? But why, when all the others were open ? I already had access... so started to try and free it off once again... It really was siezed... I hopped over the side thinking I'd 'rod' it just to make sure there were no obstructions... and... Voila !! Blocked / Shut ! 'That won't be helping' I thought...
Upon further inspection and removing / disassembling the gate ass'y completely, it became apparent that
1: the valve stem was siezed and
2: the gate itself was similarly siezed in a 3/4 shut state...
Whilst trying to free the two and remove the lot from the valve housing the stem sheared... Helpful ! What this did allow me to do though was rebuild the valve WITHOUT the gate for a test. Back to the engine...
Sure enough after some 10 minutes more bleeding and messing about (always best to be truthful !) with battery connections and cables, a rather grudging low rumble was heard from the engine... a little more and... wow... sweet... the engine burst into life...no discerbable smoke, a tidy 45psi oil pressure, a 40A decreasing to 25A charge current, a steady 40'C temperature... and a stupid grin across my face !!
Unfortunately, it was, by now, too late for a sea-trial BUT the surveyors had been able to spend a lot of time below investigating and noting their findings, ready for their report...
Now it was simply necessary to await the written results of the survey. To be totally fair and accurate, a nicer pair of guys (the Surveyors) would be hard to find and their verbal 'heads-up' reports, each step of the way, were superb and enabled me to add to my works-list !!. Their willingness to discuss 'issues' and each one's potential remedy options was second to none. Their encouragement was appreciated and their really useful advice was given freely whenever I asked. I fully and wholeheartedly recomment these guys !!
My notes of the Immediate issues found (by either myself or the Surveyors or, indeed, us both ! ) :
Desperately required a wash down in order to see beneath the accumulated dirt, sand and general grime !
Anchor windlass dead / in-op.
Anchor windlass motor leaking oil.
Deck level nav (Port, Starboard & Stern) lights in-op.
Steaming light in-op..
Anchor light in-op.
Main and mizzen deck lights in-op.
Sheets and guys needs cleaned up and organised.
Mast winches require servicing. Currently jammed / in-op..
The fwd Mizzen stay (triangular – mast head to horizontal stand-off at radar/spreader to mast foot) is defective. Needs replaced.
All other standing rigging needs attention and as its providence / age cannot be ascertained should be thoroughly checked out by a qualified rigger and serviced / renewed as required.
Jack-lines need to be purchased and fitted.
Chain needs to be sufficiently deployed and checked for bitter end fixing.
The top rudder bearing is excessively worn and requires replacement
SSR number organised, British Registry and MMSI number to be obtained for the AIS VHF.
VHF requires replacement.
VHF antenna(s) need checked / serviced (There are THREE at the mizzen mast head.
Expired fire extinguishers require removal and replacement.
Fire blanket required at the galley.
Flare Pack out of date. Replacement required. To be sited at companion way steps / grab bag.
Forward electric bilge pump is jamming on when in Auto.
Aft electric bilge pump (Manual and Auto) requires repair / replacement.
Manual, dual action bilge pumpneeds serviced.
Emergency VHF (hand held) required.
EPIRB to be purchased, registered and sited at companion way steps.
Liferaft requires serviceing or replacement.
Fire / smoke detectors required
CO monitor required.
Gas detector system (to be installed if gas is going to be re-instated for the cooker).
Admiralty / Imray charts are required covering Malaga (Spain) / Brest (N.W France).
Pilots are required.
Crew life jackets are required.
Crew harnesses are required.
Horseshoe life ring(s) required.
Man overboard recovery system required (really high top-sides, ladder, sling... required).
Wet-suit, flippers, diver’s knife, mask and snorkel are all required.
Sufficient mooring warps are required.
Sufficient fenders are required.
Existing 15Kg s/s anchor is very pretty but a (spare / upgrade) 25 kg anchor should be fitted with sufficient chain / rode.
The engine should be serviced. Last service is indicated at being 2014. New oil/fuel filters and a new drive belt are to be fitted. Gearbox oil (separate) is also to be changed. Check coolant.
The ‘kink’ at the bottom (feed) connector to the Racor filter in the engine room and the associated fuel weep is to be rectified. Check the secondary fuel feed system pump and conncetions.
DC ELECTRICAL SYSTEM
Radar powers up but no processed data image.
Wind MHU - angle is siezed and speed cups are missing.
2x Seafarer depth units are fitted. One doesn't power up the other spins but displays no depth into.
VDO sumlog is in-op
VDO depth is in-op.
Magnavox MX100 GPS is in-op.
Autohelm (now RayMarine / Raytheon) ST6000/7000 AutoPilot powers up but has no motor control and no compass. To be repaired / replaced as required.
ST50 repeater unit powers up but displays no data. To be repaired / replaced as required.
ST50 wind display powers up but displays no data (MHU siezed / broken). To be repaired / replaced as required.
Blocking diodes have been bypassed by connecting the alternator output directly to the engine starter positive terminal. Engine instrumentation / starter remains live when main isolator is OFF. Ignition switch remains live, multiple issues to be traced and repaired.
Engine / service battery cabling is to be thoroughly overhauled - multiple loose circuit breakers and switches are to be traced and labelled, repaired or removed if defunct.
Both forward and aft WC units (VacuFlush) refuse to draw a vaccuum. To be serviced & repaired or replaced.
FourWinds wind generator found to be seized. To be removed or repaired and re-instated as required.
The 3 onboard solar panels are to be cleaned, cables and regulator serviced and re-instated.
