Atlantic Return

This article appeared in the August 2016 issue of Yachting World. Helen Fretter, the Deputy Editor interviewed crews in Horta for a feature on the ARC Europe rally which had not been featured before. The account of Hejira’s ‘chaperoning’ of AWOL, another rally participant features.

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Sea water pump failure

This ‘tale of woe’ has nothing to do with the Southerly but has several lessons which can be drawn from the salutary experience and I hope that by recounting the story, others will be better able to deal with any similar problems should they arise.

In the late 1990’s, I decided that it was time to sell my Parker 31 and move up in size and move to the sun. I focussed on the Jeanneau 44 ‘Sun Magic’ as it ‘ticked the boxes’ for my next phase of sailing. Having viewed several examples of this model, I was rather taken with an ex-charter yacht in Majorca which had been substantially re-fitted by a marina yard and was quite tidy with new sails among other things. They had (apparently) rebuilt the 50hp Perkins engine and I found this reassuring.

On my first extended cruise I was heading back from Sardinia in November…!.. Having been stuck there waiting for a break in the relentless gales, we had just left Menorca when the engine note changed and it was clear that the sea water cooling supply to the engine had failed. Ruling out the impeller, it became evident that the water pump shaft, which was driven direct from the engine cam shaft via a slotted keyway, was not turning. With nearly 100 miles to go to our marina berth in Mallorca and with crew booked on flights back to the UK the following day, there was some pressure. The wind had completely failed and some of the crew were struggling to cope as we wallowed in the uncomfortable swell left over from the storms. We were going nowhere and it was imperative that we found some way to get the engine ‘up and running’. A bit of lateral thinking and improvisation got us underway as we utilised the electric bilge pump, diverted using various connections, gaffer tape and jubilee clips to take a sea water supply from the engine sea cock direct into the heat exchanger. Switching the bilge pump on, the Heath Robinson ‘lash up’ held together all the way back to the marina and only fell apart as we went astern into our berth.

The yard (that had rebuilt the engine) replaced the pump and it was put down (wrongly as it transpired) to ‘one of those things’.

The next time the pump failed, we were just off the entrance to Barcelona Harbour with fortunately a downwind run to the end of our dock. We ghosted down under poles as I worked out how best to achieve a satisfactory berthing under engine. Having full fresh water tanks, I instructed my young son to turn on all the hot water taps down below and I started the engine at the end of the dock. The fresh cold water running through the calorifier cooled the loop through the engine allowing us sufficient time to berth.

The first lesson here is that one should always look behind any failure to establish a cause. In this case, the engine rebuild exercise had not used the recommended alignment tool to ensure that the rotation of the cam shaft was concentric with the water pump and they were not. Every turn moved the tongue and slot backwards and forwards against one another and the result, after a time, was that the tongue was worn into a pin which no longer rotated with the groove.

Purchasing an alignment tool from Perkins, we aligned the pump and cam shaft and kept the reconditioned old pump as a spare that was never subsequently needed in the 13 years that I kept the yacht.

The other lesson which is easily acknowledged but far more difficult to implement is not to make tight travel deadlines. I know that we have all heard this before but far better to have a leisurely day or two in hand than force a passage through inclement weather and unforeseen failures. I feel for charterers who have deadlines to keep!

Watermaker Intake

When I bought my ‘used’ 135, I commissioned Northshore to carry out some work which I felt would benefit from the epithet ‘Installed by the original builders’ should I come to sell the vessel in the future.

Other elements of the Northshore work certainly warrant dedicated articles but my recent Atlantic circuit has prompted this entry regarding the watermaker installation.

With extended cruising aspirations, a watermaker seemed an essential part of the picture and the low output Katadyn 40E was recommended. This made sense as with the planned electrical generation regime, the watermaker could be left running in the background for long periods without taxing the batteries. On the face of it, the installation looked neat and professional.

Watermaker installation
Neat Watermaker installation

Because once commissioned, regular ‘pickling’ would be necessary; the watermaker was not tested until heading south for the Canaries. The unit worked perfectly in the marina but failed to produce any desalinated water once underway. This conundrum was the subject of Email exchanges with Jim at Mactra, the agents for Katadyn who was very helpful and supportive, particularly as they had not supplied Northshore as it was a ‘grey import’. Changing the pipework, repositioning the filter in a lower location, repeated bleeding and flushing failed to rectify the problem. It was only a series of progressive elimination tests, culminating in supplying sea water direct from a bucket in the cockpit, that drinking water was eventually produced. The problem was clearly the watermaker sea-cock somehow admitting air so that the pressure on the membrane was compromised (pneumatic instead of hydraulic) but the prospect of filling buckets and holding them in the cockpit for the small quantities of fresh water produced was not practical so we had to think of a better way. Inspiration dawned while on a ‘stop over’ in Mindelo in the Cape Verde Islands. We extended the intake pipework and fed it down the keel box slot beyond the hull with a fishing weight attached to the end. This Heath Robinson ‘lash up’ worked perfectly on the 2000 mile passage to the Caribbean and allowed liberal showering which was welcomed by all.

