Posts Tagged ‘Aquagen’

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Most would say we’re crazy. Not for sailing, although with sailing too most would say we’re crazy. We’re crazy to order parts from the US and have them flown in by FedEx.  Yeah, we’re doing that, flying spares into Panama.

Oil Pressure Switch

Oil Pressure Switch

We have an oil pressure switch that isn’t functioning correctly. I spent all day Monday traipsing around Colon looking for a replacement. All this adventure cost was 1/2 day and about 5 bucks taxi fare.  I couldn’t find one and as stores kept saying just around the block or just in town or just out of town I finally had had enough and took the bus back to Shelter Bay.

There I decided to call the maker of our generator / water maker  (AquaMarine) to ship me a spare. Not just one spare but 3. We’re heading into the Pacific where supplies are minimal and far, far away.  And ordering 3 parts would give me a working part and two spares.  Cost for the parts $100. Cost of shipping $80.

Now that sounds like a lot. Of course I could maybe save 20 bucks on buying the switches in Panama City; that is, if I can find them. This is how I figure. The cheapest route to Panama City  is about $5 per person. If W/ chooses to go with me then we’re up to $10.  Next I need to get around in the city. If we rent a cab by the hour and we’re lucky we could pay $10 / hour  so estimate 3 hours before I get too tired looking for the pressure switch or I find the part. If I buy them then I now need to return to Shelter Bay.  Cost the cheap way is again $5 for me and if W/ went along another $5. Then once we’re in Colon we can hopefully get a taxi to take us; it;s now dark or close to it, take us to Shelter Bay; cost if we’re lucky $25.

As a summary, if we’re lucky the minimum cost would be $65, and the maximum on the cheap would be $75.  And remember, there is no guarantee we would have the part. We could well be out $65  or $75 and a days traveling and still not have the oil pressure switch.

And so it goes, I order the parts and have them flown in. At worst, this cost me a difference of $15 for shipping and at best I will have saved $65 just by not taking the chance of finding the part in Panama City. What would you do?

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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FRUSTRATIONS

Saturday, July 13th, 2013

Frustration raises its ugly head when work time becomes greater then the expected completion time. Since launching we’ve been playing dodge ball with this emotion and doing our best to readjust our time expectations. The main engine elbow is in

Perkins 4-236 Waterneck OLD

Perkins 4-236 Waterneck OLD

and 99% complete.  The water neck which sends water to the exhaust line via a loop and vacuum break was on the list to be fixed and so while working on the elbow I replaced that fitting too. With the

Waterneck Studs next to New

Waterneck Studs next to New

water neck while on the hard I figured I would make the switch in the water. Bad idea. Unbeknownst to me the neck sits slightly below the waterline so I needed to shut off the main engine raw water intake and clamp the water line that cools the dripless stuffing box. After some discussion on the CS-BB  bulletin board about the exhaust elbow I’m now going to add some fiberglass exhaust tape to the dry part of the fitting and hose clamp it in place, then once a year or so I can inspect the fitting and hopefully be forewarned of any potential issues.

Perkins 4-26 Exhaust elbow and mixer

Perkins 4-26 Exhaust elbow and mixer

The cost for the unexpected exhaust elbow: $350 bucks plus some misc parts. All told,  just shy of $400.  That’s counting taxis and various acutraments at Garcia’s, the sole best store for mechanical gear and tools in Colon. The cost of the water neck fitting I purchased in the US was approx $250.  We almost had a problem in that I never explicitly explained to the machine shop that the input and exhaust lines need to be adjusted for to run  parallel  to each other. However they were close enough.  Close enough with the hose on the hose is able to make the slight change in direction and not chafe on any other part(s) of the engine.  That single job took about 10 days from start to finish.  It was not on our list at all and a total surprise.

When you are in your home waters it can be so easy to  complete a project and know roughly how much it will cost, but once you’ve left for foreign shores  the price goes up and the days multiply. I expected the elbow to be close to $200 (Rob on Akka felt the same) and I was expecting 1 to 2 weeks. So our time frame wasn’t bad but the cost was double. With that job completed  I’ll look for picking up parts to be spares and never be in that specific bind again. From the main engine we moved on to the generator.

I now have 2 exhaust elbow setups for the generator and so when in the middle of the Pacific at some lovely atoll, should there be an issue I’ll be able to do a complete switch out. Sweet. That will be our goal when we leave here – that mostly anything that has broken in the first 4 years will have a complete drop in spare.  Other cruisers tell me that is the surest way to never have an issue with any specific part again. Either way; I consider it a win, win situation.

Aquagen Exhaust side complete

Aquagen Exhaust side complete

The exhaust side of the generator is in,  for the most part new plumbing and a new Aqualift muffler, new hose to the  muffler and all secured. The only gotcha there was that the mixing elbow on the exhaust pipe wasn’t aligned perfectly and I had to move the shelf for the Aqualift muffler.  Over all that job went rather smoothly. In the process I cleaned as much as I could, Ospho’ed any of the areas with rust and then sprayed high temp Silver paint on the engine. She looks ok, not as good as new but better then she had been. With the generator exhaust elbow spitting mists of salt water for the last 6 months of our time cruising Panama the engine wasn’t looking pretty.

Once I had exhaust side together I began to work on the water maker side. We received a new; much heavier bracket from Aquamarine for mounting the alternator. I had sent Dan (owner of AquaMarine) the old alternator bracket so he could match the critical measurements; but he insisted on sending me the new brackets with the tabs and insisted on me taking it to a welder in Panama to get it, as he said “perfect”. That cost alone was an additional $65. Thirty dollars for the welding and $35 for the taxi trips and translator. Yeah, we can talk some Spanish (we did go to Spanish school) but we didn’t want any misunderstandings and working with a local who can make sure the communication is correct and the work completed when indicated is worth the extra bucks. Rudi (my chauffeur and translator) had arranged for the work to be completed that same day but in the pm. My marina ride left the city at  a little past 11…. am. The following day I would return to Colon and Rudi would pick it up and join me at the bus stop in Colon.

