Wed Aug 1 8:01:00 EDT 2012, 0 N'N:E E'E, Rabaul Yacht Club
We really have been hit by some bad luck on this one. Despite going to our best of efforts to drain the bottom of Yarramundi's fuel tank in Rabaul before filling up with new fuel we have a serious fuel contamination problem which has led to some serious engine problems that are not easily fixed.
Something nasty happened in the tank after we left Rabaul and we got the diesel bio bug right through the engine fuel system creating numerous blockages. This was confirmed today as we pulled the system apart. As written previously we have been told by a mobile engineer a reaction occured with the new fuel when it went into our fuel tank which must have had a dirty layer on the bottom. Today we took out the fuel tank - not an easy job - and have sent it off with on of the Yacht Club members who is going to clean it for us. As we emptied it we could see lots of little spots of coffee colour bubbles on the bottom of every bucket of fuel we pulled out. I am not completely convinced that it is just a chemical reaction as the bubbles sink indicating that they contain water meaning we got some sort of leak somewhere along the way. Or Mobile sold us very dirty fuel out of the 44 gallon drums.
The fuel tank is now being cleaned for future use but the engine fuel system still needs major cleaning. Some parts such as the high pressure fuel pump and the injectors are so badly clogged or covered in stuff it seems we may need to replace them. Not expensive parts thankfully but not easily available here in PNG ......probably. The other issue is the ex-pats here at the Yacht club all strongly suggest I do all the work myself as the local mechanics have "light fingers". This will slow down the process as I struggle to work out what to do and make mistakes along the way.
Rod the salvage man has been a great help in identifying various issues and explaining the workings of a diesel engine as well as lending tools etc. Adam has also continued to be a great source of energy, ideas and simply someone to get things done. Unfortunately he flies back to Cairns tomorrow. We will head into the main town Kokobo together to pay for his tickets and will visit some work-shops to see what replacement parts I can get here in PNG. Some parts are better cleaned and repaired than replaced as the engine is somewhat old. If you know about engines you will know what I mean. So I am also considering taking those now faulty parts for repair to a) Lae where there is a German mechanic who can do it all - but Lea is one of the most dangerous places on the planet so flying there with a box of broken engine bits is not all that attractive, b) Cairns - further away but a chance to have a break from lawless PNG and I can stay with Adam, and c) catch the flight back to To kyo on Saturday and get things sorted there for the week. Summer Obon holidays may present a problem in finding a workshop to do it though. Decisions, decisions!
For now, I'll go to Kokobo with Adam tomorrow and we will see what parts and workmanship we can find here locally and hopefully I won't have to fly anywhere.
Nothing else to report expect after a full day of hard work in hot weather working in disel fumes we are very tired. Adam fell asleep as soon as we got back to the boat from dinner and I am falling asleep writing this blog.
Mon Jul 30 23:06:00 EDT 2012, Rabaul Yacht Club
Safe in Rabaul again
One of the most memorable moments of this entire trip from Japan to Rabaul so far will be without a doubt coming into Blanche Bay yesterday evening. We came out of St George's chanel surfing down 4 metre waves, in a 1.5 knot current and 25 knots of wind behind us to come into the protected bay which makes Rabaul a perfect natural harbor. The wind was on our port side and only 10 knots, the bay was flat and we put the boat on auto-pilot and sailed so peacefully for about 7 miles on a a nice steady platform. The sun was starting to set and about 30 dolphins came to join us for at least half an hour. Adam made a great cafe latte and we were just carried along peacefully by Yarramundi after 6 days of hard sailing, 2 and a half in a storm. Shortly afterwards Rod the WW2 salvage man and tour guide appeared behind us on his boat Barbarain for the final tow to the Yacht club. It was strange coming back here. Barney behind the bar remembered our names and so did a few of the memebers. It was Adam's birthday so after 2 beers - which went very quickly to the head - we went next door to the Travelodge for some large plates of Beef Curry.
