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Gallery - MV Narrabeen's 2017 Garden Island Dry Docking in Pictures (Part 1 of 4)


In mid-October 2017 the then 33 year old Manly Ferry Narrabeen was sent for its most recent 5-year refit at the Garden Island drydock in Sydney. Working on board assisting with the docking was long time Manly ferry crew member James Goins. James Goins maintained the following photographic and written public record of this major refit.


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MV Narrabeen 2017 Dry Docking Image 1

After 43 long but very productive days in pre-docking preparation at her home shipyard in Balmain, Narrabeen was towed through Sydney Harbour to The Garden Island Naval Shipyard to commence major hull & survey works on the keel blocks in the Captain Cook Graving Dock.

Though she is the third of the four Freshwater Class Ferries to be built, in 1984 the Narrabeen was actually the first in the class to be launched at Carrington Slipway in Newcastle.

In the previous six weeks, fairly significant life-extending projects were completed, including a complete rebuild of not only her anchor windlass pedestal but also a full replacement of both anchor hawsepipes. Nearly every square metre of internal passenger decking was stripped back to the original steel, preserved and built up again with newer, more flexible concrete substrate laid down beneath all new weatherproof flooring. From the very first hour of the very first day of this refit, a frothing scrum of fully jobbed-up boilermakers on a very long lead has been busy pounding, cutting, grinding and welding away as they have seen fit, convened in a virtually nonstop roving steel & aluminium surgical theatre, reined in seemingly not only by the hours of the sun but also the noise-restricting reality of being a fully operational shipyard located smack-dab in the middle of a tiny little bay lined from point to point with multi-million-dollar waterside homes. Sporting brand new lettering on her port aft bow, Narrabeen is being virtually reborn at 33. The first stage, alas, is complete.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 2


AusBarge Tugs Narooma and Babinda guiding Narrabeen's transfer on Monday morning 16th October 2017, from her home confines at Balmain Shipyard out into the main body of Sydney Harbour and into The Garden Island Naval Shipyard for major drydocking works.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 3


Released from the tugs and safely alongside, Narrabeen waits for the outer caisson (currently floating and visible here just above Narrabeen's bow at top left) to be placed into position above its vertical key slots the head of the dock. Then, the mighty graving dock pumps can begin to expel the waters of Sydney Harbour back out of the dock. As the water level drops, so also drops the caisson down into its key slots and eventually forming the dock seal, leaving us all high and dry.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 4


Going, going ... gone. The falling water level within the dock slowly reveals the dock floor after three hours of pumping. Soon, the standing water is gone from the dock floor and only the vessels, resting on their perfectly positioned keelblocks, remain

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A unusual payload, but nevertheless an easy lift for the dock's 60-tonne western crane. Before any gangway access can be organised, we are flown off the bridge decks and out of the dock in caged gondolas.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 6


The view from our escape pod shows the Narrabeen safely on the blocks, with the dock's outer caisson in position holding back Sydney Harbour for our 35-day stay in the dock.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 7


Our first view of Narrabeen's 33-year-old hull. A few nicks, cuts and scrapes are to be expected but there will most likely be no specific explanation for any of them.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 8


Sea growth is heavy but not abnormal around Narrabeen's sensitive areas. This growth will not be around for much longer, though, as dock waterblasting crews will have it stripped away as a main priority.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 9


As the day wanes, it's all heads up in the dock. Lookout below as heavy platforms are flown in to give us access up to Narrabeen from the dock floor. The dock will be full of heavy equipment by the day's end.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 10


The forward line of attack for the painting team is already in action on day one. Waterblasters on the superstructure go relatively easy, using only 2500 psi of stripping rage to gently coerce away rust and corrosion, some of it only two weeks old in the case of Narrabeen's new letters.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 11


Lower down Narrabeen's sides, the underbelly waterblasters have a more serious task on their hands. Armed with nearly ten times the amount of pressure as their topside teammates, they will spend the whole day travelling back and forth in cherry pickers along the hull, leaving five years of sea growth on the dock floor in their wake.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 12


Smoko. Narrabeen's starboard aft section awaits further exposure.

