8 May 2022: Winning at Life
8 May 2022
Ponce, Puerto Rico
Puerto Patillas, Puerto Rico
Cumulative Mileage (NM)
Crew on Board
Skipper, first mate, chef, entertainment and more; I guess that is solo sailing for you!
GENERAL WEATHER OBSERVATIONS
18 knots from the ESE
Balmy for this time of year
Dry, thank goodness!
After a brief sleep, I figured I had better get up and take Jay up on his offer to help with my engine. I knew he had a timeline to get to Fajardo for a part for his anchor windlass and could not afford to miss the final good day of nice sailing weather.
I got about five hours of sleep. Better than nothing.
Jay came straight over and brought the infrared gun again. After running the engine and Jay showing me exactly where to take temperatures and what each thing means, I was not as confident that the mixing elbow was the issue.
When Jay did a once over of my engine, he had a few things he wanted to tackle. The belt on the air conditioning and refrigeration unit needed to be tensioned. And the alternator belt needed to be tensioned and changed. He showed me how to do both of these things and made me be the one to do them.
And while I did this, Jay cleaned out my water filter and changed the filter on my drinking water line. Something I had been meaning to get to and he could tell was necessary.
Then we removed the hose from the mixing elbow to see if we could detect excessive carbon build up but it seemed non-existent. It was seeming less and less like this was the problem. So we put the hose back together and did not bother to take the mixing elbow off at all.
Lastly, he wanted to address the weeping from my water pump. Something my friend Arjuna helped me to check out in West Palm Beach. It never really got better after that but did not seem to get worse, so I never gave it a second thought. Until now. in retrospect the overheating problem really started immediately after West Palm Beach in Florida. Previously I had attributed it back to the coolant change I did in St. Augustine. But hindsight made me realise that I never did have any issues between St. Augustine and West Palm Beach, and this stretch was on the ICW so I was definitely using the engine.
Given I had a spare rebuilt water pump and seals, Jay convinced me to change it out. So we did it together. He had me close the thru-hull, remove the water pump, gently scrape off the old gasket and acetone the surface. Then we added grease to the grease nipple and a new impeller to the new water pump. We placed the gasket and mounted the new pump.
We filled the raw water hoses again and opened the thru-hull. We started the engine and everything seemed to be flowing and circulating smoothly. And we planned for the next day to be the test of all of our maintenance.
I cooked us dinner and we both went to sleep early for an early morning departure.
It was nice to have a buddy boat when you were worried about your engine and I too wanted to make good use of the available weather windows.
We hauled anchor early in the morning again. And I was still pretty tired, but I was a little more hopeful at least. It would still be a good day of sailing potentially so I raised the mainsail shortly after leaving the anchorage, right behind SV Freida Kai.
But I left my engine on at about half revs. I kept an eye on the temperature and waited. I motored for a half hour at this pace and had no issues which was a good sign we had solved the problem. Then I upped it to full cruising speed RPMs and left it for another half hour. No dramas!
I was STOKED!
But now that I had seen it as working but the wind was blowing favorably, I popped the engine in neutral and let it cool down while I pulled out the jib. Then I shut down the engine and carried on my merry way.
My elation was palpable.
I relayed to the good news over the radio too and he gave a “whoop whoop” over the VHF.
We sailed on for a while and then I tacked to point in the direction I wanted to travel. The wind was not quite right but I wanted to just get there (and I had a newly working engine) so I thought why not just motorsail and get there.
I flipped the engine on and after letting it warm up a bit revved it up to about half speed with the mainsail still up.
Out of habit my eyes still regularly flicker to the temperature gauge. And I immediately noticed it was at MAXIMUM!
I immediately lowered the throttle to idle and shut it down. Then I tacked back south, away from land so I did not have to worry as much about traffic and hitting land while I sorted this out. I thought about it for a bit and pulled the companionway apart to assess the issue. I assumed it must be something in the sea strainer as there were so many large matts of unavailable seaweed along the way. There was nothing in the basket but when I briefly started the engine to observe for a moment, there was ZERO water movement in the raw water strainer.
