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Welcome to 2020

This particular blog has been going since 2012, so eight years.  I started blogging about this adventure in about 2008 I think, and you can see those original pages by, you guessed it, going to the “About” section, and looking at the old pages.  Somewhere, there’s an old blog still up but inactive.

We started our sailing adventure in 2008, sitting in a hot tub, discussing “retirement”, that story is on the pages I mentioned above, so won’t go into the details.  (But, it’s here.)

Basically, we started our sailing in San Diego aboard a Catalina 30, called “Karina Del Mar” while attending an ASA school there, at the “San Diego Sailing Academy”, earning our ASA certifications for coastal cruising, basic bareboat etc.  Later, spending many hundreds of hours sailing our little Macgregor Venture (25′ sloop) on the lake in Pueblo, Colorado.

“Winds of Time” served us well for our learning.

In 2010, we chartered for the second time, the first time being the boat in San Diego.  We chose the British Virgin Islands, and a company called Tortola Marine Management and the boat was a Jeanneau 41 called “Wombat”.  Spent two grand weeks there, ten of them sailing the islands, including Anegada.

Today, we live aboard our adventure – called, Adventure.

s/v Adventure

Adventure in the ICW

Since we acquired her in 2015, we’ve lived aboard (after a short stint to let winter pass on the East Coast) and a couple of times for return to Colorado for medical issues for JoAnne.

We’ve added a generator, water maker, repaired numerous issues with the boat, and dealt with many, many engine issues.  I’ve added the equipment for me to be able to dive the boat myself (including my new air compressor, regulator and a few needed items).  We’ve added new lights of different types (LED), some very bright ones for down below for cooking, cleaning and so forth, and repaired or replaced others (and I have to repair on over the nav station now, because it’s out…)

A couple of months back, we had a run away engine.  I’ve documented that here as well as several other entries on the blog.

A few days ago, I received my fuel pump back, which was so bad the rubber seals had rotted out and were breaking up into little pieces.  The device has been refurbished, like new, and I reinstalled it yesterday.  It took 20 hours to get it out, and five hours to put it back in.  I have not, yet, finished putting everything back together.

I’m taking a “back break” today.  Tomorrow I will continue, and reconnect all the fuel pipes going back to the pump and injectors, repair some broken things and probably get some new hose to replace the stuff on the coolant tanks.  There’s also a broken temperature sensor I’ll need to replace, and several pressure hoses to the oil cooler.  In other words, another 5-10 hours for me to put it all back before I can try to start the engine.

On the bright side, I am now getting very good at understanding the engine, and how to take things apart and put it back together.  One day, not in the too distant future, I figure there will be an engine rebuild in my future, and I feel as though I might be able to tackle such a thing myself now.

I hope to have everything back together in a week or so, and test the engine, and take the boat out and drop anchor over night, and maybe go on south for a few weeks or the rest of the winter.  It will depend on whether the weather holds out for us or not.  Not sure that is going to happen, but, we’ll figure it out.  If nothing else, we’ll do a Spring time run to the south and come back this Summer.

Not going to make any more firm and hard plans or put it out to the Universe, because when we do, something always happens.

Anyway, this is the first entry for 2020.

We welcome the new year with a renewed hope that things will be better this time around, with new engine parts, and repairs, and the hope that we can accomplish something wonderful this time around.

Just remember though, if you think you can’t do something, you’ll never get it done.  If you believe you can, and you try, you will surprise yourself at what you can accomplish.

Happy New Year everyone!

 

Perky, the Little Engine that Could

This is the story of Perky, a Perkins 4-108 diesel engine who lives inside a Happy Sailing Vessel named Adventure.

When Adventure was a few years younger, Perky came to live in Adventure because a previous owner of the Vessel wanted a better engine than was in the boat.

Perky was newly rebuilt according to the previous owner. Perky appears to have about 900 operating hours since his rebuild, truthfully not even really “broken in”.

A year ago, Perky got sick and ran away. Not from home, but because he had too much oil, which was really oil plus diesel. Eventually, the sump filled and caused Perky to run away – a bad condition for a diesel engine, and the only way to shut this condition down is to remove air from his air intake.

A mechanic came in to make Perky well, charged us a lot of money to make it work right. Pulled injectors, pulled lift pump, stated lift pump was the problem, and supposedly rebuilt that pump.