I was on the bus at 8am and called Rudi when we crossed the Panama Canal Locks. It was then that Rudi told me the part wasn’t finished yet. Later he explained that the electric was out in the afternoon (a frequent occurrence outside of Panama City) at the shop and the piece could not have been welded. The machinist indicated he would have it ready by 9 am the following day.  As 9 came and went I began wondering if indeed I would be receiving the piece today. Not to be too disappointed Rudi shows up a little after 10am.  Then he took me to; of all places, Garcia’s where I picked up some more parts. Of the dozen fasteners I received 10 worked. One nut I was lucky enough to have discovered, didn’t spin on the bolt!  So back the girl went to get the correct nut. And of the nylon washers I received all were in a group. The group looked perfect yet the following day upon installation one washer had a much larger center, so large it wouldn’t work.

So here I go again, back to Garcia’s, back to get more supplies and another day we’ll finish the HP pump and alternator. In the mean time I figured I could at least get everything mounted and lined up. I had the high pressure (HP) pump out and on the table ready to set the Amptech Alternator on it. Bringing the alternator out of the engine room where she’s been lying for 6 months I noticed the armature wouldn’t turn. Why I hadn’t noticed it a week ago when I started on the bracket I didn’t know. But now I notice. I take it up to the work area and put a wrench on her. I can turn the nut holding the serpentine pulley but can’t turn the armature. DAMN!  Ok. Another piece of the puzzle broken. Call Roger in Panama City and arrange with him to have the alternator taken to a shop there for a total refurbishment.  Then I’ll install and check it out and I’m going to buy a drop in replacement for that item too. Luckily some other boaters we met a year ago here live and work in Panama City. Bob was nice enough to haul the alternator to the city where Roger will pick it up and take it to the shop. We already have a back up alternator, we have one on the main engine and one on the generator but I’m feeling like when we’re in the Pacific I don’t want to be trying to fly one in. It is EXPENSIVE in the middle of that HUGE ocean to move supplies and who knows where we’ll be when we need it.

OK,  the Aquagen is only partially complete, on to other projects.  We ordered enough varnish for 2 years from Signature Finishes. We also included Paint and some supplies, then had it sent to the freight forwarder we use; Airbox Express. Good news is it got to the forwarders Miami address promptly, bad news is Airbox Express wants  $550 + dollars for paperwork and then we need to pay shipping and duty on top of that. No matter how one tries to make cruising a moderate endeavor it just isn’t. The cost of getting the material here will be about the same as the cost of the goods. We’ve hired Roger (our Panama City Chauffeur / Interpreter) to help. So far we’ve not made much progress.  Really, we’ve not made any progress. Roger sent me an email address to contact at Airbox which I did. I emailed her one week ago and have not had a response.

And so it goes. Damn good thing we don’t have to leave here by a certain date. Damn good thing we can tolerate Shelter Bay Marina, the Restaurant and the cost. Damn Good thing I say….

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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Negligence

Saturday, October 6th, 2012

I know – I’ve been -negligent. Sometimes life gets in the way of the things  I’ve made a personal commitment to do, like this blog.  My goal has been to update it every two weeks. I’ve tried to keep the blog focused on what  life is like on the water; really, not the white washed life you see in Cruising World, or Yachting. But; sometimes I just simply fail.

I’ve wanted to do a piece on Awnings.  I’ve taken a lot of pics of the various awning setups on boats but haven’t sat down to put it all together.  Doing a blog takes between one and four hours depending on what pictures I want to show; optimizing the pictures for the web for faster display and trying to dig out all my spelling and grammatical errors. W/ helps in the latter two and spell check is a godsend to my lack of innate spelling ability but it all still takes time.

Then too I’ve been working on the website; adding quite a bit to things that work on the boat and those that don’t, companies that are supportive and those that aren’t, things that break and why and things that don’t.

I’ve tried to keep up the financials and enter that information every three months but that too is a bit behind. A great deal of the non cruising dreamers want to know what this lifestyle costs and so I try to detail that on those pages knowing that each boat is different and each individual or couple is different. But it is a starting place for someone who is looking.

And too life is to be lived. My mom came down and visited us. She spent about 15 days here and we hauled her all over Panama showing her things that in the US simply aren’t there. She loves plants and animals and we went into the jungle on several occasions to see the monkeys’ and birds, the flowers and the trees.  She left tired but in good spirits and she said she slept like a baby on the boat.

We’re now in a marina; Shelter Bay, again, and we’re fixing and working on all the things that have happened over the last year, ordering more spares to replace those we used and ordering new spares of the things that we’ve discovered we’ll need.

The Aquagen has been taking up most of my time since my mom returned home.  I’ve replaced the heat exchanger (had a leak in the old one) have a new exhaust elbow (had a crack and thus a leak), replacing the muffler (it began to seep salt out all it’s pores),  and have to replace a bracket on the alternator  (the bracket was chafing as it was Al on a SS bolt with threads that always seemed to saw through the softer Al). I have to rebuild the high pressure pump that I screwed up on because it now leaks (mostly my fault), replace a valve that is the high pressure boost, paint the muffler box that the muffler sits in, clean up from the salt mist in the engine room, and put it all back together.

Then we have to …… well best to just say that the list is long and too there have been some changes at the Marina I’ve not been too fond of.  Lyman Morse has arrived and they bring some of the US ideology like “what the market will bear” as opposed to what is moral and fair.  If I’m not mistaken the US calls “What the market will bear” in some circumstances “price gouging” but here it is normal. I’ve not yet talked to Kieth, the rep from LM about some work wondering if I should put it off and get work completed  farther down the line. We’ll see.

We have our tickets back to the states, we have a date to pull the boat, we have reservations for a shore side stay while we prep the boat for storage for a few months.  But let me not forget, we’re doing this in Paradise.  So we attend the weekly cruiser food gatherings, we attend “Happy Hour” and we try to exercise, jump rope and work out in the weight room, then we walk the docks.  We enjoy the restaurant here, Chris the chef is great and the prices while a little high in Panama are fair. All in all a great life, and a much better life when we make our own schedule.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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Almost

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

One of my goals this season had been to ensure the boat could  cruise a full  year without major issues. A major issue is one I can’t fix and forces us  to  high tail it to the nearest port where we can effect repairs.  We didn’t make it a full year but we came close.  We have had a few rather serious (not catastrophic)  issues.  The exhaust elbow in the generator has a smallish 2 cm crack.  I  fixed the crack with JB Weld that held  for a bit but it didn’t last more then 3 months and so I’ve re JB Welded it and put a cover over it so there is no spray, only dribbles. Till we get to the marina it will remain 1/2 fixed.

