Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall. After a six-year adventure sailing from Dartmouth to Australia, we are now back in Britain.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Emergency plumbing and brilliant sailing

Our position at 02.30 BST 27th August:
20 degrees 17 minutes south
158 degrees 38 minutes west
84 miles go to Raratonga
Bob Diamond (the plumber, not the banker) was overweight, fifty and looked slightly dishevelled and sweaty after the journey. "Blimey, you took some finding out here! Got lost three times an' 'ad to stop fer directions twice!" he said in a strong south-London accent, mopping his brow with a red handkerchief and flashing the gold-toothed smile of a man who knows that all mileage will be recharged at an exorbitant rate. He took a sip from his mug of tea ("Three sugars, luv, ta") and handed over his card as way of introduction:
Plumb Bob Ltd
Plumbers and Heating Engineers
Bob Diamond I.G.M.O.V.
He chuckled at my quizzical look. "Mate o' mine said it looks better if you 'ave letters after yer name. Stands for 'I got me own van' but most people don't ask." On the back of the card there were further details:
Diamond Geezer
Second hand and antique jewellery
"That's a bit of a side line, somefink for when I get too old for the plumbing caper. Keeps the missus happy, too."  he added, with a conspiratorial wink at Dianne.
His mug drained to the sugary dregs and introductions completed, he turned to the business in hand and started to investigate Maunie's plumbing system. His head deep in the echoing bilges he exclaimed "Strewth! Oo done this plumbing? Right old cowboy job I'd say." Then, to himself, "Terrible access – ow you s'posed to get yer 'and in there?". He emerged a minute or two later, red in the face, and sucked air through his teeth, shaking his head and tutting in disbelief before exclaiming, "It's not the worst job I've 'ad to do but it ain't pretty, I can tell ya."
Clearly this was more than the normal 'softening them up for the Final Bill' that tradesmen do so well (with each tut and shake of the head signifying another £20), so we braced ourselves for the worst and asked him to do his best....
Of course this is all fiction as, try as we might, we couldn't find an emergency plumber in this bit of the Pacific. It fell to Graham to solve Maunie's water problem whilst Dianne, sensible girl, retired to bed to recover from her night watch and to shield her delicate ears from any indelicate words. The fault was self evident and should have been simple to fix but boats tend to make the simple complicated so Graham knew he was in for a battle and left the autopilot to sail the boat whilst he worked.
Maunie has a 320 litre fresh water tank deep in the lowest part of her bilges, amidships. It's shaped like a wine glass in cross section to fit into the hull above the keel and you can only access its top by removing a wooden locker (used for biscuits and other night watch nibbles) under the pilot-house floor and reaching down, about another 15 inches, into the void below. There's a flexible hose that leads from the tank to an in-line filter and then splits into two other hoses. One leads to the hand-operated pump in the galley sink (so you can get water even if the electrics fail) and the other goes to an electric pump under the floor near the aft heads. This pump has an accumulator tank and it pressurises a ring main so we get running hot and cold water to the sinks and showers in both heads, the cockpit shower and the galley. Normally this pump hums away a couple of seconds after you open a tap and stops a few seconds after you close it, having re-pressurised the accumulator. Our first sign of trouble yesterday was that the pump just kept running and then no water came out.
We'd worked out that the fault was likely to be caused by one of three possibilities: the electric pump was faulty; the pipe from the tank was blocked or split; there was an air leak from a fitting between tank and either pump. It took Graham nearly three hours to find out which. The problem was one of very difficult access, made worse by the fact that the builders had made all the flexible hoses exactly the shortest length possible so there was no slack to allow him to reach the joints and undo the jubilee clips. Eventually, he managed to find that there was some kind of air leak in the tube leading to the hand-pump so was able, with much difficulty, to bypass this and connect the electric pump directly to the filter and, hurrah, it worked once again! The shower in the sunshine in the cockpit was well-deserved after that!
Anyway, plumbing aside, we've had the most lovely sailing! We finally took the Parasailor down this morning after 49 and a quarter hours, the first time we've flown it for two consecutive nights. Yesterday afternoon the wind dropped away to only 8 knots and we were ghosting along at 2 knots on a beam reach, the spinnaker only just remaining filled, but the breeze picked up again and we had 15 knots and 6 knot of boat speed through the night. The forecasted calm hasn't hit us yet but the wind is continuing to go ant-clockwise and we are now beating against a north-westerly. If we believe the latest forecast it'll continue to change direction and we should get a favourable south-easterly again after midnight.
The sea has been calm and the night sky stunning, with bright stars then a 3/4 moon illuminating the boat in a silvery light that makes torches unnecessary on deck so we hope tonight, our last night on passage, will be equally as good. All being well we'll be in Avatiu Harbour, Raratonga, tomorrow morning.
Post-script: Today Graham, sufficiently recovered from his plumbing ordeal, decided to investigate the pipe line to the galley hand-pump to try to find the air leak. It didn't take much finding – the jubilee clip on the end wasn't tight and the pipe had come off the bottom of the pump (presumably moved when we were accessing cooking pots in the locker)! His response was remarkably calm: "For Bob's sake!!" was all he said.

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