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S/V Earendil
A Day of Work and, Finally, a Day of Play
09/18/2011, 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.

The Sea Trial – and Air Bubbles!
09/17/2011, St. Augustine Marine Center, St. Augustine , FL

If you have been following our journey from the beginning, you may remember our early issues with air bubbles in our fuel supply. After first noticing them in Little Sodus, we spent days trying to track down the source. We had two different marine mechanic outfits on board. We bypassed all of our fuel line and ran a line directly from one tank to the filters. We still had bubbles. We had Racor send us two rebuild kits for the filters; we rebuilt both filters and still had bubbles. So we proceeded south with air bubbles in the fuel and the Lehman-Peugeot seemed to tolerate them. We told St. Augustine Marine Center about the air bubbles in the fuel line and our concern that the new Yanmar might not tolerate them well. When we got back we asked Danny, the mechanic, about the air bubbles. "They're still there, but the engine runs," was his reply.

Meanwhile, yesterday, while we were in the middle of a day of chores (water tanks refilled, dishes to do, laundry and of course deck polishing in the queue) Bob from Yanmar and Mark from the Marine Center showed up for the sea trial! So we rushed around and got ready, and then Bob says that an anti-siphon device must be installed on the exhaust system to keep seawater from possibly siphoning in to the engine. He said it's standard to install that on a sailboat. Mark does that, and then disappears to another boat. We chat with Bob for a while, then Bud and Bob manage to adjust the throttle so the lever will move the throttle all the way from idle to wide open, another problem Bob discovered. Finally Bob calls Mark to find out that he's just about finished with whatever he was looking at on the other boat, then he's going to lunch! We chat with Bob some more.

Finally, at about 1 PM we actually cast off for the sea trial. So far everything else on the engine checks out. We head towards the Intracoastal Waterway and Bud heads away from St. Augustine. He opens the engine up. One of the major things you check on a sea trial is whether the prop angle is right for the engine. If it's not, the engine won't run correctly at speed and could smoke. Bob calls up with a concern. There's air in the fuel lines! (Yes, we know.) If there's air in the fuel lines the engine won't run correctly at speed and could smoke. Well the engine ran well, but never reached peak RPMs and was smoking (the lower part of our once sparkling stern is now grey). So we came back and we have to deal with the air in the fuel lines and run another sea trial before we know what's what.

Bob and Mark walked off the boat and Bud and I were left to wonder what their intentions were, and what our next action should be. We had pretty much decided that we would deal with the air in the fuel line problem ourselves when Bob came back and said they had a Racor 900 in the parts department. The Marine Center was thinking of putting that temporarily in the line and seeing if it bubbled. Bud and I walked over to the parts department and found that they had two, used Racor 900's. They would sell us one for $150 (about $400 new) and we could take them for the weekend and let him know on Monday if we wanted to buy one (or both). Bob then assured us that one was sufficient for this engine.

Today Bud and I are tackling the air bubble problem one more time. You would think that at least we would have more room to install the new Racor since this is a smaller engine. You might be able to tell from the photo (this is the transmission area and the front wall of the engine compartment) this engine actually sits closer to the front wall where the filters and all the electrical connections are. All the extra room is in back, of course! Bud is going to West Marine for some clear plastic hose. Before we replace the old Racors we are doing one more test that Bob suggested, we are installing a temporary fuel line of clear plastic between our fuel manifold and the Racors, to make certain that the air is not in the system before it gets to the filters. If not, we simply have to figure out how to get the old filters out and fit the new filter in. I'm sure we'll be all day at it.

Oh the joys of cruising!

Progress, but No Sea Trial
09/14/2011, St. Augustine Marine Center, St. Augustine , FL

I promised to write about the sea trial on the engine, but that hasn't happened yet. Danny, the mechanic, did come and solve the engine problems on Monday. First he conferred with Dave, the electrician, and they discovered that there was nothing wrong with the starter solenoid, the problem was that the engine won't start if it's in gear, and although the shift lever had looked like it was in the neutral position, it was not. So the whole problem was in getting the old shift lever to properly shift the new transmission. That took a bit of doing. There wasn't room to just turn the lever backwards, so when you pushed the lever forward it would now shift the engine forward. The lever that attached to the transmission had to be taken off and bent, so it had room to move in the new, correct configuration. It took a couple of tries, but Danny got it working.

