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Chatty log | Gan

Passage to Gan (Maldives)

17 June

Caro: It's quite a lot of work to get shipshape, but around 10 o'clock we're ready to up-anchor and make our way out through the pass. There isn't much wind so we keep the engine on. A few hours north of Salomon is Speaker's Bank. We've heard there's good fishing there and we've got two lines out. As soon as we hit the bank the reels go off. As we make our way in depths varying from 100 to 30 meters along the bank we catch one fish after the other. Soon we only use one line because we cannot keep up. Casper is gutting one fish after the other. When we've caught 8 fish we stop. Our catch: 2 yellowfin tuna, 3 bonito's, 2 rainbow runners and 1 jobfish. Most go into the freezer but 1 yellow fin is for sashimi tonight.

John: This has to be the best fishing we've seen anywhere! One bonito was caught by accident; he bit a lure that was just dangling in the water by the stern, having been left there to wash clean after the last catch. The sashimi'ed Yellowfin was fabulous, of course. First sashimi we've had in a while. We ate a whole tuna at one sitting.

18 June

Caro: There's only the slightest breeze which means we have to keep motoring. If we want to get into Gan tomorrow we have to keep making a speed of about 5 knots. It's quite a lazy day, doing games, reading, preparing food.

John: Just as well we have the fuel to motor; I hadn't expected to have to motor the whole way to Gan but it certainly looks that way now. What a contrast to the weather 'Tao' is reporting further east, on her way to Phuket. Tao has had 20-30 knots of wind with squalls of up to 60 knots and sustained winds of 45 knots for a couple of hours. Meanwhile we motor quietly along at low revs. The only failures today were the wiring for the LPG solenoid (jeopardising my all-important Spinelli coffee start-up this morning) and a couple of slides on the main luff that have fallen victim to the slapping main and too little halyard tension. Funny how things go to pieces the moment I stop double-checking that everything is set up just right!

19 June

John: I woke up with a start at 02:00 this morning as the engine revs decreased suddenly. I thought 'Great! Caro is shutting down the engine, we must have enough wind to sail!' No such luck. We'd run out of fuel. Again my careful calculations are miles out. I can only explain this by assuming that the tank was not really full when we took on diesel in Victoria after all. So, in atonement for my sins I get to siphon diesel into the tanks by torchlight in the middle of the night. By 03:00 we have the fuel lines bled free of air and we're back in business, though the engine starts up with that awful rattle we've heard from time-to-time. This time it seems to not go away entirely, but it becomes subdued to near-normal levels and we crawl thankfully back to bed. A few hours later at 07:00 I'm on the HF for the morning Chagos sched and the engine suddenly emits this awful tearing, grinding metallic scream and shudders to a terminal-sounding halt. The situation is immediately shocking in its implications. We have no wind to speak of, and the engine sounds like it will not be in commission for some time to come, maybe never again. Gan is reputed to have vicious east-going currents (one yacht who had run out of fuel languished for days within 30 n.m. and could not get closer until a kindly cruiser motored out to deliver fuel). We may have to miss Gan altogether and head straight for Phuket. We email Oliver immediately and raise the alarm on the net. The cruisers' supportive response over the HF is immediate: names of agents and mechanics we can trust, email addresses, telephone numbers, mechanical advice. Preliminary checks on the engine confirm that this failure is nothing simple like a tangled propeller, this is a serious seizure. I mess with exploring how I might get the gearbox off at sea for an hour, but it's really a bit too much to attempt. We are just going to have to make the best of the little wind we have. We decide to continue to head for Gan, we need to make some northing anyway, and maybe we can still make Gan if the wind increases a little and if the currents are kind to us. Spirits are at a real low at this point and I am clouded with foreboding about how to get this old engine fixed, how on earth we are going to be able to pay for it and if we will need to haul it out (I don't even know how we'd be able to remove this huge dinosaur from the middle of the boat). If it does have to come out, we might as well bite the bullet and replace it with something lighter, smaller and quieter, not to mention 30 years younger! What a nightmare! And to think we were looking forward to arriving in Gan this evening. How fortunes change in a moment!

