Days 2-5 A second ITCZ and an Actuator problem

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Friday 18 April 2014

Day 2, Sunday 13th, we were happily sailing and making nice progress. While the forecast was for no wind, we had 10-12 knots of lovely wind. The sun shone and it was hot. Out on the sea, large squadrons of flying fish were fleeing in front of the boat and we could admire small Petrel birds jumping lightly on the sea surface looking for food down below. At night time, the moon shone bright and we could pick out the Southern Cross. Life was looking good.

A day later and it all changed. Out the back of the boat we have a towable generator. This is a long line with a propeller attached to the end. The propeller spins the line which runs to a generator which then produces much needed electricity for the boat. It stopped working, we checked all the electrical connections, kept re-launching it but to no avail.

Then we learnt from Karsten, a kind man in Panama who provides free weather advice, that we were sailing into a second ITCZ. The main ITCZ lies just north of the equator and we had long gone past that. A second ITCZ we’d never heard of but it promised light winds and intermittent storms with strong winds and lots of rain. It certainly didn’t let us down. The light winds slowed us down. Then we could see the big dark grey menacing clouds coming towards us like something straight out of a horror movie. And boy did they blow! We turned due west so the boat could take the wind, accelerating rapidly. The rain bucketed down, all around it became eerily white, and the rain was of the sort in which you would enjoy a decent strong shower. On the positive side we’d been saying Adina badly needed a fresh water bath.

Next, our electric genoa furler (big white sail at the front of the boat) decided to play up. We had several problems with it during our crossing of the Atlantic Ocean but since the Caribbean it had behaved very well. Now it decided inexplicably to furl itself. The result was the belt drive ripped. Susie, now well versed in replacing it, donned bikini and strode off to the front of the boat to repair it. Job done, we were back on course.

Was life to be so simple? Coming to nightfall the winds died again, we put on the motor and furled our sails away. Five minutes later the winds came back and we attempted to unfurl the genoa. But in that 5 minutes it had randomly over-furled itself. Given night was upon us, we weren’t going to go any further with the genoa until we’d had the chance to inspect it in daylight. Then the heavens really opened. We got soaked. Needing a sail to keep us going, Tom went off to the front of the boat to ready our small staysail. A staysail is simply a second sail, a smaller version of the genoa which is typically used in bad weather. At least we could still sail even if our progress was slow. Not only that, we had waves coming from the beam making the boat very rocky. These passages can be trying.

On board Adina we seem to go through weeks, months of happy bliss sailing with no problems. Indeed we have a very disciplined regular maintenance schedule. But when the problems arrive, they come in spade loads. So what was to be next? The diesel generator stopped working on Tuesday morning, we suspected an issue with fuel flow. And so we went through our common problem list: change the filter, change fuel tanks, bleed engine, check for leaks, double check oil – nothing! Off came fuel pipes (no easy task in lumpy seas), checked and cleaned. We found an in-line filter that was hidden away, cleaned it. Much bleeding of air, it started and then stopped. No towable line, no generator, we would have to rely on the fuel eating engine for battery charging. But we did get the genoa working again and were starting to make some good progress sailing 6-7 knots.
Tuesday night while on her watch the ever persistent and determined Susie drew diagrams of all the generator’s fuel flow systems, noting possible problem areas, reading the manual for inspiration. Come Wednesday morning, the fuel solenoid valve was changed, a relay was changed. It was nearly starting. Then the actuator (don’t even think of asking for an explanation) position was modified. It started – and it’s still going. Let the records state Adina Chief Engineer Susie Plume is one lady that never gives up, she kept going, resolute. Yep, not the boys, but the lady cracked it. Ok – she did have one fuzzy moment asking Tom to start the generator having accidentally left the starter engine connected and holding an exposed fuel pipe in her hand. It was a good moment to laugh. Tough cookie, a lot of respect for Susie Plume.

And Wednesday the winds picked up and Adina was off galloping away relishing the chance to perform. James has us inspired doing more hand helming, we keep checking the trim, pushing her south west to get out of the equatorial band of rain, seeking favourable current and lovely trade winds. We’ve had to wear our heavy weather kit as the rain has been persistent at times. They needed a good dust off as we’ve not needed to wear them in over a year. Fortunately it’s still warm.

So for now life is good on Adina. We have our sundowners (with non-alcoholic drinks) at 6pm, eat hearty meals around 7-8pm, then go into our night watches at 9pm. And the generator is still working.

One more day of heading south west at around 240 degrees then we bear away west. The winds will be behind us and more importantly the seas too. Hopefully we can get our big lovely parasailor up, the current will accelerate us and we can head towards the Marquesas.

This is Adina, romping along in the Pacific Ocean with a fully functioning actuator.

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One response to “Days 2-5 A second ITCZ and an Actuator problem

  1. Wendy 'n Ces says:

    Hi Adina – hope you had an enjoyable Easter and have now found the SE trades. Looks like you are almost halfway to the Marquesas already, so why not stop off at one or more of the islands of French Polynesia to polish up your French, enjoy some cordon bleu cuisine and find out what they think of Francois (Hollande)?
    Your ex crew member Lins (across the Atlantic – remember?) has hit the ground running since her return to Blighty early in January. She starts a new teaching job here in Portsmouth (S Hants not the N American version) in a few days and has just moved into a flat on the sea-front at Southsea (with views across the Solent). That has kept us (and her) busy for the last few months, so now it’s time to get down to some really serious holiday trips to France, W Wales, The Danube, Turkey and Dorset (sounds tame compared to the S Pacific).
    Loved catching up with your experiences (some challenges that were successfully overcome!) since entering the Pacific and looking forward to the next chapter. “A bientot et bon chance”.