Boat Maintenance: Problems In Paradise

Just when we thought we were beginning a new chapter, sailing around Thailand’s remotest islands, disaster struck. And struck again. And continued to strike. I mean, after more than a year in a boatyard, wouldn’t you think we were due a little adventuring?

The Video

Jamie had difficulty in reducing our latest video to twenty minutes because we had so many problems to record, and so many new characters to introduce to you. Leaking hoses and gearboxes, engines that wouldn’t start, water dripping through the deck, being towed by a dinghy… it all happened, and more.

Click here to watch the video

The Problems

Problems are always solvable with a positive attitude and some know-how. So, possessing at least one of those attributes between us at any given time, we tackled each problem as it occurred. But the main issue was that we were at anchor, in a channel not famed for its good holding, next to a remote island. When you have no working engine, this can be a little stressful.

Some of what we had to deal with while swinging on the hook :

  • Broken starter motor
  • Leaking coolant pipe
  • Leaking gear box
  • Leaking deck fitting
  • Broken morse cable
  • Halyard wrap in foresail

We don’t want to drone on about the details, but it’s worth expanding on the starter motor because this is a tale that illustrates the kindness of people in your hour of need.

The Starter Motor

After fixing a leaking hose we turned the key to start the engine and… nothing. Just the clicking of the solenoid. So we went through all the tests and procedures to make sure it wasn’t an electrical fault. Nada. The first person we thought of to call for help was Jia of PSS Shipyard. We called him, and received sympathy and practical advice.

Jia found a mechanic on Ko Lipe who came out after sunset on his brother’s longtail. They tied their boat off the back of Esper, and in the darkness, hauled a massive truck battery from their boat, into our dinghy, onto our swim platform, then up onto Esper’s deck. You can see this whole procedure in the video clip (they make it look easier than it was).

After running their own voltage tests with their own battery, they agreed with us that it wasn’t an electrical fault and that the starter motor was kaput. With Jia’s encouragement, the mechanic agreed to take the motor to Satun, which from Ko Lipe is a ferry ride and bus journey away. There it was fixed and three days later he brought it back, repaired.

broken marine starter motor for perkins engine

It’s not a perfect fix, but it was enough to get us back to Langkawi, where we ordered a new one from the UK. We will keep the old one as an emergency spare.

Returning to Langkawi

Returning to Langkawi

If Jia had not been on the end of the phone to help us, we would have taken the motor back to Satun to find a repair shop ourselves. Sounds simple? There was one problem, we hadn’t yet checked in at immigration in Thailand… and, of course, we would have had to leave Millie alone on the boat, at anchor in a potentially dangerous situation. Not an option.

The Leaking Gearbox

There were a number of reasons for turning back to Langkawi, but the main one was to sort out the gearbox. It had been leaking ATF (automatic transmission fluid) through the lever, which meant it had to be topped up every 15 miles or so. Not a practical situation to be in, especially as the winds were predicted to be light for the foreseeable future, and that means plenty of motoring.

The other reason was that we had three month, single-entry visas for Thailand, which we had not yet presented at immigration. By returning to Malaysia the Thai visas would still be valid. We wanted to use every precious day of our three month visas sailing (or at least motoring) and exploring, We did not want to use them up in a marina or boatyard. We had until June to finish all the work in Malaysia before the visas expired. No problem…

Back in Kuah, at the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club, we ordered a full service kit for the gearbox from the UK, along with a new damping plate, and a starter motor. Needless to say this would delay our sailing plans. Surely, we would be out in the big blue soon?

When the kit arrived we employed local mechanic Zainol to pull the box apart and fit the new plates and gaskets.

Millie reminds us to sort out that bloody headsail

Millie reminds us to sort out that bloody headsail

Up for grabs – an Esper t-shirt

Fancy winning an exclusive Esper t-shirt? Make no mistake, these are no ordinary tops. The only people who own Esper clobber are crew who have sailed on Esper, and this is a fresh batch of screen-printed shirts in new colours. They’re so new the ink’s still drying.

Win a followtheboat t-shirt

All you have to do is share our latest video link (see below), either through email, your blog, Facebook or Twitter. The winner will be the person who includes the most original/humorous/entertaining comment. Simple. The more you share, the more chance of winning, and bonus points if you can mention followtheboat’s Patreon campaign.

– If you share via email, you must Bcc

– If you share through Twitter, you must include the hashtag #WinEsperTshirt

– If you share on Facebook make sure you tag our followtheboat page so we get notified (you’ll need to ‘like’ our Facebook page to do this, and you can find it here)

– If you share on your blog, email us the link.

The link to share is:

Good luck and enjoy the clip.

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