an idle November?

Mystic of Holyhead (successor to Lynn Rival)
Rachel and Paul Chandler
Mon 1 Dec 2014 12:51

Someone must have put the plug in - that's the western breakwater sinking below the water

Apart from the odd hiccough we've had a relaxed few weeks on board, enjoying the Spring sunshine, ticking off maintenance items, with not so many wet and windy days to dampen our spirits.  Among other things Rachel has thoroughly serviced our four main winches while Paul has been giving our beloved Aries its 10th birthday special overhaul.

Rachel tackles the precision engineering

While Paul applies the 'brute force and ignorance' technique

Just one stainless  bolt to be drilled out

Generally the solar panels and wind turbine have kept up with our power needs - as long as we don't use the laptops too much.  One day we turned on the engine to top up the batteries: it ran for 2 minutes and then spluttered to a stop, a classic sign of a fuel problem.  A quick check suggested we had water in the diesel tank, so much that it had flooded the primary filter and got into the engine.  A potential disaster!  We immediately drained the engine and tried to run through clean fuel but it would not start.

A quick consultation with our friend Roger on nearby Kiriwina didn't help.  Having been around longer than us and speaking better Spanish he knows more local people but not a diesel mechanic.  Onward we went to the Hidrographia where our problem was quickly understood and phone calls made, yielding the promise of a mechanic the following morning.  Still, we were anxious about who would turn up and when, as with the injection pump full of water time was of the essence. 

In the morning we rowed ashore at the due time and our man was ready and waiting, though clearly a little apprehensive about getting into such a small dinghy.  As we hauled him aboard and guided him (struggling) down the companionway, he remarked that he was 70 years old so not very agile.  He spoke no English but soon grasped the problem and we could see that he knew his way around diesel engines.  After a few attempts to expel the water and start the engine he removed the injectors to take ashore for cleaning.  As he struggled back into the dinghy to go ashore he begged us to bring the boat to the quay for easier access.

Without an engine this was a tall order, though thankfully the wind was light.  Roger came to the rescue with his 2.2 hp (!) outboard motor and towed Lynn Rival to the quay, struggling to maintain enough speed for steerage, while gusts of wind kept pushing the bow off course.  In the end we managed to avoid mishap and were well tied up by the time our mechanic came back to let us know he'd be back in the afternoon to re-fit the injectors.

By mid-afternoon the injectors were re-installed and the engine going again.  Phew!  And, what efficient service!  The bill was reasonable too.  All that was left was for us to extract the water from the diesel tank, no mean task as there is no drain at the bottom and the only access is through a 40mm dia hole in the side where the fuel gauge sits.  Before we could use this access we had to pump out 50 or so litres of murky water/fuel/asphaltenes (the black sticky goo which has become an inreasing problem with lower sulphur fuels) via the feed pipe.  We then rigged up a sort of derrick arrangement to persuade the end of a syphon tube, weighted with fishing weights, to get to the very bottom of the tank (All through that 40mm hole, and while lying under one of the aft cabin bunks).

The first 3 litres of water (the clean diesel is cloudy because we use an enzyme emulsifier)

In all we extracted over 8 litres of water from the diesel tank.  Where had it all come from?  Was it Paul's idea to improve the economy of the engine?  He knew that unmodified diesel engines can run on up to 20% water in diesel, creating less pollution and running more efficiently.  Perhaps expecting it to run on 100% water was too much!

About 10 days earlier we had had a night of very (seriously) heavy rain, so much so that our side decks had filled up with water.  Normally the water runs away quickly through the scuppers (drains in the side decks that run out below the water line) but the scupper outlets were partially blocked by clusters of small mussels that have grown there over the last year, so the outflow was slow.  The decks flooded to toe rail level, a depth of over 75mm, and remained that way for quite a while.  The breather outlet for the fuel tank is just below toe rail level, so water, a surprising amount, must have got into the tank.

That little round thing to the right of the big cleat is the tank breather

A design fault - you can see the vent is lower than the toerail level

Before starting the engine the water separator showed pure clean fuel, so there was no warning, but the water level in the tank must have been well above the supply pipe, which draws from about 50mm above the lowest point of the tank.

Needless to say the mussels have now been made homeless.  And they were too small to eat.  Our resident grey-breasted martins have also lost their home - the old broken boom that was lying on the side deck, being used as a nesting box.  While at the quayside we got rid of it.  For a few days they were quite distraught, returning to the exact spot where it had been and looking perplexed.  We've been careful to stop them gaining access to the new boom so now they've migrated to another boat.

We only stayed at the quay for one day.  Apart from the cost, it can get a bit iffy when the Pamperos come over - on Saturday night we had one, with Force 10 to 11 blowing for half an hour or so.  Even within the harbour that kicks up the maximum wave height for the shallow depth; we don't like to be too close to the hard bits in such conditions.

A few boats have now left, including Kiriwina (to the north) but at least 6 (French and Swiss) cruising yachts are still here, waiting for favourable winds to head south towards Cape Horn.  We're  now preparing to leave Lynn Rival and fly back to the UK for a few weeks of the chilly north.

Lynn Rival at the quay - for one day only