Prepping for Sergius Narrows, Swimming Deer, Technology Roundup

8-JUL-2016 – We’re waiting in the space behind Piper Island to traverse Sergius Narrows.

We arrived yesterday afternoon after a night in Herring Cove just south of Sitka off of Silver Bay.

Herring Cove was very different from any place we’ve anchored in months. There was a road near by: along one side of the cove a gravel road ran to an access point for the cove. There have been logging roads near other anchorages, but none were used while we were anchored. This road had traffic and cars that ran to and parked at the access point.

Running along the road were power lines.

With our more practiced eye, we’ve come realize that we’ve never been to any untouched place. Here at Piper Island we can see a large rusted tank on the beach, high enough on shore that it was moved there rather than drifted in with the tide.

IMG_20160708_165907We’ve settled into a routine, which usually includes bed by 9.30 asleep by ten. To a larger extent than I am comfortable with, this is to escape Hilary.

Hilary demands constant interaction, except when she is asleep. This is not constant care.

Hilary is still her warm people-oriented self, but she is completely to use the vernacular, crackers.

Psychotic or schizophrenic would be the technical term. She is in an altered reality where her stuffed animals speak to her and logic is inapplicable.

She is rarely argumentative, though in the moment, and Hilary only lives in the moment, she can be very possessive of objects, but without object permanence, this is only a momentary issue.

DSCN5705Our weather has been excellent. We realized yesterday we should have planned an outside passage north from here rather than retracing steps. But an outside passage requires more planning than an inside: not something to be undertaken in the spur of the moment.

Next year we’ll do an outside passage, our perhaps run down the outside of Vancouver Island on the way home this year.

Technology update:

I have come to accept and suspect that potentially all of the engine issues were caused by me. Perhaps even the air in the fuel lines, though the jury is out on that one.

The exhaust problem turned out to be caused by siphoning. I replaced the line from the anti-siphon valve.

Any place in a boat where water is brought in through the hull there is a chance that water will siphon in, sinking the boat or, in the case of the cooling system, fill the exhaust with exterior water.

The typical engine cooling system on a modern pleasure boat uses the same cooling as a car. A mixture of fresh water and some sort of glycol (ethylene or propylene) is used to transfer excess heat from inside the engine. Ethylene glycol is antifreeze. Propylene glycol is food grade antifreeze, used in applications where the coolant may come into contact with food or drinking water. It is parve, by the way, and is available kosher, certified by the orthodox union. Propylene glycol is a common additive to ice cream.

In a car, the excess heat is taken away through a radiator through which air passes. Under load, the car is typically moving quickly and a fast stream of air passes through the radiator.

In a boat, water from outside the boat is pumped through a heat exchanger where the outside water flows through an arrangement of parallel tubes that look like barrels on a Gatling gun inside a container of the anti-freeze mixture.

There is a further twist. On commercial boats and larger boats, the hot exhaust passes quickly over a relatively short distance to the outside of the boat. Smoke stacks, either the large funnels that we think of on cruise ships or the stainless or rusted pipes we see sticking up from smaller vessel and fishing boats, are how the exhaust leaves the boat.

On plastic boats like Caro Babbo and other boats where it is not practical to run a hot exhaust through the boat, the exhaust is cooled with water. This is called a wet exhaust versus a hot exhaust.

The outside water that has been run through the heat exchanger is then emptied into the exhaust stream. The pressure of the exhaust gas pushes the water outside the boat with a characteristic sound. Along the way is a muffler, which like a car muffler is a series of baffles that cause the exhaust pulses to bump into each other, reducing the percussiveness of the exhaust noise.

The danger is that the water will fill the exhaust hose and back up into the engine.

There are two common scenarios:

The most common is that the engine can take a while to start and will not produce enough exhaust pressure to force the water out. The answer is to close the valve that allows the water to enter the boat until the engine is running, and then remember to open the valve.