Our analysis suggested that the tiny bubbles that always run along the hull on passage were the root of the problem. In the small quantities normally experienced, the watermaker can deal with their very minor influence as the pressure is overwhelmingly hydraulic. The sea cock that had been installed however, although of good quality bronze with a strainer, was totally inappropriate.

Original intake installation
Original intake installation

When underway, the tiny bubbles collected in the top of the strainer and progressively compounded into a large bubble which was trapped until the yacht heeled when it was released into the supply pipework and formed against the membrane preventing the seawater from reaching sufficient pressure to pass through.m_DSCN0598 m_DSCN0599

Jim at Mactra recommended that the watermaker intake should be spaced away from the hull and forward facing but could not recommend any proprietary fitting. Additionally, because of the unique drying out abilities of the Southerly, any protrusion on the underside of the hull would be vulnerable to damage .

Modified log impeller through hull
Modified log impeller through hull

The solution turned out to be the modification of a log impeller through hull so that it could be withdrawn when the watermaker was not in use (the watermaker is only used on long Ocean passages)and replaced with the flush blanking ‘plug’.

Intake inserted
Intake inserted
Log impeller though hull takes a flush blanking fitting
Log impeller though hull takes a flush blanking fitting

The strainer sea cock was re-utilised for a new sea water pump inlet under the galley sink which, in the event, all but rendered the watermaker unnecessary!


The addition of 12V sockets in strategic locations to power electric fans has proved to be a real winner. When anchored in the tropics or when the only shore power is American 60Hz precluding the use of the AC, the cooling provided by the fans is a real boon.

We have found that the traditional axial fan has its place but that they tend to be noisy and fragile.m_Clip on Axial fan

The centrifugal fans however are sturdy, two speed, more compact and will sit on a shelf, out of the way ready to be switched on whenever the need arises. You will find them on Amazon.

m_Cool nights sleep
Cool nights sleep
m_Galley draught
Welcome Galley Draught


How can it be that a replacement gas cylinder cost 11 Euros in the Azores and £32.99 in Port Solent ?

The End – really

Slipping the mooring buoy off Yarmouth, we motored sedately eastwards with the tide under our keel making good time in the early sunshine. We took the time to rig the courtesy flags of the countries visited over our yearlong cruise and they spanned from the starboard cross trees to the deck. The ARC flags and the Canaries flag also looked impressive on the port side.m_DSCN0760

Helen & Barry
Peter & Stephen

Barry’s wife Helen, Paula and Stephen formed our ‘reception committee’ and a pause on the waiting pontoon enabled them all to board for our transit through the lock and onto our berth, ideally positioned on the hammerhead of F pontoon.

m_Port Solent
Hejira’s new home in Port Solent

With a long list of improvements and repairs it is significant to note that there is nothing of great significance or urgency that needs to be done and we should be able to have a full summer season of rather more modest sailing from our new base in Port Solent.

As a retrospect on the year-long Atlantic circuit, I would like to acknowledge a number of people without whose support and assistance, the adventure would not have been possible. My wife, Paula has been a brick, never once whinged about my extensive absence and tolerated my probably obsessive preoccupation with the ‘mission’. This has been at the expense of domestic chores which now deserve (and will receive) my attention. Likewise, Helen has been incredibly tolerant of Barry’s absences during a period where they have moved house when his presence will have been desperately missed.

From a crewing point of view, I would like to thank the various people who joined the adventure along the way. Dave Cooke who stood in at the last minute for the first leg to A Coruna while we wrestled with a few residual problems like the faulty wind instruments. Dave Wright who crewed to Porto and Mike Watson who stayed on to the Algarve. Bob Haywood who had helped me from the outset while Hejira was prepared for the challenge and crewed all the way from the Algarve through to St. Lucia. Stephen Williams who was a welcome member of the trans–Atlantic crew, not only for his ‘Doctoring’ but for his enthusiasm and sense of humour. Neville and Lynn who, with Paula helped make our cruise of the Grenadines, one the most memorable and enjoyable holidays ever. John Coe who stepped in at the last minute and very ably crewed from St. Lucia through the islands to Antigua. My son Ollie who, despite a painful back injury, smiled through the passage from Bermuda to the Azores, lifting the blog entries temporarily above the mundane with his insights and humour. Peter Hoade who endured what was a pretty ‘gutty’ passage home from the Azores redeemed thankfully by some blissful sailing in the last couple of days.

And then there is Barry ! I am so indebted to Barry ! His input into the planning, equipping and preparing of Hejira has been invaluable and I can’t think how it might have been without his calm and competent presence on all the major legs of the Atlantic circuit. We have never exchanged any cross words and Barry has always been the absolutely perfect person to sail with. I sincerely hope that he will be involved in any future adventure that I might ‘hatch’ once the dust settles and we get on top of our outstanding domestic responsibilities.

