Cast Iron Keel – an update

Some time ago we wrote about the renovation of the composite cast iron keel on G-whizz (Cast Iron Keel). In that post we mentioned that while we were initially happy with the work the proof would be when G-whizz came out of the water in a year’s time.

Well due to a number of circumstances that year turned out to be closer to 20 months but our disappointment with the work done started a lot earlier than that. We have the bottom of G-whizz cleaned regularly (in general about once a month) by an experienced diver, on the first clean after he treatment the diver rang to ask if he should be seeing rust, this was not the response we were expecting to hear just 4 weeks after going back in the water, we asked him to take some photos the next time he was diving in the vicinity.

These are a couple of those photos that show a number of pin sized rust spots, the diver commented that before cleaning they were about 25 to 35mm on diameter but after wiping reduced to the pin size in the pictures, my initial thought was – and still remains –  that these were in fact the remnants if wires from the a wire brushing process used to strip the keel.

A substantial amount of money changed hands to have the keel renovated, a process that was supposed to be one of those once in a life time of ownership jobs, even if we went with the lower of two quotes the yard that did the work is one of Sydney’s best known and regarded yards to have it last little more than 12 months is, to say the least a major disappointment.

Coming out of the water at Woolwich dock.

Without going into a long story the yard that did the work were not at all helpful in rectifying the work, while we started communication with them as soon as the diver’s photos were received, they did say that they would get the boat out of the water as soon a possible to inspect the situation. Well after a number of enquiries that “As soon as possible” is translatable to “We don’t give a stuff” as they were always too busy to lift G-whizz out of the water but they would get back to us when they had time, after some 12 months of enquiries all they could offer was that we would get a free lift for the next hull service.

After pressure blasting

We made a decision to do what was the best for the boat, get the hull soda blasted at the same time as a complete keel rectification, we took some knowledgeable advice, Michael Bartley who has done most of the maintenance on G-whizz advised that not only is she borderline deep for his new yard but he lacks road access that makes getting soda blasting equipment onto site quite difficult. Michael pointed us toward Mitch Buckingham at Woolwich Dock.

Halfway through (time to check messages).

The accompanying photographs show some of the story, the keel after the initial pressure blast displayed little of the original antifoul paint left, and as the shipwright commented “Undercoat over antifoul is not a good start”. We are not too sure if the process used by the first yard was the correct one or if the workmanship involved in it’s execution was of the required quality or both.

After Treatment.

The new work involved having the hull soda blasted, filled and epoxy primed before antifouling while the keel received extra blasting epoxy coating encapsulating in fiberglass, filling, fairing and antifouling. The antifoul used is Altex Pettit Vivid – ironically available in a number of bright colours but we chose to stay with black.

On the lift ready for splashing.

Early days but G-whizz is now performing at levels not experienced since we first came into contact with her, one complaint is that she will not stop, the first time I put her on her mooring after splashing I completely misjudged her speed and overshot the mooring on two occasions, we often get excited about motoring speeds after a hull service but what really stands out this time is her low speed slipperiness, take her off the throttle and she just keeps on going!

Golden Sails – G-whizz as Art (2)

Golden sails in front of the Sydney CBD Skyline. Occasionally a casual snap shot on a mobile phone produces gold, well some thing that appears to be gold, let’s call them golden sails. In a twilight race at GFS Julie Small one of the crew members on Tana looked back with their mobile phone in hand an snapped this photo:

Golden Sails in Sydney' sky line
Golden Sails in Sydney. (Photo Julie Small)

What caught our, and other’s eyes is not only the setting sun giving G-whizz’s sails a look of gold but also the relationship of the boat’s sails beside the Crown Tower (is it still called that?) at Bangaroo, a structure that has been described as a sail-like design symbolising wind and sea although the actual design is stated as “a sculptural form that is reminiscent of three twisting petals and takes inspiration from nature” . Crown Tower and G-whizz with West Point Tower between them. An Elan 340 with golden sails and two of Sydney’s prominent land marks – art.

Fishing Line and Propellers don’t Mix

I have written before about fishing line and propellers don’t mix here, we now have had another lesson on that subject.

fishing line and propellers don't mix
Result of the prop attracting fishing Line

In Sydney it is legal for recreational fishermen to fish from public wharves provided that they adhere to some requirements, Social behaviour, keeping their environment clean and boats have right of way. The majority of fishermen keep respect their privilege.

The picture at left illustrate the results of a prop line mix on the sail drive of G-whizz.

