Boat Problems

On Tuesday, we finally got done with things in Port Vila and decided to leave to join up with our friends on Stray Kitty. There had been some rainy/windy weather for a few days, but things were a little better in the afternoon.

We headed out on a downwind sail through the main bay into Port Vila. Then we were on a broad reach most of the way up to Havannah Harbour. The winds were not too strong, and we had a very pleasant sail. As we approached the harbour entrance the tall cliffs nearby blocked the wind and it shifted. We soon had to put away the jib and start the motors so we could head upwind into the harbour. Once inside we were able to turn off the wind a bit and we tried putting out the jib to try and catch some wind. But, it was shifty and we ended up putting it away again. The winds were blocked by the hills. We got a bit further up and it opened up and we had wind again.

As we put the jib out again, the furling line got wrapped under the furling unit, and it wouldn’t fully deploy. I went to look – uh oh! – we had a serious problem. The furling unit somehow had a failure like we had 18 months ago in the Caribbean. The cylinder that holds the unit down had broken and allowed the drum to lift up under the tension of the halyard. This means we can’t use our furler like normal, and will have to send for a new one from the manufacturer! Ugh!

We motored the rest of the way up to the anchorage and were glad to see our friends on Stray Kitty. They were sympathetic when we shared our woes over some beers, and later with dinner. We discussed whether we should head back to Port Villa or continue north like we planned.

The next morning, I had more bad news. We had been getting concerned about our batteries discharging more rapidly than normal for the past couple of weeks. Despite having been almost 100% charged the night before, they were needing charging again in the morning! Not good! Normally we get 24 hours at least even if there are no clouds for the solar panels to help with. We spent all day today trying to bring the batteries up to a full charge hoping that would “equalize” the batteries. If that doesn’t work, we’ll have to test each battery hoping that only one of them is the culprit. Otherwise we may have to get a new set of batteries.

Meanwhile, we did come up with a work-around solution for the furling unit that will allow us to keep using it conservatively over the next couple of weeks or so until we can get a new unit sent out to us.

Boats are very complex systems under a lot of stress when sailed often, and also in a corrosive environment (salt water and air). Things break on a regular basis, and you just have to be prepared (both in terms of spares and tools, and in terms of budget) to deal with the consequences. Hopefully, we can continue our tour of Vanuatu and at least get to New Caledonia before we need to deal with these two issues.

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2 Responses to Boat Problems

  1. Jim Scotti says:

    Luckily you’re not Ferdinand Magellan and you can order parts and batteries for repairs! – Jim.

  2. Fred Horch says:

    Hi Frank and Karen!

    Thanks for posting on our blog. It’s been fun to follow your adventures around the world; now we’re having one!

    We’d love to see you. I’ve never been south of the equator, so maybe I can convince Hadley and the kids to make the trip. What’s your itinerary?

    As you know, we’re on Shikoku in Japan for the year. We have a trip planned to China in October, and family is visiting in November and December. But otherwise our schedule is open. Not sure if we’ll really be able to make it all the way down to see you, but it would be fun to dream and who knows maybe we can swing it.

    Sorry to hear about your equipment problems. Ironically, just as I was typing this comment the first time, I got a blue screen of death. A lot easier for me to recover from than the issues you’re facing, I’m sure!

    Safe travels,

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