Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Lesson Not Learned

2012 05 16
written in Valencia, waiting out potential not extant, bad weather to cross to Ibiza and Formentara

Most of my sailing education seems to stem from mistakes.  Too often my education is advanced through my own lack of foresight and anticipation, or worse, my own laziness.  This particular case, was not one of those situations.

Having topped up our diesel tanks before leaving Saidia in Morocco we moved carefully away from the dock to make room for our friends who were waiting in their boat to do the same.  As we moved away we watched our friends reverse their way into a concrete wall across from the fuel dock.  Moving to the stricken boat we were told by the skipper the transmission had jammed in reverse leaving them unable to stop their backward progress.  Like our Meredith their boat had no little to no steerage in reverse.

The skipper, whom tore up his thigh muscles fairly severely trying to push his boat off the wall had the boat tied up to the wall by the time we got to him so we carried on to the customs and immigration clearing dock where a raft of border police and officials in fancy outfit were standing in wait for us.

Explaining our friends' difficulty to the officials we obtained permission to remain on the dock after clearing out until the issues with the other boat's transmission were dealt with.

By radio, we not being allowed to leave the customs dock, we discussed the mechanical issues with our friends.  About an hour had elapsed before they informed us that it was not a transmission problem at all.  It seems their shifter, the lever that moves a cable to shift the transmission into forward or reverse had jammed.

"It was bad maintenance" announced the skipper.  "The shifter was plugged solid with dirt and corrosion.  I have it apart now and all is in hand.  We will be underway in less than an hour."

Happy the mechanical failure was so easily remedied (thoughts of waiting for transmission parts in Morocco had our blood run cold) we departed Saidia for Cartagena.  True to his word the other captain left about an hour and a half after us and arrived in Cartagena about two hours after us which also meant, unfortunately for him, about two hours after dark.

Next day I visited our friends' boat to check on their well being.  The skipper reviewed what had happened and placed the blame squarely on the very bad maintenance habits of the previous owner of his boat.

Now here is the lesson.  The fault was placed on the previous owner.  The previous owner had, according to the skipper, not maintained his boat.  Our friend had owned the boat for several months and had been known to brag about all the work he had done on the boat.

In a moment of disbelief I asked the skipper if he had not taken the shifter apart before leaving Almerimar thinking but not saying that if he had done so he would have discovered the problem.

"No" was the curt response.  "I was a commercial fisherman before I bought this boat and in ten years I never once took apart a shifter mechanism.  They never fail."

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