Day 9 – Where to Start

The Engine Troubles

We didn’t blog about it when it happened, but we did lose the engine for a while last Sunday. We were concerned that a few people may be over worried about us if we made a big deal about it out here ? but after all the engine is the ?auxiliary? power; Evenstar IS a sailboat after all.

Last Sunday afternoon?.the bilge pumps kicked in. This is unusual and always a cause for concern as Evenstar is a very dry boat with little water in her bilges and the bilge pump rarely runs. When it does it usually means something is inappropriately emitting water into the boat. However, we’ve had the bilge pump go off from condensation from the air conditioning too so it’s not like we start running around like our hair is on fire when it goes on. We just look for the water.

The oil in Evenstar’s transmission is cooled by a seawater exchange like the rest of the engine. As a ?freshwater? cooled boat, Evenstar still uses sea water to cool the ?fresh? water (really coolant, just like your car) as well as the engine oil.

When we opened to the engine room to look for the water it was pretty easy to find. Right next to the catwalk next to the engine room door is the transmission oil cooler, water was coming out of it.

So we killed the engine and closed the through hull, and I had to disconnect some of the raw water plumbing and plug it to stop the water flow. In this condition the engine is inoperable, though I could plug it all back together within minutes and run with the leak if I needed to.

The extrusion for attaching hoses to the cooler had cracked at the base. It appeared to be tilting with the weight of the hose to open the crack so I secured it back up so the crack closed then sanded the area to remove the paint and get to bare metal. Then I applied a product called ?JB Weld? which is an epoxy like compound formulated to bond to metal in either wet or dry conditions and form a really tight bond that is proof against reasonably high temperatures and vibration. The oil cooler is always cool to the touch, so this stuff should do the trick as it is made for just this application.

All we had to do is wait 24 hours for it to cure then plug it all back together. Of course during that 24 hours the wind hooted up and it got really lumpy, so I deferred going into the engine room until this morning when the wind died off again. We’ve been running it all day, checking every hour with no signs of a leak.

More Computer Fun

This morning, already in a funk from an incident to be described later, I sat down to check e-mails and get some weather information. And the PC was off?what? We never turn it off while on passage as it runs Maxsea, our navigation package that talks to the instruments and helps with our weather routing, and I am constantly using it to send e-mails, check weather, and so on.

When I started it up I received a ?CPU Fan Error? on start up ? what the heck? The CPU fan wasn’t registering as there or on?great, just after I got the fool thing up and running a few weeks ago with a new motherboard! I prepared to get a laptop ready to go.

While we can sail without the PC it is our primary communications lifeline to land and family, and our means of getting weather. Our navigation and plotters work fine with out it, they just work better with it and it is a hassle not to have a PC that can talk to the world.

The long and short of it was after I opened the PC up and had a look the CPU fan had somehow sucked its own power cable in and tangled itself up! Fortunately some careful unwinding and I was able to free it up and it came back on, it didn’t burn out. CPU fans aren’t a spare I’d usually carry.

Then We Got Really Stupid

But the big downer that set the pall over the morning happened some time last night.

If you recall we flew the spinnaker for a while the other day in the light air. When we left we secured it on the stern, but when we set it we figured we’d use it again so we left it clipped to the lifelines up by the bow.

This was fine when it was light air from behind, and light air from the beam. It was not so fine when the wind hooted up and we had to sail upwind into bigger breeze.

At some point last night a wave swept our spinnaker overboard and it is now lost.

This is a bummer because it was so preventable ? at some point yesterday every single one of us thought that we should maybe move the sail back to the stern or tie it down more, but we didn’t act on it. This is the kind of mistake you aren’t supposed to make after two years of doing this.

The lesson learned is one we should know ? that just because something is secured NOW for these conditions doesn’t mean it is secured for all conditions. So everything should be secured for all conditions, because conditions change quickly and its human nature to forget things.

This is a painful loss because the probability of replacing it is low, and the spinnaker is a fun sail to use and at least half the boat enjoys flying it. But is really is a sail that we fly to avoid motoring in light conditions, it doesn’t come out that often. When it starts blowing harder from the directions the spinnaker needs it is easier to use the regular sails. The problem the is to cost justify replacing a sail that we rarely use ? and will use even less next year when Will leaves for college ? against all the other things we need and want to do to the boat.

So no, we don’t *need* the sail and we may not have purchased one if the boat didn’t come with it. Fortunately our stupidity didn’t lose us one of the things we MUST replace, like a dinghy, its outboard, one of the primary sails, or some other expensive piece of hardware we can not do without. Its loss does not put us in danger, hurt our chances of making New Zealand safely, and it does not make us spend more money out of pocket we can’t afford.

It still stings though because it was so stupid and irresponsible. Will looked like I punched him in the stomach when I gave him the news this morning, he and I will miss that sail. Even Kathy will miss it, though she hated it she appreciated it when we flew it right, and our crew work was getting quite good ? on the way to the Marquesas we were the only boat in our group that flew our spinnaker without breaking it! But we always figured it would suffer some ignomious end being wrapped around the headstay and cut down, shredded in the rigging during a blow gybe or takedown, or shrimped under the boat and ripped apart. Nobody figured we’d just dump the dumb thing over board with no one even seeing it go.

Lesson learned.

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