There are times however when a combination of lack of awareness on behalf of the boat master and the fisherman that creates a situation proving that fishing line and propellers don’t mix. Our recent refresher lesson was quite a bit less expensive than the first and a lot easier rectified.

fishing line and propellers don't mix
Fishing on the Torqeedo prop shaft

Returning to the GFS pontoon from our mooring our torqeedo powered dinghy did not notice a fishing line deployed from the adjacent Bay Street public wharf. Modesty prohibits me from naming the driver of the dinghy at the time. The result is pictured to the right. Illustrating that fishing line and propellers don’t mix.

The first photo represents a substantial amount of money, the second not so, fortunately no damage to the shafts or seals in either case.

An Interesting Season thus far

The first four races in the GFS Spring Twilight series have produced some interesting results, conditions and sights.

Interesting Results
Races 1 and 2 were pretty good results in conditions that suit us, race 3 was bit of a shocker for reasons that I am unable to decipher, but probably related to a less than perfect start and then a few bad tactical decisions on the way (Also leaving the optimum sail for the conditions in the garage at home!). Race 4 started with another poor start but a great run around the course that had us surprising a lot of the fleet by passing them in the lea of Cockatoo island, our 5th on scratch may at first glance be a bit disappointing but 1 second from 4th and 14 seconds from 3rd was a good result, our relative speeds would have made up that 14 seconds if the finish line was maybe 50 meters further along the Lane Cove river. Se la vie!

Interesting Conditions
The spring weather in Sydney normally produces balmy evenings with little wind, race 3 was held in unusually brisk wind reaching at times over 20 knots, while the strong winds, rain and even thunderstorms forecast in race 4 never eventuated and we enjoyed a beautiful evening on the water in conditions that really suit us, we were a little “undercrewed” so I decided on a conservative start, given the results I should have had more confidence in the crew attacked the start line and produced a better result Se la vie 2.0.

Interesting sights
Infotrack MC38Many people are rubbing their eyes, not too sure what they were seeing, on first sight it appears to be bit of a contradiction given the 40 maximum rule foot rule that we have at GFS. The Beck Family fleet has grown with a mini me Infotrack, a MC38 in the familiar Infotrack livery.Infotrack Juan K 100 Custom


Not to be confused with





Thanks to Jeff Lewis (Aurora) for the following photos.

G-whizz at the back of the fleet
Struggling at the back of the Fleet

G-whizz just behind Aurora
Just Behind Aurora

G-whizz in the Humbug Car park
Car Park they call humbug

G-whizz being shadowed by Aurora
Aurora shading us in preparation for a pass. All in about 2 knots of wind


A Brand New Season

The 2020 – 2021 official sailing season opened last night with the first of the Autumn twilight races. It all seemed a bit strange in these brave new COVID times, while we can race with (for most boats) full crews, there is no post race function and no pre or post race socialising, There was an eerie silence about the place, especially later in the evening when the sounds of around 200 partying souls can normally be heard up and down the Lane Cove river, all that could be heard last night was the lapping of the water. We decided to go straight back to the mooring after finishing and have some nibbles and drinks on board before taking the crew back to the Club pontoon for disembarkation and departure. All very nice and convivial but no replacement for aforementioned 200 partying souls.

Elan 340
Struggling at the back of the fleet after a less than perfect start, G-whizz at left.

The race itself was a painful affair with light to non existent winds and when there was any pressure the shifts were huge and very hard to pick, at one stage we needed to tack to avoid a couple  of starboard tackers only to have at the very same time a shift of over 90 degrees that enable us to change course without tacking or trimming. This one piece of good fortune gave us a huge advantage over the fleet and make up the deficit we were carrying because of a very poor start. Speaking of the start we were probably the last boat in the entire fleet to leave Humbug, I thought we were in a great position but fell into a hole and sat there watching the rest of the fleet go by. I’ve been caught by this particular wind shadow before and you would think that I would learn!

elan 340 G-whiz
Heading towards Greenwich point with a lot of the fleet now behind us.

As it transpired we were able to catch and  pass a number in our fleet and beat all but one boat in Green division, the division that sails the same course but starts 10 minutes ahead of us. The work that has just been completed on the keel seems to have paid of, she is really sliding through the water nicely.

We had one embarrassing moment when we trying to pinch along the western shore of Humbug with very little speed, we tacked out and not only fell into irons but also became a speed bump for Martin Kluckow on “Rex”, Martin quite rightly called “Starboard” to which I had to reply “No Steerage”, Martin thoughtfully and in good humour responded with “We’ll tack”. Thank you Martin and congratulations on winning your division.

