Challenges on Passage in 2006
All passages made in 2006 had problems of one kind or another… engine, instruments, autopilot, wiring… and finally (the ‘acceptable’ one!) - weather!
Left Neah Bay 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 – went to start engine – nothing! Seemed like electrical problem, maybe start-motor failed? Checked everything (oil & water included!)… 36hrs later, wind got up so got sailing (drifted 6mls in calm overnight!) eventually becoming strong (~30kn) so motor not needed. Generator worked fine to supply power for repeated attempts to start motor. Was about to check injectors for water in fuel, but made a final check of battery terminals – found a big clod of corrosion on positive terminal – cleaned, ‘boosted’ start with generator running and house batteries added in – got motor going finally Sunday afternoon! Monday afternoon – no supply to stove, so no cooking possible! Fault with solenoid switch - 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, good wind and boatspeed, when thick, dripping wet fog descended suddenly - & autopilot simultaneously went down! Soon after, laptop went down (charger shorted out), so no charting available & relied on radar & 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. Was then motoring, having dropped main, when funny noise – no headway (revved engine, but only made 0.1kn!) & then found had no steerage – couldn’t turn wheel! Forced to call CG – eventually came soon after sunrise & gave tow in to Golden Gate CG stn. Problem was due to CRABPOT(S) and 3 floats etc - tangled around prop and rudder.
Apart from being becalmed for over 3 days at start, then light winds for next two days, found autopilot not working and instruments (including radar) constantly failing. Finally got Windpilot into action and then eventually ended up re-wiring from autopilot course computer to control head in cockpit. But to have autopilot working meant 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 info getting to them). A further problem was power supply to SSB radio – had to re-make connection. In catching up with fleet by taking advantage of strong winds W of Pt Conception, shackle pin came away on ‘chute downhaul & snatching of line damaged pulpit – pulled it away from toe rail so lifelines slack and useless – had to be extra careful when going forward! Tied it all down as best I could to reduce stresses.
After strong, bumpy conditions, beating into NE 4-6 winds and swell for several days out of Hanalei Bay, found water in diesel fuel – engine wouldn’t start after passing through Pacific High & getting into lighter SE-SSW winds. Took from early on 3rd 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, spending a lot of time reading engine manual & Calder to find out how to do it! Good thing I had spare injectors etc on board! Blamed starboard deck filler cap not being tight 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 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. Finally got away from rainy Sitka (saw the sun on just two days in over 3 weeks!) with sweet-sounding engine on Thursday 7th Sept…
My radio had been giving problems on way north with the internal speaker having failed and then increasing difficulties transmitting after Sitka (where I bought external speakers to plug in). Eventually, found no transmission happening at all. Replaced corroded connection on backstay in Victoria (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 ATU connections – thoroughly corroded. Once cleaned up, transmission problem was overcome – excellent reception was reported on local ‘net’.
As I was about to leave Port Townsend, 11th October, to head S to San Francisco offshore, I discovered part of the steering cable near the batteries was completely frayed and about to give way! What a fortunate discovery – I was able to get it immediately replaced. It wouldn’t have lasted much longer at all……
I’d had lots of warnings about Cape Blanco to Cape Mendocino area being notorious for bad seas & weather -–but had had no problem each time I’d transited the area. But overnight, 19/20th October, winds got up to N 35-40 knots for 12 hrs with consequent big seas. Sailed well reefed down and made good speed – but shipped water into the cockpit in quartering seas and found drains were blocked – water was sloshing about…. Had to take up washboards and clear out drains to avoid any further problem in case shipped more water ….