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Old 07-06-2009, 21:38   #1
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Some Days - Stay in Bed!

Took the boat to Malaysia this weekend. It turned out to be a comedy of sorts.

Friday - Head to the club, bring the boat off the mooring to the dock. Need to clean the boat, fill the water tank and fix the head, a Jabsco mechanical that had stopped pumping water. Not too bad, the head problem turned out to be a little rock wedged in the ouflow flapper valve. Boat all neat and tidy. The only concern is the bottom is really fouled and the engine won't make more than 2200RPM. This is normal after about 8 weeks without cleaning but I wish I had remembered to have her scrubbed during the week.

Saturday - With winds from the East it's a long beat to immigration but at least we are sailing and the tide was with us. Got a very late start but that's OK too cuz the tides were more favorable. We motored the last hour up the river and the speed was pretty slow. Noticed that if we pushed 2200 RPM for too long we were getting steam out the pipe. Not good. 2000 RPM worked OK but really slow.

Sunday - Decided to leave early for the return and catch the outgoing tide. The first part of the journey was fine although slow as we sailed against the last of the incoming current. We reached the mouth of the river and sailed for about an hour to the immigration buoy. The immigration guy made us wait about 30 minutes and then chewed me out because I was missing the second copy of the immigration papers. There were also quite a line up of boats waiting this Sunday afternoon.

We left the immigration area noticing the very dark and threatening clouds. We ended up sailing at the edge of a huge thunderstorm that built up in about 30 minutes. No problem, we loved the cool shower and the 30+ kt winds propelled us like a rocket. Lightning was a little unnerving but normal at times for around here.

The tides were turning as well and we were just catching the end of the outgoing tide as we entered the main channel to Changi. Unfortunately the winds died completely after the thunderstorm abated so we decided to motor sail. We had very light tailwinds but with the motor running we were making 3 kts or so over the ground against the last of the current. Then I did something very stupid. I saw a clump of seaweed and could have steered around it but for some reason I didn't. There was a chunking sound and so I backed down the engine, at idle forward the engine almost stalled so I pushed it forward again and it seemed to clear.

10 minutes later, the raw water stopped pumping - crap! We shut down and sailed (very, very slowly). I didn't have a spare impeller on-board - having used the last one about 6 months ago I hadn't yet provisioned a spare on board - damn! I decided to dive on the fin to see if the intake was plugged.

With the sails still up we were barely making way so I tied myself off and dove over the side. I found a very nice piece of polyprope wrapped around the prop trailing aft with all kinds of seaweed and crap on it. After 5-6 free dives I was able to remove it and toss it in the cockpit. I also scraped myself pretty good on the hands and forearms due to the crusties on the bottom - ouch. The intake was clear so I presumed we still had no raw water and had a pump failure.

Sure enough I fired up the engine and no water. We then sailed for two hours and made about 600 meters. The only thing propelling us was the incoming current as the tide had finally changed. We sat staionary against the current for about 30 minutes at one point.

Near our club there is a fuel dock. The jet fuel ship ties up and pumps fuel directly to the airport - there was no ship at the dock but there is still an exclusion zone around the dock and we did our best to avoid it. Sure enough as we were passing by we heard a one long blast and the tug was coming out to assist the incoming ship to the dock - more good luck, we were in the way.

The engine was not inoperative and I had used it for a few minutes at low RPM to clear various navigation obstacles but I wasn't happy about it. So I fired up the engine and motored out of the way.

Eventually almost 4 hours after clearing immigration we were within 1 km or so of the club. The crew was hungry and tired and so I relented and called for a tow. We still had plenty of cheese and crackers and some apples on board as well as plenty of water but I think we had all had enough and the crew wanted "real" food. As a guy, of course I would not have given up. The current was with us and it was only a matter of time before we got there - but the crew had already threatened to abandon me and swim to shore twice!

4 hour trip becomes a 7 hour trip - what fun...

Lessons?

- If the boat isn't is ship shape seriously consider not going. I knew the bottom was fouled and would but extra strain on the engine.
- Spares on board? - International trip, not in convoy. We could have been in much worse shape if we were up the river or fighting our 3kt outgoing current. There are lots of ships around here
- Immigration paperwork? - An oversight but it kinda ticked me off and affected my mood for a bit.
- Don't motor through seaweed if you don't have to. You never know what's going to be buried in there.
- Diving on the prop - It worked out but in hindsight I probably should have doused the sails. If I got separated from the boat it could have been bad and the boat was making way faster than I could swim.

