With the help of her shore team, Dee Caffari gets down and dirty on Aviva's mechanics 3/5/06

Date2 May at 2306

PositionN 14° 19′ / W 26° 26′

Last night and tonight are what sailing in the tropics is all about. The sky is clear apart from the odd ball of cotton wool floating by and the stars are abundant. There is a relatively new moon that looks straight from a child’s drawing. It rises early and gives a streak of light across the darkness. The wind is steady and Aviva is sailing like a dream. Having consistent trade winds is enabling us to stay on a starboard tack and just head home with a shift in course by ten degrees every now and again as the wind shifts through the course of the day.

Following a bank holiday weekend, everyone was back in the office and behind desks, available on the phone and on email. After my exploits with sailing in circles last Friday, the shore team was keen to solve the issues to enable me to once more have two working pilots with two working rams. At the end of play on Friday I had just one of each. The second hydraulic ram was disconnected from the steering quadrant.

I knew the team was keen to push on with the problem solving as while Aviva and I were in comfortable sailing conditions and the weather being fair, it was a perfect time to do it. I knew they were right, but the thought of taking Aviva to bits and testing parts bit by bit was not what I wanted. Given the distance to home I just wanted to keep going with the working pilot. In the back of my mind though I knew that if I risked just having the one pilot working I would encounter a problem and it would be when conditions were difficult, that would be Murphy at work again!

So the questions came through checking step by step the events of Friday. The answers and some pictures were sent back from Aviva and the conversations between the shore team and the designers of the pump units continued. Through diligence, perseverance and patience from the guys at home, they found the problem. For the techies out there, I had to change the whole Cont. Rated Operational Solenoid Valve. On Friday I had only changed a part of it. So off I went into my box at the back of Aviva. Of course the part I had to get to was hidden behind some wires and cables. I could barely get my hand in there and when I got the spanner on the part I needed to undo, I couldn’t move it anywhere as the pump and motor were in the way. Typical, had it been on the other unit, it would have been no problem at all.

After some convincing I freed the nut and changed the solenoid valve for the spare I have. The next step was to check to see if I could turn the wheel with the second ram now attached to the steering quadrant. I was nervous, but pleased to say the wheel moved freely. Gold stars all round for everyone involved and some relief in the knowledge that I now have a back up to the pilot that is working once more.

As the day began in a mechanical manner I thought I would continue. The shore team informed me that it was that time again for the generator to be serviced. This was to be my third and final service of the voyage. I already had hydraulic fluid and grease on my hands so why not add oil and diesel to that too. I am getting quite good at the generator service now and while the oil was draining from the sump, I changed the injectors, the fuel filter, and the Separ filter. Once the old oil had drained I then changed the oil filter and put in three litres of fresh oil. Although I am much quicker than the first time I did this job I am still as nervous, as the generator is my life line for all the systems onboard so I really need it to work. It is always a relief when you bleed the system and then you turn the switch and she actually starts.

At the end of a mucky but very productive day I decided a shower was the order of the day, in perfect timing to drink a cup of tea on deck as the sun went down. Tomorrow we shall be off the Cape Verde Islands and continuing to close on our outbound track.

Dee & Aviva