Engine trouble and kidnappings

Engine repairs

There’s a Yiddish proverb: “Man plans, God laughs.” The cruiser’s equivalent is to say that our plans are written in the sand, at low tide.

Yes, we still make plans. Usually, they’re weather driven: designed to avoid hurricane/cyclone/typhoon seasons on the grand scale, and pick days for optimal sailing on immediate front. The current “big plan” is next year’s Indian Ocean passages, starting early in 2015 and winding a slow path through a number of countries before South Africa. It’s trying to nail down any nearer term plans that has proved impossible. I hesitate share any, because every time we make them– even in a general sense (like, hey, let’s go to the Philippines this year!)- they change. Anything we commit to now will probably change a few more times!

Palawan Beach
Palawan. Source: alantankenghoe, Flickr

We had revised routing earlier based on the kidnappings in NE Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, decided to go north to Palawan island in the Philippines instead. News then came out that a couple disappeared from their cruising boat off Palawan. The same rebel group, Abu Sayaff (ASG), was fingered.

It’s disturbing, because:

1.       ASG kidnaps for profit. This would be their first cruising boat
2.       It’s Most of their activity lately has been in the Sulu archipelago, not Palawan

3.       They have a history of keeping hostage for years (or, killing them)
4.       A spokesman for the Abu Sayaff has stated that, “We have been trying hard to get an American because they may think we are afraid of them.” He added, “We want to fight the American people.” Great!

However, it seems just as possible that the couple simply had an accident or became crocodile lunch…as has happened recently in that area. Some reports say when their boat was found, nothing was missing- cash, laptops, etc., and towels were in the cockpit with the swim ladder down. Reports vary enough it’s hard to know where speculation and truth nest together, so we wait to see if more definitive information comes to light.

El Nido Palawan Big Lagoon
Palawan. Source: nenborromeo, Flickr

Waiting is easy, because we’re delayed getting our engine serviced. Parked in lovely Telaga Harbour near the Thai/Malay border for the duration, we spent nearly a month longer than we expected there as it dragged out. Then, there were the problems heading south down the peninsula. Dealing with the outcome of power problems in one marina added a few days, but the big culprit was when our newly tuned engine developed an irritating habit of overheating that defied diagnosis.

“This is frustrating” might be one of the more common phrases lately.

Gold- the Yanmar shop manual

But getting stressed out or frustrated by delays is pointless. It’s just the way it is (although there was no avoiding the stress of losing our engine, in little wind and more current, in the shipping lanes for one of Asia’s busiest ports. Yeah- that was stressful!). We could get worked up over the delays, but what good will that do? Smile, work on the problem, and try to make the most of the situation.

And yes, although it really is frustrating, the guys from Supreme Power Services have been great. To try and get the overheating problem solved they’ve spent more than 8 additional days on Totem so far, commuting from Kuala Lumpur to various location where Totem is. Yes, something happened while servicing that started it all, but they’ve generally done solid work at a fair price and they’re not charging for any of the extra time. Jamie’s been impressed with what they know, and happy with how much he’s learned a lot from them. Plus, they slid him a shop manual for our engine, which is you would think was gold plated!

This morning, we finally had a clean bill of health on the state of the engine: a presumed combination of air getting in (bits not put back together exactly right) and a bad radiator cap combining to cause the problems with different symptoms and under different conditions. So there was some irony when as they stood on the dock preparing to depart, Jamie realized the alternator was not properly charging, and discovered a broken diode. Because we are waiting for a replacement charger to use shore power or our generator, and the rainy season isn’t helping our green power generation… well, this getting juice into the battery bank just became a problem, and once again, our engine is not working.

Here we go again! I think I’ll grab the pilot charts for the Indian Ocean and make some popcorn.

Mellow go-with-the-flow types know we love it when you read this on Sailfeed website.