ARC 2015 - Day 18 - Dec 08 - The Engineering team

Steve and Lynda Cooke
Tue 8 Dec 2015 20:45

16:28:6N  50:25:4W

Day 18 – Dec 8

The Engineering team

Keen readers of this blog will remember that yesterday we found ourselves without an engine and the means to control the sail drive. Overnight there was much consternation and discussion of what the problem might be. With the end of the dawn watch and some adjustments to the sails set it was time for action.

Steve bricked (a technical noun – the phone is now a brick!) his phone in the first few days of this trip so our first task was to find the telephone number of the dealer in Plymouth who serviced the engine. Messages were dispatched on the Yellowbrick YB Connect app to the UK and Peter's daughter Jenny came up with the number at the same time as we found a business card for the MD in the tray next to the phone on Nina. The satellite phone was then put to use by Steve to re-establish communications and to petition their help from mid Atlantic. Marine Engineering willingly stepped into the breech and offered help from their technical people after the all time favourite 'have you turned it off and on again' did not solve the problem.

Peter described the symptoms and after a little head scratching the reply came that our MDI unit had failed – it's the little black box on the side of the engine. The good news is that you can get round the problem temporarily. Details were communicated of the work around which Peter and Mark discussed. 'We can do that' they cried. Engine covers off, empty the bathroom so we can get access to the front of the engine where the black box is. OK we find the area we were told to look at and the leads which can be 'adjusted' to solve the problem.

A little trial and error and Nina's engine roars into life to spontaneous applause by the crew. Step one is complete. We then confirm the we can also stop the engine. Just to be sure we start and stop a few times. The next problem is that we can't engage the sail drive or adjust the throttle so translating the engine power to movement of Nina is impossible. Time for another phone call which is helpfully answered with a couple of suggestions for the control unit and confirmation that the engine MDI unit is readily available from dealers so there s no need to ship one from the UK.

Mark and Peter sit down in front of the engine and control unit and are found in deep conversation for some time. A plan is hatched and the tool kit broken out. Steve is informed that we have reached the point where we are ready for a trial. He reviews the plan and gives the go head. The whole crew stand waiting. Start engine is the command. Now we know how, the engine is coaxed into life. Engage forward drive. The spanner is wielded by Mark and throttle up by Peter. Are we going faster says Steve. Not really say the crew. 'Oh bother' say the engineers. Let's try something else. A clunk then engine revs up. Are we going slower? Possibly, OK yes. A cheer goes up. Right we were in gear not neutral when the system failed say the engineers which explains many things.

Some more tests establish that we have full manual control of forward and backward motion. Lots of smiles and cheers are testament to the relief felt all round. Whilst we rely on sail power almost all the time there are vital moments when the engine is very helpful – not the least when going into port.

The day takes a positive tone from then on so the sunshine is enjoyed by all during and off watch. Chores are undertaken cheerily – even washing 'smalls' by Mike and washing up by the engineering team off duty!

For some time now we have been trialling a novel form of storage for oranges which involves a hammock strung across the rear canopy behind the steering position but ahead of the washing line. Over time the oranges have become salted with a tough skin and feature a surprisingly grapefruit-like flavour which is enjoyed by some of the crew. All good things come to an end so having run out of oranges we can return the hammock to Mark who swiftly lowers it closer to the deck and embarks on tests of its original purpose. After day and night trials Mark confirms that the hammock is great but you do get cold in the wind so its not quite as attractive as first appeared. His empathy for our salted oranges increases substantially.

Another squally night is enjoyed by all. Every cloud we go under means an exciting roller-coaster ride of winds increasing from 15 to 18 knots to an exciting 28 knots. An additional problem is the dramatic changes in direction which come immediately before this wind acceleration zone in front of the cloud. Night time means we see the vast majority of these squalls, and we really don’t know why they occur at night rather than during the day? Surely there is much more thermal energy generated from the power of the sun during the day? Is it just that we ar unlucky? Or is it the Nina time warp that we are bobbing along in?
Mmmnnnnn more investigation needed!

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