Captains log 201404.10
We got off to an early start this morning. Tide changed in our favour and we set off shortly after that and some coffee. Put in a long day of traveling finishing up earlier than expected due to that engine issue yet again. The fuel in the starboard tank got low, the system got air in and that was it. We stopped in the middle of a of the ICW in the dark with me hanging over the stern reaching down to try to fix the thing.
I changed the priming bulb, complements of Terry and his spare's. That wasn't the issue. Neither bulb would prime. I checked the lines by disconnecting the engine side of the fuel line and pumped. It flowed smooth and easy. Connect the engine and even with the bulb full of fuel and the engine fuel bowl empty it wouldn't fill properly. So I traced the fuel line inside the engine cowling. Right up at the intake to the fuel filter on the engine there was a small bulge. Turns out this is a valve that is meant to stop the fuel from draining back to the tank so it would start easily. Huh, guess what happens when we shut the engine off after a good run. It just dies. So it's looking like the valve is faulty. It leaks when its not meant to and won't flow when it should either. Probably corroded though this issue started about 10 hours into running in the motor. So after about 30 minutes of floating about in a river in the dark trying to get it to work we finally succeeded. I sprayed some carb cleaner into the valve and it fired up after that. Instead of getting to the spot we wanted to we had to find a place to anchor in the dark and are now comfortably waiting for tomorrow's glorious adventure. Apart from that the VHF radio failed. We have a back up so it's not a big deal and I discovered the problem was a broken wire internally. I haven't soldered it up yet so I'll see how that turns out tomorrow too. Those of you wanting GPS coordinates I have two for you, this morning when we started and where we are anchored right now. Coordinates at start of this morning: N 33 55' 49.2" W 77 58' 38.8" Anchor point: N 33 35' 50.7" W 79 05' 55" S/V SpazCat
Captains log 201404.11
It's 5:12pm and I've had enough for the day. We've been up and motoring since 7:30am and been subjected to strong head winds all day. Being in a narrow channel with 20mph+ winds directly at you is like being in a wave tank. To make it worse the current was also against us in some parts which produced near standing waves of water. Short period 2 foot waves hitting head on is like going over 1 foot 6 inch tall corrugations in a car at 10 mph. If you've never done that before you should put that on your bucket list. See a dentist first as your fillings may just shake loose. To top it off the motor kept stalling. If I had a dog that behaved like this I'd shoot it. While I was researching the Yamaha site for a part, Lorianne at the helm got into a tricky multi path channel. She didn't want to call me and then the sliding over sand sensation hit and I hear her curse. Yep, she got the red/green markers confused and we ran aground in about 2 foot of water. While I was tempted to fix the motor right there we decided since the tide was falling we'd be better off trying to get out instead of waiting 10 hours for the next high tide. We managed to get out after about 10 minutes. The only reason was the waves were close to two feet at times and they got us off the sand and we inched forward bit by bit. No big deal.
Terry found the missing rudder part and emailed me but by the time we got out of that sand bar and checked the computer we were in a reception dead zone. I was navigating at that point and I think Lorianne managed to get a couple of things sent on the internet on patchy signals then we lost all connectivity for about 5 hours. The part has now been shipped to Rick from the Catamaran site and we'll also be picking up the stepper motor for the 3D printer which was also shipped today. Until we fix the boat motor we have open the fuel area compartment and reprime the bulb every 15 minutes. Since we've been doing that we haven't stalled once. Prior that we were stalling every 30 minutes. It was ridiculous. Not sure if we'll stop in at Jaxmarine to see if they can fix it because I am so frustrated I'll be doing it myself instead of putting it under warranty claim.