20 June

John: For once the Grib files look like being right. We've had almost no wind all night and I report about 10 n.m. progress towards Gan on the morning Chagos net. Actually we've done slightly better than that because we've been making some westing to offset the anticipated current closer to Gan and to bring the tenuous wind onto the beam so that we can keep steerage in the extremely light air. Later the promised rise in wind indeed arrives and we go from struggling to keep our heading in 5 knots of wind to sailing at a respectable 4 knots or so in 8-9 knots of wind. Suddenly we are ticking off the miles and it looks as though, Neptune willing, we'll make the entrance to the pass at Gan before nightfall. That's just the starting gate, though. In the event, we indeed arrive in a healthy 10 knots of wind and make our way gingerly around the terrible-looking surf pounding the reef to feel our way into the pass. We've had no response to our email requests for assistance to enter or our VHF calls on the way in, so we're on our own. Creeping along in light air less than 0.5 n.m. off the huge crashing swells is a tense experience. What if we mistake the pass entrance? What if there is a significant offset between our GPS position and the chart? Not having an engine to fall back on certainly sharpens the wits! We repeatedly cross-check radar and chart to estimate chart offset. Just as it looks like everything is going OK, now in the middle of the pass, the wind teasingly begins to fade and we see that we are entering against a mild (1-2 knots) outgoing current. We are too close to the breakers for comfort. I hurriedly prepare the dinghy with the outboard and get it in the water, lashed to the side of Jocara in case we need it to provide a little power to keep us off the murderous pounding surf on the reef just alongside. We watch the GPS nervously. It sometimes reads 0.0 knots, but slowly we creep forward, the sails flapping but providing just enough power to overcome the outgoing current. Finally, we're in! The counter-current subsides in the wider and deeper water within the lagoon and we are free to sail on to an anchorage. Even this proves tricky, the water being very deep right up to the reef so we have to position ourselves very precisely under sail. Finally, the anchor is in, the sails are down and we can congratulate ourselves. Caro and I sit on the coachroof with a glass of white wine as the sun sets in soft pastels and golden evening light bathing the island.

21 June

Caro: We're for anchor just outside a little narrow pass that leads to a kind of inner harbour in front of a causeway between the island Gan and the next one, Feydu. Where we are now is a little deep (30 meters), but how to get into that harbour? Yok Yor, a boat we've seen before in the Seychelles is anchored inside and they offer to tow us in with their dinghy. They'll be leaving today for Phuket, so we'll have enough swinging room in this harbour. Getting the anchor back on board is not an easy matter. Normally we use the anchor windlass, but without the engine we have to use our own muscle power. The whole family takes turns pulling in the chain bit by bit. Finally the anchor breaks the surface and the Yok Yor crew starts towing us in a big circle to line us up for entering the pass. It looks ever so narrow and shallow. Once we're in it's tricky to get Jocara in a good position for throwing in the anchor. We drop it near Yok Yor to be in the right place when she leaves. But in the meantime we need to make sure we don't bump into each other. Which turns out to be harder and harder, we seem to be dragging. John uses the dinghy like a tug to push us away from Yok Yor and they quickly pick up their anchor and leave. Now we can let out more chain and let the anchor dig itself into the sand. We feel relatively safe now. After lunch we go ashore to check out what's there. There are a few shops with a wide variety of merchandise, a little food, a few pieces of hardware, some souvenirs. We tell the shopkeeper we're looking for a mechanic and he immediately phones somebody he knows and 5 minutes later the guy shows up. Ten minutes later we're back on board showing Chilly what needs to be done with the engine. He starts to work right away and it's quickly apparent he's hardworking and knows what he's doing. To be able to get in touch with Chilly we go back to the shop to get a local sim card. Chilly is also kind enough to drive me to a little supermarket where I can buy some tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers for our first salad in many weeks. It's only our first day here and it feels good we got so much done.

John: The local officials turn up in the morning and we get all the paperwork done, pretty painless and nobody wanted to make an issue of the odd few bottles of liquor. Then 'Yok Yur' was kind enough to stop by and offer to take us in with his dinghy. It looks kind of tight, but with no engine and a couple of dodgy outboards, it sure would be nice to be on the inside, close to shore. It turned out to be a bit of a drama, especially keeping clear of Yok Yur while she was recovering her anchor, but worth it in the end now we've got the place to ourselves. Then finding 'Chilli' within 5 minutes of hitting the town was a stroke of luck, too. He's a hard worker and had me promising to have the pony shaft taken out by 5 p.m. for him so he could have a go at turning the crankshaft nut.

