Monday, August 10, 2020
When New Zealand moved to lockdown Level 1 on 14 May we became one of the few countries to allow unrestricted cruising once again, while the Australian situation continues to vary by state with some restrictions still in place.
More recently several other countries, mostly in the Med, Caribbean and South Pacific have followed suit, but there are various restrictions in place relating to isolation, quarantine and screening.
For example Fiji has opened Nadi’s Port Denerau, but visiting crews must have had a minimum of 14 days quarantine at sea, have tested negative for covid-19 before departure to Fiji and be screened on arrival.
Most Australasian cruisers owning vessels overseas have chosen to forgo this year’s cruising because of confusion about regulations, difficulties booking return travel and the need to quarantine on return. There is also a general concern that circumstances can change very rapidly and cause major issues for those in the wrong place at the wrong time.
We continue to enjoy cruising aboard our Salthouse 52, Rapport and since purchase in late November have logged 50 nights aboard, despite staying off the water during lockdown Levels 3 and 4.
We’ve spoken to several cruisers who went out to Waiheke, Great Barrier, Kawau and the Bay of Islands during lockdown and while most of them were approached by police none of them were required to return home or stop cruising, so it seems the only real issue would have been a question mark over insurance cover.
Our most recent trip has been eight nights in early June to Waiheke’s “bottom end”.
We arrive aboard at Hobsonville marina with our friends Frank and Marie on a dismal Saturday morning and head to Westhaven to refuel. We mainly use the flybridge helm and after berthing at the fuel dock and going below I notice the bilge pump warning light activated at the lower helm.
After lifting our bilge hatches I find sea water coming in sufficiently to activate the pumps.
At this point we have no idea where the water is coming from and as a precaution contact Coastguard in case additional pumps are needed and it turns out Paul, the Coastguard skipper is also a marine surveyor. We can’t definitively find the source of the leak, but Paul finds a loose hose clamp on the outlet side of one the bilge pumps and we can see some water back flowing into the bilge.
After we tighten the hose clamp the leak stops and we clear all of the water from the bilge – problem solved right? Well, no.
We refuel and depart for Waiheke with a bilge hatch left open to monitor the situation. After about ten minutes Frank appears telling me there’s sea water in the bilge again. Damnation or words to that effect are said as we head back to moor alongside the fuel berth to have another look. We agree the problem must be related to the engines as there was no water ingress when they weren’t running.
Sure enough we find the port “dripless” shaft seal’s plastic water lubrication fitting has broken and water intended for lubrication is going into the bilge. Frank suggests a temporary repair using Selleys “Knead-It” fast-setting epoxy putty, usable in wet conditions (every cruising vessel should carry a tube or two of this) and 30 minutes later the repair is complete.
By now it’s late Saturday afternoon and with a gale warning in place and heavy rain predicted we decide to spend the night back on our marina monitoring the repair and awaiting better conditions. Two days later we head off for an excellent six days cruising with our temporary repair lasting well. One highlight was drift fishing in the Firth of Thames finding plenty of hungry snapper at most times of day and states of tide. Another was Waihehe’s Mawhitipana Bay, better known as Palm Beach where set back from the beach’s eastern end is the delightful and relaxing Arcadia cafe reminiscent of the rustic tavernas we enjoyed during our Med cruising and having a superette next door selling most supplies.
After our return I organise repairs to our shaft seal. I’ve never been a big fan of dripless shaft seals with a rubber bellows because if the bellows fails the consequences can be catastrophic.
However to be fair I’m told they’re widely used commercially.
Our shaft seals are about six years old and the manufacturer recommends installing a replacement service kit after this time. It turns out that for not much more than the cost of the service kits we can instal the very robust and low maintenance Kiwi shaft seals, so we go down that path.
These seals incorporate an electronic alarm to detect a high seal temperature – normally caused by an issue with the supply of cooling sea water.
I’m also unhappy with our bilge pump monitoring system and instal a loud audible alarm so we’ll know immediately a pump is activated and can then turn the alarm off while we check its cause.
Hopefully these problems are now resolved, but no doubt others will follow!