12/29/2011, Vero Beach Marina
West Marine called at 11 to say our parts were in. At 11:15 we were on the bus, having packed up our stuff and Fuzzy and dinghied in to shore. At 11:45 we were back on the bus with parts in hand. Our hope was to install them, test the engine and take off in time to get to Fort Pierce by the end of the day. The parts were installed by 1:30 PM. We primed the Racor and started the engine. Bubbles, lots of bubbles.
In desperation we disconnected the fuel line from the tank and stuffed it in one of our jerry cans of diesel. Prime the Racor again, no bubbles! It was the new fuel pick-ups we'd just had installed. So we uninstalled those, put our old parts back on, replaced the fuel line from the tank to the manifold since it had been pulled on and off so many times the ends were ragged, primed the Racor, no bubbles. Repeat for other pick-up, same result.
We took the boat out for a sea trial, again. No bubbles until we opened it up in the ICW, then the same old bubbles we've had all along, but the engine ran without a skip. I'm not sure why it felt somewhat like a triumph to be back where we were, but it did.
Anyway, there's a good weather window through Sunday, so tomorrow we are going. We'll go back to our old routine of topping off the Racor every day. At least now we can do it with the fuel pump. I guess that was worth the extra 5 days and $300. Hah!
So I swear, this is the last sunset we'll see this year in Vero Beach.
12/28/2011, Vero Beach Marina
We left our mooring ball this morning, stopped at the fuel dock to pay for our mooring, take on water, and walk Fuzzy one last time and headed out. Away from Vero Beach at last. I checked the engine. Yes, the stuffing box was dripping nicely. Yes, the Racor was bubbling, perhaps more than ever. We got out into the main channel, Bud opened the engine up and... it slowed right back down. Fuel starved, gulping bubbles. He had me get the anchor ready in case it quit altogether, we turned around and came right back to mooring ball # 31 at Velcro Beach.
The good news is that Pete made the air leak so bad that it confirmed our diagnosis. Bud took apart the new fittings Pete had installed and found the same type of fittings we'd had in there, only Pete had bought one with the wrong sized hose barb, so the fuel hose wasn't secure on it. He took them ashore to talk to Pete, who insisted that two places he'd visited yesterday had told him these fittings would work (that's what they told Bud when we put them in originally). Only Pete insisted what he'd bought was slightly different from what we had (they weren't). He also told Bud that West Marine had fittings for our Racor in their catalog. So after contacting Ace marine and having John search unsuccessfully through his van for a fitting to go from the straight flare hydraulic fitting now on the Racor to the pipe thread fitting for the fuel hose barb, we hopped the bus for West Marine.
For a mere $30 extra we had two fittings ordered for overnight delivery that would go into the Racor and end directly in fuel barbs. We then just had to get fittings to go from 3/8-inch line to ¼-inch line, which we were also able to purchase at West Marine.
Meanwhile, Don, Pete's friend and sometimes helper, mentioned again how much better our system would work if we moved the little electric fuel pump down to a low point in the system. Then it would prime the Racor without having to dump diesel in from a bottle, act as a check valve to keep fuel from draining back out of the Racor and eliminate a lot of fittings and valves that Bud had between the Racor and the engine. It made enough sense that we decided to do it. The photo shows the fuel pump all plumbed and wired in it's new home by the fuel manifolds under the galley floor.
Tomorrow we get the new Racor fittings; bubbles beware!
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.