Challenges on Passage in 2006

All passages made in 2006 had problems of one kind or another… engine, instruments, autopilot, wiring… and finally (the expected one!) - weather!

1. 23-31 May 2006   Port Townsend (Washington) to San Francisco (California)

Left Neah Bay Tues 23rd May motor-sailing but soon after passing Tatoosh Island I was able to turn off the motor and then had an excellent sail to the SSW in good-sized swell conditions from astern. Early Thursday morning, the wind died so I went to start engine – nothing! Seemed like an electrical problem - maybe the start-motor had failed? Checked everything (oil & water included!)… 36hrs later, wind got up, so got sailing (after drifting 6mls in overnight calm!) and eventually the wind became strong (~30kn) so motor was not needed. (Fortunately, the generator worked fine to supply power for my repeated attempts to start the engine.)  Was about to check injectors for water in fuel but made a final check of battery terminals and found a big hidden clod of corrosion on the positive terminal – cleaned terminal, ‘boosted’ start motor by running the generator, with house batteries added in – got motor going finally Sunday afternoon!

Monday afternoon – no supply to stove, so no cooking possible! Fault with solenoid switch was stopping propane flowing from tank.

In darkness, very early Wednesday morning, I was approaching Pt Reyes, making for ½ ml off, rolling in fair-sized swell, with good wind and boat speed, when really thick, dripping-wet fog descended suddenly - & autopilot simultaneously went down! Soon after, laptop being used for navigation went down (its charger shorted out in the dampness), so no charting was available & I had to rely on radar & a handheld GPS - until radar and instruments all went down as well ….!. By now had reduced sails to slow down and was about 3mls off Pt Reyes, having headed out to sea more when problems started. Started motoring, having dropped main, when heard a funny noise – made no headway (revved engine, but only made 0.1kn!) & then found had no steerage – couldn’t turn wheel! Forced to call CG who eventually came just after sunrise & towed us in to Golden Gate CG stn. Problem was due to CRABPOT(S) and 3 floats etc - tangled around prop and rudder. - as a diver soon made clear.


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2. 24 June - 15 July SHTP06: San Francisco to Kauai (Hawaii)

Becalmed for over 3 days soon after the start, then light winds for next two days.  Autopilot stopped working and instruments (including radar) were constantly failing. Finally got Windpilot into action and then eventually ended up re-wiring from autopilot course computer to its control head in the cockpit. But in order to have autopilot working meant having no other basic instruments powered up…. until I eventually rigged up separate power supply to wind/speed/depth instruments (but still no GPS or fluxgate compass information was getting to them).

A further problem was power supply to SSB radio – had to re-make connection. While catching up with SHTP06 fleet by taking advantage of strong winds W of Pt Conception, shackle pin came away on ‘chute downhaul & the constant snatching of line damaged pulpit – pulled it away from toe rail so lifelines went slack and useless – had to be extra careful when going forward! Tied it all down as best I could to reduce stresses.


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3. 24 July – 15 August 2006 Kauai to Sitka (Alaska) and a diesel engine course

After strong, bumpy conditions, well-heeled, beating into NE 4-6 winds and swell for several days out of Hanalei Bay, found water in diesel fuel after engine failed to start after passing through Pacific High & getting into lighter SE-SSW winds. Took from early on 3rd August until midday 7th August to get motor working, having had to change an injector & filters and get rid of water in fuel line, and sight-glass.  Spent a lot of time reading engine workshop manual & Calder to find out how to do it! Good thing I had spare injectors and tools, etc, on board! Blamed starboard deck filler cap not being closed tightly enough…

Used main (port) tank until got to Sitka on Tuesday 15th August, but engine kept dying in low revs as got close to harbour full of fishing fleet and had to drop anchor to await marina staff’s help to dock. Was towed in to slip and later put in touch with Alan Horoschak who helped me & supervised my subsequent ‘mechanics course’ (his suggestion!) – ending up changing lift pump, injection pump and remaining three injectors…. amid lots of frustrations & difficulties in accessing & dealing with different parts of the engine & trying to get everything working well. Got an allergic rash on my forearms from constant spraying with diesel fuel… and learned to anneal copper washers to re-use them, since none available.. Finally got away from rainy Sitka (saw the sun briefly on just two days in over 3 weeks!) with sweet-sounding engine on Thursday 7th Sept…


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4. Aug-Oct 2006  SSB problems nearing Sitka & on passage south until Port Townsend

My radio had been giving problems on way north with the internal speaker having failed and then increasing difficulties in transmitting after Sitka (where I bought external speakers to plug in). Eventually, found no transmission happening at all. Replaced corroded connection on backstay on reaching Victoria Harbour (with Barbara, VE7KLU, and Gerry’s help) but problem not resolved until, in Port Townsend, with help from local ‘ham’ guys Owen & Ed, I finally got around to checking the ATU connections – thoroughly corroded. Once cleaned up, transmission problem was overcome – excellent reception was reported on local ‘net’.


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5.  11th October 2006  Near disaster averted – steering cable replaced in Port Townsend

As I was about to leave Port Townsend on 11th October, to head S to San Francisco offshore, I discovered part of the steering cable was completely frayed and about to give way! What a fortunate discovery. I was able to get the cable immediately replaced. It wouldn’t have lasted much longer at all……  I also found that a worker had accidentally left a drill bit within the compass housing - problem discovered on removing housing to find out why the compass was so clearly mis-reading..... 


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619-20 Oct 2006   Weather off Cape Mendocino

I’d had lots of warnings about the area from Cape Blanco to Cape Mendocino being notorious for bad seas & weather -–but had had no problem each time I’d previously transited the area. But overnight, 19/20th October, winds got up to N 35-40 knots for 12 hrs with consequent big seas.  I was possibly closer to Cape Mendocino than in my previous passages heading to San Francisco. I was sailing well reefed down and making good speed – but we started shipping a lot of water into the cockpit in the big quartering seas and I found the cockpit drains were blocked and water was sloshing about…. Had to take up cockpit washboards and hurriedly clean out the drains and cockpit sole to clear the water and avoid any possibility of water ending up getting down below….


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