Our trip south from Annapolis to Solomons on Thursday Oct. 16th was to be the last calm day for quite a while. The cold front that arrived late that day brought rain and winds for the next few days, keeping us in Solomons longer than expected -- and we weren’t the only ones. We watched more and more boats stack up there waiting for the winds to calm down along with us. At its height on Sunday, the seas built to 5 feet off the Potomac. There were few souls who wanted to get into that.
In Deltaville, the anchorage seemed full and the dock space was limited. There were even more headed further into the Piankatank River for Fishing Bay Harbor. So, it was no surprise when we joined another flood of boats leaving Deltaville for Hampton on Thursday (Oct. 23rd). When we arrived at the Hampton Public Piers, they were about to fill up – a first for this time of year, which they attributed to the marketing and discounts offered at the Annapolis Boat Show to cruisers headed south. The anchorage there was crowded as well.
On our trip to Coinjock, our first calm day in weeks, we were accompanied by our companions at Great Bridge, but few others. The docks at Coinjock were not even full. We were told by the dock attendant that that would change dramatically, starting tomorrow, November 1st.
But we would be gone further south by then. Ahead of the pack. For now.
In our last update, we mentioned the problems we started having bleeding the engine to get it to start. As these became more chronic, we decided to part company with Pat and Fred for a few days and head back to Deltaville to get them resolved. As long as we could demonstrate the problem for John, we were optimistic that he could find the source of the air getting into the fuel lines (which is why it needs to be bled to start). We thought we understood the pattern well enough to ensure we could demonstrate the problem with John on board. So, we made a long run to Deltaville on the engine Sunday, let it rest overnight and waited expectantly to start the engine with John Monday morning. So, what happened?
It started without a problem.
John reviewed all the fittings and installed some gauges to test the pressure at various points along the fuel lines. Dave was suspicious that our fuel vent line might have been a source of the problem, since it might have been moved when we installed the new shore power receptacle back in August. John and he shortened it by about a foot to ensure it was an uninterrupted line to the vent, although he was skeptical that this was the cause of the problem. We had also been advised by one of our readers that, since our engine is a European model, it has a fuel return non-return valve (say that 3 times fast) that routinely fails with the symptoms we are seeing. It is only about a $15 part, but not one that Deltaville stocked. So we proceeded with a test with the modifications made so far, running the engine under load at 2400 rpm for over 2 hours to simulate the shortest run we had made where the problem manifested itself. John came back and checked the gauges. All the pressure looked good. Not just good – excellent. So, we had to wait overnight and try to start again the next day.
We pulled out of Deltaville (where the engine again started without incident) on Thursday on a windy day with waves breaking on the bow. It was about 7 hours to an anchorage on the Severn River, where we would rendezvous with Marianna. (Pat and Fred had spent the prior few days visiting Crisfield, MD.) The next morning the engine started, but with the fluctuating idle speeds that told us the problem was not gone.
So, we decided to order the new valve. However, in Dave’s call to Bayshore, he spoke to a mechanic there who suggested another alternative. He said Yanmar sells a retrofit kit, which removes the valve from the line. However, rather than buying the kit, Dave might consider just sealing the line so the valve no longer is a factor.
We’ve had some more rough starts, but also several uneventful starts as well, so the pattern isn’t clear. Dave plans to make a change to the valve, but which change is not clear. Either way, we’re waiting to get to a place where we can have access to a mechanic if anything doesn’t go as planned before attempting any repair.
Since working on the engine is what keeps Dave busy most days, he was thrilled to have yet another issue develop as we pounded our way south out of Deltaville. We had turned off the engine to sail, when we noted that the smell of diesel was overwhelming down below. With the rocking boat, Dave couldn’t find the source of the leak. He cleaned up the fuel and tightened all of the hose clamps that had been removed to add the gauges while in Deltaville. We started the engine again, but it was still not clear where the leak was coming from. By this time, the combination of the rocking boat and being immersed in diesel fumes was getting to Dave – and Cathy too – so he took a break and decided to look at it more once we were anchored.
The possibility existed that the source of the leak was one of the injectors. Dave was initially reluctant to adjust them, but after speaking to both John and Fred about the leak, he decided to try. The #2 injector line was able to be tightened a bit. This made a huge difference in the run to Hampton the next day, but there was still a small leak. After more attempts to tighten any possible source of the leak, it became clear that the #2 injector line was the source of the leak, but it couldn’t be tightened any more. John had suggested that it might first needed to be loosened and then retightened before the leak would have been resolved. Trying that solution would need to wait until we were tied to a dock and closer to a mechanic if anything went wrong. (Maybe when we replace that pesky valve.)
Can you hear me now? – Part 2
As we came into Solomons, we discovered that our remote VHF mike at the helm was once again not transmitting. This was incredibly frustrating, since we had just sent it in for repairs. We had used it only a few days before it failed again. We sent it into Standard Horizon for another fix, this time under the warranty. A few days later, we received a call that the cord had been replaced and the connection repaired. Would it last longer this time? Dave talked them into shipping it 2-day service to Coinjock at no charge after describing his dissatisfaction with the earlier repair. We’re hoping for at least another 2 years before another repair, instead of just 2 weeks.
After receiving a recommendation regarding an automatic fire extinguisher for the engine, Dave located a Fireboy model that would meet the needs of our engine compartment and installed this just inside the aft engine access. This will activate automatically in the event of an engine fire, and contains fire suppression that will not damage the engine, like the contents of many other typical fire extinguishers.
Despite appearances to the contrary, we have managed to find time to enjoy traveling with Pat and Fred and to see family and other friends, in between engine problems. In Solomons, we toured the town, including the Chesapeake Marine Science Lab, associated with the University of Maryland. That night we enjoyed dinner with Don and Cindy’s family who live nearby. Dave and Pat managed to surprise Cathy with, not one, but two cakes to celebrate her birthday on Marianna later.
We are trying to make tracks south toward warmer weather. Our current goal is to be in Vero Beach by Thanksgiving. We'll see if the weather (and the engine) will let us make that schedule or not. Either way, we'll do our best to enjoy the trip.