No engine for 3 days, returning to Rabaul - Crew all fine
28 July 2012 | 0 N'N:E E'E, Still over Planet Deep, Solomon Sea
We left Rabaul on Tuesday evening and motor sailed through the St Georgefs channel. Some times we would turn the engine off and just sail. Unfortunately on Thursday evening when we went to turn it back on it would not start. We found a lot of dirt in the water separator so suspected a clogged fuel line. Cleaned the separator, the fuel line to the fine fuel filter and the fine fuel filter. It still did not start. As evening was approaching and the weather was getting bad we decided to sail through the night and fix it in the morning. As it happens a storm was starting on us.
With the rain and rocking motion we were not able to stop the boat to look at the engine again until Friday afternoon when there was a lull in the storm. Fortunately at that time a hug car carrier was heading toward us on its way to Yokohama. We radioed for assistance and their chief engineer talked us through cleaning the injectors and bleeding them and so forth. Adam has studied diesel engines so the engineers advice was more confirmation that we were following the correct process. This hug carrier called the Cary Rickmare stopped beside and dwarfed us for a few minutes while we worked away. Confident that we understood what to do we thanked them. We could see fuel starting to come through the system again so thought it was a matter of time before it would be running again. They offered us food and water but as we were fine wished them well sharing a few jokes about our situation with the captain. Unfortunately the engine did not start and the storm returned and raged throu gh the night and all Saturday and last night. We tacked back and forth on minimal sail and despite getting good speed could not make headway. A couple of times I would stick my head into the engine room to try different things but nothing I was trying was working. We have had some great advice from Peter and Jason but are now convinced we have another issue aside from clogged fuel. It is also very difficult to work properly on a diesel fuel system in a confined space in a rocking boat so it is possible I am just not getting all the air out or something.
I have not calculated the distances properly yet but it seems we spent to 2.5 days to get only 12 miles closers to our destination. Another way of looking at it, in 4.5 days we crossed over 400 miles of ocean but only got 148 miles or so from Rabaul with the first 136 in the first day and a half. Last night the wind was so unpredictable so we stopped the boat and sat it out checking the AIS every 30 mins for big ships. Adam was great staying on watch through the night so I could catch up on some sleep.
To make things unpleasant on-board everything has been made wet by the storm. THe boat does not leak. The water comes from our clothing or from opening hatches when we get in and out of the cabin. The moisture as well as the terrible fumes from cleaning the engine have turned on the gas detection system shutting off our stove so we have not been able to boil water or cook food too. And the toilet is also not working well. The impellor seems to soon need a change. To save battery we turned off the fridge a few days back but missed throwing out some of the meat given all that was going on. Needless to say, with wet cloths, humidity, a fridge that has had bad meat in it, two blokes who have not had a shower for a while and the diesel remains from working on the engine the cabin stinks!! Fortunately the wind these last few days means our wind generator have fully charged the batteries though - and now blow fresh air in the cabin!
Today is Sunday morning. Given that we have not been able to make headway against the wind since Thursday and donft have a motor and don't seem to be able to to push forward against both the current and the wind, this morning at around 6 am we decided to go back to Rabaul. There are no other ports we can get to easily from here with the wind and currents the way they are now. We can follow the winds back there and be in port in around 34hrs.
Not sure if I blogged about it earily but we met the Mayor of Rabaul and shared some beers with him when Adam arrived. I have contacted him on the sat phone and he was very keen to help us. Enthusiastic even. gNo worries mate, I used to be in shipping, know this stuff and it will be a pleasure to help you and Adamh. He remembered our names! We will call him early tomorrow morning with our ETA and he will arrange for a tow for us for the last couple of miles into the harbour to allow us to anchor or moor safely without the motor. His son Wilson is a marine mechanic and we are in the process of booking some of his time to fix the engine. I am sure a good mechanic working on the engine in port and not at sea will be able to have it running again in no time.
The sun is now out and the wind is behind and we are airing out the cabin. Despite a lumpy sea from more than 2 days of bad weather we are flying along at about 6.5 knots. and if we can keep this speed will be entering Rabaul harbour before midday tomorrow.
After getting the engine fixed I am not sure what we can do. I have work commitments in Tokyo mid August and so probably have run out of time to sail all the way back to Australia. Leaving it in Rabaul also seems risky. Other options could be shipping it to Cairns via Port Moresby but the cost might be prohibitive. But first things first. Get this boat and her crew back to safe anchorage.
PS: Adam and I have now seen some really really big waves!