Pachuca Circumnavigation

This blog began in late 2006 with the planning and preparation for a circumnavigation of the world in my 39-foot sail boat Pachuca. It then covered a successful 5-year circumnavigation that ended in April 2013. The blog now covers life with Pachuca back home in Australia.


Pachuca in Port Angeles, WA USA

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Bubble Trubble

From memory,  it was La Paz Mexico that the boats Plastimo Olympic 135 compass developed a small bubble.  But it was during the heavy rolling below 50 S in my approach to the Horn that the bubble got bigger and bigger.  Fortunately the size of the bubble did not increase after my arrival in Fremantle,  but the matter had to be dealt with because the card was now very difficult to read.  Also, neither compass light was working.

One thing about boating is that it forces you to learn new things.

I removed the compass  nothing about it beyond how to change its lights.  I didn't know what fluid would be required, or how/where to inject it.

I got various suggestions about the fluid: glycol, baby oil, kerosene, and "compass oil", whatever that is.

At Yacht Grot Roger produced some clear fluid in a clean jar that he said was highly refined kerosene, with the assurance that it would mix well with the existing fluid in the compass, sparing me the trouble and expense of fully draining it.
Big Bubble in Compass

Rubber Membrane

Stephen arrived for an overnight visit on Sunday morning and soon we began our work.  I had dismantled the compass enough to identify the filling screw, which I exposed after cracking the epoxy seal on it.  On his advice I had also purchased plastic syringes at the chemist.

We worked for hours but try as we may we couldn't shrink the bubble beyond a certain point.  We stopped our effort with the thought of perhaps immersing  the entire compass in fluid to ensure that we could evacuate all of the air.

I was a bit despondent because even if we could shrink the bubble there was no guarantee that it would not return due to some leak somewhere.

In the afternoon Stephen helped me to join Ebay and link it to my Paypal account then we did a search for another compass.  Soon we identified a pitfall: There are at least 3 versions of Plastimo 135 compasses,  the "Offshore", "Horizon", and "Olympic",  different from each other and at different price points.  It took a while to confirm that I wanted the "Olympic", which was priced on Ebay at just over $620, a bit rich for my blood.  Later that night I found one Queensland priced at just under $400.

On Tuesday morning I  got back onto the web to find the Queensland company's contact information and stumbled on a compass at Whitfords Marine near Fremantle for $349.  I  phone up, they had one in stock, and they agreed to hold it for me.  Two hours later Stephen and I arrived, put the new compass and my old one side by side, and confirmed that they had identical specifications.  I purchased the compass and two spare globes.
Old and New Compasses

From our web searches we had concluded that "mineral oil" was the most likely compass fluid.  I needed more fluid because I had used all of the fluid that Roger had given me.  We stopped at Bunnings on the way home and found a liter of "paraffin oil" that seemed suitable.  It was clear, of light viscosity, and had  a neutral smell - certainly not of kerosene.

Yesterday morning I resumed work  on the old compass because I didn't want to simply throw it away.  I started off  by putting the compass in the freezer for 2.5 hours on the theory that the fluid would shrink, making the bubble bigger, allowing me to expel more air, then the remaining bubble shrinking as the fluid got warmer.  The flaw in this theory is that we discovered a rubber fluid-filled membrane at the base of the compass whose purpose was to allow for expansion and contraction as the temperature varied.  So how could the bubble size vary with fluid temperature given that the rubber membrane would do the compensating?

What finally did the trick, in my opinion, was that I discovered that the end of the syringe could seal the filling hole quite effectively with only a little pressure.  This enabled me to overfill the compass while I watched the rubber bladder expand, then allow the fluid to spit out when I released the syringe, bringing out bubbles of air with it.  After this a few times I reduced the bubble to the size of a match head, but try as I may I could not completely eradicate it.

Nevertheless the compass is now quite acceptable for use and had I not been able to source a new  replacement I would have reinstalled the old one, hoping that the bubble would not increase in size over time.
Spot the Bubble

My plan is to set up the old compass as an adornment in  my house which is already laced with nautical decorations.

I cannot complain about the compass problem.  It is with little doubt part of the Pachuca's inventory when she was launched in 1983.  The new compass has a 5 year warranty and will probably see me out, unless I live beyond 106.

Regarding the failed lights, I discovered that the wiring to the compass was delivering less than 3V.  I tracked the  problem back to the grounding in the electrical  panel.  The grounding had been set up before my time, to a white wire that was part of a bundle of white wires that would have been difficult to track.  I elected to earth the wire directly to the ground side of the switch panel and began to get over 13.5V at the binnacle.