On a good note, there was this dried Japanese calimari that Terry bought me and I opened it up and cooked it in coconut milk with some veggies and spices, raisins and pineapple. Served it over noodles.that was a fantastic little meal. We also did spaghetti bolognese all with freeze dried ingredients. The other thing I made was some chicken alfredo using dried mild instead of cream and some freeze dried veggies. One thing we're really happy about is the freeze dried food. We've been eating really quality meals every day. Shakes in the mornings for breakfast. Food wise we couldn't be happier. Still get a craving for salad or a burger but that's easily fixed. If you never tried freeze dried food before you should give it a go. Cooking a meal like bolognese takes less time than it does to cook the pasta. All of it is the same. Meals in under 10 minutes easily. The longest delay are the fillers like rice or pasta. I'm so impressed I'm going to start writing recipies so I don't forget how we made them. Lorianne also made a bean stew, like chilli and we used a coriander (cilantro) dressing that Chrissy gave us. It was magnificent. Had it two dinners in a row and I wanted it again tonight but we didn't soak the beans. We also have freeze dried beans but we are going through the dried goods first as quarantine usually takes them. Now I'm getting hungry...
============== Position report: N 33 00' 29.9" W 79 35' 19.5" Anchored for the night. ===============
Captains log 201404.12
Well this was a really crappy day. More engine issues. This time it got so bad it stalled and spluttered about a dozen times. I tried getting it up and running but to no avail. We finally reached Charleston City Marina. Let me say that they are about the most arrogant ludicrous place I have been to yet. We just managed to pull in and Lorianne went to get some beer. I get approached by a dock hand and let him know I want fuel and water. Sure he says. Then we find out they only have diesel. After that it goes down hill. Now he say's I have to move because he has two boats coming in. I have the engine cowling off and it's obvious we are having issues. Nope, you have to move. At this point I say, sure I'll move if you want to sign a waiver stating you take responsibility if the boat engine fails and we run into the boats behind us since it was blowing heavily in their direction along with the tide. No, it's your responsibility for docking here. W.T.F? I said this is a marina, I can pull in to get fuel and you have no problem, but if you want me to move when I my vessel is disabled that's you asking me to do something dangerous. "No sir, it's your responsibility because you docked at the Marina." Stupid retard. Even international law states that vessels with issues can come in for up to three days to make repairs. But no, not this pompous little ass who insists that I move the vessel because he has two others coming in in two minutes. We got the engine started and luckily it got about 100 yards away where we dropped anchor. We've been here over two hours now and the spot he made us move from is still empty. Stupid little man with small man's disease. If this marina hires incompetent staff like this who are willing to risk other vessels instead of helping a vessel in distress than they are irresponsible. I'll be writing them a little note to let them know just how ludicrous this whole event was. So if you are wanting to go to a marina where the staff couldn't give a crap about you or your vessel and are happy to take your money and willing to just throw you out while you are disabled risking your vessel and others around you then sure, go to this place. Otherwise I would recommend that everyone stay away from the incompetence here.
So tomorrow we try to head further South with an engine that regularly fails. Though if it does it again I'll be re-pluming the fuel line so that the primer bulb provides pressure to the injectors. I tested it and it works but it means constant pumping of the bulb to go anywhere. At least we'll be moving forward. I've contacted the place we bought the engine from and let them know we are coming and want the engine fixed. That's in Jacksonville Florida so we have a way to go yet.