Then, the genset’s heat exchanger began to leak.  It’s an older style heat exchanger and now looking back I see where I could maybe have lucked out and recognized there was a Zinc in the heat exchanger.  Two of the three pictures in the Aquagen instruction manual identify a drain at the bottom of the exchanger and the third one now shows a Zinc.  The solder has  been etched away and now I has a leak.  I’ve since rubber clamped it shut so it will not leak and will send it back to Aquamarine for repair when we get back to the states. In the meantime I’ve ordered and received a new heat exchanger, a new model and it has a Zinc of which I need to  purchase many more and make sure this doesn’t happen again.

The High Pressure pump (HP) on the water maker leaks.  My error.  I had found difficulty with the original boost valve (it was of a lawn sprinkler valve and I had put the valve in  vertically when it needed to be below water level and horizontally – not well documented in the manual), so I had replaced it with a manual valve.  One time running the water maker I forgot to turn the valve on to start the system and this caused excess cavitation in the HP pump. Thus a small leak. I called Dan (of Aquamarine – and that is one great thing about the company — I can speak to him about any issue most anytime), and he indicated that I needed to get a new gasket kit.  I now have that and a spare and will replace it when I get to Shelter Bay Marina. It’s the rainy season now and we can catch plenty of water.

In the last 2 weeks  the Aquagen began to crank over ever so slowly and finally it just wouldn’t turn over the engine. I knew we had plenty of power and suspected the starter we had fixed (almost) in Panama City. There they didn’t have a replacement starter but we found one that appeared the same size  and I put that starter motor in  the housing I had. However; I don’t believe the front bearing was ever replaced.  The starter worked but it took about 5 seconds on the glow plug and then it required about 5 seconds to turn it over before the generator would catch and 90% of the time or more I would hear teeth grinding as the starter disengaged. Well the replacement finally wouldn’t do the job.

Thinking ahead while back in the states I purchased a new replacement starter for this engine and had kept it as a spare.  Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.  I replaced the Panama City starter and viola!  I turned the key and the generator started just like new!  No longer did I need to hold the glow plug on for 5 seconds, in less then a second or two she fired right up. Sweet.

And about this same time I had taken some refrigerant out of the engine driven system and bought some fuel from a gas station in town. The refrigeration system was overcharged some and we were having to run the generator longer then we needed. When it’s running correctly we run it approx 45 minutes in the am and 45 minutes in the pm. With the overcharged state we were needing to run it approx  80 minutes am and pm. The extra time was a PITA. So I pulled out  approx 5 psi and the generator ran fine that evening; the refrigeration plates pulled down faster, but not yet perfect.  The next day we added 25 gallons of diesel to the tanks.  The next time we ran the generator to pull down the plates in the freezer and the ice box things began acting weird.  The rpms on the generator began to vary and once they went so low as to stall the engine. I suspected the new fuel.

Running the generator with the refrigeration compressor (RC) on, we heard some significant changes in engine rpms. It seems that both W/ and I are extremely sensitive to small sounds and how they end up telling me to find what’s wrong.  We shut the system down and I figured the fuel filters were getting clogged. Fuel was the last thing added and the last change to the engine.  Diagnosing issues on a boat isn’t a lot different from diagnosis in terms of computer issues or I suspect any other field where one has to problem solve.  It is a lot like playing 20 questions. As long as you ask simple questions and learn the answer you can solve the problem. Working on several things at once and then trying to  identify  the issue would  easily have me fumbling all over the place. That is exactly what happened. Since the fuel was the last thing I did it was the first place I looked to solve the problem.  I was hoping to make it to our respite in Shelter Bay Marina before a lot of this smaller maintenance work, but as  teenagers today say “Oh Well”.  So before I figure I needed to, I first chose to change the Racor fuel filter. I changed that filter and the next time we ran the generator it did the same thing; varying engine rpms by about 300.  Ok, next change the fuel filter on the generator. and I did that.  Now the fuel getting to the generator will be crystal clear and yet the same issue occurred. Last thing in the fuel system would be the fuel pump. I had a spare. Whoopee!  I changed that too.

This time while running the generator and the RC when the engine started to bog down (damn it’s still doing the same thing)  I shut the RC off. Viola!  The generator ran as expected.  What the $#%#$ !  I wasn’t expecting this!  Now I know there is an issue with the compressor.

Thinking I still have a bit too much pressure in the RC system I pull out approx 5 more PSI and I email Mike on Abake. He actually has training in refrigeration systems and I email Dirk on Lison Life who knows more about mechanic issues on engines than I do.  The consensus seems to be that I have a RC that is soon to become  toast. DAMN!  (I actually have a more colorful vocabulary marching through my brain but do try to keep this blog PG).

In this process of checking the RC out I had hooked up the gauge set and ran all the numbers. They were well within range if not a little low on the HP side. To get a full set of numbers when the engine began to bog down I tried reducing the rpms a bit. I went down to 2500 rpms.  Again, Viola!  There was no more bogging down on the system and running the RC an hour gave me a full pull down on the refrigeration plates as well as a working set of numbers.

With Mike and Dirk saying the same thing that the issue was the RC I contacted Roger in Panama City to help locate a replacement. Roger is a Panamanian that is cruiser friendly. He had worked at the Panama Yacht club till it closed. Since then he’s made a career out of assisting cruisers in transporting and securing supplies.  He speaks fluent English and obviously Spanish  and he knows where the places are that cruisers need to stay afloat and happy. While he searched in the city  I called Sanden International in the USA and got the run around trying to connect to a real person on the phone, then found out they know almost nothing of the Sanden unit I have except they don’t make it anymore and they have no idea where a supplier is in Panama. So much for them being “International”!