A year later, and less than 20 more hours on the engine, Perky ran away again – because the Captain forgot to check the oil level before starting the engine a couple of weeks ago, and didn’t realize the oil levels had grown way over where they should have been.

So – after shutting Perky down, the Captain changed the oil. And removed the lift pump and checked it. It had NOT been “repaired” nor, even “rebuilt” or “replaced”. It was the original pump and parts inside. The Captain found out from Perkins they don’t even make rebuild kits any more.

It wasn’t leaking, but the Captain decided to change it anyway, as a new lift pump was only 25 bucks.

The oil, unfortunately, continued to grow.

So, now the Captain pulled the injectors from Perky and took them to a reputable place to test them. The test went well, but one of the injectors, number 2, failed. Without any significant pressure at all, it shot fuel out like a garden hose. Stuck open, or leaky, or whatever.

Injector #2 was rebuilt by the nice people at Diesel Parts of Carolina, brought back a few days ago and reinstalled with the other injectors.

The oil was removed, oil filter removed and changed, new oil added to the engine.

Yesterday, Perky fired right up…. with a little help from the Captain bleeding the air out of the fuel lines of course. The engine ran nicely.

The oil levels were checked every 15 minutes for about two hours with no noticeable change in levels.

This morning, after the engine had cooled over night, the oil levels were again checked.

And they seemed a tad higher than they were after the initial oil change. But not much.

And certainly not as much as the level had risen after the lift pump change.

So, Perky seems happy, but the Captain is still not quite happy.

Tomorrow we will run Perky once more for a couple of hours, bring him up to temperature, and check the levels again. IF the oil levels continue to increase, then we have no choice but to pull the injectors again and do a compression check, and if that is going, pull the Fuel Injection Pump and have it serviced.

We hope the problem is corrected. But, the Captain won’t be happy until we know for sure.

Tune in soon for the conclusion of “Perky, the Little Engine that Could”!

Engine run up today

Treating this entry rather like a log book today.

Started engine at 0950 local time here in Southport, NC. I did this after diagramming the fuel tanks, the fuel return lines and marking the tanks again (the old markings are fading). I also cleaned the tank tops of dirt and dust, cleaned the floor panels before replacing them, along with all the interior of the mounting for the panels.

I double checked oil levels today, they are normal.

I made sure the return line is opened to the #1, Aft tank, as that’s where I’m pulling diesel from.

Transmission levels fine.

Coolant fine.

Engine started hard (it’s very cold today, was in the mid 30s this morning. It’s 46 now.

Engine did start though, without any problems, other than taking three cranks.

Checked raw water flow. Good.

I brought engine up to running temperature, 160* F and that took 24 minutes.

Pressure was high (almost 80 psi) at start, but as temp increased the oil pressure dropped to normal.

Brought engine up to 1200 rpm for 10 minutes.

Put at idle speed (about 980) and put in forward gear.

Brought engine up to 1100 rpm in gear at dock.

Pulling against docks now strongly, remained engaged.

Has been running 25 minutes in gear with no issues. (1035)

Oil pressure: 40

Engine Temp: 160

Charge: 14.5

Engine running smoothly at this time. Listening for timing or engine speed changes. Seems steady. (1040)

(Listening to Margaritaville Radio, because I’m sick of the cold)

Ok… 1055, engine shutdown.

Temp, oil pressure, voltages all the same as above. Engine didn’t vary it’s tone or speed from 1100 rpm. All systems “nominal”.

Going to wait a bit to let oil settle, and take a reading. Then will read it cold later today again.

Edit: Checked it as it is cooling, and oil level seems higher than it was. Will let it get totally cool before testing again. Also did an oil blotter test; this is where you place a drop of the oil from the dip stick onto a piece of paper and let it absorb into the paper.

In chemistry, this is called Chromatography. They have gas chromatographs, but I don’t have one of those. I’ve got paper. So I did a cold and warm drop test on the paper and marked it. I will do one more drop test when the oil is cool again. So FAR, it shows it pretty clear of any contaminates other than soot.

Trying to leave…. Hotel California

JoAnne and I have been here in Southport going on Three years.

Don’t get me wrong, we really LOVE this town. We love the people, we’ve made a million friends. We know almost everyone.

But, we also spend last winter in Colorado. And the winter before here on the docks. And this winter is upon us now….and… we’re still here.

