Thursday, 18 August 2011

Can We Fix It? Yes We Can!

Our splendid mooring on the pontoon at Kyle of Lochalsh

On return from our unsuccessful but delightful sojourn to Portree to obtain parts for our dead engine we arrived back at Kyle of Lochalsh about 4.30pm, with the promise of having to do it all again tomorrow to collect the parts ordered.

The main character of this post - Ruach's Engine

The engine installed in Ruach is not the usual diesel engine fitted by Cornish Crabbers, but an RCA Dolphin, a novel two cylinder petrol engine that has no gearbox. To go astern, you have to stop the engine, pause, then physically start the engine in reverse. This is accomplished by having two complete ignition circuits, one for each cylinder plus a set of changeover solenoids. Each circuit is made up of a coil, a condenser and a set of points. In Ruach the points are totally inaccessible without removing the engine from the boat, so I really hoped that my diagnosis of coil or condenser was correct! The parts are similar to what used to be installed many old cars such as a Mini, Morris Minor, MG etc. So on the off chance I went to the local filling station to see if they could throw any light on finding a replacement part to prove my theory today rather than wait for tomorrows delivery to Portree and trip to recover said parts. On the way to the filling station, in total disbelief, I spied a car hire and parts shop so enquired within. 
Again accompanied by a whistling through the teeth I was told that there is no call for these parts anymore. However being a helpful guy he did tell me that up the road towards Plockton there was another garage whose proprietor used to run about in old cars like a Mk1 Jaguar a few years back. So off I now trotted (Time was getting late) to this further recommendation. When I arrived, panting from my uphill exertion, I was told by the receptionist that the guy I needed was unavailable at the moment but would be back soon. While I waited another employee saw me and asked what I wanted, I regaled the full storey to the accompaniment of more whistling through the teeth. “We had a store room full of those until last year” I was told. “We cleared them out and dumped the lot”, “No call for them anymore”. Things were looking grim. Then he said ”Let’s take a look out back”, which was actually out front, across the road in a small’ish walled enclosure where it looked like someone was carrying out some small time scrapping/salvage work.
Amongst the old washing machines that were being stripped down was a few old cars. He looked under the bonnet of all the four cars, most had no engine, but in the third the engine was in place, but no coil. However there was a condenser. The guy needed to go back to the workshop to get a cross head screwdriver to remove it and while he was gone I took a look around and low and behold I spied a coil laying on the passenger seat of an ancient Austin 1300. Was it a good one or a faulty one that had been discarded?
As mine is a charity venture he let me have the recycled parts for free in the hope that they did some good.

Back at the boat I installed just the coil and……..
We now had two cylinders purring away once again under the cockpit floor!

I still had to obtain the parts ordered from Portree and was not really looking forward to wasting yet another day doing the round trip. The irony was that the van with the parts would pass within 200 metres of where I was moored, but the driver could only deliver to the shop some thirty’odd miles away. But this is where things finally went in my favour. The following morning Julian from Skye Auto Spares rang at 9.30 when the the parts should have arrived to be told there had been a mix up and the parts were not in his early morning delivery. However the new courier COULD drop the parts off on his way through if I could flag him down at an agreed meeting place. This was done and just before noon I had the replacement parts and by mid-afternoon we were off with the tide sluicing us through Kyle Rea into the Sound of Sleat. Once again Ruach was travelling faster than her maximum speed at 10knots with a huge kick in the pants from the tide.

As a side note, as I walked back down the jetty at Kyle of Lochalsh clutching my batch of automotive spare parts I heard someone call “Dave!” which I thought at the time, that’s my name, but no one round here knows me. Only to realise that the skipper of one of the charter boats was no other than professional Yachtmaster Instructor Alison “Archie” Gemmel who I knew from her previous life in a financial institution. It was great to catch up with her again.

But back to the sailing, Penny, Ruach and Me sailed down the Sound of Sleat in winds changing from light to medium to non-existant and from broad reaching to close hauled as we cruised on towards Mallaig. We spied several porpoise in the sound, but all proved too elusive to the camera. We only had chance to spy into Loch Hourn and Loch Nevis as time was now short, but these looked spectacular with the mountainous peaks rising out of the sides of the Lochs. These delights will have to wait for another trip.
As we passed Ardvasar on the Sleat peninsular the skies ahead got blacker and blacker, but we managed to avoid the majority of the rain until a couple of miles from Mallaig. The vista all around went misty, then land disappeared. On with the waterproofs as an almost tropical storm discharged its load on us. We were looking forward to berthing at the newly installed pontoons in Mallaig harbour and a quick run ashore for a fish supper, but alas it was not to be. The pontoons were still not in commission. (They were supposed to be available from May this year) so we headed for a visitors mooring buoy, and managed to snaffle the last one available before disappearing below to the hot feast Penny had prepared.
A disappearing view across to the entrance of Loch Nevis just as we were about to enter Mallaig

Today's Factoid
Julian from Skye Auto Spares father-in-law played the classic Bass Trombone part for the soundtrack of the James Bond film Goldfinger. He also played for films such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Fiddler on the Roof & 633 Squadron and well as playing on live shows such as Opportunity Knocks.

Again the poor t'internet connection here has robbed you of more pictures of the engine, faulty coil and replacement parts, plus lots of pictures of 'no horizon' in the pouring rain. I bet you are sooooo disappointed! 
I can't wait to get back to real connectivity!!

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Catch you next time.

David H.