Planning For Peril
Whale Song’s upgrades left nothing to chance.
In the Bahamas, we worked on noting where Whale Song’s equipment and systems could be improved for her circumnavigation. We couldn’t reduce the 8.5-foot draft, which would have been handy in this shallow archipelago and in others we would visit on our travels. However, the two caterpillar 3406 mains and caterpillar 3340s spinning two Kilo-Pak 65 kW generators were cooled via keel coolers so the sand that the props stirred didn’t affect them. But we noticed that powering over steep seas in rough passages between the islands caused the sea chest supplying water to cool the Naiad stabilizers and the air conditioners to gulp air. This shut the systems down, so we had to change the intake and install self-priming pumps. The list grew beyond that — fast. The booster pumps for the 1,000-gallon-per-day Sea recovery watermakers, being mounted too high, also sucked air. They had to be lowered below the waterline. The watermaker filtering system, adequate for the plankton-poor Caribbean, needed an upgrade with gravel filters for the rich, cold seas ahead of us.
The derrick-style boom made launching the tender difficult if the boat rolled even slightly. Exposed to the salt air, its electric motors wouldn’t last — we needed a hydraulic crane. In the coming years Whale Song would anchor most of the time, and we saw that the windlass wasn’t centered over the chain lockers — one of the crew would have to flake the heavy three-quarter-inch chain as it was coming in. moving the windlass, a heavy beast designed for small ships, wasn’t an option. At the very least, we needed an additional platform in the chain locker for the “chain flaker.”
I noticed a lot of water in the chain locker. The chains dripped and, in heavy head seas, water ran down the hawse pipes under the windlass. The space had no pipe to the main bilge pump system. The pipes from bilges in three other compartments created by watertight bulkheads ran to the manifold in the engine room, but the chain locker needed its own independent pump. Drilling for its outlet through five-eighths inch of steel proved what a stout ship we had.
By the end of March, a Syncrolift had deposited all of Whale Song’s 280 tons on the hard at thunderbolt marine in Savannah, Georgia. The yacht started shedding equipment — rudders, propellers and shafts, stabilizer fins, bow-thruster propeller, life rafts, skin fittings, fire extinguishers, etc. — creating a mound under the stern, all ready to be inspected, updated, repaired or replaced. The interior was changing too. The salon furniture went out and the new layout designed by owner grant Wilson took shape. All staircase passages received stainless handholds to keep people on their feet in rough weather.
A new computer processor with two large monitors replaced small digital plotters. With the two Furuno 75-mile radars, the pilothouse looked fit for the oceans. The filtering units for the engines and generators were boosted to a larger size — helpful with dirty fuel sold in remote places. Men crawled into all of the tanks looking for corrosion.
On June 1, Wilson chased off the electrician testing the crane and the ABS Nautical Systems inspector, who had been putting me in tight spaces to demonstrate that every alarm worked. Whale Song dropped down the Wilmington river and powered north on gentle Atlantic swells. We soon discovered that the keel coolers were leaking. The yard workers had made gaskets instead of ordering them from the manufacturer. Whale Song would have to haul out again fairly soon. After farewell parties and a Fourth of July celebration on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Whale Song moved to Fairhaven Shipyard, where mechanics carefully removed four keel coolers (of an efficient but fragile design) and popped in the new seals. The compartments housing the stabilizer actuators had waterproof, bolt-on covers. Made of heavy steel, they were impossible to handle in the bowels of the ship at sea. Fairhaven Shipyard welders replicated them with aluminum. To our deck equipment we added a smaller tender with an aluminum bottom for rocky landings, drums of stern warps for Antarctica and the Chilean channels and a stern anchor. We were as ready as we’d ever be!
Around the World Aboard Whale Song
Planning For Peril