Ocean Watch
Susan Scott

Breakdowns hamper
boating trip

When I was in Raiatea last April, I met a friendly French couple sailing their big, beautiful, new boat, Jimmy Bee, around the world. They were at the boatyard for repairs, they said, and when those were finished they would continue their voyage.

The morning I left, we wished each other fair winds and said au revoir.

When I returned two weeks ago, however, Jimmy Bee was still there. "Bonjour," I said. "I didn't think I'd see you again."

Oh, the stories they told me. The first time they tried to leave, they heard a hissing sound and found one of their new batteries trying to explode. Back to the boatyard. The next time they attempted a getaway, they discovered the glue in their new rubber dinghy had failed. OK, search for another.

Twice more the Jimmy Bees untied their mooring lines, and twice more some system or other failed. The woman smiled ruefully, "It's hard to remain cheerful with so much, how do you say, 'breakage.'"

I know the feeling. My boat, Honu, is also experiencing breakage.

Our first malfunction was the battery bank, an infamous menehune hangout. Since I have only two six-volt batteries to power all my 12-volt systems, and one of those new, expensive batteries is stone-cold dead, this is serious.

Still, we're not in sitting in the dark. My boat repair wizard, Gerard, has us living (carefully) off the starter battery until we locate new house batteries in Papeete. The man likes his beer cold.

So off we went to Huahine, where we anchored far off the charming town of Fare and well away from the crowd of cruisers. "Why not?" we reasoned. We have a spiffy new outboard.

Gerard motored in for our daily baguette while I waited. And waited. Finally, he appeared, sweating, swearing -- and rowing. He'd tilted the motor to avoid a coral head, and it refused to start again. It did start the next day, but now we don't trust it.

We then headed to Papeete for new batteries. This overnight voyage began by motoring in flat seas with no wind. A moderate wind came up, but directly from where we were going. We tried sailing but still had to use the motor to reach Papeete in daylight.

At 4 a.m. disaster struck: fire below! We found no flames, but when Gerard opened the engine room doors, the smoke nearly overcame him. Coughing, he rushed to the cockpit while I opened hatches.

The problem, we soon discovered, was grave: The boat had sprung a leak in the rudder area, and the alternator belt had been merrily spewing sea water around the engine room, causing all sorts of trouble.

We are now safely moored in Papeete (the leak stops when the boat stops); Gerard has rewired the alternators and the burned circuits; and we've arranged a haul-out at a nearby boatyard to fix the leak. Oh, and after hoofing around town for a day, we found adequate replacement batteries.

It's been a trying couple of weeks, but I remain optimistic. The Jimmy Bee folks finally got underway. I will, too.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Marine science writer Susan Scott can be reached at http://www.susanscott.net.

| | |
E-mail to City Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- https://archives.starbulletin.com