The second is that the water continues to siphon from outside the boat into the exhaust. This is what was happening to us. (Closing the valve that lets the water into the boat is one way to prevent siphoning – forgetting to open the valve is one way to overheat and potentially damage the engine.)

The water comes in through a hose that loops high and above the water line, otherwise the water would just flow in. But like a siphon, the water can continue to flow, so an anti-siphon valve is installed. When there is no pressure from the pump, air flows, or is sucked into the hose and the siphoning is broken.

When the engine is running, a small amount of water leaks out of the anti-siphoning valve into the bilge. Eventually, it needs to be pumped out.

On Caro Babbo, there are two bilges, one directly under the engine, and a second aft of it.

The bilge under the engine is there to catch engine fluids, like oil that may leak or drip during maintenance. This bilge has no pump to pump its contents over the side. Any liquids that gather here need to be evaluated and disposed of properly. It is also where the water from the anti-siphon valve drains.

I replaced the short hose with a longer hose that lead to the aft bilge. The problem turned out to be that water in the hose did not drain enough to break the siphoning.

The siphoned water then filled the exhaust system and flowed into the aft-most cylinder of the engine. Manifesting itself, initially as a faulty starting system, then a partially blocked exhaust system.

The correct solution to routing the water the aft bilge uses an air gap. This is commonly used in restaurants where sinks are not connected directly to the drains so that sewage backups cannot flow into the sink where food is prepared.

The sink drains into a funnel connected to the actual drain.

Here the short hose connected to the anti-siphon valve should drain to a funnel attached to a longer hose that leads to the after bilge that has a pump to pump water overboard.

That bilge has only water sources leading to it and through it.

Split fuel line. This was probably me, though it looks like the line that split would have any way.

Many engines that use fuel injection have a central injector pump that pressurizes the fuel to up to 800 psi. The hoses that carry the fuel to the injectors are made of steel to withstand the pressure.

Running high pressure fuel from a central pump is less expensive than having an individual pump at each cylinder, which is the solution used in higher-end commercial engines, because a central pump introduces a host of problems that need to be addressed.

The long lines can rupture, which is what happened on Caro Babbo.

The steel lines actually expand and contract with the pressure pulse created when the metering valve opens and closes. This means that the length of the pipe must be calculated. Changing the length of pipe can interfere with the engine performance.

Because the pipes are rigid they cannot be allowed to vibrate.

It’s very difficult to confess all these failures on my part. It is not how I view myself, and the marketing side of me does not want to present myself in this light. However…

When I retorqued the head in the 1000-hour maintenance, I wanted to revisit one of the bolts. This bolt had attached to it the lifting eye to remove the engine, and the clamp to keep the fuel lines from vibrating. I never reinstalled the clamp and lifting eye.

Vibration caused one fuel line to fatigue and split.

During the time when we were trying to figure out why the line split, Erwin and I met a man named John in Wrangell who told us he had not installed the clamp, with the same result. It focused our attention.

When we went to install the clamp after installing the replacement fuel lines, we found that the clamp was defective and did not clamp the line that split. The line would have split anyway, potentially, at the same time it did.

We replaced every fuel line and all of the coolant lines we removed along the way, and repaired the clamp.

Finally, the air leaking into the fuel system:

This problem started before I touched anything on the engine, so I claim no responsibility for it, and I think I may have finally found it.

The primary fuel filter, the first filter after the fuel leaves the tank, has a clear section that allows the fuel to be inspected. Sediment and water collect here and can be drained.

The industry standard is a Racor. In fact, this filter is generally referred to as a Racor, whether or not it is a Racor, leading to the sentence, ‘‘My Racor isn’t a Racor.’’

As you can guess, my Racor isn’t a Racor.

This filter uses two gaskets one above the clear section and one below. The connection is poorly designed: It is difficult to assure that the gaskets stay in place.

