Tinkering in Townsville

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September 8th 2013
Published: September 8th 2013
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We had an uneventful night at Cape Cleveland, which was about a week ago now.

We were keen to visit the beach at the tip of the cape and the lighthouse there but not to battle the mile long trip in the dinghy into a headwind. So we left early while the winds blew from the south, and things were going well until about half way when the engine started missing a couple beats.

Naomi looked back at the motor with some concern so I tried to reassure her it was just a blip. Soon after, the engine came to an abrupt stop and the dinghy drifted to a halt. Some tinkering with the engine and vigorous tugging of the pull cord would not bring it back to life, so I took to rowing. First back toward Luna Ray but against the wind, current and waves we didn't seem to be moving, so we turned toward land. At least this way we were making progress but after about 30 minutes of rowing we were presented with a shore strewn with rocks covered in oyster shells. We paddled around in the shallow water looking for a place to rest and drain the water collecting in the dinghy floor, whilst Alex's hat blew off in the wind. Naomi held the boat knee deep in water and soft mud while I got to land and went to collect the hat but couldn't find it - it must have sunk.

With no land to stop on, and water in the dinghy now up to our ankles, I was grateful we brought a waterproof bag for our things but it was about now we found the bag was not waterproof! Most of our things got wet but fortunately my camera and Naomi's phone were spared. We continued paddling/punting our way along the shore, leaving a trail of muddy water. Finally we drew close to the sand beach we thought we could rest at but long before we reached it we were grounded in soft mud. Standing in it, mud would come up half way to the knees and made it near impossible to move. Not keen to make the desperate trudge to the beach nor wait until evening for the tide to rise again we pushed ourselves back out to deeper water again.

We were not sure if we could get back to Luna Ray as the north setting current might push us off course too much but in our favour the wind had turned a little more from the east, and I could see a couple of tinnies way out in the bay which could act as rescue boats if we got swept out to sea. However, with Naomi bailing the water out of the dinghy with our now empty water bottle, I kept up a steady pace and we got back to Luna Ray without any bother.

So we spent another day without stepping on land, and as it became more rolly, we looked forward to our stay at the Townsville marina the next day.

We left early Sunday as we were meeting family in Townsville that same morning. We had a steady run on a beam reach under jib alone with our speed increasing from four to six knots as the wind built up. On the radio we heard that our now new PM had been running up Castle Hill as he was in town. There were a couple of boats heading out as we motored along the dredged channel into the marina, then some kayaks to avoid and then just before entering we had to slow down... to let a bi-plane in before us! The "Red Baron" tied up to fuel wharf with us to pick up tourists for joy-flights.

Once we had tied up to our berth, we headed down to a coffee shop on The Strand for our rendez vous with family from Naomi's side who lived in Townsville and Charters Towers. After they had to leave, we went back to the boat for the usual clean up and to take off the leaky raw water pipe. I left it with the chandlery that was near to opening in the marina - luckily the owner was there on a Sunday as he was still stocking the shop and he said he would try a source a replacement.

In the afternoon we strolled down The Strand again. There's a great communal kids water park there which Alex loved though kept his distance from getting too wet, and off the beach some speed kite-boarding competitions were racing in front of Magnetic Island. This month there's a heap of activities happening in Townsville and all along the strand were a variety of art pieces on public display.

The next day the guy from the chandlery had spent a lot of time but was unable to come up with a replacement for the hose, but suggested trying Repco. Naomi's aunt Debbie drove us out there after a medical appointment for Naomi but they directed me to a hose shop who also said they couldn't help, not without specific engine info to find the part. As neither the pump nor the pipe I was connecting were original parts of the engine I resorted to buying just a generic bent hose to match the larger pump end with the plan to shorten the hose and bulk up the pipe end with some pipe repair tape.

I attached this the next morning, using the gasket gel I had bought in Airlie Beach for a good seal and after letting it set for 24 hours it worked. The pipe was no longer leaking but a drip was still coming from the pump - seemingly from the cover for the impeller - again! Thought I would reseal the cover on again with my new gasket stuff but I could not loosen one of the screws holding it on. I tried various things over the afternoon and next morning, getting very frustrated in the cramped locker space but in the end gave up and put the other screws back in.

With the stopcock back open I had another look with the aid of a mirror and found the leak was actually coming from the pump body itself. I'm told it probably just need seals replaced but I had spent enough time on this now, and knowing that getting the pump out could be very difficult I covered the area below the drip with aluminium foil to divert the water into the bilge rather than rust the engine mount further. At least I knew it wasn't in danger of suddenly bursting and would deal with it later. Our two night stay in Townsville had now been doubled, though with a strong wind warning about we weren't overly keen to be at anchor in it.

In the meantime we often took advantage of being to so close to the beach-front, parks and shops, including Coles and McDonalds of course. In search of a rivet gun we went the other direction and in
Artwork on The StrandArtwork on The StrandArtwork on The Strand

Magnetic Island in background
only ten minutes were down by the docks and marina on the Ross Creek. Surrounded by nightclubs, coffee shops, and many period buildings it felt quite charming, I was getting to like Townsville a lot.

Gave the engine a run to check on the leak now that we planned to leave the next day. But now it was idling too high, and the revs would increase as you tried to put it into gear and in the process I happen to try the bow thruster and that was dead too! We were not going anywhere soon, and booked a mechanic for Saturday.

Gave the outboard another try and to my surprise she sparked into life so we went for a cruise around the marina. As we were heading back she started to splutter gently again and power dropped. We pulled into an empty berth so I could take closer look and with no obvious problem except that we couldn't tilt the engine (again), put the cover back on and she wouldn't start again, so paddled back to Luna Ray.

As we lifted the engine onto the back of the yacht we saw quite a lot of oil was leaking from various areas of its leg...oh dear, with all her other problems it was looking like she wasn't worth effort of repairing, and she also dripped oil on Luna Ray's transom!

Found a broken connection in the wiring for the bow thruster so that was fixed, and the engine problem was easily repaired as some of gear/accelerator mechanism had come loose. Could have figured this out myself but while there the mechanic felt that our rev counter was overestimating and in fact it would be better to set the idling revs higher. Asked him about a couple of other minor issues to make his visit more worthwhile.

That night we had dinner BBQ at Aunt Debbie and Ralf's house with their kids Katie, Matthew and grandson Toby. With the boat all fixed and the winds easing off we could leave the next day. However when I rang this morning to check with the office as Naomi had paid until Monday and was told there were no refunds we stayed another day.

It was quite overcast so made for a good day to climb Castle Hill though in Naomi's eyes no day was a good day for this climb. The climb to the start of "The Goat Track" was steep enough to get us breathless and the path itself was rough too with many big knee straining steps, so we abandoned the pram early. Alex coped well with a hand or two to hang on to, but had to be carried near the top. Had a look from the several platforms at the top which gave great views over the town by the water we had been exploring for the last week, as well as the bulk of the town behind the hill.

So tomorrow, after I leave our outboard in the "free" drop area in case someone can be bothered to repair it, we will head out to Magnetic Island. Though we'll be back soon as we have ordered a brand new dinghy and outboard to be delivered to the marina.


8th September 2013

cool dude
how about the cool dude posing in his pirate suit, I love the ad on Chanel 10" it looks like Alex, he us so mature now and almost 2yrs, two birthdays. Coming soon, good to hear your back. Xxxginny
8th September 2013

Hi all, I'm missing your drunken spider course maps Luke! It seems your karma is not too good re dinghys', did the insurance coy come to the party with the one that started it's own circumnavigation?

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