14.01.07 – steering problems

postChathams004It is windy again today. 2 reefs and staysail. The opening paragraph of the Alexandria Quartet comes to mind and I wonder whether Durrell would survive re-reading after all these years.

At 6.30 am, bang! The other steering cable broke. The rusty, meathooked galvanised cable snapped at the forward sheave, just as the other one did a couple of weeks ago. Done in by hot salt water which used to squirt from a tiny hole in the engine exhaust elbow. Kevin’s expensive, copper-jacketed wet exhaust system was hopeless, and I had replaced it in Nelson. We spent 4 hours head down in the bilges fitting a spare length of stainless halliard, keeping the cable on the quadrant while tweaking the helm, aligning the chain ends and tightening up the thimbles, bulldog clamps and a kevlar connection. I am cursing myself for having forgotten to check thoroughly this vital bit of the boat before we left. Such a fundamental error.

Worse though, we found that the steering quadrant, clamped too loosely, had slid down the rudder stock. This caused 2 problems – first, the steering cables didn’t lead true. This meant that installation of the repaired cable was plagued by slack lines repeatedly jumping off the quadrant. Bleary eyed and unused to such activity it took me a while to twig to the cause. The second problem was that with helm hard over the quadrant was too low for the stopper and was hitting the very hull itself. I loosened the clamp right off, hammered the quadrant up into place and shimmed the clamp with our stainless shim knife before tightening it again.

During the tightening process one of the 2 starboard clamp bolts snapped. The 2 port bolts are ok but effectively this leaves only 1 bent starboard bolt holding the entire clamp in place! The broken bolt was threaded into the quadrant, so that its removal will be a dockyard job. This potentially very serious steering problem we bodgied up with C-clamps and I hope it will last the distance. Proper repair of both will be a dockyard job.

Memo to self – never again use galvanised wire for steering cables. In our geriatric way Dave and I are able to rise to these little emergencies. We both enjoy thinking laterally for solutions to seemingly insoluble problems and despite the occasional angry exchange we work quite cooperatively. We finally fixed the steering with candlewax, string and bread mix, wrapped up in a 5 pound note.

Travails over and we’re off again. A fast close reach, on course. It is sunny but quite cold out. The sea sparkles, but it is not so much friendly as cynically disinterested.

Dave’s new breakfast delight – a gruel-bowlful of mixed tinned BBs, 2 yr time-expired tinned spaghetti and grated parmesan – is quite excellent! You’d need to be hungry, though. Jam is something we miss. I found some baking powder and have been thinking fondly of pikelets. But without jam?

4pm – 360 miles to go. A red-billed tropic bird has been circling us with enquiring jizz. She’s well south of her home in Peru, but Harrison mentions sighting of vagrants in quite high latitudes.

Let me see – what else? Oh yes. I sneezed twice this morning. I’ll never forget either occasion. Sure, the rib’s healing, but woe betide anything valsalvery.

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