Spring Maintenance April 2014
15 April 2014 | Whortonsville, NC
Tax season is still upon us so the first mate was not able to accompany me on this trip. Since I am unencumbered by the responsibilities of an employed person, I can go to the boat when I jolly well please! I picked a couple of days that looked good and as a bonus the Oriental Boat Show was at the end of a nice (predicted) span of weather. I had ordered a water separator filter on line and had acquired all the other spring maintenance supplies at our neighborhood NAPA store. Another thing I wanted to do was to work on getting my amateur radio to work on the boat. I had tried in the past without much success but this time I brought along an UltiMax 100 antenna that the maker said would perform like magic under all circumstances which is a bit hard to believe huh?
Thursday April 10, 2014
Judy left for the office and I left shortly after. I enjoyed an egg McMuffin at the local McDonalds and made several other stops. I was not in a hurry because I did not have an extensive work afternoon planned. I arrived around 2pm. On the last trip I discovered a bad cranking battery so my grandson Carson and I had exchanged the bad one for a good one at Sam’s club a week or two earlier. I see no need to spend money on an exotic battery. It has been my experience these batteries get very little use and tend to last only about 4 years no matter how much you pay. As soon as I got there I installed the battery and tried to crank the diesel. It was a little cantankerous but after bleeding the fuel system she cranked up and ran well.
Unwilling to get into changing oil, oil filters and fuel filters late in the day, I played radio for a while. I installed the magical UltiMax 100. Perhaps you can tell that I was less than enthusiastic about buying it but a huge percentage of the independent on line reviews touted unbelievable performance in a small fairly cheap package. I figured it was bound to work at least as well as anything else I had tried, which was not at all. Installation was painless. I tied the end of the antenna to the spinnaker halyard and hoisted away. I had taken my Kenwood TS-440 amateur radio which has a built in tuner. I fired everything up and listened around on the ham bands. Radio frequency noise was the problem last time I tried making a contact. The noise level is so high in the marina that I could hear almost nothing last time. If you can’t hear a station you certainly can’t contact him. The noise level this time was indeed quite high but for some reason considerable better than during my last attempt. I went in search of on board RF noise sources. The first thing I eliminated was the ship’s battery charger, the fancy one I bought last year, and gave it a try. Wow what a difference! I won’t bother you with DB levels etc. but it there was considerable difference. I noticed my AC phone charger was plugged in. I unplugged it and the noise level dropped further. At this point it was not great but manageable. A significant portion of the Amateur Radio art is to be able to communicate in adverse conditions. I made several contacts and I wasn’t really trying. I checked into a net as a maritime mobile station. The net control station was in Florida and gave me a good (not great) signal report. Maritime mobile stations are fairly rare. When folks find out you are maritime mobile they all want to make a contact. I worked several stations and got good reports. They were from Missouri and Vermont and another station in the mid west that I don’t recall. Anyway I was able to make contact. I always check into the HF traffic nets when I can. I gave that a try and was able to make good enough contact to take traffic from one of our NC traffic handlers. The next challenge was my usual net which is held on 75 meters which is at the low end of the magic antenna’s capabilities. My signal report was not great but it was adequate. It seems the UltiMax 100 may have some magic qualities after all.
Dinner was the sub sandwich I had purchased on the way in. I watched a couple of NetFlix TV episodes and turned in.
April 11, 2014
I am 63 years old today. I hate having birthdays but like the alternative much less. I can say from experience that my mom was right when she said “Getting old is not for sissies”. My usual breakfast is cereal and milk but when the mate is not there I go for very low impact meals. I had two pop-tarts and a pot of black coffee. That works well except for the elevated calorie level that I certainly do not need. After checking into the morning net with adequate signal reports I tackled the maintenance task.
With the draw tube down the dip stick hole I started the oil change pump and the oil slowly started up the tube into the bucket. This process takes a long time so I started the other tasks. I replaced the fuel filter that is attached to the engine itself. This is a piece of cake. I place absorbent pads under any potential oil or fuel leaks to keep the petroleum out of the water. With the oil pump still running I removed and replaced the oil filter. This is a little more difficult mainly because of it’s placement. The oil pump was still running and I started the task I had been dreading, replacing the filter element in the water separator filter. This is a bear of a job because there is no way to do it without making a mess. The lower section of the DAHL 100 filter has to come off so the element can be replaced. When it comes off it is always full of fuel because the valve at the bottom of the bowl is stuck and I dare not force it for fear of breaking it and spilling the entire content of the fuel tank in the water. It is always a wrestling match, trying to manage a new seal ring and a new element while trying to get everything aligned and the band in place. This would probably not be so bad if you could see any of it, but you cannot. It is all done by feel. The alignment went perfectly on the first try. I was able to get everything back in place. I knew this was bad news because it is almost impossible to get everything in place and sealed after half dozen tries. Doing it the first time was a bad omen which I typically don’t believe in except of course when aboard a sailing vessel.
