10 May 2018 | San Francisco International Airport Terminal 2
We're in Oakland, hosted by Conni's dad. I do so hate flying long distances because the seating is so uncomfortable for me. Sleeping is just out of the question. When we arrived yesterday, we were both exhausted.
As we departed Anchorage, we attended a presentation ceremony, then spent several hours with our friends, Pete and Toby. Dinner and conversation were followed by a trip to the airport and we were off. P&T, thanks for the wonderful hours we spent with you.
Sometimes, time and shipping costs dictate that I send items that I buy be shipped to Oakland rather than all the way to Anchorage. The most expensive item this year, a spare raw water pump for the engine, was awaiting our arrival. A considerably less expensive but much heavier item, a 12VDC diesel fuel transfer pump, had also arrived. I had packed my two Blue Boxes in Alaska with the certain knowledge that I'd have to provide both volume and weight allowance for everything. After much re-packing, with both boxes full, and with each Blue Box and my Bill Bag weighing 49 pounds (50 is the limit), we're packed. Close!
We've got a contaminated starboard fuel tank, a fact that we learned last year. The contamination is from the bodies of billions of algae that lived in the water/diesel interface. They eat diesel, live their lives, and die, drifting to the tank bottom to lie with the carcasses of their fellows. The water in which they live should not be there and I think that it's poor maintenance on my part for not having replaced the O-rings on the fuel tank fills. I did replace all O-rings for both water and fuel last year, but the damage had been done. When the boat is in tranquil water, the algae cemetery causes no problem, but in rough water, the agitation of the fuel exhumes the bodies and they get revenge by quickly clogging fuel filters. In minutes, the filter will go from clean to completely full and the engine quits. There are situations in which this is more than a mere nuisance.
I've got to remove the 30 or so gallons of dirty diesel fuel and find it a home on an island. That's the first use of the new diesel transfer pump. When the tank is empty, I'll use a putty knife wielded through an access port to remove as much of the goo from the tank bottom as I can reach. The 70-gallon tank is large and has a baffle across it, and that baffle baffles my ability to reach about 1/3 of the tank bottom. I'll try to use a putty knife attached to a stick to pry off as much of the residue behind the baffle as I can reach, then use the transfer pump to direct a stream of diesel and wash out as much of the goo as I can. That's the plan, at least, and all that I've been able to develop. We're going to need that 70-gallons of clean fuel on this trip, in all likelihood, and I need access to all of that fuel: cleaning that tank is crucial. Finding space and weight allowance for the transfer pump, therefore, has some importance. I'll have to buy hose to fit the pump input and output when we arrive.
There's quite a saga with the raw water pump. The engine uses salt water, ocean water, to remove excess thermal energy. That salt water is pumped into the boat with an engine-driven pump, the "raw water pump" and it failed last year. The pump is now discontinued but I was fortunate to find a pump from the same series of pumps that would work. How long it will work is the question since it's not the specific pump. If it fails, we're done: if we run the engine without the pump, the engine will overheat, seize, and be ruined. After much searching, I found the replacement pump, which is now also discontinued, and had it sent to Oakland. Our options are being reduced.
Plan A had been to rebuild the original pump and I bought two rebuild kits. After months of work with my pump engineer friend, Peter, we were unable to disassemble the pump to rebuild it: too many years of salt water immersion had welded the bearing races against the main shaft. Need a few rebuild kits? Plan B had been to buy an electric pump and just plumb it into the salt water system. Finding a suitable pump turned out to be much more difficult than I realized. The needed pump capacity and other characteristics were difficult to guess and even with a good guess, finding a pump that would work was difficult. Plan C was to find and buy a second wrong-but-useful pump, and that's what we did. By the way, I do want to point out that having my friend, Peter, one of the most accomplished rotating equipment engineers in the world, willing to help was exceptionally fortunate. Thank you, Peter.
That's one of the two main problems with our old engine: it's difficult or impossible to find many replacement parts. The engine is old, but has about 4500 hours: old by far from ancient by diesel engine standards. 10,000 hours, that's an old diesel engine. Although we've performed great maintenance on the engine, it appears that previous owners were not so meticulous and sitting, unused, for 7 years before we bought the boat also didn't help. Engine duration and availability of parts are our enemies for this engine.
After a year of searching, we chose the next engine and we're making plans for replacement and installation of the new engine. Doing all of that using a Japanese tractor engine, modified in England, then shipped to French Polynesia, is also proving to be challenging, but we've got a full year to accomplish it. From recommendations by the English company that builds and sells the engine, we've made plans with a local and recommended mechanic to perform the work. To increase the efficiency of the replacement process, this year I'll have the mechanic take some measurements so that the engine company can fabricate some unique parts: the motor mounts and exhaust connections specifically. When the engine arrives, it'll be much simpler to install.
The mechanic is Hungarian and I'll bet his story is interesting. He plays on that "Hun" theme in many areas of his life: his own boat is named, "Attila", for example, and his email is "attilaatsea". How about that, a mechanic with a great sense of humor! The chosen engine, by the way, is a Beta 50 HP, based on a Kubota tractor engine, known for its durability. Parts should be easier to find, and with luck, we'll get several years of less stressful engine use. The extra horsepower of this engine (our current engine was 42 HP, 34 years ago) means that we'll have to get a larger propeller, but I've checked and there's space for a larger diameter prop, and the propeller company offers a service whereby they braze bronze onto the propeller blade and grind it into a larger blade size. I'm sure that it won't be cheap, but it'll be cheaper than a new prop.
We've got to consider how Brexit, the exit of Britain from the EU, will affect our engine purchase. French Polynesia is a full EU member and so there are no tariffs on the engine importation. It's possible that we'll have to buy the engine soon and, somewhere/somehow, store it for a year. Theft insurance is a must! French Polynesian Customs will allow us to import the engine with no import taxes since we're a "vessel in transit" but the old engine must be destroyed in front of a Customs officer to ensure that there is no re-sale of it. It sounds complicated to me, but we do understand the reasoning.
I've been gently chided by some friends about my paucity of blogs during last season. Mea culpa. Do remember that my laptop failed during the trip and my ability to post blogs was severely reduced. This is a new laptop, and with any luck, it will allow some more-frequent posting. We do have the crossing so there will be fewer during that time, but otherwise I'll try to resume my usual posting schedule.
There are people who follow this blog, who are willing to spend a nanosecond of their lives joining us and their presence, as virtual as it is, makes a disproportionate difference to us. At the boatyard, especially, I'll do something unusually silly and think, "Holly will enjoy hearing about that!", or "Peter will just shake his head." In that very real way, you are all with us, and it does matter. Thank you for being there.