Piper Boat Owners' Club

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The Kinky Cable Calamity by Patrick Marks

Looking back, I should have realised.  There was a markedly sharp bend in the gear cable as it comes away from the clamp on the gear box.  The inner wire eventually snapped at this point as we came in to moor, so no ‘brakes’.  “Cut the engine and we’ll drift in”.  With no other boats, a good bank and bollards, we were lucky - this time!

After tea, a pleasant evening was spent in the engine hole, first to assess the problem and then to remove the broken cable - easier said than done.  To disconnect the gear cable at the top end, it was necessary to remove the speed cable first whilst trying to avoid short circuiting the live electrics alongside (which I didn’t). 

The next stage was to rig up something temporary and this is where a mop, or broom or any other stick comes in handy.  By screwing one of those curtain-wire eyes near one end of the stick and attaching to the gear arm with a longish nut and bolt, you are nearly there.  It may be some time before you can get a new cable, so you will want to put the engine cover back - at least partly - but the broomstick is now in the way. 

If you trim some bits off the corners of the cover it almost fits and you just need to cut a notch out of the support rail to complete the bodge and add some sawdust to the mess in the bilge.

Another curtain eye in the top of the stick will enable a bit of spare sink chain to hold the stick up each time you offer up the floor to check the fit.  This is the answer to that common question, “ Why don’t you throw away all that junk?”

I had a good night’s sleep, dreaming about how you lay on your side under the counter with the back of your neck against the weed-hatch and your head resting on the cold uxter plate as you heroically fiddled with small nuts and bolts against a hot gear-box.  Tip: use one of the ‘Nyloc’ anti-vibration nuts from the cable clamp to avoid disappointment.


I cast off with a mixture of apprehension and smugness, but found it tricky to find the gears and quickly made an indicator plate using paper, biro and duck tape.


It was a bit sticky coming out of reverse and I was anxious not to break my new linkage at a critical moment so a two person command chain was set up where She (who must be obeyed) gave the orders and I changed gear.



Being a long way from anywhere, I had phoned a friend (Henk) to find a source of new cable, but after extensive research, the best advice was to limp along and hope for a boatyard.  Late in the afternoon, having negotiated a crossing of the Amsterdam-Rijn Kanaal via huge locks, and traversed the beautiful city of Utrecht I spotted that boatyard. It looked like Fred Dibnah’s back yard and was the only one for several days, but they had the correct cable in stock.  Fitting it was easier as I had practised the procedure the previous evening and managed to drop fewer bits into the bilge (although I did succeed in blowing a different fuse).
I wrote in my editorial that our boat had performed faultlessly while in the Netherlands, which was tempting fate. I should have paid more attention to that kink, and carried a spare cable.  But I had carried a spare on Owlet for umpteen years and never needed it, so with a new boat I had become complacent. Well, now I’m slightly wiser and feel somewhat older. That’s life! 

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