November's FC - Ronhilda's Quickest Ever

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Submitted by Brian Humber on

Due to LW springs 0.7M  this weekend being at the time I needed to be going over Chicester Bar, I had arranged to leave on Friday. Friday came with no wind and not a little fog so it was going to be mostly motoring towards Portsmouth. However on departing Chichester Marina I found I had no throttle control or engine power above tickover.  So we had to return to base with the Skipper at the Wheel (your scribe) shouting Half Ahead, Dead Slow etc at the acting Chief Engineer inside the cabin (Andy Chatterton) who then leant in over the fanbelt and water pipes at 90C to pull on the throttle the required amount. We thus returned to the berth and tied up, the FC for this weekend having lasted a little under two hours.

I had once done this before sailing through the Suez Canal with no engine room telegraph, instructions to the Engine Room being by the normal telegraph on the bridge which was actually broken, the instructions were written down out of the sight of the Pilot, by a Deck Cadet, then he ran to the top of the Engine Room skylight threw the message on a piece of string down to the top of the engine 100 foot below, where an engineering cadet took the message to the engine control station a further 50 feet down on the side of the engine for engineers to speed up, stop or go astern. Apparently the pilot made a formal complaint about the ships manoeuvring as we got too close the the ship ahead's chuff on more than one occasion. However we were not delayed in transiting the canal by repairing the telegraph which was all the shipping company was bothered about.

I did consider working the engine on Ronhilda in a similar fashion for this weekend but the risks to arms from the fanbelt and scadling from the water piping meant this was not worth it (what a considerate Skipper), so I decided to cancel the FC for us and commence repairs. A new cable was found just as the supplier was shutting for the weekend but as it was dark the work was left till Saturday as previous experience dictated I would have to empty all the stern lockers to gain access to the engine from the side through the cockpit floor.

Saturday saw the repairs undertaken and completed by 3 o'clock in the afternoon.

The fracture of the solid core throttle wire had occurred not on bend but at the cockpit control lever (sometimes known as a Morse control lever). These devices which are very common on yachts have a built in stress point on the throttle cable, in that where the solid extension is crimped into the wire, the design bends this connection point every time the throttle is opened or shut. Hence once the fatigue life has been reached the end fitting snaps off the wire just inside the outer sheath. Poor design and avoidable with some thought by the manufacturers but typical of the cheap skate cottage industry designs you get with the leisure marine industry. Just because it's got Volvo etc on it does not mean it is a good design or well built  - far from it. ( Or they are quite happy for customers having to buy and fit new throttle cables every few years.) Thank goodness the engine on Ronhilda which is now 25 years old is a Ford and not one of those cheap and nasty Volvo efforts I see people replacing at great expense after just a few years.

Hey ho, onwards to December FC I suppose.