09 August 2022

Motor, motor, everywhere

Motor, motor, motor, fix engine, motor, motor, motor.

This has been the story for the past few day. My brain is starting to rattle with the sound of Petronella's Diesel engine, which makes it a bit hard to blog. But I will endeavor to catch up.

So we finally arrived, as predicted, in the high pressure area that has been hovering between the Azores and the UK. The wind died slowly down. When Wanda, our wind vane, didn't have enough wind to steer by, we switched to George the autopilot, and when George complained that he couldn't maintain this course (because we weren't making enough forward motion to let the rudder work), we knew it was time to take down the sails and start the engine.

We've been motoring ever since, up a narrow corridor of calm that stretches up towards Ireland. To the east, a northeast breeze is blowing down the east side of the high, to the west, a southwest breeze is blowing up the west side of the high. It would be too slow to tack eastwards towards Brest, and it would be too slow to go far enough west to catch a worthwhile breeze. So our routing program has us motoring northeast in a dead calm. Eventually, we will be far enough north to get a good angle on the wind to turn south east and sail directly to Brest with the wind more or less on our port beam.

Mathematically, this is the fastest route, but the motoring is getting old. We should have a short window of favorable wind to sail tonight, but it will be back to motoring tomorrow (Wednesday) morning. Thursday, we should finally turn east, find the wind, and sail the rest of the way to

We are hoping our friends meet us in Brest for a week of cruising, but that is still a bit up in the air. Fingers crossed, I hope it happens, but No matter what, I will be thrilled that the passage is over. I say that now, when I'm a bit bored with motoring, but in the last few days of the Azores leg, I was sorry the passage was coming to an end. We shall see how I feel when approaching Brest.

What else has happened… oh yes. Yesterday, when Helena came on watch yesterday at 10 am, she noticed that the red indicator light on our automatic bilge pump panel was on. Actually, I'd noticed it myself during my watch, and had even pumped the bilge dry with the manual pump, but didn't think too much of it. We'd taken showers in the cockpit, and I just assumed that there was a leak in the footwell, and that some water had worked it's way into the bilge. Fixing that leak was already on my to-do list. The only strange part was that we'd never had enough water in the bilge to activate the automatic bilge pump. Literally never. So the fact that the bilge pump had turned on *a second time* raised a big red flag.

I was pretty sure one of our raw water hoses had sprung a leak, but just at that moment, a big tanker appears on the horizon, heading straight for us. I couldn't just shut down the engine and fix the leak, we had to maneuver out of the way of the tanker! (I always assume big ships either can't or don't see us. A small course change when they are still 10 miles away is way better than a last minute scramble! Ask me how I know this.)

Anyway, while we were motoring out of the path of the behemoth, leaving Helena in the cockpit to keep an eye on the beast (never trust them!), I opened the engine compartment and started looking for the leak. There it was, exactly as I expected to see, a raw water hose had been chafing on the corner of a piece of steel under the engine where it was hard to see. It had probably been rubbing there for years, but finally the hole was deep enough to create a leak. A thin stream of water was hissing down into the bilge. Easy enough to for the bilge pump to keep up with it, but dang!

Luckily… well, actually there was no luck involved. I had thought ahead and bought 10 feet or so of the right size exhaust hose just in case something like this happened. So once the tanker was past, we shut down the engine, took the old hose off, cut a new piece to size, and installed it. Tested it, and the leak was fixed, easy-peasy.

However, while getting my hands dirty under the engine, I decided I should also bleed our oil-filled stern tube. This is what allows the propeller shaft to run from inside the boat to outside the boat without letting any water in. It's basically a tube filled with oil with oil seals around the prop shaft. The rear oil seals used to be so worn that they always leaked some oil out into the water, to be replaced by oil in a reservoir. But since I relaxed those seals a few years ago, they no longer leak oil. Instead, a tiny bit of sea water leaks through the seals into the stern tube.

This is actually how it's supposed to work… you don't really want to leave an oil trail behind you, even though that is more convenient for us. Instead, the oil is supposed to put the water into suspension, like salad dressing, and you are supposed to periodically bleed the tube to remove the old oil and replace it with fresh oil. I should have done this in the Azores after our long passage, but forgot. But since we were stopped anyway…

So that job got done, too. All told, we were back to motoring after about 4 hours. It took a while longer to scrub off the grease and oil.

So, yeah, I'm ready for some nice coastal cruising, with young friends eager to do all the sailing, along the beautiful French coast. Now that's the cruising life! Pour me a G&T!

Just a few more days… hopefully!

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