Wrap-up Singapore to Durban

In Voyages on 29/11/2012 at 12:00

Baby krakatoa

Since we have completed our passage across the Indian Ocean, it is now safe to share some of the stuff that we have been dealing with along the way. It is no secret that things break down on boats. However, we do tend to keep those things somewhat hidden from our family and friends back home, at least while we are underway. Even though the pleasantness is never lied about, the reality is that sometimes things go wrong. Well, here’s everything that went wrong between Singapore and Durban with engine problems, steering system problems and a true hurricane!

September 16, New engine overheating

Before we left Singapore we had a brand new engine installed by Yanmar since the recently renewed engine was dealing with problems. Luckily this was all done under warranty (after 5 months of negotiations) and we were happy to set sail after a successful sea trial.

However, one of the Yanmar engineers had neglected to close the coolant drain plug properly, so within the first 24 hours of operation, the engine overheated and the coolant was everywhere throughout the engine room. It took us quite some time to find the leak, but after we found it, we were able to solve it quickly. We have prevented catastrophe with a brand new engine by responding very quickly to this overheating problem.

September 22, New engine flooding

Engine floodingWhile underway to Cocos Keeling, we had been dealing with some very rough seas. During the routine engine room check, we discovered that the engine was completely filled up with seawater!!!  This had come in through the much larger exhaust system (by Yanmar Singapore) and it took us almost the entire day on a very rough sea to get the engine cleared of seawater and running again. (no, there are no mechanic shops on the ocean, so yes, we did it all by ourselves!)

Severe tropical cyclone Anais

Yes… this was the case. Although not on our path, we got pretty damn close to a big one on this trip. About 3 days after we left Cocos Keeling, we spotted the first signs of a tropical disturbance over Chagos. We figured that it might develop into a cyclone and come parallel to our planned course towards Mauritius. Well, I hate to say it, but
I was right again.

DCIM101GOPROIt did turn into a very early cyclone and it turned into an “intense” tropical cyclone (same as cat4 hurricane, typhone or Super cyclonic storm)  with wind speeds of over 100 knots (185 km/hr). It was named “Anais”. Those windspeeds never made it to our forecasts on board (see image), but we were pretty nervous about it either way. The pencil in the picture shows our position. We were prepared for a long stay at the ocean while waiting for this cyclone to blow away. However, it stayed nice and parallel to our track and we got as close as 200 miles to this cyclone. This cyclone, was a major factor in our decision to head for Rodriguez.

October 12, Jammed steering system

Steering system1We were on our way towards Rodriguez and it was a beautiful evening. We had just finished dinner and sent out all the emails for the day and were mostly getting ready for the night watches and rest. Suddenly the autopilot started making cracking noises and the steering system was completely jammed in place. We could not manoeuvre the ship in any possible way!

Immediately we started investigating, checking the rudder quadrant, steering cables, autopilot and did not find anything wrong. The only thing left was to check the steering axis and the sleeves (steel bars with teeth that are driven by the steering wheel shaft). It took us about 10 minutes to dismantle and that is when we discovered that the steering bars that I replaced in Tahiti had already been damaged beyond repair within 2 years. Well, to the defence of these poor bars, we did have some pretty rough seas to deal with.

Since I replaced these bars in Tahiti, I still had the old ones which were in a much better shape than this broken one. We were able to get everything up and running again within half an hour or so.
Steering system2

The morale here is that we carry a crazy amount of spare parts on board and this is why! Without the extensive supply of additional spares we would have been in for a very very rough, difficult and somewhat dangerous ride without a working steering wheel.

November 14, Genoa furler damaged

On November 14, about 2 days before arrival in Richard’s bay we were happily sailing along when I decided to furl up the 180% Genoa just a bit in order to prepare for the night. Normally it is a piece of cake to do this. This time the furler worked for a second and then slipped while unfurling the Genoa completely. All hands on deck of course and we changed the furler to the manual gearbox and managed to take it away. We got through the night without a foresail (although a bit rough which explains the update on the 15th), but the next morning it was calm enough to unfurl the Genoa completely and take it down. We replaced it with a normal small jib, so we could leave it completely up until our arrival in Richards Bay.

In Richards bay we completely dismantled the furler gearbox and cleaned up every little part. We found that one of the gears had been completely destroyed. We were able to have a new one manufactured locally so one week later we had everything fixed up again!

November 28 to 29, Rudder grounding

Since we had a contact in Durban who advised us to go to Bluff Yachtclub, we decided to follow the local advice and we booked a berth in the yachtclub. Upon arrival there, our promised berth had been taken and we were told to raft up against another yacht on a small jetty. While mooring here, we were assured by the club commodore himself what the depth was, so we could decide to go stern-in or not. Since he assured us that there was plenty of depth with a minimum of 2 meters, we decided to go stern-in so we would have the wind on the bow during the night.

Rudder inspectionThe next morning at low tide we discovered that we were standing on our rudder in about 0,5 meter of water which obviously was a lot less than what they assured us. Since the keel was still afloat, the ship was moving quite awkwardly and the torque on the rudder skeg is not really beneficial. After notifying the Yacht Club, we were told that they had a liability insurance, but they declined any responsibility on this matter. When I asked them how I could hold them responsible for any damages through their insurance, they simply told us to leave as soon as the tide was high enough, because they did not want us there anymore. We hauled the ship out of the water the same day to assess the damages, but luckily there is only some cosmetic damage on the rudder.

Final word on this passage

It seems that we have gone through hell on this passage when reading this, but it really is not the case. At the time when we discover something bad has happened, we feel bad about it. However, when we start dealing with the problems, that is when we get into our elements. We work together, we use the combined knowledge, gear and material we have at our disposal and we find a solution. We’ve had worse damages and worse passages. All in all, this was a very good passage, really!

All the problems have been resolved and we have managed to deal comfortably with everything. Most importantly, we had a lot of fun along the way.

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