After spending a day recuperating from the failed attempt to get to Curacao it was time to get back to work and fix the engines, so that I could get to Curacao and start my Christmas charter.
Clifford, my clutch mechanic, came by and we were able to narrow down what was wrong. I’m proud to say that he only asked me questions and I worked out what was wrong, so I’m starting to learn the engines. The symptoms were as follows: both engines stopped running when I ran out of diesel. After that nothing would make them start. The starboard engine had a lot of oil floating around it: easily 4 – 5 liters (the entire content of the engine). I also had a lot of diesel floating in the starboard bilge. I was very worried about the oil and diesel. As it turned out, the oil and diesel was just a thin film floating above seawater, so I didn’t have a fuel or oil leak. Salt water is coming in and I suspect it is through a leaky seacock, but it’s so little that I’ll isolate that in time. This meant that my problem was contaminated fuel, dirty filters and dirty lines. I went to the source and started by emptying one fuel tank on to jerry cans, then I cleaned it out properly.
Sander at Renaissance Marina proved a big help, because I was able to ask him any question I might have. He also lent me a pump, that allowed me pump the contents of the other tank (which was full) over to the newly cleaned one. I filtered the fuel coming through the pump through a filter-funnel, so that I wouldn’t have any problems this time.
With all the fuel transferred, I cleaned the second tank. This tank was absolutely filthy on the inside, so a proper cleaning was way overdue. With the tanks cleaned, I cleaned the water separator and primary fuel filters. I was now able to start the engines, but the RPM was fluctuating wildly, indicating that the fuel filters on the engines were also dirty. I had one big problem in that regard: I only had one spare filter and finding replacement filters for my Lombardini engines in odd corners of the World can be tough. I changed the one spare I had and when that engine ran perfectly I knew I had to find one more filter. I jumped on a bus to NAPA, a big engine and car parts store, to try my luck. I nearly hugged the guy at the service counter, when he found a filter that could fit. It was slightly longer, but I knew I would have to make it fit. When I got back I had to unscrew a bunch of things under the filter, but I was able to make it fit and when I screwed everything underneath back on again, the filter sat snuggly. Most importantly the engine ran perfectly and I could consider the problems solved. I now stank of diesel and I was terribly filthy, here is how I solved that problem:
Having cleaned up myself, I bought some last minute food and cast off. By now I had 4 charter guests waiting for me on Curacao, because they were supposed to board in Curacao, the same day I was now leaving with fixed engines. I figured they were OK, because I booked them into a nice hotel in the center of Willemstad on my bill, so that they wouldn’t suffer any neglect.
The trip to Curacao went very well. I was very nervous, pretty much the whole trip, because I couldn’t afford anything going wrong. The engines worked like a charm and with the fuel filters cleaned, they were also a lot more fuel efficient (go figure). My routine was that I went down and checked the engines every hour, to make sure that the fuel filters weren’t leaking. I also routinely bled the engines to make sure there wasn’t any air building up in the system. By the time the sun rose in the morning I had been up for a day and a night without sleep and I was feeling it.
When I got to Curacao, the trip had taken me a total of 19 hours, but I couldn’t rest. The boat looked bombed on the inside, because in Aruba, my focus had been on repairing the engines, so everything was a mess. I had two hours to clean and make the boat presentable, before the charter guests arrived. It was very hectic, but by the time I dinghy’ed in to the beach to pick them up, the boat looked presentable.
They turned out to be a very friendly and optimistic bunch from the West Coast of Norway. I could now breath a huge sigh of relief, because I had the guests onboard, they were very happy and the charter could start.
Oh yeah, this is a picture I took in the morning, when I was trying to hide myself from the sun … A difficult prospect when you have to sit and hand steer. Getting the autopilot fixed is my top priority when these charters are over.