Low bandwidth angels

While Jack alternately rewrote The Big Book of Swear Words and scratched his head to problem solve our broken thruhull, I tried to connect with the usual sources of boat parts. No go. Our brand new SIM card was not going to let me access a website, and would barely send or receive email. We had returned to the days of dial-up data speeds and sometimes not even that. But a tiny message on top of the tiny phone screen told me I have free Facebook. Great, I thought, I’ll message a few friends and ask for help. But Facebook messaging didn’t work either, just the regular newsfeed. Ok, then, we go public. I posted our problem as a status update and asked for advice. I initially failed to specify that it was the exhaust thruhull that broke, not the intake, setting off worries that we were taking on water and prompting breathless warnings that we needed to beach the boat and plug the hole. Once I cleared that up, two Manta whisperers suggested almost simultaneously the fix that Jack had already thought of, modified by the fact that the hose itself wouldn’t actually fit through the hole. 

So immediate problem solved, we still wanted to get a new thruhull installed because we’re not comfortable relying on a jury-rig all the way to Australia. We were overwhelmed with offers from cruising friends to send a part to us from the States, from Fiji, New Zealand and Australia. But since we couldn’t get to a website to arrange payment, we asked if it was possible for our friends on Rehua to see if one was available in New Caledonia. They’ll be sailing up to Vanuatu in a couple of weeks and we could just pay them directly, if they have the time. On the day they planned to check out of the country, Seathan made a special trip to the chandleries and, miracle of miracles, found us a thruhull. This is the second time Seathan pulled our asses out of the fire, the first time in Tonga when he generously “lent” us seals and bearings for our leaky raw water pump, making our long passage to New Zealand leak-free. It took us months to find replacements to return to him because we neglected to save the old seals and bearings to show to the parts stores and had to spend many hours trying to find cross-reference numbers that anyone recognized. Lesson learned: save the old parts. 

But I digress. With EV fixed and a new thruhull on the way, Jack and I turned to the hardest part of the break, the cleanup. We faced a similar one years ago on a friend’s boat we’d borrowed for a long weekend sail in the Chesapeake Bay. The exhaust system must have been on its last legs and gave up the ghost while we were motoring at low speed through the pass at Tilghman Island. The engine was in the center of the boat under a badly gasketed cover and the entire cabin filled up with oily exhaust and carbon monoxide, not just a mess, but a dangerous health hazard as well. We lived, but we spent the rest of the weekend scrubbing the sooty mess from every surface of the boat. Apparently our effort didn’t pass muster because the owner pretty much never spoke to us again. I know how he feels. 

Luckily in our case the mess was largely contained in the engine room under our bed, but a fine soot did leak out onto every surface of our bedroom, which as luck would have it, I had just spent a few days deep cleaning. For the next three days we degreased and scrubbed and vacuumed and wiped.

It’s tough to be in a magical place and have to spend time head down, nose to the grindstone, but in the end we feel lucky that our problem was fairly easily solved, and of course grateful for the cruisers who instantly pitched in with advice, encouragement and offers of help. We’re especially thankful to Di and Bruce on Toucan, our communications clearinghouse, and to Seathan and Audrie on Rehua, our personal sag-wagon crew. Together they are guardian angels and we’re proud to call them friends. 

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