Greetings from the Atlantic 22° 14’.400 ” N 030° 27’.790” W

Sat 26 Dec 2015 14:05

Date:                Saturday 26th December 2015 (Boxing Day)


Position:          22° 14’.400” N  030° 27’.790” W


As those who know me will tell you I am not a religious man.  I don’t believe in karma or fate or that your life is part of a divine plan.  You are presented with opportunities and you are free make your own choices and live by the consequences.  You and only you are in control of your destiny.  My philosophy, if I have one, is that you should strive to be decent and helpful towards other people even if sometimes it means going that extra mile to them help out. I have tried to live my life by this code and invariably at some stage down the line I have found that I am rewarded in kind.  I met James and Elizabeth in Santa Cruz, La Palma when they arrived the afternoon the day after I had.  They both had professional careers, James a Marine Biologist and Elizabeth a Barrister at one of the Inns of Court in London.  They were in their early thirties but had decided to take a couple of years off to sail and had sold their house and brought “Jackaranda” a 47 foot steel sloop.  They were heading for South Africa and then onto St Helena where James was due to do some marine research.  They had put into Santa Cruz because their keel had hit something in 3000 metres of water, which had damaged the stern gland (the gland through which the prop shaft goes through the hull) and this was causing the engine to overheat.  I invited them aboard Celtic Dawn for drinks and they reciprocated by inviting me to supper.  We had a good chat and it turned out that Jackaranda was quite new to them and they were still learning some of the systems.  One in particular was the windvane steering system, a “Pacific Windpilot” which had been on the boat when they brought it.  Apparently, the previous owner had installed it but hardly used it, as he could not get it set up properly.  The next day I had a look at it with James and managed to find better runs for the lines leading from the unit to the steering wheel.  The only problem was that he needed a special type of double block for the deck to get a fairlead to the wheel.  As it happened I had one on board because when I installed Henry I ordered two but only used one.  I had kept the other rather than returning it because these things always come in handy. You cannot buy this particular block from the usual chandlers because they are only available from the Danish man who manufactures the Aries windvane and they cost £70 each.  It was the perfect solution for James’s problem and I gave it to him without hesitation.  James offered to pay for it but I refused because I think you should always help out a fellow sailor whenever you can.  Anyway, James gave me a bottle of scotch which was kind of him and I hope the windvane is now working as good as Henry does.   


I had been in San Sebastian for some weeks before David Hosking, one of the crew joining me on the crossing, arrived with his wife.  One of the jobs I still had to do was to service the engine before we left.  I had left this deliberately because I thought it would be good if David helped me do this so he could get familiar with the engine.  We changed out both fuel filters and then ran the engine up for five minutes to get the oil hot in order to drain it.  Access to the underside of the engine to get a tray under it to drain the oil is impossible so there is quite a clever system to do this.  At the bottom of the sump there is a threaded joint on to which a reinforced rubber hose is attached.  At the top of the hose is a stirrup pump assembly.  To drain the oil you simply pump the stirrup pump.  The last time I had used it was before I left the UK but in the meantime the reinforced steel covering the rubber hose had perished in two places and the rubber was exposed.  Although there was no sign of wear on the rubber hose I had to agree with David that it needed replacing or repairing before we left.  I spoke to Manfred in the UK, he rebuilds and sells spare parts for my engine, but the hose was not part of the original engine and was not available as a off the shelf spare.  I would have to get one made up using the original end fittings.  Where on earth was I going to find an engineer in San Sebastian who could do such a job?  During this time David had come up with a couple of ingenious solutions to repair the hose but before going down this route I thought it was worth at least one attempt to get a replacement so off I went.  After a long search I found a small engineering workshop at the other end of the town right on the outskirts. The owner was outside talking to some another man and when I showed him the problem he nodded and took the old hose off me.  Then he disappeared into another workshop where one of his staff was obviously making Christmas decorations for the town and had a five-minute conversation with him.  “Here we go” I thought, “I am going to get the run around only to be told he can’t do the job”.  When he finished talking to his colleague he took me into his workshop and instead of just fobbing me off, as I thought would happen, the hose was straight into the vice, the grinder was out and in no time at all the end fittings had been removed from the old hose.  Then a new section of reinforced hydraulic hose was cut to size, the end fittings were swaged onto the ends of the hose and within five minutes the job was done.  I was astounded but the best was yet to come and this is where I return to the theme I started.  While he was making the new hose, through the universal language of signs and polite nodding he had managed to establish that I was sailing and that the hose was for a marine engine.  I took out my wallet to pay him, and I would have paid him whatever he wanted, but he refused payment pointing to a logo on his shirt that indicated he was a member of a sailing club or something similar.  I was so astounded I could have kissed him there and then but I resisted the urge, thanked him profusely and returned to the boat trophy in hand.  As I said, if you do a kindness for someone invariably it will be returned to you in time.  The next day we topped the engine up with clean oil and ran her up to discover that the rocker cover gasket was letting by.  Also, there are four cylinders on the engine each of which has an injector for the fuel.  On each injector there is a return valve that is connected the next injector in line.  So the return valve on the first injector is connected to the second injector, the return valve on the second injector is connected to the third injector and the return valve on the third injector is connected to the fourth injector.  When you get to the fourth injector the return valve has nowhere to go so it is blanked off with a little rubber grommet about 30mm in length and 5mm in diameter with a hole in the bottom.  This is simply pushed over the top of the return valve to stop the fuel leaking out.  The rubber grommet had perished so diesel was leaking out of the valve.  I call Manfred immediate and ordered a new rocker cover gasket and half a dozen rubber grommets.  Ann was leaving to fly to Gomera the next day so I had him send the package to Bobby who would be leaving the next day.  With guaranteed next day delivery by Royal there should have been no problem but as usual the “law of sod” had other plans and the package did not get delivered in time for Bobby to bring out with him.  So, we needed a solution for the rocker cover gasket and somehow we needed to get hold of or manufacture a rubber grommet for the return valve.  David managed to find a sealant for the rocker cover gasket and Bobby and I went off into town to se if we could find a solution for the rubber grommet.  After awhile searching we called in at a garage I had previously visited when looking for the rubber hose.  We managed to get across to the engineer what we wanted and he popped off and shortly after came back with a small section of hose about 6mm in diameter, cut it to length and placed a plastic screw in one end and we were good to go.  Just like the other engineer he refused to take any payment.  I must have been very good to someone in the past!  Rocker cover in place and rubber grommet fixed over the return valve, we started the engine and she ran beautifully.  In fact she sounded as sweet as I have ever heard her.  Now with the engine serviced we were ready for the off.


I will have to leave you now, as I have to get the bread in the oven.  In my next blog I will tell you a little more about the crew and the start of our journey, which was quite eventful.


PS: I have to do smaller blogs while at sea because sending large file over the sat phone takes up valuable minutes.


Bye for now.


Signing off Ted, bobby & David