12/27/2011, Vero Beach Marina
Pete was back aboard today. He bought the new fittings for the Racor. He installed them, filled the Racor as best he could and we started the engine. Lots of air bubbles. Those were probably from air introduced in the lines. We ran the engine for quite a while. The bubbles didn't go away. He tried forcing the air out by shutting the return valves off while he left the supply valves both on. The bubbles stopped, but as soon as the return valves were opened the bubbles started again. Pete gave up. His only theory is that we aren't getting all the air out of the system and the little left is accumulating in the Racor and recirculating there. He inspected the manifolds and the tank fittings and there is no sign of any kind of leak anywhere. He suggested we top off the Racor, shut the manifold valves all off, check in the morning and top off the Racor again if needed. He thought perhaps if we repeated that process for about 3 days of running the engine we'd get the bubbles out.
Another Norseman came today, Barefootin', a boat we met last year in Georgetown. That's them in the photo. Later in the afternoon we took the dinghy over and said hi and asked them about bubbles in the fuel line. They have almost the same set up we do, with two tanks at the bottom of the companionway and the manifolds under the galley floor. They have a third tank aft. And they have no bubbles.
So we've decided we can't take any more time eradicating bubbles. The engine runs fine. Bud just has to top off the Racor every day. We've decided to push on. If we ever solve the problem, so be it. Otherwise, it's one more daily chore, like checking the oil level. Bud suggested this blog title...to misquote a famous Civil War naval commander, David Farragut. It's our new rallying cry.
12/26/2011, Vero Beach Marina
This morning while Pete went to get parts for the boat, Bud went for groceries and I did laundry. Bud called me and asked if I could bring the dock cart and meet him at the bridge over the ICW. He had missed the bus and didn't want to wait for another hour, so he walked back. He was just starting across the bridge and the groceries were getting pretty heavy. I met him at the very top of the bridge and so got a new look at the ICW. I took a few pictures that are in the gallery.
We all got back to the boat and Pete installed the new pick-up tubes. We started the engine and ran it while Pete looked for bubbles. They were there. At first we knew they were again from disconnecting and attaching lines, so we let the engine run for a while. The bubbles didn't go away. We shut the engine down and Pete continued to investigate. Eventually he brought out one of the fittings Bud had bought for the new Racor. It had mismatched threads (flared fitting to pipe thread) and Pete said that was the cause of the bubbles. Bud had asked about that when he bought the fittings and was told it would work fine. Both Pete and Don agreed that it would not.
The specialty stores that Pete needed to go to for the correct fittings were all closed today, so there was nothing more to be done. We took Fuzzy ashore and then came back to the boat. Another man was having trouble with his dinghy engine, so we towed him back to his boat with our dinghy. We all got back to our boats just as it began to rain.
We spent a quiet afternoon while it rained outside, but Bud and I are both encouraged that the source of the air leak has at last been identified. Tomorrow, hopefully, the thing will get fixed for good.
12/25/2011, Vero Beach Marina
Morning dawned still and warm here. Even though there's no snow, no fireplace and no chimney, Santa managed to find us and fill our stockings. While I was waiting for Bud to get up I went out in the cockpit to enjoy the stillness of the dawn. I put a couple of pictures in the gallery.
We opened our stockings and had our breakfast and then took Fuzzy ashore. It was a quiet morning. We had a nice time and talked to family, but it's hard not to be with our daughter and grandson at Christmas.
It's strange to be on the water in such a warm place for Christmas. Two runabouts with families came by and as I was in the cockpit, we all wished each other Merry Christmas.
Bud started cooking (actually, he'd started yesterday) mid-morning for the afternoon potluck organized by a couple of the cruisers. We packed up our stuff at 1:30 and headed over in the dinghy. The laundry room here is a row of washers on one side, a row of dryers on the other with a front and back door. The washers and dryers were covered with plastic tablecloths. People brought their dishes and put them along the tops of the washers and dryers and the line moved from the front door, between the rows of food and out the back door. People ate at and around two picnic pavilions on the grounds. I started taking just a taste of most of the dishes and had a heaping plate full before I got to the back door. It was a great meal with great company, new friends made and many tales of travels and groundings and breakdowns and all the things that cruisers share when they are together. Bud and I estimated that there were about 40 people for the dinner. Fuzzy did pretty well. We brought his bed and put it in the shade near where we ate and had him on his leash. He stood among a group of men who were standing and eating at the end of our pavilion. He whined quietly for food and patrolled the ground for anything that dropped. When the men moved off, Fuzzy lay down in the shade and waited for us to finish talking. I brought a treat and his pill along and at four o'clock he got those. We got back to the boat at five.
