Light Winds, Lighter Engine, in the Bay of Bengal

9 a.m. (1:00 a.m. UTC) Tuesday, March 9, 2010 6 13 N, 88 00 E, Indian Ocean 480 miles due east of Sri Lanka

“This isn’t so bad,” said Sima, moments ago.

The boat is coasting along with a gasp of wind behind it. Usually, that isn’t enough to sail, because the seas will rock the boat back and forth and keep the sails from filling, causing them to slam as they encounter wind resistance when the sails swing back and forth. But today, after the second day of virtually no wind, there are no seas. So the boat lays flat in the water. And we’re coasting along at a mere four knots.

We had a nice day yesterday too. We motored for about 24 hours, as the wind died and, with a slight sea rocking the boat, we couldn’t sail. But it was pleasant motoring, and we listened to a book on tape (“The Last Lecture,” by Randy Pausch – it’s not bad), and did small projects about the boat. Paul, for example, replaced the cockpit table that we had a fellow varnish for us in Langkawi, and Sima sewed mosquito nets.

Also, the coolant leak resolved itself. It turned out to be at a poorly designed fitting where the metal cover doesn’t completely cover and seal the underlying gasket, and the fluid was easing out through this tiny space. But, as leaks sometimes do, it closed itself up. We’re ready with a dab of epoxy if it reappears.

That’s all on the good news side of the ledger. On the bad news side, a bracket holding the alternator in place gave way overnight, and we noticed it at about 4 a.m. The retaining bolts appear to have sheared. Rather than go to work on it in the middle of the night, we ran without the alternator, figuring we’d tackle it in the a.m. Then, at about 6 a.m., the engine made a squeal and began to smoke. Related? Don’t know. We shut down and, with the seas having calmed, fortunately for us, put up the sails, and went back to bad. We’ll tackle it this a.m.

The alternator is a good thing to have, because it allows us to recharge the batteries quickly. Without it, we rely upon the wind generator (not with this wind though) and the solar panels (and today it’s cloudy!) to replenish what we use. But even when going strong, the wind generator and solar panels don’t give us enough juice to use what all the equipment that we like, including the refrigerator. So we’ve shut down to bare minimum for right now, and have even turned off the chart plotter, depth, wind, radar, and AIS, to conserve energy. The radar and AIS will have to go back on at night, as it is harder to keep watch then.

If the engine is also broken down, that also causes it’s own problems. It could double our remaining time to Sri Lanka, from three days to six days. It’ll also be more challenging to bring the boat into Galle, in Sri Lanka, as we would then have to deal with the currents around land. If there is little wind, we’re not to sure, yet, how we’ll manage to control the boat close to Sri Lanka. We probably would have to wait off shore until we get some wind.

But, we’ll take one step at a time. We’ve just woken up now, and Paul is diving into the engine room to see what kind of hand we’ve been dealt. At least, with the seas so relatively calm, it’ll be an easy day to work below.

Stay posted!

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