When we fueled up at Kake, it looks like we picked up dirty fuel. The bowl of the filter was full of debris. We carry a ‘‘Baja’’ filter for just this situation, but it did not occur to me to filter the fuel we bought there.

Generally we buy fuel at marinas that sell a lot of fuel. On this trip, the marinas we visit are fueling fishing boats.

At Kake, they unlock and relock the pumps after each sale, indicating how little business they do. The debris indicated that there is no filter in their line.

I removed the fuel tank and cleaned it in April as part of a repair procedure. The tank had no debris before I removed it. I suspect that I must remove the tank next spring and clean it again.

The fuel injection system on the Yanmar circulates 13 times more fuel then it consumes, so I am hoping that all of the debris has accumulated in the bowl and was removed when I emptied the bowl yesterday before we left Sitka.

I’ll empty the bowl again and use a thin coating of grease to make sure that gaskets stay in place. I don’t know that that is where the air leak is, but it is worth hoping that it is.

The corollary that says Murphy was an optimist stays foremost in my mind.

Murphy’s Law, Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

Things that have given us grief:

Our inverter died. It was more than 12 years old and worked in a marine environment, so it owed us nothing. My friend Erwin opened it up and explained to me how it when about creating the 60 Hz sine wave for Alternating Current (AC), but there is still a lot I don’t understand. Bottom line: it can’t be fixed, buy another. I haven’t but we will.

Our steaming light has disassembled itself on the mast. Replacing it was on my to do list before we left Seattle, but time ran out. It is a multi-person job because I do not have a mast climber: someone has to hoist me up the mast.

When Sarah and David join us on early August we may take a stab at it. Right now, I hang an LED lamp from the spinnaker pole fitting when we motor when it is dark – Generally before 4 am chasing a favorable tide. The LED lamp is completely legal and works quite well.

Our new stove billowed tons of black smoke completely destroying all the new vinyl headliners we installed. Learning how to use the stove better and performing routine maintenance got rid of some of the smoke.

I eventually found a bent needle valve rod. I think it was damaged in shipping, which seemed to the reason the oven burner was leaking kerosene into the preheat cup. When the alcohol used to preheat the burner finished burning the kerosene would then burn, yielding billowing black smoke on everything, destroying the headliner.

Yesterday I spent 15 minutes on the phone with John Gardner, from whom I bought the stove. He told me he suspected it was copper particles left over from my installation that were in the valve preventing it from sealing properly.

Solution: run the burner for ten minutes or more, then rap it with a knife handle or something similar. I should see a shower of yellow sparks as the particles are shaken loose and flow through the jet.

I did do that and saw the shower of sparks.

To cure the problem, we had been shutting off that feed to the stove before extinguishing the flame. This reduced the pressure in the line and kept kerosene from leaking.

It worked well enough.

We’ll see whether John’s solution works. Whether it was copper particles from using a copper cutter – I am skeptical, because a disk-type cutter doesn’t generate particles – or particles from some other source, perhaps as part of the tube manufacturing or just dust that entered the tube while sitting on a shelf (the ends weren’t sealed), it doesn’t matter if it works. [There is an inline filter, so I don’t believe it is debris in the fuel.]

The manual is old and from a previous generation of burners. These new burners are made by the German company, Hanse.

The manual implies that the burners need to be serviced frequently, and users on the web suggest monthly. The manual also explicitly states not close the burners tightly.

John says the burners should not need any servicing for ‘‘hundreds and hundreds’’ of hours of use and also suggests that the oven burner be closed with ‘‘postive’’ force. John tells me I can’t hurt it by over tightening. I may write a preface to the manual for John to include with remanufactured stoves that have the new burners. (The new burners were £140 each. With the pound devaluation, I don’t know what they will cost in pounds, though I suppose the dollar cost should remain static.)

