Up Shit Creek Without a Paddle

OCTOBER 2020

So much has happened since our last blog and yet we are still here waiting for borders to open around us.  We are comfortable and safe here, so will only move on when everything is in place ahead of us.

I jokingly mentioned about choosing which tree to decorate for Christmas, and now this is beginning to look like a real possibility!!!

For 7 weeks we lived isolated in our idyllic anchorage of Sipika, enjoying daily beach walks, swimming in crystal clear turquoise waters, and taking weekly trips, 5 miles away to the nearest village of Tello for reprovisioning and good internet.

The anchorage in front of Tello was busy with small ferries coming and going, boatloads of water taxis transporting people to and from the outlying islands, spider boats heading out to sea to catch squid, and fishermen throwing their nets to fill their baskets with thousands of baby sardines for sale in the market.

LIfe in this town is also busy and although free of Covid, there are public warnings about how to stay safe.

A motor bike tour of the Tello Island showed us another part of Island life.

We had to get very creative when refilling our LPG gas bottles.  The only LPG available in Indonesia is in exchange bottles that need to be returned.  They have different end fittings that don’t match our system on Mai Tai, so we can’t use their bottles on the boat.  LPG, when under pressure, is a liquid and can be poured into another container.  So, we just buy a local exchange bottle and then we use a hose we made with the local fitting on one end and our fitting on the other and decant the LPG into our own bottles.  FYI, this can be very dangerous so don’t try this at home!

But now it is time to move on.

We have a new electric anchor windlass being delivered to Teluk Dalam, a larger town 57 miles north of here and we want to be there when it is scheduled to arrive on Oct 30th.

The old windlass seized about 8 weeks ago and since it had been on the boat for 24yrs Lane chose to replace it with a new one rather than trying to fix it.  Lifting the anchor by hand is not easy as many of the anchorages here are very deep with many coral heads.  Also, if we ever got into a tricky situation with high winds, we may not be able to lift the anchor and move out of harm’s way quickly.  Not a good situation but we have made it work for us.

We left Tello at sun rise.  Typically, in this region, the winds are very light, so we had planned to motor for some distance and hopefully pick up some wind later in the day.

 After about 4 hours, Lane noticed the engine was overheating and a strange noise coming from the water pump.  We stopped the engine while Lane went below to investigate.  He discovered the bearings on the raw-water cooling pump were finished and the pump had seized.  With no wind and no engine, we were truly up shit creek without a paddle!  As we rolled gently in the greasy sea, Lane tried to figure out a work-around to get the engine running.  He decided to connect the electric washdown pump to the raw water cooling system on the engine.  This would provide sea water for cooling the diesel.  Unfortunately, while testing the washdown pump connections, water was forced into the engine and was soon pouring out the air intake filter.  This is not good!  It just shows you how one problem can lead you down a path of complete destruction on a boat.  Lane knows better than to have let this happen but with the fatigue of working in the hot engine room while the boat is rolling around and the stress of possibly having no wind for days, his actions would be forgiven.  

There was not a breath of wind, so there we were, wallowing around with a gentle swell on an otherwise very glassy Indian Ocean. We had come just 20 miles and still had 35 miles to go to Teluk Dalam.

Our only option seemed to be to wait for some wind. But sitting here right on the equator, that could be days away. The current was taking us back to where we had just come from at 1.5 knots, but there was a nasty reef between us and Tello, and with no means of maneuvering, we were not in a good situation.

Normally we could have put our dinghy alongside to “tow ” ourselves away from danger, but our 8hp outboard is also out of action, and our 3hp was not up to the task.

Meanwhile Lane was buried deep in the engine room again trying to figure out a water intake solution. By 1400 hours, after a few expletives coming from the engine room, we accepted that we had no engine!!!  Lane removed the injectors out of the engine and carefully turned over the engine to pump the sea water out of the cylinders.  Then he put a cap-full of oil into each cylinder to help protect it from further corrosion.  Next, he put the injectors back and closed the engine room up.

We turned off the unnecessary electronic instruments, had lunch, then dinner, and waited and rolled around on a very empty ocean. There would not be another boat for 25 miles, well outside of VHF range.

At about 8 pm a rain squall appeared on the horizon bringing with it some wind.  Just what we needed but these things seldom last very long.  We set the appropriate sails, mainsail and genoa, and enjoyed a blissful sail until about 0200 hours when the wind died again. We had covered 30 miles and were now just 3 miles from the Harbour entrance at Teluk Dalam, so we hove-to to wait till morning.

At first light, we called our friend Andrew, on SV Angel Wing, who was already anchored in the Harbour, to explain our situation.  No worries he says, I’ll come and tow you in. There was not a breath of wind so everything went smoothly using his dinghy tied alongside. What a relief. What a guy!!

We dropped anchor in 15metres of water, and hope the next time it comes up, it will be with our new electric windlass.

After being out cruising for a long time, it’s funny the things one dreams of. For me it was taking a lovely long shower, using as much water as I wanted, followed by going out to a restaurant for dinner, then waking up to breakfast served on a patio overlooking the ocean. Lane booked us into a nice hotel within walking distance of a lovely sea food restaurant .

It’s my birthday so we invited a few friends to help us celebrate. Great food and a great party.

Next day, we took breakfast out on the patio overlooking the harbour, then after a swim in the pool and another long shower, we were back on board Mai Tai.

Believe me dreams can come true!

Our windlass should be delivered here any day, and Lane has ordered a new water pump from the UK.

7 comments

  1. wow! what a story!
    always carry a spare water pump and a spare windlass…
    malaysia looks like paradise!
    very impressed with your adventures!
    kindest regards charles h

  2. What a dreadful run of bad luck. But it’s good to hear you’re well and look good in the photos.
    Trust repairs and new windlass will have you underway again soon.

  3. Oh my goodness- what next?
    Your stories make gripping and scary reading.
    You are probably safer lolling about on the ocean than being here in Europe .The second wave is hitting hard and long .
    Bon vent chère amie

  4. Dearest you two,
    What adventures you are clocking up & what courage you possess to soldier-on.
    All’s well that ends well; and end well it did. Amazing you are & we are very, very glad
    that you are now safe & sound, with others of your ilk around you once more.
    We are happily ripping off our masks in Melbourne (outside) & enjoying the fruits of constant attention to restrictions over 112 days of heavy lockdown. We are in our 24th day of no new infections & no lives lost. It’s like winning a lottery!
    Take care of you both,
    We miss you 🙁
    Love & hugs, David & Tricia xxx

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