So I waited. Roger called about 4ish  and had  found a similar Sanden sized correctly and hopefully W/ will pick it up today. While I wait for her return  I changed the oil in the genset and ran the RC successfully at the lower RPM. I’m wondering now if I run it at full rpm if I’ll still get the engine bogging down. Time will tell.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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In the Water

Friday, June 10th, 2011

“WENDY, I”M IN THE WATER” I yelled as the inflatable slides out from under me trying to get back on the boat.

This journey seems to have started a couple of days ago.  We were on Kaya having dinner

Sunset Cocos Banderos

Sunset Cocos Banderos

with some other cruisers in Cocos Banderos. We were first to arrive. Kaya is a 40′ Cantana Catamaran and I tied off our dinghy on one of the HUGE cleats on the stern. Ironically; most of the time I tie it with all three lines.

While in Kuna Yala (San Blas to the Spanish) islands we’ve put the inflatable together and been using it quite a bit. We have a 15hp  on it  and tool around fishing, site seeing and attending beach parties. When we tow the dinghy we actually have three lines attached; one line to each towing eye and then a larger line that runs through a bridle at the bow and connects to another line that splits and runs through the transom where they end in stopper knots thus we really tow the dinghy from the transom. Tonight for some weird reason I used only one of the three lines. The two lines that connect to the towing D rings are about 3/8″.

Huge Cleat

Huge Cleat

At Kaya I tied only the small 3/8″ line  off on the HUGE cleat and even thought to myself; humph, if for some reason she comes loose it will stop at the barrier reef that protects this anchorage.

We ate, we laughed, we drank, we laughed and as Charlie was cleaning some of the grease from the fresh conch they had fried up; he was back on the starboard hull,  turned slowly to us and said “I hate to alarm anyone but there are only two dinghies hanging back here.” We thought he was kidding but just to be sure everyone went to check. Sure enough one was missing, ours!  The small line on the large cleat with only one turn around and one locking hitch had slowly worked it’s way off.  Oh! Oh!  Charlie and Mark (Mark’s from Reach – I’ve not yet found out why they named their boat after dental floss when both of the owners are chemists) jumped in Mark’s dinghy, Blake from Slow Mocean and I jumped in Blake’s dink. It was pitch black.  No moon. With electric torches we raced out astern of Kaya towards the reef, Charlie and Mark in one and Blake and I in the other. Somehow Mark and Charlie made it around the small patch reef astern of Kaya while Blake and I bounced over. Blake’s dinghy is an AL floor dinghy and as long as we went slow and he picked up the engine we made it over the reef without any damage. I was shining the torch back and forth looking in the water for the depth and shining it along the surface hoping to spot our dinghy. Lightening was flashing in the distance as it’s now the rainy season.  We finally made it over the patch reef and were coming up on another still watching for the dinghy when a lightening flash occurred  and I scanned the horizon with the torch, while also trying  to watch  depth.  In Kuna Yala  reefs rise steeply from about 15′ meters to less then 1/2 a meter; shallow enough for an outboard to hit something.

I thought I saw our dinghy in one of the flashes of lightening and we were also watching Mark and Charlie.  No one figured the dinghy would have made it out the channel as an inflatable (no hard bottom) she would blow more to the light breeze then move to the current. I hoped anyway.  As Blake and I were still making way towards where we thought the lightening had silhouetted it,  Mark and Charlie started moving towards us. Two minutes later they whizzed by with, of all things, a dinghy in tow. And truth be told it was our dinghy!

After Blake and I bounced a few times on the patch reef again returning to Kaya we made  our way up the stern to a crowd rather pleased with itself. Thanks to Blake, Charlie, and Mark we now have our car back. But; we’ve had to give up some Karma to get it back. 🙂

That adventure settled,  I tied the dinghy up slightly better; well not really slightly, I tied it up so if Kaya went off the edge of the Earth the dinghy too would have no choice but to follow. We then settled back in with that adventure behind us, told some more tall tails; Charlie and I talked about night diving for Lobster but although he would go; me having had a few beers backed out.  Tonight we all added one more tale to the bank and eventually took our car (dinghy) back home (to our boat).

The following couple of days flew by, Reach and Kaya took off making their way to be hauled (Reach) and Kaya having a stay in a Marina for a bit of land adventure for Liz and Charlie sailing in Spain (Charlie is a professional sailor – and one hell of a lucky ass spear fisherman too 🙂 ) .

They were gone a couple of days and we had planned on hanging another week or so in Kuna Yala. Then we would headed to Shelter Bay Marina for our summer of boat projects and exploring a new area-mainland Panama. But as sailors love to say “plans are written in water”. About a day after Reach and Kaya left we were running our generator, pulling down the temp in the freezer and refrigerator, charging the batteries and running the water maker.

Near the end of the cycle (about 45 minutes into the job) W/ and I smelled something rather hot. Well, you can’t really smell “hot” but you can smell things that give off gas when they get to hot. We smelled something. I checked the idiot light and the engine wasn’t running hot, I went back into the engine room and looked things over and everything looked ok.  With the room closed up I thought maybe things were warming up enough to help some  of the cleaning products we often use to  outgas more. So I returned to whatever I was doing and then 5 minutes later the watermaker suddenly shuts down.  Who knows why? There is a high pressure cut off switch and a low pressure cut off  that both trip the same switch, but if either of them trip the switch  there is no light that comes on telling you which; high pressure or low pressure  tripped the light. So I dialed down the pressure and figured I would just restart the watermaker. With no pressure in the membrane I flipped the switch on and heard a grinding noise.  Immediately I shut the system  off and moved; as quickly as a guy 195 cm tall can, back to the engine room. There I now saw some sparks. “W/ SHUT IT DOWN” I yelled. She turned off the fuel all the way and the generator was still turning. Oh-Oh!   No fuel, engine still on, not a good sign.