It’s great to be back sailing twilights but without the social side happening it’s a bit like a healthy body but somehow some of the soul is missing, hopefully it will return soon.

Thanks to Jeff Lewis for posting the photos to face book.

Cast Iron Keel

Please read an update to this post, it is about the rectification process undertaken to the unsatisfactory repairs described below.

Or the alternative title to Cast iron keel could be:

Why we love our cast iron keel – A high maintenance affair!

G-whizz, as with all Elan 340s with the deeper 2.1 metre keel is fitted with a composite keel, cast iron foil with a lead (“Elephant’s foot”) bulb.  I am not qualified to make assumptions on the benefits of various keel structures, nor do I fully understand the methods used to protect the cast iron in a marine environment. The Broker who sold G-whizz, they were the original Elan agent in Australia, said the reasoning behind the cast iron keel was that it allowed for a finer keel profile, the cynic in me thinks that it allows for a finer profit to the manufacturer. Maybe it is a combination of both.

G-whizz was launched 13 years ago and has performed exceptionally well in those years, requiring only regular maintenance and no repairs due to design issues. However for the past 4 or 5 years the cast iron keel has required a bit more attention than just a pressure wash, sand and repaint during the annual bottom service.

The following photos compare the condition of the keel following a pressure wash just after coming out of the water, the deterioration in 2 years is noticeable.

Elan 3470 G-whizz
Elan 340 G-whizz’s keel showing the rust blooms on the cast iron section – 2018

The same keel in showing a bit more corrosion than just rust blooms in 2020

For the past few year the shipwrights have patched the keel using processes that are a bit beyond my comprehension, however the the cast iron keel continued to deteriorate between the annual services. I must say that the treatments were never promised to be a long term fix, only something to try and get through to the next service – in this regard the were somewhat successful. This year we bit the bullet to do something a little more permanent, we got two quotes from two different yards. These yards suggested different methods:
One; to soda blast the keel and epoxy.
Two; to wire grind then chemically treat the keel.

Quote two was half the price of one. and is the treatment we went for. I guess the success of this decision will be measured when G-whizz comes out of the water next year, although reports from the diver who cleans her on a regular basis will be most anticipated.

Iron Keel
Cast iron keel – close up after grinding and start of treatment.

Iron Keel
After treatment and painting.

iron keel
Maybe a cast iron keel does provide a fine keel profile.

Motoring on the way to the shipyard for this bottom service G-whizz was struggling to get to get over 6 knots though the water under motor at 2000 rpm, on the way back to the mooring she was exceeding 7 knots at the same rpm, I wish I took more notice of wind condition on the first journey, but on the return run the was a gentle 3 to 5 knot wind just off the the bow, quite an improvement.

As mentioned earlier we were told that the Cast iron allowed for a fine keel profile, maybe the photo to the right illustrates that.

We are looking forward to our next race, that for a number of reasons is not coming fast enough, just to check G-whizz’s performance against her traditional competitors.

For those with a better technical mind in these matters than mine, the base treatment of the corrosion on the cast iron keel was Feronite, which I believe to be manufactured (or distributed in Australia) be Boatcraft.

I guess this whole process give us an insight into the trials and tribulations of those that have steel boats.

What is described above did not wor as intended read an update here.

Racing is back

It seems like a very long time but was only the 18th of March when we competed in our last race before COVID restriction regulations hit. In the mean G-whizz  has not been idle, fortunately for us in Sydney, within all of the permitted activities that allowed people to leave their accommodation, there was sailing and fishing. The equipment list on G-whizz  now includes a couple of fishing rods and a tackle box courtesy of Ann’s father and in our wallets are freshly minted fishing licenses.

The rules dictated that two co-inhabitating people (or family) could take exercise in the form of sailing but were not permitted to anchor, however fishing was also a permitted activity. Problem solved; sail during the day then anchor and fish at night, the only casualty to all of this was a substantial  leather jacket (a beautifully coloured fish by the way) that Ann caught with a prawn head for bait, hopefully  he survived the ordeal and is a bit more selective when he next snacks on prawn components.

Back to the racing, two weeks ago on the 14th of June we  competed in tbe first of the West Harbour Winter Series since lock down rules were relaxed, it was great to have friends back on board and sail on what was a beautiful day on the water, while we missed the start by about 90 seconds, well we are out of practice, unfortunately our competitors were in practice, after racing without a spinnaker we finished 5th across the line about 30 seconds from third, we were a bit slower than our handicap though where we finished 7th on PHS.

