A problem . . . and a solution

Mystic of Holyhead (successor to Lynn Rival)
Rachel and Paul Chandler
Wed 3 Jun 2015 20:53
23:25.36S 44:51.47W

With fine weather and light winds we were happy to relax at Ilha Anchieta for a couple of days but then the promise of another island anchorage just 15 miles to the northeast tempted us away.  Ilha das Couves is small, at most 2 miles long, with just a few fishermen's houses onshore.  The anchorage has clear water, lots of sea urchins where the shore is rocky and a few colourful fish swimming around.  It's a popular spot during high season both for the beach and for diving but - apart from a few fishing boats and weekend visitors - we had the place much to ourselves.  

The peaceful anchorage at Ilha das Couves

We rowed ashore to the beach and managed to find a trail to walk through the jungle about a mile along the length of the island but had to clamber up through thick undergrowth to get to the top of the nearest hill, from where we could see the ocean side of the island.

Looking north towards the mainland, Lynn Rival hidden by the trees below

Bromeliads are plentiful on the island, on the ground as well as in trees

At nights fishermen came to sit on the shoreline with rods, hoping to catch swordfish.   As the days passed the wind dropped to zero and the water was so clear we could see the anchor 7 metres down.

Looking south-west at sunset, towards Ilhas Anchieta (nearer) and Ilhabela

A little (?) after sunrise, looking north, towards the mountain of Frade (the pointy one)

After 5 relaxing days we set off again, making our way east towards Ilha Grande.  Again there was little wind so we used the motor. 

A calm day, as is common in this bight of the coast, passing the northern end of Ilha das Couves

A few miles out we remembered that we'd meant to check the primary fuel filter before we left, so we stopped the engine and drained off a bit of water that had accumulated.  When we tried to start the engine it wouldn't.  We changed both the fuel filters and bled the system but still it wouldn't start.  We discovered that fuel was only getting as far as the injection pump - seriously bad news.  On top of that, Paul had forgotten to close the cooling water intake while cranking the engine to bleed the fuel system, so one cylinder was full of salt water which would have to be removed before any further turning of the engine!

We decided to put our sailing skills to the test and head back to Saco do Ribera to seek help from Tio.  By then there was a light breeze from the east so we hoisted the gennaker and put all our energy into sailing.  All too soon the afternoon breeze backed to come from ahead and we were beating, making very slow progress towards Ilha Anchieta.  In the evening the wind shifted and we slowly crept to within 5 miles of the turning point for Saco do Ribeira.  At midnight the tide turned, flowing faster than we could sail and taking us back north!  The best thing to do was to drop anchor in 14 metres of water and get some sleep.

In the morning the tide was helping us again so we weighed anchor.  No engine means no charging so we pulled it up by hand to conserve the batteries.  With a little bit of wind in the sails we managed to make headway for a while but then the wind died.  We were getting anxious that the tide would turn against us before we reached the entrance to the large bay - Enseada do Flamengo - leading to Saco do Ribera.  Drastic measures were called for.  We launched the dinghy and our eggwhisk (aka 2hp outboard).  By towing alongside with the outboard going full pelt we could make 1.5 knots! 

The Atlantic Ocean - or should it be 'Pacific'?

We made it to the entrance of Enseada do Flamengo just as the afternoon breeze from the south was setting in so we hoisted the sails and managed the last couple of miles with dignity.  Tio came to meet us and gave us an alongside tow for the final tricky approach to a mooring.  We had sent him an email that morning to tell him of our situation.  He told us off for not getting in touch earlier saying he would have been happy to come in the night to give us a tow!  He cajoled a local diesel fitter, Rafael, to come and assess the situation within a few hours of our arrival.  Rafael agreed  that the fuel pump was not working so took it off for further investigation.

That same afternoon Tio drove us 55 kilometres to Dieselmar - a diesel pump specialist near Caraguatatuba, on the road to Sao Sebastiao. The next day we got the news that the pump was broken and they couldn't get all the parts to fix it.  We'd already prepared ourselves for this possibility knowing that the pump was 35 years old.  In Brazil, importing parts is a nightmare which can take 6 months - it would be better to get a new pump sent to Montevideo and fly there to bring it back in our luggage.  In the meantime we were wondering how we would manage without the engine to generate electricity.  Although the wind turbine and solar panels help keep the batteries topped up, in light winds and on cloudy days (which prevail in Ubatuba) they don't keep up with the fridge and our computer use.

However, - perhaps because our problem was not uncommon - Dieselmar came up with a solution:  they could use a part to suit a different three cylinder engine and adjust it internally to suit ours.  He could not guarantee it would work but would charge us only for his labour if it didn't.  In the meantime he suggested we throw away all our fuel and clean the tank. 

In a few days the rebuilt pump was ready.  We had emptied the tank and found a little water in the bottom but nothing nasty that the filters couldn't handle.  We used our snake camera for internal inspection of the tank, which looked fine.  (Interpret the last sentence as 'Paul spent several hours jammed in the locker under Rachel's bunk with a torch and a laptop computer, manipulating the camera and a LED light on a string both through the fuel gauge sender hole'.)

Rafael came on Monday and fitted the repaired pump.  By this time Tio was elsewhere and Rafael speaks no English but we managed.  And we were all relieved to find that the refurbished pump worked. 

Of course there was (multi lingual) discussion about what had caused the pump to fail.  It was corroded and Dieselmar blamed contaminated fuel, insisting we switch to 'Verana' diesel.  Verana is Petrobras's twice filtered ultra low sulphur diesel.  It has a "pleasant odour" added and costs 50% more than normal diesel!  If we switched we would also have the not insignificant problem of how to dispose of 165 litres of regular diesel. 
Eventually we satisfied everyone by getting 5 litres of Verana in a water bottle and using that for the first start-up.  Dieselmar's advice didn't make any sense as sulphur is a lubricant and low sulphur diesel isn't ideal for old engines.  We think the damage was probably done last November when rain water got in the fuel tank (remember that blog?). With help we had managed to get the engine going again but we thought it lucky that the injection pump had survived.

Within a week the problem was resolved and we are now heading back towards Ilha Grande.  We're lucky that it happened when it did because without Tio's help it would have taken much longer to find a mechanic and get the pump refurbished.