Rod did not charge for his tow last night providing I buy him some cold ones tonight. He has offerred to look after Yarramundi for a short amount of time if I need to return to Tokyo for any reason. One of his staff would sleep on Yarramundi and I would pay them for it. It is a big releif to know if I get stuck here waiting on a part for the engine I can get out of Rabaul and leave Yarramundi safely for some time. Potentially I can wait till the weather improves and bring any parts back with me. Might be an opportunity to catch up on work with Colin too.
One of the yacht club members Bruce who joined us for Adam's birthday dinner is an engineer working for Mobil. He has offerred to test our fuel in the lab but has aleady told us he believes we have had some sort of chemical/biological reaction in the fuel tank. The diesel sold here has an additive to break down the 'desiel bug'. Prior to filling the tank we emptied out the last 40 litres but that would not have gotten the very bottom layer of gung. Bruce says that the new fuel would have broken down the grung and it would have floated to the top thereby being sucked into our engine. That is why our fuel seperator went coffee like. Therefore we now have two things to do. Get the engine cleaned up and working again (and hope that it really is only dirty fuel) and then do a proper clean of the fuel tank. That will involve cutting a hole in it and then repairing it afterwards. Whilst we did try and clean the engine at sea it was almost always raining, we had drippin wet hands and hair, and we were rocking around the place. It will be different this time in port. It would be a great satisfaction if we can get it going ourselves today.
I visited customs this morning which was a great waste of time getting out into the dinghy and crossing the hardbor and back checking into the port authority, putting on hard hat etc. As I was arriving at the customs office, Samson, the guy who forgot his key last time was arriving late and as like last time was reading his newspaper as he walked. When I got into the office they said (even though the told us on the radio to visit) that as we did not leave PNG waters we only had to see them when we were leaving. I was typing this as Adam was cooking lunch. It is being served now so need to log off, finish lunch and get into that engine room.
David PS: Planet Deep is an 8,000 metre deep spot in the Solomon Sea and we sailed over it 3 times!
Sun Jul 29 17:39:00 EDT 2012, 0 N'N:E E'E, Back in St George's Channel
It is amazing what sunshine and fresh air - not to mention a calmer sea state - can do for morale. When the sun came out yesterday we opened all the hatches and got to cleaning duty. Cabin is now clean, clothes and fridge are clean - although the clothes are still all a little wet as saltwater takes a long time to dry - and we are making good time. The wind dropped in the evening but at least we are now in the St George's Channel and have the current behind us. We have a backup plan for our tow in case the Mayor is not able to organize something for us too. Hoping to make land before too late so we can get to the Yacht Club for cold beer and steak.
Oh, we got the cooker working again once the fumes were out of the cabin so it was hot pasta for dinner last night.
Sat Jul 28 21:16:00 EDT 2012, 0 N'N:E E'E, Still over Planet Deep, Solomon Sea
We left Rabaul on Tuesday evening and motor sailed through the St Georgefs channel. Some times we would turn the engine off and just sail. Unfortunately on Thursday evening when we went to turn it back on it would not start. We found a lot of dirt in the water separator so suspected a clogged fuel line. Cleaned the separator, the fuel line to the fine fuel filter and the fine fuel filter. It still did not start. As evening was approaching and the weather was getting bad we decided to sail through the night and fix it in the morning. As it happens a storm was starting on us.
With the rain and rocking motion we were not able to stop the boat to look at the engine again until Friday afternoon when there was a lull in the storm. Fortunately at that time a hug car carrier was heading toward us on its way to Yokohama. We radioed for assistance and their chief engineer talked us through cleaning the injectors and bleeding them and so forth. Adam has studied diesel engines so the engineers advice was more confirmation that we were following the correct process. This hug carrier called the Cary Rickmare stopped beside and dwarfed us for a few minutes while we worked away. Confident that we understood what to do we thanked them. We could see fuel starting to come through the system again so thought it was a matter of time before it would be running again. They offered us food and water but as we were fine wished them well sharing a few jokes about our situation with the captain. Unfortunately the engine did not start and the storm returned and raged throu gh the night and all Saturday and last night. We tacked back and forth on minimal sail and despite getting good speed could not make headway. A couple of times I would stick my head into the engine room to try different things but nothing I was trying was working. We have had some great advice from Peter and Jason but are now convinced we have another issue aside from clogged fuel. It is also very difficult to work properly on a diesel fuel system in a confined space in a rocking boat so it is possible I am just not getting all the air out or something.
