Contessa 26 Tech Notes

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Refitting Birgitta - Part I

By Nigel Charlesworth

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Nigel Charlesworth and I sail Birgitta out of the Menai Strait, Wales, UK. Birgitta was supposedly built in 1972 by Jeremy Rogers, but looking at Peter de Jersey’s owners list, I think that she may have been built in 1971 – but the build date doesn’t matter. I bought her in a fair state in the summer of 1997 for USD 9,500. (All prices are given in USD and the exchange rate used is 1.40) and sailed her till something broke. The summer sailing season was intended to act as a shakedown so that the winter’s projects could be carefully thought out …. Well, that was the plan. The task list grew as the years went by in spite of doing stacks each winter – and it’s still big, but now all that is left are mainly the cosmetics.

Here’s a list of what has been done with prices:
New prop shaft : 1” dia, USD 154 (includes VAT ie Sales Tax @ 17.5% – as do all prices). The prop shaft was replaced because it was worn at the Tufnol bearing and at the stuffing box (ie nut). Tufnol was used rather than a cutlass bearing because there wasn’t room to drill water inlet holes for the water lubrication required in a nitrile lined cutlass. It took time to locate the Tufnol manufacturer and then have the Tufnol turned to fit the housing. (Tufnol USD 14; Turning USD 7) – after 4 years there appears to be no wear to either the shaft or the housing. The stuffing box originally dripped when static at a rate of 1 drip per 5 seconds. When disassembled it was found that it had just two rings of whatever it was that was used. It was repacked with sooper-dooper Teflon compressible something. Four offset and mitred rings were used …. Now I can slacken the nut off till it almost falls off and it doesn’t drip anymore – This may be bad news as stuffing boxes are designed to drip, but the zinc-rich-saponified grease from the grease gun comes though just nicely.

The rudder bearings were a disaster. There are two transom fittings, one at the top and the 2nd about 3’ down. The rudder bottom has a pintail which fits into a bronze keel housing. Everything was worn out – the bearer holes were oval: Deformed S/S nuts and bolts held the rudder strap gudgeons to the transom fittings. The pintail was rusting and exuding a kind of black paste – I won’t go into it now but the bottom of the rudder was cut into to reveal a bodged pintail made out of a mixture of metals and was corroding apace because of electrolysis … and the bottom of the rudder had polyester hydrolysis. To cut a long story short the top two nuts and bolts were replaced by a 316 S/S long bolt, washer and split pin; the fittings were re-sleeved with the correct bronze and a new bronze pintail turned and recast.

The cockpit in 1997 drained into the bilge. The sole was raised 1” above sea-level with 2 persons in the cockpit and crossover drains from nylon ball valve interceptors leading to bronze seacocks were introduced.

All the above now work perfectly.

I’ve just completed the soundproofing of the engine housing (The engine is a noisy Yanmar 1GM10) – It’s now just audible – but still have a bit more work to do on this as I think that I can make it just about silent. I’m using a combination laminate of vinyl and cushion foam floor tiles for this because of what I’ve learned from specializing in acoustics over many years (Another long story!)

Part 2 of many parts will follow