Ah well, there goes the fun for a while. Our trip to Triton Bay was great, but lately it seems we can’t go a week without something else to fix, and having been away for six weeks, well…you get the picture. Some fixes are in the ‘Mayday, Mayday’ red-light-flashing category, and others are in the ‘yeah, we should get around to doing that when we have time’ category. But either way you cut and shut it, there’s no getting away from the dreaded “M” word. So here, Ladies and Gentlemen, in no particular order, are the nominees for Fix of the Month, May 2021:
Fix No. 1: About half-way through our time in Triton, the freezer stopped working. Something of a major problem, seeing as we’d stocked up for weeks away. Luckily our fridge is huge and has loads of space way down the bottom, so we cranked it up to the highest setting (i.e., lowest temp) and managed to save most of our frozen food. What wouldn’t keep we cooked up and shared with our travelling companions. We ate like kings! In the meantime, Bruce went into troubleshooting mode – no easy task without internet – and finally, after hours of testing different circuits and components, Dr Jameson pronounced the freezer was brain dead: the black box controller needed replacing. We managed to contact our highly efficient Marine Procuring Specialist in Sydney (aka Rob, our son) and he organised for the replacement part to be waiting in Sorong on our return. What efficiency! What great service! (Shhh…he’ll be wanting a pay rise next). When we got back, all we had to do was plug it in and…Voilà…she works!
Fix No. 2: Having replaced the starter engine battery a few weeks ago, we knew the house batteries would soon be going to the big battery bank in the sky (isn’t that owned by Elon Musk?). They’ve lasted nearly 7 years, which is quite astonishing and mostly thanks to Bruce’s obsession about keeping them charged at 85% or over. We’d hoped to nurse them for a few more weeks while we were away, but after several mornings of gagging and choking on startup (the batteries, not Bruce….on second thoughts, maybe both) we realised we’d waited too long. Onto our trusty Mr Fix-it, Wick, who ordered us new batteries from Jakarta that would also be waiting for us on our return to Sorong. This time, however, the fix wasn’t quite as simple as the freezer. It involved removing the three old batteries, weighing 63 kg each, and installing 4 new ones weighing in at just under 58 kg each. A bit of a logistical nightmare when you can’t be alongside at a dock. Just to add to the dilemma, Bruce put his back out a couple of weeks ago, badly enough that even standing upright was a challenge. So yours truly has been doing most of the heavy lifting, including pulling up the mainsail and jumping in and out of the engine bays. But this? This was beyond me. Again, Wick and his team came to the rescue and with some ingenuity and a hoist on the back of the boom the job was done. It was stinking hot, and because it was Ramadan, we couldn’t even offer Wick’s boys a glass of water. It beggars belief how they can work in these conditions and not eat or drink all day. For a whole month.
Fix No. 3: We’ve prided ourselves that in the past 7 years of owning the boat, we’ve never once had to unblock a toilet, and with four of them on board that’s quite a feat. Kenny would be proud. So when the head (for you landlubbers that’s the marine term for toilet) in our bathroom started getting blocked on a regular basis, the first thing we did was point fingers at each other and cast aspersions (as you do, of course). Then we came to our senses and realised that the boat was 19 years old and the hoses had probably never been cleaned out. After many years of use, calcium deposits build up in the hose and turn to concrete inside, effectively blocking it completely. The only way to fix it is to pull the whole hose out, find a solid wharf or rock and bash the hose to loosen the calcium and remove it. Simple enough you might think. But this is a boat and getting access to each end of the hose fittings and then removing the whole kit and caboodle requires the skills of Houdini, very long arms, and an exceptionally comprehensive vocabulary of swear words. We lacked two of those skills and excelled in one, but finally we managed to get it out. Yep, it was solid as a rock, so Bruce took it ashore and had a mini-therapy session releasing his frustrations with a hammer and hey presto, a ton of calcium deposits were removed (thankfully you’re spared any photographic evidence or smell-o-vision of this particular fix). All in all, a shitty job (oh yes, I’m sure there’ll be plenty of jokes coming down the line). And there’s only another three heads to go! Ah, the joy of boat ownership.
