Tell Me When It Gets Fun

Peregrina's Journey
Peter and Margie Benziger
Wed 28 May 2014 17:21

Tell Me When It Gets Fun

I guess that cruising is like life…most of the time it is great but, sometimes, it doesn’t feel like much fun.

This is a story about one of those times.  This is also a blue story.

For those of you following our travels, you will remember that we have blue jobs and pink jobs aboard Peregrina.  This story is about when the blue jobs get a bit overwhelming.

While we were getting ready for the Atlantic crossing in Namibia, the blue jobs started to get slightly out of whack.

First of all, there was Jelly Fish Patrol – a new blue job that took up quite a bit of my time.  You see, in Walvis Bay, Namibia, there were THOUSANDS of jelly fish and they are so dumb that they try to wiggle their way up any small opening they find.  In our case, it was a thru-hull fitting and the one they selected is a hole underneath the waterline that allows us to take in seawater to cool the engine.  These little buggers repeatedly made their way up into the boat through a hose at the thru-hull fitting and clogged our sea strainer!

Here are the Jelly Fish outside the boat

Here are the Jelly Fish inside the boat

Several times, the Jelly Fish completely stopped the water flow causing the generator to overheat and send steam hissing violently from the engine room and we’d have to shut it down.  Once, the heat and lack of lubricating water destroyed a rubber impeller which broke into little pieces traveling into the cooling system of the engine.  I had to find them as we were risking serious damage to the generator if I did not.  It took me five hours to recover most of the broken parts.

Considering the jelly fish were NOT going away, and I was sick of scooping them out of the sea strainer by the dozens, we stopped running the generator altogether which meant that we had to turn off the refrigerator and many other power consuming items. We started to essentially “camp out” inside Peregrina using a just few lights at night. As you can imagine, Margie was NOT a happy camper!

In another problem area, loyal readers will remember that on the trip from Cape Town to Namibia, a brand new boom-vang attachment broke at the weld after working for just 22 hours.  Well, we waited 13 days for DHL to send a replacement boom-vang to us in Walvis Bay only to learn that it would not fit! I had to jerry-rig another system to hold down the boom and I just hope it works over the course of the next 3,500 miles to Trinidad!

Well, we finally left Namibia en-route to St. Helena which is about 1200 miles away.  The weather services we consulted were showing 20 knots of wind, off the aft quarter, which is fine.  NEVER TRUST THE WEATHER REPORTS!  During the first 24 hours, the wind increased to gusts of over 40 knots and high breaking seas. About 3am, we heard a loud metallic breaking sound down below and the boat wildly rounded up into the wind - presenting her beam to the breaking waves. Whoosh!  Over we went on our side, desperately clinging onto anything near in the cockpit and down below.

Turns out, the autopilot linear drive ram had broken off the supporting mount. Here is our useless autopilot tied up by rope. The silver colored ram has broken off from the base plate. 

It was my watch, so I jumped to the wheel and hand steered until daylight.  That morning, I looked for a way to fix the broken weld and finally decided to turn Peregrina around and beat back to Namibia.  My decision was based on the fact that St. Helena does not have an airport and, if we needed replacement parts, we could only get them on the supply boat which visits once or twice a month from South Africa.

Arriving back in Namibia, we found a company to weld our autopilot. The company used a wet weld technique which pours water over the welding process so that the metal does not heat up too much. The reason was that one part of the broken stainless steel rod was inside a plastic bearing which couldn’t take all that heat.  It looked good when finished.

Back on the water, we left a second time from Namibia bound for St. Helena.  Once again the weather forecast was wrong and within three hours, we were getting bashed about again. It was cold, wet and time for full night-time heavy weather outfits. This is the latest style on Peregrina.

This is a picture of Peregrina down below when the wind and waves exceed our pre-trip packing preparation.

The bad weather lasted four days and, just as the wind and seas were calming down…CRACK!!!   The new autopilot weld broke in the exact same place.  Back to hand steering again but this time, we were too far from Namibia to turn back so there was no choice but to sail on to St. Helena – five days away!  Margie doesn't look too happy, does she?

At times, when the wind got really light, we were able to use our little belt driven back-up autopilot but this will not hold a course in higher winds or waves. As soon as the wind and waves come up the belt starts slipping and we are back to hand-steering.

The good news is we made it St. Helena and have, once again, had a welder repair the damage.  So fingers crossed…we’ll head off for Trinidad in a couple days!

Now … for the really bad news!

The really bad news is that I am getting older. I can’t believe it! I was never meant to get old….I was made to stay young, strong and virile.  But every May 21st, “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer comes down on my head” with a reality check. Thankfully, my lovely first mate planned a large birthday party at sea with the entire crew present.  I gracefully accepted my home baked cake with the birthday candle and held a numerical moniker to remind me of the number of years.

Our sailing course to St. Helena is due west and the night of my birthday the sunset was particularly spectacular.

I decided to ignore the metaphor of my sailing into the sunset of my life and, instead, be thankful for the beautiful woman by my side and the adventure of a lifetime. I settled back contentedly realizing that, despite all the blue jobs, I AM having a lot of fun.

Peter Benziger

Peter Benziger

Peter Benziger