Good News?
- Sailed well in the thunderstorm
- Plenty of water and enough food on board
- Plenty of comm options - VHF, cell etc
- Picked the tides right
- Once things began to unravel I rigged the ground tackle as a last resort
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Old 08-06-2009, 05:28   #2
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Interesting tale, Dan - and it looks like you learned (or at least recognised ) the essential lessons.
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Old 08-06-2009, 06:42   #3
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Makes up those perfect days .
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Old 08-06-2009, 08:37   #4
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Seems like one of the lessons is the transition from land (functioning on timetables the way we do) to sea & being willing 'mentally' to allow the time it takes to make the passage however short it may seem on paper.
It just reminds me in alot of ways of similar excursions of mine.
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Old 08-06-2009, 09:32   #5
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Do you have lat/lon of where you started and where you went? It would be fun to use google earth to check out pictures of the trip. Nice story, thanks for sharing it.
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Old 09-06-2009, 04:58   #6
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A touch of deja vu reading this. We made our maiden voyage to Sebana Cove at Easter, in our newly aquired Maxi 77. After a delayed start due to starter motor problems, we made it to Sebana Cove Saturday evening without any real dramas. However, on the return journey we had an engine mount fail in the channel to Changi, with the tide most definitely against us and with something of a lack of wind. Fortunately we had another boat close-by who helped prevent us drifting back to the immigration buoy until we could get a tow home from the club. It was a long trip home for the kids, but thankfully they have not been put off.

Having experienced a breakdown I am considering adding an outboard as a back-up. I would be interested in hearing your views on this.
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Old 09-06-2009, 05:13   #7
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Thanks for the story. Always good to know it isn't just me that these happen to. Like most of us who only get to sail on weekends sometimes you just let the small problems not concern you to point of adding up. But hey, other that the "problems" it sounds like you had a good time overall and were happy because you make it back with no major problems.
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Old 09-06-2009, 11:07   #8
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We've all had a day like that, some of the more delicate people would have popped the top on their epirb!
Glad you made it safely and thanks for the story.
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Old 09-06-2009, 17:04   #9
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Some lessons learned. Aggravating enough to be taken to heart, no great damages, and best of all, no injuries or fatalitys.

Those are the best kind to learn.

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Old 14-06-2009, 23:59   #10
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As a follow up to the tale - Found a plastic bag shredded up in the raw water impeller housing. Don't blast through seaweed if you can avoid it. Particularly in and near dirty harbors. I reckon that clump was hiding the rope and the plastic bag.

Hi Jon (Ambindi) and welcome to Cruisers Forum. I think I am the only Singpapore based guy posting here regularly. I wrote up an article for the Changi Log about the Easter cruise. I anonymously documented your turn back, but I guess I hadn't heard about the mount failure. I would love to talk to you about the mounts - I have been thinking to proactively replace ours for quite a while now.

In regards to the backup outboard. I think carrying it around for "years" waiting for the diesel to fail is more trouble than it is worth. Also you'd be carrying around a supply of very volatile gasoline as opposed to the less volatile diesel fuel.

Carry - alternator belts, raw water impellers, an alternator (I can give you a lead on an automotive drop in) and keep the fluids (oil and fresh water) and filters changed and you should be fine. Our Volvo has been pretty reliable so far. Although in just over 2 years we have been through 4 impellers. Maybe a raw water strainer would be a good mod(?)

We were running out of options but for sailing around here the last resort would have been to drop the anchor and start cell phoning for a tow.

I remember as a kid we had an old 18 foot wooden boat with a single cylinder diesel. The kids used to regularly go out alone in Sydney's Pittwater area. I remember one trip being becalmed and getting home at like 11 O'clock at night becase the engine was inop. Mom was concerned but not overly so even though we were like 5 hours overdue - LOL.

Sometimes with sailboats you take what you get...
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Old 15-06-2009, 01:36   #11
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When I used to fly, i would read the air crash investigation reports from Farnborough and the under lying theme was pretty much the same.

Very rarely did one thing on its own cause an accident. Its always a combination of events which add up to trouble.
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Old 15-06-2009, 02:31   #12
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I would say that a raw water strainer was a must. Could seriously reduce the number of impellers you go through and reduce the risk of wrecking the engine.
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Old 15-06-2009, 02:53   #13
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I would say that a raw water strainer was a must. Could seriously reduce the number of impellers you go through and reduce the risk of wrecking the engine.
Thanks Ed. I agree.The raw water comes in through gill holes in the saildrive. I have never liked the arrangement but am not too interested in knocking another hole in the boat. I have considered putting a strainer at the top of the saildrive somewhere downstream of where it transitions to hose. Keeping it low enough to avoid needing a big lift or causing an air lock is one issue and the other issues are laziness and procrastination.Ho hum...
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Old 15-06-2009, 02:53   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jonsykes View Post
A touch of deja vu reading this. We made our maiden voyage to Sebana Cove at Easter, in our newly aquired Maxi 77. After a delayed start due to starter motor problems, we made it to Sebana Cove Saturday evening without any real dramas. However, on the return journey we had an engine mount fail in the channel to Changi, with the tide most definitely against us and with something of a lack of wind. Fortunately we had another boat close-by who helped prevent us drifting back to the immigration buoy until we could get a tow home from the club. It was a long trip home for the kids, but thankfully they have not been put off.

Having experienced a breakdown I am considering adding an outboard as a back-up. I would be interested in hearing your views on this.
We've had 2 Maxi 77's, one with inboard and one with outboard only. The outboard works fine in sheltered waters, but that's it. I agree with Ex-Calif that it's hardly worth the effort having one as a spare only. If you have a dinghy with an outboard, I'd definately fix a mount on the transom. That would give you good place to stow your outboard and you could use it as a backup, even if it's weak, it's better than nothing and enough to maneuver in a marina or in a calm.

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