22 June

Caro: Chilly comes back on board to work on the engine with John. Bit by bit parts are taken off. The engine looks fine, nothing wrong there. The shaft will have to be moved to get the gearbox off. This is a terrible and difficult job. Chilly ends up crawling into the 'ATF swamp' with a blowtorch to heat it. John meanwhile is underwater pulling with all his might at the prop. They won't give up and eventually the shaft starts to shift. Now the gearbox can come off and then it's very clear what the problem is, a plate that connects the gearbox to the engine is in pieces with bits stuck either side. John will explain all this better. But it's good news, shouldn't be too expensive to replace. We're feeling quite optimistic. We ordered some food through the little shop on Gan which got delivered in the afternoon. Besides tomatoes and cucumbers we also have carrots and green beans. That's about all the vegetables you can get here and the quality is not great, but it's a lot better than nothing.

John: So, nothing doing with trying to turn the crankshaft nut. Too much to hope. We just have to bite the bullet and take the gearbox off. Caro and I are pretty sure the noise was coming from the bell housing at the back of the engine, so I'm guessing it's the swash plate. I have no idea how Chilli plans to move the shaft, but he says he can get the gearbox off 'No Problem' so I go along with him. Just after lunch, when he has most of the bell housing bolts off, he turns to me and says "OK, now how are you going to move the shaft?" This is a bit of a blow, since this is the one part of the operation that I have no idea how to get done and where I was eagerly waiting to see what solution he had in mind. Undaunted, he says he'll get down into the bilge and uncouple the shaft. I warn him that this is no picnic, a 'big job'. "No problem" he says. Then I move the stairs away to get access, he looks down into the ATF swamp and gasps "Oh sh1t!". A moment's silence, then he slowly gets up, turns to me and with the face of a surgeon bringing bad news about a patient says heavily "Big Job!" Still we persevere and he's a real tenacious and hard-working guy. He spurs me on to efforts that I might otherwise have blanched at and together we do indeed get this monster shaft (about 6m long with lots of supporting bearings, couplings and seals) shifted. Once that's free we can finally pull the gearbox and, yes, it's the swash plate. It's disintegrated into 6 main pieces, shards of metal stuck around the flywheel and bell housing in a horrible mess.

23 June

Caro: Oliver arrives on the 9 o'clock flight and is on board half an hour later. He's visiting us again for the air sampling, dropping off new pufs and taking the samples back to Singapore. Amazingly, it's cheaper for him to come himself than send it by DHL. He's bringing a lot of goodies from Singapore, many courtesy of Liz who knows exactly what kids like, fun books, great movies, chocolates. The boat is a complete mess. We cannot give Oliver the forward cabin this time and the floor is strewn with engine parts. The only place we can offer as a bed is the sofa where I sleep on passage. He doesn't mind. John spends some hours at the internet cafe, browsing for a company that can sell us the needed part. He finds two companies in Florida that have it and emails them. Whilst John is ashore a nasty squall hits us. The sky looks very threatening and it's blowing 20 knots. I'm worried about the awning in case it blows up more. The awning catches a lot of wind and creates a lot of drag. Without engine power we're completely dependent on the anchor holding. I decide that if it blows up to more than 25 knots we'll take down the awning. It does. Taking it down is easier said than done in this wind. I cannot get the knots undone and end up cutting them with scissors. When the ends are free the canvas is flapping like crazy and the kids and Oliver are trying to keep it under control. They're hanging on with all their weight and still they get thrown about. Alex nearly gets lifted off the boat. Finally we manage to tie the awning with a rope to the boom. Whilst we were fighting with it Alex saw the wind instrument say 35 knots. By now, of course, the wind is slackening and back to about 25 knots. Then the rain starts and without the awning up it leaks through the dodger and the cockpit gets soaking wet. All the cockpit cushions have to come inside and we have less and less places to sit down. Not a very good day. When John came back the outboard wouldn't start and I wasn't sure I would be able to row to shore with this wind trying to blow me out of the harbour. When it slackened a little I went for it. I only just made it. We walked the dinghy upwind along the wall as much as possible before setting off towards Jocara. John was rowing like mad when one of the oars broke and started drifting away. I quickly jumped in, grabbed it and climbed back in the dinghy. We were drifting downwind fast. Rowing wasn't possible anymore so we both starting paddling as hard as we could. We made it back to the boat. That was quite enough excitement for one day.