Gas Detector Fixed

The gas detector failed ruing the recent overnight  passage to Bunbury.  Normally there would be an error light corresponding to the detector having the problem,  but this was a general alarm which I had never seen before. 
Controller Inside Cupboard

Paul and I bypassed the controller and supplied power directly to the solenoid switch in order to use the gas stove.

Sensor now at top left.  Old sensor at bottom right.

Sensor in Lazarette
I then managed to find a new replacement of the same make and model for an all-up price of $600, which seemed a bit steep but OK because  I would get  parts compatibility.

I installed new unit and got the same alarms signal, which indicated that the old controller was OK and the problem was in one of the sensors.  It turned out to be the sensor in the lazarette, between the gas cylinders.  I then re installed the original controller with a replacement sensor from the new unit that I had purchased.  That worked OK but then I made the wise decision of testing the sensors using a rag soaked in gasoline.  The brand new sensor in the lazarette worked OK but the one in the galley below the stove failed.  I then replaced it with the second sensor from the new unit.  I installed the new galley sensor in a position well above the sole because  the original position was too low and subject to soaking when the shallow bilge overflowed while the boat was rolling.

The $600 wasn't completely wasted because after using the new sensors I've now got in reserve a new controller and solenoid valve.   The spare solenoid is good because I once read a letter from a couple who were not able to cook for weeks because their gas solenoid valve had failed.

Cleaned and Protected Connections
After finished the gas detector work I cleaned the connections of the lightning protection cables at each side of the mast then sprayed them with Lanox.  The cables connect to bolts of the heavy lead keel.  There are also cables from the chain plate but they were clean.   I don't know if these measures ever protected the boat but I do know that I didn't suffer any lightning problems during the 5-year circumnavigation,

Battery Intalled

After returning with a 2-week bird survey expedition to the Great Western Woodlands I continued my effort to install the new starter battery.
Battery Job Finished

The photo above shows the end result.  The two gel batteries are back in the upper position, with posts and connectors clean.  Below is the single new starter battery, with wooden spacers on its left to fill in the void left from what previously a second starter battery.
Dead Starter Batteries

Terminals in Need of Cleaning

The battery setup goes back to Opua, New Zealand, in 2008.  We had departed from Fremantle in May with only three batteries, two sealed Delkor N120 800 CCA calcium sealed batteries, one each for the starter and house banks, and one deep cycle lead acid battery for the house.  This turned out to be woefully inadequate.  Night after night when crossing the Tasman Sea the gas detector would begin chirping at around midnight due to low voltage and at dawn the house bank would be down to as low as 10.5 V.

In NZ a consultant was brought in and the result was a house bank with 4 x Commander GDC232 230 a/h gel batteries and a starter bank with both of the Delkor batteries.  The mechanics were brilliant in their installation of the Gel batteries: two on a shelf above the starter batteries and one on each side of the cabin, below the seats.  This resulted  in excellent weight distribution, all below the waterline.

New Battery with Spacers at Left
The starter bank failed during the recent Bunbury Cruise so I removed them and had them tested by Battery World, which pronounced them well beyond dead.  (The worse battery held a CCA of less than 10.) The decision was to install one replacement starter battery, a Century N120 MF with 900 CCA and dimensions identical to the replaced Delkors.  It is a sealed battery frequently used for starting heavy industrial equipment.

I began the replacement project by making what turned out to be a big mistake:  I removed the Gel batteries from the upper shelf before extricating the ailing starter batteries below.

Gel Batteries to be Lifted

I began the installation with two wooden spacers on hand to take up these space of the second battery.  That went OK but as I expected, lifting the 65 kg gel batteries back into  position was beyond my capability, given that I had endured two weeks of back pain after removing the dead starter batteries.  The problem was made worse by the fact that correct lifting posture was impossible in the confined space.  I spent literally hours cleaning battery terminals and connectors while ruminating on what to do.  (Everything was so corroded that it's a wonder that I got any power at all.)

I finally got the bright idea of contacting Kim Jamieson,  the man who seems to do most of the pen rope work around the club.  Jim agreed to help and on the day I had a vast array of wooden blocks, planks, and even two car jacks to assist us in making the lifts without straining our backs.  Kim eventually did it his way, with a combination of good technique, various planks and blocks, and muscle grunt work.  (Thank you Kim!)

