Thursday, December 28, 2017

Even the Losers
By Michael

Some of the bearings and shrapnel
that came out of my Yanmar.
Last fall, when I left Windy and the girls in Fiji to return to the States for the boat show in Annapolis and a visit with my folks in central California, I left them with a sick Yanmar. The raw water pump was on its way out, the interior walls corroded so badly that it was ripping up impellers and not allowing much water to be pushed. I called my Yanmar guy in San Diego and asked about a new pump.



“Yes…but, you can cut that in half by fitting the pump of another model on there—pumps the same volume of water—but you’ll have to order a specialized hose kit to make it work as the alternative pump input and output ports are in totally different locations.”

So I brought the alternative pump home with me, understanding that it would be a straightforward R&R.


I looked at the new pump from every angle, comparing it to the old. The gears lined up, the bolt holes matched. It looked good. The ports weren’t labeled, but I figured out the orientation based on the new hose kit and then confirmed. I was good to go.

If you’ve ever installed a backwards-facing raw water pump on a Yanmar with front-of-engine-only access, you can appreciate the challenge of this job. After removing the alternator to get in there, it’s working totally by feel and restricted to turning a couple nuts with a box wrench only about 20 degrees each go. All the while leaning forward at a difficult angle with only your forehead to support you. Typical boat work.

So I got the pump in and tightened her down and started the motor.

The pump squealed and made awful noises and the plate on the front of the engine, housing the bearing support, got really hot, really quick. I just knew I’d done something to mess up the gears and they were grinding themselves to bits. But lots of water shot out the back and then the noises stopped. And the plate cooled. And the water continued to shoot out the back.

Something had happened. Something was wrong. But all seemed good. Except for the slow leaking of water from the pump. With a flashlight I could see it drip, drip, drip. Obviously, the seals in this new pump were bad, or had been damaged by whatever had made that awful noise at start-up. But the water continued to gush out the exhaust like never before.

After a while, the oil pressure alarm began to faintly protest, not a full-blown alert, just a weak, sporadic buzz. I shut the engine down.

I got a good night’s sleep and resolved to taking it all apart again. To figure out what was going on.

The first thing I noticed in the morning is that the pan deep below the engine was filled with motor oil. I pumped out a few quarts.

At some point I realized that the dripping I’d assumed was water, had been oil. I felt for where the pump flange meets the engine and found a gap, and found that the pump was loose. It didn’t make sense. I’d tightened down the four mounting bolts as tightly as I could, now I could turn them by hand.

Here is the new pump fresh out of the engine,
with the inner bearing housing pressed on
(by me) to the hex nut.
I began taking everything apart. I started by removing the backing plate for the bearing support. Bearings and bits of ground-up metal fell out. This looked really bad. Then I realized what had happened.

This wasn’t a simple R&R. I should have noticed that the new pump wasn’t designed with a shaft intended to rest in a bearing support. In fact, the new pump had a hex nut on the end of the shaft that would be totally incompatible with any bearing support. For some reason, I’m dismissed this difference between the two pumps when I compared them.

I’d tightened up the new pump against the bearing support that prevented the pump flange from mating fully with the engine. When I started the engine, two things happened: oil leaked out the gap and the hex nut tore the bearing support to shreds.

The now-unnecessary bearing support.

Things were looking good. I reached into the housing to make sure I’d recovered all the bits and pieces, fortunately trapped and confined to that area. I removed the bearing race from the support. I reinstalled everything. I filled the engine up with oil.

All is good.

For all the nightmare scenarios that had been running through my head after hearing the noises, then to see the bearings and metal bits spill out of the engine, for this dumb error, I got off super easy.

As sung by the late, great Tom Petty (how I hate to write that), even the losers get lucky sometimes.

New pump and old, note on the old pump the smooth shaft intended
to rest in the bearing support. Note on the old, the hex nut beneath
the bearing inner race that is jammed onto it.

This is the bearing support housing plate that is bolted to the front
of the engine.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Stuffed and Ready
By Michael

"What’s this?"

Windy and I borrowed bikes one
morning and toured part of the small

"Stuffing? What’s that?"