Every time we try to leave, something weird happens.

Engine issues. Cancer. Engine issues. Fuel issues. Fire extinguishers. Engine issues. Did I mention ENGINE ISSUES?

Last Tuesday we were supposed to leave. JoAnne woke up coughing, sneezing and feeling like crap. Ok, she has a weakened immune system from the two separate chemos (each lasting 6 months) she’s had to go through.

I cancelled the trip.

The week before we found out the cleaning on the boat bottom wasn’t really as well done as it could have been. And the prop was severely fouled. I dived the boat myself and the prop was clumped. It had been cleaned a couple months before. Should NOT have had LARGE barnacles, but it did. Ok, I didn’t clean it, but someone else did. They came out, checked it and said it was “VERY FOULED”.

Company said “Oh, in two weeks it can get that way….”

I don’t believe that. I have sat in these waters for over two years and WATCHED the accumulation, so I know the amounts. Beside the point though.

This time, after cancelling the trip, I started the engine in the afternoon to run the prop (to keep it clean). The boat moves fine under power, still tied to dock, I could move her forward and back.

Ten minutes in, the engine ran away.

I ran below, tried to kill with the kill cable, no luck. I removed the side panel to engine, grabbed a tupperware lid, ripped the air filter off, was immediately splattered with black, hot oil, and slapped the lid over the mouth of the air intake, shutting the engine down.

After cleaning up the oil and checking the oil levels I found the oil was WAY over the amount it was supposed to be.

Now… let’s go back exactly one year, in September 2018. One of the reasons we didn’t leave then was… you guessed it, an “Engine runaway”, then a hurricane which gave us pause, and finally, JoAnne having to go back to Colorado for her Chemo after her recurrence of cancer.

I’d called in a mechanic that I knew. Charged me quite a bit of money, told me the “lift pump” was shoving diesel into the crank case. Removed it, and “rebuilt it” supposedly. ALSO, removed and pressure tested the injectors (supposedly).

Back to a year later, in the here and now. The oil levels were at TWO GALLONS. And it was full of diesel. Not good.

I immediately suspected the lift pump. You know, the “rebuilt one”. In checking I found it is difficult to get the parts to rebuild one (and why, because they cost 25 US dollars!!!!)

Ok…..two gallons of oil, mixed with diesel means I literally have about 3.5 quarts of diesel in the crankcase. I pumped it all out, and disposed of it (properly, at an Autozone near by). I ordered a new lift pump, which came yesterday.

I installed it today. I’ve since changed oil. Run the engine up to temperature. Put it into forward, reverse and left it under stress for 1/2 hour while engine came up to temperature of 160 degrees.

I check the oil levels and they are normal. Before heating, after heating, and I’m about to check them again after cool down to ensure its not collecting diesel.

There are a few places the diesel can come in. 1) Lift Pump, 2) Injection/Governor pump, 3) clogged fuel return line, 4) injectors themselves, 5) a ‘ball valve’ in the heater unit.

I have replaced the lift pump, because the more I look at the old one, the more I do NOT believe it was touched, repaired, replaced (it’s the original one) or refurbished.

The injectors were removed, cleaned and pressure tested (supposedly, did I mention that?) a year ago. Shouldn’t be leaking.

During my study of this engine – remember, I am NOT a mechanic by any stretch of the imagination – I found the stuff above. I also think I have found I do NOT have a pre-heating unit, not anywhere I can see it. AND while I do NOT think I have a clogged return fuel line, I’m remembering a certain mechanic asking me where my “return lines go, and where’s the valve” at one point. I do NOT believe I’ve checked that….

Since the TIME BEFORE LAST when he visited. So, to morrow I will be checking all of that.

It occurred to me, if the return line valve was closed before, it would explain why the engine ran away, not once, but TWICE now.

So, I learned a lot. Never trust anyone else on your engine. Always know everything about it yourself, even if you pay someone else to do the work. Always CHECK everything yourself (which I KNEW, but was too lazy to do). ALWAYS know your own stuff better than anyone else.

Also learned a lot about diesel engines. Actually, pretty simple creatures. They need air, and fuel to work, along with compression. Not much else. Ok, oil in the sump and coolant in the tanks, working, moving parts and all that stuff, but it all works together so neatly!

