Posts Tagged ‘Aquagen’

Into the Light

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

The new Kubota works. And… it works well. I started it up and only had one small leak in the diesel return line. Tightening the hose clamp solved that issue. I love easy solutions with engine issues.  I’ve been running it for about 3 hours / day, easily loaded at between 5 and 30 amps for the first 10 hours. I was varying the rpm’s beginning at 1500-1800 and every new hour raising the amount. I’m now at the recommended rpm’s of 2800 and have been loading it up to 60 amps.

While I’m close to 25 hours everything is working perfectly and I AM A HAPPY CAMPER.  We’ll move off the dock and onto a mooring at Savusavu Marina. While there are three Marinas and one individual that provides moorings here; Savusavu Marina has brand new moorings with 3 helix screws, new chain and shackles, for each of their moorings. IMHO the most secure moorings in the field.

We pull off the dock and grab a mooring ready for the next 25 hour generator run and begin to look for a weather window heading west.  We’re all of 150 miles from our cyclone resting destination and need to get a move on. We have a reservation for November and I am getting a tiny bit concerned. For most of our cruising weather is our guide. But now we have a schedule and schedules and cruising are like oil and water. At times quite dangerous but mostly benign.

There are two areas we need be cautious with and ensure we have the correct weather, the Nasonisoni Passage which has a slew of rip currents out front and a nice flow of water down  the middle of the channel in the wrong conditions, and the Bligh Waters where the wind funnels between the two big islands and often is 10 kts higher than predicted with corresponding seas.

To top it all off, now a cyclone has formed N and a little W of us making any travel on the water rather iffy. We don’t like pushing our luck when we don’t need to. So we stay securely tied to a hurricane mooring and wait. We wait, and wait, and wait.

For two days we didn’t leave the boat. It was cloudy and spitting rain for almost 36 hours. In the buckets we had sitting on deck we found close to 30 cm’s in them. By the time the cyclone had moved S and a wee bit W of Fiji it was falling apart. Good news for us because that meant less wind and after a day or so smaller seas.

The first part of the trip involves us traversing the Koro Sea. Our track would take us along the S coast of Viti Levu making it a lee shore with quite often reflected waves and then the timing of the Nasonisoni passage would be almost as critical as in passages in the Tuamotus. Ah what we look forward to. The sweet joys of sailing on a schedule. NOT

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Hell VI

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

W/ isn’t feeling well. She is getting sick. Upper respiratory, some cough, some congestion. She helps….slowly.  Rarely do we both come down with being sick at the same time. I plod on. I’m getting stuff installed, checking things out, aligning the engine, alternator and water pump. Attaching the refrigeration compressor and tightening all the nuts and bolts. She’s still able to hand me tools when I’m flat out in the engine room working upside down attempting to tighten the nut or install a washer. But she’s working slow and so am I.

The next day I begin to feel sickly. The new Kubota still isn’t running but we need to get it functional and move off the dock. While we like Savusavu Marina; it’s a cruisers marina – where we can actually work on the boat without anyone getting upset, in the last 3 days there have been a couple of grab and goes by someone. The boat at the end of the dock lost their cell phone to sticky fingers and the boat immediately across from us lost a fishing rod and reel. The boat in front of them Amosea had a boarder but nothing was reported lost. We’ve started to lock ourselves in the boat at night but there is still plenty on deck vulnerable to grab and goes. So we’re working as frantically as two sick people can.

We are not debilitated, just under the weather and coughing more than we would like. We swig Robitussin like shots of whiskey, we suck on cough drops like candy. While sick we believe it is nothing aspirin and decongestants will not solve. But we know we can’t work at full capacity and we do plod on.

By days end I have everything attached and we rest. I like to sit on finished projects for a bit just to let my thoughts ferment and maybe identify something that I forgot. The last thing to do is purchase the correct engine oil. The book calls for a mono weight 30 cc/cd oil. In Panama mono weight 30 was IMPOSSIBLE to find.  I’m told I can find 30 mono in town so in the afternoon I walk; slowly,  the 2 km looking for it.  As the engine is brand spanking new I want everything to go well. I can find mono 30 but nothing with CC/CD in the specs. I find CF-4 which by some accounts is equal  to or better and one account I read said it was too good and wouldn’t do the job needed.

When cruising you make do. You do the best you can and hope it is good enough. I buy the mono CF -4 and put it in. Tomorrow we will start it up and begin our 25 hour early break in period. After 25 hours I will change the oil and continue with light loads (but not too light) till 50 hours. I’m waiting a day to start her, understanding that with the extra time thoughts may percolate up in my widened mind and remind me of something I’ve forgotten.

New Kubota Installed

New Kubota Installed

Fortunately everything appears to be a go. My biggest issue is how to keep the loads on the generator light. The alternator is like all alternators and starts out at high amps and drops down. At first I have the batteries charged to 100 %  so I can load it quite lightly and run it for an hour at a time varying the rpms and moving up to the working speed of 2800 after a few days. By about 6 hours I’m running it under more load but not fully loaded. I wish manuals were more specific but I’m told I need to do this so the cylinder wall does not get “varnished” and will mate well with the rings ensuring excellent lubrication and little to no oil burn with good compression and power. Man do I want that; especially after the mess on the last engine.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

The Plan

Monday, July 20th, 2015

Move the boat back to Neiafu, Vava’u

At the big city we need to see if there are any serpentine belts for sale. We figure the worse case scenario is that we belt directly to  the alternator and skip running the Water Maker.  This option keeps us running as we do most of the time. We run the water maker about 2 hours / week is all. The difference is that we will need to fill up with local or rain water. We have a water catchment system but now we are entering the dry season. Who knows however; with the El Nino’ year upon us we may just receive enough rain anyway.

In Neiafu we will hopefully find a place to purchase / replace the bearing for the clutch. The bearing  sounds like it is dragging a bit. Running the generator with the clutch there is no easy way for me to tell if it is the bearing or the clutch. Note: I said easy. Yes I could adjust the clutch out a bit and run it again but  that is a great deal of work  and if I have it all out I might as well just replace the bearing. If I can replace the bearing then we’ll see if I can adjust the clutch housing better to run for a few hours at a time.