I heard this back-and-forth about 5 times beside the long table where all of us had lined up our Thanksgiving dishes for what turned out to be a surprisingly grand potluck at Musket Cove’s outdoor Island Bar. All the kid boats are gone, Terrapin and So What off exploring, the rest on their way to New Zealand. (We’re missing all of them.) So the potluckers were a mix of ex-pats living on-island and several cruising couples, still here or planning to stay through the cyclone season. We and the American couples who spearheaded the potluck are the only folks here from the States. There was at least one Canadian couple, but all the rest were Kiwis and Aussies.

Apparently stuffing isn’t widely consumed in New Zealand and Australia.

When not eating, we’re in the throes of again readying Del Viento for her months alone in the Tropics. It's turned into perhaps our biggest spring cleaning of the past several years (and before you object, spring is exactly the season we're in now, here in the southern hemisphere). We're emptying lockers and realizing how much has accumulated that we no longer need, how much the girls have grown up and out of not just clothes, but stuff. All the books that have been read. We're literally up 1/2 inch on our waterline.

This time we’ve got Don helping us while we’re gone. He’ll be moored next to us and will open her up and run the pumps regularly. He’ll check the batteries and start the motor on occasion. If a cyclone looms, he’ll take Del Viento deep into the mangroves near Denarau.

Not the Marquesas, the high point on this island
(separated by an isthmus from the larger part) is
only about 100 feet.

Doing something without the kids!

Del Viento is among the boats moored in the upper right.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Fast Lane to Nadi Town
By Michael

Loading the dinghy on the dock in Denarau
for the trip home.
We've been pretty stationary in one of Fiji's main cruising boat hubs: Musket Cove. It's not a remote remote Fijian village, it's not the bustling and interesting Suva, it's just a tourist resort that opens its doors to cruising sailors. No apologies, it's a lovely setting, we'll protected, and we've had the pleasure of  hanging with one of the best cohorts of cruising families we've seen in a while.

But for all it offers, Malololailai Island is not a good place to provision. The veggies here aren't bad, but we left our last good place to provision with too few staples aboard, and knowing that we're leaving Fiji at the end of this month, we've been careful not to over-buy. The result is we've needed to get back to Nadi Town (via Denarau) a few times to get what we need. Fortunately, Windy found a mode of transport much cheaper and more appealing than the only (high-priced) ferry that brings the tourists and their luggage back and forth.

About a month ago, Windy went exploring by dinghy with Susan of Wiz. They found a couple of villages on the island and met Sia. At some point, the cruising women learned that Sia's husband makes the trip to Denarau every Saturday (market day in Fiji and much of the world), for a shopping run. His panga makes what would be a 3-hour trip in Del Viento into a 30-minute E-ticket ride (does anyone even use that expression any more?).

So a few times now, Windy's made the passage. The panga arrives at 7:00am, they're in Denarau by 7:30, the village usually has a driver waiting at the dock to take shoppers into Nadi Town. In town, Windy fills her cart and then lets the cashier know she's with Sia, her stuff gets boxed and put aside, and she's free to go to another store. When shopping day is done, a driver collects all the people and provisions, takes everything back to the panga, everyone loads up, and makes the passage home.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Boo and Birthday
By Michaeal

Even Mona gets thirsty.
The end of October is always a special time for the Del Viento crew. Windy turns a year older, Eleanor’s birthday is just before Halloween, there’s the dress-up-and-candy day itself, and then soon after, I pull another year away from Windy.

Eleanor’s birthday was low-key and enjoyable. For Halloween we planned to be on a mooring off Musket Cove, a resort on an island off the coast of Nadi. We heard there might be other kid boats there, many waiting for a window to make the hop to New Zealand.

It didn’t disappoint, one of our girls’ favorite cruising Halloweens so far—and that’s saying a lot, given the success of Santa Rosalia a few years back and Woodacre before that.

Next Halloween? We're shooting for Montana. More on those plans in a future post.


It's really all about this group, kind of magical. All the kids
clicked, nearly all a bit on the older side. They're not all pictured
here, but from Del Viento, Terrapin, Pesto, Me Too, So What, Enough,
and an unnamed boat.

Eleanor opening one of  her birthday gifts, a
pedal for her electric piano. All wearing her new
21 Pilots t-shirt and her new bandana.
Definitely a black theme, welcome 14!

On the beach doing the birthday cake thing.

The girls came up with and executed their costumes
themselves. Surprisingly, all we had to acquire were
the plastic flowers for Frida's head décor. Leo wasn't
around, so Mona painted her own cardboard
background and frame.

