Thursday, 9 October 2014

Boat maintenance in an exotic location ... at anchor in Suwarrow


Saturday has come and gone, Sunday has come and gone, and now it is Monday night; still we are the only boat at anchor in Suwarrow. Having an entire national park to ourselves is so different from what most cruisers experience here! Fluenta has a few aches and pains that we have been sorting out during our visit, so we have kept busy both exploring and with boat maintenance.

On the social side, we invited Harry and his wife to join us on Fluenta for dinner on Saturday, but this turned into a BBQ on the beach (fire built inside a metal barrel with a rack on top). We brought buttered noodles and chicken to BBQ, and they brought coconut curried rainbow runner (that Harry caught that afternoon), rice, and coconut patties. We had enough food for a dozen people! Benjamin loved it, because he was able to play at the water's edge with Victoria, then he had freedom of movement on our Mexican rugs - so much more space than on the boat! We loved it because we had a chance to get to know our hosts a little better. We especially enjoyed our "crab walk" after dinner: Harry took us around the back of their house looking for coconut crabs, which he then showed us how to catch (of course, here in the national park, it was catch and release - but at least we got some photos.)

We have taken a couple of trips to see the manta rays that supposedly swim here every morning, but they seem to be on holiday! Our friends on SV Totem have also given us some other recommendations of where to snorkel to see beautiful coral, so we hope to try some other sites before we leave.

On Saturday, after we returned from looking for Mantas, Max & the kids swam from Fluenta, at least briefly! Max had long enough to check the skeg bolts, the prop, and the zincs, when Victoria saw what she believed to be a grey shark, so they all erred on the side of caution and headed for the swim ladder. It is supposedly safe to swim here, but we are all a bit wary ...

Saturday was also "engine day". When we started the engine to check the source of our fuel leak, a little puff of smoke alerted Max that there was a loose/corroded connection to the starter ... this led to an inspection of all the connections for our three alternators, and found two more that were loose. These are the kind of things that are good to catch proactively! He normally checks all fittings/hoses/connections when he is in a space, but inspecting these is now on our regular maintenance spreadsheet [to coincide with the 100 hr oil change] :)

Max is still chasing the fuel leak. It is coming from our injector pump, but not from where he first thought. By sticking his head right into the engine compartment, and using a little inspection mirror, he localized it today to a fitting a bit higher up, so he will go at it when the engine is cool tomorrow.

We took yesterday as a day of rest - Max & Johnathan went to the beach, and Victoria and I stayed on board with Benjamin during his 2.5 hr nap (much longer than usual, so I definitely didn't want to wake the sleeping baby!). Salt and sun have taken their toll on her hair again, so we are combing combing, combing, every chance that we get. It will be so nice (for her and for me) when it is done.

I have been pleasantly surprised over the last few days to see the kids (on their own initiative) writing in their journals (which haven't seen much use recently). The trust that they would write (and draw) when they had something to say seems to have paid off.

One of the bolts holding our traveller block in place sheared during the passage from Penrhyn (two bolts hold it; the other one broke on the last passage - we will replace the old mechanisms in NZ). Once again, Max was able to use the screw extractor to remove the shaft of the bolt, then he and Johnathan have come up with a pretty clever jury rig to get us to Tonga, where Doug will bring the bolts to put the block [and ball bearings] back into place.

As I mentioned in my last note, we have three little tears in our staysail, because its bag got caught on a sharp cleat/protrusion on the foredeck. I started my career as a sail repair person today ... but I didn't get off to a very quick start! The many layers of fabric and the thick needle make for very slow going. My "thimble" is actually a saimaker's "palm", which is multiple layers of leather that mounts the head of a thimble in the palm of my hand, so it is easier to push the needle through. Having cut the patches and done a whopping four stitches today, I will carry on while it is cool in the morning. I think I will use an awl to make the hole, which should speed up the process ... then it will be on to my "usual" jobs (diapers being at the top of the list, followed closely by another batch of bread and a Fluenta "pennant" to leave here in Suwarrow when we leave).

As much as we have been cruising here by doing "boat maintenance in an exotic location" we have also found a bit of time to go ashore. Johnathan is in his element, climbing both trees and ropes (putting Mexican "silks" skills into use) and husking coconuts. (N.B. Green coconuts, stored in the fridge, and opened in the heat, of the day are soooo good!) Victoria has been really good about playing with Benjamin by the water's edge. Harry gave us a Cook Island filleting lesson today when he gave us some of the rainbow runner (yummy cooked in butter for dinner). Everyone we meet has something to teach us.