First Mate's Log StarDate 201404.13
It is amazing how stressful it can be watching my husband deal with this engine. Unlike a car, it's not that easy to get somewhere that can help and not cost a fortune. When one of our cars has engine trouble, Z diagnoses the problem, figures out what parts and tools we need, and we head off to the local auto parts store to solve the problem. When you're on the ICW, even if you diagnose the problem and have all the spares in the world, there can still be that one part you need, and not all marinas stock parts for all engines. Even though the engine is under warranty, because this boat is our home, we can't just head back to our home port and run to the store in our car. We have to find a place on the ICW or get into prohibitive costs with things like taxis. Even then, if we get the part we need, he will have to hang upside down off the back of the boat fixing the problem. Add to this wrinkle the fact that we are on a schedule. Safety is our number one priority on this trip, and we don't want to hang around the Atlantic for hurricane season. We'd also like to arrive in the South Pacific before cyclone season hits there. Granted, just because you're in the season doesn't mean one will form and hit, but we'd rather not take the chance. Even more ironic is the fact that we are in hurry up and wait mode. Once we get through the Panama Canal, the cats enter into a 180 day quarantine period that must be finished before we land in Australia, and once there, they will need another ten days of quarantine. Traditionally, cruising is meant to be a relaxing method of travel wherein one does some sightseeing. What we are doing is highly untraditional, and I don't recommend it unless your options are limited. Some would say we're insane. Hell, a number of you have told us to our faces that we are insane. We don't deny it. We're also stubborn and determined to do this. It's good having you all along for the ride, so to speak. I thought I had taken on a challenge when I decided to become a writer. Apparently, I didn't feel like I had enough material to write about. Just in the time I've written this, and I type almost a hundred words a minute, the engine has died three times. Some other highlights from this morning include getting a drawbridge to open for us, stalling just before we could get to it, and having it close again. Luckily, the bridge operator was incredibly sympathetic, and as soon as we were ready to make another try, she opened again. Then, we limped our way through a narrow channel against a high speed current. All the while, Z is working on the problem and finding various possible solutions. Aside from this, I look forward to finding a marina, filling up our water tanks, and giving this boat a good scrubbing. Next up, the temptation to get rid of this motor altogether...
Captains log 201404.13
The fun times started this morning when we got 1 mile up the river. We had to time a bridge opening and it was 8:30am and the bridge was scheduled to open at 9:am. I got on the VHF about 8:40am to let the operator know we were having engine trouble and trying to time the opening for 9. She responded that she can open for us anytime before 9 if we can get there. Excellent! So we pushed the throttle forward and she opened the bridge and then the engine stalled. We were dead in the water. She contacts us to see if we were going to be able to make the opening. Sorry but no. After 10 minutes we finally got the engine running and called her back. What a fantastic bridge operator. She had the bridge open right as we were coming through. This time we made it. We got around the corner about half a mile and stalled again. This was to be the story of the day. We stall, I get it running and we get a bit further and we stall. We got into a narrow section that was highly entertaining if spoken from a past tense 20 years from now but at the time and at the time of writing it was not so amusing. After that we got to a wide section so we decided to try and fix. Wishful thinking but when this is the only engine you have and the wind is right on the nose you kind of have a lot of wishes. I wish I had the old motor back. I wish we were already in Australia. I wish this stupid thing would work like an engine is meant to. I started cursing and said to the wife I'm tempted to throw this thing overboard. Wisely she convinced me not to. It took some convincing however as I was ready to rip it out and hammer throw the thing as far as I could. At 240 pounds and bolted in with four 1/2 inch stainless steel bolts I wouldn't have been very successful but it's the thought that counts.
