Here is a little insight into what we might just ‘do’ all day when we are not sailing, diving, snorkelling, relaxing or socialising with other cruisers. And another story to add to the little known fact that cruising and boat ownership sometimes feels like endless repairs and maintenance in exotic places.
Tiki is in company with a mini flotilla sailing together here in the Tioman group of islands whilst the majority of the other boats in the rally we are part of retraces Tiki’s journey north from 2015. Gillie is single handing her ketch SY.Tuppenny and Peter and Cath on SY. Kittani have been joined by a new crew member Kelly from the US. We all opted to stay in the islands, relax, grow gills and have a shorter journey when we eventually head east to Indonesia’s Anambas and Natuna archipelagos at the end of the month. Tuppenny has had an annoying leak since… well forever according to Gillie but since she relaunched in March it got progressively worse until the bilge pump was being activated every 7 or so minutes, sometimes less. It was coming from the stuffing box which was supposed to be a dripless system. Peter has a similar setup on Kittani and over the past weeks had helped tighten/inspect/loosen bits in an attempt to stem the flow to no avail. It was stressful for Gillie and we were all nervous for her – an inspection and repair haul out was required with the nearest alternative for 100’s of miles being suddenly expensive and up a shallow river at Endau. As it turned out emergency or not, this yard had extensive sandblasting work in progress and advised her not to plan arrival for several weeks. An alternative was required, and fairly fast.
Fortunately large spring tides and a dead low reconnaissance at dawn revealed a potential for careening on a clean patch of sand next to the wall in the main town at Tekek, Tioman. Gillie had the replacement spare ready onboard so Peter’s bravado convinced her she could do it with their help and our experience from years of drying out on walls in the south of England and Brittany came into play to tip the confidence scales. So with no time to waste our little group formulated a plan to get Tuppenny onto the wall at high tide, then again for everyone to be ready to assist her settle into a lean at the next low scheduled for just before sundown.
Everything went perfectly to plan and with her mast tied to a solid rail she settled into the sand and we all strategically sat on her starboard side with celebratory sundowner G&T’s to ensure a good ‘inward to wall’ lean. It must have been a real novelty to have a yacht against their town pier as so many locals came to look, take pictures and many took the time to try (in broken English with our broken Malay) to warn us that the water would soon be gone, even offering to tow her to deeper water.
Then came the challenging part – inspection and repair. We calculated the tides and worked out that at 04:00 the next day the propellor would be almost (5-10cm below) exposed and this state would last until 10:30 at most. This gave Pete and Neil six full hours to effect the replacement with a little time to spare to call it if they needed to wait out an extra tide. After dinner on the quayside opposite Tuppenny we returned to Tiki & Kittani and Kelly stayed aboard for some welcome moral support for Gillie. I think they had a fairly sleepless night with the bow tilted at an angle forwards and ferry boat wash causing strange wobbling movements but importantly Tuppenny was ready for repair.
The boys went super early and started as planned whilst Cath and I had a bit of a lie-in and joined them later for moral support and to source some yummy roti canai for breakfast. I’m not technical on the details but we arrived at 8:30 to find all mostly on schedule and that the cause of the leak had been the pipe which supports the propshaft having split and broken on the underside – probably many years ago – and the dripless system had been installed over the broken pipe. Neil removed the propellor and shaft and ground fibreglass away to enable the new system to be installed on clean solid pipe. Pete epoxied everything clean and expertly re-installed the replacement bellows system. These tasks are easy for me to write in a sentence when in reality it took them the best part of 5.5 hours solid work against the clock and tide to achieve by bending upside down into squished barely accessible compartments, and with sweat constantly dripping from every pore in the tropical heat.
But by 10am there were finally some smiles on their faces and Gillie was almost in tears with relief. The propellor was back on as was the new dripless stuffing box and the skies had darkened and started to pour with some much needed local rain. We waited out the downpour in the local breakfast cafe and left Gillie aboard to keep an eye on things as the tide rose over the propellor. A triumphant “NO DRIPS!” was declared when she re-appeared after the squall passed – SUCCESS!
High tide arrived at 14:00 and we returned to assist with lines and traffic direction as there are lots of small boats zipping in and out of the canals. Again everything went smooth as clockwork and Tuppenny was soon back with us on anchor with Gillie tongue-in-cheek declaring she now had something wrong with the bilge pump as it didn’t seem to be working anymore… because it didn’t need to!
It was a great feeling to have saved her lots of yard money, coming together to help a fellow cruiser and to have had everything turn out so well. Now it was time to celebrate and party cruiser style. We relocated the next day to an idyllic remote bay and snorkelled the reef, gathered wood for the beach bbq, laid out the grass mats and drank bubbles in the sea, complete with a beautiful bamboo swing to play on.
No wonder we love this lifestyle!