It's evening now and all is quiet. It was a different day, but very nice. I wish all of you who read this blog a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
12/24/2011, Vero Beach Marina
This morning we raised the main just to check out our rigging on it and to make sure it hadn't molded from being wet and inside the sail bag for all these weeks. It was fine. And when we dropped it, it dropped all the way down, for once.
With that encouragement, we went for another sea trial. We had the fuel line Bud had bought plumbed from the tank directly to the Racor filter, skipping the suspect fuel manifold. We headed out through the marina at idle speed. No bubbles. We turned into the channel and Bud opened the engine up and there were the bubbles! We started to talk about our options. Bud suggested we try running it off the jug of diesel we had. I said that was just like the test John had done, and it hadn't bubbled. Bud said, "Do you want to get Pete to help us?" Yes, I did. Pete's boat is in the picture. That's not Pete at the helm it's a mannequin. It's a good advertisement. The t-shirt has the name of his business, "Scrubbing Bubbles" and his phone number. He's the diver I called when we needed the zincs on the shaft moved. He had told Bud that he also did boat work, would charge us about half what Ace would, and was insured.
We took Earendil back to her mooring ball and took the dinghy into shore to look for Pete. We didn't see him right then, so Bud decided to walk to the bait store while I waited. I called and Pete answered. As I was talking to him I saw him walking towards me along the center dock. Anyway, when Bud finally got back from the bait store, Pete, his friend Don, Bud, Fuzzy and I rode our dinghy back to the boat. The first thing they did was to decide the thread compound we'd used wasn't working. They took out the fixtures and reset them with Teflon tape and Permatex. We ran the engine and saw no bubbles. I explained that the bubbles didn't really show up until we ran the engine under load. Pete said the RPM was really the only thing that mattered, but since it wasn't great for the engine to run long in neutral at high RPM we decided to take the boat out again for a test run. It bubbled. Pete and Don then decided they should bring a pump Don had aboard so we could test the tank pick up separately from the filter and its fittings. We stopped a few minutes at the fuel dock while Pete and Don got the pump and some other tools.
When we got back to our mooring ball there was another boat on it. So we rafted with them. No one was on the boat when we got there, so we boarded it and were running our lines across when the owners showed up. We asked them if they expected to be rafted and they said no, so evidently the marina saw us going out and thought we were leaving. It's hard to get your line through the mooring ball when you're the second boat to tie up. We were struggling to get the ball close enough to get our line through when a man in a nearby boat noticed. He got in his dinghy and came over to help. We were grateful, and doubly so as he fell in the water getting back in his own boat!
Back to the bubbles. Pete and Don hooked lines from the pump to the feed and return fittings on our port tank. We turned on the pump and fuel flowed from the tank, through the pump and back to the tank. After clearing air from the lines we continued to see bubbles. They checked our return port and found that it did not have a tube to the bottom, but it did have a tube about half way into the tank. Since the tank was full that tube was long enough to serve as a pick-up, so they switched the lines and tried again using the tube in the return port as the pick-up. Now, once the air from the lines cleared out, there were no bubbles. So we have to be getting air into the pick-up tube. (I'm not sure that's the only place we're getting air, but it might be.)
Anyway, on Monday Pete is going to repair our tanks and maybe the bubbles will be conquered! At least we have someone else working and thinking about this. And for tomorrow, we can forget about boat troubles and enjoy Christmas.
12/23/2011, Vero Beach Marina
That title is apt literally and figuratively. We left the dock today for a mooring ball. First we started out for a sea trial of our own to see if re-plumbing the fuel tanks solved the problem of the air leak. We didn't even get out in the main channel before I saw that there were still air bubbles in the fuel.
So we came back and took the mooring ball that had been assigned to us. Bud went off to the store and I put up the awning I'd made over the summer and tried to enjoy the cockpit. The photo is Earendil in her new spot with the awning deployed. It's made of white flag material, so is lightweight, strong and UV resistant. It seems to work pretty well; I hope it holds up.
