8th June 2013 - The Great Escape

Jon & Carol Dutton
Fri 7 Jun 2013 23:32

30:15S 175:22E

8th June 2013 – The Great Escape

Well, we did it!  A really pretty good weather window popped up and all we had to do was to get to sea at the start of it - on Thursday 6th June – immediately after the horrible weather on Tuesday and Wednesday had passed.  Winds would be largely SE and, of course, we’re going north.  So; just the ticket.  Accompanying us on this leg – to Savusavu – is Jack  Turrill.  He’s a 19 year old student who comes from the Reading area in England and whom we met whilst staying ashore with Andrea and battling with the rudder issue.  He knows very little about sailing but is bright, keen to learn and isn’t particularly prone to seasickness.  Can’t think of many other qualities you need really.

We’re still getting somewhat mixed messages from the battery charger but we can live with that.    

We nearly missed getting away because at mid-afternoon on Wednesday the 5th we discovered another fuel leak – emanating this time from Mr Perkins’ fuel injection pump.  A seal had broken – partly attributed to age – assumed 20 years or so – and partly to the fact that modern diesel has plenty of additives in it.  They may keep engines clean but O rings don’t like them, apparently.   Besides, Mr Perkins is a working chap from Peterborough who is getting on in years.  His vintage would have viewed an obsession with cleanliness or vitamins, or whatever some of those additives might amount to, with deep suspicion.  Understandable in girls and southern jessies – insofar as either category is understandable – but not in down-to-earth lads or grown men from East Anglia.  Notwithstanding all that, Lowes Marine in Opua were able to contact one of the only men who really knows his stuff on this topic in North Island.  He comes from Whangarei but promised to come up on the morning of the 6th and fix it if he could.  He did and he did.  Two hours after he’d arrived we were sorted, mechanically speaking.   

We departed a little before 1600 on the 6th having been flat out, one way or another, since around 0630.  Customs regulations here require that you cannot take on duty free fuel or hooch until you have cleared out and that having cleared out you must leave immediately.  Go figure.  A major refuelling always takes us at least an hour and then you’ve got the sprint to the marina office to reclaim the duty you’ve just paid.  All very Kiwi.  Then hand the car back - since we’re coming back later this year it makes sense for us to keep the car and it’s being stored for us by Cars for Cruisers.  We don’t need to insure it or licence it whilst it is being stored.

Mr Perkins motored us out the 10 or so miles to the entrance to the Bay of Islands and appeared happy with life.  We were greeted by a SE Force 4 to 5 moderate to fresh breeze and off we set under all plain sail, heading north at around 7.5 knots.

Mid morning the next day – so around 150NM down track – we started the auxiliary generator to recharge batteries.  Two hours later there was a distinct smell of diesel below decks and a bit of it sloshing around the main bilge.  We tore quite a lot of the boat apart looking for the leak (Mr Perkins hadn’t been running at the time so it didn’t occur to us to look at him) before discovering a few litres lying in the engine bilge and the diesel return pipes on Mr Perkins wet with leaking fuel.  So, Mr Perkins’ diesel return pipes were leaking as a result of the auxiliary generator (a quite separate bit of kit - in a quite different part of the boat) running.  That took a moment or two to work out but at least in doing so it looks as though we’ve found the root cause of the all-too-frequent main engine fuel return pipe leaks.  These 3mm or so internal diameter return pipes have very little pressure associated with them and the diesel inside them, going back to the tank, is ( by our calculations) moving at something under 50cm or 18” a minute even with the main engine running.  It’s just a gentle meander back.  Provided, of course, that there isn’t a blockage or a serious constriction.  If there is, the diesel will force a passage to freedom somewhere else.  And, if diesel returning from the auxiliary generator is escaping by bursting through the connections in Mr Perkins’ return lines that must mean that the blockage lies between the point at which the return pipes from Mr Perkins and the auxiliary generator meet (at a ‘T’ junction) and the fuel tank.  And what precisely do we have there?  Ah, well, that’d be the fuel flow meter we’d fitted some time ago to enable us to get a handle on how much fuel we use at various revs – so we’d get our metrics right for long passage planning purposes.  Jon had been advised to fit a bypass pipe and tap to the meter fitted to the feed line but not to bother about doing the same thing on the return line.  We have long sailed with the meter on the feed line bypassed – having tired of the engine conking out from fuel starvation because of blockages in the meter.  So, the issue was that the return pipe fuel flow meter was blocked or badly obstructed and could not be bypassed.  The task now was to rip the meter out, reconnect the bits of piping somehow, replace Mr Perkins’ return piping again and get the mess below sorted out.  Fortunately we’ve got enough plumbing bits and pieces aboard to make all that happen and by sundown we’d done so – hopefully for the last time.                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

We’ve now been at sea for around 43 hours and put just over 300 NM of the 1,100 NM or so behind us.  The weather looks pretty good and we’ve still got a consistent SE Force 4 just abaft the beam which is shoving us along nicely at around 7 knots.  The wind is likey to decrease in the next day or so.  Might Percy the Parasailor be persuaded to join the party?  Let’s not rush these things but perhaps so.

Catch y’all later