Then I stepped back and saw that I could have left the upper gel batteries and place and simply slid out the starter batteries below.  (DUH! You live and learn.)

Below the Cockpit
While the batteries were out I  took a photo of the below-cockpit space.

To the left is the  multi-layered copper strap connecting the Dynaplate outside of the hull to the HF radio tuner in the lazarette.

In black is the autopilot linear drive directly connected to the rudder post in the center of the photo. To the right in black is the mechanism that measures the angle of the rudder for the autopilot.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

2016 Bunbury Cruise

The following is the draft of an article that will be published in the FSC "Blue Water Bulletin" magazine, with the photos that will appear in the article.


This year’s Bunbury Cruise was very successful, with all boats and crews returning safely after the enjoyable 3-week adventure.

The customary pre-cruise dinner was held at the FSC Galley on Fri 11 Dec followed by a discussion in the Stateroom of the coming cruise led by Robert Morales in his role as cruise coordinator.  At this meeting Ric Oswald of the Mandurah Offshore Fishing and Sailing Club gave valuable information to the group on the perennial issue of depth of water in the approaches to the MOFSC marina.

A second dinner followed by the skippers’ briefing was held on Fri 5 Feb.  By that time all skippers had received the Cruise Notes, which are now distributed via email.  The official start date of the cruise was Sat 13 Feb with the requirement that all boats be at Koombana Bay by Tue 16 Feb, giving skippers wide discretion in taking advantage of favourable winds. 

Only 7 boats and 16 crew were registered for this year’s cruise, a marked reduction from the previous year’s 13 boats.  They were:
                Alyssa Lee (FSC) with David & Joanne George
                Diva (FSC) with Ron & Marlene Viney
                Georgia (HYC) with Hugh & Robyn Nankivell
                Leola (SPYC) with Merv & Leola Holst
                Pachuca (FSC) with Brenda Newbey & Robert Morales
                Stealaway (FSC) with Frank & Lucinda Daly and Graham & Susan Suttle
                Volare (RFBYC) with Zac & Anne Armanesco

Five boats departed FSC on Sun 14 Feb with Georgia already in Busselton and Volare waiting at MOFSC.  Alyssa Lee, Diva, Leola, and Stealaway employed the proven strategy of sailing to Mandurah 30 miles to the south then making the 50 mile passage to Koombana Bay Bunbury when the winds were fair.  Pachuca as usual did it the hard way, departing at 0030 and making directly for Koombana Bay, an 85 mile passage that resulted in 20 hours of beating hard against a SE wind while attending to a seriously seasick novice crewman who appeared to be more dead than alive.

By Wed 17 Feb the entire fleet was a Koombana Bay enjoying relaxed living at anchor under the hospitality of the Koombana Bay Sailing Club. 

On Fri 19 Feb the group sailed the 28 miles to Busselton for two days on anchor at the Geographe Bay Yacht Club.  That evening they enjoyed a splendid meal at the GBYC galley and met for drinks at the club bar on Saturday.  Alyssa Lee was no longer with the group because she had returned to Fremantle from Koombana Bay as planned.


BBQ Breakfast

Morning Tea During Bus Trip

Pizza Dinner at Koombana Bay Sailing Club

Moored in front of Dunsborough Bay Yacht Club
Then the boats headed for Quindalup for 3 days on moorings at the Dunsborough Bay Yacht Club.  The DBYC was most hospitable, opening the bar especially for their visitors and arranging a special barbecue dinner where members and guests mingled in a fun party atmosphere. 

On Wed 24 Feb the fleet made the 15 mile passage Port Geographe Marina north of Busselton.  That night the group enjoyed the hospitality of Dennis and Kitty Gee and their family for a barbecue at their elegant canal-side home. 

With the boats safely tied up at PGM the group went on a bus trip through the Ferguson Valley the next day.  Robyn Nankivell had volunteered to use her “F” license to drive the rented 20-seater bus.
The first stop was morning tea at the quaint Wellington Forest Cottages, deep in the forest on the way to Wellington Dam.  This was followed by a pleasant drive along the recently sealed Falcon Road to the base of the dam for an interesting and informative.  From the dam there was a short ride to Honeymoon Pool on the Collie River then along the scenic Henty Brook road for lunch in the relaxing atmosphere of the Evedon Park restaurant.  After lunch the bus returned to the PGM via Dardanup and Boyanup, stopping at the local IGA  for some grocery shopping.
Having one of our own as driver added another dimension to the enjoyment of the day.  Looking back, the experience of 18 people in a bus lost in the forest was a lot of fun, with Robyn exhibiting grace under pressure in contending with several back seat navigators while managing the bus.

