The schedule it is a changin' - again and again

Position           Port Vila, Efate, Vanuatu

Date                Friday 4 September 2015

 

With reference to the last report I say again "The report of ‘our departure' was an exaggeration".

 

The furler was duly fitted on Monday last and was a little trickier than expected, of course, but was finally completed on Tuesday first thing.  Engineer Pete then went off to organise the stepping of a mast on a Bavaria 50, the crane having failed to turn up on Friday; Vanuatu, Friday, what do you expect.  What you may well ask has that got to do with us?  Well, I was out in the dinghy testing a second hand outboard that we had bought as a spare (more or less identical to the one that we have already and a great performer) when I saw over the top of a boat moored alongside the Bavaria the mast break away from the crane and topple into the water.

 

I motored back to Caduceus and was met by Jonathan, Chez Nous, saying that Elizabeth required gauze pads and bandages to dress a head wound.  Elizabeth as luck would have it had been off to the market, walking along the sea wall and was 20 metres from the accident and saw it happen.  One of the other yachties, helping the mast stepping, had been caught on the leg by the base of the mast as it toppled, lifted into the air and then fell 6 feet or so back onto the deck landing with a glancing blow to his head.  First aid stemmed the blood and Elizabeth was able to calm the situation until some very efficient, previously unknown to us, private paramedics appeared and took injured Mike off to a (query the?) good private doctor for further treatment.

 

How did this happen?  Informed conjecture and looking at the facts.  The boat was moored bows on to the dock.  Engineer Pete Wederell briefed the owner and helpers on what was to happen.  The mast was to be lowered vertically down onto the deck base, the shrouds were to be attached, then the forestay and lastly, stress lastly, the backstay is attached.  Unfortunately, unknown to Pete who was directing the crane driver to manoeuvre the mast so that he could attach the forestay, the owner fixed the backstay.  Thus as the crane tried to pull the top of the mast forward instead of pulling the top of the mast it was lifting 20 plus tons of boat.  The boat was pulled forward towards the dock, the crane whose boom was fully extended was pulled forward and the 10 ton brand new lifting strop attached to the mast broke.  Mike fortunately was not badly injured, requiring 4 stitches to his head and strapping of a bruised leg.  The outcome could have been much more serious had the mast fallen onto the boat and the people on deck.

 

Elizabeth in addition to Accident and Emergency duties has also seen and dressed more badly infected wounds, administered more butt shots and generally assisted in keeping the ICA Pacific Islands Rally healthy.  We are not part of the rally but the organisers, John and Lynn Martin have been very welcoming and helpful to us so it has been great to provide something in return.

 

So ---- if you have read this far you may have wondered why the change in schedule, again.  With the furler fixed we looked set to depart on Wednesday.  Sherry and Denis invited us together with Chez Nous, out to dinner to celebrate Sherry’s birthday on Tuesday evening prior to our departure on Wednesday.  What could possibly go wrong?  Well to cut to the chase, the evening out was great but the watermaker decided to blow something or other and produce a very salty output.  The diagnosis was a failed membrane, one of three.  I found a replacement in Auckland and yet another ICA Rally crew member flying out on Thursday, lined the whole thing up and received the spare part 1320 Thursday afternoon when it was immediately fitted.  Unfortunately with that fixed a second membrane started to malfunction.  Calling the Samaritans was not an option so an immediate decision was made to sail to Noumea in New Caledonia where there are both engineers and spare parts; we have spent enough time and effort ferrying things from New Zealand and we are running out of time and other people’s crew.

 

So ---- this story has all of the feel of a cornflake joke (a never ending joke) ---- Friday morning we had everything squared away and at 1100 we were about to leave our berth and motor round to the fuel dock only to be told that it had run out of diesel but some was expected soon – Vanuatu, Friday afternoon, how likely is that?.  Getting onto the fuel dock did allow us while we waited to stow the passerelle and hoist the dinghy.  Whilst we had enough diesel to motor to Noumea if necessary, it is never a good idea to set off without full tanks.  Having been cleared out by customs we were able to get diesel duty free; at 67p per litre an offer not to be missed.  The tanker arrived at 1530 which surprised us both.

 

So ------ with a full tank we are ready for the off.  The fates had however not finished with us.  Well it is Friday – maritime superstition; never go to sea on a Friday.  An engine alarm sounded, fortunately not one that shuts the engine down automatically.  Answer, give up, go and attach ourselves to a mooring buoy and get Engineer Pete along to help with the diagnosis.  The fault had a class number of 128.  The Volvo fault code book that I acquired by devious means in the USA helpfully starts at 130.  Pete was able to bring along computer copies of the appropriate manuals, acquired at some time in his past and now copied to my PC.  This showed that the fault code indicated a failed sensor that measures crankcase pressure rather than a problem with the pressure itself.  So, it was safe to use the engine pending finding a replacement; another good reason to go to New Caledonia.

 

We had already said goodbye to Jonathan and Donna of Chez Nous and although they had been motoring out of the harbour as we fuelled they returned to see if they could be of assistance.  Sundowner counselling was required and we spent a very pleasant time in their company before enjoying a “passage meal” of boeuf bourgeon and an early bed ready for a dawn departure tomorrow.

 

A departure benefit – Gordons Gin at £6 per litre

Ma Baker it is not.  Gentlemen sailors decant their gin into plastic bottles