When Bud got back he brought 20 feet of fuel line he'd bought. We started to hook that up to our fuel tank to bypass the manifold and see if that eliminated the bubbles. Bud was trying to drain the filter so he could attach a larger fitting for the hose, which is 3/8 inch and not quarter inch. Meanwhile, I took the hose off the supply side of the tank to hook the new bypass hose on. When I did, fuel started to come out of the tank! I put the old hose back and went and checked the fuel levels and both tanks were reading overfull again. How did that happen? We had just had that tank open yesterday to replace the gasket on the inspection port and the tank was close to full, but not overflowing. Now fuel was coming out the fitting that is about an inch above the top of the tank. It seems our engine is now making fuel instead of using it. We are baffled. I was so frustrated I was close to tears.
We pushed on. We got the new hose attached, Bud filled the Racor back up and put the lid on, we used the transfer pump to get the air out of the new line, Bud topped off the Racor again and then pumped another gallon out of the tank. The fuel level reading dropped again. Once everything was buttoned up we turned the engine on and watched for bubbles. At about 3000 RPM with no load (in neutral) I saw some very tiny bubbles. They may have been residual air from the new line, or maybe it was our old problem still with us. We left everything hooked up (which means we have one section of floor lifted out and hose snaking from the bottom of the companionway to the engine). Tomorrow we'll take the boat back out and see what it does under load. If the tiny bubbles were residual they should clear up. If it is our old problem they should get worse.
So you see, we really didn't get very far.
12/22/2011, Vero Beach Marina
OK, first I'll admit the bird has nothing to do with what I'm writing about today. I like to have a picture with every post, but we've been sitting on the same dock dealing with the same problems for so long that my inspiration for pictures is about gone. We spent the day working on the fuel lines and the bilge pump switch. Not much to show you there. I've already put in a picture of the bilge. It's not getting any prettier. I took the camera out after supper thinking maybe I'd try to capture some of the Christmas lights around when I saw this huge bird on the end of one of the docks. He kindly stood there while I snapped his picture. Even the flash didn't spook him.
I got up at a bit after 6 this morning and Bud was already up. He'd been thinking about the air leak in the fuel lines and the fuel leaks from overfilling. Even though we only saw diesel around the return lines to the tanks, he thought if they could be leaking so could the supply lines. He decided the Teflon tape he'd used on the threads was not appropriate, so by 6:15 AM he was disassembling the fittings to the fuel tanks. I helped clean the threads. He then put them back together with another pipe thread compound we had. I went on- line and found technical information on that compound that listed diesel oil as a fluid with which it could be used. It didn't give the cure time for that application, but did give a phone number to call for technical support. So at 8:30 AM (7:30 Central Time) when they opened, I called the technical support number and was told to wait 12 to 24 hours before running diesel through the lines. That ended us moving off the dock today.
Once those fittings were redone and the gasket on one tank's viewing port replaced, we moved on to the bilge pump switch. Bud lay down on the engine and reached down into the bilge. I lay on the floor and tried to pass the bilge pump hose to him. I couldn't move it far enough forward and up for him to grab it. In the end Bud disconnected the upper end of the hose from the strainer near the pump, we passed that under the engine and then up straight and he was able to manipulate the end with the pick-up, the weight and the switch to get the switch sitting flat on the bottom of the bilge. We hooked it back up and it was still sticking. Sometimes you could add water to the bilge and the switch wouldn't come on until you wiggled the hose. It was switching off on its own, though. Finally Bud broke down and pulled it out one more time. After some fiddling we decided that our mounting was binding the wires, which exited the housing on one side of the pivot, so the wires were keeping the float from moving freely. We ended up constructing a new mounting board out of Starboard, a plastic material. This is actually more stable because we made it so the weight is held horizontally between the switch and the hose pick-up. We tested it thoroughly in a bucket and it seemed to work fine. Another 30 or 40 minutes of work with Bud on the engine and me on the floor and we got it in place. It does seem to work. We hope, since this is the switch that's supposed to be pretty much bullet proof, that it will still be working in a week. One job finally done, we think.
We're still waiting to see if the local Yanmar dealer will get a new fuel manifold to us. I'm supposed to call in the morning. They do have the gauges and engine sending units for the water temperature and oil pressure. Tomorrow we are moving back out to a mooring ball, the rest of the work can be done there. We're tired of paying dockage, and besides, they have someone who's reserved this space. We decided today to stay at Vero Beach City Marina through Christmas. Realistically, we won't be done until Saturday at the earliest. They are having a Christmas potluck here, so we signed up. We do hope to leave here Monday, but I'm not making any bets.