What have we been doing? I hear you ask
Position Noumea, New Caledonia
Date Tuesday 29 September 2015
Well you might ask. I really did not want to tempt fate and write about having completed all of the repairs to the boat until we had left. We had an attempt at leaving on Thursday 24 September but got all of 14 miles and then found that we still had furler issues so on Sunday we returned to Noumea, with a change of marina to Port du Sud to have yet another bash at the job but more of that later.
Going back to the beginning we arrived on Tuesday 8 September, three weeks ago, with three main issues that would prevent is from making a long passage, or manoeuvring safely. First the bowthruster although returned to partial working order would now only work in three second bursts; better than nothing but only just. Secondly the watermaker having had one membrane replaced required the other two replacing. Thirdly the genoa furler whilst having had the drive unit replaced was still breaking belts.
At this stage enter Chloe Morin who runs Noumea Ocean, a yacht services agency and general organiser and fix it for boats. Immediately that we had cleared in through immigration, customs and biosecurity Chloe was on hand and having ascertained what was required marshalled Patrick to take on the bowthruster and Gerrard, who we had used last year but though a different agency, for the watermaker. George appeared the following mooring to take on the furler issue.
Port Moselle Marina in downtown Noumea
Patrick and the bowthruster - I feel a Thomas the Tank Engine moment coming on. The fix done in Port Vila had left the original electronic controller still partially in circuit. Patrick’s solution was to remove the electronic control completely and with greater resources available construct a simple relay driven interface. Problem solved. Whatever has gone wrong with the more complex circuitry and monitoring provided by the electronic controller is not the controller itself, we now have two spares, but by whatever it is sensing. It can wait for another time.
Gerrard and the watermaker. If you require someone to work on a watermaker in Noumea I can highly recommend Gerrard. In his workshop he has a test rig that enables him to test membrane frames, ours contains three membranes running in parallel, under pressure which means that when he refits equipment it is already tested for output and leaks. Unfortunately there was no membranes of the correct specification to be had in Noumea and we had to wait two weeks for them to come from the USA and be cleared through customs. However within three hours of Gerrard receiving them they were tested and fitted to the boat. We could not test them in Port Moselle due to the quality of the sea water but we were as ure as you can be that they would perform as per specification.
George and the genoa furler. Once again if you require a rigger in Noumea you will not do any better than George and his assistant Charlie. He immediately found a problem, not with the drive unit at the bottom of the forestay but in the swivel at the top. This was slightly worn and allowing the two nuts on the inboard end of the swivel wings (Amel owners will know what his means and we cannot tell the rest of you – secret squirrel rules apply) to catch in the tracks in the foil binding.
Action photo of the problem. Note the aerial view by George – not the Skipper, thank you
It is possible to rebuild the Amel version but it appears unnecessarily complicate and predates the availability of simpler commercial alternatives such as the one fitted to our staysail. George’s solution was to provide a replacement furler of a simpler design which we hope solves the problem. Did we require the furler drive replacing; possibly not but it was making worn out noises so was probably about to give major problems and may well have been what had originally caused the abnormal wear on the top swivel.
During all of this time Chloe was always on hand ensuring the team appeared when they said they would and if they did not, chasing them up. This was an amazing job, quite apart from her being completely bilingual to make sure that we were all talking about the same issues. In between she took Elizabeth off to the Indonesian Consulate to obtain visas, both of us off to an osteopath, helped with sourcing various boaty and other items, took one of the outboard motors off for a service and organised canvas repairs and he construction of a new sail bag for the cruising chute. We do not know how we would have managed without her.
L to R George and Charlie fitting the replacement top swivel
Well this all gets us to Wednesday 23 September and with Chloe obtaining our outward clearances we stowed bicycles, most useful, and completed last minute shopping for fresh produce from the nearby market.
The Noumea Central Market, very French
We delayed our departure until Thursday so that we could catch our breath and have a final; meal, our second, at the most excellent restaurant, Le petit jardin. Thursday through Sunday was a local holiday with all government offices shut and we therefore made Sunday our actual day to leave New Caledonia territorial waters date although we hoped to get away earlier. So a fill up with duty free diesel, £0.54 per litre, and we sailed north to Baie Maa for a day relaxing in the sun with a view to actually departing on Saturday.
Baie Maa, a very pleasant sheltered anchorage in prevailing Easterlies,
Well we set off on Saturday and went precisely 2 miles before it became apparent that the genoa furler drive belt had shredded again so a return to Baie Maa and call to Chloe organised a return to Noumea for Sunday and a visit from George first thing Monday morning.
My apologies if this is going on a bit but I wish to record this bit of boat maintenance in exotic places if only to remind myself in the future of what happened.
Another major issue was that we had now run out of spare drive belts and there were none to be obtained in Noumea. New Zealand is now 2 hours ahead of New Caledonia so by the time that George arrived to inspect the problem I had found 5 belts in Auckland and later in the day Chloe organised an agent in New Zealand to collect them and get them to the airport to go on the Tuesday flight to Noumea.
We are now into a third completely new issue with the furler. The drive unit is new, the top swivel is new but the drive belt keeps loosing tension and shredding itself. There is a tensioner that is bolted into the housing and careful measurement showed that on the new furler the bolt hole was 0.5mm less deep than on the original. This was enough to stop the bolt securing the tensioner binding it in place as it should and appears to be a fault in manufacture. A careful drilling and the fitting of a helicoil insert appears to have solved the problem.
The belts arrived Tuesday afternoon and were fitted within the hour. Meanwhile we had cycled round the place, visited the market again and raided an amazing patisserie.
You could be in France. Noumea is quintessentially French
Wednesday morning and off to the fuel dock in Port du Sud
Wednesday morning and ready for the off. Chloe dealt with the clearance, again and after dropping back for a coffee we were ready for the off by 10:30. We will repeat our departure plan of going some way up the coast so that we can unwind and set off on Thursday.
The Mate with Chloe. What would we have done without her assistance?