Also I need to modify the Alternator so the belt doesn’t drag on the fan. For this it we need to shim out the pully an couple of mm’s. I expect I’ll find someone that can remove the nut on the pulley as I tried and couldn’t get it to budge.

Finally I need to modify the generator plate so I have better adjustment in the alignment of the unit with the generator.  When we repalced the pump in Panama the new pump (recommended by Giant) is a little larger and they say better for this application then the one provided by AquaMarine. Currently I have a great deal of difficulty replacing the belt and as would be expected (unpleasant language) when ever I need to remove or change the belt for any reason. Modifying the plate for a better adjustment would make this process easier and will not require near as much elbow grease or PG rated language.

Put it all back together and cross my fingers. That’s the plan. We’ll see how it all pans out once we arrive and begin tearing into the system.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

One Hell of a Day!

Sunday, July 19th, 2015

Saturday we were going to make  some water. The water here at the Ark Anchorage is beautiful and we are down to about 30% capacity. Started up the generator, started the water maker, set the time and sat back. About 10 minutes into the process I began to hear something a little different. A minute or so later I began to hear the engine lug and went to check. Knowing that the engine (generator) is on her last legs I figured it was working too hard and gave it more fuel. It came up a few rpms and then continued to lug down quite soon stalling out. I checked things out in the engine room. All looked good. Started up the generator, runs fine. Started the water maker (WM) and she runs for a few seconds then lugs down. Damn! Damn! DAMN!

We’d been enjoying Tonga. We spent one day at a Tongan feast with Haniteli at the Botanical Gardens. Liked him and the area so much we scheduled another day to visit the gardens and hear of the history of Tonga. Haniteli was the Minister of Agriculture and in that capacity had many dealings with the previous Kings. A 2 hour tour easily turned into three and then during lunch he kept up the story telling. Lucy (his wife) had made a coconut cake for desert and what can I say, it was good! We left there under the care of James our reserved Taxi driver who transported us both times (we had asked for him) to the Gardens and back.

Wednesday and Thursday we did some holiday shopping in town looking for unique gifts that were importable and securing some fresh stuff for our trip to the Ark.

The Ark anchorage is where the previous King of Tonga had often visited to swim. A pristine anchorage with golden hue water colored form the rising Sun, this small art gallery with a few moorings sits gently floating tied near to shore. We picked up a mooring and met Sherri and Larry, owners and now citizens of Tonga.

Saturday evening was a beach fire with food shared and there we met some of the temporary / permanent / seasonal residents of the Ark Anchorage. And there too I told them our tale of woa. But by this time I had diagnosed the issue as a short in the feed wire to the clutch and figured it would be a simple fix. I thought I saw that the wire had chafed on a pump bracket and all I needed to do was add some heat shrink and keep the wire from shorting out. Boy was I wrong.

Sunday; a day of rest, found me working in the engine room. Upon further investigating I saw that the wire to the clutch had a small rubber stopper that was to protect it from chafing and I couldn’t get that back in without removing the entire unit; WM pump and large alternator. To remove the clutch I need to remove the WM pump, disconnect the alternator, disconnect the water hoses to the pump, take the belt off the generator and then lift it out gingerly, hand the item to W/ ; which will max her out weight wise and then bring it to our dining table for continuing the disassembly repair.

With the removal completed my hands were black with belt dust and oil.  Changing the oil on the WM pump is not the most precise- easy job; a design failure of the Aquagen system IMHO, and so with the two mixed together; belt dust and oil everywhere everything we – mostly I, touched turned black. I must have washed my hands a dozen times and even with Orange GoJo they still remain the hands of a mechanic not of a sailor.

Dining Table Workbench

Dining Table Workbench

Getting the clutch off should not have required a gear puller but indeed I needed one. Fortunately Dirk and Silvie had brought one from the states when they had helped us through the canal so out it came and eventually off the outer clutch housing was removed. I could see that the clutch had moved in close enough to the magnet that it was rubbing on the housing, heating up and then acting as a brake slowing the engine down. Checking the system the day before I did notice that the clutch was HOT, too hot to keep my fingers on and that helped me diagnose a shorting restarting of the clutch as a problem. Now that I thought I knew the source of the problem I figured that I could clean it up, and set the clutch to the correct distance off the magnet and bingo; we’re back in business.

Once the pieces were reassembled I needed to figure out if I ought to put a new belt or leave the old one on. When the system is pulling a 100+ amps the belt screams so we decide to put the new belt on. However upon closer look I see the belt will drag on the alternator fan so I decide to keep the old belt. I was thinking I could put a washer under the pulley and then use the new belt. No way could I budge the nut on the alternator.  Ok, back to using the old belt.

The complete removal, cleaning resetting the clutch took almost 4 hours non stop. W/ my boss doesn’t follow US work rules so breaks were definitely at a minimum 🙂 . Lifting the two items  off the generator mount, bringing it out to the table to work on and reinstalling it was back breaking work. I was sitting on the main engine bent over, laterally moving about 30 lbs of mechanical gear and setting it, securing it on

Clean Hands (?)

Clean Hands (?)

the generator platform. Finally everything was back in place. We started up the generator; that ought to go well as I didn’t touch any of the wiring with the starting system, and the first thing we heard was a light screaming of something belt related. I looked, I searched I figured we can live with that. We started up the WM pump and that too was working fine but we still had the light screaming. Oops; the pump system shut down. I felt the clutch housing; it was hot. DAMN!  I look closer and see that the clutch has again slipped to where it is tight to the magnet rubbing. It’s getting late and we have a dinner reservation. Time to clean up and reset the thinking / planning process. As cruisers often say; our future is written in sand at low tide.  Our generator is the heart of our cruising life. It provides us ample energy, cold drinks, extending the life of food stored in the freezer, and of course water. What will we do now?

