‘Bob the Builder’.

The inside of the rigging.

25th May 2023

El Bight, Guanaja, Honduras – French Cay, Roatan, Honduras

In houses around the UK when a little cartoon builder appeared on children’s TV while sporting a natty little yellow hard hat , a tool belt and dungarees every viewer got ready to sing their little hearts out. Bob the builder would be asked ‘Can we fix it?’ and in unison everyone would sing ‘Yes, we can!’. After our trip south we’ve felt like Bob and fixing things has been top of our agenda.

Before any fixing could start we first had to assess our problems and the more we looked the more serious our problems appeared. Not only had the strap broken on our port lower but we also found that 4 of the 19 wire strands within the rigging had failed. Luckily we carried spares for exactly this circumstance and felt victorious as new straps, new Sta-loks and new Sta-loks extensions were dug out of stores on Ruffian.

With the new toggle and strap in hand the turnbuckles on the mast were undone, tensions relieved and our Heath Robinson fix was removed. As the mast wobbled high above us the new toggle was fitted and we felt like we were on the road to recovery. The broken strands however would require a whole heap more courage to fix as it would mean taking a hacksaw to the rigging, using a fitting we had no experience with and would take the mast from being partially operational to wholly broken. We needed to find an aquatic version of Bob the Builder.

Scouring the internet we found a brave rigger who was available to help and was brave where we were not. The only problem was he was on a different island, was about to fly to the US and we had to get to him ASAP.

With the mast in its still precarious state we set out to give ourselves a safety net just in case the lower failed enroute. We scoured the anchorage for a boat who had the rope we were looking for the kindly souls on “Menage a Trois” gave us meters and meters of 12mm Dyneema*. All we now had to do was splice it together to make a temporary emergency lower.

With splicing needles in hand Iain set about making Brumel eye splices and locked Dyneema loops that would take the tension if the worst did happen. Then nipping upto the spreaders everything was lashed in place and tidied up. Once finished it looked like we’d had a professional on board and we just hoped that when we arrived in Roatan our brave new rigging friend wouldn’t have a classic builders sharp intake of breath at our efforts.

Full of trepidation we negotiated our way offshore where the sea was mercifully flat and the mast thankfully unstressed. Within no time (although it was the longest 40 miles ever) we found ourselves in the company of Robert the Rigger who was full of confidence, full of knowledge and full of praise for our efforts.

Taking stock of our situation, examining our spares and tools, a plan quickly formed in Robert’s mind. He’d simply cut the rigging, fit the Sta-lok swageless extra long stud extension and we’d be good to go. We were sure it couldn’t be that easy, but we were in Robert’s capable hands and he was sure it would.

What was to follow was an education. We measured and remeasured and then took a hacksaw to the rigging. It cut through the stainless stands like butter and Robert then expertly unravelled the outer strands, popped the cone onto the inner core, and wound the outer strands tidily around again and slid the Sta-lok over and tightened the fitting. With our biggest and longest spanners (and we have some very big and long spanners) deployed we wound the Sta-lok until it couldn’t be wound any more and our once poorly mast was on the road to recovery thanks to ‘Bob the Builder’ who was disguised as ‘Robert the Rigger’.

With relief flowing over us, we wanted to toast our success and sought out cold wine and beer from our fridge. Worryingly the beer was warm, the wine was steaming and the fridge non operational. Our days of fixing things clearly weren’t over.

Getting to the fridge compressor to even assess the problem was a mission in itself. Unloading the locker, 100’s of meters of rope, multiple anchors, petrol cans and yet more spares were scattered over the deck and the fridge was finally uncovered. Next to the compressor and evaporator plate sat a control box where some LED’s blinked helpfully. They helpfully told us of a ‘Start Fail’ error. Well we could never have guessed that!

Reading manuals, scouring the internet and browsing YouTube for hours on end gave no helpful advice and we resigned ourselves to weeks of warm beer and limited fresh goods. As the day was ending the compressor then magically purred to life, coolant flowed through the system and our now very warm fridge could spend the night cooling things down while we spent the same time confused.

This same cycle happened day after day where the fridge goaded us into thinking that it was working and then quit just when we thought we were victorious. It then dawned on us that the cooling fan was never spinning and the fridge wasn’t working in the heat of the day. All we had to do was replace the fan and wait for the cool of night.

Searching though our spares we had no fan and our hopes of finding a fan of the right size, with the right fittings and in the right voltage range on a tiny island seemed remote, but we decided to search ashore anyway. Walking though the midday heat the air-conditioning of a computer shop welcomed us and then as we pulled out our broken fan the owner matched it with one that literally had bells on.

The fan was attached to the fridge evaporator plate, power applied and it’s ‘bells’ became obvious. The new fan was equipped with glowing lights that shone every shade of the rainbow and flashed in time with its spinning. As the compressor kicked in this was a massive upgrade and Bob had once again fixed it.

There is still plenty of work for Bob to be getting on with and we feel like we are limping into the Rio Dulce . Ruffian still feels broken, but at least we’re on the road to recovery and we can have a little sing song about Bob while we travel that road.**

* Luckily they had changed from wire rigging to Dyneema and had some old Dyneema that was languishing in a locker.

** There have been lots of other things that have needed fixing not least of which from the incident with the French catamaran, but also including the engine overheat alarm, the raw water pump, navigation tablets…….. The list just seems to be getting longer and longer.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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