Thursday, 20 September 2012

Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On

When Italian sailor Alex Carozzo cast off the lines in southern England to begin the first single-handed around-the-world yacht race in late October of 1968, he was so exhausted after months of overseeing the work to his boat that he anchored his 66 foot ketch, Gancia Americano, behind the Isle of Wight for a week in order to rest.  

Or so goes the Hal Roth version in The Longest Race.

I don’t believe a word of it.

We have now tried three times, unsuccessfully, to tuck Spray behind some lovely island to get some rest after months of effort, and it never works.  We can’t manage to get out of shake-down mode.

We recuperated our repaired Jib sheet after our last misadventure, and headed out this week for an appointment with a mechanic to replace the motor’s alternator and to try to figure out why the engine seems to get the burps from time to time (air in the fuel lines).  And then, we told ourselves, we would plunk down behind some lovely island and get some rest.

Stuck in the port of Crouesty
Our alternator, taken out 2 weeks ago for repairs, was still not ready, so we can look forward to another trip to the mechanic’s in another week.  For the burps, the mechanic shook his head, reassuring us that air in the system wasn’t normal, and then further comforted us by remarking that those sorts of leaks were difficult to find.  So we spent an hour blindly tightening various fittings and adding new metal collars to tighten up some connections even further.  A few test start-ups revealed no problems.  But it was too late to head off anywhere, so we stayed in port and Patrick took the opportunity to install a separate speaker for the VHF marine radio so that we can use the existing speakers for a stereo fm / CD / mp3 player.

The next morning as we were preparing to leave, the motor had great difficulty starting, and when it did, it belched out a rather startling amount of white smoke.  I suggested calling the mechanic again but Patrick declared everything to be fine (Grrrrr) and we headed off.  As luck would have it (mine, not Patrick’s) there was absolutely no wind and we had to motor all the way to the island of Houat.  At least we would be at anchor if we had engine trouble the next time.

Along the way, we tried, for the 6th time, to reset the wind speed and direction indicator to no avail, but I did manage to fix the wanky auto-pilot, who insisted on heaving over ~10 degrees anytime you turned it on.  I manually reset the rudder angle indicator arm of the pilot and then reset the controller to 0 rudder angle compensation.  There is still some play in the helm that causes the pilot to work a lot, but we have to build up the courage to fix that one, since it involves replacing the ball joint underneath the steering column.  If it is anything like the last ball joint job, we’ll need help.

Anchored at the Big Beach, Houat.

We did enjoy a lovely afternoon along the “big beach” at Houat.  It’s difficult to take in the scene with a camera.  The picture below shows a Google Earth shot of the area integrated into our navigation software (OpenCPN), where the red boat shows Spray’s position, anchored off the beach.  Patrick managed a swim (armed with a wetsuit) and I lolled around in the cockpit with my Kindle.  And the motor started right up as we prepared to head home.

OpenCPN version of Houat (red boat position not-to-scale)

We had wind for the return trip to the Gulf and even put a reef in the main (more for practice than necessity).  As we entered the Gulf, we broke a new speed record, even with a reefed mainsail: 11 knots !  We entered at the fastest period of the tidal current with a tidal coefficient of 103, which is a measure of the amplitude of the tidal range (the scale is approximately 20 to 120).  We probably had about 5 knots of current in our favour at that point.  By the time I grabbed my camera, we had descended to 10.8 knots, but trust me… we hit 11 at one point.

New speed record !

Our next few weeks will be a continuation of mini-shake-down cruises until we get all the kinks out, or at least the major ones.  Alex Carozzo headed off without doing this and had to drop out of the around-the-world race near Portugal because of a bleeding peptic ulcer.  We’ll take our time…we’re not in a race.