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Changeable weather

A couple more days of work were required to clean up and service the engine. I ran through the usual things on the engine, oil, fuel, and filters. The engine ran well but sounded a little loose under the rocker cover so I adjusted the valve clearances; which I don’t think had been touched since the engine was installed as I was breaking the paint seal as I removed the cover.

Partially blocked heat-exchanger stackI wasn’t 100% sure that the flow of water out of the exhaust was as copious as I expected so I decided to strip the heat-exchanger and found half the tubes full of calcification and various flora and fauna! It was a tedious job cleaning out all those little tubes but I’m glad that it’s done.

I have still not replaced the engine controller, mainly because of the weather and partially because I have been soaking it in WD40 to try and free up the throttle/shift lever which otherwise I am going to have to use force to remove. I’d like to take it apart gracefully so that I can restore it and keep the whole thing as a spare.

The partially blocked heat-exchanger stack


The first fitting for the new dodgerLast Friday a sheet of ply that I had ordered from Punta Arenas arrived and I was able to start work on restoring the dodger to a state where I can see out and where it will keep the worst of the waves off the companionway hatch whilst also providing somewhere to duck under for cover. It’s not going to be the prettiest dodger in the world but it will be functional and strong and will work until I replace it with a bigger shelter in the future.

Whatever the old dodger was made of has long since gone, all that remained was a rather bent sheet of ply on the forward face and the aluminium frame which is in good condition and will be painted and re-used.

The ply that you can see in the photo will have the corners rounded off and it will then be fibreglassed and painted before I bolt the whole thing securely to the frame. The windows will be 6mm Perspex. Apart from priming the frame I have not got any further with this little project as every time I start getting out the wood it starts to rain.

That rainy weather has forced me inside where I have done all sorts of jobs that have improved the living conditions in the interior. I’ve put cupboard doors on what used to be just a big deep shelf with a net over the front to keep the contents from escaping. The pots and pans locker has had the same treatment a few other off-cuts from the dodger project have found new homes as doors, shelves, a new top for the battery box etc..

Today was spent mostly with having a lazy Sunday but I did spend a bit of time rebuilding an old mast-head tri-colour navigation light with LED lights. That will save a lot of power over the course of a night as the old navigation light would have been a 25W bulb drawing a couple of Amps. The new LED one draws about one eight of that. I have added a LED anchor light to the top of the fixture too; which has a light sensor on it so that it automatically switches off when the sun rises.  The LED lamps came from a company called Bebi Electronics of Fiji, check them out their products are very well priced and fit for purpose.

Otherwise life in Puerto Williams goes on. Various friends from the charter yachts come and go as they go about their business and head off to exotic places. All that serves as motivation for me to keep working hard and to get the boat moving. Other people are also making repairs here across the dock Andres and Oscar are working hard to repair the engine of ‘Nemo of Sweden‘ and Wolf from ‘Santa Maria Australis‘ is building a new boom.

my friend Osvaldo of ‘PolarWind‘ is also preparing for a charter and I was able to help him out with a few IT gremlins, but I have borrowed his jigsaw so I owed him that at least. Greg and Keri of ‘Northanger‘ are here preparing for a trip to Antarctica and we had a very nice dinner on their boat last night.

The forecast is good for this week, well it should be less windy than it has been so fingers crossed that I make progress with the dodger and other work on deck.

Fog on the approaches

I am writing this while we are about 400 miles out of Stanley. We are travelling slowly in light wind and thick fog at the moment.

Well in my last post I mentioned that we were about to make some tactical decisions about when to turn south. That became something of an issue as a couple of strong low pressure systems spun out of the River Plate estuary blocking our passage to the south. One produces hurricane strength winds in Uruguay where, we have heard, winds of 78 knots were recorded. That system caused us to run NW for a while as we didn’t fancy fighting it.

We did eventually manage to turn south and spent a couple of day making long tacks on whatever board gave us the best deal. We had a couple of problems caused by the strong breeze the worst of which was that our staysail blew out and is beyond repair, at least by us as it is quite a hight tech carbon/vectran job. There was only about 30 knots of apparent wind at the time it gave out but I suppose it has had a very hard five years of service which must be close to 100,000 miles – not bad!

For the last few days we have had the genoa and yankee set on the poles wing-and-wing as we head for the Falklands with light northerlies; unusual but we’ll take it 🙂

Our friends on “Paradise” are somewhere in the same part ocean heading in the same direction and we have been exchanging daily position reports we are withing 20 to 30 miles of each other so the race is on.

Bread and Gremlins

Latitude: 30 27.5 S Longitude: 028 048.4 W

No more luminous whales have been spotted but we have seen some non-luminous Minke whales, a turtle, some flying fish, a few old buoys and fishing floats, plastic bottles, plastic bags, and the usual odd collection of rubbish floating past!

