Just when you thought it safe to reenter the water…
Waking up in the now Polish town of Swinoujscie, I had two problems to solve; one more vexing than the other.
But first, let’s talk about Swinoujscie, gateway to the Baltic and until 1945, a German city, aka Swinemünde. With the looks of an old German town, it boasts a certain charm, with a few modern touches. One of those being an almost identical fountain in the main square to that of the Brooklyn Museum, that I had mentioned in a previous post, you know, the one that started out much like this one in Swinoujscie, until the lawyers got involved.
So Swinoujscie, aka Swinemünde, became one of thousands of cities and towns in which whole populations were uprooted and “moved” at the war’s end. Why because Stalin wanted half of Poland and therefore Poland moved west, but never fear, the western powers and the press don’t talk about it, better to tut tut about displaced people in third world countries, than issues they created themselves.
So on that note, let’s get back to our story.
As you recall from our previous episode, Dauntless limped into Swinoujscie, with her tail between her legs, well maybe not a tail, but a thin line that had wrapped around my bow thruster.
But I was determined to at least fix the autopilot.
If you have read our Atlantic Passage, you may remember that the autopilot was one of the most critical pieces on the boat and I had absolutely no spare anything’s for it.
Having Eve and Nigel onboard, did mitigate the loss, but even with three people, hand steering a power boat for long stretches of time is both boring and fatiguing.
Assuming there is no such thing as coincidences when it comes to mechanical problems, in other words, you change, add, replace any part of a particular system, and then that system craps out on you, there is about a 99.9% chance you whatever you did caused the problem.
So, I got out our hydraulic fluid and the handy fitting for the upper helm station and proceeded to run the system and turning the wheel to get the air out.
But little air came out.
At this point, I figured I better get serious, I got the ComNav book.
In the book I discovered a self-diagnostic the ComNav can run. I ran it and got the ominous response “hard right rudder too slow”.
I could not find the bleed screws that were supposed to be on the hydraulic ram. But I did not want to screw with the ram in any case, since it worked fine; it was the autopilot part that was not working.
I ran the self-test again. Same result.
I went down into the engine room to look once again at the ComNav pump. Maybe I could bleed it there. No, no fittings I could see for easy bleeding.
I took a picture of the pump, maybe the writing will give me a clue or I can better see bleeding screw fittings. Nope. Nothing. Nada.
Run the self-test again. No change, but I realize that while I can turn the wheel and the rudder responds as it should, in fact better than before with no groaning while turning it quickly, meaning I had gotten what little air there was out of the system, when I used the auto pilot control head to turn the rudder, it barely moved the rudder to the left (port).
Clearly the auto pilot was the issue, not the hydraulic steering itself.
I looked at the autopilot’s control panel. A lot of green lights. So at least electronically, the autopilot thinks all is OK.
Back to the engine room to look at that pump again. I crawl over to it. I read both sets of labels on the pump. One reads, “to remove the pump without losing fluid, close the thumb valves”
What thumb valves? Those brass “T” handles that I occasionally play with, wondering what they do? The ones that I had decided should be tighter, but not too tight the other day, while I was changing the main engine oil and in a moment of “let’s turn this and see what happens” madness??
I noticed the one on the left side was tight, the other two, one on top and one on the right, were close to being closed, but not tight.
Umm, could these be the valves that are to close when removing the pump? And if so, should not they be OPEN now?
I have Eve use the autopilot control head to move the rudder, it now moves, not quickly, but better than before. I open all three and she tries again. Much better, almost like it’s supposed to.
We run the self-test again. This time, rudder movement is normal.
I had changed the oil on the main engine a few days earlier. So I was working at the back of the engine and it my spare time I was fiddling with those three T valves. Sort of aimlessly fiddling.
So it seems my fiddling closed at least one valve and we had a few days of indifferent autopilot response, culminating in it not working at all.
Now all is fine. No air, valves open and the autopilot has worked better than ever.
When people ask me about crossing the Atlantic and why I like Kadey Krogen yachts, I say that quite simply I have never had a problem with the boat that was not caused my operator error.
We just passed 4000 engine hours. That’s 2300 hours we have put on the boat in the last 28 months.
I’ve put 300+ hours since leaving Waterford two months again.
I have also been breaking down the cost of this trip during the last few days. That will be the subject of a later post.
We love Dauntless because she never lets us down. Now if only I could find a way to control that nut behind the wheel.
And we shall never talk of it again.
Leba, Gdansk and leaving Poland for the lands to the east