Sep 16 2010

Engine Repair Part 2

Tag: UncategorizedJonathon Haradon @ 1:45 pm

After spending three days relaxing, hanging out in cafes, recovering from sailing so much the last two weeks, we decided we were ready to move on to other anchorages in Tonga.  Our engine had other plans.

The engine performed admirably since Matt and I patched it, motoring for ten hours or more enroute to Tonga.  But less than 60 seconds after having left the mooring we were at just off Neifu, less than 60 seconds into our foray into the fun side of Tonga and away from the cafe side of Tonga, the exhaust manifold sheered a bolt again.  And snapped the hose clamps we had added.  Back to the mooring ball.  Back to Aquarium requesting additional days on the mooring.  Back to mind-numbing cafes.

We formulated a new plan which involved putting all efforts into getting out the sheered bolt that still had the extractor bit inside it.  Then, we would construct a bracket to brace the heavy exhaust elbow infrastructure, hopefully reducing its vibration and consequently its tendency to sheer.

The next morning I took a taxi to the hardware stores and purchased eight new drill bits.  Getting out the extractor bit would be no easy task.  I then set upon trying.  I drilled.  1 bit broke.  And another.  And another.

Four hours later, I was exhausted, frustrated, indignant, furious, and capable of going no further.  I opened a beer and popped in an episode of West Wing.  One episode turned in to ten as I drowned my misery and anger in escapism.

The next day, Matt took his turn.  Similar results ensued.

The next day, I took the drill.  Our engine block at this point had drill holes down all four sides of the bolt with the extractor bit in it.  We had broken nearly a dozen drill bits.  Dulled beyond use another dozen.  Used drill bits ranging from 3/64” up to 1/2”.  The gauge around the extractor bit was twice as big as the bolt that originally went through it.

And then, after more multiple hours of drilling,  the extractor bit wiggled.  The smallest of movements!  This tiny victory buoyed my spirits as I drilled for another hour until it was finally freed!  Celebration ensued.  Much beer was drank.

The next day, Matt re-tapped holes into the engine block.  They are suspect, as the holes we tapped are 5/16” coarse thread instead of the original 5/16” fine thread.  And the hole which originally had the extractor bit inside the bolt in it, well the surface of that bolt hole is gouged down so far that very few threads seem to actually contact the new fine thread bolt.

We enlarged the bolt holes going through the exhaust manifold.  And most importantly, Matt added a beefy bracket that definitely reduced vibration in the exhaust elbow.

Four days later, we were ready to leave again.  We turned on the engine.  We waited anxiously.  Straining our ears for odd sounds.  Squinting our eyes to look for unusual vibration.  All appeared normal.  Maybe it worked!

We gingerly left Neifu and went exploring some other anchorages in Tonga.  Now in Fiji, the engine has motored plenty and is holding up fine.  We have guests arriving though, Gary, Anna, and Allison, and if the engine wanted to break again, now would be a most inopportune time to do it.  We really hope it doesn’t!

Sep 16 2010

Tonga. The Cafes Are Nice.

Tag: failures,musings,routeJonathon Haradon @ 1:43 pm

We have been in Tonga for eight days.  I want to gauge out my eyes with a spoon.  We have done nothing.  We have sat in cafes  We have ate in cafes.  We have surfed the internet in cafes.  We have drank in cafes.  Alot of drinking.

Before arriving, we had sailed eight days to Beveridge Reef, and than another three days to Tonga.  Eleven days of sailing is quite a bit.  We need a couple of days of utter relaxation after that, and so we spent the first three days exactly like that, reading, relaxing, reconnecting on the internet.

Then we decided to leave.  Then our diesel engine decided otherwise.  It decided to break.  Again.  Necessitating four more days of work.  I’ll describe this later.  And so back to the cafes we went to eat and drink.  And then we drank some more on the boat.

Cafe Aquarium rates as the most friendly.  And has free, albeit slow, internet.
Sunset Cafe has the best burgers.
The Giggling Whale is the fuel hook-up, the loudest owner, and the best art on the walls.
The best coffee can be found at Crow’s Nest.  
The best ice-cream at
The atmosphere at Tropicana is stiffling.
The  Coconet Cafe also does laundry.  But it is so absurdly overpriced you would think they were laundry peddling mobsters and it’s embarrassing to admit we spent over $100 doing laundry.
The Neiafu Yacht Club didn’t leave an impression.
We didn’t make it to the nice pizza place.

I’m supposed to be on the trip of a lifetime.  This is not how I imagined I’d be spending my time. All I can tell you after eight days in the Kingdom of Tonga is that the cafes are nice, Immigration officials will fleece you if you arrive on a week-end, and the water in the bay outside Neifu does not inspire swimming.

And having a diesel engine break sucks.

Sep 16 2010

Engine Repair Part 1

Tag: UncategorizedJonathon Haradon @ 1:39 pm

While on watch during my midnight to 4 am shift, the wind began to die.  We had been flying just our jib sail.  However, I thought flying the drifter would be a better choice and so set about changing it.  Since we were flying only the jib, I  needed to roll it up and then set the drifter.  Since between having the jib rolled up, and letting out the drifter there are minutes, sometimes many minutes because I sometimes have problems getting the drifter set, where we have no sail up.  To keep us moving in the right direction and not just bobbing around randomly, we turn on the engine.

