January 8

The last few days I've been working on a major problem aboard the boat. We discovered it a few months ago but have waited for the "right time" to work on it. We found a while back that one of our fuel tanks had shifted forward a bit. About an inch and a half to be precise, maybe a bit more. Then a month ago we noticed 2 of our water tanks had also shifted forward, by about the same amount. After some investigation last week we learned that 6 of our tanks had all shifted forward en masse as it were. 

We have 8 "belly" tanks under the sole (floor) of the Queen Jane. Four are fuel (alum.) and four are water (steel). Starting aft we have 2 fuel tanks then forward of them (under the galley steps to the deck and the corridor beside the centerboard trunk) 2 more fuel tanks (port and starboard). In front of those tanks are 2 water tanks (port and starboard). These 6 tanks moved forward as a unit as each touches its neighbor, cushioned by a thin later of neoprene rubber.

These 6 tanks are all restrained from above with hold down brackets, floor beams. They are restrained at the rear (the aftermost fuel tanks) with alum brackets bolted to the hull stringers. On the sides they are equally well restrained by longitudinal stringers of glass over wood which are built into the hull. The forward most tanks however are not secured from moving forward! What's worse, there is ample room for braces similar to those installed at the aft end of the boat where the first two fuel tanks are at one end of the "tank chain". Why the wonderful people who installed my tanks (in 1999) failed to install these braces is a mystery. I can only surmise from evidence and speaking with the yard manager in Seattle who worked on the project that they believed the tanks were so tightly wedged into the space and secured from the sides that they could never move.

Well, they did and now I have to manufacture and install braces to do exactly this. But first we had to move the tanks back to their assigned places. This was not so easy, though it could have been worse. First we had to pump out the diesel fuel from the aft two tanks. We collected jugs and barrels suitable for fuel and hooked up a long hose to the fuel transfer pump and started pumping. It took a long time before they were empty, and hence light enough to move. Meanwhile, we unscrewed and lifted the sole in the aft cabin. The two aft fuel tanks hold about 40gallons (US) each. Our transfer pump (which is not normally used when we are in a hurry) pumps about 10-15gallons per hour so you can guess how long this took. Once they were empty I was easily able to shove them back using a pry bar. It took about a minute. Then we transferred the fuel from the forward 2 fuel tanks into the aft two tanks we had just emptied. This took another 3 hours or so. By this time we had a regular fuel depot on the dock with about 8 or 9 fuel containers of varying colors, shapes and sizes. 

Unfortunately we ran into a brick wall when we raised the sole (floor) in the saloon (which is a whole other story and took several hours of difficult work removing stubborn screws). Though the port side fuel tank was easily moved using a similar pry bar technique the stbd. side fuel tank was simply inaccessible from any point where pressure or leverage could be applied. We next tried to move the 2 water tanks assuming if we got them moving they would push the stbd fuel tank back. Unfortunately, that dog wouldn't hunt, which is to say we couldn't budge it. 

The water tanks are really wedged in on both sides which are sheathed in rubber. How they moved forward is only easy to understand when you consider that there were 4 other tanks behind them all working to push the two forward tanks. In the end I had to rent a porta-power (a portable hand-pump hydraulic tool) which was easily able to push the 3 tanks back to their proper position. The porta-power I used, btw, had a 2ton rated capacity. 

Now I am pumping all the fuel back into the boat. But before I can put the floors back I need to install braces as described at the start of this entry to restrain the tanks in the future. We are anxious to get this done as fast as possible as we are leaving on Monday morning for a two week trip through Australia. First to Brisbane by car, then to Sydney by plane. We'll spend five or six days in Sydney then fly to Melbourne where we'll stay for 3 or 4 days. Then we are going to drive a bit to a place called Grampians Nat'l Park which is about 180 miles NW of Melbourne. Should be fun and we will relax and enjoy ourselves if we know this heinous job is behind us.