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Every rudder face tells a different story after the blasters have gone

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Down inside the confines of Narrabeen's engine room, great time and effort has been made to protect machinery from the nuclear winter of airborne dust and grime that will soon be deposited absolutely everywhere when the legendary bilge painting team mounts its offensive. Both main engines have been virtually encapsulated. War is hell

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 15


Away to the yard fitters goes Narrabeen's two-tonne anchor windlass.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 16


Narrabeen's anchor pen has been pillaged early in the piece. Boilermakers have already run rampant here, with two new hawsepipes, a fully rebuilt pedestal and sampson post all pre-fabbed and welded in.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 17


Only when the planets align properly can you see the inside of a vessel's anchor chain lockers under natural light. Here is a very rare sight indeed: Narrabeen's reclusive anchor chains, both over 200 meters long, lying idle in their nests under full sun, made possible only by the absence of the anchor windlass - thus allowing unobstructed sunlight to shine directly down into the entrances to the chainlockers. Rare as hen's teeth. The flames of excitement were soon doused, however, when yard riggers and boilermakers began to somberly size up exactly how, with no windlass, to get these things off the ship.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 18


A 60-tonne crane is called into late day action to move Narrabeen's anchor chains out of their boxes and into the dock. The anchor windlass, conspicuous by its absence, is sorely missed here. This was definitely the long way to do it. The first section of chain, lifted out of the box and dangling, is found to weigh just shy of one tonne.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 19


Two sections of Narrabeen's anchor chain have to be suspended at once to make it possible to drop the chain back down through the hawsepipes and into the dock where the paying-his-dues-in-spades junior boilermaker gets to hand flake the chain out along the dock floor ..... Seven tonnes of chain in each box. Four hours later, we went home.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 20


Narrabeen was withdrawn from service in late August. During the six-week lead up to our arrival at The Garden Island Naval Shipyard, plenty of work has already been done to this 33-year old harbour icon. Here is a progressive view of a section of Narrabeen's aft upper passenger deck. At the outset, the green seats were removed, then their bases unbolted from the deck, then the underlying decks were all stripped of all old glued-down flooring. Next, nearly all concrete substrate was jackhammered up and removed from the boat, with all exposed steel being brushcupped and treated with metal preservative coating. Then, new self-levelling substrate was poured in and skimmed off. Finally, the new flooring was glued into place and pressed on by a weighted roller. Prior to our arrival at Garden Island, a protective layer of 6mm thick Masonite was laid over all the new decks to prevent damage during our 35-day yard tenancy. The masonite will stay in position until just before Narrabeen returns to service in early December.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 21


The full compliment of Narrabeen's anchor chain lay in the dock. Both sections were fed down into the dock whilst suspended by a 60-tonne crane, and as they dropped down they were manually arranged in the manner seen here. Not an easy task.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 22


Looks like chain, any way you slice it. However, the yard's chief boilermaker will soon come to inspect these links and quickly detect flaws and weaknesses in them that will determine what repairs or replacements are needed.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 23


Narrabeen's two-tonne anchor windlass is in the fitter's workshop. Already, the motor has been removed and sent to the electricians for service, whilst the gearbox has been drained of it's 56 litres of oil.

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A look inside the gearbox of Narrabeen's anchor windlass. The most basic but precise of gear meshing arrangements gets heavy work done, year after year.

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A meeting with reps from the hull coating manufacturer. They are not overly happy or confident with the state of the existing surface coating, which is flaking badly - heavily in some places - after initial water pressure blasting. A more aggressive, deeper stripping away of the hull surface with pressurised shards of razor-sharp garnet will have to be carried out, and over a much larger surface area than is normally called for. Only then will they consent to a warranty-backed application of a new coating using their product.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 26


Narrabeen's hull coating is degraded in many places and is in need of attention. That's what we are here for, after all.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 27


No sooner has the decision been made to ramp up the grit blasting than the heavy blasting equipment starts to rain in from dockside. These hoses will all be combined together to create a pressurised garnet blasting kit. The cavalry is coming

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 28


The garnet blasting gun nozzle. Not for home use.

