Steering Gear Problems

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Wed 26 Feb 2014 11:09

Position: Alongside Kagoshima
Weather: overcast, rain, mild

Yesterday I would rate as a success, but today much less so. Yesterday I caught the train into the city to put the paperwork in for my permit for the next leg of our Japanese voyaging. Thank goodness I had Saori's card in my wallet as no one in the Department of Transport office spoke any English. Being able to ring her, after encountering a bit of roadblock, helped things to proceed relatively smoothly. Also, as mentioned in my last update, it has been a long time since a foreign yacht has visited Kagoshima, so this was the first time the young man who was looking after me had processed this type of application. It took a few hours and it seems that I kept quite few of the office staff entertained for most of that time. For much of the time I had five people standing around me. Initially I thought they were all involved in my application in some way, but after a while, when most of them were doing no more than asking questions, or just looking on at some of my photos that I had on the netbook that I had brought with me, while young man was studiously at his computer working on my application, I came to the conclusion that they were there mainly to look at this rather odd creature that had just walked through their doors.  Despite the language barrier I have to say that I enjoyed the opportunity to socialise a little.

After the paperwork had been completed (the approval should be ready on Friday), I walked back to the central railway station. My thought was to find a coffee shop or the like where I could get internet access, so as to apply to rent a mobile broadband (or pocket wi-fi) so that I would have internet access while in Japan for the next couple of months. To complicate matters slightly, I had forgotten to charge the netbook up, so I also needed to find somewhere with a power outlet. I found none and arrived back at the railway station with this part of my day's goals not achieved. However, the railway entrance was part of a large mall, most of the shops being electronic stores. I decided to check some out, I needed some printer cartridges, but I thought I may as well ask about mobile wi-fi devices while I was there. The communication challenges did not abate, but a couple of hours later I left the store with the printer cartridges, a new Kindle reader (I have diagnosed my old one as beyond repair), and a pocket wi-fi which, unless I have completely misunderstood the several salespeople that helped me, should meet my needs for the next few months at a reasonable cost.

It was now dark and I was concerned that I might have trouble recognising my stop, but a young lady sitting next to me offered her assistance when she saw me going through several maps and perhaps looking a little perplexed.  So I got off at the right station,  but then I managed to lose my way back on the winding street heading downhill back to the boat.  As I was getting more suspicious as to the direction I was walking in, I passed a small restaurant and, feeling hungry, I thought I would have a look inside.  On sliding the door open I found a very cosy little room, a small bar had three people sitting at it on stools, and my entrance required a bit of a shuffle so as I could fit in. There were two tables set up to the right hand side of the room for traditional Japanese dining, mats rather than chairs, and low tables designed for kneeling at. Not being able to read the menu, and liking the look of what my neighbour was eating, I decided to simply have the same. The food was cooked on sticks, like small shish-kebabs, on an electric grill immediately behind the bar. I was very lucky that my neighbour, Kai, whose tastes I had chosen to imitate, spoke very reasonable English. I ended up having a very good time talking to a number of people there as they came and went, but mostly Kai, a lady named Kuzumi, and the owners.  With Kai’s help I ended up having a great lesson in conversational Japanese.   So getting lost worked out very well, as I find it often does.

It was rather late when I got back to Sylph, Kai having corrected my bearings, so this morning was not as early a start as I had hoped. Today was a much needed maintenance day, especially as I now had to fix the steering gear. This has not gone well. I pulled the chain off without any difficulty, and with the help of the workbench available at the yacht club I managed to clean it up and get all the linkages moving freely again, but when I refitted it to the sprockets it is now somehow about three quarters of a link too long. This means that the chain is too slack and when I turn the steering wheel after less than half a turn, the steering jams. Something has changed somewhere but I am not sure what. The simplest conclusion would be that the chain has stretched and needs to be replaced, but I suspect this is not the problem. I am more inclined to think that the binnacle has shifted slightly, just enough to cause a misalignment. I have spent a large part of the day crawling under the cockpit getting covered in grease, not a favourite pastime at all. At 5.30 in the afternoon I gave up for the day. At was grateful to be able to have a nice hot shower to wash all the grease off.

I am not sure what I am going to do about the steering from here. I have thought about removing a link in the chain but I am almost certain that then the chain would be too short, and in any event the way the chain is made it can only be shortened two links at a time. I have had a good look at the binnacle to see if I can realign it, but it is all securely bolted to the cockpit sole and does not allow for any adjustment. There is an intermediate cog between the binnacle and the rudder head which appears to allow for some adjustment. Tomorrow I will have a closer look at this to see if it might offer a solution. I will work something out, I have to, but I suspect any sightseeing plans for my time here will have to be abandoned. Still, I now have an internet connection, and I have made some friends. We have made plans to meet again at the restaurant on Friday, so I am looking forward to my next lesson in Japanese.

All is well.