By now the oil had been pumped out of the crankcase. I turned off the pump and poured almost 4 quarts of “Rotella-T” into the engine. I bled all the appropriate fuel valves to get the air out of the fuel system. This did not go well. I knew from experience there was a problem because there was way too much air in the system. I returned to the filter and took it apart again. No joy, there was still too much air. I tried again and the seal was better. I was able to get rid of the air or so I thought. I went out and tried the engine. It finally fired up but after 5 minutes it started to slow down. I went below and squeezed the fuel bulb and the engine sped up. You would think this would be good news but it is not. The engine sped up because I had replaced the air in the lines with fuel which is easier to pump. I tried once again to get the filter sealed and thought I had it. The engine cranked and ran well.
Lunch was a can of sardines and a stack of soda crackers. What could be better?
By now it was mid afternoon and I still had a huge mess in the boat. I cleaned up all my absorbent pads and diapers (which work great too) and gave the bilge a good old fashioned scrubbing. It was nasty to start with and with all the trouble I had had with sealing the filter it was really bad now. Dish detergent and a hose made quick work of it and it smells much better now.
The boat was still wearing her winter coat of grime both inside and out. This trip was not for cleaning and there is no point in cleaning until all the pine trees finish depositing their yellow powder pollen. I think Pamlico County is the pine tree capitol of the world. To make it worse, the winter was so wet we have an unusual amount of mildew grime inside the boat. A major cleaning is in order but that will come a bit later. I made the mistake of opening the stern lazerette (storage locker) to get something and decided it really could not wait to be cleaned. Lazerette s are hard to clean because they do not drain so any water you put in, you must take out. An hour or so later I had a clean sweet smelling locker and I even managed to remove some clutter.
I dreaded it but I knew I should try the engine again. My fears came true. The engine would not crank and the fuel pump was running wild, meaning there is air in the line. I was not sure what to do but I was sure I was too tired to deal with it. I had changed seals multiple times. I had seated and re-seated the bulb and housing seal. Either I have a two bad seals or there is some sort of obstruction or there is an issue with the DAHL filter. I can’t imagine why since it is only 30 years old. I may decide to classify this in the “life is too short” category and spring for that new water separator that I have been lusting after for 10 years.
I felt pretty good about my progress even if the fuel system still had problems. The oil change went well and I think I have a direction on the filter issue. The amateur radio operation was the highlight of the weekend. At least I know not that it is possible to communicate on my favorite 75 meter band.
Dinner was salmon stew made from a can of cream of potato soup and a can of salmon and a little pepper. You may detect a canned fish tendency in my diet. Anyway it tasted really good after a day of fuel filter wrestling. I watched a bit if NetFlix and turned in.
Saturday April 12, 2014
Except for Nick and Jeanette I had been alone at the dock. Saturday brought more dock mates. I had a chat with John about his (nearly) new Bristol 35 and learned that Bob and Tammy’s Hunter 36, “Motivation” is for sale. They are buying an Island Packet as soon as the legalities are sorted. Dan was down for two days from his home in the NC Mountains. It was good to catch up with him since I had not seen him for quite some time.
I left Whortonsville shortly after 10 am and headed for the Oriental Boat Show. The show had moved from the Pecan Grove marina to Oriental Harbor. This is different but I am not sure it is an improvement. I noticed immediately that there were several civic groups and churches that were offering parking for a fee. I don’t mean to sound like a cheap skate but I think that is a little much. The (so called) boat show is mostly financial institutions and other companies that have little or nothing to do with boats or boating. The $5 entry fee for the show itself is a bit steep in my humble opinion. Adding a 3 to 5 dollar “donation” almost puts the price past what I am willing to pay. Of course you don’t have to park in a donation lot and I did not. I parked at the public boat ramp and that worked out just fine. It takes about an hour to see the Oriental Boat show if you are not in a hurry and I was not. I wanted to get my $5 worth which is still in doubt. I never did find the flea market.
I left at high noon and enjoyed an audio book on CD and a fast food lunch stop. Next time hopefully I will have a new filter to install and I will have my mate back. A vinegar bath inside and out for S/V Southern Star is in order.