It’s a delicate decision; when to call in the experts. A couple of weeks ago, I had this weird problem with the cooling water for the engine. Sometimes it would flow, sometimes it wouldn’t. There seemed to be no logic to it.
I’d inspected the filter, tested the seacock – easy now that I have a seawater pump in the galley branching off the inlet. I opened up the impeller housing – without dropping any of the bolts into the bilge.
I even asked for advice on Facebook – and terrified myself with the range of wild and technical advice. In the end, I pulled into Dover where I met a lovely engineer called Mick. He was one of those calm and competent tradesmen who takes the cack-handed boat-owner under his wing with a show of mock exasperation at the vagaries of machinery. He didn’t even bring his toolbox onto the boat – just climbed aboard and said: “Let’s have a look…”
The next thing he said was: “Hello, what’s this branch coming off the inlet pipe?”
“Ah,” says I, proudly. “That’s my galley seawater…”
We worked out – or at least, he was kind enough to include me in the process – that, under certain circumstances (motor-sailing on starboard tack) the engine would rather draw air from the galley pump than water from the sea. All you have to do is put your thumb over the tap for a minute to make it see sense.
I felt such a fool! Mainly I felt furious with myself for incurring another bill on the maintenance budget when all I needed to do was think logically. What is it marine engineers charge? £50 an hour? £60.
But Mick shook his head. He hadn’t even opened his toolbox, had he?
And now here I am in Falmouth with the headsail furling gear working as smoothly as if it was the demonstration model on the Hood stand at the Boat Show.
That‘s not how it was yesterday. Yesterday, I couldn’t get the last two turns off it – and I had to put the line on a winch to roll it up again. Twice I had dropped the sail and fiddled with the drum – everything was fine without the sail.
It had to be something to do with the new furling line. On the other hand, the gear had worked to begin with – only after Portland did things start to go wrong – yet here I was about to set out into the Atlantic…
The rigger was called Jake. He would come and have a look when he’d finished with the davits on a brand new Rustler 57. I went and found the boat. It was easy to see why this one took priority. For one thing, all the sail handling was electric (or, possibly, hydraulic). There was a satellite dish, a drop-down bathing platform, the varnish on the rail looked as if it belonged in Harrods furniture department.
I looked back up the pontoon to where Samsara lay with her hand-painted decks and the rust stain dripping out from some ancient fastening buried under the woodwork.
How could I take Jake away from his gleaming davits? The RIB, by the way, came with individual fitted canvas covers to keep the sun off the various bits without increasing the windage with an all-over cover. Nice idea…
And yet, Jake took a break from this million-pound project to come and looked at my furling gear. He didn’t bring a toolbox either – just a big Leatherman and borrowed my 10mm socket spanner and an Allen key.
Here’s what he found – and if you ever need to change the furling line on a SeaFurl5, you need to know this: Inside the drum housing there is a plastic disc which separates into two halves. When you put it back together, it needs to click into a groove on the extrusion.
Nothing to it really – but, of course, enough to stop the whole thing working and lead to all kinds of potential disasters.
“I could have worked that out,” I said to the back of his head as we crouched on the foredeck and he tightened the last screws.
Actually, I’m not sure that’s entirely true. Already, I’d put it back together once without noticing the groove. The truth is, it’s the tradesman’s expertise that you pay for, not his time. So how much did I owe Jake for his ten minutes?
He shook his head and smiled as he headed back to what he called the “tweaking” at the other end of the pontoon.
I peeked at the online brochure for the new boat. It’s got a heated towel rail in the heads.
I bet they won’t get that fixed for nothing.