So it was with the engine on that I moved onto the fore deck to finish setting up the drifter.

And then the engine shut off.  Matt popped his head up from the companionway and motioned me back.  Smoke he said, was being emitted from the engine room.  This is bad.  Ironic though it may seem to a sailboat, severe problems with the engine are one of the worst things that could go wrong.

The smoke was exhaust from the engine.  Normally, the exhaust goes from the combustion chambers inside the cylinders, out the engine block and into the exhaust manifold.  From the manifold, it exits to our new, heavy duty exhaust elbow, through some tubing, through the water-lift muffler, through some more tubing, and finally out the boat.

Now, the exhaust was going into our boat.  Bad.

Two of the four bolts that that hold the exhaust manifold to the engine block sheered off.  THEY WERE 30 years old, so you have to give the bolts some acknowledgment for lasting that long.  The new, heavy duty exhaust elbow Matt had installed a year ago probably contributed to increased vibration and force on the bolts holding the manifold.  But they were 30 years old.

The next day we start in on the work, drilling out the part of the bolt that was left behind in the engine block.  The bolts are corroded.  They don’t want to turn.  They are steel.  Our drill bits are dull.  Did I mention that the boat is rocking back and forth while sailing towards Tonga?

One drill bit dulls.  Another drill bit breaks.  Matt takes a breather and I give it a go. A drill bit breaks.  Another drill bit breaks.  Cursing ensues.

Matt gets back into it.  One of the bolts comes out.  After a while, he decides he has drilled enough of a divot into the other bolt that he wants to try using an extractor bit.  These bits are conical shaped and reverse threaded on the outside.  The idea is that as you drill them into the divot, they will force the bolt to spin the other way and the bolt will follow its threads out the hole.  Nice theory.  Terrible in practice.  Extractor bits, we will later realize, are forged from the blood of the devil and hardened as if they were the devils own stone heart.  Extractor bits are pure evil.

Matt snapped off the hardened steel extractor bit inside the bolt which is inside the engine block.  Large amounts of cursing ensues subsequently followed by large amounts of beer drinking to end the day.

The next day, we formulated a new plan.  Leave the extractor bit in the old bolt, doing nothing to help fasten the exhaust manifold there, put in a new bolt for the one we got out, and then put on hose clamps around the exhaust manifold and part of the engine.  Along with new gaskets, we hoped the hose clamps would dampen the vibration, and help squeeze the manifold towards the engine.

With everything put back together, it looked… suspect.  the hose clamps were fastened to a heavily corroded fitting on the exhaust manifold, bent through a 90 degree turn and over a slight bend on a different axis.  It looked janky.  We fired up the engine with our fingers crossed.

And it worked.  Exhaust went out the boat.  Not into the boat.  Hopefully this will hold up until we get to Fiji with larger cities and bigger stores and where friends can bring us spare parts to help with a more permanent fix. Tonga is just too small.  Here’s hoping.

Sep 16 2010

Shark Bait

Tag: UncategorizedJonathon Haradon @ 1:35 pm

Shark bait

As we were leaving Beveridge Reef, sailing out through the pass, it occurred to me that I should take one more look at the pass through the reef.  The snorkeling and diving we had done in the pass over the last two of days was the best we had done for shark watching, schools of large fish such as grouper and bumphead parrot fish, and large coral formations forming canyons.  One last look was worth the effort.

So while Matt sailed out through the pass, I put on my flippers, mask and snorkel, put out a tow line, and then lowered myself down from the swim ladder.  We were slowly cruising along at about 4 knots, much faster than I could swim, but I could easily hold onto the swim ladder as the water rushed around me.

We were in a particularly shallow area at the time, a depth of perhaps only 15 feet.  It’s a tenuous feeling watching your boat rushing by the sea floor, less than 10 feet away.  I relayed up to Matt we should steer further to port for deeper water.

We then sailed directly over where we had snorkeled/dove the day before, on the North side of the pass.  The schools of fish were there, I saw the interesting coral formations, including the arch I swam through.  And of course the sharks.  Dozens of sharks lazily drifted around, mostly close to the bottom of the sea floor, about 50 feet down, though some were more shallow.

We sailed slowly by, at 4 knots moving slowly enough to look at everything again.  Quick enough that we passed by faster than my memory wanted it to.

And then four sharks peeled off from the main group and started following us, interested in, I believe, what they thought might be some food.  Me.

It occurred to me later that I looked quite a bit like the lines we trail behind our boat when we sailing on passage, trolling  and trying to catch fish.  Just a bit bigger.  Shark sized bait, you might say.

I let that go on for about three more seconds before I quickly pulled myself up out of the water and onto the swim ladder.  I might have been within 10 feet of the sharks while diving, but sharks tailing me like they were looking for food… too much.