The Isokratia Voyage update 9th March 2007
Drifting to Sucutra, No steering, No engine controls - Change of course heading to Salalah in Oman, Running out of fuel!
After the first few days of calm waters and no winds, I offered a couple of biscuits to feed Poseidon and Neptune asking them to send the winds to Isokratia. Poseidon said give me some wine not pigeon feed. So I obliged. In no time we had good winds 18 to 24 knots With in the hour Isokratia was flying cutting through the waves with smooth motion. High waves do not trouble her at all. Being a bit overweight has its advantages. The only complaint we had was the loud banging of the waves under the belly of the saloon floor. It is scary sometimes. Itâ€™s as if someone is hammering hard on the boat.
The winds finally left us we had to put on the engines again. Just the roaring of the engines gives you a headache.
The weather forecast was for even more calm winds of as little as 4 to 5 knots an hour which means the sea is smooth like a lake of oil. Meanwhile on board we did not like to sacrifice our comfort. Two showers a day meant running the water maker for long hours. Washing machines, electric ovens all forced us to have the generator on for longer hours. The water maker is producing good water but it is at a cost to the fuel because it runs direct on the generator.
I kept close watch measuring our fuel and estimating our requirements. It just would not stretch. So the decision was made and we changed course heading away from our destination and instead of heading for Aden we are now heading for port Salalalah in Oman which is only about 340 miles away from present position. My calculations show that we have enough fuel to go to Salalalah run the generator and have spare of about 100 litres.
Fun time. At about 11.00 am the engine just stopped. No engine controls. Our batteries run too low. Although the generator was running our batteries were not charging. We loaded everything at the same time on the generator. It was charging the batteries, we had the water maker on making water, Chrysta had the washing machine, the oven and the electric rise cooker. The generator decided to speak and said enough is enough. It had to give itâ€™s power to the heavy devices drawing power directly from the generator. So the batteries were not charging.
Low batteries means no power to the engine controls. Means no gears in and out, no throttle.
The light on our 24vlt to 12 volt converter feeding the engine controls went off. We had no option but to use the engine controls manually. It is OK for straight runs. But for going in and out of ports and anchoring we will need one person standing inside each engine room moving the engine controls levers by hand. Nothing we can do. We will have to face the entry into the port when we get there. Now it was important to get there.
Meanwhile the steering went a bit soft on us. It will take hard work to make the auto pilot to follow a course. Even harder to steer manually. So with calm waters we decided to add hydraulic oil to our hydraulic steering pumps and system. I knew we had three plastic cans on board one for each pump and one as spare. So since we stopped I thought lets fix the steering so at least we have steering when we arrive at Salalah.
The problem was that the system leaked oil and air was making the system half respondent. Instead of taking the air out to bleed the hydraulic system we managed to add more air into the system. Requiring even more hydraulic oil. But to our surprise the other two cans of hydraulic oil just were not on board. By the time we realised what happened it was painful. When they replace our hydraulic pumps to the bigger version in Phuket, the engineers used my spare hydraulic oil without telling me. Of course it is my fault for not physically checking my spare cans. Lesson learned. We were trying to fix the steering from 13:00pm to 23.30pm.
The steering kept getting blocked so I was applying full force and the steering wheel was bending but not moving. After a dozen calls to the steering engineer in Thailand we managed to get some air out of the system and make the rudders move. But no oil. Without oil we cannot restore our steering system.
Meanwhile in order to get some air out all five of us were required. Some pouring oil, some holding one rudder to center, the others turning the rudder with our emergency manual rudders we carry onboard and Jui bleeding the system. By 23.30 we were all so tired. We managed a quick 10 minute break at about 21.00 to have a quick sandwich and some water melon. We stocked he boat with 22 water melons from Male. Best desert. No preparation time.
We were drifting towards Sucutra. The nightmare of yachts. The most unfriendly place in sea waters, we are told. Everyone stays at least 100 miles away because of the high pirate attacks. To top it up we received on email noticed of two recent pirate attacks only two weeks ago in February 2007 in the Yemen gulf. Sucutra belongs to Yemen!!
Meanwhile we were all getting exhausted. Physical strength was low. Moral even lower. We all became irritable from exhaustion. The worst nightmare in a passage is exhaustion.
We now had to make the decision to steer manually. This meant one rudder to be tight to hold at centre and one person to stand at the back steps and steer by moving the rudder. This is very hard. It requires some good muscle strength and no matter how strong one is it wears you out after the first half hour.
So we changed the watch and we made it in pairs four hours on four hours off. And each pair to change every half hour on the rudder. The other person to watch our plotters and navigation systems showing the course to steer and keep telling the person on the rudder to steer left or right.
So I paired with my son George and Mark with Jui.
Our problem now is how do we get inside Salalah port and anchor? Isokratia being a catamaran we can manoeuvre her easy on engines left right and even circles by running one engine forward an the other in reverse. But even this we will have to do manually as we had no engine controls.
Before starting the engines I went to have another look and moved the cables on the engine control 24 volt converter. Surprise surprise! The light was on!! After switching off everything from the generator water maker washing machines and so on I left the gen run for three hours more and it seemed to have managed to charged the batteries. I had a quick look at the batteries meter and yes they were nearly full. So the engine controls had enough power again. What a relief!
As soon as we started the shifts Mark who had the first shift engineer a rope system which enabled a person to steer one rudder whilst standing by the helm station watching our course. Still manually pulling left and right but at least one person can do it. So we left the watches to pairs four hours on four hours off but each person of each pair will do two hours whilst the other slept in the saloon as a back up. This meant we could all get a bit more sleep.
After loosing time trying to fix the steering and drifting we now estimate our arrival to port Salalah on Monday the 12th March instead of Sunday. Today Saturday he 10th the sea is very calm and in between watches we all sunbathed at the boats beach, the front nets. A nice breeze comes from underneath the net holes making it very pleasant. Time to enjoy the sun in the Arabian Sea.
10th March 2007 200 miles from Salalah in Oman
PP: Good news have arrived by email from our ex skipper Christopher Read who had to part company because of heath reasons at the Maldives. He has now become our land guide finding out information for ports and pirates and other useful info. But the first thing he alert us to was that in Oman near the Salalah port there is an oasis with a full restaurant and alcoholic beer!!! Marked like that. We all liked that actually!!