Scheduled trip - part 2 - SailNet Community

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  #1  
Old 08-18-2007
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Scheduled trip - part 2

When I first flighted the trip from San Diego to NZ, several points of view were expressed by other forumites and I was unable to speak with any authority because I was asking the question. Now that I have done it and can speak with some experience let me revisit some of the things that we shared from my new persective.

Firstly the over-riding view expressed is that two weeks is insufficient to prepare a new-to-owner boat for a voyage like the one I contemplated. Of considerable interest is that of all of the system/equipment failures we experienced, all were with elements of the vessel that we thought were sound and "would be OK".

We lost our fridge three days out. Simply stopped working. We could not have done anything to avoid it because it was working perfectly for the whole 2 weeks we were on the dock. We lost one alternator a week out. Some would say that it should have been overhauled before the trip but that sentiment could see one rebuiling engines, gearboxes and all kinds of other major components. About two weeks from the end of the voyage, the second alternator gave trouble for a totally different reason. Go figure. Obviously this is justification for an alternate power source (wind genny, genset). So in short, we could've stayed in San Diego for months and still had those failures. Most of our other problems mechanical stemmed from these two failures. One other thing that broke was the raw-water impeller on the Yanmar but we had a spare on oard so it was fixed in a jiffy.

Another view expressed was that "if you're preparing a boat like this, the most affordable place in the world to do it is San Diego". Rubbish. It was probably the most expensive I have encountered in twenty years of boat ownership. Some examples:

- To install an SSB, not including the cost of the radio or the antenna tuner - 1st quote $4800, second $3900!! Despite Sailing Dog's advice to have a professional job done, I did it myself, took four hours and worked perfectly all the way home.
- Three panels of clear plastic around the cockpit - US$2300. Outrageous but that was the best price we could get.
- A new wind instrument cost $560. To install it? How about $900?
- To cut the foot of a second-hand sail up 4 feet (luff was too long) - $480. The sail only cost us $230!
- And then the least expected cost - we spent over $400 on taxis in 2 weeks.
All in all, we spent abot US$10 000 in two weeks! San Diego is a beautiful city with wonderful people but, man, it's expensive to do business there.

There was a lot of discussion about a clip-on backstay antenna made by Gam Electronics and a range of other "easy fix" antenna solutions that would not require cutting the backstay. We bought and installed a Gam antenna. It took twenty minutes including soldered connections to the radio and it works like a million bucks. I would recommend it to anyone.

In terms of sailing equipment, we had a reef line failed, one side of the stack pack got frayed and parted, in some very strong weather our jib got some minor splits in it but luckily all in the area of the UV band so they never went too far. Everything else is still good.

The weather and the timing of the season were also discussed at some length. Our weather was simple. We left San Diego on a westerly and we headed south west on a starboard tack. We held that tack for 150 miles then we hit the north easterlies of the North Pacific high and went onto a port tack. From there all the way to the entrance to the Nuku Hiva harbour, a distance of 2700 miles, we never tacked again!! The weather was amazing and stayed that way all the way to Raratonga with a total of about 2 days of calm in the northern part of the Pacific and 3 in the ITCZ and a few hours of rain squalls along the way. The trip from Raratonga to NZ was a totally different story but I'll elaborate on that later.

The one thing that everyone mentioned was that 75 gallons of diesel was not going to be enough and that was right. We limped into Nuku Hiva with about two gallons of fuel left in the tanks and that only because we had rationed our usage for a week before. I have already resolved to use one of the water tanks (of which we have too much capacity) and converting it to a third diesel tank.

Fuel in Nuku Hiva was extortionately expensive but with only one source, we had no choice. I bought 265 litres of desel and an automotive battery and the charge was 432 euros (NZ$822)!! These thieves are French, remember? Fuel in Bora Bora was about US1.35 a liter and we paid NZ$2.00 alitre in Rarotonga.

Water in Nuku Hiva was undrinkable so we never loaded any. In Bora Bora the water was free and very nice. Rain water from a moiuntain stream, really refreshing and tasty. We never loaded water in Rarotonga.

OK, enough for now. If these posts are too long and boring, someone will tell me and I'll cut them down but I hope this stuff is of interest to the forum.

Cheers
Andre
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Old 08-18-2007
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Yes, very interesting. Please continue...
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Old 08-18-2007
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We look forward to hearing more of your story, I find it fascinating.
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Old 08-18-2007
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No they are not too long. The short paragraphs make for an easy read.

