We tied up at a snug little marina in Samara late last night after a splendid trip down river to the Big Bend. The Volga is narrow here, with high green hills on both sides. The day was calm, the current strongly in our favour, and the afternoon light lambent (Andrew, note use of your favourite word).
Our Siberian friends in Tsetsarevich followed us in and lay alongside Tainui. Vladimir Antonov and Tatiana met us at the jetty and brought us gifts and a warm welcome to Samara. Maxine had told the Samara News that we would not be free for interviews until tomorrow, so we got down to serious business – another of those long, noisy and convivial cockpit events. Sleep, when it finally came, was a delight.
This morning it is raining heavily. I have been worried about the failure of our main bank alternator. So after the press interview I removed the big alternator and a local electrician dismantled it for me. The problem was simple and immediately apparent – badly worn brushes. The issue then became locating replacements in Central Russia. This loomed as a major problem. We explored the possibility of scavenging brushes from a spare 85 amp alternator I had buried somewhere in the bowels of the boat, but we thought that would not provide a matched pair. I started thinking about replacing the alternator, a job requiring new brackets and, probably, belts.
I have previously written about the ravages of senility (mine) and here’s more. Later this morning, and quite by accident, I came across a box of miscellaneous alternator spares I had stashed about 12 years ago. In it I found a brand new set of replacement brushes, long forgotten. In 10 minutes we had installed the new brushes and, lo and behold, we have normal charging again.
If I am to complete this story I should say it is not the first time this has happened. Some years ago in Chile our starter motor died of a rapidly progressive cancer (rust). For two days Mani Suanto and I scoured auto electrical shops in Puerto Montt for a replacement starter. By an extraordinary stroke of good fortune we found one sitting on a dusty shelf in a pokey little electrical repair shop (our Ford Dorset tractor engine is ubiquitous, thank heavens). I bought it, we fitted it and off we went down to Tierra del Fuego. Two months later I was cleaning out my spares cupboard and there, in the back, I came across a replacement starter motor, which had been there all along. I had completely forgotten about it. So we still have a spare starter motor on board, for me to forget about next time.
Still, I was feeling pretty pleased with this morning’s success until an unnamed member of the crew announced a toilet blockage. So this afternoon is bespoke.