Monday, July 2, 2018

July 2018: Time To Depart

Wrapping Up Boat Business

RTV Silicone Sealant...It Works!
During the past week or so we’ve been focusing on wrapping up several maintenance issues while still moored at Old Port Cove in North Palm Beach, Florida.

The main goal was to resolve the minor but perplexing oil leak at the front of the main engine.  We conducted a two hour sea trial with the front of the engine “naked” (stripped of its protective belt and pulley guards), with Alex Graham, our diesel guru, on board.  That exercise confirmed that the leak was (still) indeed from the oil pan gasket – no other seal showed any seepage.  So a few days later we once again drained the oil and removed the pan.  This time, however, instead of going with the rather flimsy OEM paper gasket we decided to make our own rubberized seal from a tube of Motorcraft high temperature RTV Sealant.

After the oil pan work was completed Alex also walked Rick through the procedure for adjusting the generator’s intake and exhaust valves.  That is supposedly a routine to be conducted every 600 hours, although Alex opined that would be extreme overkill.  As it turned out (after 1900 hours) the valves did not require much tweaking at all.  Alex could probably perform this relatively simple procedure with his eyes closed, but it was still a good education for us.

Generator Valve Adjustments....a Fairly Straightforward Exercise.
Next up was solving the fuel tank sight gauge leak.  The sight gauge concept is one of those primitive but very effective mechanisms for determining how much fuel you actually have on board….much more reliable than relying upon electrical sending units and remote dial gauges, especially in large fuel tanks.  The downside to the sight gauges, however, is that as the plumbing and gaskets age they can wear down and develop small leaks.  The good news is that you can only leak out the small amount of fuel that the sight gauge tube can hold (provided, of course, you keep the tube’s feed valves closed until you need to check fuel level.)  Glen, from Yacht Tech, handled the repair to the port side main tank – replacing the tube as well as the o-rings at both the upper and lower fittings.  We decided to do the same to the starboard side tank even though it wasn’t currently leaking, as we figured it would soon follow suit.

Finally we still needed to re-attack the main shaft’s stuffing box.  We decided to repack the gland, this time using only two rings of PTFE impregnated flax rather than the normal three rings – the theory being that we knew we had great water flow with no rings inserted, but questionable flow with three rings installed.

A Leaky Fuel Tank Sight Gauge
On the morning of Friday, 29-Jun, we were joined by Rob Etheridge of Yacht Tech for what would hopefully be our last sea trial before starting our east coast cruising.  After more than two hours of running time we found the sight gauge repairs and the new oil pan gasket to be solid.  The damned stuffing box was another story.

Initially the gland temperature was in the acceptable range (with ambient sea water approaching 90F in the shallow ICW, we’d take anything up to 120F.)  But the two rings of packing were wholly insufficient for moderating water flow.  So Rob inserted a third packing ring (using flax with PTFE), but after a few adjustments we lost water flow into the shaft’s gland altogether and the temp started to spike.  Rick joined Rob in the engine room and we removed all three rings and “burped the shaft log” to restore water flow; then yet again inserted three new packing rings – pausing after each one to confirm we still had water around the entire shaft.  By the time we finished that up, with very slow and careful hand tightening, we finally got to a steady state of 110F.  And it remained that way even at wide open throttle.  The water flow might still be a tad strong, but we’re going to let the new packing settle and break in before attempting any more adjustments and rely on the bilge pump to handle any excess sea water.

Then we experienced one of those “WTF” moments.  Just after the final adjustments to the packing gland, we decided to make one more run down the ICW to confirm its temp readings.  As the boat neared an intersection there was enough crossing traffic that Chelle – driving from the fly bridge helm – had to back off the throttle and then back it down as it wasn’t clear that the other boats were going to yield.  At that exact moment the main engine shut down.  Uh-oh.  By chance Rick had just come up from the engine room to the pilot house at the precise second the motor died.  Nordhavn owners joke about things not to do so as to avoid the “sudden sound of silence”, but to be honest, the decibel level of the low oil pressure horn is deafening when that engine stops. 
The Obligatory Shot of Ghost Rider Again Docked at Old Port Cove,
Our Home-Away-From-Home on the East Coast of Florida.

Rick immediately started the wing engine, put it in gear and took control from the pilot house helm (there are no wing engine controls on Ghost Rider’s fly bridge.)  That took all of 5 seconds.  There was no drama or close calls as it turned out.  Chelle came down from the fly bridge and took control of the boat from the pilot house.  In about a minute Rick had checked the obvious things – fire suppression status, battery switch, fuel valving, etc. – and found nothing amiss.  Following that, the first attempt at relighting the main engine was successful.  It purred like a kitten.  No matter what we tried we could not reproduce the failure.  We even ran at WOT for a full 5 minutes with nothing but ops normal.  We returned to the dock and tied up without further incident.

Our working theory is that we experienced a transient fuel system hiccup.  Which, if true, means it was probably our fault.  Rick had changed ONE of the two (primary) Racor fuel filters back in March, but had left the selector valve on the other older Racor.  While both that Racor and the on-engine (secondary) fuel filter had less than 250 hours on them, they were each also about a year old.  Time can be as important as hours when it comes to any fuel filter – at the core they are basically paper elements and can take only so much soaking in fuel before they begin to lose some effectiveness.

So once back at the dock Rick changed both fuel filters, and as a precaution partially filled the new on-engine filter with Stanadyne PF to give the diesel injectors a short cleaning burst of that magical stuff.  We will be monitoring closely.

Time To Get Moving Again

Over the weekend we made our final preparations for departure:  taking our car back to its garage in Fort Myers, putting the engine’s pulley and belt guards back in place, topping off water tanks, reviewing and loading planned routes into the ship’s computer, some final provisioning, and checking weather / sea forecasts.

Generally we intend to mosey up the east coast of the U.S. and eventually into Chesapeake Bay for some exploring.  But along the way we’ll be making plenty of stops, initially Fort Pierce, Canaveral, Ponce, and St. Augustine in Florida.  In Georgia we’d like to check out Cumberland and Savannah.  Of course two of favorite stopovers are in Edisto and Charleston, SC, to be followed by Oriental and Coinjock, NC, and Great Bridge, VA.  After that we’ll head up the Chesapeake.

We’d like to be in the Baltimore area by the end of September to attend the Trawler Fest there (LINK), where Rick and Chelle are enrolled in some technical and cruising oriented classes.  But that’s the closest we want to get to a “schedule”.  From there we’ll reverse course and work our way back south, eventually landing back in Fort Myers in late October or early November.

So that’s the plan, will let y’all know how it goes.  As usual, you can follow our progress at our tracking site (LINK Here.)       

1 comment:

  1. Rick,

    Becky and I will be in Baltimore during the Trawler Fest maybe on The Edge or in the Marriott Waterfront. I will be attending a conference there that week and we would both love to connect with you both.

    Safe Sailing,