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Headin’ South and a little West

Saturday, April 25th, 2015

Day 1: We upped anchor about 9 am after a good breakfast and running the generator. We wanted to be out of the pass before the tide switched; better to wash out than fight the current getting out.  While we waved to the residents of Tetautua I don’t think any were up and about or they just weren’t watching. Understandable but too a little disappointing.

We tooled across the harbor listening to our engine. The click we had started to hear was becoming more noticeable and I counted 2 / second at about 1,200 rpms. So I emailed that info to our shore support team and received a cryptic reply from one that he could not believe; since I’m an iPhone guy, that I didn’t have the strobe on the phone and did not have the tach set accurately.  Damn! I never thought to look in the App store but now I will add that to my list.

Even if the engine would have quit here we could have sailed out and if the winds are to do what history tells us we could sail all the way to Pago Pago, American Samoa and into the harbor and anchor; all under sail.

We did make is successfully across the lagoon under diesel power and leaving the pass a pod of dolphins waved good bye to us. Fish here were in a feeding frenzy and had we been up to it we could have dragged a line and caught at least something. But we were most concerned with getting our sea legs and setting the boat right for the trip South and West.  Too as we exited the lagoon the water was swirling about on the ocean side of the pass, boiling and turning over as if at the base of a waterfall. The lagoon water must be a bit higher than the ocean to create this effect. That happens because the wind driven waves are pushed into the lagoon over various shallow places in the atoll and the exit points are smaller than all the entrance points leaving the water level in the lagoon a tad higher than the ocean. When you are talking about trillions of liters of water pouring out a few small openings you end up with the whirlpools full of small fish just outside the door, a smorgasbord for lunching by the larger fish.

We set the Yankee, adjusted the wind vane and laid back with our books. It was looking like a fine day as we sailed on we looked up every so often to see our home of 5 months disappear below the horizon. We will miss our friends and life on the atoll.

Day 2: Yesterday we clocked close to 100 nm and while it’s not near our best day we were satisfied with the results. The sailing was easy and the ride a little uncomfortable. The seas as usual were not our friend and with the lighter than expected winds combined with left over swells from what looked like 3 different directions we were pushed around a bit. The movement of the boat necessitated always using one hand to hold on to the boat as we moved about below. The winds dropped off today and our second days run was in the low 80 miles.  W/’s been warming up the meals she had planned and the brownies I’m trying to stretch out for as long as I can. We’re feeling more normal and our sea legs are sprouting but I’ve not yet felt like putting a fishing line into the water. I hope maybe to tomorrow. Progress!

Day 3: In the am I usually fire up the SSB and using the Pactor to connect with either Sailmail or Airmail to get the new Gribs. I’m not sure why I do this as they are computer predictions of the weather and they are so often missing what is going on locally that the whole situation frustrates me, but I still do it.  W/ turned on the SSB for me as we started the day and her first words were “Oh-Oh”.  The Icom 802 didn’t switch on.  Time to see what the issue is. I’ve never had occur before but for most of our years cruising we had the SSB connected to a circuit breaker (against what the manual says), and on the trip from the Galapagos I figured to follow the manual. In the Galapagos I made the change and  connected the radio directly to the hot power post.  So I start to investigate; I check the connections and they all seem solid, I check the fuse and it tests good.  I put the fuse back in and hit the switch – Boom!  the radio has power.  In one of my emails to my shore support team both Mike and Dirk tell me they have had their radios lock up too and had to depower the connections and then connect them back up.  Oh well, something new to keep in mind. Fortunately for the rest of the trip we had no more issues with the Icom.

Today I gave in and drug a lure about 50 nm+ and nothing, not even a bite, nor nibble. There just doesn’t seem to be any fish here. We’ve not even seen any other boats around. None, Nada, Zip!

Broken Bracket

Broken Bracket

Day 4: Last night W/ thought the generator sounded noisier than usual. Well; since we were beginning our night watch and there was no immediate need to start a project that could be saved till we are both rested and there is light out I would look at it in the am. With first light I found the adjustable bracket for the alternator had broken. Just @$#%^^@#$ amazing!  The belt was still on and had a bit o’ tension I figured we could run it under reduced load and since the only thing we really used power for last night was the sailing light (1 amp) and the iPad (another amp or less) the batteries wouldn’t have been drawn down much. First I pulled off the bracket so it wouldn’t rattle back and forth then we charged the batteries and ran the refrigeration compressor. That done I set about to create a Willy Wonka – Rube

Aquagen Broken Bracket ready to reinstall

Aquagen Broken Bracket ready to reinstall

Goldberg repair. I had enough play in the bracket I could shorten it a bit and put it back on.  W/ and I set about to drill a hole in each piece and then I would pin it with a bolt.  And that we did, while the boat rocked and rolled, W/ held the plastic cutting board over the bucket (I didn’t want to drill into the boat) and I balanced as well as possible and we drilled. I drilled a bit; W/ added a small amount  of oil to the bit tip. What seemed like an hour later we had two holes drilled in the SS bracket. I then inserted the bolt and a locking nut. Later in the day when the generator had cooled down I would put the bracket back on.

We weren’t flying along but we were making progress to our destination. Today I dragged two lures in the water and had no strikes. However; when I retrieve the lures  some of the plastic fringe was missing on one of them with my only conclusion being that one pescado had decided to taste test before swallowing the whole thing and after said test decided this was not the fare he wished.  Again a day without a nice fish.

Day 5: I have the bracket replaced and it’s doing its job. I still have the generator turned down because when we tried to run the alternator at greater power the belt was screaming at us. Neither of us love to hear that talk from the system and more so I don’t like the belt dust that a slipping belt creates.

About an hour after sunrise I hear my fishing real zing!  A fish. I grab the rod and yell at W/ to get my fishing belt. I get the rod out of the holder and look for what we have hooked!  Wow! A bill fish. This will be fun. As we’re only traveling about 3 kts I just hoped to stop the fish and then drag it through the water eventually killing it so I can bring it aboard.  But stopping the fish was never in his future. He jumped several times all the while my line was still ripping off the real.  I was getting close to the end and yet the entire time I was increasing the tension on the real trying to stop the loss of line.  I had it cranked up as far as it would go and then the line reached the end where everything sat in stasis for a few seconds only to reward the fish with a “Ping”. He just snapped a 100 lb test line.  As Dirk says, “You don’t really want a fish that big anyway” and ironically fate decided the same thing. No fish, just a fish story.

