Wednesday 22nd February 2012 - Challenges, Chums and Cheerio to Rodney Bay

Jon & Carol Dutton
Thu 23 Feb 2012 03:58

22nd February 2012 – Rodney Bay, St Lucia


Well, it’s been a peaceful and productive interlude in Rodney Bay.  We had planned to depart for Martinique today to collect the new dinghy but, of course, it is Mardi Gras carnival time and, and, and . . . So the dinghy will not be ready for us until Friday morning.


Amongst all the maintenance and snag fixing, we have had time to get together with our ARC friends. Geoff and Ann (Nyda) very kindly asked us to celebrate Ann’s birthday at the St Lucia Yacht Club.  We had a lovely lunch in a blissfully breezy first floor restaurant overlooking Reduit beach with Pigeon Island in the distance.  Geoff and Ann are also making their way south before flying home to Cowes for the summer.


Chiscos (the boat with the most serious party crew on the ARC and including skipper John Simpson – trumpeter/guitarist and player of the ‘Last Posts’ as our ensign came down in Las Palmas – plus Michaela, a professional musician who plays the violin, amongst other instruments) arrived on the evening of Monday 20th.  They have had a great time playing in the Windward Islands (south Caribbean) and are now on their way north, back to UK.  So, this will, shortly, be Sayonara.  That will be a sad parting.  They invited us round for a sundowner along with Geoff  and Ann – which we kinda knew would go on rather after sundown.  It was a great evening during which John and Michaela gave us an excellent violin and guitar rendition of 3 tunes they’d played at the Bequia music festival recently. Subsequent conversation about what musical instruments either of us played revealed little of interest apart from the fact that Jon had a passing knowledge of the ukulele.  Safe enough, one would have though.  Not so.  Michaela produced one in a trice having stowed it aboard with the intention of learning how to play it.  But, she hadn’t quite got around to it.  Despite howls of protest from Jon, a rendition of “Ain’t She Sweet” was extracted from him followed by feeble excuses about not being able to remember anything else.  But, he was let off for good behaviour. 


Monday had seen the pressurized water system electric pump burn out again.  Hang on, chaps, we replaced this at sea - with our last spare - not 3 weeks ago.  And they cost about £100 a throw.  Luckily, as result of earlier enquiries, Ian Cowan of Island Water World in St Lucia had ordered one on spec – at an eye-watering US $250.  So, a fix it might be and Bob Raley was due to bring out a complete new pump, but this is ridiculous.  Jon had long conversations with Jabsco Shop which established that the type of pump we have is precisely what we need - notwithstanding that you can buy much newer designs for a third of the price.  These have a design life of 5-7 years in normal use.  That doesn’t mean use every day or anything remotely like it.  Most boats are probably lucky to see 40 or 50 days a year of use.  And, their freshwater systems will be used extensively for, perhaps, a fortnight of that.  Our pump was designed in the days before anyone thought about built-in obsolescence and was fitted more than 20 years ago.  It’s still made, but you won’t find it on the Jabsco web site.


But, £100 is one thing for an electric motor; $250 is something else.  Nobody could provide any clues as to the cause of what appeared to be an electrical fault.  So, having replaced the motor once more, Jon ripped the whole pump out again and pulled it apart.  Dicey thing to do – at the time in question we had fresh water – however temporarily - and he was likely to be in big trouble if meddling meant that we no longer had.  The reason for repeated failure on the part of the electric motor became instantly obvious and it was entirely mechanical (for the technically minded, the jack shaft was shot – seriously so.  The result was an eccentric motion of the big pulley wheel on this belt-driven system resulting in a rapidly oscillating load on the electric motor and its shaft.  It didn’t like that one bit.).  Off to Island Water World to see the inestimable Ian Cowan.  He dug around in the shop’s attic and appeared with a dust-encrusted box containing a replacement part for a similar sort of pump but designed for bilge pumping.  Crucially, the jack shaft assembly and bearings were identical.  The housing and the rest of it was not.  It was now 1500.  The local machine shop is half a mile away, closes at 1600 and the following day (today) is Independence Day.  All gonna be on de rom ponch.  No wokin’ fo’ shuh.  Ian produced a bag of tools from his desk, gave them to Jon, told him precisely what to do (“You may think you’ve taken it apart – I’m talking about really taking it apart and here’s a shoebox for all the bits”) and despatched him to said machine shop.  Stand on veranda, strip it right down, hope to God you can remember how it all goes back together again, double down to machine shop, use Ian’s name in vain, beg, plead, assure them it’s a 5 minute job (as if Jon’d know) and get them to drive out the bearings from both assemblies and replace the new bearings in the old housing.  They were stars.  They managed to do it and we now have a pressurized water system that has never been quieter or more well-mannered.       


On to the saga of the auxiliary generator.  As last reported, we’ve done everything sensible to ensure that the water flow from the inlet seacock to the generator is as friction-free as possible.  We’ve had it suggested that we replace the ½” seacock with a bigger one (big hole in wallet given need to lift boat out of water).  Makes little sense to us given that the incoming water travels a matter of inches within a seacock and still ends up having to travel a couple of feet in ½” tubing to get to the raw water pump having got to the boundary of the generator capsule.  Everything between that (around 5m of tube) is now ¾” tube (in place of the original ½” tube) and fitting it has made no appreciable difference to the flow rate anyway.  So, what’s next?  The obvious answer is that there may be an obstruction between the raw water pump and the exhaust.  So, maybe the heat exchanger.  All sorts of opinions about how to tackle this.  The mechanics say “Put it on a bench”.  We say “Come and look at this thing and tell us how you get it out of that hole in the first place”.  OK, it got in there but you’d try awfully hard to avoid getting it out again.  And, you certainly cannot get at the heat exchanger without getting the whole thing out.  The mechanics say, when asked “Oh, no, we certainly would not recommend using any chemical solution to get any crud out of it”.  Ian Cowan is rather more right wing (but, then, he’s a chandler) and suggests using hydrochloric acid (which, extraordinarily, you can buy in gallon containers in any chandlery worth the name hereabouts).  At a bit of a loss, we spoke to Mastervolt in Holland.  They suggested using vinaigrette.  After a brief and somewhat confused conversation about the particular flavour of vinaigrette that might be favoured by Mastervolt generators it was established that what was really required was white vinegar. 


Engines and all that is generally accepted here as being Jon’s business.  However the procuring of white vinegar is definitely pusser stuff.  Administering the substance to the patient is Dr Jon’s business.  So, Carol returned a little later with a gallon of the stuff.  Jon administered the treatment after a bit of puzzling about how to do it without cocking it up.  It is now quietly doing its business in the guts of the machine and will be expelled tomorrow morning.  We hope that the patient feels up to passing more water than hitherto.


So, a quick dash to Martinique tomorrow to pick up our shiny new dinghy before heading south to Grenada.