Two books I’ll recommend though, “Troubleshooting Marine Diesels” and “Marine Diesel Engines” by Nigel Calder and Peter Compton, respectively, if you want to know how diesel engines work.

There’s no book to tell you to do things a certain way in life. How to deal with mechanics or riggers. There’s no book out there to tell you how to know in what order to do everything you need to know how to do on a boat.

Oh, there’s LOTS OF BOOKS on various subjects, but there is only ONE thing that is going to teach you the right way to do something. To prevent screwing up, you need experience. You get experience by screwing up a few times.

Delayed again :(

We were all set to head out this morning. Relatively calm inside and supposed to be pretty nice out on the ocean.

Unfortunately, I didn’t double check my blood pressure medications last week as part of the checks I was going though. On Saturday evening I got a text message from Walgreen’s saying my prescription was due. It was too late to go over on Saturday evening by then, and of course, I went in early Sunday.

They processed it yesterday and it is delayed because the prescription had “expired”. Basically, they have to contact the doctor to reauthorize my meds for 90 days (called a “vacation fill” I think).

They finally sent another text yesterday about noon or so saying it was “delayed” and awaiting the doctors. I waited until 7pm last night hoping the doctors would fix the problem by 5 pm Colorado time. That didn’t happen.

It is now 10AM in North Carolina – so 0800 in Colorado. Hopefully they will get it set here shortly, and we can either squeak out of the marina or just go tomorrow morning on high tide.

Money Matters

Today I looked at our bank accounts.

A few days ago, we spent over 3000 on doing a new dodger, bimini and adding some stuff like grab rails, and mounts for the solar panels above the bimini (instead of THROUGH it like the previous set up).

Our poor, little checking account takes a pretty good hit every month from the marina bill. Next month it will be boat insurance, and also our storage locker. December, car insurance. We get a really good deal on the storage locker though. We pay a year in advance and get a month free. So, next year, we should be good until December or even January!

Today, my first Social Security check made it into the bank, just a few days after my military retirement check. A whopping “boat buck”, plus a little bit. We think of a “Boat Buck” as an amount that, should something break, we’re going to end up spending about $1000 on it (whether up front or for parts, labor, time, extra parts, trips to the store for MORE parts, etc).

Other than me working in the marina, this is our first real income in forever. Five years nearly. The marina wasn’t much. Maybe a few hundred bucks a month at most. Ice Cream and Beer money usually.

(Our income now consists of my military retirement pay, plus SS, not a LOT, but good enough.)

In December, JoAnne can apply for Social Security. That should give us enough to live on month to month. We still have out little “nest egg”, sitting there, drawing interest too!

When we retired, we hoped to go for five years, without working, from funds from our house. And, we have, or close enough anyway, along with multiple cross-country trips, massive medical bills and insurance costs for the boat and car. I took the marina job because it was 1) something to do, 2) I can do it with my eyes closed, 3) It’s not difficult, 4) it’s fun, 5) my commute was 3 minutes walk to the office/docks from my boat.

Everyone who is interested in becoming a cruiser asks “How can I survive? What can I do? How can I make money?” They also ask numerous questions of us about how we do things, how we make money, how can we live without a television (very well, thank you) and they insist on knowing about bathrooms….

A lot of people work their way up and down the coast, or around the world, taking on odd jobs and various other ways. Some folks, they just have it made with lots of cash in the bank, drawing interest from a previous life of proper investing or rental incomes. We don’t have those things.

And lots of people take the “easy way” out, by creating visual/video appealing Youtube sites and monetizing them. More power to them, but, I don’t click on them. I read a rare few blogs myself, but I don’t watch monetized sites, or click on the stuff. I HATE, utterly DETEST Ads. (I’ll explain why in a moment.)

People who have the artistic ability to create informational videos abound, but not all of them are very good at it. Some get lucky and actually make money. Most do not. And the amount of work it takes to shoot video, edit it and put it all together in a viewable format is more than I want to deal with sitting at my lap top. I do enough of that writing and reading. I honestly don’t want a desk job on my boat.

Then there’s the thing with “Internet ads”. Most sites, Youtube included, can be monetized, so that ads show. My issue with ads is simple. Almost every one has to “pay” to access the Internet. We are paying for “bandwidth” (another concept I find ridiculous, having worked in IT for years) and find themselves throttled (slowed down) after so many gigs of data pass through. Because… why?