The only thought flowing through my brain was that we now have  a runaway diesel.  To stop a “runaway diesel” the  book say’s to block the air intake and so I shoved a large towel into the small air intake. The engine  still ran. Oh! Oh!  not actually what I thought but this is a public venue.  I turned off the fuel to the generator. The throttle control was already shut down but just in case she was getting a little bit o’ fuel I closed off all possibilities of diesel entirely.  The generator still ran. She was running slowly, maybe 100 rpms but she seemed to not want to quit.  “W/ go turn off the key”.  I was running out of options. Shut everything possibly related to the generator down. W/ was hanging over my shoulder in the engine room as worried now as I was.  She turned the key off and the generator still ran!  Damn!  (Not what I really said but it will do).  What now? I could see that the engine was heating up  by the starter,  it was sizzling there  and there were small amounts of smoke (smelling bad) eking out of the same area.  But she’s still running. DAMN!  I thought to try the decompression lever. If a diesel has no air (I thought maybe it was getting some from the oil sump as well as sucking up some oil which is what a runaway diesel will do) and no fuel she can’t run.  Law of nature. Compressed air with fuel will blow up and thus we have  combustion in a diesel engine. So I open up the compression lever and she runs FASTER!  What the HELL!

My world is quickly turning upside down. The laws of physics just don’t  seem to work here.  Getting down to my last possible strategy; if this doesn’t work; I’m just not sure what I can do. More smoke is issuing from the central part of the engine immediately under or behind the starter.  I tell W/ to grab a towel. I’m thinking that if I can jam another towel between the fly wheel on the engine  idler arm and starter gear then I can effect a stop. I stuff the towel there and slow the rpms down from maybe 100 to 50! I”m making progress but there is more smoke beginning to fill the engine room. I ask for a large wrench so I can stuff the towel further into the small space (a hand or finger getting in the space would not be good out here – not that loosing a finger or hand would be good anywhere, just out hear most likely death wouldn’t be far behind) and effect a stop. Faster then light W/  (remember she’s petite and can move quicker than I on the boat) hands me a large crescent with a rubber handle. I’m stuffing and making some headway. My hands are beginning to lose small chunks of skin but the engine is now turning about 25 rpms and looks like I”m stealing the life from it.  I get the generator  to finally grind to a halt, breathe a sigh of relief and leave the engine room  to get some fresh air.  The generator starts up again!  What the HELL, is this engine possessed?  Again I reach and shove more towel in between the teeth and the armature that holds the starter and the idler on. Again she finally stops. I wait, I think she’s stopped I wait.  I exit the smoky engine room as quickly as possible and get some fresh air.  She didn’t start up again. Whew! The boat is a afloat, no fire (the absolute 2nd worse thing on a boat – the first worse thing is a hole below the water line), and I’m alive but with torn up hands.  I thought we were finished but we’re not.

Once the air cleared of the noxious fumes  and we could investigate further we discovered that the power to the boat was non existent.  No lights, no fan, no ships radio ( we did have a hand held VHF), and that means something else was going on. Since I knew the generator has some issues I first disconnected the positive and negative wires to it completely isolating it from the boat. Then I tried the ships power. No power. I checked at the panel, we weren’t getting power to the panel. I check the batteries –  they had power. Somewhere between the batteries and the panel I was losing power. I disconnect the Prosine 2 Inverter Charger from the system wondering if that was effecting the power. No change.  Eventually I discovered that somehow I had blown a 300 amp fuse that powers the ship. With the generator and  the POS Xantrex Prosine 2 Inverter (that worked) /Charger (that didn’t work) disconnected I replaced the fuse. Yep! had one aboard and if I didn’t have one aboard I would have stolen the fuse from the Prosine Inverter / Charger to replace the one blown.

This actually took me some time to trace it to the fuse as I’ve never seen a large fuse like that blown. Blown it looks more like an old  brown faded color  then new but the fuse  didn’t look all burned up. So with the fuse replaced we now had the fans, lights, and radio back. The radio I wasn’t too concerned about but I was about starting the main engine. Now we can start, power up the ships engine. There hasn’t been much wind lately and so if we had to make it out of Kuna Yala most likely we’d have to motor. By now we had decided that we would be leaving a week earlier then expected. To keep the Lobsters we’ve bought and the meat we brought frozen we needed to keep the freezer going. We don’t have near enough solar to do that and if we have to run the batteries  about 200 amps / day for the DC refrigeration with the 100 amp hour alternator on the main engine it would take about 3-4 hours of run time to keep everything going. Thus if we’re going to run the ships main engine we might as well be running it to Shelter Bay Marina near Colon where we are planning on our work summer to be.

One good thing about the Aquamarine Genset is the owner Dan is always willing to help. And one weird thing about Kuna Yala is that as remote as it is there, there are Digicel towers at various places-which means cell phones. We were within phone service so I called Dan and discussed the issue with him. He suggested to by pass the electrical panel for the pumps (fuel, and two cooling pumps) and then use a remote starter switch to start it up. He felt that somewhere in the switch I had fused a connection.  I did all that thinking it would be wonderful if I could get it to run this way. Not perfect, just ok but ok would be good.

After an hour or so of re-wiring I connected up the remote starter switch and the engine would crank; barely,  and the house lights would dim. That’s it, nada, no more. the engine didn’t start. I have tried to hand start  the generator before but never been able to.  So what to do. Move.  We committed ourselves to move the  following am.  We prepared the boat to move and by 8 am expected to be on our way.

That evening whilst W/ and I were enjoying the sunset and discussing our predicament I came to realize that I didn’t have a runaway diesel I had a runaway starter. Since I’ve put the conundrum on some of the sailing boards and found out that a runaway starter is not all that uncommon.  I’ve never had it or recognized hearing of it before. I will however remember it hence forth.

First stop Porvenir. In Panama we needed a Zarpe (permission to change cruising  areas) and we had to see the port captain in Porvenir to get our Zarpe for travel to  Colon (where Shelter Bay Marina is). If this can be said of a sail boat; we had a wonderful motor to Porvenir!  The water was glass like, we had our little awning from the dodger to the boom gallows up, and we ran the refrigeration so the food stayed frozen, and the refrigerator kept our essentials chilled.

Porvenir was a none event. W/ came ashore with me and we visited the museum, got our Zarpe, and ate at a Kuna restaurant while watching two local teams compete in Soccer; or as they call it down here, futball.