The final mention must go to Hejira, my 45 foot 2004 raised saloon Southerly 135 with three rudders. I cannot deny that the amount of preparation involving repairs and upgrades has been extensive and expensive. I was not going to embark on this 10000 mile Ocean odyssey without being absolutely confident in the yacht. What became clear as I explored every inch of Hejira was that I was building on a very substantial foundation, unlike the experiences with my previous, production built 44 foot Jeanneau. It is gratifying to know that efforts to equip and upgrade are not just window dressing and are genuinely improving what is now a fantastic yacht. The 135 is a brilliant sea boat taking everything the elements have thrown at her in her capable stride, never slamming, steering easily and showing a fair amount of pace in a blow. She is cavernous down below and swallowed up all of the stores, sails, spares and equipment which are extensive when you consider diesel generator, two AC systems, watermaker, dinghy, freezer and lots more. I am gratified that the planning that Barry, Bob and I put into the preparation has largely shown through to have been well placed. The charging regime using the photo voltaic panels, Watt and Sea hydrogenerator and Air breeze wind generator coped well with the demands of the auto pilot, refrigeration, instruments, watermaker and radar when we were sailing at sufficient speed. The back-up of the diesel generator was used only to top up and to heat the water through the immersion heater. The water maker gave us problems right up until the final passage when we seem to have overcome the main issues (predominantly air ingress) and although only of low output, its modest power consumption meant that we could just leave it producing which maintained full water tanks. Our trade-wind downwind sail configuration needs some refinement but fundamentally, the twin poled out yankee jib arrangement is ideal (with the vent between the two sails) as it tends to pull the yacht along easing the strain on the auto pilot. The deck saloon layout of Hejira is brilliant. We have a variety of saloon table sizes so the seating is readily accessed and used on passage and the ‘all round’ visibility afforded is wonderful when moored or anchored but really comes into its own when on ocean passages allowing watches (with a clear foredeck) from below in inclement weather. We sailed long passages with two, three and four on board and they were all fine. Two puts a little more pressure on watch keeping but is OK if both totally competent and we tended to do one man watches in all configurations with certain rules applying and with a sailplan that can be easily reefed without leaving the cockpit. Our tankage capacity of 500l of water and 500l of diesel in 250l tanks is very adequate for most ocean passages, in fact with a little discipline, with three on board on the 1850mile Bermuda to the Azores passage, without the watermaker, we finished with nearly a whole tank of water to spare. The bars that we ‘hatched up’ on the first crossing, had manufactured remotely in the UK and fitted after Christmas are a real boon and the extra handy grab point makes moving out of the cockpit so much easier and safer. The webbing spools that they accommodate have proved to be really helpful allowing the taking of long lines ashore when using deeply shelving anchorages so that they can be slipped without necessarily going back ashore. The strap retaining points have allowed a number of extra fuel containers to be stowed out of the way in perfect safety.

Enough said I think but wouldn’t it be a shame if all the preparation for ocean crossing were only to be utilised on the one adventure…………

The End – nearly

This post should have been published on Saturday morning having been meticulously compiled during the course of Friday spent tracking up the Channel. The excellent sailing wind dropped away and we flew the Parasailor while there was sufficient wind to still maintain sufficient pace with the Yarmouth deadline very much in mind. Resorting to the engine, we made the Needles channel just as the tide turned in our favour and with the sun shining on our arrival we motored through the familiar waters and passed Hurst Castle into the Solent. Although there was plenty of room inside Yarmouth harbour, we chose to pick up a buoy outside, fearful that a late arrival rafting up to us might have delayed our early departure on Saturday morning as we woke the occupants and untangled the ‘knitting’. Calling a taxi, we explored the Yarmouth hostelries savouring the best bitters on offer. Disappointingly, both the Wheatsheaf and the Kings Head are under common ownership with similar, uninspiring menus. In desperation, we wandered to the Royal Solent Yacht Club and we found it impressive in its location, ambience and welcome. The Commodore took the time to sit with us and chat and the menu looked very appealing. In fact, the attractiveness of the place was the factor in us eschewing its hospitality as the linen table cloths, napkins and precisely laid formal tables was not really what we were looking for as all our senses craved steak and chips. Moving on, the beers on offer in the Bugle did not inspire so it was back to the Kings Head as we tried to ignore the TV in the background loudly showing the European football and the steak turned out to be surprisingly good.

Returning to Hejira, I was looking forward to a relatively early night when Peter insisted on pouring large glasses of Scotch for him and me but, true to form, I fell asleep after the first sip. Barry has since explained that Peter couldn’t allow such fine scotch to go to waste so he polished mine off as well as I dragged myself off to bed.

My body clock being programmed to wake for my 4am watch – which it still is as it happens, I surfaced to proof read my rather substantial ‘sign off’ blog before despatching it to the ether. Noticing a pair of glasses next to the computer at the nav. station, I tried to open the blog document. Where my pages of retrospect and musings on my year-long adventure should have been, there was a single word ‘admiralty’. No amount of ‘undoing’ and searching could retrieve my ramblings and I had an empty feeling as I prepared for our final passage, carrying the flood tide up to Port Solent. When Peter finally surfaced, he was mortified as he began to recollect the events of the previous night and I almost – but not quite – felt sorry for him as he apologised profusely and repeatedly for deleting the outpourings of my soul.

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