on passage from Bali to Malaysia
November 9, 2013
The nearest large island of the Indonesian Archipelago to the small one where we are currently anchored is Java. There is a fast ferry from the small village here to East Java (we assume.) We have been stuck in this calm anchorage now for 5 days. We stopped here for a night of sleep on our way north to Malaysia. And the next morning as Owen was checking the engine he noticed a drip coming from the coolant tank. After closer inspection and a little digging around, he found a pencil sized hole in the inspection plate which is attached to the bottom of the coolant tank. There are baffles in the tank, so you cannot easily look inside it or push something in there and poke around. He quickly siphoned the tank (for reserve - we do not have any spare bottles of coolant.) Then he got on the phone and called Matthew, the Indonesian mechanic we used in Kupang who is now in Bali, for advice. Matthew suggested that we remove the plate with the hole in it and patch the hole (with gasket material and an aluminum patch,) then reattach it.
Well that sounded good except that our tank is old, the bolts holding the inspection plate are old. And sure enough as Owen tried to remove one, the head of the bolt just broke off. We do not have replacement bolts, nor will there be any in this little village near by. So Owen decided to try a patch of aluminum epoxy putty covered with fiberglass. The next day our engine was spattered with coolant as the putty failed. After cleaning it up, he decided to fashion a plate from the aluminum stock that we have on board. And using the little gasket material we have left, some lock washers and several steel screws, secure his plate over the hole in the old one. Many things could go wrong with this plan - and did over the next 48 hours.
It's taken a couple of tries to get it right - if in fact we have finally gotten it right. The gasket material needs 24 hours to cure, so each try is another day here. There were endless fittings, broken hacksaw blades, continuous hunts for tools (disrupting the whole boat), hopes and prayers about our gasket material (being not too old) and of-course a few choice 'captains words' as Owen banged his head and dropped significant parts into the bilge. Yet he hasn't given up hope. We'll check the latest fix in the morning. The kids and I spent the last couple of days in school, out of the way mostly, except for the day it rained buckets. The night before I had set up a bucket of laundry, that morning I was eager to hang it, instead, we collected 11 gallons of water as bolts of lightning flashed all around us. Owen put small navigation electronics in the oven as we watched the walls of rain advance loudly before they pelted our rain catcher and washed our boat clean. Luckily for us the rainy season has begun. There is no water available on this tiny island. The locals survive on brackish well water for washing and rain water for consumption. But it has hardly rained in 4 months, so there wouldn't be any to spare for us should we run out.
Last night as the dark clouds blew away, and a big red sun set on a fresh horizon, after a day of rain and hanging and re-hanging the laundry, not teaching school and feeling somewhat down about the repairs, I slumped down on deck and just listened to the chanting coming from loudspeakers on shore half a mile away. I must have heard 7 different voices each chanting their own Muslim prayer. As I looked at the bay surrounding me, I gave into the undulating voices and waited for the chanting to awaken my own voice. (In a former life I was a vocalist. I haven't sung much on this trip - quarters are too close.) I began a quiet chant of my own and wished I could see the local mosque.
The agony of waiting for the repairs to "hold" and allow us to continue on our way has made the last couple of days a bit tense. Yet finding this engine leak while at anchor has made this particular problem less difficult - we are relatively comfortable here. It is beautiful. The locals haven't bothered us at all (trying to sell us things.) The weather has been just glorious, mostly sunny with light winds to keep us cool. The sunsets are pretty. This anchorage is more peaceful than anywhere we have been in almost a year. There is almost no swell and best of all, there are no mosquitos! So we can actually enjoy an evening after dark.
There comes a time in every passage where I let go enough of what I cannot control (my own sea sickness, repairs at sea, sick kids, scary weather) and find a bit of peace with the current situation. If Owen cannot repair the leak - maybe it will be just the beginning of another part of a different type of journey. Maybe he would end up on a fast ferry to Java for parts. And maybe Tamsyn or Griffyn would go along. And maybe I'd finish another painting while they are away.
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