Day 6: The winds have really, I mean really died.  We are now floating. All sails are down, the helm is tied off and the only movement we have is from the waves and currents. Unfortunately the seas have not died near as fast and so we are bobbing around much more than either of us would wish.  Today we make all 20 some miles. We attempt to sail 3

No Puffs even in the Middle of the Pacific Ocean

No Puffs even in the Middle of the Pacific Ocean

times and have a grand ol’ speed of about 2-3 kts at the best of times. During the second try sailing I noticed I could see a small patch of blue where red should be in our drifter. A part of the seam either chafed or let go. When the sail is down I will stitch it back together.  I download a very large area GRIB and discover that 300 miles south of us the trough that had run to Samoa from the higher latitudes has formed into a L pressure system. Fortunately it’s 300 miles S. Unfortunately it has cut off our winds. Fortunately it is 300 miles S. Unfortunately it throws up squalls and sometimes

Fixing a seam on the Drifter

Fixing a seam on the Drifter

thunderstorms. For the last couple of nights we’ve been watching a wonderful lightening show south of us. Now we know the cause. And it was wonderful because it was 300 nm  S of us.

Day 7: Becalmed again. With the drifter back 100% we’re able to fly it again without concern. We look forward to moving again. Some might ask why we don’t motor and had the engine been running perfect and we had adequate fuel we would have. We have about 40 gallons of diesel saved for the main engine and since I don’t know exactly what the tick, tick, ticking is I want to save the engine for the final entrance to Pago Pago. Today, trying to move in the direction we need to go we made 8 sail changes. Our boat is not set up for the fast easy sailing like some boats where you push a button and roll up a sail or roll it out. I believe in the KISS method of cruising (Keep It Simple Stupid).  I’ve seen too many in mast furling problems to have a system like that in as remote a place as the Pacific. I reef the main, I throw the reef out, we hoist the drifter, set the pole, douse the drifter and store it below deck. We put up the staysail and reef the main; all the while trying to find the right sails to keep moving.  Early afternoon we again sit, sails down, going nowhere. By now however the seas had dropped to nothing matching the winds and Neptune was undulating like a giant breathing while sleeping on it’s back. We rolled slightly but moving on the boat was close to being anchored in the lagoon.  By evening we had some breaths of air and were sailing again.

Day 8: Sailing in light air is magical. Sailing at night too has it’s own magic and if you combine them you have one of the rare moments we all love. We were making about 3 kts on a flat sea with stars shining brightly framing the Milky Way.  For 5 hours we were in Heaven.  By early am we were again becalmed and this would be our last time. We have now crossed the line to the last 100 miles to go. I’m thinking that if we get within 50 miles of Pago Pago and there is still no wind we will fire up the ol’ Perkins and take the risk.

Day 9: Much like the earlier days we were making progress but it was in the 2-3 kt range.  My fishing wasn’t going all

Even the Birds liked the Lures

Even the Birds liked the Lures

that well but I did drag two lines and one spinner on a sinking rig.  Somewhere in the late am we hooked a white fish only to be surprised when we pulled it in it was  a beautiful Tropic Bird.  The good thing about Neptune is nothing goes to waste out here so we gave her back to the sea.  Damn. Lures out again later in the am I got another strike. This fish I never saw. By the time I reached the rod the line was ripping out like a marathon runner had grabbed it.  I again tried to increase the drag stopping the fish but he would have none of that. Out the line ripped and at the end I could see the line stretch and then “Ping”, it parted.  Damn!  Only one lure left. And to my chagrin while the line had paused at one point and I stupidly put my thumb on the real, the fish had decided to make another run at freedom leaving me with a nice friction burn on my thumb.  Now I’m down to only one lure and one good thumb. The blue and white lure had to be the one to catch something. It hasn’t received much notice and I’ve not used that color much but since it’s my last lure I’m trying it. Mid afternoon we get another hit. Since we now only have one line to worry about I go to grab the rod and W/ is watching the end seeing what fish we might have.  She later reports it as some wide bodied silver fish. But as in my other scenarios this one too rips off all my line even as I tighten down the drag on the real. I am afraid I have both reals now burned up and will have to check them in port. Af the end of the day, I have 4 lures now in Neptune’s hands and no fish.  Some exciting fishing but nothing to take pictures of.

Day 10: After the squall last night and clicking off quite a few miles while the stars passed slowly overhead we were both up in the am contemplating our arrival. We had two options; if the winds stayed we could go for it and if it became to dark we could heave to offshore. If we were close enough to dusk we could motor in. Dirk (part of our shore support) had indicated that the harbor is safe to enter at night -he however did not, and the author of a cruising guide said that he had entered the harbor at night when the power was actually out. But night entrances are often fraught with dangers and if we could we would like to enter while the Sun still lit the way.  We decided to go for it.  We shook out one reef in the main (we still had one in. We pulled out the Yankee and added the staysail. We were making 6+ kts for a good part of the am with the winds slowly dying out. But; we were closing in. Early pm we saw the mountains of American Samoa and we felt we could make it in and anchored while it was light yet. About 3 miles out the winds had lightened enough that we started up the engine and I began furling the sails. Passing through the outer reef we were greeted by another pod of Dolphins. Either they beat us here or their cousins told them of our impending arrival. The site of them swimming near the boat, surfacing and diving filled us with the joy that comes when when you have shared your time on the ocean with them. We cleared the outer reef and both of us were quite relieved. We still had light, the sails were furled, and we were motoring towards a good night’s rest. We entered the harbor proper and moved to the back where the small boats (like us) were anchored. There we dropped 200′ of chain with our trusty CQR  in about 35′ of water and sat down elated and exhausted. One of the best things about any passage is the first night’s sleep. I’m reminded of how I slept in high school or college. Like a baby!