A note on the stove: the fuel we use, Jet A, aka #1 Diesel, is very easy to come by and cheap. The stove produces buckets of heat and is hot enough to actually sauté. I make muffins and bread almost everyday, as well as cakes when the mood hits. It has been a great success other than the billowing black smoke when things go wrong.

On a better note, Jamie and Jen, whom we met in Baranof Warm Springs gave us a product called 303 that seems to remove the soot. We need to buy more, but we may recover the headliner.

Our Webasto forced air heater has given up the ghost. It fails during its start up cycle and signals an overheating error. It will need to be serviced when we return to Seattle.

Its only real importance was to heat the aft cabin, which is easily heated in moderate weather by the presence of two bodies.

The main cabin and forepeak are heated by the stove or the Dickinson fireplace. The new fireplace pump is working very well, btw.


Other technology

We have yet to use our windvane steering. It is attached and all the parts have been repaired or remanufactured.

It is not installed on the center line of the boat and not exactly parallel to the center line. There seem to be adjustments that can take care of both. The same adjustments would need to be made even if it were one the center line and parallel to it.

When I went to make the adjustments, I found that a previous owner had epoxied the adjustments in place. I’ll need to disassemble a part of the unit – not difficult – and then break the epoxy lose. I think heat will do the trick.

The new holding tank is working well, and drains easily. The old installation needed to be manually pumped out, if we were not at a pump out station. The new installation is a gravity drain, which is working very well. So for that matter is the fullness gauge.

The solar panels and controller are also working very well. When we travel we run the engine which make the panels superfluous, but in Quigley cove, where we anchored for four nights and at a marinas where we have not bought power, the panels have kept up with our needs and kept the batteries charged.

The solar-powered exhaust vent over the galley has stopped working.

The power amp for the sound system now works correctly because our friend Erwin brought an isolator to use between the power amp and the preamp, which we transmit to using Bluetooth.

The truck on the mainsheet traveler has started to disintegrate – After thirty or so years, it owes us nothing.

The new water bladder still leaks even though we tried to fix that leak it had when we received the product.

The Lowrance radio has been absolutely reliable. We use its AIS as the reference receiver.

Our hot water heater and water pump are completely reliable.

Out very old Raymarine 4000+ Autopilot has continued to work quite well. We need to move the flux gate compass, as storing all our canned good where we do yields a 50-degree variance. Seven degrees is the maximum recommended by Raymarine. Oops.

Our 14-year old Garmin 76cx GPS is the work horse of devices and the GPS reference device. We use it to supply GPS data thru an RS-422 cable and NMEA 0183 protocol to our Lowrance VHF radio (we use the GPS data from its AIS receiver and to provide GPS info for our DSC emergency calling).

Our ancient JRC Radar work dependably, though I would really like one of the newest generation digital radar.

I have come to love OpenCPN on Android. The person who did the port did a fantastic job. The AIS plotting from our Vesper XB-8000 is marvelous and foolproof. It will also overlay radar from the newer NMEA-compatible radars.

OpenCPN on a laptop is not as convenient on our tablet oriented vessel.

Using my Sony Xpedia phone as a router and hotspot has worked brilliantly adding internet access seamlessly when available and continuing to allow all our devices to communicate even when it is not.

Unlike our webasto foece air diesel heater, our Dickenson works dependably.



Today, after crossing Deadman Reach we received a call on VHF from Nimué who saw us on AIS. At anchor recently, they had caught a 55-pound Halibut. Receiving cleaned frozen fillets from other boaters is Jennifer’s kind of fishing.

They were on their way to Sitka from Glacier Bay. We had met them in Port McNeil and Prince Rupert.

We may see them again in August near their home in Comax.

David and Sarah have bought the first of their airline tickets to meet us.

I’m starting the tasks I had planned before all the engine worries. The weather has been fantastic. All is well.

<Posted 17-JUL-2016>


Author: johnjuliano

One-third owner of Caro Babbo, co-captain and in command whenever Caro Babbo is under sail.

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