We continued to work inside and out. I finished splicing an eye with a thimble for our new topping lift and we installed that at the top of the mast. Our replacement cable and wireless hub for our WIFI antenna came, and after testing to confirm that they worked, Bud and I measured and cut the cable so we could pull it through the mast and plug it into the antenna that we had already installed at the top of the mast. I then took the short end of the cable and wired it into the boat. I took power off the line that runs to our TV antenna and then ran the cable to the base of the mast and the connector to a cupboard in the salon next to the TV where I hope to be able to leave the wireless hub.

Today was a busy day in other ways. Bud and I both had doctor's appointments. We needed to leave at about 9:40. In the afternoon we were going to move the boat down to a wall near the haul out slip so they could step the mast. At about 9 Bud decided that the tide was slack enough he wanted to move the boat before we left. Two of the yardmen lent a hand and we cast off and moved the boat about 1000 feet. Bud wanted to back into the space, but the current was still pretty strong and with some fancy helm work he managed not to hit the side of the haul slip, or the dock and boats extending out in front of the wall, or the wall. But he did end up with our boat at a 90-degree angle to the wall. The yard guys caught us and we were able to get successfully tied up, but facing the direction we would have been if Bud pulled straight in. Oh well, he tried. And the engine, transmission and shift levers all worked fine.

We made it to our appointments on time. When we got back, the mast was on the boat and Andrew, the rigger, was working on tightening the shrouds. Bud dropped Fuzzy and I off and he went to get blood work done. I went below and hooked up all the wires to the mast. It took a while, there are an Ethernet connector and three wires for the radar, then four wires and a ground for the wind instrument, the VHF antenna, the TV antenna, and the mast lights: tricolor, anchor light, steaming light, deck light and two ground wires for them. The new WIFI antenna came with a connector and I had to hook up 8 little wires from each side of the cut we make in the cable, matching them in the connector box according to the diagram on the cover. Andrew got me a terminal end for the mast ground wire and crimped it on. They had cut it when they removed the mast and I didn't have anything big enough to do that wire. I then put heat shrink insulation around his crimp and attached the ground wire right near the base of the mast. Of course all this work is done at the base of the mast and under the floorboards around the mast, so I spent the afternoon crouching, sitting or kneeling on the floor. As soon as I had the WIFI antenna done I tried it out and it worked! Once everything was done, we were able to put our mast cover back on, our dinette table back in with the leaf attached and put the floor and the rug back together. No more holes for poor Fuzzy to fall into. And Bud could watch TV. We're really getting back to all the comforts of our home afloat. As it was getting dark I tried all the lights on the mast and they all work. Now if the Radar and wind instruments work that job will be done.

The rigging is not done yet. Andrew has to measure and fit the new forestay. He also has to switch two of the shrouds. When they sent our old rod rigging to the factory to have new rods made, the factory told Andrew that none of the rods were the same length. I guess that was common for boats made at the TaShing boatyard. Everything was hand fitted. The factory sent back lower shrouds that were an average of the lengths, except one outlier, that they replaced as it was. Andrew had to switch the forward port and aft starboard shrouds to get them to fit. That worked, but the uppers aren't right. He's going to switch those tomorrow, and if that doesn't work, one has to be sent back to be shortened. At least it's too long, and not too short!

I took this picture of the boat at the end of the day. You can see the partially rigged mast. You can also see that we are now the little boat, in what we are calling big boat alley. I also put a photo of the waterline in the gallery. If you look close you can see the indentation in the red bottom where the old blue boot stripe was. That's what Bud sanded down and painted with bottom paint. He then painted half the red boot stripe blue, so we still have the blue, red, blue combination. I was glad to see that with the mast on and the new arch as well as all of our gear except the dingy, we are still sitting above the old waterline.

09/15/2011 | Skip
It's like standing in a cold shower, while ripping up $100 bills.
Settling In
09/10/2011, St. Augustine Marine Center, St. Augustine , FL

After some fiddling we found that the thermostat on the rear air conditioner wasn't working. However, if we adjusted the factory set calibration all the way cold (labeled DO NOT CHANGE THIS WITHOUT CONTACTING MANUFACTURER- but after 27 years, what the hey) we could get it to send out cold air. If it gets too cold we can just shut it off. Hopefully we'll never need heat again. I suppose we will eventually replace the thermostat, but since that requires fishing the heat sensor through from the compressor to the thermostat we aren't in any hurry to do that. In any case, we have both the boat AC units working, so we could get rid of the window air conditioner.

