Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Engines Yay! - Chart Plotter Booh!

Sitting at Gilligan's Island gave us time to work on a few of the kinks that we have been experiencing, it's been an exercise in gremlin extermination.

Our engines have been chronically overheating with white vapor coming out the exhaust and what we felt was a reduced output of water from the cooling system. Our manual head (toilet) wasn't flushing properly and felt like there was something jamming the pump handle. Our compass light has never worked at the helm and finally, and most terrifyingly, our chart plotter would turn off its display without warning and typically it seemed, when we were trying to navigate tricky reefs.

For the engine, Henry was convinced that it had something to do with our haul-outs since we've had intermittent problems with the engine since Nanny Cay and more often since Casa de Campo. He checked the sea strainers (with help from Robert and an oversized wrench to get one open) and they were pretty clean, but he did notice that the air never seemed to clear from them. Referring back to all those years of running the pump on our swimming pool he set to work to get all the air out of the system and once again we can sustain full engine revs. This morning we ran at almost 6 knots for 38 miles and tested higher revs which put us up to 7.2 knots, with not a whisper of an overheating alarm. The lesson learned on this one (and experienced mariners probably have their heads in their hands) is to make sure the seacocks are closed prior to lifting the boat out of the water so that air can't get into the system.

Applying the same logic to the head, we found a slightly different problem but still a hose issue. A fold had developed in the hose where it was tie-wrapped to a support and the fold had very much constricted the diameter. This meant that not enough volume could pass through the hose which was backing up as resistance to the pump handle. We might also have developed an air bubble in the system. Once we straightened out the hose and opened up the kink, we were back in business (so to speak).

Henry reconnected the compass light and after a quick mid-passage adjustment last night we had a lovely red glow behind the compass. This was one of those simple jobs but the result can only really be tested at night, and we'd just keep forgetting to do it after we settled down for the evening.

Finally, the chart plotter. Sigh. It seems as though there might be some repeatable symptom in that if we turn on the autopilot prior to getting the chart plotter running with a position fix, the chart plotter will suddenly lose it's backlight, to the extent that you can't see the screen - it becomes a black hole looming with doom as you drive into the dark of night. Okay, that's rather melodramatic but it's a bit how it feels. The sudden darkness can be foisted upon you at any time, minutes or hours since the last petulant attack. Last night as we left Gilligan's Island in the dark we quickly installed the iPad in a ziploc at the helm station and ran the Navionics charts there all night as backup. This morning, Henry is reading up all the trouble-shooting tips and will be making good use of our phone card with a Raymarine tech, our backup plan being a trip to West Marine while we sit in Salinas waiting for the next break in the weather. I am convinced that I am not doing another night trip with this piece of cr... on board, but we'll see what transpires with techy advice and time.

Not to worry, our time at Gilligan's Island was not all work. With the folks of Almost There, we put in plenty of social time as well. We discovered that tucked in on the beach round the corner was the Copamarina Resort and they were most welcoming to sailors. We treated ourselves to lunch on Sunday once Robert discovered there were ribs on the menu and we were then welcome to lounge by the pool for the afternoon. Not too rough! We also discovered the cheapest laundry I've ever seen - $1.50 for a large wash and then the dryer was "jammed" on so it worked without further contribution. Got the sheets, towels and a blanket all done in one load and yes, they came out clean (nothing more disappointing than getting your clothes back dirtier than they went in.)

Plates loaded with ribs as we all tuck in.
A tree that could model for some of the God's Trees in Game of Thrones.
As you will have gleaned above, we have moved on now and are now anchored in the mangrove lined harbour at Salinas, a good place to wait out the next bout of high winds. The forecasts all converged and there was a 13-hour window last night with an opportunity to move comfortably eastwards. Almost There lifted anchor and waved goodbye at 6pm as they planned a longer trek than us, and we got up at 2am to make it up to Salinas by 9am. Finally, we had a perfect demonstration of the calming effects of the cool night mountain air stalling the trade winds and with nothing much over 10 knots and relatively calm seas, we hugged the coast and put the 38 miles under our keel in relatively quick order (with our nicely cooled engines.)

Nice and close to the coast, avoiding all the reefs and mangrove islands, gave us calm winds and moderate seas.