24 June

Caro: Not exactly a bright day, but mostly dry. Oliver is going for a dive and Casper and I decide to join him. John stays on board to work on the engine. Since the engine itself seems fine he can start putting it back together. The dive site is on the outside reef in the north of the atoll. This is one of the few places in the Maldives where the coral wasn't badly bleached. There is some damage caused by the tsunami that toppled over quite a few table corals. It's a gentle drift dive and we see lots of big fish. I've never seen so many big trigger fish in one area. This habitat must be at a premium because they're defending it quite aggressively. Not only the other fish get chased away, Casper almost gets a nip too. I've got the video camera with me and halfway through the dive an orange flashing light comes on. Oh oh, I've got a leak. It's not much but I see a few drops of water in the camera case. Oh no! After the dive I open the case and the camera seems fine. It's the electronics in the case that's unhappy. John opens it all up and sprays it. Then we'll just have to wait and see if it will recover. When we returned John was on the French catamaran 'Sundance' that arrived yesterday. He's there as a translater to help Michel (the owner) and Said (the crew) check in. They don't speak much English and the officials don't speak any French. In the afternoon Oliver takes an air sample. I work on the site to get it up to date. Oliver will take a CDROM with the site back to Singapore tomorrow. Late afternoon we treat ourselves to a beer at the local resort. That tastes pretty good after these beerless few weeks. Then we have dinner on the French boat, who have invited us. We learn that Michel is on his way to Phuket where he intends to stay for a while and work. He is a patissier (baker) and is planning to start a boat bakery and supply the many cruisers in Phuket with baguettes and croissants. What a marvelous idea!

25 June

Caro: Oliver is leaving at 12 and the pressure is on to have the cdrom ready. There are some problems with burning and it's a last minute rush to finish. We haven't had a reply from the companies in Florida yet. It's frustrating because now it's weekend and we'll lose another 2 days. We did so well the first few days but now progress has ground to a halt. Well, there's plenty of other stuff to do. Chilly is also having a look at the alternator and might be able to do something with the outboard.

26 June

Caro: There's always school work, cooking, website, hull cleaning and so on for me and endless boat jobs for John. Unfortunately, there's no progress whatsoever on ordering the part. Despite various emails to Florida we have not heard anything back. It's very frustrating.

27 June

Caro: With progress slowed to non-existant our moods have not improved. It doesn't help that our sleep is often disturbed by squalls. When the wind increases in the middle of the night we get up and worry about our anchor holding. We are so vulnerable without the engine. In addition other things have started to go wrong. Part of the fresh water system broke down, again. A piece of pipe split and pisses our fresh water into the bilge every time we turn on the water pump. The generator intake got blocked by seagrass and needs cleaning out. No wonder tempers are short and the boat turns into a cauldron of smouldering bad vipes which eventually boil into a confrontation between John and Casper. Alex does his best to release tensions by giving John hugs and translating John's feelings to Casper who's completely withdrawn into his deep dark angry hole. I'm keeping my head down, emphatise with both and hope this emotional whirlwind will pass soon. Everybody cheers up a little when we receive our food in a little restaurant. It's a very small, very local place with friendly people. Chilly is hanging out here with a bunch of friends. The food is good and cheap.

John: OK, so kids don't come with instruction manuals, nobody would read them anyway. But surely parents should get some operator training, right? Sometimes I feel like I'm staring at the blue screen of death with Casper, total shutdown. Nothing for it but to reboot and hope. "Application GoodSon has unexpectedly quit. You have lost all changes and ongoing work. Click 'OK' to delete all common sense and go back to square one".

