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_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Marcy home Walvis Bay Angling Club club AFASyn Ushuaia Marcy and crew

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Nov 12 Fixing Stuff

Yesterday evening, as Ginger was on the radio participating in the Peri Peri net, the jib halyard chafed through. All those miles of rolling downwind in Indian Ocean tradewinds had done the damage. The sail dropped itself in the water and gently brought Marcy to a halt. After dragging the thing back onboard, we re-hoisted using the spinnaker halyard, and were on our way again. Since we can’t run a new halyard right away while still at sea, that job requires a calm anchorage or dock, we added another item to THE LIST OF STUFF TO REPAIR. This list must be written, it is hopeless to try to keep things in memory. We know from experience that once in port it is all too easy to forget that the jib is hoisted on the spinnaker halyard (who hoists the spinnaker in port?) Then on the next passage, we’d worry constantly – what if the spin halyard chafes? What if we need to set the chute?

Every boat has this list, and it is a common item of discussion among yachties – “that last passage added 20 items to the List” or “the List is down to one page” or “I can’t chat, must work on the List.” Marcy’s list is hovering at around 100 lines. The Indian Ocean thrashed us. We sailed many, many miles of rough ocean, with lots of water on deck and sometimes down below, and constant motion. Weaknesses are exposed, things break. When that happens, usually there is an immediate “temporary” solution, in this example using another halyard gets us out of immediate trouble an keeps us moving. This MacGyver phase is often fun and satisfying – one of our favorites was fixing a hole in the muffler with 5200 goop and a tin can lid last year. That repair lasted for months until we were able to get it properly welded in Papeete.

After the temporary solution comes the permanent repair, modify, or replace phase. The problem here is that often parts are needed. Sometimes you’ll read or hear the advice “bring spares of everything.” While that sounds good, it really isn’t practical. For example, Marcy’s rigid vang has a little plastic sleeve that is almost worn out. There is no way to predict in advance that that would be the part that fails, and carrying a whole vang assembly would be too expensive and take too much room. Multiply that by many mechanical and electrical and electronic systems and it is clear that stocking parts for everything is impossible. So to repair our American equipment, parts must be ordered from the States and shipped to far away places. We’ve found this to be a hit or miss procedure, but if the order is filled correctly and the various shipping agencies and post offices all perform, and the import duty is not too steep, it works. The worst for us was trying to get a wind generator sent to Pago Pago. Being US territory with the US Post Office we thought it should be a slam dunk. No such luck, we languished at anchor for a month waiting, and finally left the island without it. The package caught up to us a few months later in New Zealand.

There is a common definition we hear among cruisers: “cruising is fixing broken boats in exotic ports.” There is truth to that, and we’re lucky that we actually enjoy a good repair. Some skippers do not enjoy repairing things, don’t do their own work, and need shore services often to keep their vessel going. On a world cruise, such services are few and far between. We’ve met a couple of yachts who were ending their long distance sailing and putting their boats up for sale because of one breakage and arduous repair too many.

Peter fixing steering sheave

Peter fixing a balky steering sheave at sea on the passage to South Africa

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