The following am we weren’t as blessed with the “motoring” weather as we would have liked. It had rained, squalled a little the night before and there was some weather mess  left over. We had a light breeze say 10 kits out of the NE  with some choppy seas and the wind was predicted  to die during the day. We were planning on coastal sailing (really coastal motoring) to keep our essentials frozen or cold and we expected it would be shy of 7 hours travel time no more then a couple of miles offshore. Towing both dinghy’s; the engine off and on the boat, we motored out and around the reef of Porvenir.

As the day wore on and the miles were slowly sliding under the keel we were comfortably on our way. The freezer and refrigeration we’re being chilled. W/ threw together a lobster salad for lunch and for the moment all was well with the world. We didn’t know what was happening politically in the US or Europe, or China and we fully understood that the world would continue on it’s course without our immediate intervention. Of course when things are looking good, almost too good considering that they could be good with a major system down, a Yang event must occur to keep life in balance.

W/ looked back and said, “The hard dingy is towing funny”. And indeed it was. Somehow in the benign day the dinghy had taken one wave that filled it 1/2 full of water.  Time to remove some water. “Not to worry; I’ll get it out”, I said. So I pulled the inflatable up to the transom, W/ held the painter for a moment and when I hopped aboard she let it go. I was now in the inflatable being towed behind our boat. The hard dinghy was so full of water I didn’t feel I could get aboard her without swamping her end and me getting wet. I wasn’t interested in going for a swim. For the next 15 minutes or so I bailed the hard dinghy.  I tried the small bailer we made out of an empty plastic container but I was using a teaspoon to put the ocean back and I came upon the idea to use the look bucket. It’s about a 5 gallon sized bucket that has a glass bottom in which we can put one end in the water and see clearly what is hidden beneath the surface. We use it for scouting dive spots.  But since it’s a bucket I can dip more then a quart of water out at a time and soon I had most of the ocean back where she belonged. I sponged up the rest and told W/ I was done. During this entire  process she had slowed the boat down from about 6 kts motor sailing to 3 kts sailing.  With the main ships engine in neutral it was time to get back on the boat.

Windvane turning block Assembly

Windvane turning block Assembly

I pulled the painter to the inflatable and hauled the inflatable and me up to Elysium while the boat was sailing, I then grabbed hold of our SS Windvane turning bracket to ascend the 5 feet back onto Elysium.  I got a good hold on the SS mount and stepped up on the side of the inflatable just as a small wave rolled through and slid the inflatable out from under me.  For one second I was sliding on butter and the next I was hanging over the deep blue Caribbean with only water under me. Now maybe when I was 20 I could have simply done a pullup and then a push up of my entire body weight; rolled over the transom and been on the boat. However; I’m no longer 20!  And being truly honest, I’m not sure I really could have completed that feat even when I was 20 and roughly 30 lbs lighter then I am now.

“W/ I’M IN THE WATER” I yelled. This is not a good thing although either I’m blind to any danger or too foolish to recognize it.  I fully trusted W/ and we were only about 2 miles from shore. Should she have decided to leave me at that moment I didn’t doubt I could swim ashore. The water was warm, the sun was out and the seas were calm.  But that wasn’t to be the case. She still loves me 🙂  she’d make sure I would get back on the boat.

I knew I wasn’t getting back on the boat from shear strength. So I let go the SS apparatus that holds the turning blocks for the windvane and slid down the painter to grab on to the inflatable. We were still going 3 kts and although that doesn’t sound like much (it’s akin to a really fast walk or really slow jog), a body being dragged through the water at 3 kts is trolling for sharks with a large morsel of food- that food was me. I tried to get in the dinghy from the bow and I was constantly being pulled under the dinghy by our break neck speed and my clothing (aka pants) were being doggedly tugged away by Neptune. After about 3 or more seconds of this I made the decision that I wasn’t going to climb into the dinghy from the bow.

There was a rope handrail running down both side and handles secured to the dinghy on both sides. I slid over to the side of the dinghy and figured I could wrap around the side like riding a horse and slide back up on top. Generally we get in the inflatable by hanging vertically in the water and by going under water and with fins kicking, launch ourselves out of the water like a rocket,  pulling for our life’s worth over the  side of the dinghy, rotating on the tube and finally wriggling aboard.  That’s with the dinghy stable and not moving.  There was NO WAY I could do the rocket launch with the boat going 3 knts and there was no way I could do the horse move where I’m one moment hanging on the side and the next back on top.  Another minute gone by.  I was going to have to work my way round to the stern of the inflatable and pull myself up the transom. Barring a quick exit from the deep blue there W/ would have to heave to (I never thought of that while in the water) or furl the head sail.  She had indicated later that she would have dropped the dinghy off and I could have gotten in it while it was not moving, she would then have come back and picked me up.  Luckily that day I hadn’t ticked her off a lot. Maybe a little, but not a lot. 🙂

So I’m  now round the stern of the boat and Neptune is doing his finest to remove my shorts. I’m spread eagle attempting to keep  them on as I pull my self up over the transom. Damn glad we’d removed the engine because if the engine  was still on the dinghy  this maneuver would have been a “don’t do this at home, save for professionals ” one. I’m now half on the dinghy with my legs spread apart and Neptune now has a hold of only 1/2 my legs and feet.  I slither aboard the rest of the way and take a breath. W/ too is relieved and I see a little PO’d. Swimming was not part of the plan for the day.

This time we discuss it  and I’m not going to attempt to board Elysium alone. We’re still sailing about 3 kits. She locks the wheel on coarse and that will keep the sail full and the boat going relatively straight for a couple of minutes, and she then comes back to the stern. I pull up the dinghy to the stern and she takes some of the painter and wraps it around the SS pushpit  effectively cleating in place for a minute or two. Now the dinghy can’t easily slide out from under me. I grab the SS turning unit on the back of the boat and grab the pushpit. Had I earlier had a hand on the push pit I felt I could have gotten aboard. Now I do, with the adrenaline in my system I’m again like a 20 year old and I clambor aboard to hugs and reprimands as W/ lets the dinghy slide back into place. We’re both aboard now and we power Elysium back up while I receive the rest of my tongue lashing, dry off, and put on some different cloths. Today Neptune didn’t get anything from me. He’ll patiently wait I’m sure.

