Alex & Hugo & Boat Repairs
04 February 2011 | Acapulco, Mexico
Lisa & Larry Anderson
Our good friends Alex & Hugo with the crew of the S/V Lisa Kay
February 4, 2011
Still In Acapulco
The best part about sending out our updates is hearing back from all of you! It keeps us connected and it helps us not feel so alone. We also love hearing everyone else's updates when they write back. Thank you, thank you family and friends! However, many say," I'm glad you're having so much fun". But, it really isn't fun...I mean sometimes it is...some days I feel like the luckiest person in the world, but it's not like we just walk around ha-ha'ing all the time. Much of our time/challenge of living on a boat is trying to keep our selves happy, and having a purpose in life. No... let me re-phrase that...by keeping ourselves from falling into the deep, dark, hole of depression because we feel like we have NO control over our lives. Because let me tell you, being stuck somewhere (sometimes a less than desirable place) due to mechanical issues or weather, is a tough thing psychologically. Now, we each deal with this hopeless feeling in our own special way. Ben, well just let him fish with some guys, or jump in the water and swim, or scrub the side of the boat a little, and well he's happy. For me, let me walk to the grocery store (Ooh, I feel so independent!), maybe stopping along the way and give the homeless man 100 pesos for him and the kitties he's feeding, and I'm happy. Larry, I'm not sure...he's pretty much happy as long as we are. And for all of us, to feed a hungry, homeless animal brings us great joy. After living a year in Mexico, we have probably only been asked for money by a homeless person maybe 2 or 3 times, and one of those being an American tourist. In Fremont, Ca I would be asked probably 2 or 3 times a day if I was out running around doing errands. Go figure. So, we trod on, each one of us trying to find purpose in our day. Larry is still nursing his badly injured arm. Thank God we are still in Acapulco. Thank God we have Hugo and Alex, the gentlemen who oversee the mooring ball we are attached to, who will see us from a quarter of a mile away carrying groceries and will run to help. Who check in with us daily to see if we are okay. Who try to teach me Spanish. Who will take us or pick up for us anything we might need. Who love to take Ben out fishing. We have shared many meals together with them, including them bringing their wives on our boat for dinner. Neither of us spoke each other's language, but we became fast friends. Thank God we came to Acapulco. Finding a competent, honest mechanic (through Hugo and Alex), which are few and far between, has saved us what would have been an inevitable disaster down the road. So, yes, even though we are getting antsy to leave again because we feel stuck with our engine problems not being solved, we also feel very blessed.
From the notes of Larry:
We have an 8,000 watt generator powered by a three cylinder diesel engine. It began overheating and would automatically shut down. It circulates sea water through a heat exchanger which cools the fresh water that is circulated through the engine by a water pump. The sea water output seems to be diminished so I thought the raw water impeller was bad. Should be a simple fix. After pulling the impeller (from a spot smaller than the head of a needle) it looked fine. Still we are overheating. Hmmm, can't use that 110v water maker I just spent 10 days installing. Oh, and we can't fill up at the dock... cause we're not at one! Belt is new, water pump looks good, but still heating up. Time for the mechanic because I can't turn a wrench now with my left hand, and did I tell you I'm left handed? Mechanic pulls the thermostat out and tries it, because you really don't need one here, it's always warm, so no need for the thermostat to stay closed to heat up the engine. No change. Must be the heat exchanger. So he pulls it and takes it to the heat exchanger spa for an acid bath. Back the next day, put it all together, refill with coolant, and it overheats again. Come to find out after looking at the manual, there is a second part of the heat exchanger. Pull that out and take it to the heat exchanger spa for another treatment. Meanwhile, we are having to the use main engine (glad I installed that engine driven compressor) to run our 110v refrigerator/freezer. Did I mention Lisa just stocked us up with food for the next leg of our trip? After our second part returns from the spa our generator now runs flawlessly.
Now in the back of my mind I'm wondering when, if ever, the main engine heat exchanger was ever flushed, cleaned, or even checked, for that matter. After a quick conference with Lisa we discuss the fact that we have a knowledgeable mechanic, he speaks fluent English, we are in a city of 1.5million people (some of whom may own a parts store), and are sailing into Central America. We will be crossing into a very dangerous gale prone area with few marinas until we reach Panama, a few thousand nautical miles down the coast. OK, let's have some preventative maintenance done on our main engine. Having it shut down due to dirty fuel 5 miles off shore on our last leg was let's say... a little exciting. That kind of excitement I don't need again. So, our Belizian mechanic goes to work pulling the air cooling unit that feeds the fuel injectors (didn't know we had that), the oil cooling unit which cools our engine oil (didn't know we had that) and leaves the heat exchanger on. He looked in the hole and thought it look pretty clean. Go figure! After pulling all these parts you can now see our turbo charger. He calls me over to it and invites me to spin the fans blades with a screw driver. The unit is totally frozen. This explains our lack of top end speed and our inability to get more than about 2,100 rpms out of the engine. Prior to learning this, several "experts" told us our feathering propeller was taking to big a bite out of the water, therefore restricting the rpm's we could get out of the engine. Thought we needed to adjust it next time we have the boat pulled out of the water. Well, at least we know the cause and we are glad we decided to go ahead with the work. So the air and oil coolers go to the parts spa for their treatments and the turbo charger gets rebuilt. All the parts are back the next day and the mechanic, along with Alex and Hugo, spend the day reinstalling them. The mechanic insisted on a test cruise so off we go. And go we do, really fast, our 64,000lb boat has more speed than ever! But, now whenever we go above 2,100 rpm's the engine overheats. Arrrggghhh!!!!
Back to the drawing board. He pulls the fuel injectors and they look like the inside of a chimney, full of soot, really dirty. He sends those to the "laboratory" for a cleaning. They return the next day and reinstall them. He also brings a 5 gallon jug of "special cleaning stuff" to run through the fuel pump. So he takes the fuel lines off and puts them in the jug and out to sea we go. Unfortunately we get really good mileage so it takes hours of running off the coast to burn all this cleaner, which makes the boat belch black smoke out the exhaust. Lisa is great, she is making lunch for us all. We see our first whale jump totally out of the water, time after time until I grab the camera of course! Meanwhile the engine is still overheating. Arrrgghh again!!!!!! He now has us shut down the engine about 2 miles off shore, let's it cool down a little and pulls the thermostat out. We start it up and it proceeds to overheat again.
Okay, back to our mooring ball. Out comes the heat exchanger, off comes the water pump, and off comes the exhaust elbow which is full of exhaust stuff. The exhaust elbow goes to the acid spa with the heat exchanger. Mechanic shows up the next day with the water pump that checks out great, the now clean heat exchanger, and bad news about the exhaust elbow. After the stuff was taken out a hole was found in the liner. This was allowing salt water into the turbocharger, now we know why it seized up, and the blockage was so severe not enough sea water was being discharged to cool the engine.
Mind you, with each one of these steps (thinking the problem will be fixed), we are mentally preparing for a 35 hour trip to Huatulco, leaving very early in the morning as to arrive during daylight the next day. I'm starting to feel a little bipolar. Arrrgghh again!!!! So, the exhaust elbow repair man was supposed to have it repaired the next night at 6pm. That didn't happen. Maybe tomorrow????? But then of course we couldn't leave tomorrow even if they do fix it because our launch window will be closed. Our best chance for escape now is SuperBowl Sunday. Good thing that satellite TV dish works off shore!!!!
Well, elbow makes it back to the boat Saturday afternoon, is installed, and test drive goes beautifully! Huatulco here we come!
From the notes of Lisa:
Now you feel our pain!