Fixing the boat in exotic places

John & Susan Simpson
Mon 30 Jan 2023 22:44
Sailing your own boat around the world has often been described as 'fixing the boat in exotic places’ and just recently, as we have been preparing for the Pacific section of our trip, we have found this to be the case. When we returned to Casamara after Christmas we had a short list of boat jobs to be done before we start our Pacific odyssey in February, but the longer we’ve been back living on the boat, the longer the list has become!

Back in 2022 we had a slight leak into one of the cupboards in the galley and traced it to a pipe that leads from the deck out to a drain in the side of the boat.  When water washes along the side deck it’s supposed to gurgle happily down the drain and back into the sea, except that some of it was finding its way into the cupboard instead.  It was a fiddly job to fix and John spent ages either with his arms above his head squeezed into a space the size of a kitchen bin or oozing sealant under a drain grille that could only be lifted a few millimetres from the deck.  Much cursing and sticky fingers later the job was done and the cupboard was dry again … until last week when the leak had returned.  With a sense of impending doom John took the back off the cupboard and squeezed himself inside, only to discover that the leak wasn’t from the top of the deck drain but from the bottom.  Where the drain goes through the side of the hull there is a seacock which allows the drain to be closed if necessary and every now and again a slight drip emerged from one of the bolts holding this seacock together.  It wasn’t much, barely a teaspoonful every 24 hours, but water is supposed to stay outside the boat so not a good thing!  Frustratingly, in times gone by the hole beyond the seacock would be above the waterline and potentially fixable whilst the boat was still in the water, but everything we’re carrying to live aboard Casamara makes her a little heavier and water now laps regularly over the hole.  With heavy hearts and a quaking wallet, we decided that the only thing to be done was to have the boat lifted out of the water to sort the problem out.  Thankfully we were in Rodney Bay, St Lucia where the marina is able to lift Casamara, and they had a short slot for the following day.  We opted for a short lift out where the boat remains in the slings of the crane for just a couple of hours.  At over £300 an hour it was still a sore moment but in the end we were pleased we’d done it.  Not only did John fix the leak but he also solved a mystery clunk on the engine that we’d heard sometimes since we were relaunched in November. Our concerns about potential gear box problems turned out to be nothing more than some missing rubber stoppers on the propellor which were easily replaced. Phew!  

Casamara in the slings at Rodney Bay.  What you can’t see is me and John rushing around like mad things knowing we had only an hour and a half left by the time the boatyard guys had finished the lifting out!

Next up was a problem with the newly upgraded solar system.  It had appeared to be working fine since we added the final solar panel we brought out with us at Christmas but when we returned from being ashore in Martinique, checking in with Customs & Immigration, we found that the solar system was no longer working.  Much tracing of potential issues later John discovered a failed diode in the wiring system and we went ashore to buy another one.  To cut a long story short, as even the new diode continued to get quite hot we took some advice from a specialist in Martinique and it turned out that the diodes were a redundant part of the old system which, according to the contractor in Grenada, had been left in because ’they were already there’!  They’ve been removed now and thankfully, not only do we have the system up and running again now, but the power yield is improved because the unnecessary diodes were diverting some of it into making heat.  

So, whoever said that sailing around the world is just fixing your boat in exotic places was absolutely right!  Still, we can’t complain when we’re fixing the boat on lovely sunny days and have wonderful sunsets to enjoy as we quench our thirsts with an ice cold beer at the end of the day.  It does mean that we have to be fairly practical and able to work out how to fix things ourselves when they go wrong.  It isn’t always possible to find someone to fix it for us and, even if we do find someone, we have noted that every single piece of equipment that was worked on in Grenada whilst we were away over the summer has failed in some way since!! The skills needed aren’t necessarily in the local workforce no matter how much they claim to know what they’re doing.  Finding the right spare parts can also be a problem as the islands are too small for it to be viable to carry a wide range of stock.  Often parts have to be shipped in from the USA or Europe and can take weeks or months just to arrive.   We have spent the last couple of weeks in Martinique going through the spares we carry and stocking up from the European-style shops on the island.  We can’t carry a spare of everything so fingers crossed that we have bought the ones we’re most likely to need!

Sunset over the anchorage at Sainte Anne, Martinique