On Fri 26 Feb the fleet sailed back to Koombana Bay for several days of relaxation sprinkled with sundowners on the beach and a dinghy ride to the outer harbour for a barbecue brunch.

On Wed 2 Mar the fleet returned to Mandurah.  By then only 5 boats remained because Georgia had returned to Quindalup as is her custom.  Four of the boats were accommodated at the MOFSC collector jetty and Pachuca was moored at “Doddi’s Beach” due to her 2.4 meter draft.

The next day the end-of-cruise dinner was held at the MOFSC Galley.    The cruise coordinator paid special thanks to Ric Oswald for arranging the dinner,  Hugh Nankivell for his splendid  contribution as cruise treasurer,  and Robyn Nankivell for her sterling effort in driving the bus.

On the following day, Friday 4 March, the fleet dispersed, with Diva, Leola, and Stealaway making for Rottnest Island, Pachuca returning to her berth at FSC,  and Volare heading for Rockingham.

The elements were generally very kind to the cruise.  There were two very hot days during the first visit to Koombana Bay followed by a spell of chilly weather that caught some participants short on warm clothes.  Other than the first day’s passage from FSC the winds were favourable and gentle enough to allow comfortable nights at anchor and on moorings.   

The evenings anchored off GBYC were surprisingly gentle.

Battery Problem

During the Bunbury Cruise the starter batteries began to fail.

One morning they did not have enough charge to start the engine and I was forced to use the crossover switch to join the house bank of batteries to the starter bank.  Fortunately the engine started even though the house bank was down to 12.2V.

The starter bank was made up of two Delkor "low maintenance" batteries that were on the boat when I purchased her in 2005.  Back in Fremantle I managed to remove the two heavy gel batteries that sit over the starter batteries and moved the sick batteries to the SUV.  At "Battery World" one battery had 330 CCA (cold cranking amps) instead of its rated 800 CCA, and the other one registered 10 CCA. The installation date of the batteries was Nov 2002, making them more than 13 years old.
New Battery Being Moved Onto Boat

I replaced them with one similar sized Century N12 MF battery at a cost of $339.  The battery is rated at 900 CCA and weighs 34 kg.

The removal of the batteries from under the cockpit of the boat gives me access to that area for the first time since I was in La Paz and I will take the opportunity to use a grease gun to lubricate the steering system and to have a good look at the earth straps for the Dynaplate grounding shoe.   There will be quite a few things to inspect.

After that is done I'll reinstall the batteries.

Fuel and Water Leaks

After arriving at Koombana Bay Bunbury after the 20 hour passage from Fremantle Paul had recovered enough from his seasickness to help me investigate the strong smell of diesel fuel in the cabin.  After seeing the bilge seemingly full of diesel I started checking the fuel lines and hoses while Paul looked at the engine.

Paul soon discovered the problem.  The frame holding the fuel filter had pivoted on an arch and the fuel filter had been chafing against the engine until it was holed with fuel leaking out of it.  Fortunately I had a spare filter and made the replacement, but I could not find a bolt below the engine in the bilge in order to firmly position the frame holding the filter.  We decided that we would go with the loose frame, and take measures to prevent the filter from making contact with the engine frame.

I fitted a large plastic tie around the filter where it would make contact with the engine, and for good measure jammed a short section of hose between the filter and the engine.  This jury rig got me back to Fremantle OK.

Then there was the question  of how much fuel I had lost.  I had  left Fremantle with both tanks full for a total of 140 liters of diesel, and had run the engine for a total of about 9 hours.  Unfortunately the tanks are sealed and cannot be plumbed.  Fortunately I had 18 liters of spare diesel on hand, which would guarantee me at least 5 hours of running.  At Quindalup I lugged another 20 liters from Dunsborough and was delighted to find that the tanks were full after another 5 liters or so.
Fuel Filter Jury Rig

Back at Fremantle I visited the Volvo distributor and we could not figure out which bolt was missing.  The man printed out the fuel system page and back at the boat I was surprised to see that the entire frame was held by only one bolt.  That bolt had not dropped off but had merely gotten loose, causing  the entire frame to swing the 10 degrees or so enough to cause contact by the fuel filter. 