I have not calculated the distances properly yet but it seems we spent to 2.5 days to get only 12 miles closers to our destination. Another way of looking at it, in 4.5 days we crossed over 400 miles of ocean but only got 148 miles or so from Rabaul with the first 136 in the first day and a half. Last night the wind was so unpredictable so we stopped the boat and sat it out checking the AIS every 30 mins for big ships. Adam was great staying on watch through the night so I could catch up on some sleep.
To make things unpleasant on-board everything has been made wet by the storm. THe boat does not leak. The water comes from our clothing or from opening hatches when we get in and out of the cabin. The moisture as well as the terrible fumes from cleaning the engine have turned on the gas detection system shutting off our stove so we have not been able to boil water or cook food too. And the toilet is also not working well. The impellor seems to soon need a change. To save battery we turned off the fridge a few days back but missed throwing out some of the meat given all that was going on. Needless to say, with wet cloths, humidity, a fridge that has had bad meat in it, two blokes who have not had a shower for a while and the diesel remains from working on the engine the cabin stinks!! Fortunately the wind these last few days means our wind generator have fully charged the batteries though - and now blow fresh air in the cabin!
Today is Sunday morning. Given that we have not been able to make headway against the wind since Thursday and donft have a motor and don't seem to be able to to push forward against both the current and the wind, this morning at around 6 am we decided to go back to Rabaul. There are no other ports we can get to easily from here with the wind and currents the way they are now. We can follow the winds back there and be in port in around 34hrs.
Not sure if I blogged about it earily but we met the Mayor of Rabaul and shared some beers with him when Adam arrived. I have contacted him on the sat phone and he was very keen to help us. Enthusiastic even. gNo worries mate, I used to be in shipping, know this stuff and it will be a pleasure to help you and Adamh. He remembered our names! We will call him early tomorrow morning with our ETA and he will arrange for a tow for us for the last couple of miles into the harbour to allow us to anchor or moor safely without the motor. His son Wilson is a marine mechanic and we are in the process of booking some of his time to fix the engine. I am sure a good mechanic working on the engine in port and not at sea will be able to have it running again in no time.
The sun is now out and the wind is behind and we are airing out the cabin. Despite a lumpy sea from more than 2 days of bad weather we are flying along at about 6.5 knots. and if we can keep this speed will be entering Rabaul harbour before midday tomorrow.
After getting the engine fixed I am not sure what we can do. I have work commitments in Tokyo mid August and so probably have run out of time to sail all the way back to Australia. Leaving it in Rabaul also seems risky. Other options could be shipping it to Cairns via Port Moresby but the cost might be prohibitive. But first things first. Get this boat and her crew back to safe anchorage.
PS: Adam and I have now seen some really really big waves!
Sat Jul 28 0:35:55 EDT 2012, Solomon Sea
Posting this on behalf of David,
He called me to advise all was well but strong ESE breezes on the nose had slowed down progress. He did not want to get out the laptop in the wet conditions. Still aiming for Honiara at this point, but may change course if the head winds persist.
A couple of mechanical complications have not made things easier but nothing serious for us to worry about.
Andrew Le Lievre
Wed Jul 25 20:57:00 EDT 2012, 0 N'N:E E'E, Planet Deep, Solomon Sea
Rough night and rougher morning. For about 4 hours this morning 4 to 5 metre waves with the occasional 6 metre one on the devlinator, but meaning Leaning to 3 to 4. (Private joke with someone). 30 to 34 knots on the nose apparent. These are some of the biggest seas I have seen and to make it feel worse it is all grey and dark. Still we are making good progress and it has eased off a little now. Expect to arrive in Gizo Saturday afternoon.