So I started with first principles. I know its fuel related. I know that the priming bulb gets to firm indicating pressure has been reached. So it was time to see where I wasn't getting pressure since a fuel injected system increases the pressure beyond what the bulb can produce. Worked my way from the second fuel pump to the fuel flow meter I installed. Seems it had a restriction in it. Ok, remove that, reroute the fuel lines and see what happens. Just like many times before it worked for a while then died again. So it wasn't the fuel flow sensor I installed. recheck everything again. I get to the second fuel pump and no pressure. This is the pump that feeds the injector rail. After an hour of mucking about I accidentally left off a connector and the engine started running fine. I thought I might have fixed it blowing all the lines out. More wishfull thinking. So I finally notice the connector and plug it in. Spluttering starts. I disconnect the connector and the engine runs fine again. I repeat the sequence to confirm it's a cause and effect process and sure enough it was. Great I thought, I'll leave the connector off and maybe we will finally get somewhere. Remember what I said about wishful thinking? You guessed it. The engine died again with the connector off. At this point I noticed the bulb pressure when down significantly. So I pumped it up again. the engine would fire up for a short time after pumping the bulb. After a few more frustrating hours the following sequence was determined. Prime the bulb till the bulb became firm. Click the engine switch from off to on but don't crank it. This starts the fuel pump. Do this several times to get fuel into the system. Fire up the engine and every 15 seconds prime the bulb. This keeps the engine running for about 30 minutes at which point you repeat the process all over again. By the time we reach Florida I should have a grip that can crush beer bottles. My hands feel like leather. I have no real sensation in the finger tips at all. It's like wearing a thick glove. My skin is already so tough I have no fear using cutting utensils as they don't even scratch the surface. I'm quite confident at this point that I could sand back a car with my bare hands prior to painting it. In a few more days I may be able to blunt a katana blade and block knife attacks with my palms. At one point I had enough of the 30 minute cycle so decided to do some more investigation. Back on anchor I traced the problem to the mechanical fuel regulator. The secondary fuel pump seems to only dribble fuel then when I disconnect the fuel line to the regulator the pump flows like it should. The connector I mentioned earlier is also connected to the fuel regulator via a fuel cooler. So what ever the issue is it's around that area.
So I pulled out the fuel regulator, discovered it's a non repairable part so soaked it in WD40 hoping to free it up. Can anyone say "wishful thinking"? While putting it back together I dropped one of the mounting bolts and couldn't find it. Luckily it has two and the main seal is an o-ring deep in the cavity so the only thing the bolts do is stop the regulator being pushed out under pressure. So now we are running one bolt on the regulator because I couldn't feel the bolt with my fingers and that's the only way to fit it. Sure I could have squeezed the bolt harder with my fingers but with no sensation and the new super strength in my hands and fingers I was afraid I would crush the mild steel bolt. If it was a stainless bolt or a high tensile one I might have considered it. It ran afterwards for 20 minutes with no priming the bulb but then went back to it's usual antics. At his point I gave up and went back to the 30 minute routine with the 15 second squeeze of the bulb.
Somehow in all this we managed to get into a slow motion race with another yacht. A monohull (traditional type of yacht people are used to seeing). Rather amusing taking wide corners at 5mph and using the racing line to get better positions and faster corner speed. Now if I was on my motor bike, 1000cc FZR1000 with over 120 hp those corners would be taken at about 200kph (140 mph) and would take about 4-6 seconds with loads of wondering if the rear wheel sliding is too much while laying down black lines of rubber on the road hoping you don't hit a bump or a bit of dirt. With this boat it's a more relaxed approach. You turn the wheel. Prime the bulb. Play with the cat. Grab a beer. Have a chat then look up and see that you've almost reached the 1/3 mark in the corner. Anyway, so here we are having this slowmo race and I look at the chart plotter just after waving to the guy as I was about to overtake him again and notice that I needed to turn left... about 100 feet back. Hard to port and I'm now doing 270 back into the correct route. Then while into the turn, after a chat, patting the cat, having a beer etc, I notice that he is doing a 360. He needed to go the same way! lol All that high paced racing got us distracted I guess. Two miles further up the river and I found our anchorage for the night where we made some bolognese. We were craving it for some reason so decided to have it. Probably because we've been eating vegetarian for the last few days. Thus ends the day. Oh, we're officially into the warm weather. I spotted an alligator and we're in a swamp with this being the first day that hit over 80F (28C or so). So we're getting there. Way better than the mid 20F temperatures and 6-8 inches of snow we departed on.
Captains log 2014-4.14
Woke up to a glorious morning. The Sun is about to rise. The wife is asleep next to me as is the real Spaz cat. Gracie our other cat is in the dining area enjoying what would to a cat be a good sized dining room. Several of you have offered suggestions on the motor. I'm considering George's of getting him to fly over from Australia with a 30-30 and put it down for me. I haven't really discussed the whole issues here so really everyone reading this is kind of in the dark. This log entry should bring you up to speed.