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Narrabeen's four steering motors require two tiers of servicing and thus will need more time off ship whilst in the dock. These were amongst the first items to be craned ashore. Here, the four electric motors - each already detached from it's respective pump portion - are in the electricians shop for dynamic spin balancing, which represents a form of life renewal for an electric motor. The larger and heavier pumping sections of each steering motor are taken off site for servicing.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 30


Yard fitters extract hydraulic oil from within the chambers of Narrabeen's forward steering box. They will then wipe it all down in preparation for further disassembly. Nearly every part seen here must be unbolted and gently eased away using 1.5 tonne chain blocks. The rotational work done in this chamber acts directly upon the ship's rudder to enable steering. Seen at the centre of the photo is the very top of the forward rudder stock. The disassembly of this steering box will free the rudder stock and allow it to be lowered into the dock.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 31


At Narrabeen's aft end, fitters are a day ahead of those at the forward end. Here, the cover plate of the aft steering box, whose weight was at one point spread over five chain blocks, is gently eased off and 'walked away' from the work area. The cover plate is heavy and awkward, and will rest on the deck against the ship's side right alongside fitters whilst they get on with the cumbersome but meticulous task of dismantling this chamber.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 32


The garnet blasters have been given a tall work order. The degree to which they must strip back Narrabeen's hull coating will require about four consecutive days of steady blasting. In this time, the intense noise and chaos of their work will dominate the dock floor environment and cause virtual sensory deprivation within the dock. This garnet gunner fires garnet and water propelled by pressurised air onto a section of Narrabeen's keel. When a grain of garnet hits the surface, it actually explodes. Instantly, the resulting fragments of powdered spoil disperse radially, creating an intense localised surface friction which causes efficient and devastating lifting results to a targeted surface. An environmentally friendly option for this task, garnet is unique in this way, making it such a prized commodity in the trade. The gun assembly is heavy and rigid but the suit is positively pressurised and keeps the gunners cool while it delivers to them a constant supply of fresh air during the often lengthy hours of their work.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 33


A long way to go, a long time to get there. A garnet gunner working along the keel of Narrabeen's starboard forward hull.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 34


Not unhappy. Just being proactive. Wink, wink. The yard's attendant boilermaker has decided there is not enough room in the lower dockside area for his over restricted crew to lay out the chain and assess it. So he has put his foot down and ordered both chains to be lifted entirely out of our section of the dock and to be moved into the next dock, ahead us, currently occupied by a naval supply vessel, with plenty of room to spare. The area under that vessel's stern will give boilermakers plenty of room to work with as they need to lay the chain out into a pattern based upon it's 27-metre sections to properly assess it. Here, a forklift lifts up Narrabeen's entire 6.5 tonne port anchor chain to present it for rigging in preparation for the dock's 60-tonne western crane to leapfrog it into the next dock. When you have so much heavy lifting equipment at your disposal, you have these options.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 35


The dock's western crane lifts Narrabeen's port anchor chain out of our dock, over the green-top-striped centre caisson and down into vacant dock floor area astern of the HMAS Success.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 35A


Moving the chains. Narrabeen's port anchor chain, in above frame, is dropped onto the dock floor astern of HMAS Success. Below, both chains are piled up in the massive vacant dock floor area, and a 16-tonne forklift arrives onto the dock floor to enable the boilermakers to move the chain within the dock.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 36


Beneath Narrabeen's aft end, the lead rigger and boilermaker talk tactics. In preparation for servicing of the steering gear, lifting eyes must be welded onto the hull at optimal positions for riggers to use for attachment of their chainblocks during removal and re-installation of the very heavy components of the steering gear. After being welded in, these lifting eyes must be load tested and certified before use, and after the docking is complete they will be cut off again until next time.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 37


The riggers' lifting eyes in their designated, strategic positions on Narrabeen's aft end. Above, note the red marks spray painted onto the hull to mark the optimum positions, and, below, the lifting eyes fully welded in hours later. Although these lifting eyes will all come into play simultaneously when the riggers extract the propellor shafts next week, their positions are all chosen for specific reasons. Several multi-tonne transfers are coming soon, including the rudders, rudder stocks and propellor shafts. Given the Narrabeen's age, damaging or dropping any of these virtually irreplaceable parts would be disastrous for all concerned.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 38


Under the massive stern of the HMAS Success, Narrabeen's laid-out anchor chains are but small fish in a very big pond.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 39


This wonky link in Narrabeen's port anchor chain, singled out for scrutiny by the eagle-eyed yard boilermaker, could potentially be enough to see the whole immediate section of chain condemned and replaced with an all new 27-metre section. The chain survey is only just getting underway.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 40


In the northern partition of The Captain Cook Graving Dock, Narrabeen sits side-by-side with an Australian Navy Ship slightly smaller in size. Both ships are undergoing several consecutive days of heavy grit blasting. When this much blasting goes in in the dock, all other under-hull works are generally suspended and docking staff stay well clear of the dock floor unless they are either essential watchkeepers or hack journalists. Here, six teams of grit blasters are at work. Can you spot them?

