Spiritus is headed South again … what it takes to put to sea after a year at the docks!
Below is a list of just some of the things we had to do to get Spiritus ready for sea again.
This occurred over January and early February. Some were maintenance and some emergency repairs after an abortive attempt to put to sea I am publishing a list to show how busy it can suddenly get after a time at the docks. I think this is important because any faraway place can be a trap for a boat …. you come all full of ‘Let’s Go!’ … BUT, you stay a bit to meet the people …. you like it … you move to a dock .. you get more comfortable … your maintenance can slip, because you aren’t sailing. One day you look around at all the others who came and never left and you say, “Uh Oh! I gotta get outta here.”
And thus begins your struggles to clear away all that now ties you to your new surroundings. This is not a criticism of those who stay … someday we will, too. But, Not Today!
Some of what follows is stuff we needed to get done to stay more easily in Mexico .. some is mechanical .. all of it is a lesson of sorts about lines that hold the boat to the dock … some dock lines are more obvious than others.
Starting in January 2014.
FUEL SYSTEM PROBLEMS
Clean fuel in main tank. It had been setting for a year … diesel. This chore is accomplished by taking a small hand pump and gently pushing the tubing to the bottom of the tank and pumping out maybe two gallons of yucky fuel … till fresh looking fuel starts to pump. It has set for a year .. so everything possible has settled. Water … dirt … anything yucky … right next to the intake line for the engine.
Change the Racor fuel filter. It looked like someone had chewed tobacco and spit into it. And it was brown rather than white. Remove bowl and clean tar-like residue. Replace gaskets.
Change Volvo MD17D primary fuel filter. I admit my ignorance here . This bit was my fault. I did not know where it was … and only had one replacement .. and so on. Result .. I had never changed it since we bought the boat. I have now ordered 4 more. I will describe is as covered with a gelatinous clear mass that I think was some form of water … in its gelatinous state.
In chasing air leaks .. change the fuel pump with a spare we had. It had a better, stronger rubber diaphragm.
Replace every fuel line hose between the fuel tank and the fuel pump. These are Volvo specific parts and we broke one and had to manufacture a new one at a machine shop locally. There was indeed a moments pause and tension associated with that little mishap.
Install a new auxiliary diesel electric pump. This pump is normally used to supply the Dikenson diesel drip stove. BUT, its secondary function is that if you close the valve to the stove .. it will push fuel into the injectors instead … great for fixing air in the fuel lines. I had a spare … like the one that was not functional .. the spare also was non functional. Big surprise there.
Added a outboard motor style bulb hand pump to the main fuel line … you can use it to pressurize the system to get rid of leaks … and in a pinch .. to fuel the engine by hand (mechanics idea … liked it).
SALT WATER COOLING SYSTEM PROBLEMS
Install a new exhaust elbow. We even found one in La Paz … our old one had started to weep salt water. This is one of two things that plugged up on our attempt to leave La Paz a few weeks ago and forced an engine overheat and return to the docks.
Thermostat housing cleaning. Turns out that the cold water bypass for the thermostat was totally blocked .. took three drill bits to clear it of ‘plaque’. Felt like a dentist. This was an undiscovered old problem. It had clearly been like that for a while.
Replace thermostat. Had spares on-board, thank God. When we removed the housing … the thermostat literally fell apart in our hands … like some cheap Japanese toy from the 1950’s. It made a horrible sound like Frito’s being squeezed and became a pile of rusty flakes as we watched it. New thermostat.
Removed and cleaned the salt water strainer.
Replace every inch of saltwater intake hose in the engine compartment. The reason … when you would squeeze a hose … large chunks of black flaky plaque would fall out. Replace it all. This included all the hoses that take the water various places along the engine water block.
Replace the water exhaust hose from the elbow. I had the wrong kind of hose and it was collapsing when it warmed up. This was not as obvious as it sounds and took a bit of sleuthing to figure out.
