12/31/2011, Old Bahama Bay Marina, West End, Grand Bahama
We made it. We tried for an early start but that didn't exactly work out. We cast off the lines at just about 6:45. It seems we left at low tide, and Bud was keeping to the green side of the channel as instructed, but he kept a bit too far to the green and we went aground. We were stuck pretty hard. I went down and checked our chart on the computer for the tides and was glad to see that we had just passed low tide, so gradually the tide would lift us. Not wanting to wait for the tide, Bud gunned the engine as each of three different boats went by and created a wake. After the third try our boat started to move. It spun all the way around on the stuck spot so when we came out of the mud we were facing back into the marina. Bud had to go back into their basin to turn around. The second time we came out of the channel it was about 7:20, we finally made it out of Lake Worth at about 7:45. So much for our early start.
We were still breaking in the engine and running it hard so even though there was no wind we were making pretty good time. However, there was a current against us from the start. We figure it was the tide coming in. We started out heading southeast, to try to get a bit south of our destination before we entered the north flowing current of the Gulf Stream. We were diverted even more to the south by a freighter. We have an AIS receiver hooked into our chart plotter, which tells us the name, size, type, destination, speed, course and most importantly the closest point of approach of any boat equipped with an AIS transponder. Since all large commercial boats and ships must have AIS transponders, it's a nice tool. Bud had one freighter come up whose closest point of approach was 210 feet. That's a lot closer than we're comfortable with. So Bud altered our course to the south so the closest point of approach was a half-mile. I took a picture of it as it passed; it's in the gallery.
After that ship passed we turned back southeast again, and not too much later decided we were at the edge of the Gulf Stream, so set our course for West End, which by then was a couple degrees north of east. Our speed picked up a lot when we did that and we made between 7 and 8 knots the rest of the day. The seas were very flat today; it was like sailing on a cobalt blue Lake Ontario. I took a shot of Earendil cutting through the Gulf Stream and that's in the gallery, too.
It wasn't nearly as spooky to me to head out into the ocean this time. For one thing, we've sailed out of sight of land quite a few times now. For another, we were going to a place we'd been to before, and finally, we could see our track from our last trip on the chart plotter. It's amazing how comforting that is.
For the last third of the trip we flew the jib. There wasn't much wind, but it built a little and in the end the sail was helping. It was nice just to have a sail up.
At about 3:30 PM we headed for the channel to Old Bahama Bay Marina, and I took this picture of our approach. We're now cleared through customs, tied up, plugged in, fed and ready for the new year. I'm so glad we made it. We have one more very long day, to get from here down to Great Harbour in the northern Berries. We're going to get up at 3:30 AM and take off at 4 AM so we can arrive down there in daylight. At least we're feeling more confident with the engine. The fuel bubbled all day again, and again Bud added about a pint of diesel to the Racor at the end of the day. But the engine ran strong all day-and we're here!
12/30/2011, Lake Park Harbor Marina, Lake Worth
We did it. We got up, took Fuzzy ashore, lifted the engine off the dinghy and the dinghy onto the foredeck and LEFT VERO BEACH at 7 AM. We took the ICW down to Fort Pierce. The bubbles were bubbling in the Racor, but the engine was running fine so we decided to head outside and try to make the run down to Lake Worth. The photo is Earendil going out the inlet at Fort Pierce.
There was almost no wind today, we never put up the sails, but we ran the engine hard and made it to the Lake Worth Inlet before 3 PM. I took some photos as we came in the inlet, I'll put them in the gallery. We came back to the marina where we stayed last year, Lake Park Harbor Marina. The log read 59.63 nautical miles.
We were concerned because there seems to be a lot of vibration from the engine. Also, the stuffing box, where the propeller shaft comes in through the hull, is dripping probably more than it should. That can be adjusted, but the drips were getting spattered up onto the oil pan and leaving a salt deposit there. We were afraid the spatter was because of the vibration and the vibration because of misalignment. We called the Yanmar technician who sea trialed with us in St. Augustine. After leaving a message with him we called the Yanmar dealer that did all the work in Vero Beach. They assured us that the alignment was fine; the stuffing box just needed adjustment.
After we were here at the dock the Yanmar tech called back. He concurred that the stuffing box alone could be causing the spatter, but said an easy way to check the alignment was to turn the shaft by hand when the boat is stopped and in neutral. It should turn. Once the engine cooled a bit I tried that, I couldn't turn it. Bud couldn't turn it. It was 4:55 PM and I called the Yanmar dealer again, no one answered. I called the tech back, and thank goodness, he answered. His diagnosis is that the alignment is out but it shouldn't really hurt anything and we should go.
So we're going, but I can't say that we're really happy about the state of things yet. I'll feel much better once we cross and make it to Nassau. Tomorrow we will cross to West End. That should be 10 hours or less. Sunday we'll try for the Berry Islands; that will leave us one or two short hops to Nassau. Here's hoping!
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.