Thursday, 24 December 2015

Simon's Town - Boat Maintenance Part 1

Hi everyone,
We've been using the last few days before Christmas to start preparing Zen Again for the Atlantic Ocean.

There are excellent services on-site here at False Bay Yacht Club.  The Raymarine man (Robert at Galley Electronic Services) is outstanding and the stainless steel man (Baden at BR Stainless) is too.  The chandlery is small but the staff are very helpful.

So here is the "done" list...

  • Polished all stainless steel
  • Washed manganese dust from yankee jib and mainsail
  • Washed manganese dust from all running rigging, end-for-ending sheets
  • Replaced worn webbing strap securing boom brake's "figure-of-eight" to boom
  • Cleaned the hull, skeg, rudder and propellor (keel still to do), watched by the occasional seal
  • Serviced the engine - freshwater system is still clear of black debris
  • Removed old autopilot ram mounting block (see below)
  • Cleaned the upholstery - we use AutoGlym which works very well
  • Replenished depleted consumables - engine oil, whipping twine, electrical tape etc
  • Obtained quotes for new anchor chain and another new autopilot ram
  • Repaired tattered ensign and club burgees

The short life of our autopilot rams has been one of two troublesome problems we've faced this year.  The other was the engine freshwater system problem.  Robert, the local Raymarine guy, is well connected to Raymarine HQ and has helped us figure out why the rams are wearing out so quickly.  Raymarine HQ say they have only seen wear like ours during their accelerated lifetime testing - where they deliberately work test units "to death".  So why is this happening?  Here's what we think is contributing...

  • Raymarine's "autolearn" calibration process doesn't always work well
    • In our case it set Rudder Gain and Counter Rudder parameters very high
    • It did so on both our autopilot systems which were calibrated independently
    • These settings caused the pilot to work very hard
    • We reduced the user-accessible Response parameter but apparently this doesn't entirely negate the effect of the two other parameters
  • We have a (Raymarine supplied) 150mm extension on the tiller pilot's shaft to reach the tiller
    • The longer the arm the more likely resonance will occur and accelerate wear
    • Our autopilot is mounted on the starboard side so on port tack extension can be large
  • We have the tiller pin at the recommended distance from the rudder shaft
    • Apparently this can be shortened to reduce the stroke needed by the pilot
    • This is only the case on boats with reasonably light helms (such as Zen Again)
  • I'm still not fully convinced the tiller pilot rams are designed for the same life as below-deck units, but am willing to try to optimise our installation to improve their longevity
We plan to address these issues by...
  • Manually changing the parameters via the "Dealer Calibration" settings (Done)
  • Fitting s/s mounting rails which move the outboard end of the ram inboard by 150mm
  • Fitting mounting rails (and electrical sockets) both port and starboard
  • Fitting two sets of mounting points on mounting brackets and tiller - one 150mm aft of the  nominal placement
  • A nice feature of multiple pins on the tiller and mounts on both sides is fault tolerance
If we can significantly reduce wear on the rams we'll be very happy!

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