Messing with Boats- Part VI
It is raining in UBUD, BALI. Sitting on our terrace at the beautiful TJAMPUHAN
Hotel and Spa early in the morning, sipping a Balinese coffee graciously delivered
to us by a petite Indonesian waitress, and being far away from Pacific Bliss,
which is at the Benoa Marina—our thoughts wander back to the trials
and tribulations which we encountered in this sailing season. And there were
many, some planned, some unexpected and frustrating.
Our work started early this year in Mackay, where PB was on the hard from August 2004 till we arrived in May 2005 to prepare her for Voyage 5. There was planned work to be done. The battery bank was over 5 years old and needed to be replaced. The original German Sonnenschein gel cell batteries were not easily available in Australia; only one was available in Sydney, with a delivery time of many weeks for the others. So we decided to change all our batteries to the AGM brand, made in China, and in stock. It took some doing, because the sizes were different, but after much sweating and shuffling we could mount the batteries in the place of the old ones and even could add one more so our total Amp-hour capacity increased. Very well.
Next came the need to replace the trampoline net, which started to fray in some places. It turned out to be difficult to replace it with the original design, which required days of mounting and stretching. The local sail maker, after showing him some cash, finally agreed to make us a net with a new material, plastic weave reinforced with fiberglass, which happened to come from France. We mounted it after moving PB from the hard into the Marina, a few days before take-off.
Now the big project: Our rudders were stuck, because of swelling of the bushings. In order to take the rudders out and machine the bushings we needed to hire a bob cat to dig two four-foot holes, so that the rudders could be dropped into these and so removed. Luckily, we found a tradesman who had the same work done on another Catana the year before.
We also knew that our life raft needed to repacked and recertified. We had it deployed and looked in wonder at the many items it contained. We learned that we had a top of the line raft. All food items and batteries were replaced and repacked.
At the yard we met Peter, who had completed two circumnavigations. He helped
us with the many small tasks, such as repairing a head, changing a valve,
and with anything which needed more muscles.
Once PB was in the water again, she got a cosmetic treatment on her gel coat and all the wood work. She looked very pretty again and all was fine for a relaxing voyage through the Whitsundays and on to Cairns. She even served us well going ‘over the top.’
Our troubles began when we crossed the Gulf of Carpentaria. Our VHF communications system stopped working. This system allows communication between ships and harbor over a distance of 25 miles max. and is very essential when at anchor in a harbor. Once we arrived in Gove, we anchored next to Dragonfly, another Cat sailed by Roman and Diane, a delightful couple we came to know there. Roman is a ham expert. He loaned us a spare ham system which we could use in place of our VHF until Darwin, where we could buy a new one. This worked out very well, although the ham unit is not as user friendly. In Darwin we even bought a spare VHF with a spare antenna, just in case of more problems.
Also, as we bounced through the shallow, steep waves of the Gulf, suddenly our 200 L refrigerator stopped working in the middle of the night. I traced the problem to a tripped circuit breaker and reset it, and it was working OK from then on. However, this was an ominous sign, which came back to haunt us in Bali.
When I checked the engine rooms in Darwin, I noticed that the shunt measuring the current from the port engine alternator was burned out and one side melted and opened up. No idea what caused this problem. A poor contact could have led to overheating. I disconnected the shunt and connected the leads to the shunt together. This way the charging by the port engine was ok, except that the current could not be measured individually, only through the main shunt. This was acceptable. I ordered a new shunt to be shipped to Singapore.
In Kalabahi, Alor, Indonesia—just when we just started to drop our anchor in the middle of an anchorage crowded with 40 rally boats—we found that the anchor winch only allowed the anchor to go down, but not up. This would have been very bad should we have to re-anchor. Fortunately, after anchoring and checking all components, I found that just a slip-on contact came loose—a lucky break for us.
Our travels proceeded throughout Indonesia till we made our landfall in Bali at the Bali International Marina. Big name, marginal facilities. The electrical circuits on the dock looked very marginal. And so, after a rainstorm, as I was just changing oil in the port engine, Lois called out that our 200L refrigerator went out and all our navigational instruments were crazily blinking on and off and could not be controlled anymore. That was really bad, because without our instruments we would have to hand steer the next 1000 miles to Singapore. And probably, with only block ice.
Despair settled in on Pacific Bliss. We thought that, for sure, we would have to cancel our reservations for our retreat here in Ubud. The word got around the marina about our problems and soon Eric from s/v Rainbow Voyager showed up with an offer to help. Also, Lois called the local electrician, Wayan, who was recommended by the marina. So, a united effort was soon underway to repair. First, the fridge problems were quickly traced to the control unit, which turned out to have a corroded circuit board. Wayan offered to take the board home and try to clean it up and repair some burned tracks. This he did and, when he came back next day with it, it worked very well again. Cheers for Wayan!
The problems with the navigation instruments were more intricate. We could not solve it (one relay kept chattering away, turning the instruments on and off) at the circuit board level. Eric came up with a simple solution: Bypass all the control circuitry and feed the 12 V directly to the course computer. This we did, installing a switch and fuse at the Nav station to turn the instruments on and off. Joe from our buddy boat, s/v Mi Gitana, who was rafted to PB because of lack of dock space, brought all the necessary parts from his supply. Wayan, with his small frame, could easily crouch under the Nav station to make all the modifications. Now PB was ready to sail again, thanks to the help from fellow cruisers and a talented local electrical expert. Pacific Bliss is once more, knock on wood, in a ‘state of grace.’