I’m back from about a week in Hawaii working on boat projects to prepare Illusion for her journey to Vancouver, Canada this summer. These were all projects we’d hoped to do once the boat was in Vancouver, but since this trip has been so long delayed, I decided to work on them now. And they’ll be useful for this coming passage, too, of course. I went alone this time (sorry, no cute photos of Toby on the boat – though, cute story, apparently he spent the whole time I was away saying ‘Dada, boat!’) and apart from the odd run along the beach or walk through the park, it was pretty much work, work, work. It was great to see the Full Monty crew and Johnson who runs the Sumo Ramen and Curry place across the road – always good to see his friendly face and catch up. Here’s a brief list of what I got done: Continue reading “Recent trip to Hawaii”
As those of you who’ve followed the blog for a while know all too well, Illusion‘s engine unexpectedly became a main focus over the last couple of years – we’ve written about it here, here, here, here, here, and here! We’ve probably talked and thought more about the engine – a MerCruiser D3.0L – than any other aspect of boat life, even sailing! But as we have a few new blog followers, and because a few people have asked, here’s an overview of the engine parts I’ve worked on/serviced/replaced since starting the preparations for this journey (not counting basic maintenance, such as filters & fluid changes), a few lessons learned (which might help you avoid a similar nightmare) and sources of information, just in case you too have fuel injector woes:
Continue reading “Engine recap – overview of jobs, lessons, and resources”
I (Sara) don’t know a whole lot about diesel engines. But I do know a whole lot more now than I did two years ago. And I’m actually fascinated watching and hearing about Doug’s work on rebuilding Illusion‘s. In fact, I recently found myself reading, with interest, this great post which explains some of the basics of a diesel engine – and was (almost) amused by this bit:
“The whole process – pistons going up and down, the crankshaft going round and round, valves opening and closing, and tiny squirts of fuel being sprayed into the cylinders – happens dozens of times a second, but we really don’t need to bother about it here. If these parts fail, there is nothing a DIY mechanic can do about it on board.”
Yup. There wasn’t much we could do about it on board – in fact, by trying to fix it with limited equipment on Rapa and at anchor on Raivavae, we managed to mess it up even more. But now things are happening and the engine starts and stops as it should, doesn’t cause a smoky cloud around the boat, and runs more or less as it ought to. It’s not quite ready to be deemed fixed. Every day Doug sends me WhatsApp messages along the lines of “Found another leak”, “Fixed another leak”, “It got too dark to see the leaks, will have to continue tomorrow” and other such sweet nothings. (I mainly send him photos of Toby – things have changed a little since two years ago, but WhatsApp is still keeping our relationship alive and well.)
So a whole summer has passed and we haven’t managed to sail Illusion at all. Oh dear. This is turning into a very slow journey from New Zealand to Vancouver, but life comes at you with all its unexpectedness and hey ho, you do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.
What we could do: Continue reading “It’s a wild life… sort of…”
Well… get Illusion to Canada obviously! Eventually. That part of the plan hasn’t changed, although the timing has. I think at one stage we were even talking about having her here by the end of July so we could spend August sailing around the islands of British Columbia. We just didn’t realize that it would be 2014, not 2013!
The big lesson of this whole boating thing for me has been to learn to expect everything to change and not rely too much on plans. It’s a great lesson. Even though I was warned that everything would take a load longer than predicted it was actually pretty interesting to realize that Doug was spot on with his sailing prediction times for the most part. Aiming for two weeks from New Zealand, but might be up to three. Even with awful storms and no engine, it was twenty two days. Five days tops to get from Raivavae to Tahiti, he said. It took about three. About a week to get from Tahiti to Nuku Hiva, five days if we’re lucky with the winds. We weren’t lucky, but it was still only seven days. Aiming for two weeks from Nuku Hiva to Hawaii, but don’t worry if it’s more like three – it was fifteen days. So it’s good to know we can have a reasonable idea of travel times. It’s just all the other stuff that gets in the way…. Continue reading “So… what’s the plan?”
What’s a pony doing on the ocean?!?!? Well, not much, as it turns out. I ordered a replacement motor for the autopilot drive through eBay (another nightmare, worthy of its own post if I ever get round to it) just before we left Tahiti. I contacted the seller in England to confirm that he could ship to French Polynesia and the shipping cost. He said it would take a week for him to order the part, then the DHL “Express” shipment (GBP 50, about US$80) would take 2-5 days.
Continue reading “DHL – The Shetland Pony Express of the South Seas”
I know of three types of mains voltage systems in the world: 100 Volts (Japan) and the 110-120 and 240-250 Volt systems (the Americas, China and a few other countries use the former, European countries and their former dependents use the latter). Illusion was built in the US and so endowed with a 120v system with American sockets. When I settled in New Zealand (a former British colony), I began Illusion‘s partial conversion to 240v…
Starting a diesel engine can be a challenging process. As I mentioned in Engine Drama, running a diesel engine is rather simple: fuel, lubrication and cooling. Starting is another matter. Since diesels run without electricity (no spark plugs), the fuel is ignited by heating the air inside the cylinder. Much of this heat is provided by compressing the air when the piston moves up the cylinder – a simple thermodynamic process (it’s the opposite of letting a gas out of a cylinder: like dive or propane tanks, whipped cream cartridges, etc. – high to low pressure transitions chill the gas). To achieve this, diesel engines have significantly higher compression than standard gasoline engines.
My engine also has an intercooler, which transfers some of the exhaust heat into the intake air, boosting the efficiency of the engine (higher combustion temperatures cause more complete fuel burning). Heat in the cylinder walls and pistons (from previous combustion cycles) helps the process, too. But these processes can’t help start a cold engine. Enter the lowly glow plug…
We’d been at Marina Taina on Tahiti since last Tuesday and, apart from a couple of trips to the giant Carrefour just down the road, hadn’t seen anything of the island. Saturday’s plan was to get to Papeete to try to find a replacement motor for the autopilot (which keeps failing on us) and to check in at the police station. Quite excited to be heading ‘off site’, we were up bright and early. Friday’s brunch on the boat with Janice had left us with some pancake batter to use up so Doug got to work making us breakfast, and we sat out on the deck with mugs of tea, ready to tuck in. One disgusting mouthful in, we realized something in the mix was as unaccustomed to the tropical heat as we are. Oh well, bananas and papaya it would have to be. We headed off out into the already burning sunshine, returning once for the water bottle and a second time for the camera with photos of the motor and parts we needed. We were already getting sick of our day out and it was still only 8.30am.
The engines (both main yacht and dinghy’s outboard) have had more trauma than any engine should have in a lifetime. Fortunately, the outboard engine has proven very resilient: the latest survival challenge was to be dumped upside down in the water when the crazy winds here flipped the dinghy over in the middle of the night. We went out only a few minutes later (hard to tell something happened, except the bumping noise of the dinghy against the main hull was slightly different), but we lost everything that wasn’t attached (3 oars, a bailing bucket & sponge). The fuel container was floating a few meters behind the boat, still attached to the engine, which was secured to the dinghy, which was secured by a line and a cable to the main boat. No problem, just flip the dinghy upright in 80+ km/h winds and ~1 meter “seas” — in the anchorage! Absurd. Very few days here have not had high winds and choppy waters. This is not a normal South Sea anchorage. Even now it’s howling outside, but the winds have settled down to about 50km/h; gusting as I write this to 65! The Rapans have a legend about not cursing the wind…
Continue reading “Trauma in the Night – Rapa style”