We got the engine new in September last year in Jacksonville Florida travelling towards Virginia. The problem started about 10 hours into the trip but it was not so easy to diagnose as the engine needed to be run in and that means we couldn't use more than half throttle. It just randomly stalled at one point in a river causing a bit of panic as there were many boaters and it was narrow. It wouldn't restart. I checked the fuel and we had fuel. I had just swapped the line from one tank to the other. At this point we had two small plastic portable fuel tanks and jerry cans. The jerry cans were new, the fuel was bought from the same place we got the motor and was ethanol free. The fuel tanks were the same ones that were used to run the 15hp motor we replaced so we could get better power. We never once had an issue with that motor stalling or even spluttering with those tanks.
Every time the new motor stalled I checked the filter. The first time I just changed it. At $10-$20 a pop that's an expensive way to go. So I just blew them out after than. Mainly because after the second one was replaced we no longer had a spare and who figures that you'd need more money invested in fuel filters than fuel for an outboard? The cleaning process seemed to work and it would run for a while then fail again. Usually just after stopping somewhere or going from higher throttle to lower. The amount of times it just died seconds after we get our dock lines throw to us is too many to record even on the latest super computers. I have images burned in my brain of at least 15 different dockhand's faces of panic as the boat starts drifting towards other boats or barriers or into the shallows.
We finally get the boat to Virginia. At this point the suspicion is that air gets into the lines somehow and that causes a problem. The plan is to replace the fuel tanks with bigger ones. So I installed new 27 Gallon fuel tanks. We mounted one before we left Virginia and I mounted the second while at Terry's place in North Carolina. All the fuel lines are new. The breathers are new. The tanks are new. I even installed a 10micron Yamaha fuel filter which is about 3 inches in diameter and about 5 inches high. The engine fuel filter is about 1inch x 1.5 inch. So now we have new lines, new tanks, another fuel filter I've even replaced the original Yamaha fuel tank connector hose and replaced the primer bulb. The fuel system externally to the motor is completely different to what we had originally. The problem however is the same but getting worse. On the way down to N.C with Robin we had a handful of incidents but once we got it started again it would run a long time. This is no longer the case.
When the problem started getting really bad I assumed it was the starboard fuel tank being low and splashing. So I switched to the port tank which was completely full. No difference. We have 3/8 line all the way to the main fuel filter and the fuel switch. All new. 5/8 line breathers, all new. New fittings, new filter, new fuel switch (it never had one before) and now new 5/16 line to the engine itself which is less than 2 feet long. I can pressurize the bulb and it pressurizes fuel all the way into the engines lines up to the second fuel pump. At that point the fuel pump won't build pressure to the injectors but that seems to be the regulators fault. I can look into the vacuum line on the regulator but that goes via a real maze of Yamaha ingenuity. I mean, why go straight to where you need when you can route the line via 20 different impossible to reach crevices? I'm now wondering if Yamaha engineers went to work for Dodge or visa versa.
So there you have it. There are no blockages anywhere in the external fuel system, no air leaks, nothing preventing the smooth transfer of fuel from the tank to the engine. Both tanks are the same, I can pump fuel easily from either one without issues. The engine won't start even after the fuel lines are primed and full of fuel all the way to the second fuel pump. I have removed every fuel fitting to that point to determine where the fuel stops flowing. Unfortunately the regulator is a non repairable part, the fuel pump is repairable but I don't have the rebuild kit and I'm not 100% sure this is the fault. It could still be the vacuum line. While I seem to have Superman's strength in my right hand at this point from all the priming I don't have his X-Ray vision to follow that line. In any case, this is a warranty repair and I want them to repair and demonstrate to me what the problem was before I'm leaving their premises. I am also reminded that I forgot to post our coordinates for the night: N 32 31' 17.7" W 80 28' 44.5" If you get here really quickly there are two dolphins playing outside our window. :D Always a fun sight.