About an hour out of Linton I choose to run our refrigeration system again so we’ll maybe get some time there to see friends Kiaya’Song and Peking.  Once the DC5000 fires up and is running for about 15 minutes I go and check to make sure all is ok. It’s not. The electrical refrigeration motor (DC5000 unit) is erratic, running faster then slower, then faster again. This is the same motor we had fixed in Trinidad. The fix lasted about 10 months with minimal use and cost what it would have to buy a new motor and have it installed. Fortunately,  I now have a new motor on board so when we get to Linton and anchor I’ve another project to begin. I’m not looking forward to that one, I don’t like “having” to do projects and would much prefer to do any project  on my schedule not the boats!  But the boat; like a living person, has it’s own agenda; at least one would think  that giving what’s happened the last few days.

Go Slow Sail Far Stay Long

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Throwing Money

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

Two steps forward; one back! Yeah, that would be nice. Some days I actually feel like it’s two steps back and one forward.  Today’s been one of those days.  We had sent the refrigeration motor off to get “refurbished”. Came back; installed everything. Motor still becomes very  hot. It did however run  better. But the motor got very, I mean, very hot, hot enough to melt the insulation off the wires. I upped the wire size to 8 AWG and reconnected the motor. Keates (our Trini refrigeration expert) asked us to wait for him before running it. We did. He checked everything out and the motor still became hot. It would run for an hour or so and I’d have to shut it down because it was approaching 200 degrees F.  Yep; close to boiling water! He contacted the rewinders and they said the motor was “good”. Funny; it still gets hot. Keates concluded it was in the brushes. He’d look for some new brushes on the island  or ones that could be adapted and I wouldn’t run it so long as to avoid heating  up and burning up the motor.  We limped along for a week or so thus. Finally, Keates thought he had some brushes that would work. He came by this am and tried and tried and we couldn’t get them to work. We ended up

Missing Motor

Missing Motor

concluding that the motor needs to be removed; again, and so we did. Upon removal of the motor we placed it on the table for examination.  We discovered that the brush housing for one side moved. The top of the housing wasn’t secure! I firmly remember the rewinders saying something about that and yet they didn’t do anything.  Shame on them.  Keites took the motor saying he would have it fixed and back to us Tuesday. Hopefully then we’ll be back in business.

Our Ground Tackle

Our Ground Tackle

While we’re figuring out the big projects we chip away at the little ones. We flipped our anchor chain end for end to even the wear. The galvanization is off of one end and I hope to get it regalvanized in Columbia. We also switched anchors and moved the XYZ to the 100′ chain, 200′ line rode and the big CQR to the all chain rode. (After more research the XYZ I’ve discovered that it likes lower scope for resetting and that’s my experience too in the first set. With too much scope out and trying to reset the anchor it will turn on it’s side and drag.  I need to have the shank lifted some for the tip to bite. Once set however it holds better then a Mac truck.)

In the mean time I was taking apart the Oberdorfer water pump that was on the Aquamarine Generator.  The front bearing (on the back of the water pump was grinding). I hoped I could shove some grease in there and stop the grind. I tried. I did get the grease shoved in there but the grinding still persisted. I tore it open to

Base Oberdorfer Pump

Base Oberdorfer Pump

find the bearings and the retaining ring working against each other.   Often in paradise there are people that have figured out how to make anything work.  But here I was out of luck.  I emailed Aquamarine and Dan suggested I eliminate the water pump and put in an electric. He’d mentioned that in his newer units that was what he was doing, so OK, I’ll do that but how do I run the refrigeration compressor?  I needed the bottom pulley.  Eventually after trying to do some of the leg work myself; I skyped Aquamarine and talked to him. He could make a new top plate for the diesel that would fit the compressor, give me two belts and a new water pump. Viola’ !  He could send it out today if I gave him the approval and that we did. So we have a fix coming our way….. Hopefully.

A month earlier we had ordered a new holding plate for the freezer. Yesterday I picked up the plate.  Instead of all 1/2″ tubing there is one set of 1/2″ and one set of 3/8″ tubing. Back to the phone (Skype) and calling Seafrost. Remember they made our original stuff and the entire system is Seafrost.  Ok; I didn’t send him everything on every part of the plate that they made that I had bought from them when we were refurbishing the boat. That may be a lesson learned. No detail is too small to report.  (Other cruising friends said they once ordered a part for replacement – with the exact part number they ordered the part, believe it or not  the company had changed the part numbers and the part they received had the correct part number but was the wrong part – go figure.) Anyway I spoke to Cleave at Seafrost and he said to let him know what fittings I needed to be able to adapt to the 3/8″ tubing and to fit the plate first in series  He would send them out Monday. I’ve emailed him the info and hopefully we’ll have everything we need to make the change somewhere down the road.

Who say’s “Throwing money at something won’t fix it!”  They’ve never been on a boat in a semi remote place trying to get everything back working again!  We’ve thrown money at these two problems. We’ll let you know what works and what doesn’t.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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AquaGen Followup

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010
The offending Bolt

The offending Bolt

Well, she’s back together.  At least 98%. I”m not satisfied with that so when we’re in Trinidad I’ll have to take it apart and put it 100% right.

Monday went as follows: Started out locating and getting some 6mm SS  bolts at Budget (not) Marine in Grenada.  I rode a friend’s bicycle to town and just so you know; I walked up a couple of the hills or what they refer to as mtns. Wanted  to get some of the stronger steel bolts  but couldn’t find them. Tried the Toyota dealership the BMW dealership (have found what I’ve needed at auto dealers before) and Ace Hardware.  I ended up with 10   6 mm x 3/4″ and 2  6mm x 5/8″  SS A-80 bolts. I wanted all 5/8″!

