No. I am not talking about some sea monster slithering out of the fog-shrouded water of New York Harbor. I am talking about our venerable diesel engine - a 36 year old, 4-cylinder Westerbeke 30 HP diesel engine. 2 years a go, we finished a series of repairs and maintenance that had the old 'Iron Gennie' absolutely purring.
Three weeks ago, our starter solenoid (original equipment as far as I can tell) did not want to engage the starter. Quick work with a screwdriver - shorting across the terminals - took care of that. We ordered a new solenoid to be delivered to Hop O Nose Marina where we had raised our mast after coming on to the Hudson from the New York State Canal System. While replacing the solenoid, we noticed that the starter motor was also looking a little tired and a few sparks seen in the starter pushed us to order a new starter and have it delivered to a UPS office in New York. I wished we had checked that before ordering the solenoid. Missed opportunity.
We set out from Catskill, NY to anchor down river just outside Kingston on the Hudson. That morning the starter complained just a little more but did its job. We anchored the second night south of Haverstraw, NY. The following morning, the engine started - albeit with some complaining and we made for our 3rd anchorage, west of the Statue of Liberty
in New York Harbour.
The normally quiet anchorage was alive with activity - police and ferryboats coming and going. Just west of the anchorage was the Presidents' Cup Golf Tournament at the Liberty National Golf Course. That afternoon we witnessed 2 Marine MV22 Osprey aircraft make a low pass over Liberty Sate Park and then land just north of us. Twenty or thirty minutes later, two Marine helicopters circled the same field and landed shortly there after.
We later learned that Former President Bush had been at the tournament. It seems the day before, Obama, Bush and Clinton had all been in attendance. On Sunday, we were told; President Trump would be visiting the tournament.
And it came to pass that 5 Coast Guard 'little boats' with bow-mounted machine guns visited our little anchorage. "You're not planning on going anywhere are you?" one of the CG asked us. We had already planned on staying aboard.
Later that afternoon, the 2 Osprey appeared, a long string of black SUV's assembled and every level of law enforcement drove the short stretch of road from the landing site to the golf course. Then the 2 Marine helicopters flew overhead and landed in the park. A well-choreographed movement of vehicles and CG little boats escorted the President to the golf course.
For the rest of the afternoon we listened to the cheers of the crowds at the tournament and sometime around 5 or 6, the cavalcade reversed it's path and an hour later, all went quiet. The ferries took the last of the VIPs to NYC and Jersey City and then just after 8 PM the anchorage went quiet.
On Monday morning, the weather was great to make the transit from New York to Cape May. We stowed the dinghy on the bow, prepared overnight snack bags and got ready to sail.
I turned the key in the ignition. Nothing. Reset and turned the key again. Nothing.
We had picked up the new starter motor on Saturday on a trip into New York, so we decided to install it. The install was straight forward - 3 bolts and 3 wires. The starter turned over beautifully, but the engine wouldn't catch.
Over the years I have come to know this W30 quite well, spending a lot of time on our last trip in the small spaces surrounding the engine. So, once again we emptied the port side cockpit locker and down I went. We bled the fuel lines from the primary filter to the secondary filter on down to the re-built injector pump and up to the injectors. We could not get fuel to come out of the injector lines.
Having run the battery down trying to get the engine started, we borrowed a portable generator from our travelling companions John and Joan on RThyme II out of Belleville, ON. Still nothing.
We called TowBoat US's 800 line and had a towboat on site in just over an hour. We asked to be towed to Liberty Landing Marina. (A word to the wise - don't leave home without good towing insurance. Get the premium package.) We will follow up with a blog on insurance later.
On the way into Liberty Landing, I called the service department and they were expecting us.
STOP! Before reading any further, anyone with an understanding of marine diesel engines, write your guess as to what our problem could be. Write it in the comment section and then finish reading to find out the remedy.
On Tuesday morning, the technician from the marina came aboard and retraced all of our steps - fuel was turned on, fuel was getting through the system to the injector pump, but none was coming out of the injector lines. We had changed the primary filter. On the advice of a good friend of mine - a sailor, diesel technician, surveyor and fellow sailing instructor Craig Morley of AquaFacts in Port Stanley, ON - we run a 2-micron primary filter. The logic being, the finer filter will clog first and it is easier to spot and correct and problems in the glass bowl of the Racor filter.
We checked the oil and discovered the level had gone up a bit. Two things could cause this - water getting into the oil (in that case the oil will be milky) or diesel can get into the oil in which case it is difficult to detect other than the oil level going up.
After a few hours, we came to the conclusion it was the injector pump. Our technician removed it and we sent it off for an overhaul. It's second in 2 years.
We got the pump back a week later on the 2nd Thursday we were in the marina. We lost a few days when the technician overhauling the pump could not get it done on the prior Friday afternoon and there was the Columbus day holiday on the Monday. He did get the pump finished on Wednesday and air freighted it back to the marina on Thursday. The technician showed up at our boat at 11 am on Thursday morning, installed the injector pump and ... no go! As he left at about 3:30 he said, "You mentioned you had just changed the starting motor. Is there any chance the starter motor is the wrong one?"
How did you do on your guess?
He crawled back into the locker to access the front of the engine. We turned the engine over briefly and sure enough, the engine was turning backwards.
I called the shop we bought the starter from and who had done the pump rebuild. The call went from parts person to the shop manager to the owner. By the end of the conversation, they confirmed that they felt there was an issue with the starter and that they had another starter in stock. I had the inventory tag from the original starter we had received and it had the correct part number on it. At that point, I decided to rent a car and drive from Jersey City to Boston and take the old starter back.
The staff at the shop was excellent. Please understand, I was not looking for fault and after meeting the crew at the shop, I felt quite comfortable that the mistake was with their supplier and would not be picked up the normal flow of a parts department. This was an after market starter because Westerbeke no longer made this starter.
Driving home, I called John and Joan on RThyme II to explain the situation. You see, on that first Monday morning John had said that it might be the starter was incorrect and was turning backwards. RThyme II had since travelled on to Annapolis, MD to the boat show and then to Solomon Island. I wanted to thank him for his insight - which seemed odd to me at the time, but turned out to be totally correct. We look forward to catching up with them along the way.
Saturday morning, Matthew installed the new starter and we bled the fuel lines and with a little coaxing, Sojourn's 36-year old engine came to life. We ran it for a while and then shut it down for 15 minutes. It started quickly the 2nd time and we ran it for another 10 minutes and then shut it down. After letting the system cool, we checked the fluid levels and all were where they should be.
Next we took Sojourn out for a sea trial. Everything worked. Today, Sunday, the weather is overcast and the city is fogged in. We will work out the bill with the Marina tomorrow they have already indicated a willingness to assist in what could be a major financial hit with docking and several hours of technician time. The shop we got the starter from was very generous in settling with us given the initial issue was caused by one of their suppliers.
So after 2 weeks on a dock overlooking New York City, we know the neighbourhood of Jersey City, the transit system, ferries to NYC, shopping and couple of really good restaurants better than most travellers who stop for a day or 2.
The people at Liberty Landing Marina have been great. The crew at Hansen Marine were professional and extremely helpful in resolving our issue. Sojourn is ready to get back on the journey south. And in the words of Eric Burton and the Animals, "We gotta get out of this place..."
Mary, Rob and Matthew