If I've missed something feel free to ask. We love your feedback even if it's not always possible or convenient to reply on time...then we can also forget...probably all these petrol fumes getting us high. Off I go to start today's arm building program. Arnnie at his peak would be scared to shake my hand.
First Mate's Log Supplemental We're back in the land of noseeums, or as I've dubbed them - the invisible itch monsters. There are over 4000 species of the sand fly aka biting midge, and different ones have different tastes in meat. As an example, there's a nasty one in Virginia that loves Z's ankles and has sent my mom to the hospital on more than one occasion due to a severe allergy. That one doesn't bite me at all. Unfortunately, from South Carolina through Florida, I am the tastiest thing on the menu. They feast on me. One would think I would have come prepared after the disaster of taking the boat from Florida to Virginia, but with all the preparations going on, and my sincere hope that I would never go through this again, I went into denial. So, here I sit in a marsh in South Carolina as Z struggles to fix the engine - at the moment, he's wondering how it is that both of his priming bulbs hold vacuum and manage to have an air leak at the same time - I am getting eaten. I've poured on the deet, sprayed country vet bug spray everywhere, and I am drinking a shot of bourbon at 10:30 in the morning, because that's the only damn thing that stops the itch. Luckily, I'll be fine after we reach the Bahamas, because my mother will be meeting us there, and I've assigned her the task of filling a suitcase with every preventive and remedy and witch doctor remedy, and my best friend's cousin' boss went on a vacation and used this remedy. I just have to make it down the ICW and through some sailing lessons. If it's not yet clear, both of us cannot WAIT until we are sailing and not motoring. Message ends.
Captains log 201404.14 supplemental.
It's the end of the day, we're anchored and I can no longer feel my fingers. I find it hard to squeeze my hand. In the morning it will be worse and then after a half hour of priming it'll feel the new normal again. The new normal is no problems squeezing but little finger tip sensation if any and the feeling that I can now break bricks with a single squeeze. At the end of the day I decided to have a beer. I always get the cap and squeeze it between my thumb and index finger so I can pop it in the bottle. No idea why I do it but I've been doing it for years. I'ts not that hard to do but you need a reasonable amount of pressure to fold it in half so the ends meet. This time it felt like the cap was made of aluminium foil. I barely started to apply pressure before the cap folded. Hardly felt like I even had to put effort into it. I'm considering starting a beer bottle cap folding competition. Pretty sure I'd win. Maybe I could get Yamaha to sponsor me. "Yamaha engines are what made me so strong".
Apart from the workouts it was a pretty boring day. Every 15-30 seconds I squeeze the priming bulb till it goes hard. I have to get enough pressure to give the injectors the ability to inject fuel so Lorianne can't do it. If you've ever squeezed a tennis ball really hard enough to deform it that's the pressure you're looking at. We're on the hook just opposite the Skull Creek Marina in N.C. There are thunder storms to the North of us so I'll be disconnecting the electronics before going to sleep. We're not expecting any storms but I like to be prepared. I also discovered that the primary fuel pump has issues today. I pulled it apart because I decided to test the entire outside fuel system for possible air leaks. After a few wild goose chases I narrowed in on the pump. Pulled it apart and found that they used a thin rubbery gasket that absorbed some of the pressure that the mechanical driven pump produced. It was deformed by what appears to be solvent action. My guess is that it wasn't a very resilient material in petrol as the fuel filter o-ring was also swollen. There was a Yamaha recall on o-rings but it apparently didn't affect this engine. I know somethings up since two separate things swelling makes no sense other than poor material or poor fuel. Since fuel would have affected a lot of people I go back to poor quality materials considering the original engine ran fine. So the coordinates for tonight are: N 32 15' 6.06" W 80 45' 2.5" Tomorrow we should be in Georgia and one state away from Florida, our departing state from the USA. We are a bit over 200 miles to get to Cape Canaveral where we have some fun sailing, fix the rudder and the 3D printer. After that we head to Fort Lauderdale and do the check out at the USCG and off to the Bahama's.