Halloween, 2019

Man, I woke up sore. Ten days at sea now (how did we only leave Trinidad last Tuesday??) and my body properly aches. Ha! Proper lightweight.

My arms ache from endless winching. We’ve been moving around so much: Grenada only for a few days, Carriacou for a couple, the same with Union Island and now the Tobago Cays. We’ve lowered and lifted the dinghy and engine every time. Plus we lift it at night. I’m on the winch for this – and increasingly Lulu too.

Plus things that have never broken before have decided to go on strike. Just after we left the gold-standard infrastructure of Peakes Boatyard – of course. Here’s our list so far:

1. Starboard nav light dead.

2. Front heads failure of solenoid and pump (back heads still a work in progress since 2016!).

3. Generator failing to start. Complete failure of motor kicking in.

4. Water maker pressurising on both sides of the osmosis membrane instead of the correct, one side.

Ten days in, travelling included, we’ve been working on these jobs. The nav light needs an electrician and possibly a stop in a marina. The front heads got a sudden and dramatic overhaul in Carriacou. Sigh of sailing relief. Next, the water maker needed a reset. Thank goodness for the manual. I’ve always loved this manual – written by the Italian guy, Ricardo, whose water maker company, Schenker, is his complete baby. The manual is written as such and is filled with passion.

Then the generator. Ahh, the gennie. Overpowered and underused. It came with the boat. Cue Halloween. During a rather appropriately scary-looking afternoon sky, we had a visit from a fellow sailor, John Blair. John is from Tenby. We met him a couple of seasons ago in the BVI. He just turned up Quest one day – handy flying that Welsh Dragon.

Now, some sailors have unwritten rules about how you do things. You know the ones. I touched on it in my last blog. Well, this is definitely not John Blair. When John turned up at Tobago Cays with the hour window of time before needing to head to Grenada, he said he’d have a quick look at the gennie. Four hours later he was knee-deep under the saloon floor.

‘Try this.’ Pause. ’No, ok, let’s try that.’ Another pause. Then he said, ‘Bypassing the starter motor will be the best way to see if it is the electronics or if the starter motor really is knackered.’

I caught the look on Jack’s face. ‘Bypassing?’

John nodded. ‘We can pull off the starter motor wire and bridge it with a spare cable.’

Oh uh. That sounded radical. And yet John did it – and the gennie fired up beautifully. Eventually he sourced the problem to a faulty relay.

He stood, grinning at us. ‘Do you guys know about relays? They’re the same thing as solenoids. After lunch I’m going to explain to you how it works. We’ll get a pen and a piece of paper. I’d really like to. You’ll never look at this the same again.’

OMG. This was enthusiasm unfiltered. Mechanical musings. Electrical love. And he did just that after lunch. Complete with diagrams. I know all about relays now.

‘You studied mechanics?’ I asked him.

He nodded and blushed. ‘Before I became a fisherman and ran the mackerel business out of Tenby, I studied agricultural machinery. But machines are machines all the same. It is something I love, and love to pass it on.’

No truer words spoken. Legend, John Blair. I felt it along with my sore shoulders, frozen neck and aching arms. No sailing snobbery included.

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