On the Water 18-20 Aug
20 August 2020 | Uturoa, Raiatea
William Ennis | Hot, windy, muggy
What a time we've had. Sheesh!
We did survive the night in the slip without sinking, thankfully.
We awakened early, before coffee, and bent on the jib, so we were equipped to sail. Conni's thought was that if the engine stalled, we could quickly get the jib rolled out and have power, and she was right.
I was concerned that there was air in our fuel lines after I changed the primary fuel filter and cleaned the entire housing, with its requisite disconnection from the system, so I wanted to run the engine for a bit before we needed it to ensure that it ran correctly. The engine started but soon quit, as I suspected it would. I had not bled this new engine, so had to go back to the manual for instructions. I followed then carefully but they weren't successful. It was obvious to both of us that the engine was not receiving any fuel. After an hour of fruitless effort, I fetch Eyo, the brilliant young mechanic who'd solved our leaking problem. He quickly decided to use the electric fuel pump that I had installed to make refilling the primary filter a bit easier and use that to purge air in the system. After a few minutes of that, he announced the problem cured and we cleaned the mess and gave Conni the signal to start the engine. It fired immediately and ran well! Thank you Eyo!
With help from the yard folk, we cast off lines and made our way past that hideous derelict ferry (photos on our site) and another big fishing boat tied to it. By reversing the propeller pitch, we had solved the transmission lever problem: the problem of having the transmission lever forward and going in reverse. The cost of that, of course, was running the trans in reverse when going forward. I had cleared this solution with the trans manufacturer, but another unforeseen cost was that the propeller shaft rotation in reverse (although it pushed the boat forward) was to continually tighten the packing gland, and that prevented water from entering around the rotating shaft! Conni discovered it and I worked frantically for a while to get the device loose enough to allow cooling and lubricating water to flow without allowing a flood. It's ancient technology but is time-tested. The Law of Unintended Consequences strikes again.
We did reach Uturoa and its fuel dock. The engine ran like a dream and the instruments did as well.
After adding 80 liters of fuel (about 21 gallons) to each tank, and Conni had made a rapid re-provisioning run though the local supermarket, we were readying ourselves to beat some bad weather and head to Taha'a.
No engine...again. All we could hear was the telltale clicking of the solenoid. Neither of us could imagine that the battery was dead, since it had easily started the engine before, and had charged on our way to Uturoa. In addition, there had been a similar problem and I had simply cleaned the terminals and the engine started easily. I began a trace of the circuit and had followed things as far as I could and everything that I tested looked right: battery voltage right to the positive side of the starter. It could only be the battery.
No one is allowed to stay tied to the fuel dock, so we lined back the boat a bit to get out of the way of customers. It was a rough and noisy night in the marina. That part of the dock is simply open to the NE weather that rides over the reef.
In the morning, we decided to try some other tactics.
We hauled our trusty Honda generator to the cockpit, connected it to our charging system, and used that to start the engine. It fired immediately and ran well. It was not an engine problem but a bad battery.
The bad weather caught us, of course. A forecast Mara'amou had arrived with heavy winds and drenching rains, although there were breaks.
I hurried to the Shell service station at which we were tied up and bought a battery. We tried that one, but no dice. In the ensuing several hours, trying everything that we could, we finally just jumped the house bank to the engine start battery and the engine started! Hurray! Our diagnosis was a bit of corrosion in the solenoid and the extra voltage/amperage provided enough kick to get it started. Who knows? We tried several times with just the new starter battery and by itself it seemed to kick the engine to quick life.
By this time, it was late afternoon, and we knew from the previous night's violence that we needed more protection. The tiny "marina" is somewhat "C" shaped, so we lined the boat to a more protected corner behind a bit of breakwater and tied her off. Conni came up with the idea to throw some lines from the port side, the windward side, to the dock behind us, and we worked on that for a bit. The three lines; bow, stern, and midships, worked well and we continually tightened them as conditions allowed, until the boat was effectively pulled away from the dock on her starboard/downwind side. It relieved the terrible compression on our poor fenders and was a clever way to handle the problem. We had our usual nice evening together with the hopes of being able to travel away from Uturoa on the morrow.
We have no way to quickly communicate with the world since our local burner phone needs more time added and Conni's typically poor AT&T "Passport" plan has failed. We have walked to the only location at which we have, typically, gotten a Wifi connection and Conni's trying to buy more ATT time.
I'm not sure when I can post this or another one if this one goes, so stay tuned.