Halloween 2017

Not all of them, only those we could rally for this photo.
Many of the adults were in costume too and thanks to
some of us just back from trips to the States,
there were the Halloween staples like you
cannot find in Fiji: Snickers, Take Five, Twix, etc.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Who Sailed the Boat Here?
By Windy

Not missing Dad.
A Musket Cove Yacht Club lifetime membership is quite possibly the best US$5 a cruiser can spend. Our plastic laminated member cards had entitled the girls and me to spend the past few weeks walking sandy paths, lounging on a shady veranda, chilling with friends on the picnic island, and soaking in the pool at the casually classy Musket Cove Resort on Malolo Lailai Island, Fiji. Now it was time leave our mooring and head to Port Denarau Marina on the main island, Viti Levu, to pick up Mike, flying in from the U.S. the next day. But I decided to first fill out a club membership form for Mike.

"He should already have one," said Bale the office manager.

"Why should he?"

"Because he's the most important."

I paused, then a realization dawned on me: crew cannot be members absent a captain. "Oh, Mike didn't arrive with us," I said.

"Who sailed the boat here?"

"I did," I said.

"Then you are the captain!" She smiled.

"Yes!" I said.

It wasn't a lie. There's no strict hierarchy aboard Del Viento, and with Mike gone there was no question who’d been captain these past few weeks. But that was new. The three hour sail from Nadi Bay to Musket Cove had been my first solo sail—though it wasn’t truly solo because I had my kid crew with me.

I thought back to that journey. I’d been nervous. Even though everything I’d be doing I'd done a hundred times before, I realized that I'd never taken total responsibility. Perhaps I'd never captained the boat before? Does Mike feel this responsibility? Or have we truly split the job, always sharing responsibility?

I realized how much peace of mind having backup had always given me. Countless times, two hands aboard had been better than one. Simply raising Del Viento’s huge old mainsail is usually a two-person job. I thought back to groundings that did not happen and collisions avoided because we had two sets of eyes on the job. Just recently I’d caught a sheet on a hatch. It was certainly something I could have dealt with alone, but it was helpful to have one of us on the foredeck to free the line and the other at the helm managing the boat.

Eleanor and Dillon (Sangvind) flying a kite.
In my experience, many singlehanders are extra careful, extra conservative, they take meticulous care of their vessel. My singlehander brain switched on. What could go wrong during this really short passage in protected waters? An injury could happen. If I were seriously injured would the girls be able to manage and seek help? I decided, yes, they could. What if I went overboard? Ditto.

What concerned me most was equipment failure, especially engine failure. Our raw-water engine pump was on its last legs. In fact, Mike was returning with a replacement. I was banking on squeezing a few more hours out of the old one. I came up with a plan in the event I lost the engine en route.

Having dropped Mike off at the airport, the day of departure was upon us. Together, the girls and I raised anchor and headed across Nadi Bay, weaving through the fleet of boats anchored off Port Denarau. Once underway, my nerves calmed. Winds were light and on the nose. We continued motoring toward Musket Cove. I kept an eye on the temperature gauge. When the wind later increased, still on the nose, I advanced the throttle. I could have raised the sails, but we'd have had to tack back and forth and I was eager to reach our destination.

Then I noticed the engine temperature needle creeping towards the red. I leaned over the transom. Water was spitting out of the exhaust, but the volume was diminished and was accompanied by a bit of steam. Alarmed, I throttled way back. While I watched the temperature gauge, I ran through my options in the event I lost the motor:

  • sail
  • drift and let the engine cool and try again
  • anchor
  • call for a tow

I decided my best option would be to raise sail and head back downwind to Nadi Bay, which is wide open and shallow. I would be comfortable getting there and anchoring under sail.

Fortunately, it didn't come to that. Throttling back did the trick. The engine temp returned to normal as did the water from the exhaust, the steam was gone. After an hour of slow motoring we entered the mooring field at Musket Cove. The moorings were full. Circling around, we found a spot behind our friends on Full Circle. Within minutes of anchoring I was sitting in the cockpit with a cold beer, watching Frances fly around the anchorage on a surfboard, towed by Sangvind's fast dinghy. I gave myself an imaginary pat on the back: this was definitely going to be worth the journey.

Eleanor on the Spit near Musket Cove.

Musket Cove resort life: learning to make pulisami.

All is good aboard (this is a selfie taken inside the head).

When's Dad coming home?

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