Epilogue(3/2/2014 La Cruz): We were still having a limitation of how fast we could run the engine without causing it to heat on the way to La Cruz. It was manageable but still problematic. Turns out the one place we did not think to check for an obstruction was the water jacket that cools the transmission. Bingo, 90% occluded. Now our boat is no longer a ragged squirter … she is a gusher …. steady flow of raw water from exhaust and a noticeable increase in output when the engine is brought to full RPM at 1800-2000. And, no overheat at those RPM. Sweet! At last!
Installed a water maker … see the post for details on that project that took 2 and a half days.
Turns out that one of the reasons our engine vibrated a bit at speed was that the engine mounts were loose. So we tightened them and added lock washers (eight of them). Now my rigging for the mizzen no longer has a harmonic string like vibration … as though a guitar being strummed. And, we had two failures of the mounts that hold the flywheel cover related to vibration. Turns out that the engine is not a vibrating monster bouncing around inside the engine compartment after all. You can see, hear, and feel the difference.
Starter battery installed. Spiritus has always had two 200 amp Gelcel batteries that both started the boat and supplies energy when it was at rest or sailing. The uses we make of her and the demands we place on those batteries can push them to very low voltages like 11.4 volts on occasion. When this happens … strange things start happening like …(1) the boat will not start (2) the ice box starts going on and off repeatedly (3) we lose the power to put out 100 watts with the Single Side Band HF Radio.
We talked with an electrician we had worked with before and designed a solution. Spiritus now has three batteries. The new one is a yellow top Optima which can be entirely isolated form the boats electrics when we are using what is not the ‘house bank’ of 400 amps of Gelcels. No danger of drawing the batteries you cannot start the boat.
This also required rewiring the selector switch and adding an isolator switch (and figuring out how all this worked in the real world of sailing).
Replace. We are a 38 foot ketch. We had a used 12 foot spinaker-pole that we used as (1) a spreader pole for the genoa-furler, and (2) a pole for sitting the dingy into the water and retrieving or lifting it above water for theft protection. We heard on the morning net of a person wanting to let go of their 12-21 foot actual spreader pole. And we found a young couple who wanted out old pole … a great set of trades was had. We now have a pole that fits our boat properly.
THE RESULT … SPIRITUS ARRIVES IN LA CRUZ ON HER THIRD ATTEMPT!
Thanks to Nancy and Sven from s/v Senta II for the nice pic of us pulling up to the docks all sea worn and salty.
A mea culpae and a caveate.
The mea culpae … my maintenance must not have been as thorough as I believed. None of these impending trip ending problems showed up when O tested the engines at the dock very two weeks. I missed a couple of things in my maintenance. And, the spare parts I had misled me to believe I was more prepared to work on my engine in remote places that I really was (La Paz is not a remote place). We used a tone of spares in bringing her back to life and health. But, we also discovered a wrong water pump spare for God knows what engine but not mine. This led to rebuilding the existing pump when it was discovered to be leaking actively at rest (engine off). The spare electric fuel pump did not work and was used.
The caveate .. I talk a lot in the personal “I” or “we” … I had a great mechanic another cruiser in La Paz (and now in La Cruz) who did most of the work on the engine after the near melt down. Thank you Scott and Robby. And, I used an electrician for the batteries.
The engine now purrs like a kitten …. and the boat once more has the ‘heart of a lioness’ about the sea.
An anthropomorphism. And, a medical bent on the story. We think that the over heat was the boat telling us it was having a heart attack. Plaque had narrowed the water lines till they starved the engine for life giving sea water. The fuel line had a leak so that air would fill the fuel pump … we actually found the Racor bubbling like a fish tank after a high speed test of the engine. And, she did not have enough energy to power her power plant during the start procedure.
It was the boat’s way of saying I need you to listen … I am in trouble .. and I can’t keep you safe if you don’t take care of me!
In a way, the over heat saved us a lot of misery. It made us take a really good look at the critical systems again. We basically gave the boat a coronary bypass … a pacemaker … and a new circulatory system.