Captain Jack, An unwanted stowaway, The Equator, How a fridge thermostat works and More!
14 July 2012 | 1 03'N:148 53.9'E, Somewhere in the South Pacific
(NOTE - The spot beacon is not updating the location so I am entering it manually on a template. However as I can not see the blog via the satphone I am concerned that 1 degree south might be appearing or being read by the blog robot as 10 degrees and that there may be other problems with the location. Will fix it when I next get internet access).
The idea of windsurfing around squalls to get some wind and miles under the boat is a great one when there are squalls. But since I wrote that blog wefve only had one!! So we are still motoring but at least the current is with us and putting us each hour ahead of the fuel budget. We are doing 5 to 5.5 knots on very low RPMs. I had planned for 4 knots.
Yesterday afternoon a blip appeared on the radar then later on AIS. Pacific Hope was her name. I did a radio check with them while still 20 miles out. They were coming up from behind. When they got well into view the captain, Jack, radioed me. We had a nice long chat. Probably for an hour. Pacific Hope, a 169 metre cargo ship (MMSI No. 351849000) going from Kyushu to New Caledonia was carrying something to do with the raw material for concrete. I did not really get it. He told me a bit about the life of a merchant seaman and also some tips for avoiding big ships. He was stunned that we were passed by another cargo ship by a mile, regardless of the storm and suggested the first mate was not paying attention.
After he disappeared into the horizon a bird landed on the foredeck. I thought it was nice for a while. Even took a couple of photos and then I realized it was sick. Not wanting a sick bird on the boat or falling into the boat through a hatch I chased it off but it just kept coming back. After several minutes I realized that the chase could result in me going overboard so resigned to its presence. When I woke this morning it was still there. I chased it once more and it flew off. Perhaps it just needed a rest.
Well I have to admit that I slept through crossing the equator. The photo shot I posted this morning on the blog was created after I returned. At 5 am I had noted the distance to the equator and current speed and set my wake up alarm. It seems however that we picked up speed and thus I missed it by a few minutes. It is not everyday you sail your own boat over the equator so turned around and sailed along it for a while. I was trying to get the espotf beacon to pick up a satellite but after 5 unsuccessful attempts just took the photo of the plotter and put the boat back on course. The spot beacon is still not working and have no idea why. I replaced the batteries but it has not helped.
Tomorrow morning we will be near land and potentially some shipping ? perhaps also small boats and ships without radar or AIS travelling at night. Today was therefore meant to be a rest day, taking it easy and napping so Ifd be able to stay awake as much as needed for the 2 day sail through the Bismarck Sea to Rabaul. After breakfast I decided to do a simple and easy clean up of the fridge. There is not much in it now so it seemed like an easy little task. I pulled everything out and placed things on the galley floorboards. Gave it a good clean and in the process noticed the thermostat had become dislodged form the cooler plate. As I tried to put it back in its place I heard a snap combined with a puncture sound of gas escaping. It was from the thermostat and not the fridge element but all the same it did not sound good. Looked below the sink to find the compressor had stopped. Bugger! Ifve just broken the fridge and itfs stinkin hot here. Whatfs more it is going to be s tinkfin hot for the next 2 ? 3 weeks.
Found the useless manual. Written be a perfectionist German engineer or two and translated into 9 languages with only one set of technical diagrams. Of course there are guides to crisscross back and forth. But it is also a manual for 10 different models of compressor unit. To give you some idea, there are 4 different diagrams for the 4 different thermostats for the 10 different models of compressor in the one booklet. The black wires are all labelled sw for the German word for black ? schwarz. Etc. Think they were trying to save paper those good green Germans. That was the beginning of the difficulties.
The fridge compressor unit is behind the sink. This is a boat so I mean under and behind in a very small cramped place. There is a water pump in front of the sink and the thermostat control unit is also down there in the mix of pipes and wires. To do anything it all had to come out.
So much for my easy day! I disconnected the water pump and got it out. Cut away the silcon rubber sealing the sink, unplugged it from the plumbing and got that out of the way. It then started to rain so I had to close the hatches. Now hot and humid, almost no ventilation being that we are still only miles from the equator, my head in small compartment with a flashlight and we are rocking around. Not very pleasant. Got to the compressor unit and the thermostat control and tried to make sense of it all. I knew the thermostat was broken and that gas was not going back in. The objective was to just get the compressor unit running again without it. To control the temperature I can simply turn it on and off a few times a day.
Playing with the various wires I could not get it to start up again no matter what I did. Then I thought of the gas that leaked from the thermostat sensor. Must mean that it is a pressure operated thermostat and not digital!! Maybe the gas pressure state changes with temperature pushes a lever switch on and off as it expands and contracts. Then I remembered Peter Le Lievre once talking about a weight sensor in a washing machine. He explained it as he talked about using it for some other purpose but basically I remembered that what I previously had thought was something very technical was just a simple on/off switch with a spring on it.
I ripped the thermostat control unit apart to find the same thing. Gas would expand or contract and push a lever. Got it! Shoved a screwdriver in the unit against the lever and the compressor started. Looked more closely to find it was simply connecting a circuit. Found the two wires, joined them and the compressor was working again! We can have cold beers again...after I get to a town and buy some.
Took another 45 minutes to get it all back in place and the sink properly sealed but happy that I can keep things cold again.
As I missed my red wine over the equator celebration given I was half asleep I opened the bottle and started to enjoy the scenery with the plan to have some lunch. There was a bit of fish activity so put the lure out. Within 10 minutes I caught a small tuna. Got it up to the transom where it managed to flip off. Tried again and this time in about 5 mins caught another one. Little bigger too. Better prepared I had the gaff out. I also tethered myself to the boat so I would not slip off like the fish did. As it approached I gaffed it and then gutted it. A nice size and few days worth of food no stowed in my working fridge.
It was fairly messy work so stopped the boat to get some buckets of water and clean up. Also had a bit of a bucket shower with the seawater sitting on the boats diving platform. Suddenly the depth alarm sounded. I cancelled it. Then again, again, and again. It kept reading 2 metres. Now I donft know if this was the reason but after it stopped a small whale, possibly a minke appeared along side the boat, blew some foul smelling wet air all over me and disappeared. I had another seawater shower but given all the marine life activity decided to keep the legs out of the water.
That is the end of my rest day. Now for some maguro and packet miso soup.