Thursday, January 18, 2018

Things are getting worse... Please send chocolate...

I'm sure everyone experiences big highs and lows in their lives. Sailing is definitely always like that. For every perfect beach there is an imperfect one. For every easy check in there's a nightmare one. For every graceful easy passage there's a vomit fueled rocket ride or a slow hot humid slap about. Some days we're proud as punch of our beautiful boat but others the jobs to do are overwhelming and everywhere we look we see flaws and things that are in urgent need of attention.

At the moment we feel like our lives are more undulating than we'd like and that the lows are too much of the time. We've not had personality transplants; we still expect things to get better any minute; hopefully as soon as we get where we meant to be. However the problems have been compounding each other and it's hard to not let it get to you.

Engine troubles have always plagued us with a regular monotony. Pip was installed by us in a newly reconditioned state, but that didn't stop various peripheral parts failing or causing us trouble. Interspersed by dirty fuel and fuel bug frustrations. It's crazy to think how much trouble the engine causes when we use it relatively little.

Our sails, Aeries wind steering, rigging and hull cause us almost no trouble at all in comparison. However we're not sailing purists. We go everywhere we can whilst never turning to the noisy beast; sailing into and out of anchorages happily when we can; but we don't want to be without it. Many places we have been would have been untenable without it and we consider it a safety and comfort necessity.  Though necessity is not the correct word since each time it's failed we've had to manage without.

There were odd minor engine hiccups as we crossed the Pacific; fuel bug problems, anodes going quicker than we thought, alternator belts not cutting the muster, the prop break being temperamental etc. More recently we've had to use it more and so the problems have followed on. The temperate clime's mean less reliable winds and more danger from just drifting about waiting for wind to return.

In New Zealand it was the starter motor which had us towing the boat by rowed Avon dinghy into at least one Anchorage and having a rather nervous time around Fiordland where there were strong tides, blasts of breeze and gales and calms in equal measure. In Fiji it was the injectors. Sydney to Hobart the raw water pump. Back in Sidney the injector pump needed a total and extremely costly rebuild. At the Whitsundays the prop shaft coupling sheared requiring new coupling, adding a flex and remachining the shaft all whilst in the water.

But now takes the biscuit.

We've noticed a few grumbling concerns whilst pip has been working stoically through these islands. We were smoking a lot at idle and using a little oil. We put it down to injectors again and resolved to have them serviced once in Malaysia.

Day after day she's been rumbling on trying to help us get up wind against the strengthening contrary winds and currents. We've had some really horrible passages and even had to give up a few times and go back. Then it all got worse off the south coast of Belitung. We still thought it was the injectors but the noise and the smoke had us unable to use the engine again. Our friends on Rehua were nearby so we knew we'd be ok and managed to tack into a reasonable Anchorage by nightfall on Christmas day. Merry Christmas!

On Boxing day Rehua came to find us and offer condolences and help. The boys found very dirty fuel again and got everything they could cleaned up and filtered, the oil changed and everything that could be looked at easily checked. She seemed OK though intermittently noisy so the next day we poked our noses out again.

It was no good, the noise and smoke got worse so off the engine went but there was not enough wind to sail. The current was pushing us back so really we were just treading water with lots of rocks nearby. We gratefully accepted a tow. Had our friends not have been nearby we'd have had to sail a different way. Over the next two days Rehua got us to the fishing town of Tanjung Pandan on the island of Belitung where we've now been for over three weeks.

Tyrii, their twelve year old helping us into a safe spot in the really well protected fishing harbour of Tanjung Pandan.

The first day seemed positive; we found ourselves a brilliantly protected position tied back into the mangroves and found the town to be more developed and more friendly than many we've visited in Indonesia. Duncan got straight to it and cycled off with the injectors to be serviced. They cleaned them through and pronounced that only one was a bit sticky. Back in the boat the same afternoon the news was not good.

'Noise as bad as ever. Major problem. We'll have to rebuild it; it must be the big end bearings'.

We looked into parts but noone was open until the 2nd of January. So off we went to immigration to explain our predicament. For many hours it seemed they were insisting we must fly out of the country to reset our visas (Singapore being nearest) but we were not at all keen to loose the three days or the extra cost of staying somewhere with the boat abandoned. In the end I said we'd just have to sail on which provoked a response. An emergency Visa option was hastily rustled up. It took two more days to organise the proof and paperwork for this but at least now we're legal.

