Saturday, 18 August 2012

Launch Scuttled by Euro-Gremlins

Mark my words: Europe is doomed.  Forget harmonization of social security, retirement, and the minimum wage.  The problems run much deeper, like the fact that German screw threads turn to the right, and French screw threads turn to the left.  I haven’t had the time to investigate further, but at first glance, it appears that most of the Anglo-Saxon EU countries follow Germany’s lead, while the Latin “Club Med” countries stick with France.  I’m sure a closer investigation would reveal pocket alliances resembling the voting in the Eurovision Song Contest  (For non-European friends unfamiliar with Eurovision, it’s uncomfortably like the Gong Show without the gong.)

We discovered this charming example of regional diversity whilst trying to re-plumb our cooking gas lines.  The original fittings were so rusted that it was hard to tell where one nut ended and the next one began, and so we decided to change them all.  A word to the wise who find themselves in a similar situation:  DON’T.  Rust is also known as “the poor man’s Loctite” and that original rusty system probably had less chance of leaking than the new one we planned to install. 

The connection to the copper tubing was still good and we had hoped to use the same pressure regulator.  Long story short:  After 7 visits to different hardware, plumbing, boating and camping stores, the answer was nyet.  The hoses and fittings we buy in France cannot be made to work with the original German fittings.  We have now a shiny new French system, where the next challenge is to make this French system fit in the gas tank compartment of the German boat.  This will involve drilling a new hole in the compartment and bending / aligning the copper tubing that runs to the stove. 

Yoga helps, too.
The next bugaboo was the electrical system.  I realized that working with gas and electricity made me nostalgic for those sweet simple days of working on the engine.  Engines are fairly straightforward beasts, and there are lots of technical books to help you.  Every country, nay, every boat owner, seems to want to put his personal stamp on the electrical and gas systems, and there is no way to know what they’ve done or why … just a mass of multi-colored spaghetti with strands trailing off behind bulkheads, never to be seen again.  We have the original German wiring diagram, but after 20 years in the hands of 2 different French owners, there is little resemblance.  To keep things really fun, nothing has been labelled. 

After a nervous hour of trying to figure out why the service batteries were no longer feeding any of the instruments, we discovered that the system is outfitted with a fuse that had blown.  How or when it had blown is still a mystery, but at least the problem was easy to resolve.  We debated putting in a breaker switch instead of using fuses, but the smallest breaker available was 60 amps, which we thought was probably too high to give much protection.  Next, we realized that the 220V recharging system was wired to the control panel rather than directly to the battery, meaning that the batteries would only be recharged if the circuit breakers were closed.  Why?  Fixed that. 

The major problem du jour is that the alternator is not charging the batteries.  The alternator works fine and the recharger works fine, and when wired together correctly, the system works fine.  But the system is not wired correctly and none of the motor controls function except the ignition alarm.  The electrician we worked with yesterday gave up at 8 p.m., apologetically announced that he had to go on vacation, and gave us the telephone number of a colleague who might be able to help us.    

The original launch date was based on finalizing our major refits, namely the propeller shaft tube and the windlass, both of which are now done.

Reinforcing and stratifying the forward part of the chain locker.
Windlass and foot controls in place, chain marked every 5 meters.

However, our lesser tasks, by their number (33) and “regional diversity issues”, have now become a force to be reckoned with, and the launch has been postponed for one week.  Looking over my list, I’m wondering how many more Gremlins are lurking.