Ticking off things on the job list

Well that was a turn up for the books a boat part that could not only be repaired but that didn’t cost the earth to do so! Last Sunday we spoke to Michel a straight talking Belgian (ie Flemish) sailor washed up in Tahiti and who calls a spade a spade and modern engineering s**t. His little chandlery at the back of Marina Taina is stuffed with useful bits. And he is great entertainment – if you ever meet him just ask him about automatic bilge pump switches and soon you’ll get a demo of his prototype based on a sensor from a washing machine. It’s a bit Heath Robinson but you know it makes sense and could be packed down into a useful bit of kit but probably never will, it’s just his hobby and a talking point.

Kevin wanted to know if there was anyone who might be able to take a look at our Lofrans windlass on the island before we forked out fourteen hundred pounds on the new one sitting in his shop cum workshop. Michel firstly diagnosed the problem from our description of the slipping symptoms then volunteered himself with the caution that it might take a while to open up (time is money and all that). But he was full of praise for Lofrans engineering which he says has little changed over the years, why try to improve something which does a great job and rarely goes wrong?

Now we know that back in 2013 Temptress’ windlass was serviced and repaired by Scott of 1 Degree West in Southsea and that it will almost certainly have been appropriately greased when Scott reassembled it back then so we expected it to open up once more relatively easily. What we didn’t know, but Michel was more confident about was whether it could be repaired at all this time, after all it is over twenty years old and extremely heavily used, especially in the last few years. The task needed a workbench otherwise Kevin would have tackled it himself, not least because the gearing is full of oil, definitely not something to start taking apart on a boat!

Early Monday morning by prior arrangement with Marina Taini we moved across from the lagoon anchorage to one of their moorings for the week, spotting a small turtle swimming around as we did so. First we’d emptied 80 plus metres of chain and our secondary warp plus chain combo from the anchor locker onto the deck ( a great opportunity to re-mark the chain which we didn’t waste). Then it took the new slim skipper who now fits in the confined space of Temptress’ anchor locker a couple of hours to extract the windlass from its mounting under the deck at the bow. Once unbolted and detached from its power supply, the weighty chunk of aluminium, gearing and electric motor was manhandled into the dinghy and over the narrow channel to the shore. Fortunately there are many Carrefour trollies hanging around so we pressed one into use and trundled across the marina carpark to Michel’s workshop where he told us he’d make a start soon and to come back after 3pm for a prognosis.

Kevin returned later that afternoon expecting to hear the worst but Michel was as pleased and cheerful as a dour Belgian can be. The cog on the gearing drive shaft had burrs caused probably by at some point in its life excessive snubbing by the anchor chain. Back in Europe this would probably have been the point at which we’d have been told we needed a new winch. Here Michel said the cog just required a few mils machining off on a lathe to make it perfectly round once more. The spring was fine (this was the part Scott had replaced) but a washer underneath it would help ensure a tight fit. He had sent the part off and it would be back tomorrow.

Including replacing the terminals on the cables which Kevin had had to cut to extract the windlass as they were too big to pass through the bulkhead, the whole repair was completed the following day and the cost was a mere ten thousand Pacific Francs… Approximately £64! Plus we’ve had to pay for a week on a mooring at £56, still small change compared to the cost of a new one.

The windlass was bolted back on its plinth in the bow anchor locker late Tuesday afternoon though we had to wait a few days for some dry weather in which to reconnect the cables to their power supply.

And, in another bonus, Michel had an opinion as did the guy on duty in the marina office on Sunday about our solenoid and charging problems; that they might be related and most likely a loose wire. We spent Tuesday walking the streets of the industrial area near Papeete’s docks investigating anchor prices and availability so it was Wednesday afternoon before Kevin got out his multimeter to investigate. Sure enough he found a couple of loose connections and replacing them seems to have done the trick as the big alternator is now pouring the amps in and the engine starts first time again.

Then Kevin remembered where the second connector for the bicycle pump was (for some reason it was in his toolbox not with the bike stuff). This one has the correct thread for the water pump accumulator; he pumped some air into the bladder. The hope was that with the extra air, when the water pump goes it doesn’t trigger the pressure release valve on the calorifier followed some minutes later by the bilge pump going off as it pumps the escaping hot water over the side! Sadly it was not to be so on Friday we made a trip to a couple of plumbers merchant but failed to find a new valve is both the right number of bar and that will fit in the tight space under the sofa. We have though been given a couple of other places to try on Tuesday as Monday is a holiday here.

All we need to find now is a suitably sized spare anchor and we think we know where one is in stock; just hope it hasn’t been sold over the weekend.

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