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Gotcha!

Monday, February 17th, 2014

We’ve moved. Down hanging in the Las Perlas till our new generator engine arrives. That and the extended stay Visa for French Polynesia.  Since we felt we had to order a new motor and wait for it to arrive we figured we might as well apply for the extension on the visa.  So we did. First Embassy I’ve ever visited. Went through three huge wrought iron doors better described as gates with I don’t know how thick Lexan or Plexi covering them.  Then we waited a bit for our interview; the French want to make sure we won’t become destitute while there and can afford to leave.  We give the embassy official our $$$’s   and now wait a couple of weeks for the approval. We are then called back for the stamp in our passport.

While we await our new engine I found my ghost.  Any avid reader; of which there are two I know of – both relatives 🙂  , will recall that in Puerto Lindo (Linton) I thought we had an issue with the refrigeration compressor. I looked at fuel, fuel filters and the compressor. I left messages on cruising bulletin boards and collected data on pressures running the refrigeration and temps of the line in and out.  I thought I had bad fuel or a bad compressor. In the end I purchased a new compressor but because of my mom’s arrival we moved the boat to Shelter Bay Marina, then traveled extensively I never got around to replacing  it.

Upon our return to the boat last June I made major improvements to the generator as well as really messing up the Kubota by overheating it.  With that corrected we were able to run it for the most part without any issues but upon leaving the marina and running the generator for longer periods found that between 55 and 95 minutes she would shut down. The first time the engine did this  I found the low compression in the engine and I expressed my concern to W/ .  That’s when we began to source out a new motor. While arranging for the purchase and shipping was in the works I felt I couldn’t really hurt this one much so I began to look further for issues.

She didn’t have much compression so as with most diesels there are only a couple of places to look. I checked the head bolts for proper torque and found 5 of the 6 to be on the money. Remember the 6th one wasn’t holding anyway and that is part of the reason we felt just to be done with it and get a new motor.  I had already checked the oil and found no water in it; one of the indicators of a leaking head gasket. We had just replaced the piston and rings etc so I wasn’t going to go there. Next I checked the gap in the rocker arms. Oops!  They were both around 0.003″ and they should be 0.006-0,007″ .  I corrected that issue , put the valve cover back on and turned the hand crank. 🙂  Wow! We have compression again.

We ran her that night….successfully… and we had no problems. She actually started better and seemed to handle the loads better. The following am we tried running first the refrigeration and then the water maker. After about 90 minutes total run time she shut down. As she was shutting down I turned off the Watermaker; reducing the load,  and she still shut down. Not good, she didn’t have time to cool down so I restarted it; she restarted fine, and then idled her for about 3 minutes. She didn’t idle for a full three minutes before she shut down again but she idled long enough  I felt to cool down enough that there would be no more problems from overheating.  This is getting to be a real head ache.

The following day we ran her in the am successfully and I wanted to see what happened with no loads and still running. After the refrigeration run completed  I set the engine to idle at about 1200 rpms and ran it for 15 more minutes up to a total of about an hour. After about 55 minutes she shut down. Only really one thing left; a fuel issue.  I went and felt the newish fuel pump I had put on her when in Shelter Bay and it was hot. So hot I couldn’t keep my hand on it.

Fortunately, a friend on sv Cetacea had just purchased a new DC Genset from Aquamarine and upon my advice (some people do listen to me) made sure they included a fuel pump with the setup. So armed with the correct fuel pump info I went into Panama City to get the “perfect” pump.

No matter what others have told you, cruising is about compromise. I couldn’t find the same pump anywhere in the city. Oh, it may be here somewhere but not where I was looking, even with the help of the cruising community I couldn’t find it. So; I compromised, I bought another fuel pump  from the same company, a company that makes fuel pumps; Facet / Puralator.  The

Bad Pump

Bad Pump

pump I had purchased in Colon was some off brand el-cheapo!  Using the numbers on the pump I couldn’t even find a reference to it on the net.

Better Temporary Pump

Better Temporary Pump

Yesterday we installed the Facet; that is barely out of spec for my system, and all is working great. The pump warms up but does not get hot. The engine ran for 2 hours this am, first the compressor and then the HP pump for making water. Sweet!

When I first had installed this unit I had checked with Dan at Aquamarine  and he had indicated that a low pressure pump was what was needed. He never indicated a specific pump saying  just that I could pick it up at an auto supply store.  So I did. Actually I think it was the same pump as I now have. But as things happened to the engine, the raw water leaked, the exhaust elbow leaked, the pump situated underneath it all became a mess. Not knowing any better and just thinking I could use any ol’ low pressure fuel pump I had purchased the replacements at an auto supply store in Colon. The first pump worked for close to a year before giving me head aches by at about 20 minutes run time  it wouldn’t put  out full pressure and then my beloved (at the time) motor would drop down to 2600 rpms under load. At that speed it would run fine. But I knew something was amiss.  Then I switched it out with a new identical (cheap O ) model and after about 40 minutes the motor would waver down to 2600 rpms. and then back to 3010 rpms.  I thought it was some item I had added to the refrigerant hose to keep water from dripping on everything  thereby letting some liquid return to the compressor. But removing the hose blanket didn’t help. Not until I did the idling did I find the culprit and now I’m in the process of ordering two of the newer, stronger; and more expensive pumps. That with a new motor and the advanced degree I have earned through the school of hard knocks I hope to keep this motor working well, well past my tenure on this earth.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Ready to Go – Oh N0!

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

We’re ready. Well almost. We’ve loaded up on the stuff we need. We have a schedule to pick up fuel. W/ and I are going with the group to get the last of the fresh vegetables.

But for some quirk of fate I was in the engine room looking for a new sound W/ and I heard while running the generator, to check and see if there was something amiss on the alternator, HP water pump or the refrigeration compressor as well as the Kubota.  I turned over the Kubota with the hand crank.  Seems to me like there isn’t as much compression anymore. This is just not good.