The frame has 3 points for bolts but on my engine only one of the points has a bolt through it because the other two are in mid air doing nothing.  I've concluded that Volvo decided to cut some corners and used a standard frame for my engine, using only one bolt.  This is lunacy of course, since it relies on the bolt being tight enough to provide enough friction to prevent movement.  The proper way is to achieve stability by geometry, not friction. 

The bolt is very tight now but from now on I'll have to check the rigidity of that frame every time I do an engine check.


Then there was the leak in the forecastle.

While beating hard to weather I went forward to retrieve my laptop and was distressed to see sea water pouring in big time through the deck. I took measures to protect the gear in that section then set up two wide plastic containers to  catch the streams of water,which came down every time water swept the foredeck.

At Bunbury we discovered the problem.   For years I had marveled at how the anchor bollard that had been originally fitted to the boat had only small washers between the nuts fastened to the bolts and the fiberglass ceiling.  I  concluded that nobody would be stupid enough to fit the boat's sole anchor bollard with only washers as backing plates and there must be a stainless steel backing plate inside the fiberglass deck.  WRONG!  The bollard, bolts, washers, nuts and all, had started to rip through the deck.  This must have been caused by one of the pen lines during perhaps a strong wind.  Had I relied on this bollard during my circumnavigation there is a good chance that I would have lost the boat during a rough anchorage, but fortunately I had used a larger bollard with a big backing plate that I had fitted myself.

Loose Bollard

Bolts Too Small

Temporary Fix
New Bollard
Zac of Volare helped me out by giving me some marvelous sealing material which allowed me to refit the bollard and return to Fremantle with no more leaking.

I was in no mood to mess around with this one, so I installed a large jetty bollard that makes my "large" bollard look small. 

The new bollard has a similar backing plate to its partner: a 20 mm thick piece of jarrah 300mm x 110mm.

Removed Monitor Wind Steering

During the Bunbury Cruise I had a flash of insight that though obvious now took me years to arrive, probably because I am so attached to the Monitor wind steering and consider it part of the boat.

Wind steering requires the dedication of the stern of a boat for the purpose.  This presented the following disadvantages on Pachuca:
  1. The stern boarding ladder could no longer be used.
  2. The davits could no longer be used
  3. Added length to the boat
  4. Was a minor problem when towing the dinghy in a following sea.

In Port Townsend I had an aluminum boarding ladder fabricated that can be fastened anywhere along the side rail, is very strong, and goes deep into the water.  It's a great ladder that now has a second role as a superb boarding ladder for getting on and off the boat when she is in her pen.  However, the ladder takes some effort to set up and remove, and one must pass over the wire rails to use it.  The stern ladder is always in position, can be easily lowered into the water, and can be easily used because it is actually part of the rail.

The davits are useful for lowering and raising the outboard motor when configuring the inflatable tender.  To date I've been forced to carry the outboard motor over the side rail before carrying it down the, then reversing the process before towing the tender.

The increased length of the boat, small as it is, has been an issue at Port Geographe Marina that measures the LOA of boats to the nearest tenth of a meter.  Twice I was assessed at over 12m LOA, forcing me to pay for a 15m pen.

When towing the tender in a following sea it would surf into the back of the boat, slamming into the Monitor's water vane.  No damage was ever done, but the noise was irritating.
Monitor Supported by Davits

Hanging Free on Davits

Lowered Onto Dinghy

Anyway, I realized that I had not used the Monitor since returning to Australia, since the autopilot is adequate for short coastal cruises.  I had a look at the unit and confirmed that only 4 bolts held it to the boat.  The problem would be in handling it weight.  It didn't take long to come up with a plan which I executed with no problem.

I towed the inflatable dinghy all of the way back to the pen at the club.  Brenda and I were both tired after the 3-week cruise so I left the dinghy snuggled overnight along the side of the hull.  The next day I placed the dinghy along back of the boat underneath the Monitor, removed the water vane, held up the unit with the davits, then removed the 4 bolts. I then gently lowered it onto the aluminum floor of the dinghy.  I then motored to the  other side of the marina and then transferred the Monitor to the X-Trail SUV.  I also put the outboard motor into the SUV so that I could flush it at home then hosed down the tender, deflated it, then rolled it up and carted it back to the boat. Everything went like clockwork - the plan was good, I stuck to it, and as always I was able to concentrate better when working alone.

The Monitor is now in the garage ready for a cleanup, polish, and a close inspection of all of it components.  I have a good spares kit on hand and if needs be can order parts from Scanmar in the USA.

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