Wednesday, May 16, 2007

It's that 3 step forward, 2 step back thing

Major setback- engine died!

To make a long story short, we took a couple of friends out for a brief ride on the river. It was windy, but clear, after a long days work for everybody. Great way to relax! I offered one of our friends the helm, and he drove us around the open Neuse while we watched the sun set.

The engine gave no indication of impending trouble. Suddenly it hesitated. I moved toward the helm station and leaned over to see the guages, and for a moment the enginge resumed power. Then the RPMs began dropping, and in a few seconds- total shut down. Nor would it restart, although it sounded like it was about to catch. But it was no go... fortunately we were not very far from our marina, probably less than two miles from our slip & less than one mile from the channel.

"OK, folks, this has never happened before." I said. "But it shouldn't be a big problem." The engine room hatch was opened, I climbed down there to check things out. The only things a good diesel needs are air & fuel. It didn't seem likely there was anything wrong with the air, so I started checking out the fuel system. Valves aligned correctly, filters clear.... hmmm....

I had some help working on the fuel system... OK I was distracted by trying to get a tow, so Benny did a lot of the work himself. By massaging the priming lever on the engine-mounted fuel lift pump, Benny got the engine to start & idle for about 15 minutes. Enough to get us a lot closer to home, but we were still outside the channel into our creek. {double click to see our fuel system diagram in full size!}

I got cheerful word that help was on the way, thanks to Fairfield Harbor Yacht Club's marine assistance committee. I divided my time between cell phone, engine room, and radio; a lot of climbing back & forth. Fortunately our other guests were cruisers, so they not only understood but offered sympathy & encouragement. Bob & Julie also helped with the anchor & relaying messages. Not everybody is such a good sport about having a short boat ride turn into an endurance contest.

I spoke with Pete C, a past Commodore of the Fairfield Harbor Yacht Club, and he brought his 24' Parker out in a building choppy sea to pull us in. It was after dark as we saw his lights approaching, and Pete & his friend R.T. took our line aboard and made it fast to a yoke across their transom. The weather was deteriorating, and I had been so distracted by other things that I did not realize how windy & choppy it was until I watched Pete skillfully maneuvering close alongside while both boats were rolling & bouncing almost out of the water.

We owe Pete a tremendous 'Thank You' and a vote of great confidence in his seamanship.

That was last night. Today I spent slithering around the engine, in the bilges, and again on the phone to various diesel experts to diagnose & fix our problem. I have not started the engine yet but I have gotten the fuel system reassembled & primed. Now to get cleaned up (does this computer really have a faint scent of diesel fuel) and a good nights sleep.

Doug & Kathie

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