Please continue and while I wait I have to find part 1.
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Old 08-18-2007
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Ditto! More...more!
Also...my pre-trip counsel was to take more time to prep the boat which to my mind meant some shake down cruises as well as time at the dock to install and fix stuff. Do you think a short coastal cruise would have revealed some of the problems? What did you DO about the fridge and the alternator...since you don't mention any stops?
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Old 08-18-2007
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sailaway21 is just really nice sailaway21 is just really nice sailaway21 is just really nice sailaway21 is just really nice
I also counseled a two week shakedown cruise and, in retrospect,it was either un-necessary or essential. At the rate of $20K per month residing in San Diego-"leaving, what a great idea!"

Good post and look forward to more from the author.
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Bob likes paragraphs.

Good post.
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Old 08-18-2007
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very good reading......
thank you for sharing and keep em coming.
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Old 08-18-2007
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Ditto,

you've got us hooked...
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Old 08-19-2007
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[/quote] Also...my pre-trip counsel was to take more time to prep the boat which to my mind meant some shake down cruises as well as time at the dock to install and fix stuff. Do you think a short coastal cruise would have revealed some of the problems? What did you DO about the fridge and the alternator...since you don't mention any stops?[/quote]

Actually the only thing that we would have discovered in a pre-trip sail would have been the auto pilot that wasn't tracking properly. In reality, we left San Diego and had to turn back after two miles because the autopilot was all over the place. It turned out to be a badly located fluxgate but we elected to not only reposition but replace so I'm probably the only vessel who carries a spare fluxgate in the spares locker .

The fridge? Well I've never been one to trust a fridge so when we put our supplies on board we never banked on having a fridge and thus never really missed it. Cold beer was probably the biggest loss. Interestingly, our fresh veggies lasted for nearly two weeks by being carefully placed in the coolest, darkest lockers in the boat.

The alternators were wired up in an interesting way which is probably what made the failures not too bad. The house bank is four 6v Trojans wired into two banks then brought to the 1-ALL-2 switch with one pair wired to 1 and the other wired to 2. This whole shooting match was charged by the 110amp alt. Then there is the starter battery and the windlass battery which are in their common circuit, totally independant of the aforeging system and these are charged by the other 85amp alt.

It was the smaller alt (fitted to the Yanmar) that went first so it manifested its failure in our inability to start the engine. Unfortunately we only discovered this when the house bank had gone down to a level too low to start the engine as well. On the up side, this all happened at a point where we were required to spend only two days without basic electrics, still able to run a tricolour but no autopilot and no other lights or luxuries.

When we checked into the Marquesas, we made work of connecting all the battery banks to the 110A alt and the whole system got charged so no problem. The next failure was on the last leg between Rarotonga and NZ when we had two knock-downs (more about this later) and we ended up with a bucket-full of salt water into the back of the 110A alt and the next time we started the engine the alt wasn't charging.

The bad news was actually two days later when we started the engine again to make a final dash for NZ and the alt was suddenly charging again but the regualtor had failed and the output was a constant 95 amps at 18.5 volts. So here was a problem. We knew we had insufficient battery power left to start the engine again, we also knew we wanted very badly to cover the next 90 miles and had a 35 knot wind on the nose and we also knew that the alt was over-charging. Some choice.

We decided to run the engine for a few hours hoping it would charge the whole bank up some and then the plan was to stop the engine and remove the drive belt on the alt to stop it cooking the batteries. We waited too long. By 22:00 all the globes in the nav lights popped and the autopilot was playing tunes. At 3:00am that morning the battery bank had had enough - two of the Trojans exploded and covered the whole world in battery acid!! We spent the next 3 hours and most of our fresh water washing down the engine box and everything that may have been contaminated .

Anyway, it ended OK, we managed to clean up the mess, restart the engine without the alt belt on and we ran almost all the way to Tauranga where the engine finally died. We sailed the last 10 miles to a rendesvous with the NZ Coast Guard 5 miles off the harbour mouth and they towed us into the marina (the harbour officials didn't want us sailing through their "busy harbour").

So Cam, to answer your question in short form - no I don't believe any of the problems would have shown up on a short cruise, the first of them was already several hundred miles from San Diego. I actually think that we did really well with failures on a boat new to us and I actually expected more.

The most alarming thing I reckon that we learned was how dependant the modern sailing vessel is on electricity. When we found ourselves with no power generating capacity we said "Oh, that's OK, this is a sailing boat, we'll be OK". Yes, but the GPS was going to go flat and there was a whole lot of cloud forecast so the sextant would be of little help. And the radios went down but, no problem, we had an Iridium phone on board. But the batteries could no longer be charged. Even down to cooking our meals became a problem because the gas controllers for the stove relied upon an electric solenoid valve to allow gas through.

The last 100 miles we sailed a dark ship (no nav lights) but we did advise NZ Maritime Radio who advised shipping in the area to keep a proper watch for us and of course we stepped up on our own vigilence to make sure no shipping crossed close to us. But no power is clearly no joke. We're putting a lot of thought into the rebuild of our electrics which is happening at the moment.

Regards
Andre
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