But; the little Kubota has been running, it has run the water maker  and it has run the refrigeration compressor and kept the batteries charged up. Guess it’s ok.

The following day about 2 days prior to our heading S. we run the generator again. Charging the batteries; good, running the refrigeration compressor, fine. We shut down the refrigeration compressor and turn on the water maker. Check the quality of water

Kubota EA300

Kubota EA300

and begin to fill our center tank. Fantastic. Must be my imagination.

About 5 minutes into the 2nd hours run the generator stalls out. SHIT!  We turn off the HP pump and I restart the generator. She starts back up and I let it cool down properly then we shut the whole thing down again.

Now we have to go to Plan B or could it be C or G or M or P.  We decide that to head across the Pacific with this demon over our shoulder is not something we want to do. I send out queries to purchase a new motor. We’ll have to have it brought into Panama and I’ll replace the motor. I just don’t trust what we have anymore and trust is important when you are all alone on a HUGE ocean.

Thinking about the Kubota all day I figure I can’t now do any wrong. When back at the boat and the engine is cool I begin checking things. I check the oil, no water in it, I check the coolant level, no change, I take off the valve cover. Might as well check the head bolts as that would be the main place to lose compression. I didn’t believe there would be loss of air out besides the piston as we have a new piston and new rings. 5 of the 6 head bolts are fine. The 6th was suspect when we did the rebuild if one remembers my past blogs.  We had drilled it out 2 times and used Certs but even the second time it wouldn’t hold and there just isn’t enough meat on the Al block to drill it out farther.  While I have the valve cover off I check the gap in the valves. Wow!  It’s only about 3 thousands for each one. The specs say the gap should be 6-7 thousandths. So I re gap them and then close it all up. Once put back on I turn the crank over and … humph, we have much better compression!

That evening we run the generator for an hour and all appears well. Sweet. But we still choose to replace it. We could maybe nurse it and if we were in the middle of the Pacific we would. But right now, now we have the opportunity to replace it and start over with a new one, with a new warranty (for what good it will do) and then head across with everything working top notch.

A few days later I try again to run the water maker. We make about 20 gallons and then the generator begins to lug and slows down ready to stall out. Maybe I don’t have the valves exactly right. I might still be a bit tight on them. I’ll see. That evening and the following day I run the little Kubota again, charges fine, runs the compressor fine and I shut it down. Keep nursing it along till the new one arrives. An old saying in mechanical circles is “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”.  We’ll it’s broke, but it’s also working. I won’t screw with it much more.

And my new saying is “If it’s broke, replace it”!

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Watermaker In and Working!

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

She’s looking good. We received the new Giant High Pressure pump last Friday and now

Not Identical

Not Identical

we’ve replaced the one that was problematic. But twas not likitty split like I had hoped. We have the same pump, well, same pump number, the pump is on the correct side of the shaft, the house for the pump is the same but the crankcase is slightly different. The foot print is the same but they’ve moved the mounting bolts a little more inside the case which using the mounting holes on the generator plate put the whole thing so close to the motor it would not fit with the mounting holes on the plate.

So I needed to mark and drill some new holes. That I did. All marked correctly, I drilled a pre hole because larger bits like to walk in metal and end up where you don’t want them. I then drilled 4 over sized holes so I have just a little play in the pump for alignment and then go to mount it; again.  Something just isn’t right.

We remove it; and this isn’t a light piece of equipment, and I investigate. Yep all my marks are right but the hole the farthest away and most difficult to get at, the one where I had a leak in the old pump where corrosion was happening on the Aluminum plate, that hole was drilled in the wrong spot.

For that hole I drilled by feel mostly, very little light there, as far from where I’m at, and I thought that I had the bit in the pilot hole when in fact I had it in a spot o’ corrosion.  DAMN!  So now I need to enlarge the hole, file to clean up and then mount the pump again.  Needless to say Dave was not a happy camper.

I had already bid this job at 2-4 hours.  W/ keeps up the pretense that I can’t seem to be on the money with my time estimates and I’m bragging that I’m getting so very close now to my estimates that she doesn’t need to counter propose any more. Well, she wins….. again.  This whole job ended up close to 7 hours with her assisting me.  And part of the time I was searching for some mounting hardware.

I never liked the way AquaMarine had the pump attached. An Aluminum housing shimmed with SS nuts, SS bolts and then stud,  nut and lock washer on the bottom. It was just a frustrating issue getting it all back together and lined up. So; I think, in Colon to purchase some longer bolts (mine from AquaMarine were just a tad too short) and then make my own studs and when I need to be working on the pump again I’ll put them in. I took them to the workshop at Shelter Bay Marina and made studs out of some metric hex bolts, cleaned up the threads and we stored them on the boat….somewhere. We just could not find them.

After searching most every locker we could think of that we stored them in; we gave up and just installed the pump the old way. Here in Panama City I’ll buy some more and make some more, but not now.

Finally, Finally, we finished for the day. Only need to fire up the generator and turn on the watermaker. We’ll run the watermaker the following day for now; just recharge the batteries and chill the freezer and icebox. Tomorrow I hope to fill our water tanks again;  Hurray!

And we run the water maker in  the am. We turn it on. I check for leaks, none. Hurray!  We begin to increase the pressure in the pressure vessel.  And she’s holding.  We were concerned. We hadn’t run the WaterMaker for a year preferring instead to adequately flush it. We flushed 3 times before we left for the states. After returning from the states we flushed it again. Went to Peru, returned for our projects and then flushed each month till the pump began leaking so badly we had to stop. So it has mostly sat for 3 months.

Now this is when the birds come to roost. I spoke with the Water Maker expert in Antigua and he said he never uses the pickling solution. Only flushes 3 consecutive times and then she properly stored for quite a bit. Never heard exactly for how long.  Our friends on New Haven follow this method and they leave their boat for 6 months at a time without any problem. We’ve followed this method  a couple of times before and it’s always been fine. But never for this long.

The result is 170 ppm of solids in the product water.  The EPA say’s anything under 750 ppm is good for drinking water.  I’m happy. W/’s happy we’re looking to check out and head to Ecuador.  Yippee!

