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
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.
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.
I generally pride myself on having a wee bit of intelligence. That coupled with being goal oriented and slightly obsessive / compulsive in a few things (not counting spelling) has helped to keep us out cruising.
However yesterday I came upon a bit of a shock. Any long term blog reader may well remember that in Panama we spent a lot of time and money repairing our generator. We were not entirely successful in a perfect repair but ironically the generator we worked on is still plugging away.
When we had returned from our sojourns to the states, Guatemala, and Peru we set about to ready the boat for the Pacific. One thing I had replaced was the Aqualift muffler. After discovering that
the generator needed more care than I could give it; Greg at ShelterBay was called in to help.
Here my memory gets a bit foggy. I don’t think we (Greg or I) ever removed the muffler although I know we disconnected the hoses going to it. After the semi success (we never were able to get one of the head bolts to torque down all the way) I remember feeling that the generator was taking a bit longer to fire up. I chalked that up to maybe the compression was a wee bit off because I couldn’t get all the head bolts torqued properly or who knows what. I know mechanics will say
there is nothing magical about diesels but for me there always seems to be little differences and if they aren’t magical there is something else that effects their personalities and I don’t know what it is.
Fast forward to now. One of the issues we’ve had in playing with the system is that we need to manually turn on the regulator. I don’t want it coming on with the key switch and pulling full power before the generator has warmed up. So we run the Kubota for about 3 minutes then at full rpm’s I or W/ switches on the regulator. (I have ordered the temp switch to do this automatically but will not be able to install them until we pick it up in American Samoa). This entails daily going into the engine room and flipping the switch. Yes I could have installed it somewhere else but when I received the new temp switches all my time would have been wasted. Four times a day W/ or I enter the engine room and turn the regulator off or on.
Fast forward to yesterday. I was going into the engine room to flip the switch on and looked at the Aqualift muffler; really looked at it, and found that the hose running out of the boat is connected to the port on the muffler that indicates “IN”. Shit! We shut down the generator and I began the task of turning the aqua lift around.
An hour later we were finished. Although the exact task took about 15 minutes, on a boat nothing is easy. We had to get all the tools out and there is nothing like a shop on a boat. In one locker we have all our nuts and bolts. In another locker we have the most used tools and then in a third locker we have sets of wrenches. Basically two out of the 3 lockers were emptied and sitting on the floor and berths of the boat. I was in the engine room asking W/ for this tool and that. I removed the hose clamps and even replaced one that was giving me some concern. Once the hoses were removed I removed the shelf, dropped the muffler down, emptied the water out of it, reversed it and connected it back up. I had wondered why the muffler seemed extra full of water lately. Now I know why. I suspect that the extra water added more back pressure to the engine exhaust and now I hoped that the little generator would start easier. Once reversed I slid the muffler back on the hoses, put the shelf back on, and tightened up the hose clamps. Finally I replaced any of the wire ties I had had to remove to have easy access to the various parts. Start ‘er up!
Viola! She seemed to start easier. Was it my imagination? W/ confirmed that the start time appeared less but we will see after a few more starts if she continues to start as easy. And as I’m writing this a day after I found the mistake and corrected it, yep W/ and I believe she’s taking about half the normal start time to fire up. It’s nice when something actually works out.
Yep, when one is ready, one is ready. We’re ready to go and things just seem to drag on. We went back to Panama City to get our extended Visa for French Polynesia and the month was up on the 14th. We call the Embassy on the 12th and no they haven’t heard yet. Kim on North Star applied the day after we did. They called on the 12th and that evening they received an email saying come and get them. Oops, however it takes two days. We ask Kim to ask them for us too! A little subtle pressure is always good. The following day we call, “No, haven’t heard”. The following day we call, “Not yet”. It is now past the month that we should have received an answer from. I’m starting to understand people’s frustrations with bueracracies. We figure Monday when W/ calls she’ll ask if there is a problem. If it comes down to it we figure that will just be money left on the table and walk away from it. We can’t wait forever, we are ready.
Then we go to Marina Warehouse to see about our motor for the generator. We get lucky and catch Arturo in. He tells us there’s some difficulty at Customs with everyone’s order. He hopes tomorrow. We check tomorrow and he hopes Friday. We wait. I’m getting a lot of practice waiting and I’ve never been good at it.
Years ago when I was under the influence of family my mom would drag me to Church. When you are only 7 or so drag is the best description. What 7 year old can sit still for an hour listening to stuff he can’t even see and play with. So my mom in her infinite wisdom figured I needed “sitting” lessons, or better “sitting” practice. I don’t’ remember how long those lasted but I do remember the frustration of sitting on a chair in the dining room. I think I somehow only had 2 or three practice session and I would have thought of those as pure torture. I’ve not gotten much better at patience.
Finally, Friday we actually had the new motor on the boat. We used another cruiser to assist in lowering it to the dinghy (it only had a mass of about 45 kg’s) and we used a halyard to lift it on the boat. Put it in the cockpit to work on moving it below for stowage. Yeah, stowage. Our other motor is now doing fine so we’ll most likely be the only boat crossing the Pacific with a spare generator motor!
Monday arrives and we head to the French Embassy for the extended Visa. We sit in the waiting room for about an hour, the agent appears takes our Passports and tells us to return tomorrow between 10 and 12. We do, where she then advises us to stroll the old city because it will be another 45 minutes. We return for
another 30 minute wait and then we receive our Passports back with the extended Visas in them. Sweet. Back to the boat and get ready to leave. Only need to add some fuel and do a last minute shopping trip.
The following am W says the sink drain looks funny. I investigate and find the pot metal nut on the bottom of the drain rotted away and now it has separated. I look for our spares ( I have spares for most everything) but can’t find any spare nut nor tail piece. DAMN! While W/ hits the markets I hit the hardware store and buy the needed pieces. Or I had thought I did.
Returning to the boat I begin the task of fixing the drain and adding a shelf for where we will carry the spare motor.
The drain went well for about 10 minutes, then installing the new plastic nut the tail piece fell out. She looked right. But obviously not. I pull it back off and find that the flange on the tail piece is just a hair small for the nut. DAMN! Tomorrow I get to go to the hardware store again. Then I purchase a new tail piece and check to make sure it matches the nut. I was smart 🙂 I brought a new nut with me to make sure.
Back at the boat I install the new items and the sink is back in service. I finish the shelf for the engine and W/ and I lower into place. We talk to Jackie on Jean-Marie and borrow their diesel jugs so we don’t need to move the boat to pick up fuel and then we’ll be all set.
I had hoped we would in and out of PC in 3 days. It was optimistic and most would never describe me as such. I did guess that I could be off by a day or two but the total time in PC was 10 days! Finally, we’re ready to leave Panama.
We head to the Perlas to wait for weather and complete a few more tasks. I know just hanging in La PLayata our bottom has suffered a bit and with the new rules in the Galapagos I need to dive and make sure our bottom is spic and span. Here we go!
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.