I shut it down again and and got my my poking stick for the thru hull from the raw water strainer. I had clearly done this before as I had a pre-assigned poking stick. Only this time the stick only went in about a third of the way.
I thought, “man, what the heck kind of blockage I am dealing with!”
After radioing Jay and debating any other possible causes and solutions, we decided that I probalby need to clear the problem. Jay said he would keep an eye on traffic for me and I popped up and check I was happy with my heading and the current sailing situation and then set to work.
Since I could not clear it with my poking stick, I thought I had better clear it at the thru-hull. I closed the seacock and took the worm-drive clamps off and tried to remove the hose. My most hated boat job is removing and putting back hoses. They are always so difficult (I maybe only hate removing clevis pins more)!
I finally pried the hose of with the assistance of a flathead screwdriver to pry it away. The hose immediately drained and seemed to have no issues.
So I thought the problem could be in the thru-hull. So I made sure I had a wooden plug, mallet and grease ready and decided to briefly open the thru-hull to see. With my backup gear handy in case I should accidentally like snap the handle off during the test, I cracked it open. Water camp out at a healthy rate and I closed it a moment later.
I reattached the hose and tightened the clamps back on them and proceeded. The decision was made to take off all of the hoses, in case there was some sort of trapped air. This also did not help and took a very long time. On top of trying a fix, I then had to put everything back together and trying an engine start to see if that raw water was moving yet.
Then I took off the face plate for the impeller and there were no visible issues. I setup my phone to video it while I turned over the engine to make sure it was turning (it was) and put it all back together to test it out. Still nothing.
I was texting friend, Ed, in Rhode Island at the same time. And he said that he used to have this problem on his Universal engine on his Ericson. He said two helpful things:
1) The short term solution – was pulling the hose off of the heat exchanger while it was running until it clearly was flowing and then reattached and good to go.
2) The long term solution – changing the impeller, which appeared to be perfectly good. But this solved his problem forever.
I was hesitant to change the impeller because the split ring was difficult for me to change. I did not have the special pliers and when changing the impeller the day before I had to get Jay to do this final step.
I was unable to get to the heat exchange hose easily as it involved emptying the entire lazarette into the cockpit to crawl in.
So it looked like I would be without an engine.
I returned to the cockpit to get some fresh air after all this work in the sporty sailing conditions. I radioed Jay and he suggested a closer anchorage and since he was going to arrive first we could decide the best way to get me to anchor. Whether to sail onto anchor, to do a hip tow with Jay’s dinghy or have Jay dinghy over and come aboard to help me sail on to anchor for the first time.
I felt bad that this may throw a wrench in his Fajardo timelines but I know Jay’s philosphy of “I will not offer if I do not mean it” so did not question it.
As I sat there, fresh air on my face I thought to myself: “either way I am heading into anchor without an engine, so why do I not just give it a crack changing the impeller”.
So I set my heading again and told Jay I was heading down below so he could watch for traffic again and I grabbed the old propeller from the day before. It was in good shape and I knew it was working then so it seemed the best way to test Ed’s long term solution.
I managed to get the impeller out, new impeller in, split ring on and the pump put back together. I went upstairs to test it and IT WORKED!
I did it!!
I could not believe it. Water was flowing more than I had ever seen through the sea strainer. It was coming out the back exhaust.
I radioed Jay to tell him the good news and kept the engine on to test it out. I watched it for a while with no issues and so returned downstairs to tidy up the work zone and put the stairs back on. I even made myself lunch – clearly I was in a good mood if after all that work I still made lunch!
I also remember to text Ed the good news and thanked him profusely!
Now that my problem seemed to be solved and we still had time to make it to our originally planned anchorage, I radioed Jay to reinstate our original plans. I motorsailed the rest of the way there at full RPMs and never went above operating temperature. Hallelujah!
Anchor down and Jay made me dinner to celebrate my big fix and then I returned home to collapse into the v-berth. Grateful that I did not have to cook that night. Now only one more tiring day of good weather (I was still catching up since the original unplanned overnight) before I would have a few days to rest after all this chaos. I went to bed grinning ear to ear – so pleased with myself for giving it a go and getting such a great outcome!
“Whoever knocks persistently, ends by entering.”
– Muhammad Ali