28 June

Caro: We give up on the companies in Florida and need to do a new search on the web. We've heard there's an internet cafe on Feydu also and decide to go look for it. It'll be good to go for a walk and see some of the local colour. We get a rather mixed bag of instructions and end up seeing more of the town than we had in mind. Eventually we find 'cyber plus' to discover they are having problems with their internet connection. By now it's getting late and we rush back to the internet office in Gan. John finds a company in Australia that lists the part we need. We send off an email to them and hope for a quick reply. We've ordered some more fresh food, this time from a shop called '2+1' to see if the quality is a little better. The tomatoes are much nicer and we have a big salad for dinner.

29 June

Caro: There are a lot of mosquitos here and every evening we light a bunch of mosquito coils and the fumes keep most of the nasty critters away. This morning we found that the coil by Casper's bed had upturned onto the carpet and started burning it's way through the carpet. We feel ourselves lucky we got away with a black stain instead of a boat on fire. We have now known what part we need to get the engine working again for a week and still have not managed to order it. The Australians have not answered either. Everything seems to be going wrong. The fresh water plumbing is in a bad state and we don't have the right material to improve it. John keeps gluing it and it keeps coming apart in a new place.

30 June

Caro: The weather has turned sunny and calm, quite beautiful and very hot. We've finally had some replies from companies who have the part we're desperately waiting for. With any luck it will be on its way today. That may be good news but John is very down. He feels everything on the boat is going wrong and he cannot keep up with the repairs. The freshwater system is so ancient that as soon as he's repaired one leak another one starts up. And now we've got a problem with the generator again, a pump is spraying salt water all over the place when running it, rusting everything in sight. To cheer up a bit we walk into town to have lunch at the little restaurant we found the other night. They really appreciate our business and invite us to a wedding party tomorrow night. That will be interesting. After lunch we make our way to a little supermarket to buy some meat, flour and vegetables, then walk back to the causeway. I'm starting to work on a short movie showing the life of Casper and Alex in Chagos. Late afternoon when it's cooled off a bit I do some repairs to the mainsail, three sliders that attach the sail to the mast have come apart. We're expecting quite a lot of wind on the next leg and better be prepared.

1 July

Caro: I have another go at scrubbing the hull. It's amazing how our reef on the hull changes from location to location. We had little lobsters in a couple of our through-holes for months who have suddenly disappeared on the way to Gan. Also the gooseneck barnacles have gone. Instead the hull is becoming covered in green and brown algae. What makes the difference? Is it the temperature? The water is a few degrees warmer here. Before going to the wedding reception we have a beer at the resort. Then we pick up the kids who stayed on board playing computer games and walk to the restaurant. In front of it is a field where hundreds of plastic chairs have been set out. We find a short queu of people and what must be the wedding couple. They look a bit surprised when we come face to face with them but take it in their stride. We congratulate them and present them with our present of lovely foot and leg creams from NuSkin. Then we proceed to the buffet and pile our plates with tasty chicken, rice, and salads and find ourselves 4 chairs. There are a lot of people, maybe half the town. At some point Chilly comes to say hello and also the restaurant owner. But on the whole people ignore us, except some young boys who want to shake our hands. The whole time we were there the bride and groom stood by the entrance greeting the endless stream of visitors.

2 July

Caro: It's so hot and windless now that we've put the awning back up. The lines we had to cut through to take it down in the squall have been replaced. I also had to sow up the pocket I tore up to get the pole out. At least a few things are getting repaired.

3 July

Caro: John has got the repaired alternator back from Chilly and spends hours reinstalling it. I'm not feeling very well. Had a headache all through the night and my guts are churning. I'm not the only one, John and Alex are suffering from the same thing. I finished the kids' movie and I'm now working on an underwater movie. I want to show what a healthy reef looks like. There seem to be so few left now. At Moresby we have seen how much diversity a healthy reef can support. Also we heard first hand how that reef had been damaged by bleaching and how quickly it had recovered. There is hope for reefs yet.

