Boat Maintenance in Exotic Locations.

What an amazing autopilot ram setup.

13th July 2021

Cala Figuera, Mallorca – Puerto Pollenca, Mallorca via Puerto Pollenca & Cala Figuera, Mallorca

There are lots of proverbs to describe the cruising lifestyle. Sometimes they speak of exploring new cultures, or being at one with nature, other times these proverbs focus on topping up tans and gin and tonics on the poop deck. There is one however that stands above all others and describes the lifestyle perfectly. Cruising is just “boat maintenance in exotic locations”.

We were once again sitting in an exotic location, with clear water under us and blue skies above, we could however have been in Scunthorpe in February as Ruffian was taken to bits and the source of the autopilot problem was sought. The aft cabin cabinetry was taken to bits revealing a well-greased quadrant, well-greased steering cables and the ram where the problem lay.

The ram slipped out effortlessly and but, in his efforts, Iain had managed to transfer most of the grease from the quadrant and cables onto his hands, arms, knees and even his head. He then proceeded to lubricate every surface he touched – the bedsheets, the floor, the workshop manuals and the tools all showed a trail of where he’d been!

Sitting in the cockpit something was astray as a ram that rattles is not a happy ram. Under Fiona’s expert instruction the ram came to bits and out fell screws that had sheared, screws that had bent and screws that had simply undone themselves. The problem was obvious, the planetary gear, the key component between the motor, the clutch and the quadrant, was floating free.

With new screws in place, the ram reassembled and reinstalled, with no bits left over thankfully, we switched it on, pressed the auto button and hoped. The wheel sprung into life, driven by the ram and we’d ticked of a big boat maintenance task in an exotic location.

High from the victory of fixing the autopilot*, next up was the generator. The pull cord needed replacing and from watching YouTube one thing was certain, the generator had not been designed for maintenance. Once again under Fiona’s expert eye screws, bolts, nuts were all removed and the generator was reduced to smaller and smaller components. Finally, Iain had its heart in his hands, the cord was replaced and everything was put together. The proof however would be in the starting.

As the new cord whizzed out of the machine it purred into life, revved and pumped power into Ruffian. Renewables are brilliant, but if the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine then the generator is ready to take their place.

With all the ‘fun’ boat jobs being ticked off the list there was one job which Fiona reluctantly took took to; admin**. As the laptop came out and spreadsheets were kicked off Iain decided that she’d prefer his space to his presence and he disappeared off to pedal his own version of the Tour de France on his Brompton.

High above Ruffian sat a watchtower and the road that led to it looked like a cycling classic. The gradient was unrelenting, the switchbacks gave views of the challenge ahead and the road surface was like velvet. Pushing power through his little pedals and into his little wheels Iain laughed at the MAMIL’s*** that overtook him. Who needs a bike that weighs the same as a grape, made of technology that is at home on the moon and kit that hugs every crevice of your body when you have a trusty steel folding bike, normal clothes and a rugged determination?

With every passing car and motorbike cheers rang out at his efforts. It was like a scene from the TdF in the Alps or Pyrenees as fans cheered him on. With no respite he painfully turned the pedals until finally the peak was in sight, the road ran out and he got a final set of claps and high 5’s from all those who’d raced passed him.

As the sun started to set the real test for the Brompton was to transport Iain’s frame back to the meticulously maintained Ruffian. The hills flew by, the views were breath-taking and it was true that we’d been doing boat maintenance in quite an exotic location.

* A more permanent fix for those bent or sheared screws will have to be sought when we have access to a machine shop. 

** Other painful jobs have involved yet more trips into Palma for Fiona for more manipulation, more injections and more ouchiness.

*** MAMIL: Middle Aged Man In Lycra, thankfully Iain has graduated from this club (but he was a painful sight while in it!).

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

1 thought on “Boat Maintenance in Exotic Locations.

  1. Hi, was it the linear motor with the plastic gears or the one with the replacement metal gears? Assume you know about the spare set of metal gears. All good fun!
    Cheers Ken

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