Friday, March 27, 2015

It Runs

On this blog I try to gloss over all the boat maintenance issues that bestride our life afloat, like a veritable Colossus.

But then I mention a little thing like our engine being off its mounts and hanging by one end from the engine room overhead, like a hind hanging by the hock, and reader interest skyrockets, as evinced by comments in the triple digits.  (That would be: one, two, three.)

No story there, really.

Our engine is English.  Therefore it leaks oil.  We knew it when we bought the boat, though we didn't quite anticipate the magnitude of oily loss that we would soon become accustomed to.  As in, we shut down every six hours to check the oil.  And if we've been running at full cruising revs, we often have to replace a liter of oil after that time.  

We're totally used to it.  But from the expressions I've gotten when I've confessed this state of affairs to sailors and diesel mechanics, I gather that this rate of loss is about four standard deviations above the mean.  As in, it's our cross to bear, and just about ours alone.

(There.  I knew that religion would be useful to me at some point in life.)

When we bought the boat, I figured, whatever - so we change the seals.  But it turns out that to change the seals on the engine, you just about have to take the thing off its mounts and hang it like a hind by the hock, etc.  We talked to a mechanic in Tassie about doing the job, but he was keen to sell us a new engine, and demurred at our proffered opportunity to change the seals on the engine while it remained on the boat.

That mechanic was British, by the way.  I think he was afraid of the cosmic retribution to British engineering standards that our leaking Perkins represented to him.

So we lived with it.

But then I got a bit of outside perspective when we had Jaime on board.  I shut down in the middle of the night to check the oil, and saw him raise his eyebrows when I explained how much we went through.

That got me thinking that maybe we shouldn't be living with this state of affairs.  And the leaks were really bad enough to be an operational problem.  So when I returned to Chile from my recent visit to the States, I came bearing a new set of seals.  

I could almost convince myself that changing the seals was a job I could tackle myself.  Luckily, though, the marina where we find ourselves, the Club Nauticos Reloncaví, comes complete with David Tideswell, a resident English marine engineer.  So we hired him to do the job, and to suffer for the greater sins of English engineering that our leaking Perkins represents.  That's David in the pic at top.

David made me a little nervous at the outset because he kept talking about how "we" would do this and "we" would do that.  If something went wrong with the job, I wanted a mechanic thinking in the first person singular who was going to see it right.  But (touch wood) everything went fine, and David appears to have been well up to the demands of the job.  Consider this a recommendation if you find yourself in need of a hand in Puerto Montt.

The engine is back on its mounts and, after a mystery involving a stuck kill switch, now appears to be running fine.

Though I only fished one season in my life, and am no one's idea of a commercial fisherman, I tried to channel my inner fisherman throughout the whole experience.  As in - let's get the engine off its mounts, let's change those damn seals, and let's go fishing.  No mystery, no stress.  And (touch wood) it seems to have worked.  With any luck at all we'll be heading south next week some time.

I really can't wait for some winter weather.  It's been a long long time since we had a proper winter.

Meanwhile, all the other preparations are going ahead.  Alisa has done her first huge grocery store hit, and has had the chance to wonder at how much ketchup she always finds herself buying.

And - rite of passage! - we've bought our shorelines for the anchorages of Patagonia, where you tie yourself in close to shore in the anchorages and let the winds go screaming overhead.  Of course, choosing the right shorelines is like every other damn thing on boats - people have different opinions about what's best. We were happy to fall back on advice we gleaned from past chats with our mates on Thélème, old Patagonia hands that they are.  So we got ourselves two spools of floating poly lines, at 220 meters each, and cut them in half to give us four 110 meter lines.  Should be enough.

The line starts as a compact unit at the store, but explodes when you unspool it.  Here Alisa and the boys are hauling two of the four finished lines back to the boat.  See that expression on Alisa's face?  That girl is goin' south.

Even Elias has gotten into the prep.  Here he's sewing the sail cover.  Alisa paid him a buck to do the job, but he still spent most of the time complaining.  I say we shouldn't pay him to help out.

And finally, there was this recent treat - Bill Harrington, long-time Kodiak fisherman and father of a friend of ours, rocked up in the marina here on a boat he had helped another Alaskan fisherman deliver from Panama.  We only got this one poor-quality picture of Bill, though it helps to know that he was playing dinosaurs with Eric when it was taken.

More soon.


  1. Great read as always guys. Such a mammoth job! Glad you describe these huge tasks and the humongous supplies lists. People just don't realise.
    Can't wait to follow your adventures in Patagonia. You are amazing.
    Chris and Wade on

    1. Thanks, guys. Yeah...if I wrote about all the huge tasks, I'd write about nothing else!

  2. So happy to read a follow up to the mysterious engine-hanging-from-the-chains business, and especially a happy one!

    1. sounds a bit like an alternate sailing lifestyle - engines 'n chains...