Compass / instrumentation lighting in-op. To be serviced / repaired.
AC ELECTRICAL SYSTEM
No RCD is fitted. A suitable RCD (Shore power & Generator) is to be installed. Currently, it is possible to link the onboard AC system to any, or simultaneously BOTH the shore power AND the generator. Double pole AC switches / circuit breakers should be fitted that allow connection of only ONE of the on board AC systems (Shore OR Generator), thereby ensuring that each available system remains separate at all times.
Both fridge/freezer units are (the only) 24V DC kit on board. Each is supplied via a 240V AC to 24V DC converter. Both inoperable. Units are to be upgraded, repaired or replaced as required.
Looks almost new but won't start.
Full service required.
It is currently possible to parallel generator with shore (highly dangerous). This should be rectified using some sort of dual pole (L & N) changeover switch ensuring only ONE AC source can supply the on board systems at any particular time.
Fibreglass dinghy to be removed and serviced or replaced.
Existing cooking arrangements are a gas Shipmate oven (gas line disconnected in aft cabin) and a Wallas diesel SafeFlame ceramic hob (inoperable). Replacement unit(s) to be purchased & installed (see previous note on Gas detector).
Wooden bowsprit supported pulpit unsteady. Pulpit require securing.
Bowsprit stainless steel whisker stays (both sides) showing signs of stress damage with widened fixing stirrups. All to be serviced and renewed where required.
Lined safety rails from the pulpit to the wooden stanchions aft on both sides of the deck are plastic coated and have faded and stretched. All stanchions are loose / some are detached. Full system overhauled is required.
Main Boom fixture / mast swivel siezed. To be serviced / replaced.
Spinlocks on mast booms inoperable. To be replaced.
Engine exhaust outlet gate valve is seized. New valve (ball - original was a gate) to be sourced, purchased and fitted.
Comprehensive First Aid kit to be purchased.
The hydraulic steering system exhibits a slight oil leak found at the ram. To be repaired or replaced.
Emergency steering tiller to be retrieved and tested functional.
Wow ! We expected issues and very few of the above were considerd 'deal-breakers' for us BUT the long and the short was that Flying Clound, whilst being considered able to go back into the water and be in no immediate risk of sinking, should not leave her berth and certainly could not leave the marina in her current condition.
On the up-side, her hull was given a clean bill of health. Wahaay !!! Sure, she needed a really good clean - to remove years of anti-foul buildup - but the hull was good. The rudder on the other hand showed :
advanced signs of both osmosis and water ingress. Whilst the surveyors noted their concern they also stated that, with care, it should not pose any major issue with regards to our return trip to Camaret.
excessive wear in the top bearing which was considered too dangerous to continue with. This had to be rectified immediately.
I'd managed to fix the engine issue. The immediate challenges now were standing rigging and rudder and then getting as much of the original onboard kit to function as I possibly could in the given time ! Oh... and to install a new B&G Zeus plotter and V60 AIS VHF... (two of the most important nav. aids I could add without too much additional trouble).
Standing rigging is most definitely NOT my area of expertise. In fact, jumping up to check and clean the solar panels one evening and using the forward mizzen stay for support, I found myself flat on my back on the deck, luckily with nothing but my pride hurt - could have been a LOT worse ! Funny, but the first thing I did was look around me to check no-one was watching! think I got away with it !!
Next morning I hired a local rigger to replace the broken stay in its entirety and then to pass his eyes over the lot. Providing we didn't use the wind as a power / primary driver he was 'happy' (kind of) to sign it off as being sea-worthy on the additional understanding that it was to be replaced as soon as was practicably possible and before any serious sailing was undertaken.
The rudder bearing, on the other hand, was right down my street, so, after disconnecting the ram arm and then the tiller arm, I removed the top bearing carrier and, sure enough, the brass bearing insert showed signs of 1.5 - 2mm all-round wear. Hence the 'slop' the surveyors had noticed. Luckily enough for me Adam was as good as his word and paid for a new bearing to be machined and inserted in the carrier. When reassembled there was no more lateral movement at all. Result !
A couple of days previous we were worried that the survey may highlight something totally horrible - a 'deal-breaker' if you like... Now we were worried that the owner may pull out or change his mind in some way...
We'd removed both potential 'deal-breakers' - the engine and the rudder - and, although even more daunted than ever at the size of the task were taking on, we remained committed to the purchase... but I had to head home for existing commitments...
Post survey / awaiting reports :
The next day saw me back on the plane to pick up some family we'd already planned to have at the house and then plan for my return some 5 to 6 days later. The idea here was that, now I had a firm idea as to what was required (from my perspective) and whilst I awaited the surveyor's full report, we would look out, pack up and transport all the kit I thought I would need in order to fix up 'the Flyer', as we'd already started to nick-name her, for her1000 nautical mile / 1700-odd Km trip back home.
Time was marching on, I was keen to get my kit to the boat and then to get myself there and working on the list we'd created so that we could depart on (or around) the 20th October. Kit and tools were looked out and boxed up ready for shipping, clothing was packed and jobs at home and work were tidied up... all the time we waited impatiently for Adam or Victoria to call saying the deal was concluded but that was still another (long) week off...
Finally the call came, the Flyer was now our next project - work to keep me busy whilst not working on clients boats...
The day came, the kit, in four large 25Kg boxes, had been shipped the previous day and I was now on the early morning train from Quimper to Nantes where I was to hop on my flight to Malaga... I was itching to get started...