** We’ve been sorting through a big box of photos which had been stored under the bed in Illusion for quite a few years. It’s been quite a surprise to find out which photos survived and which were damp and stuck together – we haven’t got through them all yet, but so far there are some great ones from various adventures, including travels in Mexico, South Pacific tropics, and New Zealand. Over the next few weeks we’ll scan some and post them here on the blog to give a bit of Illusion‘s back story. **
I was living in an apartment in Tiburon (near San Francisco), California, failing to find a used boat to buy. I almost gave up after a boat deal in Germany fell through. Then the MacGregor video of their 65 foot sailboat at a local boat show sparked my interest in taking a closer look; a factory visit to meet Roger MacGregor; and a downpayment to get on the waiting list. A year and a half later, in late 1994, I went back to the factory in Costa Mesa, California to see her being built. Surprisingly, the photos of her in pieces, with the hull partly assembled, survived in good shape!
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”
Back in 2013 when Doug was solo-sailing from the Marquesas to Hawaii, and wondering whether to just carry straight on up to Vancouver, he heard radio check-ins from a couple of boats doing that journey who were having a pretty rough time of it. Rough enough for him to realize that he should call it a day for that season’s sailing, leave the boat on Oahu, and get himself up to Vancouver for some much needed rest and shoulder surgery. He’s mentioned those boats a few times while we were working out whether he could sail to Vancouver this summer, not wanting to leave any later than the end of August if at all possible. The last few months have been all about trying to get the engine fixed, while simultaneously prepping the boat to be ready to set off. As the end of August approached, and with the engine really close to working properly, things were still up in the air about whether Illusion was going to be leaving the harbour. Continue reading “Stormy seas and safe harbours – lessons in community”
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.”
I am still surprised by the confusion that emanates from others when I mention that we’ll be departing their island soon. Of course, they know that Illusion‘s main engine is not functional, so that helps to explain it – I tell them that we’ll sail to the next island. It is a sailboat… Continue reading “Engineless”
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…
For anyone who’s followed this journey for even a little while, they’ve probably already heard many references to our engine failure. I wanted to write about it in some detail, but it’s a long story so I’ve broken it into parts. This post is about the turning point where I stop trying to fix the engine and decide this is going to be an engineless journey. Continue reading “Engine Drama: The day it all went horribly wrong!”
For anyone who’s followed this journey for even a little while, they’ve probably already heard many references to our engine failure. I wanted to write about it in some detail, but it’s a long story so I’ve broken it into parts.This post is more about the details of our main engine problems, and so is a bit more technical, but hopefully not as tedious to read as it has been to experience it…
The story starts before we knew the engine was going to die. There was a period of relative calm in the Southern Ocean between New Zealand and Rapa, when we were running the engine to charge the batteries and make slightly better progress. We noticed the exhaust had some black smoke; since the wind was slight and from behind us, the smell wafted over the boat, too. I thought the turbo might be dying, since it has been sitting, rusting externally, for a few years. But the turbo turned out not to be the biggest problem.
This has been a difficult visit to New Zealand for me… and not just because of the sleep deprivation and the stress of assuring the boat and its systems are ready for the four of us to trust our lives to for the next few months. I’m so focused on Illusion and our trip to Vancouver, that I haven’t taken extra time to visit friends (or even write blog posts!!). I feel strangely disconnected from NZ, as though I’m not really here, since I’m not really connecting with this country as I have in the past. Continue reading “A bitter-sweet visit”