May 12, 2013

Rescuing capsized batteries

HOW DO YOUR START your diesel auxiliary engine if most of the acid has leaked out of the batteries? If you’ll bear with me for a moment, I’ll tell you.

Many years ago I was interested in buying a Colin Archer, one of a famous breed of full-keeled sailing fishing boats, pilot boats, and rescue vessels used in Norway a hundred years ago. This particular one was, in fact, called Colin Archer, and she was sailed singlehanded from Europe to Durban, South Africa, where I was living then, by a man called Donald Shave.  He was not quite singlehanded in that he had his dog with him all the way, but I don’t think the dog was a lot of help with the sailing. He certainly never stood watches, not even dogwatches.

Shave sold Colin Archer to a local man who had become quite famous for being probably the world’s most successful mercenary soldier, self-styled Colonel Mike Hoare, whose private army had fought in what was then the Belgian Congo.  Hoare was the most unlikely looking land pirate, not at all riproaring or rapacious. He did not swash his buckles or rip his roars.  He was what he looked like, a quiet Irish accountant. But naturally he had other hidden talents.

I had known him from the time when he was running safaris overland from Durban into the Okavango Swamps of Bechuanaland, today’s Botswana.  I had gone along with him on an expedition to Ngamiland as a photographer.

When Hoare decided to sell Colin Archer I thought I might want her, so we took her for a test sail in the Indian Ocean off Durban one blustery day when the onshore northeaster was piping up .

As we were coming into shallower water, approaching the harbor entrance on the way back, the yacht was thrown onto her beam ends when a large breaking wave caught her amidships.

She recovered herself in due course, but Hoare found he couldn’t start the diesel to enter port. A little exploration down below soon discovered the cause. The ship’s batteries had leaked most of their acid while she lay on her side.

To my astonishment, Hoare immediately filled them up with fresh water.  I was very dubious about that, but when he pressed the starter button the engine dutifully turned over and roared to life.

I have never had an opportunity to make  personal use of this valuable tip, and  I thank goodness for that, but it made such an impression on me that it is permanently tucked away into a corner of my brain . . . just in case.

Today’s Thought
We sometimes had those little rubs which Providence sends to enhance the value of its favours.
— Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield

“What can I do for you, young man?”
“Sorry to have to ring your door bell, sir, but I’ve come to collect your daughter and my car’s horn isn’t working.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)


Anonymous said...

So, John - was this the original Colin Archer that is now used a floating museum? There do not seem to be many details on what happened to the boat after she was discharged from service until found again in the US in the 70's...would make a great blog!

John Vigor said...

I doubt that she was the original Colin Archer, but I honestly don't know. There were, of course, many Colin Archer-designed boats built and used for different purposes, including pilot boats, search-and-rescue vessels, and fishing boats. I can't say how Mike Hoare's boat fitted into the scheme of things, but there is a lot of information about Colin Archers in general on the internet. Just Google 'Colin Archer Norwegian sailboats' and see what happens.


John V.

Gary said...

I grew up going to school with Mike Hoares son Simon. I would play at his house after school....this was in Hilton near Pietermaritzburg.
The sign at the end of the driveway "The Hoare house" :)

BB said...

"Mad Mike", as legendary as the yacht he was sailing. He was certainly adept at getting out of sticky situations. I wonder where he learnt that trick.

R Wright said...

I went on the Colin Archer when Donald Shave completed his epic cruise from Europe via S America to Cape and finally Durban; have some pix of her; she looks just like the grainy B&W pic on the
website. In their gallery its the 10th picture from the left. In the picture the stern hatch has an added structure making it look double height. Central deck-house looks simply/crudely rebuilt, Shave had a really beautiful original-timber deck-house. Bow hatch looks the same. Roger in London 2014