in the life of Northabout 5
shakedown for Northabout at Tuktoyaktuk, old skills re-visited and Northabout's
"Sparks" the remarkable Gearoid O'Riain.
arrived art 3am to Tuktoyaktuk, with Paddy and John on watch, we slid in among
the barges, loaded and ready for dispatch to the settlements along the Canadian
Arctic coast under the silhouette of yet another DEW station.
Kevin and I helped with the anchor, when Paddy picked the spot.
I awoke again at 8.30 local time it was raining, just like a typical morning at
Ringsend Dock. Tugboats spoke on
the VHF to bargemen, as we breakfasted, we discussed the list of things to be
done today. There was a mechanical
steering problem, a radio transmission problem, engine oils and waters to be
checked, diesel to be purchased and loaded, Canadian customs to be exited,
shopping for fresh vegetables, and showers all round if possible. I was
allocated the steering and engine jobs with Jarlath, Gearóid "our
sparks", was looking for the radio fault; he had already been on a land
line trying to contact our man at home (Brendan Minish): the problem effected
all outside communication including weather and ice reports and had our e-mail
and voice communications out of action. Paddy
dealt with the customs man who called as we were getting ready; he was in the
company of local RCMP better known as the Mounties. Kevin, John, Paddy and Mick took a lift with the Mountie to
town with the customs man to do the town duties.
Jarlath , Gearoid and I, stayed for the maintenance.
stripped out the offending steering component.
It was a steering arm connection to the rudder, it was bent and cracked,
and would have to be replaced which meant making a new component - it was a
threaded adaptor at one end, made from stainless steel, with a finished diameter
to connect to a universal joint at the other - we needed a machine shop to make
one or access to a lathe so we could fabricate it ourselves.
We enquired from Tom Edmunds, the Harbour
Manager of NTCL, a transport company whose jetty we had tied up to,
regarding machining resources in "Tuk".
We were directed to Wilson Adey who operated and maintained a couple of
generating stations, as the best hope of our salvation.
Word was sent out to find Wilson, he turned up at the jetty at 2pm.
We showed him our problem. He
had a lathe and micrometers, he would give me access to them.
My colleagues looked dubious, they are used to seeing me, dressed in a
suit, with little knowledge of my past life as a mechanical engineering fitter,
at which, I was self-employed over twenty years ago.
I had turned many threads in my day.
I departed with Wilson who told me he was from Newfoundland, and had come
to Tuktoyaktuk, for six months twenty years ago, and found himself still here a
nursemaid to four CAT generating sets. His
ancestors came from Scotland. We
first went in search of a piece of Stainless Steel.
Wilson located a 1" stainless bolt, from which we cut the head off
with a disk grinder. Then Wilson brought me to his "special workshop", a
forty foot container, where there was a brand new Lathe and a set of carbide
cutters, a thread pitch gauge and a micrometer. I had no excuses.
about turning the screw end top diameter to size, getting under its hardened
skin in an anxious moment. It was
"free cutting" enough and produced a good finish once I had found the
appropriate speeds and feeds. Like
riding a bicycle, I was soon setting the tool height, and getting the right
raked tool for the job. Then to
find the correct gear combination to yield a pitch of 13 threads per inch.
The tables on the machine were easy to follow and soon I was engaging the
feed screw and cutting a sixty degree angle thread.
As I was doing this, Wilson turned up with a split die 13 UNC, thanks be
to god! With it I finished the thread.
The other end was relatively easy, the biggest difficulty was to drill a
3/64 th. drill for a split pin retainer at its end. We only had one bit. It
blunted quickly barely marking the pin. Five
"sharpenings" later and five subsequent "bluntings" and a
lot of careful drilling pressure saw the come through the other end.
The part was finished. Like
a child looking for approval I showed off the part when we arrived back at the
boat; the new part modified to make
it stronger than the original. Jarlath,
the boatbuilder grinned, and had it
fitted in minutes, as Wilson and I, enjoyed a well deserved glass of Powers.
Gearoid had spent the day systematically and meticulously checking every
connection and setting on radio and antennae, finding eventually inside the
cover of the antennae tuner, a loose connection. On such things our vital communications depend.
I was once again impressed by this irrepressible young man who can
combine, cooking dinner for eight, with his normal watch duties and assist the
non IT literate mortals in sending and receiving e-mails, while he manipulates
radio and computer to find weather and ice charts on behalf of everybody.
Jarlath had adjusted and freed up the steering and topped up all oils and
fluid levels. The diesel has been loaded, the fresh vegetables had been bought
by Mick, Kevin and John, and Paddy had completed formalities.
Mounties had invited us to a brazier fire of drift wood, to sing and chat.
A baked Arctic Char, was cooked by the mercurial Gearoid, which provided
sustenance as we "Powered" our way through discussions on the social
problems of marginalized, remote communities of the world.
We departed for Point Barrow at six am next day.
Reflecting with Kevin during our first watch, we observed that the skills
of this team are proving to be up to the job, from the expert project management
of Paddy, to the sailing and navigation skills of all.
It is nice to part of such a team. FN.