Between us we scrubbed the deck and cockpit. Once it dried I put the newly covered cushions in place. The photo shows our rejuvenated cockpit; the throw rugs are to protect the cushions from the black dirt that you pick up walking in this yard. The main part of the boat yard is not paved, it's covered with either slag or ground up old asphalt; both of which have large amounts of black dust. That is mostly what we scrubbed off the deck and we don't want it on the new cushion covers.

The inside of the boat is also more clean and more organized, so we are getting back to normal. It feels really good to have the lion's share of the hard work behind us. Now we can act more like retired people.

I may not update the blog tomorrow, but will definitely post the results of the sea trial on the new engine that is supposed to happen Monday.

Back Aboard
09/09/2011, St. Augustine Marine Center, St. Augustine , FL

We were launched today at about 4 PM, but things didn't go entirely without problems. The first problem was that the new engine wouldn't start. Bud tried it with both the house batteries (the ones we use for pumps and lights, etc.) and the engine start battery combined, just to make sure it wasn't a low battery, but no go. I was sitting off the boat with Fuzzy, the boat was hanging in the slings in the launch slip. Dave, the electrician climbed on board. After a couple of minutes he came back and said that Danny, the mechanic who installed the engine, had to bypass the starter solenoid. I asked if that would work to get the engine started. He said it did, the engine was running. I was less than 40 feet away and couldn't hear it! So that will have to be dealt with on Monday, but the engine runs, and nicely.

Next little glitch, forward and reverse are switched. You push the gear shift lever forward and the boat backs up, pull it back and the boat goes forward. None of the yard people seemed concerned. They had a fifty/fifty chance of getting it right, and they missed. So that will have to get fixed Monday.

Bud brought the boat over to the slip with Danny aboard and two other yard men caught them and secured the bow and stern. Fuzzy and I pretty much just watched. Danny stayed aboard and adjusted the stuffing box (where the propellor shaft comes in through the hull) and got that adjusted so it doesn't leak when you're standing still (it's supposed to drip when the shaft is turning). Once that was done the yard guys went home and Bud and I were able to set up housekeeping in our own home again. I snapped this photo of a mast-less Earendil in her slip.

Then came the last little glitch. Bud eagerly turned on the heat pump air conditioner, only to have hot air come out of the vents. The pump is working and water is flowing through, but the thermostat doesn't seem to be working. So that's tomorrow's project. So we've fired up the window air conditioner in the companionway again, and we still get to crawl over that. Oh well, if there weren't problems we'd think we were living in a condo.

Meanwhile, most things are put away, the boat is partially cleaned inside and we had our first meal aboard. Fuzzy is very happy to have the boat back in the water and all of us aboard again. He's getting pretty blind, though and fell in the hole where the mast will go. It's only about 14 inches deep, but he fits in it completely. I had to take out the pieces of the floor around the mast to get him out.

More tomorrow, I put a couple of photos of the launch in the gallery.

Ready to Launch
09/08/2011, St. Augustine Marine Center, St. Augustine , FL

We finished up the fresh coat of bottom paint as well as cleaning, buffing and waxing the hull today. It was hot, tiring work and we're glad to have it done. The hull looks about as good as a 27 year old boat can look. Someday we'd like to get the hull painted, but that's not in the cards for a while.

The boatyard (St. Augustine Marine Center) negotiated with us regarding the extra work they had to do to install the Yanmar. We agreed to pay the extra (almost $4,000) and they are providing dockage and two hauls up to that amount. So it looks like we will be staying at St. Augustine Marine Center until we leave for the Bahamas and again next hurricane season. Overall it seemed like a fair solution for both of us, though we are all still unhappy that Yanmar didn't let them know that the 75 hp diesel engine had changed and now required extensive work to install in our boat.

The boat is scheduled to be launched Friday, 9/9 at 3 PM. We'll see if that happens. We're going to launch without the mast because the rigging isn't done, and it's actually easier to step the mast when the boat is in the water as the boat is much lower than when it's up on the jack stands on the hard. We'll be moving aboard as soon as it's launched to give Gary and Karen back their privacy. Fuzzy will be disappointed, he's settled right in to the nice air conditioned house with a fenced back yard.

I'll post again Friday if the launch happens.

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