On our last afternoon in the city we walked down to the Volvo boats again and bumped into Dee Caffari, one of the crew of the all-women SCA team. She's an ocean racing superstar: the only woman to race around the globe 3 times (twice single-handed, once each way), with four transatlantic crossings under her belt. We met her once before in the UK and she also sailed on the Challenge 72' yachts (just before we raced them around the UK) so we didn't feel too much like yachting fans when we accosted her as she walked back towards her hotel. She was really chatty and friendly and said the team was still very buoyed up by the in-harbour race win on Saturday but that the leg ahead, across the Southern Ocean and around Cape Horn, was weighing on the minds of those who'd never crossed this remote piece of ocean. We've been following their progress on the www.volvooceanrace.com website since Wednesday's start - brilliant photos and video coverage but we certainly don't envy them!
Anyway, back on our own little ocean racer, we've had a busy few days. (Sorry - a bit of technical stuff ahead.) You may remember reading that before we left for the UK we'd had some expensive engine maintenance done but that we were still slightly perplexed that the motor wasn't performing as it should. Well, long story told quickly, we came to the conclusion that our fancy Autoprop feathering propeller was set-up incorrectly (and had been since it was fitted 5 years ago) so its pitch was too 'coarse' - in other words it was like trying to drive a car up a hill in top gear, the engine failing to reach the higher revs where the power lies. Emails to the makers in the UK yielded the response that they could grind a different profile onto the blades to resolve the problem so we booked a lift-out on Friday to remove the prop and temporally fit the old, fixed-bladed one in its place.
To save a lot of money, we opted for what's known as a' lift-and-hold' with the boatyard - Maunie would be lifted out of the water, pressure-washed and then we'd have about 40 minutes to do the job before being re-launched. This would leave little margin for error and Graham awoke the night before worrying about it - what would happen if the Autoprop wouldn't come off the shaft? Would the old prop fit ok and would the newly-purchased nut (to hold it in place) prove to be the right size? As it transpired, he was right to be worried.
The lift-out went fine but we just couldn't get the prop to come off the shaft, in spite of the fact that it slid off easily in Fiji last September; perhaps the colder temperatures had something to do with it? With time ticking away, we made an emergency call to a local business called Seapower and, thankfully, the owner, Bruce, arrived a few minutes later with a huge tool - a 'prop-puller'
|Bruce and Graham apply the huge tool|
With an almighty bang, the prop freed its limpet-like grip on the shaft but we found that the tool had, in the process, damaged the threads (for the retaining nut) on the shaft. Bruce dashed back to his workshop for a die to repair the threads as we studiously avoided making eye-contact with the boatyard guys, who were glancing at their watches and at the row of boats waiting to be launched. Ten minutes later, thread was repaired and the old propeller was fitted, only for us to find that the castellated nut (with slots in it to take a locking split-pin) was too long for the slots to line up with the hole drilled in the shaft to take the pin. Aaargh! Bruce dashed back again to put the nut on his lathe and finally. 30 minutes late, it was all done and we were relaunched. Phew, wouldn't want to go through that again..
The Autoprop is now on its way to its makers and we returned Maunie to her mooring for some other boat jobs. The biggest and most complex has been to wire in a pure-sine-wave inverter (which converts 12v DC power from the solar panels and batteries into 240v AC) to allow us, among other things, to run our 240v bread-maker off solar power rather than having to run the diesel generator. The results of this 3-hour job, which involved lots of 'bilge-ratting', are mostly hidden from view but Maunie has a new remote-switch in her aft cabin to show for it:
All of this DIY stuff is enough to test any relationship but we've managed to maintain our sanity throughout - Di's very good at asking the right questions before we get the drill and saw out so the project went without a hitch and, unusually, with no swear words from Graham!
Jobs completed, we're off for a few days of sailing in the beautiful Bay of Islands. Still, after the lovely time we had catching up with family and friends in the UK, we are feeling a long way away out here and would love to hear from you all back home - e mails always excitedly received!