So Internet providers can pull more money from retired people, and young people alike. There’s NO need to throttle a service. Ever. Limit the incoming stream to x-amount all the time, so they can watch a movie or whatever, BUT, don’t limit it at the end of the month under the implied rule “were’re trying to make it fair for others to get data too!”

That’s BS. Back to ads. Ads use bandwidth too. If you’re watching television or listening to radio, that is a FREE service, paid for by ads. The Internet is a PAID service, paid by you. Why do *I* have to pay for an ADVERTISER to feed me data, using MY data stream? They should be paying ME to view ads. Give me free data every time to feed me a BS ad, and I’ll still ignore your ad.

I don’t personally find it polite for people to stick ads on everything, and therefore this is one of the reasons I avoid video blogs 99% of the time. I’d rather read a book or read a blog. (This text-only entry is about 2-3 kilobytes of data).

Most people wait until they are old, like me, to retire and move on into retirement spending their savings. Younger folks, I’ve found work their way around the planet on boats. They spend time in a place, find they have some particular asset that makes them “wanted” in a particular market, such as bar tending or working in a marina (something I can do, the marina thing, not bar tending).

Others do odd jobs, cut hair, they do wood work, sell hand made items like jewelry and wooden carvings.

If you’re on a boat, there are monthly fees on things, regardless of what you do or don’t do. You have to pay for fuel, propane, gasoline, water, bottom cleaning, top cleaning. Even if you do most of the jobs yourself, you still need to eat, keep warm, get cool, buy products, spend energy many times even moving your boat.

Most of us today, in modern times, do NOT give up our engines no matter for the old days when there were men and boats to pull you into the water ways. Those times and people aren’t here. I can’t sail out of my slip easily due to the weight and size of the vessel, so I require fuel and an engine. Otherwise, I have to get some local friends in dinks to pull me out, or use lines to warp out of the area and into the ICW. Not fun, and not cost effective.

At WORST, I could call SeaTow and ask them to come and move me out to the water way, but I’d not do that. So, we all pay for energy somehow.

How do we make money? We have a retirement income. But, I’m looking at an alternative. Above I mentioned something about “bottom cleaning”. Our boat gets full of wild life on the bottom after a few weeks and it costs me anywhere from 100 bucks a month to 175 bucks every quarter to clean the boat. I have to call a dive service to do so. They aren’t cheap. And they are pretty much the only “game in town” around here.

They claim to give “discounts” for those who do monthly service, but…. the math goes like this:

$110 * 12 = $1320 monthly
$132 * 6 = $792 bi-monthly
$175 * 4 = $700 quarterly

Typically, I call them every three months. They do a “one time cleaning fee” or 175 so for 700 bucks per year, someone comes and cleans my boat, checks my zincs and so forth. They will not give me a quarterly contract, because “You don’t use your boat enough”. Hmmmm

So, I don’t see a SAVINGS by going with monthly, I see more outlay for cleaning if I went to monthly. And I am not sure about someone having the nerve to tell me “You don’t use your boat ENOUGH” to qualify for a quarterly thing?

This brings me finally, to my actual point – if you’ve stayed with me long enough here, and I hope you have, I will be diving my own boat for cleaning from now on. The cost of the equipment is LESS than the “quarterly fee” I’ve been spending.

I have the skills, time and ability to dive the boat myself. Except, I don’t have all the equipment other than my snorkeling gear I need. Today, I hit the “buy” button on a few extra items I need. A surface air supply (compressor and tank), fifty feet of air hose, first stage regulator, a diving hood (to keep critters out of my ears) and an inline oil/water separator for the air supply.

I will eventually need a full wet suit (for diving in the cooler waters here in North Carolina) as well as a battery to power the compressor for diving. I figure I can stick the gear in my dink, row over to someone’s boat, tie off, kill the AC on the dock/boat and dive the bottom, or do my own any time it’s not terrible weather, or too cold (I’m not diving cold waters or weather, I’m getting too old for that stuff now).

But, in five dives, I will have paid myself back for the gear. Anything after that is simply money in the bank. And I don’t have to do other’s boats. But, I don’t have to pay for mine any more either.

I’ll spend time practicing on my own ship when we get further south in a month or so, in clearer water.

If you’re a cruiser reading this, how do YOU make money? Comment and let us know what you do, and think!

Time to go catch a fish for bait for crabs!