Fix No. 4: If you’ve read our previous blogs, you’ll know that ever since we got back to the boat last December we’ve been struggling to fix the leaking valves on the dinghy. First it was just one valve, but in the last month both the other valves have joined the party. Not to mention that just about every handle on the boat has come unglued. She’s looking very sad.
It’s a common problem with inflatable boats in the equatorial climate – they just aren’t built for this extreme heat. We’ve already made many attempts at fixing the valves by removing them, cleaning them, and re-seating them (valuable tip no.1: do NOT let go of the valve backing plate. It will disappear into the innards of the tube and will be nigh impossible to retrieve. Don’t ask us how we know this.) When our previous efforts didn’t work, we contacted the Highfield dealers we bought the boat from in Sydney. The response? “We’ve never heard of that problem before. The only time we’ve had leaking valves was when a truck accidentally ran over one of our dinghies”. Well, that was helpful. I guess we’re on our own with this one, then. This time, when we removed the valve for the umpteenth time, we noticed the pvc backing skirt on the inside of the tube had also come unglued in places. Armed with our new pvc glue from Jakarta, we glued it back together, re-assembled the valve and…the tube stayed inflated. Huzzah! The only problem now is that the baffles inside the tubes that separate them into three sections must have also come unglued. So if one valve leaks, all the tubes deflate. So far we’ve successfully fixed two of the valves and the third is only leaking a smidge, so we’ll call that a win for now. We’ll get to the third one, we just need a little rest…
Fix No. 5: If you’re sick of hearing about our engine/gearbox oil leaks, believe me, so are we. We get one leak fixed and another one appears. Having sorted the gearbox leaks, the latest one is from the starboard motor. We thought it was the front oil seal, so we fitted a new one. Nope, still leaking. Back came Mahjid, Wick’s trusty mechanic, for another look. He thought the seal shaft looked a little worn, so he took it away and got it re-sleeved (being a busy industrial port, Sorong has some excellent machining shops). Another trial run. Still leaking copious amounts of oil. Luckily Bruce has plenty of hair because he’s now pulling it out in fistfuls. On goes the Sherlock Holmes cap – he rigs up our imitation go-pro camera in the engine bay to see if he can spot where the leak is coming from. It’s not from the seal – it looks like it’s from the gear casing or the oil-pan, which would mean pulling the whole engine out to fix it. Mahjid returns once more and valiantly squeezes himself in next to the engine while its running. He spots the leak – it’s coming from part of the top cover and just needs a new gasket to fix it, no need to pull the engine out. Things are looking up! After he fits the new gasket, we run the engine for 1/2 hr and there’s no oil dripping from anywhere. This could be a fairy tale ending, except when we finally leave Sorong and motor out to the islands, there’s still a tiny amount of oil underneath the motor. Noooo!! The Captain is determined ZAT ZER VILL BE NO MORE OIL LEAKS ON ZIS BOAT, so it looks like this is an 80% fix and we’ll keep Mahjid in business for a bit longer…
Fix No. 6: This one’s in the second category, the non-urgent but important. Having a watermaker on board, we’ve never bothered too much with alternative water-collection methods, except a bucket on deck when it rains. But we’ve had so much rain here in the last few months that it seems crazy not to utilise all that free, fresh water from above.
After a few exploratory prototypes, we think we’ve come up with a better solution: using the drainholes in the gutter of our coachroof, Bruce connected a series of hoses that sit under the eyebrow and run to a water filter and then straight into the deck fill. I have no idea why we haven’t thought of this before. Duh! All we have to do is open the deck fill, stick the hose in, and Bob’s your uncle. And Bruce is Wiley Coyote, genius at work.
So there you have it, Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury. Just for fun, let us know which nominee wins your vote for Fix of the Month and why. It hasn’t been the most exciting month we’ve ever had, but by golly it’s been a busy and hopefully productive one. With any luck the next blog will feature adventures of a better kind and plenty of pretty pictures. In the meantime, here’s a gratuitous sunset shot to keep you interested….