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 41


The grit blasters will keep on going until the hull surfaces are deemed suitable for re-coating. The spoil from their work falls everywhere in the dock. No point in cleaning it up until a ceasefire is ordered. Until then, the dock floor becomes an increasingly deeper quagmire of powderised garnet mixed with water and expired paint spoil which borders upon quicksand. Perhaps a clay potter could get excited about this stuff.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 42


Airborne garnet powder combines with water in the air and settles on Narrabeen's windows. A lot of cleanup to be done when the blasting ends.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 43A


Narrabeen's external decks are also bogged down with blasting spoil. The collateral mess associated with garnet blasting seems a high price to pay, but in our circumstance it is still regarded as the best method of hull surface preparation.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 43


The view from Narrabeen's starboard aft lower deck. Sitting at this position on board, ferry passengers would normally be enjoying a nice view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge as the vessel veers to port, making its way into Circular Quay on the Manly to Sydney run. The Narrabeen is expected to be back on the run in 42 days.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 44


As the steering systems at both ends of Narrabeen move along in their schedules of disassembly, eventually these curious looking tools come out of hiding. They are the huge and heavy purpose-built box end wrenches, fabricated years ago most likely at this yard, which are used to loosen and tighten the equally huge and heavy locking nut which sits atop the steering assembly. Some of these wrenches are stored on board the vessels, and some are stored in this yard. One trick-ponies, they spend far more time being stared at and stumbled over than they ever will in actual deployment. Moreover, due to their enormous weight they most be completely secure wherever they are kept.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 45


After this, it all comes apart. Yard riggers have left the rudder key in the ready position after completing the arduous journey from storage to deployment. Shortly, fitters will lift the key onto the nut and hope that the 'cracking' or loosening of the nut does not require too much elbow grease. The locking nut movement on the steering assembly is a key step. Once it is cracked, the disassembly of the steering system then follows quickly for both the fitters in this room and the riggers waiting on the dock floor directly underneath who are readying the ship's rudder, whose tapered stock is joined directly to the locking nut, for removal.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 46


Using a handful of 1.5 tonne chainblocks, yard riggers have placed the enormous wrench onto the locking nut which sits atop Narrabeen's after steering assembly. Fitters are in position to swing the cumbersome sledgehammer sideways onto the wrench handle, hoping the nut won't take too long to loosen. Swinging a sledge in a confined space like this takes a lot of practice.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 47


Narrabeen on the blocks after four consecutive days of hull blasting. The garnet spoil rests upon everything sitting on the dock floor and adds an almost three-dimensional look to the scene. Note the bridge decks are in full scaffold as well.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 48


All four of Narrabeen's main passenger gangways have been uncleated and detached from their hydraulic linkages and are, in effect, free of the ship. Riggers have been at work to secure each gangway to the boat mechanically, using chainblocks. Inside the ship, fitters can now service Narrabeen's now-offline-and-drained onboard hydraulic system. Those chainblocks you see, covered in hazard tape, are the only thing keeping the gangways in position.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 49


Layers and layers of safety. Here, Narrabeen's port upper gangway is secured in the upright position by a temporary chainblock arrangement. This simple chainblock configuration demonstrates to what lengths we have to go these days to prevent accidents in shipyards. The screwed-in lifting eye at left is attached to the ship's framework and has been inspected and load tested prior to this docking. The shackle joins the chainblock's load to the ship's lifting eye, and it has been inspected, load tested and tagged by a private tester. The chainblock is the property of the yard riggers, and it is regularly load tested. The shackle and lifting eye at right are also inspected and load tested at regular intervals. The arrangement itself can only be done by the yard's riggers and has to be observed and approved by the ship's onboard engineer, and then the whole arrangement is 'tagged out' with the engineer's signature and cannot be legally touched by anyone until it is 'untagged' by the signatory engineer. All this is to prevent failure of equipment or procedures. This follows on as preventative maintenance against accidents stemming from the lifting or suspending of heavy objects in the dock, and the related safety and security issues are very big issues in yards like this all over the world.

MV Narrabeen 2017 Image 50


The four-week old replacement lettering on Narrabeen's Starboard Aft Bow at the beginning of its first ever paint job.

-->> Go to Part 2

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