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

The Panamanian Roller Coaster

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

And what a ride it is.  We’re here in paradise, working on Elysium, making changes to her that we hope will enhance our living on and sailing experience. The ups and downs at times are extreme.

We sold our 12′ Achilles inflatable… finally. I was going to title this blog “Buy High and Sell Low”. For it seems that only other people find great deals and we always seem to provide them. But then, I remember a fellow cruiser; Danny, who bought an ABI Aluminum Rib and after one day of ownership decided he didn’t like it, so he sold it for a $1,000.00 less then he paid! Sounds a lot like a new car purchase and truth be told, with the cost of all our dinghies and what we sold them for, we’ve lost much less then what we would have on any day we drove a newly purchased car off the lot.

Right now we do not have a dinghy, and we’re tied to the dock.  Our new AB Dinghy is in Panama City and we’re looking forward to having her. Our 12′ Achilles (which I loved) but which seemed to not love me back, is now serving another diver. The dinghy seemed to want to run free and some readers may remember the two times she went missing; once in the Bahamas where she was stolen and we luckily got her back… a bit damaged but usable, the other in the San Blas where I loosely tied her to a cleat and while telling stories (lies) at dinner Charlie (our host) counted dinghies and said one was missing. But she didn’t get far and with the help of the other guests the dinghy was recovered. Now I hope she finds her new home more to her liking.

With our new dinghy we’ve purchased a set of wheels; yes, you heard me right, wheels.  On the Pacific side the tides are so great and the beaches not as pristine that to visit them you need to haul your dinghy up beyond the tide line. (Tides are in the double digits there). So we’ve to attach them and as she has a hard fiberglass bottom I’ve purchased a rubber rub strake for the keel so beaching her won’t wear the fiberglass away.  Add to the list when we receive her we’ll make a cover for her while cruising and one for her when she’s deflated and set to carry on the aft deck.  Lots of work yet.

The unexpected was our generator which we are still sorting out.  Greg, a cruising mechanic has been working with me on the rebuild of the generator. When we first tore into her he found one of the rings frozen in place by carbon deposits. Thinking, hoping the frozen ring might be the cause of minimal compression he cleaned the rings and the head and put it all back together.  While torquing the head bolts,  he found two that didn’t want to torque down properly. As correctly tightened as we could we turned the hand crank to see if now we had any improvement in compression … and we didn’t. Back apart the generator came and we made a list of what parts I needed to order. It wasn’t looking all that bad and I proceeded to contact a supplier in the US and order the parts.

Bad Kubota Head

Bad Kubota Head

Perfectly timed Roger showed up (the cruiser friendly Panamanian driver) and I could send the head with him to Panama City for a valve job and general clean.  Off he went, and we began the task of getting our ducks in a row for the rebuild.

To receive the parts I needed to fill out some forms and work with the distributor and a retailer to enable the parts to be shipped. I would use FedEx as they are the most reliable for fast shipments to Panama and they deliver right to the boat. I contacted  Mary at  South Eastern Power (the Kubota Dealer for this area) and she had her retailer contact Carlos at Power Solutions handle the billing and  fax the paperwork back and forth.  Actually I faxed to the states and they emailed back what I needed.  With the order mostly completed Roger called. As there was horrible phone reception on the boat all I really had was a timed record of his call. I grabbed the phone, hopped off the boat and went in search of a good signal. Walking down the dock and around the marina until I had 3 bars.  I called Roger back and discovered a new let down. The head on the generator was cracked.  Oh-Oh! Greg never saw any crack, I never saw a crack, yet they said it’s cracked and un-repairable.

I anxiously called Mary to find out if my parts had been shipped. Nope! They were still in the queue waiting to be picked up. I added a new engine head to the order. That necessitated another round of emails to guarantee payment and a new calculation for the shipping cost. Thus another day added before they would ship. Next week, I would hopefully have the parts and have the heart of our cruising comfort working again. (As an FYI- the generator runs the high output alternator, the water maker, and the refrigeration compressor).

All there was to do now was wait.  And while we waited the dinghy almost sold and then was sold.  I say almost because the new owner came to look at it and he made an offer W/ couldn’t refuse. I’m never really happy selling anything, always believing I should have gotten more. Anyway, he left a deposit and in hindsight I should have accepted his offer on the contingency that he take it all now. But I’m not the best salesman and I didn’t add that clause. So during the night we (mostly I) worried about anything that could happen to the sale of the dinghy. We worried for naught for the following day he showed up …eventually.

The deed was to be completed at 11 ish. It was raining, Light squalls would roll through filling the dinghy up with water, I would empty the water then it would rain again and I would empty it again.  The dinghy was sitting on the dock fully inflated. He emailed me that he would be here closer to noon. Ok, we wait. Noon came and went. No buyer. Yeah, we would be able to keep the 100 dollar deposit but we didn’t want the dinghy and a 100 dollars. We had a new dinghy on the way and we didn’t want two … again.  About 3pm he showed up in the only break in the rain and some greenbacks came our way and the dinghy went his.  Later I discovered that at 1 ish or so he emailed that he was on his way. Thus our emotional roller coaster drop wasn’t as far as thought but there was a splash zone on the way.

With the dinghy gone we could again focus on Elysium. We began to prep the shear stripe / cove stripe that Lyman Morse neglected to paint.  We had given Dave the marina yard manager our old never to use again Poly Glow.  This deal was way better then “Buy High and Sell Low” as we had bought it and now were giving it all away. But on a boat there is no room to carry what we won’t be using. Only thing is; I forgot we needed to remove the old Poly Glow that was on the stripe before we add the new Signature Finish paint. Back to the new yard manager, Edwin, to explain what we needed and hopefully get some back. Edwin was kind enough to locate the Poly Glow stripper and we felt lucky; he didn’t ask for any money! We returned to the boat and proceeded to prep the area for painting.

