A Day of Work and, Finally, a Day of Play
18 September 2011 | St. Augustine Marine Center, St. Augustine , FL
Saturday we set out to determine once and for all the cause of the air bubbles in the fuel and to fix the problem. First we had to get vinyl tubing to run from our incoming fuel manifold to the Racor filters. That would pinpoint the source of the bubbles. If we saw bubbles in the vinyl tube, the leak had to be from the tank through the manifold. If there were no bubbles anywhere, the leak would be in the piece of tubing we’d bypassed. If there were still bubbles in the filters, but not in the vinyl tube the filters would definitely be the culprits. So we double-checked our fuel line. We have two sizes, 3/8 from the tanks to the manifold and ¼ from the manifold to the engine or generator. So Bud made the first trip of the day to West Marine to get ¼ inch vinyl tube. He got back and went to attach it to the fitting and it was too small! What’s this? Is fuel line named differently than other tubing? Who knows, so we found a fitting in our spares that exactly matched the fitting on the manifold and Bud made the second trip to West Marine and came back with 3/8 inch tubing. I hooked the end to the manifold (none of this is simple, as you have to make sure not a drop of diesel spills and you’re working either in the engine compartment or under the floor boards). Bud went to hook it to the filter and said, “This tube is too big, these fitting are different sizes, no wonder we had an air leak.” Then we both said, “Unless it’s hooked to the wrong fitting on the manifold!” Which of course it was. Duh!!!
Next we had to determine which of the two quarter inch lines coming off the manifold went to the filters and the engine, and which went to the generator. That involved me lying on the floor, following the lines with my fingers to the point where they disappeared under the floor headed to the engine compartment, and Bud and I alternately tugging on lines until we were sure we both had a hold of the same line. We replaced that line with the original ¼ inch vinyl line (again making sure no diesel spilled) and we were ready to test. Fortunately, Bud has a fuel polishing system installed so we can use a little electric pump to circulate the fuel from a tank through the filters and back to the tank. We turned it on; a bunch of air got pushed through the vinyl tube, then no bubbles. The filters bubbled merrily away. Just to make sure, we switched levers on the manifolds and tested the other fuel tank. A blurb of air caught in the manifold went through, then no bubbles. We had definitely determined that the fuel filters were the culprits! After 11 months this felt like a real victory.
Next came the problem of replacing them. Bud removed both the old filters. The replacement filter we have is about twice the size of the old ones, but we are only using one. I had pulled all of the food and the shelves out of our bottom cupboard in the galley that backs against the engine compartment, only to discover that it wasn’t far enough over. So I pulled the drawers out next to it. They had no removable wall behind them; the back of the space was the actual engine room wall. Fortunately, the drawer was ¼ inch shorter than the space where it fit, so in theory we had a quarter inch to fit the head of the bolts to hold the new filter. I made another trip to West Marine (trip number 3 for the day) for fittings to make a 90-degree turn in the line to reach the new filter. Meanwhile, Bud found that the fitting he bought to fit on the filter to reduce it down to our fuel line only fit one side of the filter, they were different sizes. He bought half-inch, the other side looked like ¾ inch. He reached me just as I was going in to West Marine, so I also got a ¾ inch fitting. When I got back and tried it, the ¾ inch was too big, so back I went to West Marine for a 5/8-inch fitting. Unfortunately, West Marine doesn’t carry a 5/8-inch fitting like that. The fittings on the filters are compression fittings; we were trying to use regular pipe thread fittings as used on most fuel lines.
In the end, Bud took the two fittings out of the filters and installed it as far as he could. We’ll have to buy the fittings and finish the installation on Monday. All we had to do then was pick up…hand tools into the compartments in the aft cabin, power tools (drill and grinder) under all the stuff and the cushions of the forward berth, the food back in the cupboard, the unused tubing under the board that is under the charts that are under the drawer in the forward cabin, and finally the engine room doors. By then it was suppertime and we had had it.
Sunday we went fishing with Gary. It’s the first day off we’ve taken since we got back to the boat on August 23rd. The picture is Bud, Gary and Fuzzy in Gary’s boat. I’m standing on the bow with the camera. Fuzzy is wrapped in my jacket. It was cloudy and windy and only in the upper 70’s and Fuzzy and I were cold! Bud and Gary caught no fish, but we had a nice time and it was good to do something besides work on the boat. It always amazes me how wild Florida can be just a mile or two from the beaten path. We were fishing about a quarter mile back from the Intracoastal Waterway and there wasn’t a house in sight. If you ignored the boats that went by in the distance at pretty regular intervals, you’d think you were in the wilderness. Gary’s son-in-law, Matt, was also there in his fishing boat. It was rough enough on the trip back that Fuzzy and I transferred to Matt’s boat so Gary’s boat would plane better and we’d all get less wet. Fuzzy and I had a very comfortable trip, Matt’s v-hull boat planed very smoothly through the chop compared to Gary’s Carolina Skiff with it’s flat bottom.
Monday it’s back to polishing and trying to finish plumbing the new Racor. Hopefully we’ll finally lick the air bubble problem.