** 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!
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.”
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…
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.
Strange thoughts run after being in uncomfortable sailing conditions for most of the 8 days we’ve been away from Auckland. We’re 35 degrees south of the equator, 162 degrees west of London… Which reminds me that I’m half a world away from Sara… and prompts me back to OpenCPN, the charting program we’re using to track our progress. Surprisingly enough, we’re on a direct course to where she is in northwest England! But it’s 9500 miles away and the “directness” of our course is challenged by the “S”-curve of a great circle route that has been plotted on a Mercator-projected chart of the globe. Strangely enough, the route would take us through San Francisco, about half way on a journey to northern England. Across Hudson Bay, too. And Greenland. Then through the western isles of Scotland. I really miss her, but for me this is the distinctly “not-fun” part of cruising, so perhaps it’s a good thing it’s not her introduction to the “cruising life”… Continue reading “Choices – Starting an Epic Sea Journey”