Monday, December 05, 2005

Back in Tenerife

With the new starter motor in place, and unanticipated extra organisation time we felt well prepared for the long passage ahead. We departed on Saturday morning to blaring fog horns and enthusiatic waving from friends. The excitement of finally being off dissipated any sadness at departing from the friends we'd made during our stay in Santa Cruz. We set a course south to take us to the trade winds which will blow us across to the Caribbean. I opened the log book and with great excitment, titled the passage "Santa Cruz to Martinique!".

After three hours of making a good 4-5 knots under sail, the wind died and we decided we'd motor until we cleared the Canaries. I went to check the engine and discovered water flooding into the bilge. There was no immediate concern; with the bilge pump on the water level was decreasing, but water was still leaking in at a disturbing rate. Eventually I traced the leak to the exhaust sea-cock in the stern locker. The top of the valve had broken. With the engine running, exhaust cooling water was flooding into the bilge. Stopping the engine, reduced the flow, but water still flooded-in whenever the exhaust outlet was submerged by a passing wave. Fortuitiously, some benign force had compelled me to buy some hugely expensive self-amalgamating rubber tape in Lanzarote and wrapping the tape around the broken valve stemmed the flow of water and allowed us to run the engine without flooding the boat.

Disappointed, but glad that again Kika had chosen an opportune time to reveal a problem, we turned back for Santa Cruz. Nigel Calder, our oft refered to ship maintenance guru, says:
...despite their widespread use, gate and globe valves have no place on boats. Most are made of brass and will dezinicify in time, falling apart... widespread problems have occured due to the use of brass as opposed to bronze ... with a brass valve the zinc will dissolve leaving a soft porous casting often identifiable by its redish hue.
The failed part has a redish hue...

The collective wisdom of Ed and Don concurred that body of fitting is still in good shape and that the valve isn't really necessary so a quick solution would be to seal the hole left by the valve, rather than wait until the chandleries open on Monday, and hope to get lucky finding a compatible replacement.

So I spent Sunday, removing the broken thread from the valve body, extracting the gate, cleaning the body, cutting a wooden bung to fit, soaking the bung in epoxy resin, liberally applying resin to the inside of the valve and bashing the bung home. We're waiting for 24 hours to allow the epoxy to fully cure, before testing the repair. So if all's well we'll set off again Tuesday morning. In the meantime I'll see if the chandleries of Santa-Cruz can provide a replacement as a back-up.

Other more superstitious sailors seem to think we've invited trouble, first by leaving on a Friday and the starter motor dies, then horror of horrors, leaving with bananas on board and the exhaust sea-cock disintegrates. I'm still holding out against this tide of superstition and think we've been lucky the problems have shown themselves before we were a long way out; although both problems could have been fixed on the go, it wouldn't have been as much fun. The lesson I've learnt in these false-starts is to heed the wise words of Nigel Calder rather than assume all is well - if in doubt sort it out.

So now the sail cover is back on, we're plugged into shore power, the presurised water is on and Kika is transformed from self-sufficient world cruiser into a floating mobile workshop/home.

Mark and Nat on Freespirit set off on Sunday, so will be a couple of days ahead of us, we'll have to sail well and hope for favourable winds to catch them up, but hope we can talk on the SSB. We're also part of a cruising net in which boats on passage check-in daily at 9.00UTC. It's becoming a little embarrassing broadcasting our imminent departure, only to have to retract it the following day.

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