21st March 2022
Tyrell Bay, Carriacou – Prickly Bay, Grenada
There are many ways to bring happiness into the world. Ruffian is happy when her sails are full and she slips through the water using just the power of the wind. The batteries are happy when they’re full to the brim and settle into ‘float’* mode. Iain & Fiona are both very happy after their morning constitution has been successfully flushed away and they have a spring in their steps. Recently we have not been in these happy places and have worked hard to get back to them.
After 1000’s of miles of pulling Ruffian along our poor sails were looking a little worse for wear. The stitching on the big Genoa was falling off like confetti and the working Jib seemed to be spending more time with the sailmaker than on the boat. They were not happy and something had to be done. (For the non sailors the Genoa and the Jib are the triangular sails at the front of Ruffian).
Weeks ago we’d decided to get a new working Jib built in the UK. This simply involved us taking accurate measurements, sending over a detailed specification, having the sail shipped across the globe, clearing customs and then being picked up from a random address. What could possibly go wrong with that plan?
After hearing the sail was ready and making its way across the globe we headed back to Grenada to start, what we thought, would be the nightmare process of clearing customs. Into the customs office we trapsed with all our boat documents, our cruising permit, our invoice and most importantly smart clothes topped with a broad smile. Within moments our invoices were accepted and stamped and we’d been granted the magical C14 form that allows things to be imported into the county. Customs was ‘done’ and we now just had a waiting game.
While our new sail was taking a trip across the Atlantic our big Genoa took a trip to Ullman and back. As we flaked it in the surroundings of a local bar we left behind a trail of UV damaged thread and congratulated ourselves on our literal ‘stitch in time’ thinking.
Just as Ullman, having replaced all the Genoa’s stitching, delivered it back to the bar we had word that our new sail had cleared customs and was ready for collection. Getting the Genoa from the bar onto Ruffian was childsplay, but the Jib was going to be a little more challenging.
As we emerged from the DHL office in St George the Jib didn’t look ‘too big’ to simply slot into one of the local busses and so we romped across town to the bus station. Once the bus pulled up we realised that the sail was significantly bigger than we thought and the door was significantly smaller.
After lots of negotiation and grunting we successfully slipped into the bus, jammed the Jib between the roof and our knees, slipped our bags under our legs and arranged the trolley in such a way that it threatened to poke other passengers as we slewed around the roads. The huge box removed any ability for the driver to see behind him and for any air to circulate around us, but after many giggles and surprised looks from the other passengers we were disgorged right by Brock ready to introduce the Jib to its new home.
After the excitement of the unboxing we prepared for a pre-dawn get up to hoist the sails before the trade winds built in the sunshine. As the Genoa was hoisted, we witnessed Ullman’s great work in every new stitch and as the jib went up we found our measurements were perfect, the build was great and even the luff tape and UV strip were the ideal sizes**. Ruffian was now all ready to be back in her happy place.
Way back in August we’d replaced our tiny solar panels with much much bigger ones and ever since then we’d not been happy with their output. We thought this additional energy would revolutionise our lives, allowing us to maybe leave a light on without worrying or allow Iain to stop being such a power nazi. We were not happy and our batteries were even less happy.
As Iain was hoping that a hard stare would magically fix the power problem his eye’s settled upon some nasty green corrosion and then a manufacturing fault. The corrosion was ‘turning off’ part of the panel but confusion still reigned. How was that tiny problem responsible for such a big power degradation and funny voltage readings? Confusion reigned on Ruffian
Employing the hive mind of the anchorage first Cal from Amazing attended, then Steve from Juliana, then the professionals from Turbulence Marine and finally Kim from Ilanda all came to have a look. All the prognoses were different but the one thing they agreed on was they were confused and the wiring was too small, so with a heavy heart the dream team of Iain, Fiona and Kim took to the job.
Cables the size of boa constrictors were purchased and we took to reaving them through the boat, up through the gantry and onto the solar panels. Like a classic scene from the ‘Chuckle Brothers’ there were lots of ‘to-me’, ‘to-you’, moments, as the cables were squeezed through impossibly small holes and around hidden bends.
After being cut with bolt croppers, cables and lugs crimped onto them, heated on the stove, soldered and then plumbed in. Fuses that seemed big enough for sub stations were installed and finally we could see the fruits of our labour. More power flowed in, much more power, but the voltages were still not right, confusion reigned but the batteries were getting happier by the moment.
With yet more poking and prodding, audacious use of the internet and some ‘interesting calculations’ we worked out the corrosion was dropping the voltage and turning off 1/3 of the panel. There was a warranty claim and now we just had to arrange for the Grenadian Victron dealer to liaise with his south American contact who could work with head office to ship a new panel to St Maarten via America. This sounded like a plan where no one would be happy, but Ruffian was now happier on the power front.
Elated that Ruffian was now a happy ship and all her systems thriving Iain awoke with a smile on his face and went for his morning ‘sit down’. Feeling relieved he started to evacuate his deposit and came to the realisation that the harder he pumped the more pressure he created and the less the toilet handle moved. The spring in his step disappeared as he realised there was a blockage of the most unpleasant form, in the most unpleasant of places and he was about to get covered in it.
Stripping down to his pants he gingerly loosened the hose clamps that were retaining the pressure and out gushed offensive liquid, but not the offending components. With more poking, shaking, knocking and swearing age old deposits fell out of the pipe*** but not enough to clear the offending articles and another approach had to be taken.
Soliciting the moral support from the plumbing genius Steve from Juliana took a look. He used his genius to great effect, first of all he persuaded Iain that the pipes needed changing and then agreed with Fiona that if you’re doing a job then you might as well do it properly and change all the pipes. His genius was then in full effect and instead of just pulling the pipes off he suggested using a hot knife to melt them off.
Plugging in the hot knife the boat was quickly filled with the aroma of melting plastic mixed with air that had been languishing in stinky pipes for too long and then, with a worrying gush, the last of the pressure was released and Iain came face to face with his morning deposit. Now it was just the simple task of bending stiff pipe though constricted spaces, though perfectly sized sholes while in tropical heat which had been superheated with the judicious use of a heat gun.
With yet another job finished both Iain & Fiona had the spring restored to their steps and could join Ruffian and her systems in the happy places they were residing in.
* Modern batteries & chargers have three stages of charge. Bulk absorption and float, you want to spend as much time in float as possible.
** Massive thanks to the amazing Mark Woodford at Jeckells for all his hard work. If you want a sail, talk to Mark!
*** Over time urine and seawater react to create Calcium which slowly builds up inside pipes which, no matter how big, will ultimately block. Oh the joys of boat life!
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