Date: Tuesday 16th June 2015
Position: St Peter Port, Guernsey
Yes, Yes I know I am still here in St Peter Port. I seem to be beset with problem after problem.
Guernsey has two mooring facilities for visiting yachts. Victoria marina the inner harbour which is more sheltered and the outer pontoons that you can walk ashore from. Both have their upside and downside. Whilst Victoria marina is more sheltered it does have a sill. I should explain that the Channel Islands have a very big tidal range that can be up to 11 metres in some places, Granville for example. This means that all the marinas and harbours in the area have sills at their entrances so that when the tide drops the sill holds back the water in the marina to maintain the required depth. The upside to this is that when the wind is blowing and the sill is in operation the swell in the marina is limited making it more comfortable. The downside is that you cannot enter or leave the marina as you wish. There could be a 4 to 6 hour period when you are effectively locked in ore out. The outer pontoons on the other hand have 24-hour access but do suffer from swells when it is windy as I found to my cost. I had been moored to one of the outer pontoon since Sunday morning and it had been quite comfortable but that was all about to change. During Monday the wind began to build steadily until it was blowing around 30 knots that night. The swell coming in from the main entrance to St Peter Port made for a very uncomfortable night not made any better by the fact that a French boat had moored alongside me the evening before. The wind was from the SSW and was pinning the two boats to the pontoon. After a not very good nights sleep I was doing the washing up when I hear a thump? I looked around the cabin in case something had fallen but couldn’t see anything amiss. However, when I went on deck one of the stanchions was lying on the deck. The pressure of the wind pushing the boat against the pontoon had caused the fender, which was attached to the guard wire, to pull down on the stanchion and eventually snapped the base. Fantastic, another job to do. So was that it! No not by a long shot. The Frenchman on board the boat next to me came on deck and we had a chat. It seemed the high winds were set in for the next few days and suggested it might be better to relocate to the shelter of Victoria marina and I agreed with him. The Harbour Master can alongside to show him which birth to take and asked me to get ready, as he would come back for me next. With both boats gone I started the engine and released to mooring lines and started to reverse back out of the pontoon, which was not easy as the wind was blowing me back onto it. I eventually managed to cleared to bow from the end of the pontoon and put a little more throttle on when suddenly there was a loud “TWANG” and the steering went very light. I immediately realised that I had lost all steering and backed off the throttle. I was now to far from the pontoon to get a line ashore and was helplessly drifting around the outer harbour without any control in by what that time must have been a force 6 to 7. I looked around at all the expensive pristine boats surrounding me and cringed a little. I yelled at the pontoon for anyone to help but no one responded, I expect they were all ashore. Then luckily I spotted the Harbour Master returning and frantically waved my hands in the air. He saw immediately that something was wrong and came alongside to get a line on to take me into the marina. After a series of difficult manoeuvres he eventually put me next to a rather large yacht. It was a good job the owners were not on board otherwise they might have had a heart attack.
So to recap, the auto helm is not working, the chartplotter keeps losing its satellite fix and drops out, the base of the stanchion is broken and will need fixing before I can go on, oh yes and of course lets not forget the loss of steering. I have learnt over many years that in situations like this there is only one thing to do. Go to the pub and have a think about it so off I went to the Ship & Crown. A few pints later things didn’t seem so bad. I had a look at the steering and discovered that the chain had come off the sprocket. With chain and cable steering there is a sprocket attached to the wheel over which a length of chain sits. Each end of the chain is attached to cables that lead back to the quadrant that turns the rudder. I had replaced that cables as part of the refit but it seems I did not tighten them up sufficiently and there was enough slack on the chain to allow it to slip off under a heavy load. With a bit of time and effort the steering was back in commission at no cost, which was a bonus. Another lesson learnt! The base of the stanchion might be more difficult. The boat is 36 years old and locating parts can be difficult. With a bit of research I found a chap who did aluminium welding so at least I could get it mended. As I was walking to his premises I popped onto the Chandlers at the end of the pier to have a look around just in case. Low and behold there were a dozen aluminium bases on the shelf that fitted exactly so I brought one and returned to the boat to fit it. Now, the job should have been really simple. All I had to do was remove three nuts and bolts, fit the base down on the deck and replace the three nuts and bolts, simple. No, nothing is ever simple on a boat. To get to the nuts under the deck I had to remove a locker, the one with all my electronic equipment in it. Once I had done this there was another hurdle to overcome. I like Westerly yachts because they were built so well but in cases like this you whish they hadn’t been so fastidious. The nuts had been glassed over. To get to them I would have to remove the fiberglass in order to get a spanner on the nut. I had done this on my previous boat, another Westerly, which a chisel and hammer but there was no room to be able to do that this time. After thinking about the problem for a while, I bit the bullet and went to B&Q and returned with a Dremel, a small electric multi tool. I used this to grind way the fiberglass and was then able to remove the nuts from the bolts with the help of Steve, another Westerly owner who I met a couple of days earlier when I was unceremoniously towed into the marina. He and his wife Fern offered me a welcome cup of tea once I had moored up to the large yacht I mentioned earlier. His help and advice was invaluable so thanks Steve. Next was the auto helm but in this case I concluded that the unit had had it anyway. It was 36 years old and was in need of replacing. So with the blessing of Ann, she is a love, I ordered and had fitted a new Garmin auto helm which is working really well and much better that the old one. Dave, the chap who fitted the new alto helm, took a look at the chartplotter as well and after finally concluding it was a problem with the antenna fitted a new one and the chartplotter is up and running and better than ever. So, with most of my problems resolved, I am off the L’Aber Wrac’h on the French coast which is one hundred miles from Guernsey.
I will try and do another post from there.
Bye for now.
Signing off Ted.
Wed 17 Jun 2015 14:53