First Sail May 2014
09 May 2014 | Whortonsville, NC
To say that Judy and I have enjoyed our first few weeks of retirement would be an understatement. Our first official act as retirees was to go to Wilkesboro, NC and buy a camping trailer. This was done on April 16th the first full day after Judy finished work for the year and the first full day that we had both been retired. We have been talking about a trip out west for 10 or 15 years and since we can't get to the Grand Canyon by boat we bought a trailer. This is not a massive motor home but a modest 21 foot tag-a-long trailer that we can pull with our Nissan Pathfinder. I am trying to talk Judy in to writing a camping blog similar to this sailing blog but the idea is not getting much traction. We took delivery of the camper on Tuesday April 29 and pulled it immediately to a nearby campground where we spent two nights making sure all the systems were working. Enough about land based activities.
Friday May 2, 2014
This was the first trip to the boat for the first mate since January. I had a new water separator filter that I wanted to install and I wanted to go to the Wooden Boat Show in Beaufort on Saturday. The weather in NC was lousy during our camping trip but on the way home Thursday the weather turned around. We got home from the mountains on Thursday and left for the boat on Friday. We didn't get much done on Friday except to unload the car and go to bed. It had been a long week already.
Saturday May 3, 2014
We were up early because Beaufort is over an hour away from Whortonsville. We found that our friends Richard and Frances were coming to the boat show as well so we met them shortly after we got there. The show is always good and this year there were lots of exhibits. There was one little "strip plank" canoe that was just out of this world. The fellow who built it was there answering questions as fast as he could. The lumber to build the boat was bald cypress that was unearthed from a South Carolina sand pit. It had been carbon dated to something OVER 50,000 years old. Not only that, the craftsmanship on the boat was superb. The finest furniture made could not hold a candle to the attention to detail that was evident on the little craft. The rest of the boat show was just fine but there seemed to be less of my favorite "look what I built" exhibitors this year but hopefully they will be back in force next year.
Sunday May 4, 2014
The installation of the new filter went quite well. Removing the old one was more effort the new installation. I drilled one hole to match the back plate of the new filter and installed the brass barbs and clamped the hoses on, no major problems. I bled the fuel system as I have done dozens of times before and tried the diesel. It cranked immediately. I let it run at a fair speed for 15 or 20 minutes to make sure all the air got out of the system and then shut it down. To my dismay, when I came below the fuel pump was running like crazy. This was pretty much the same problem I had seen last time when I changed the element in the old filter. This means there was probably nothing wrong with the old filter and I probably had it sealed just fine. No matter, I was sick of dealing with the old clunker and wanted the sexy little Racor with the spin on filter elements. I tried everything I could think of like tightening all the clamps etc. Every time I tried to crank the engine it cranked right away, no hesitation. I know that if there were any air in the fuel lines that would not be the case. A single air bubble in a diesel fuel can cause the engine to shut down immediately. This is why diesel car owners go out of their way to avoid running out of fuel. It is a real pain to purge air from the fuel lines to get them going again. No matter what I did the fuel pump ran much too much when the diesel was not running. I have owned this boat since 2002 and I know what normal behavior is and this is not it.
I abandoned the quest at about 3pm because Richard and Frances were coming for dinner. I got a shower and helped Richard install a new battery charger on his Catalina 36. There is never a dull moment around the docks. Judy served a delicious meal and Art was able to join us as well. The party broke up around 9pm.
Monday May 5, 2014
Bill, one of the dock mates suggested that my fuel tank vent may be clogged and the fuel system was being starved of air. This could cause the problem I was having. The first thing I did was to unload the quarter berth and disconnect the air vent hose. No joy. This had no effect on the fuel pump. It was running at various speeds any time it was turned on and the diesel was not running although I had no problem cranking the engine. At this point I did the sensible thing and called Roger. Roger is a local diesel expert. We had a nice long chat and he asked lots of questions about what was happening and what I had done or not done. He asked me to run some tests. He wanted me to run the engine under load for more than just a few minutes and see whether it slowed down on its own or stopped. This would indicate air in the fuel lines. He also wanted to know if the engine cranked ok, which it did. I was not able to get in touch with Roger with the test results but hopefully I will be able to catch up with him tomorrow. In my opinion, we are down to two things. It could be an air leak in the fuel hose between the tank and the pump or a bad fuel pump. I am betting on the bad fuel pump because I have yet to have the engine quit or even slow down while it is running. Also, it has never failed to crank. We shall see.
Tuesday May 6, 2014
The first thing I did was to crank the diesel. It started up like it had all the other times I had tried over the past days. I didn't want to call Roger too early because I knew he had house guests. I gave Southern Star's exterior a good scrubbing and it looks a lot better. I need to either remove all the Poli-Glow from the hull or re-apply it. There are shiny patches and not so shiny patches. That will be done another day. I caught up with Roger about mid morning. We had a long talk. His conclusion was that since the engine was starting fine, the fuel pump running more than usual may be because the fuel pump's age. He said one of the check valves inside the pump may not be functioning properly causing it to run more. This does not mean the fuel pump is bad. He said it could last for years without any problems. He suggested that I buy a replacement spare and keep it aboard so if it gets worse it can be replaced. He said as a final test I should run the engine at my normal cruising speed for an extended period of time and take careful note of the engine's behavior. If the engine slows or stops at a higher speed it means that the fuel pump should be replaced immediately. If it behaves as usual, chances are the pump is good to go, at least for now.
I figured the best way to run the cruising speed test was to go sailing. The weather was spectacular and the forecast was for 5-10 knot northerly winds. We got the boat ready, Judy made some sandwiches and we left the dock at about noon. The engine performed just fine at cruising speed and there were no slow-downs that could be attributed to the fuel supply. We sailed upriver toward Oriental hugging the northern bank of the Neuse. When we were parallel to the entrance to South River we headed across toward the entrance. We got fairly close to South River #1 then headed for home. We had already been out for a couple of hours. The wind was perfect. Our little ship prefers winds that are not too strong when you can see just a few white caps in your field of vision. In these perfect conditions we were regularly hitting 5 knots and sometimes a little more. Our trip up river was on a lazy broad reach but coming back was a more exciting close hauled beat. It was like riding a thoroughbred through her paces. On the return trip we were nearing the entrance to Broad Creek (our home creek) and we decided to leave the main sail up, douse the jib and start the engine and let it idle. As we approached Broad Creek #1 we were making 6 knots. We passed #1 and #2 like a rocket ship. Inside the creek we took advantage of the slight land shadow and dowsed the sails. The return was uneventful. Our friend Art was at the dock and helped us land. It was an absolutely perfect sail and it reminded us that this is the payback for the hours of tedious work and worry that we have to endure as sailboat owners.
Back at the dock we performed all the required "button up" procedures and proceeded to the showers. Judy served chicken, field peas and cooked carrots for dinner. We enjoyed our dinner with Art in the Ensign Harbor Cockpit. We were all pretty much wasted so the party broke up at about dark. I was looking forward to a soft V berth.
Wednesday May 7, 2014 (Stella Grace's Second Birthday)
We were up early because Judy had made tentative arrangements with Amber to stop by and see them for a little while on our way home. The weather was very nice but overcast. We need to be home on Thursday because Judy's dad needs my help. During the departure process, I cranked the diesel one last time. I noted that the fuel pump sounded like it has been sounding. The engine cranked instantly so now I am as satisfied as I can be that we are good to go.