Sailomat-Wind-Vane-Paint

Sailomat-Wind-Vane-Paint

With that part of the paint project completed there was a steel boat in the yard that was being sand blasted. I wan’t happy with the paint on our Sailomat Windvane. The blue paint (which I never liked that color on the wind vane) was pealing, cracking, and falling off. I approached Edwin about the smallish job of blasting the 6 items while there was a crew on the other boat project. He agreed to bring the blasting manager by that afternoon and give us a price.  He did and the price was too high.

They said $110 would do it. I balked. Maybe the one good time in my life when I did.  We are after all in Panama and the minimum wage is about $25 / day.  I figured I could, with Rudy (another cruiser friendly Panamanian driver, Colon based), find a shop in Colon that would bead blast them for less then $50. So I explained what I intended, that in the US I had some blasting of small parts done at an auto shop and this should be about $50 bucks in the US.  They agreed, I could get it done for $50. I would deliver the parts to the work area and they would remove all the paint.  Sweet.  I hate grinding away, stripping paint!

The following day no one worked. The sky never turned blue, and rain continued to wet the Earth off and on for about 6 hours. I was lucky as I didn’t yet have the vane off and in pieces and hoped by the following morning I would.

Finally off and in pieces I hauled them up to where the blasting was taking place and left them for the start of their renewal process. How sweet it is when things actually come together.

The pieces are cleaned and ready for etching, primer, and paint!  We’re making progress again. And!  FedEx shows up with my parts. Life is smoothing out.

Greg arrives the next am and we begin (mostly he) to put the heart of our cruising boat back in order. Piston in, bearings in, the end gasket is on and we begin to clean up the head bolts to put the head back on.  He discovered that the threads in two of the bolt holes are messed up. Remember the two that would not torque down correctly!  Most likely when Kubota put the engine together the bolts went in badly somehow or were fixed after the first assembly but before shipping.  I doubt Aquamarine had any need to do anything with the head and I never removed it nor even torqued the bolts (which I should have done). The end result is that there is a problem and the best way to fix it is with Heli-Coils. We stop work.  The plan is to go into Colon and at Garcia’s (which is a big bolt, nut, screw, place); pick up some M9 Heli-Coils. That’s the plan.

I went in expecting success. I don’t know why, I’m generally not an optimistic person but I’ve found most of the fasteners I need for the boat Garcia’s has.  I was disappointed. Garcia’s pointed me to another store and there too I was disappointed. Then I decided I needed to call Roger in Panama City. He could maybe pick up the Heli-Coils there and when he’s out this way I can meet him.

And that is were we’re at today. I’m waiting to hear if Roger has them or if I again need to order a set from the states. As they (Heli -Coils) appear to have a great deal of value for situations like this; should I need to order them from the states I’ll get a couple of sets. In the Pacific; I know I won’t find any. For now the ride has stopped. I wait for the next go around, knowing that the ups and down in life are all part of the experience.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Bad Diesel

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Today it was “Two Steps back”.

I know the saying is “Two steps forward and one back” but that didn’t happen today.  Sometimes I’m lucky and sometimes I’m unluckily lucky. To further understand there is this parable I remember  “Maybe yes, maybe No” that is best referenced for you to read by another….then I’ll continue with my story.

I was cleaning up the wiring around the generator the other day and decided to shorten one long black wire. I didn’t really know exactly what it ran to but I figured I didn’t need 10′ extra spooled up hanging around the engine. I cut it and used a butt connector to put it back together.  I didn’t know at the time that

Aquagen Panel with TinyTach

Aquagen Panel with TinyTach

it was the wire for the Tiny Tach on the diesel. After all the electrical work that day on the generator we started her up to make sure everything was working right.  Yep, she runs fine; well a little rough but I know I needed to change the injector and clean all the fuel filters so I didn’t worry. But the Tach for the generator, stopped displaying RPM’s. Odd. I thought I just needed to clean one of the contacts and try again but that didn’t change a thing. All I was receiving was the engine hours. Well, not to worry, I had purchased a new one in the states and in a couple of weeks we will just add the new one and be back to working fine again. I wanted a lighted Tach and the one we had did not have a light, thus the new Tach.

Today I pulled out the old tack and it was there I discovered that the cable that transferred the signal was a Coax cable. Wire sleeve around a common core. So when I spliced the old wire together “I” screwed it up. Cleaning up the wiring actually ended up disabling the unit.  Damn, I never would have guessed. I’m sure my other cruising companions are now chuckling at my naivety in how the Tiny Tach works.  Now I have labeled the New Tachometer cables. Then while I was connecting up the new Tach I was rather concerned that I didn’t have enough Coax cable length.  I had just thought the wires were simply 20 awg wires and now if I need to add some length to the Coax I was going to have more work to do. Here at least I was lucky. The new cable length was perfect!  I had maybe an inch or two to spare and all went back together slick as a whistle. From here my day went down hill.

Finished with the majority of my work in the engine room I go to start the generator and the alarm sounds. Yep, it’s suppose to, the alarm sounds until there is adequate water flow. W/ mutes the alarm and cranks over the engine while I wait in the engine room watching for any issues. She holds the key, cranks over the engine. Nothing. Nada, Zip!  Ok, check the fuel, run the fuel pump longer and make sure there is good fuel to the diesel. We do that. Ok “Start the engine” . Again, nothing, nada, zip. Oh… the engine turns over. The starter is doing it’s job but the fuel isn’t exploding in the cylinder. I remove the hand crank from it’s mount and turn the engine over by hand. Uh – Oh!  I rather easily crank the engine. I ought not be able to do turn it over that easily. Not!  without using the decompression lever. OH-OH. Now we have a problem. A rather large problem.

I check the decompression lever and make sure it’s not somehow stuck with the decompression lever “on”.  If it was stuck then that would cause the issue. It wasn’t stuck.  Not good!  I go in search of a Canadian Mechanic that has been at the marina for a few years working. I talk with Greg and he gives me a couple of ideas, should those not work he’s available Wednesday. As with many things on the boat, this is nothing that can’t be solved by throwing more money at it.

Needless to say, I’ll see the mechanic Wednesday.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long