It took more time than we'd thought to get to the nub of the problem but we wanted to be sure before the parts were ordered. We're lucky our engine is a Perkins 4.108 as the parts for these are cheap and available all over the place. We had trouble communicating with the parts dealers in Jakarta who thought our engine serial number was wrong and Singapore never returned any of our calls so in the end with time ticking we made our order from the uk.

'Watson, we have found our culprit'

It's a good thing we waited until we'd checked out it all as it wasn't 'just' the bearings. The crank shaft is snapped in two places.

It is 43 years old, but the very likely cause is overtightening the alternator belt over the years to get the most out of our oversize alternator. We shall be upgrading the pulley system for this once safely in Malaysia.

It took only three days to get both parcels (new crank shaft, full engine rebuild kit and some more spare mounts) totaling around 35kg to Jakarta. During those three days we spent most of our time in the customs office trying to arrange permission for the parts to be duty free (as they should be here as a yacht in transit). However since then the only movement has been to another island (admittedly near here but there are 5 direct flights a day from Jakarta to here so who knows why they went there) and dhl say they are awaiting us to pay tax and fees. A flurry of emails and phone calls and then it was the weekend...

So this week it appears we have to pay the tax even though it shouldn't be due. We knew the rules say you must ask permission before the parts are in the country to get it tax free which is why we went to customs before the parts were ordered. However they wasted two days giving us the impression they would give permission if only we had one more document... then one more photo... then one more letter... Then no sorry, we do not have authorisation for this. Arghhh so after a bit of a cry in the customs office we forward everything we've done with them to Jakarta. They receive them the next morning just as the parts arrive too.

This all means a whopping bill of 7.7 million rupiah! The tax due is 30% on top of the price of the parts plus the shipping costs. That's shipping for 35kg! We don't mind paying tax that is due but this massive expense should not be due and it's the customs fault. They even gave us the wrong email address for Jakarta wasting us another vital few hours... So frustrating!

Yesterday I was promised if we agreed to pay cash on delivery they would deliver this morning. Today there's no movement, the parts are still on the wrong island.

Always trying to look on the bright side at least we can do the work here. We are in an extremely well protected and safe position. Our neighbours are friendly, the island is positive and safe and we've made some nice new friends.

The machinists are very competent and very cheap. Having a puller made up to remove the crank shaft pulley.

And of course we're together and all healthy.

However the big down side to being in a very protected spot is that it's really hot and humid with no wind and the mosquitoes and sandflies particularly at dusk are unbearable. Poor Ravi has terrible heat rash that flares up during the day and goes down whilst he sleeps under a fan. I'm taking him out as much as possible, whilst poor Duncan slaves away sweating and filthy in the engine room, but it never completely goes.

The tidal water we're in is plastic and sewage rich, so swimming is out of the question. At low tide we sometimes have to wade the dinghy out through the thick mud amongst the mosquitoes and sandflies. Believe me this is not glamorous living.

Not the ideal dinghy dock when you're almost 8 months pregnant!

When we can, Ravi gets a dip in the nearest hotel pool. He has developed a voracious love of rambutan and mangosteans which are available from the market and he's devouring with relish the mainly chicken, fish and rice or noodles meals that are cheap around town. But doing these things cost money and take time away from working on our poor disheveled looking boat. It's a balancing act that Duncan is not getting an even deal at.

This is just some of the plastic that washes up every day on the windy side of the peninsular, where Ravi and I go to play to get away from the heat and the biting things.

Oh and there's a rat on the boat...


seathan smith said...

Ruth, Duncan, Ravi, Ravi, Ravi and the Belibump!
100% darkest chocolate coming your way, you guys are inspirational, crazy brave, and IF we can send something more useful than words let us know?
Love, kisses, bear hugs, repellent, cold beers, all waiting for the "hardest ships bicuit" in the barrel to arive safley in Malaysia.
Rehua XXX

drew sayer said...

I hope Duncan ordered you a gold medal along with all those spare parts as you are obviously one patient lady.
Are you taking Ravi to Legoland when you get to Malaysia?

SY Beatrice said...

Sending you lots of good vibes, we sailed through Indonesia with a one year old (now 3), and it can be really hard fixing boat problems with a toddler on board, and sometimes hard to see the end of the tunnel. You are nearly there! Gold medals for Mama, Daddy and Ravi!

Impetuous said...

Thanks Seathan, Drew and Beatrice crew,
Drew, Legoland is in our sights if there's time on our way past!
Beatrice are you still in se Asia?