The forecast was not great for today’s race, over the last few days it changed from sunny and no wind to rain  and 10 to 15 knots, although it also depended on which forecast program you looked at, it turned out to be a pretty good day, the rain held off and the wind varied between almost nothing to 15 knots, although most of the time it was in  the area of 4 to 8 knots.

The race started in very light air, incredibly the entire fleet hit the line at almost the same time and were spread of over the entire length of the start line, and that’s pretty much the way it stayed for most of the fleet for the entire race, KoKo the Elan 37 just got further a head as the race progressed, somehow Guwara a Hanse 350 also made a break, we were either smart enough or lucky enough to pick the wind off Birchgrove and were a able to put some distance on the rest of the fleet.

KoKo  just got further ahead but we were running down Guwara, if the course had been 100 meters longer we may have beaten them into second place as it was they beat us into second place by 7 seconds. Third on scratch and fifth on PHS, not a bad day out.

I should mention that it’s good to be back.

Autumn Twilight Series Thus Far

Our Summer series was not our most successful, however we did win the last race, the Autumn series has been a lot more successful, There are a few reasons for this turnaround in performance. A change in the hull cleaning procedure, with the driver spending more time on the rust blooms on the cast iron section of the keep. The next time G-whizz  is out of the water the keel will be subject to some major remedial  freatment. The second reason for turnaround is the absence of the Elan 37 “KoKo” with the skipper out of action after an orthopedic operation and the North shore 38 “Aetos” off the race course waiting on a new mast to arrive. These two boats are generally faster than us, our result are boosted by their absence.

Drifting on t of HumbugThere have been some suprise results with an extremely competitive race in winds in the 20 knots area,  finishing ahead of all the bigger boats, and the performance of Saoirse a Dehler 38  running away from the fleet in light air, we would generally expect to be most competitive in light air while the heavier boats generally handle the heavier air better.

This series we have had some terrific battles with Chris Stannard and his Jeanneau 39i “Worlds Apart”  on many occasions spending a lot of the race only a few meters apart and finishing with seconds of each other.

Jeanneau 39i, Jeanneau Sunfast 37 and an Elan 37 chasing a Dehler 38.The picture above is us drifting out of Humbug in the company of Words Apart and French Connection, it also reminds us that we should concentrate a bit more on trimming the headsail. The photo to the right shows the same three boats chasing Saoirse, who just insisted on sailing into the distance.

Tips for Sailing Crew

When I first started sailing, which was quite late in life, I wish someone had given me a few tips for being sailing crew. I tried to listen, I read a lot and asked questions of a lot of people. By no means am I an expert, but I am at times the master of a sailing boat either cruising or most probably racing, and I have a few ideas or tips for sailing crew.

On G-whizz  the crew have been from both ends of the experience spectrum, from Ocean Yachtmasters with round the world racing experience or sailors who have cruised the oceans extensively to those who G-whizz is the first yacht they have stepped on.

A list of tips for the sailing crew can be found in the Tricks, Traps and Ideas section under the resources tab on this site. Click here to go there ⟶

Racing for Sheep Stations

Sometime last year Blues Point Yacht Club and Sydney Amateurs  Sailing Club got together and established an inter Club challenge series called the “Sheep Station Series”. There may be some readers that do not understand the irony of the series name. I’ll try to explain – when a player or racer in any competition in Australia (and I suspect New Zealand) takes themselves too seriously they are politely told “Come on mate we’re not racing (playing) for sheep stations!”

The series is structured around a minimum of three boats and a maximum of five that will compete in each of four races, the top three from each club will score to theirrespective clubs. Individual boats performance will also be recognised.

The winning Club will have the honour of displaying the Sheep Station Trophy in their Club House for the ensuing year. (The trophy is a model of Sheep Station buildings). Our results in this series are here (2020 series).

For a better explanation of the Australian slang I defer to Wikipedia. “The phrase is a traditional Australian English term. It is used to describe the terms of a game, sport or competition, often a game of chance. A sheep station is a large sheep farm in Australia or New Zealand, hence denoting something important, large or valuable.

The phrase “playing for sheep stations” has both a literal and ironic usage. In the negative, it is used to encourage participants to play in a friendly and not too competitive manner. Playing sport or cards or a game of some sort, but not for prizes, one might say “take it easy, we’re not playing for sheep stations”. It could be used starting a game of cards or pool for example, to check whether the game would be played for money, beer, or just pride, asking “so, are we playing for sheep stations or what?”

In typical Australian fashion, it can also be used to mean the exact opposite, because a sheep station is such an expensive item that nobody would bet it on a game, the phrase “we’re playing for sheep stations” can also be used to mean that the game is purely for sport, and there is no bet or prize involved.”