We were keen to keep making progress despite not being able to sail anywhere. The wind generator was the next installation as we wanted to make North Star as self sufficient as possible; utilising the wind to charge our batteries instead of the engine. Over the next few days our wind generator came to life, mounted high above the bimini at the stern of the boat to avoid any accidents.
After, (particularly my) bad experiences with the home made composting toilet we had on board, the decision was made to replace it with a properly designed boat toilet. Fortunately, when the composting toilet was installed we kept the necessary plumbing and pedestal in case we ever wanted to fit a proper boat toilet again and therefore the installation went ahead without a hitch. It would be an understatement to say that this decision pleased me, and from now on the toilet will be seen as my thrown.
Despite multiple mechanics taking a look at our engine, we were still bemused as to what the exact problem was. Our next conclusion was that the thermostat on the engine was not working properly, and therefore not opening and releasing the coolant to circulate the engine when it reached a temperature of 80 degrees. The next logical step was to order and fit a new thermostat. However, Gibraltar is a particularly difficult location to get anything shipped too, so this set us back a week.
We undertook our ‘mega shop’ whilst we were waiting for the thermostat, to stock up the boat ready to leave for the canaries. This was quite an undertaking, 2 trolleys, a tonne of tinned foods and 80 litres of water later the conundrum of fitting it all into the boat was our next task. With this successfully managed Sam turned his attention to plotting a route to the canaries.
Getting out the Gibraltar strait can be testing, with the winds whipping around the headlands, the tides at play and the other shipping it had to be carefully worked out to leave most effectively. With everything stowed and the boat fully stocked we were ready to go as soon as the thermostat was in.
Once it arrived our contortionist of a mechanic managed to fit it in the engine by squeezing in through one of the cockpit lockers. The moment of truth came when we tested the engine, and to the great disappointment of us all, the engine was still over heating. This meant despite our preparations, we weren’t going anywhere.
After two weeks in Gibraltar we were starting to lose hope we would ever have a working engine. The mechanic suggested to us that it may be a head gasket issue, and the cost of investigating and replacing this would be extensive. This left us with some difficult decisions to make. We had to consider how much money we had already spent on repairing the engine, its age (36 years old) and the ability of both finding the parts and finding mechanics able to fit them. We were torn between continuing to repair it along the way, or cut our losses and get a new engine.
After days of agonising over it we made a decision, we were to get a new engine. Sam and his Dad managed to source and order a Beta 35 engine relatively speedily. By this point we knew we would have a reliable engine going forward. With a 4 to 5 week lead time until it would be delivered we knew we had some time to play with. Christmas and New Year were coming up so we decided to go home to our families for the festive period and return in January to remove the old engine and install the new engine.