A Long Day’s Journey

10 a.m. (2:00 a.m. UTC) Thursday, March 11, 2010 6 46 N, 83 51 E, Indian Ocean 228 miles due east of Sri Lanka

Yesterday’s adventure, in addition to those pesky dolphins, was a submarine. We didn’t actually SEE it, but we knew it was there. When a large ship comes close by, you can hear its screws in the water, sounding like a high pitched squeal. Last night, we repeatedly heard the high pitch of nearby screws, very close, but there was no ship around, even on the radar screen, which track tens of miles away. This was very close, and the screws kept coming back – the sound would die away, and then get very loud again. It got a bit unnerving after a while. What were they doing? Maybe using Leander for tracking practice? It was late at night, and sometimes thoughts get irrational in the dark, at sea. We finally were able to ignore it, assuring ourselves that pirates haven’t gotten a hold of submarines yet.

The repair on the flywheel/damper was partly successful. Paul was able to get the starter motor off, and take some parts out of the well where the flywheel spins. But one loose spring was too large to fish out, and, after trying for a few hours to coax it through a small hole, we let it drop back in, to be chewed up by the flywheel. We ran the engine for about three hours last night, and it works, but the noise is terrible at times. It seems like the damper is coming apart bit by bit, and getting chopped up by the flywheel. When a piece gets caught, it sounds like bloody murder — think of feeding a screen door into a meat grinder operating at high speed. Ear-piercing shrieks and groans, flying sparks, and wafting smoke. As the Car Talk fellows once quipped, “What was it that alerted you to the fact that you had a problem?”

Though we’re told by the mechanics with whom we’ve consulted that we’re not doing the engine any harm.

Reminds us of a joke that Paul’s father used to tell:

New Yorker is bumping along a rural road in Vermont, and strikes a cow crossing the road. The cow gets up, looking a little dazed, and then begins to drift back to the field.

The farmer comes along, and the New Yorker apologizes, but then adds, “Well, I don’t seem to have done him any harm.”

“Aww -well,” says the Vermont farmer, “I’ll gladly pay ya if you think you’ve done him any good.”

Because we don’t think we’re doing the engine any good, we’ll stop at Galle, in Sri Lanka, to do a more permanent repair. We’re having to rely upon Paul’s brother Bill to get us the spare damper (which we left at home in Ashland two and a half years ago, thinking that we wouldn’t need it, and that if we did, it would be part of an engine rebuild, something of which we’d have advance notice . . . .)

Galle should be interesting. One cannot enter this harbor at night, because the authorities fear you might be Tamil Tiger saboteurs. If we maintain just this wind, we should arrive at about dusk. We’d otherwise have to remain offshore overnight, dodging the fishing boats. Let’s hope the wind holds!

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