John: If there's one thing that tells me this is an unjust world it's when I wake up with a hangover, not having had a drop of the good stuff the previous day. This is such a day. My head feels like it's in a vice. I get the alternator back from Chilli and set about refitting it, followed by all the pony shaft, bearing and supporting frame peripherals. A miserable, greasy and backbreaking job and, as it got dark, I gave up on completing it. The alternator belt is screaming and I can't seem to tighten it. I took a nap and woke for dinner to find my back seized and I had to crawl into the main cabin. What a wreck I am! We decided to watch 'Moby Dick' to relax... maybe not the best choice of movie. Francis Ford Coppola, faithful to the gothic tone of Herman Melville's book, dark and foreboding madness abounds.

4 July

Caro: I'm feeling a bit better today, but Alex barely makes it out of bed and hardly eats anything all day. John and Casper don't have any appetite either, very unusual. Chilly comes in the afternoon to work on the sheared off bolts in the flywheel. Latest news of the part is that it arrived in the Philippines last night. The routes these packages take always surprise me.

John: This morning I fixed the alternator belt problem so that's one thing taken care of now. The rest of the family is down with the stomach 'flu and didn't get up until I test ran the engine. In the afternoon Chilli set about getting the sheared bolts out with gusto, as expected. He brought a power drill & blowtorch that made things easier. He succeeded where I feared to press on and after a few hours of persistent gruntwork he had all three removed. Score one more for Chilli. That's one more hurdle cleared on the way to getting our engine back on line. It's as much as I can do to stay on my feet to hand him tools, this gut 'flu has laid me low.

5 July

John: I took the opportunity to lie in this mornng, though I'm feeling less wiped out than yesterday. Time to go check up on our FedEx package... the website tracking still has it in Subic Bay, Phillipines. They are probably so shocked that they've been sitting on it for two days working out what to do with it. I can see that it makes sense to send a package from Florida by an eastern route, but why would FedEx overshoot the Maldives by 50 degrees of longitude (3000) miles all the way over to the Phillipines? Could this be another example of the USofA's infamous propensity for being geographically challenged? I've been wondering how a company as incompetent as DHL can stay in business; could it be because FedEx are their only serious competition? Later I hear from the Maldives FedEx office that it is now in Male, but that customs say it will have to wait 3 days until it can come down on a flight to Gan because it weighs 30 kg. Now, I know from the online FedEx documentation that its registered weight is 6.0 lb, which sounds about right, less than 3 kg. More telephoning. Caro and I console ourselves with a beer at the (only) bar in town, the one in the 'Equator Village' resort. There we meet Denise and Clark from 'Candessa' (an Essex-built monohull that just came in) and we end up going to dinner with them at the little local restaurant in Feydoo. Good conversation and food always cheers us up, and the bill is only 250 Rf (about US$20) for the 6 of us.

Caro: For the first time since arriving in Gan we actually took a bit of time of to do something fun. We dinghied about half a mile to snorkel on the inside reef which we heard is quite good. So it is. Not Chagos quality but nice enough. The reef is shallow and then drops quickly to about 30 meters. Drop-offs are usually fun because this is where the big fish cruise around. We saw a Napoleon, always a treat, and plenty of big snappers. In the evening whilst waiting for our food in the restaurant it suddenly started pooring rain. We thought we would come back to the boat to find our aft bed soaked. But, though it's only half a mile from the restaurant, it rained a lot less in the anchorage and everything inside was still dry. We got back to the boat just as the wind started picking up. Having learned our lesson we decided to take the precaution to take the awning down whilst it wasn't too difficult yet. It sure worked, the weather soon calmed down after that.

6 July

John: We are all feeling a bit better these days, the stomach bug beginning to work itself out of our systems, engine repairs coming together (damper plate might be on this afternoon's flight!) and thinking of checking out to set off for Phuket. This is then the last of 'new territory' for us. Phuket will be fun with great Thai food and visits from Oma and Opa, but also a lot of refitting work. We only have a few weeks of our year-long trip remaining. It seems incredible, like we've been cheated somehow. That was a whole year off? That was it, all of it? How am I ever going to live on 20 days a year vacation, working 6 days a week?

