Into the Arctic!

By Chris Bray 8 November 2013
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Chris and Jess take some time out in Nuuk, Greenland, to make some much needed repairs to Teleport.

AFTER SPENDING 13 HECTIC days repairing everything while in Greenland’s brightly painted and picturesque capital, Nuuk, we’re thankfully on our way again at last, officially in the Arctic now, with a fully-working engine and ready for more adventures!

While in Nuuk, a kindly policeman and customs chappie gave us a lift into town with that seized starter motor (it’s a prehistoric ‘dynastart’ actually). When I called past the workshop, a mechanic said, “I’ve never seen one as broken as this. It’s not worth repairing.” Inside it was a snarled mess of tangled wire and metal shards. Somehow the wire windings on both the armature and the field windings had ripped themselves apart and intertwined. “But, amazingly,” he continued, “I found this brand new one down in our shed; it’s been there since I can remember.” It gleamed as he held it up. “You are very lucky, because it’s probably the only one in Greenland!” It fit the old mounts almost exactly – nothing I couldn’t fix with a hammer and a blow-torch, anyway! What luck!

After test running the engine for a while, I found the dynastart grew too hot (likely because I’m not using the charging side of it as the old regulator doesn’t work), and so I have put it aside for ‘a rainy day’ when I might have time to take it apart and try to modify it to behave only as a starter. For now, though, hand-starting is fine if we can first solve the other, more major engine problems!

The next job was to sort out why our engine was getting cooling water in the cylinder. It didn’t take long to find the problem – the raw (sea) water cooling had actually rusted right through its confining galleries and busted out into the engine itself, right at point where the exhaust comes out of the side of the cylinder, letting cooling water flood back in. Not a pleasant discovery. I slung the head of the engine into a sack and heaved it doggedly up the 200-step staircase out of the harbour into town to see if I could find someone who could weld the hole closed.

The first mechanic I asked took it upon himself to drive me around for hours from workshop to workshop trying to find someone who could fix it. Everyone shook their head and said it could not be welded, and just as I was starting to dread that this would spell the end for our little engine, at last one guy said “Just glue it – use that liquid metal stuff – I’ve used it to fix things like that before!” We then drove to the shop and bought some ‘metal’ epoxy type glue designed for high temps and resistant to oils, fuels, etc. Could it be that easy? I cleaned it up, mixed up some glue, smeared a good dollop on from both sides, and with fingers crossed, moved onto the next job.

I reassembled the engine the next day after buying a torque wrench (a nifty tool that lets you tighten the huge head bolts on the engine to the exact tightness). Having also flushed a lot of rust out of the cooling chambers and tuning the engine, to my absolute delight, it started perfectly! I test ran it to see if the ‘glue’ was going to fall off, but it seems to have adhered heroically! Problem solved!

Another Problematic Encounter

Next major problem: the pitch control on the engine, which lets us go from forward to neutral and reverse, was stuck solidly in forward. Having gone through the manual and tried everything except for potential propeller problems, I unfortunately decided that we needed to get Teleport out of the water to fix it.

The problem was in the engine’s push-pull mechanism. I spent a fruitless afternoon attempting to coax the pitch control mechanism to move but to no avail; however, to get that whole combined clutch/pitch box off the front of the engine to take it apart any further, alarmingly, required the whole engine be actually lifted off its mounts and moved forward into the galley! Not something I wanted to do.

Feeling glum, I did some other jobs up the mast, and then Jess and I wandered around town running various other errands. On the way back to Teleport, we bumped into a yachtie couple – two lovely friendly English people, Les and Ali, who we’d seen sail in. And Les, being a fellow engineer, kindly said he’d pop around later and look at the engine with me. After levering and banging it like I had for over an hour, Les reluctantly admitted that he too felt to do anything further we needed to get it off the engine – i.e. lifting the whole engine, at least a two day operation. “We’ll start tomorrow,” Les kindly encouraged me, “I’ll see this project through with you.”

The next day, we set to work on cranking up the engine. We spent a pleasant day prizing it up with huge screwdrivers and tapping in with hammers, until at last she was free. We were then able to hoist the beast up, tilting it so we could take off the clutch/pitch box and hold the problem in our hands. No amount of banging with hammers and dollies could convince the piece that was supposed to move at all. Exhausted by evening, we sprayed it with WD40 and left it overnight. It still wouldn’t budge the next morning. Completely defeated, Jess and I lugged the thing all the way into a metal workshop, hoping they could force it out with a hydraulic press. A team of six people dropped their current project and spent over an hour on ours. Just as I was getting worried that they’d smash the brittle cast-iron housing, leaving us with a completely useless engine, suddenly one of them exclaimed something in Danish, held up a ruler, banged it again, and grinned. It was moving!

At last, Teleport was ‘All systems go’! There were several times when we really feared that we might be looking at a new engine, a delay that would likely mean we’d have to leave Teleport here in Nuuk for the season, then the winter. We motored past the iceberg that had drifted right into the harbor (very rare, apparently) and returned to wait for the weather window to leave.

Sailing to New Adventures

We decided along with Les and Ali to leave the very next morning, catching a firm breeze up the coast. No rest for the wicked hey! Rather than slowly day-hop up North, we decided to head out and high-tail it direct to Disko Bugt (pronounced Disko Bay – apparently an absolutely stunning place with a huge glacier, towns of dog-sleds, etc.), making use of the weather.

So we were at sea all day Saturday, and during Sunday we ceremoniously crossed the Arctic Circle – 66.5 deg North marking the invisible line above which, in mid-summer, you get at least one day of perpetual daylight – the ‘midnight sun’. We opted to slip inside the coastal islands and cut off a good twenty miles, following a very well charted ‘inside passage’, and we’re glad we did. It was beautiful – glassy calm, motor sailing around countless islands of spectacular scenery and rock formations, past the occasional berg, spotting huge groups of seals ripping the water apart, and even huge whales diving, lifting their immense tails into the sky before sinking out of sight.

Today we woke early and are currently steaming across the endless, berg-strewn expanse of Disko Bugt towards our long-awaited dream spot of Jakobshavn – a town described as ‘a busy fishing port’, which also breeds 5,000+ sled dogs. The cruising guide says, “Undoubtedly one of the wonders of the world!” Once safely there, Jess and I intend to take a much-needed day or two out to relax (there’s no wind anyway for sailing); we’re feeling a bit burnt out, and can’t wait for a break!

Follow Chris and Jess on their live tracking map here.