03/09/2014, Ao Chalong Bay, Phuket, Thailand
For almost a month we have had great winds. They do drop significantly in the early afternoon but starting in the very early morning hours to about 1200 or 1300 they are great. They have usually been around 15 knots but sometimes a bit more. This keeps things very cool and comfortable onboard Leu Cat.
Today, however, there was no morning wind and it got hotter and hotter as the day progressed. We hope this is just a brief passing and our cooling winds return tomorrow morning.
It was hard to get motivated to do any work with it being so hot. Despite the heat, Mary Margaret did a load of laundry and I worked on a couple of simple boat projects. I replaced the two winch foot switches that had become problematic, took measurements for the wind generator pole braces, and peeked at the engine wiring. Not real hard work but with the heat, it was hard enough. The sun was so intense I could feel the souls of my feet getting sunburned as I replaced the foot switches...
The rest of the time we played cards, read a bit, surfed the Internet and rested. That is about all one can do on such a hot day.
03/08/2014, Ao Chalong Bay, Phuket, Thailand
Because we are facing a number of rather long sets of passages to make South Africa this year and because it will be difficult to get things fixed in many of the places we will be sailing to, we have been working rather hard getting Leu Cat set for this cruising season. Much of the planned work was done when we returned from the US. This little passage from Langkawi to Phuket was supposed to be a shake-down cruise to make sure all the things we did worked well and that we were ready for the long crossing of the Indian Ocean.
Well... I am afraid the shake-down cruise was more of a breakdown cruise. We had more things go wrong in the few days it took to sail to Phuket than we usually have go wrong on a major passage. The good news is that we should be able to get everything fixed here in Phuket and that it all happened before we left to cross the Indian Ocean.
Let me share with you all the things that went wrong.
First, just minutes after leaving Telaga Harbour Marina in Langkawi I started smelling a rotten egg smell. At first, I thought that I was smelling our waste holding tanks which I had just opened to drain out. Whenever we are in a marina, we always close our waste holding tanks (we have three of them, one for each head) so that we do not pollute the marina waters with our waste. Once we leave and get into open waters, I open each tank and slowly let the waste drain into the sea and then flush each tank clean. This sometimes results in a slight rotten egg odor for a few minutes. However, this odor persisted and got stronger. I began a thorough inspection of our side of the boat by opening closets, lifting floorboards, checking the bilges until I discovered the source. It was our starboard engine starter battery. It was grossly overheated and releasing sulfuric acid fumes. I had Mary Margaret turn off the starboard engine then disconnected the battery and finally removed the battery cables, totally isolating the battery. It had failed internally and was shorting out causing it to overheat and off gas.
The second issue was that our dinghy's hull started leaking. When we were in Indonesia in 2011, some of the boat boys at one of the villages we visited had dragged our dinghy backwards in the sand instead of lifting it up and carrying it to make room for some of the other dinghies that were coming in. In the process of dragging our dinghy they broke off both of the planing fins on the bottom of the hull near the stern. This resulted in a couple of significant cracks in the hull which had been weeping water into the boat. Those cracks opened up a bit when we were in Ko Lipe and water now fills the bottom of the hull in about 2 hours. Thus, each crack needs proper filling and the hull needs strengthening.
Third, a couple of foot switches which respectively run the mainsail halyard winch and the mainsail sheet winch now stick. I have replacement switches and will have to replace the old switches with the new ones.
Fourth, Muthu, our engine mechanic at Pangkor Marina did not do as good as a job as I had hoped. I had him replace our antifreeze coolant in each engine and in the process, he only hand tightened the coolant drain plug on our starboard engine. During our passage to Ko Rok Nok Mary Margaret had noticed that our tachometer for the starboard engine stopped working. I had recently replaced the gauge panel, which contained that tachometer. The gauge panel cost me $700 US to replace. When she said the tachometer was no longer working, I went down into the engine room only to discover that the coolant was dripping out of the drain plug right onto the wiring that runs to the gauge panel. There is a massive wire connector that sits a ways down under the drain plug. It was coated with coolant that dripped down from the drain plug. We were fortunate that the engine had not overheated due to lack of coolant. The overheating sensor was not working because the coolant dripped on the massive wire connector that includes wiring from the heat sensor, the Tachometer sensor, and God know what else. I hope I can disassemble the wiring, clean and dry the connectors, and put them all back together again so everything can work. I only hope that none of the sensors shorted out.
Fifth, our Spectra watermaker's vane pump had stopped working. I had just reinstalled the watermaker which I had Spectra' factory in the US repair while we were in the US. However, they repaired the Clark pump which had failed, not the vane pump because up until now, the vane pump had been working fine. Now the vane pump has failed so I need to fix that.
Sixth, both of us had noticed that the new wind generator mounting pole flexes a bit when we are bashing. The wind generator sits on top of it and is very heavy. As the boat bounces up and down as it bashes through the higher, short period waves it flexes the pole it sits on. We want to add a couple of braces to the middle section of the pole to strengthen it and prevent the flexing.
Seventh, the hinges on the cover that sits over the port swim ladder in the port sugar scoop are loose. The holes for the screws have enlarged a bit and new, larger screws need to be installed.
Eighth, the valve stem of one of our dinghy wheels is leaking such that the wheel goes flat quickly. A new valve stem is needed to replace the leaking one.
We hope to leave Thailand at the end of the third week of this month. Thus, we have our work cut out for us.
The bay at Ao Chalong is chucked full of boats. There must be at least 150 of them sitting at anchor here. This is not our ideal place to anchor since we love lonely, quiet anchorages where we feel we have the whole place to ourselves. However, most cruisers love the social scene of places like this so they all flock together and enjoy the times they have exploring the town, eating and drinking and just sharing life together. The beauty of cruising is that it allows you to find the ideal place for each lifestyle.
A sitting Buddha overlooks the bay at Ao Chalong at Phuket Island where we are now at anchor.
On our last leg up to Phuket, Mary Margaret sat down with Dalbir behind the helm and actually taught him how to steer the boat. It takes a bit of getting use to since the swells and the wind in the sails try to push the boat to one side or the other. However, soon Dalbir developed a soft and easy touch to the wheel and the control of Leu Cat.