So once back on the boat I spent a goodly amt of time in the engine room using a hack saw and cutting  the

Me and My Long Arms

Me and My Long Arms

longer bolts down ! Then I filed  the ends so the threads would be good. Now remember it is hot here and the boat doesn’t have AC and even if it did with the generator down we wouldn’t have AC anyway. So I’m shirtless cutting the bolts in the engine room and after every 30 minute or so I  take a 5 – 15 minute break.

Once the bolt lengths were all correct I went about cutting a new gasket out of the cork gasket material with the black stuff embedded in it.  I used the gasket silicone on it. What a PITA on the Aquagen.

When the Aquagen works she’s a dream, but working on it isn’t.

After we got the coolant  top  that the compressor attaches all gooped up  I began to put the new gasket on the engine with all the gasket sealant. About  half way installed, I discovered there is one bolt that won’t naturally turn down. It’s the one by the SS tubing Aquamarine added to  hold the compressor. I have to put that bolt in first and then turn it down, then put the others in. @#$%^#$^. to say the least. I removed what I had already

It's the bolt behind

It's the bolt behind

installed; lifted the gasket with the goo off and proceeded to put the single PITA bolt in and turn it down so the gasket all fits correctly. I proceeded to install the other bolts and once they’re all in, put the compressor back on. I notice the compressor fits  snug (physically touching) to  the bolt that was broken off. DAMN!  Maybe that was the cause of the broken bolt.  So I remove the compressor and take the locking washer off the offensive bolt (yes I considered it offensive by now) !  If the bolts are torqued properly the locking washer shouldn’t be needed anyway. Off it comes –  change out the washer and put the compressor  back on. Put it all back together and an hour or two later start it up.

What I started out to do was simply replace the gasket on the water pump with one made out of a waterproof chart paper and tighten down one bolt on the coolant cover that was leaking coolant (I was afraid the cup seal wasn’t the perfect size).  I’m not getting any water out of the gasket  but the cup seal is still leaking.  And with the cup seal leaking I”m getting a small amt of saltwater spray sent all over the front of the engine room. Then too I see a little green up by one of the bolts for the coolant at the top of the engine!  DAMN and that wasn’t all I said. So like a good sailor I jury rigged a fix. I wasn’t interested in taking it all off and starting over, I’m tired and it’s a been a long day. I don’t have the bolts I would prefer and I don’ t have  perfect replacement gasket. I used a fender washer for a  1/4″ bolt and cut a gasket out of the same cork material and gooped it up to and then installed the bolt.  Finally it’s not leaking but it ain’t pretty.  When I torqued the bolt down (BTW I looked it up and they’re only torqued to 7 ft lbs or so and I may easily have over torqued the others the last time when I had this off to put the vent plug in that Aquamarine suggested) the cork with the gasket goo squeezed out quite a bit!

Thus I’m wondering if I wasn’t to not use the gasket goo on the cork impregnated with something gasket?  If W/ had pulled out the  gasket paper I would have used that instead.  As luck would have it she pulled out the cork gasket material.

When we get to Trini I’ll  redo the top plate. The generator will be 100%. Right now it’s holding the coolant  but I don’t want to remain this way on a passage. That would be a bigger PITA should it fail there. And I fear that if I leave this for any length of time the antifreeze will react with the bolt, the cover and the Aluminium block  making  the bolt much more difficult to remove.

Go Slow
Go Far
Stay Long

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Help! I’m Injured!

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

We’ll, not me, at least not physically. The boat is injured and I feel the pain. I feel the pain cause so much of me (us) is in this boat that when something doesn’t work it’s like I’m injured. And I feel the pain cause I’m physically bent over, reaching, cutting a finger – hand or my arm, squinting, trying to hold the light and get a wrench on one end and socket on the other end of what ever I need to fix.

It started out as a couple hour job. That’s what I estimated.  W/ usually doubles that time but ok; it’s a morning job. It’s Sunday; day of rest. Boats don’t rest.  I had two things to do. I was going to tighten a plate down on the top of the Aquagen (it was leaking coolant) and I was going to put a new gasket (made from a glossy magazine cover) on the water pump (it was leaking saltwater), and I didn’t have a spare gsaket.
First I pulled off the water pump; I needed to loosen the belt running to the water pump so I could pull off the refrigeration compressor so I could get to the bolt (that appeared loose) that was under the compressor.  Done!  I find the bolt laying on top of the plate. So I gently try to restart it in the hole. Damn!  It won’t go. DAMN!  (that’s not really all I said). So I pull off the other bolt holding the compressor on and now have clear access to the hole. Words can not fully describe my feelings here. And if you remember the 7 words that years ago were not to be spoken in public you might have heard them all. The bolt had sheared off!

How to get it out. I called Serge on Spirrare  and he came over to help.  He’s younger with better eyes; and has as much or more experience with engines. Besides; it’s always easier breaking someone else’s boat rather than your own.

So from a job that was to be a couple of hours we’re now to a job that may take us to the marina and I’ll have to pull the engine out; take it to a machine shop and have the stud removed.  We discuss some options. But right now it comes down to; let’s see if we can get it out. We look for the Easy Outs. I know I have some. Can’t find any. We do however find some of the screw extractors. Gently Serge punches the center of the bolt and drills a small hole. We try the extractor. Nothing. Serge drills a slightly larger hole. We try the extractor. Nothing. I connect the extractor to the drill and I try using the drill to remove the Bolt.  Viola!  It’s coming out, it came out!  Whew, an am job turned into a month job which turned back into a two day job!  Today is Sunday. Nothing is open. Tomorrow I’ll go to the marine store and get some “metric” bolts so they’re all good, I’ll also go to ACE Hardware (yep there is one in Grenada) and see if I can get some strong metric bolts. Put it all back together and hope the leaks are fixed.

After we got the bolt out, we reminisced about my good luck,  and  Serge took off. After all; there was an afternoon of the Dominos Train Game for cruisers planned at the marina.  I would miss it (I’m not really a big fan of that game) and W/ too decided to stay and assist.  After lunch I raised up the heat exchanger (one of the things on my Trinidad list and that should make sure no air stays trapped in the top of the cooling system).  That done, sweat rolling off me, we picked up and called it a day.

What a day. Aren’t Sunday’s to be a day of rest?

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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