Saving Gemini Galaxsea from the breakers

Buying a bargain is a temptation for many a sorrowful boatie who lives to regret a decision made while optimistically balancing the price against the amount of work required.

Mike Welsh is not regretting buying Gemini Galaxsea at auction on Trademe for the reserve price, but says he wouldn’t do it again.

It’s taken more than 10 months to get the yacht to where he could float it from the marina to a mooring in Pilot Bay.

But if he didn’t buy it, the steel hulled ketch was going to be broken up.

It is the yacht’s second rescue.

Previous owner Graeme Butler picked it up off a beach in New Guinea, before later sailing it to Tahiti as part of the 1995 anti-nuclear protest fleet.

The 18m ketch was built in Papua New Guinea in 1979.

“It was pretty bad, but it had potential,” says Mike.

He discovered the boat was rusting from the inside out.

Everything on deck leaked water into the hull.

He started planning to do what was needed to prevent it sinking, and then go and have some fun.

But one hole in the hull led to another.

“There were massive holes in the side where we cut everything out,” says Mike.

“People were a bit worried.

Even the marina was a bit concerned about the size of the holes.

They were worried the boat might break in half.

”They patched holes from 50mm square to 1.

5m, and over eight months ended up replacing around about 15 per cent of the boat’s steel - six full sheets in pieces in different sizes.

“I was never concerned about my ability to know what I was doing, but some days you would sit there and look around and it was a bit overwhelming,” says Mike.

The marine engineer and former motor home builder had help from friends from time to time.

But when working alone he knew that by the end of a day, he could barely notice what he had done.

He modified as he went.

Hatches have moved, and access from the saloon to the deck has changed with a new cockpit layout.

Then it was sand blasting and painting - a process that involved months of work both inside and out.

Epoxy primers were used with five coats on the interior and Hempel paints rolled on.

Half the interiors were ripped out along with all of the ceilings.

“What we’ve done is pretty much rip everything out that was no good, ugly or finished with,” explains Mike.

“I just left the basics.

So you’ve got beds and stuff down the back.

“We stripped out the whole front room and put all new flooring in and painted all the steel sides because they were super rusty and super ugly.

The stairs are also new.

“Basically we used to carry a bucket of rust out of here every four hours when we were doing the steel work.

It’s a work in progress.

“All the drawers and wood stacked up in the forepeak will be recycled back into the boat.

“I’ll put a bed in there and a duchess.

That will do for now.

I’d like to go to Fiji this winter, so I’d rather concentrate on the rigging and sorting all that out before I worry about making it look great inside.


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