The sharks on the windward side of the motu know Harry. When he comes to the beach with his fish to fillet, he shouts to them and they all come to the shore. Then, as he finishes with each fish, he throws skin and carcass to them, and they go crazy over his offerings. There were dozens of sharks at the edge of the water today; I saw black tip, white tip, and grey sharks.

We are starting to look at the weather for our passage to Nuie. There are some unsettled days coming, so we are deliberating about where to spend them - at anchor here, on passage, or in Nuie. We will keep you posted on our whereabouts!!

That's about all the news for today.

[Other maintenance items from the database for the boat geeks following the blog:

- Staysail Tack Pennant and pin stop genoa lead: corrosion never sleeps .. after trying to use our staysail I checked the operation of the rest of the elements. The genoa lead for the staysail was stuck - a quick job to fix but would have been frustrating to fix at sea if we needed the storm staysail. Same with the snapshackle for the staysail pennant snap shackle.
- Small bilge pump: In Mexico Wendall and I installed a small bilge pump to handle nuisance water leaving the bigger bilge pumps higher up in the bilge for bigger problems. We installed a Whale Supersub pump which we are not impressed with. The electric field sensor gets stuck with the slightest sludge in the bilge and the pump will then run continuously. Easy to fix as we only run it in manual in the morning to check if any water accumulation. Somehow on the last passage the switch must have been bumped into automatic so the pump ran until it blew the fuse. Again an easy fix, new fuse and carefully checking that the pump is running fine (of course to do this you need to hang upside down in the bilge) and disconnecting the wiring from automatic side of the switch. If I was doing this again I would use a diaphragm pump mounted outside of the bilge for the nuisance water. Thankfully since all the work in Mexico the boat takes on very little water.
- Scheduled maintenance on the engine: all easy stuff - engine air filter check, oil cooler zinc, heat exchanger zinc, raw water filter drain and clean.
- Battery scheduled maintenance: fluid levels topped up. We have almost 1000 amp-hours at 12V of house battery bank built from 6V batteries from Dyno (a Seattle company that mostly makes batteries for the fishing fleet). They are flooded batteries so need topping up every six weeks for so.
- The pressure water pump kept overheating so I checked the pressure water filter that should last a season ... it looked clogged so added a new filter. Again an easy job but access is a pain. Glad I picked up a lot of filters. We will clean out the tank again in NZ.
- Fuel return leak: my temporary repair of the fuel return line in May had come apart so I cleaned it up and added a new rescue tape repair.
- Generator foot: We have a Honda 2000 that has been great to have when we need to charge the batteries beyond what the solar and wind generator will do. It has worked great but one of the feet has corroded off so I glued it back on and will find a replacement in NZ.
-Hose clamps for exhaust elbow hose to water lift muffler - these are all double clamped but one of the hose clamps failed due to corrosion. Likely caused by the pinhole leak on the exhaust elbow. Replaced the hose clamp and sprayed them all with corrosion preventative gunk.
- Pinhole leak in exhaust elbow. Another tiny leak so epoxied over that too after a good sanding and cleaning. Looking forward to getting a new elbow made in NZ (plus a spare). Hopefully it does better than the one we had made in Anacortes.
- Prop/shaft zincs: checked - good for another month. They sure last longer away from the marina.
- Alternator and starter - check wiring as Liz mentioned
- Check rudder underwater - no change.

More scheduled maintenance planned for this week ...

Amazing the difference in wear and tear between a daysailed boat out of a marina and full time cruising. In our first season from June 2012 to June 2013 we sailed about 4000 nm and with our crazy trip down the coast of the US and Mexico plus some cruising in the Sea of Cortez put a whopping 511 hours on the engine. This year from Oct 2013 to now, early Oct 2014, we have done 6200 nm (three passages in Mexico and the trip so far across the South Pacific) for 206 engine hours. From June 2013 to Oct 2013 Fluenta was in a marina or on the hard. We have about 2000 nm to cover to get to NZ for cyclone season.


We love you and we miss you,
At 10/2/2014 5:26 PM (utc) Fluenta's position was 13°14.00'S 163°06.00'W
At 10/2/2014 5:26 PM (utc) Fluenta's position was 13°14.00'S 163°06.00'W

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