Caro: This morning was calm and sunny again, so we quickly got the awning back up to try and keep temperatures down inside. The news is that indeed the package is only 3 kg (surprise, surprise!) and will come on the flight this afternoon. Could it be? We get a big order of groceries delivered in the afternoon and we could be ready to clear out and leave as soon as the engine is fixed. I take the kids for a snorkel on the reef to get them off the boat for a while. Then late afternoon John phones Chilly, who's supposed to pick up the package from the airport, and receives the bad news. The small planes only take passengers, so our package needs to come on the cargo plane which happens to be broken down and waiting for a part in Malé. Maybe it will come in a few days. AAARRGGHH!

7 July

Caro: It's not that this is a bad place to be stuck. It's a good anchorage, clean air and water, friendly people. But the waiting is so frustrating, time is slipping by and our year is almost finished. There's not much ashore here for the kids and they're getting bored with just school work and swimming. This morning they've started some new art projects. For hours they're totally absorbed in doing dot art. The weather has turned squally again. We're just sorting out the anchors because it's gusting up when we hear honking on the causeway. It's Chilly who's stopped his car and is waving a package. It's arrived! It's our package and it is the right part. Chilly is going to come tomorrow to work on it. We have dinner at our local restaurant and pick up the 100 chapati's we've ordered. They'll make some easy meals on our passage. Walking back we get soaked.

John: I convince Chilly to come out to the boat for an hour just to see if the new part will match up, I suspect that only three bolt holes will line up, and indeed that's the case. We spend a lot of time frowning and making a template out of paper that will maybe allow Chilly to drill the plate to accept another three bolts to spread the load, but then even the threads on those holes in the flywheel are different.

8 July

John: I spend a good deal of time confirming that nobody has any bolts the right size and by midday am reluctantly resigned to installing the plate just the way the last one was, with only three bolts holding it. I comfort myself with the fact that it looks like it wasn't the bolts that failed last time but the springs. Chilly runs me all over town trying to find bolts, even to a very old skeleton of a Land Rover that might have had some Imperial threaded bolts we could have cannibalised. It rains on and off all day, always a mood depressor for me. No wonder I left the UK to live elsewhere.

9 July

John: OK, so there's nothing for it but to get down to the dirty work of installing the plate and putting the gearbox and shaft back together. I have rigged a block and tackle to take the weight of the gearbox and it goes back on the spline much more easily that I had hoped. The shaft takes a bit more effort, I have to work on it with scuba to slowly pound it back into the boat from the outside. Bearings and couplings are a grimy mess, but everything slowly gets reassembled and by the end of the day we're done, and exhausted. I'm a little concerned that the shaft wobbles when we run the engine up, I'm sure it didn't do that before, but it is hardly Chilly's fault so I guess I'll have to live with it or cure it myself. I pay Chilly his fee (equivalent to about US$250 plus we swapped handphones so he got my P800 in return for a Nokia and knocked 1000 Rf off the bill) and we gave him a Jocara T shirt. He's been great.

10 July

John: Time to clear out so we can leave tomorrow. Sunrise left this morning, also eastward bound. I get all the paperwork done bar collecting the speargun, which has to be handed back tomorrow, just as we actually leave. I kind of cure the shaft wobble by backing off the coupling bolts at the gearbox end, it seems to run fine if they are not tight. I guess we can run the engine this way, there's no tension on the bolts, only shear. Clark and Denise on Condessa have us over for sundowners (they have rum!) while the kids take care of dinner; a bar-b-que and salad with rice!

11 July

John: The weather decided to really stink up during the night and this morning we are embedded in thick grey cloud and rain squalls. Not the weather to leave. The rum last night has also taken an unexpected toll on both Caro and I. Not used to this! We go and visit the National Security Service to see what we should do now that we've overrun our departure time. They are very understanding and tell us not to worry; leave in the afternoon or, if not, come see them at the end of the day to cancel the outgoing stamps. Come mid-afternoon it does look a bit clearer and we decide we might as well bite the bullet and go. The weather will never be perfect and the squally changeable stuff is bound to dominate until we get further north anyway. At just before 5 p.m. we up-anchor and turn SE for the pass. Clark is busy ferrying diesel in 20 litre jerries from the tanker truck parked on the causeway and asks if we want any more fuel since the truck is there. I hesitate; I'd like more fuel but am reluctant to delay any more today, there's little light left. So we leave. Finally, on our way to Pulau We...




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