We have been dealing with a few gremlins in the machine that is Pelagic Australis over the last few days. There has been an ongoing issue with the generator failing to start occasionally and I think we finally tracked that down to moisture in a junction box (quite a lot of moisture), we found a loose bolt in the steering whilst investigating a strange knock in the lazerette, a strange intermittent noise in the engine room turned out to be a pulley slightly loose on an alternator shaft, etc. etc..

The last of the Cape Town bread was consumed the other day and I have turned my hand to baking some bread. I first tried to use one of those bought bread mixes, it failed to rise even a millimetre, but it had gone out of date in 2010! So I reverted to my tried and tested recipe for plain white bread which worked fine. Bread is such a fickle thing to make, just changing the brand of flour can cause a tried and tested recipe to fail, but this batch turned out fine so now I can vary the recipe to make wholemeal loaves etc..

The species of birds we are seeing are changing as we get further west; for example today for the first time on this trip we saw greater shearwaters.

We caught another fish this morning no idea what it was, need to get myself a book on ocean fish, it was too small to feed us so we let it swim off to grow bigger for next time.

Our bananas are ripening quickly so it’s time to start using them in as many recipes as we can. We have had baked bananas stuffed with shards of dark chocolate for dessert the last couple of evenings.

We have been making good progress to the west for the last few days sometimes motoring sometimes sailing as we are now. The wind has been very variable in direction and strength today and during my last watch I think we made five or six sail changes.

We are at the part of the voyage now where we have to make some tactical decisions on when to head south for Stanley. We could turn at any time now, but right now if we head south we’ll put ourselves in front of developing low pressure system that is forecast to bring wind of F10 so we are maintaining our westerly heading for the moment hoping that we can pass to the north and west of that system.

luminous whales

Latitude 29d 28.77m S Longitude 003d 55.55m W

Tuesday 11th September 2012

We are now motoring in a westerly direction more or less along the line of latitude 30 degrees South. We had one good day of fast sailing but have mostly been motoring or motor-sailing; which is normal on this route where we are trying to avoid the strong westerlies to the south but not make too much northing which increases the distance we have to travel.

We hooked a nice little tuna the other day which made us two very nice main meals. We tend to cook one main meal a day with everybody helping themselves to snacks and left-overs in between. I’m cooking today – ostrich sausages and pork spare ribs with whatever vegetables look like the need to be used first when I go to forepeak to make my selection. Ed cooked a couple of different vegetable curries last night, I cooked a morrocan vegetable stew one evening and we had a couple of variations of tuna roasts by Kali so we are doing well on the food front.

The moon has been rising later and later and is well into the last quarter so the nights have been very dark. Dark nights are good for watching all the photo luminescent creatures in the sea objecting to the boat’s passage by flashing their warning lights at us. Ed was treated to a spectacular last night when he was outside watching the light show and noticed a large patch of light starting to appear about 50m off the beam. He was just starting to wonder what it was when it shot skywards giving him quite a surprise. It seemed that a fin whale had surfaced and blew just alongside the boat. Since then we have all been hoping for glimpse of a similar luminous whale blow!

mustard and meat

So we are sailing at last. We departed Cape Town at 11am on Thurday 5th Sepember 2012 on the good ship “Pelagic Australis”. The crew are Magnus Day, Kali Khan, Ed Hewett and myself.

The last week or so in Cape Town was a bit of a blur for me as I had a severe bout of flu and my concentration was definitely well below par! I was trying to tie up some loose ends related to my own projects for “Morgane” and not to drop the ball on the “Pelagic Australis” project as well.

We had planned on leaving on Wednesday but discovered a small fuel leak in a fuel line in the starboard corridor which involved dismantling some framing and removing a pump which services a black water tank. The pump should have been clean and dry and appeared to be so when Kali dismantled it however a time bomb was contained within and very old turd came slopping out into the spotlessly clean bilge. Luckily I had been away getting a tool at the time and was out of range of the explosion of ancient poo. Once the poo had been cleaned up we dealt with the leaking flange as best we could and reassembled everything ready for a morning departure.

The weather gods were kind to us for the departure from Table Bay and we were also treated to fine display from nature; whales, dolphins, seals, penguins, etc.. Who needs to go all the way to Antarctica? We settled into passage routine quickly, assigned watches and chores etc. We had a minor drama when a sea water pump in the engine room decided to split it’s casing and squirt water all over the place. The others got the boat sailing (we had been motoring at the time) while I got the spare pump. tools and necessary odds and ends to change the offending unit for a spare. Half an hour later everything was back to normal.

Kali cooked a great piece of roast beef with roast vegetables for dinner.

When I offered Ed some mustard to go with his roast beef last night he came out with the quote of the day “if God had not meant us to eat meat he would not have given us mustard”.