Caller please wait.

Rigging is swaged.

8th October 2023

RAM Boatyard, Rio Dulce, Guatemala

As you hang on the phone listening to painful muzak you are told that ‘This call is important to us’, closely followed by ‘We are currently experiencing high call volumes’. As you sit there you can see your life disappearing in front of you and your time ebbing away. This has been our life as we have embarked on getting Ruffian once again fixed and everything has been on hold.

With the go ahead being given RAM told us that orders were being placed, global logistics were being organised and hard to source components were being sourced. Wanting to make sure that everything was really happening we asked for inventories and were told to wait, we asked for tracking numbers and were told to wait and we asked for any update and simply told to wait. No information was forthcoming and we were getting increasingly anxious.

Although we were seeing no progress on the ordering of parts, there was frenetic progress of Ruffian. All the damage that had been done was being quickly resolved. Varnish was removed and renewed, stanchions uninstalled, investigated and made good and the paint compressor constantly hummed touching up every scratch and ding. Under the heat of the sun, in their dark absorbent RAM t-shirts the technical staff toiled, painting, polishing, sealing and varnishing, but we still saw no activity from those in the office sitting air conditioning in front of the phones and computers.

While the RAM staff toiled above in the full sun, we too luxuriated in the shade below. Ruffian’s, once rough and pockmarked hull was transformed. The barnacles and their calcium deposits were replaced with paint so poisonous it’s banned in Europe and so sticky that, once again, Iain was transformed into a smurf. Not happy with just one shade of blue, he coated and re-coated the hull building up layers and giving himself a good covering so that even (according to Fiona) the bedsheets which we slept on turned the same bluey hue.

With still no update on the parts that were being sourced from around the globe, our focus moved to the mast and we were given a masterclass in rigging from our master rigger. We watched in awe as strong metal fittings were deformed around our new wire and chatted about the technicalities of backstay insulators, spoon fittings and receptors. There was so much to learn and so much that Julian was happy to impart to us.

Even with all this activity happening we felt our lives were on hold. We had no idea when things were going to turn up, what would turn up and when we enquired, we were told ‘to wait’. It was almost as if the whole boatyard was singing to the sound of muzak and that our call was important, but not important enough to action…

Once again focussing on Ruffian, we were about to do something that is not only frowned upon in European boatyards but outright banned, but in Guatemala, with its exacting adherence to Health & Safety, there was no problem. We were once again trying to track down a funny engine vibration and were going to be starting the engine while high and dry.

In Europe, starting the engine while a boat is supported by a few stands is an absolute no no. The worry is that with the engine vibrating the boat could simply fall off its stands and with the prop spinning unsuspecting individuals could be simply chopped to bits.

As the start button turned the starter motor the engine purred into life and the prop spun at breakneck speed. Ruffian sat on her stands and no one got chopped up. The vibration had magically dissipated, so we then started to get scientific. With a gauge that measured in 1000’s of an inch the shaft was turned, measured and assessed and after hours of attention the maximum bent was 0.037mm (which really is very little) and we were none the wiser as to where our vibration had gone or when, or indeed if it might come back.

Still chasing the tracking numbers suddenly the hold muzak stopped, our call was answered and we were important. We watched as packages buzzed all around the globe and were slowly making their way to Guatemala. Estimated dates were given and status’s updated nearly hourly. Boxes were passed through airports and signed for in extraordinary locations. Things were finally moving, Ruffian was on the mend and the painful muzak had finally stopped.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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