January 12, 2015

Some days are like this

Today I started with a small project - change a topping lift wire that had lost some of its vinyl covering to a more sail friendly Spectra line.

We use the windlass to raise me up the mast, so I went to start the engine to keep the battery charged while using the windlass. "Click" went the starter motor. Uh-oh. While not in the middle of nowhere, you can see it from here. The nearest place we could maybe get something like a starter motor fixed is the city of Pontianak, some 80 miles up a river from here (no roads in this part of the world). So instead of climbing the mast, I get to troubleshoot the starter motor.

Wires are fine, lots of voltage, battery charged, connections mostly corrosion free but hit them with some sandpaper and wire brush, take apart the starter motor and it's looking good. Trouble must be a sticky solenoid. So I whack it a bit, squirt some miracle product into it, and when re-assembled, the starter works again. Whew. 2 hours into the 10 minute job, and I'm ready to begin. The topping lift replacement goes smoothly, but as I'm being lowered from the masthead, I stop at all the shrouds and look them over. Get to the lower shroud tangs and holy shit - one is fractured right apart. These are some nifty titanium tangs we refitted in Fiji. They have had a history of cracking at the bends and sure enough, ours have. I really wished I had taken the supplier's offer to replace them with stainless steel ones when their problem first arose.

So it's back down to the deck and start scrounging through the spare materials bin to see what I can use to replace the cracked tang. Surprisingly there is a lack of titanium flat bar but I do have some aluminum angle of the right thickness and width. So I cut off one leg of the angle, drill the required holes (1/2" holes with a hand drill are fun) and bend it with some clamps and a hammer. It looks pretty good for a jury fix. Titanium and aluminum aren't too far apart in stiffness so they won't share the load exactly equally but for getting us 300 miles across the South China Sea and coastal hopping to Langkawi it will do o.k. If I hadn't the aluminum I would have laid up a carbon fiber strap using the old tang as a mold or even plain fiberglass (would have been thick but it would have been strong enough).

Back up the mast, replace the shrouds, down to the deck, and re-tighten. I manage to do a few more minor running rigging replacement jobs that have been nagging my conscience a bit. The exploding furling line the other night makes me watch the ropes a bit more carefully.

So my 10 minute job took about 4 hours due to other failures along the way. While not typical, it's not that unusual either. The best sailors are the ones that keep trying when things go wrong we were telling a friend recently. Tomorrow morning we set sail for the islands to the South of Singapore. Maybe Malaysia in about 5 or 6 days if the weather is O.K.

- Evan

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