Engine Troubles

From Day 1 Leela’s engine has run like a top. Although over 30 years old, the engine has relatively low hours and has been well maintained. However unbeknownst to us, there was an inherent flaw that was about to cause us some trouble and major expenses.

This all happened at end of October 2014. We needed to sail the boat from Vancouver to Bellingham. The boat was to spend the winter on the hard in Bellingham at half the cost of what we would pay in Vancouver. Plus we have some great Proviber friends down there so it’s a win-win. We enlisted the help of a great crew: My friend Paul from Montreal, our friend and sailor extraordinaire Lee Laney from Bellingham and fellow COOP podmade Sebastien.

Day 1 was perfect. Sunny, light winds, we mainly motored South towards our destination for the night, Pt Roberts. We enjoyed a beautiful afternoon sunny moment of gin and tonics before pulling into our first international border with Leela.

Onroute to Pt. Roberts

Onroute to Pt. Roberts

Sunny afternoon on way down to Pt. Roberts

Sunny afternoon on way down to Pt. Roberts

The next day we woke up to a  complete change of conditions. 20-25 knots of wind on the nose with a large expanse of open sea led to some pretty swell-y conditions and major difficulty making any real headway. The Union 36 does not go to the wind very well and this became very apparent on this day. Although we were making great speed with doubled main reef, staysail and about 50% Yankee, it still took us over 6 hours to make a measly 9 miles actual forward progress. The video at the top of this post shows the conditions early that day before the seas built.

Eventually, the wind died down enough for us to make the decision to start the engine and motor the rest of the way down as fast as possible. We still had over 20 miles to our destination and the way things were going we were going to arrive past sunset anyways. We started the engine, it ran perfectly for about 10 minutes before completely shutting down.

Day 1 - Destination USA

Day 1 – Destination USA

I had been reading some diesel mechanic books so my first thought was to look at the Racor filter. It was filled with water. Luckily we didn’t even try to crank the engine over again as this could have been catastrophic. We bobbed around for 10 minutes, contemplated our options, drank a beer and decided that our best bet was to sail back towards Blaine. Luckily the wind was perfect and we were able to sail right into the channel entrance to the marina. During the sail back we lashed the dinghy to the side of the boat and we used our little 2 HP outboard engine to motor us into a slip.

We retained the services of Blaine Marine to empty our fuel tank of whatever water was causing the issue. Sometime during the week they called to let me know that all was fixed, lots of water in the tank was removed but she is now ready to go. I spotted an opening in the weather and we had a 24-hour window before the winds turned and squall conditions returned. I took Monday off work and headed down to Blaine with my good friend Paul who was visiting from Montreal. Our plan was to chill out at the boat, fill the diesel tank and have a nice dinner. As soon as we arrived at the boat I started the engine and it ran for 2 minutes before again shutting down. I looked at the Racor filter and it was again completely filled with water. Auurrgghhh!!! Sunday night, all shops closed, there go our early morning departure plans. First thing on Monday morning we walked over to Blaine Marine and told them of the situation. To their credit, they sent a mechanic right away. Long story short, after over 3 hours of messing around, the mechanic admitted the tank must have much more water than he had thought and it needed to be professionally cleaned. Ummm.. aren’t you the “professional”? Isn’t that why we paid you $350 last week? The mechanic rigged a jerry can directly to the inlet of the engine and so it was we left Blaine at 1 pm, a far cry from our planned 6 am departure! We motor sailed down to Blaine with a lovely tailwind pushing us briskly along. We rounded into Bellingham Bay at night time and sailed25-knott winds on the nose directly to the marina. It was exhilarating and beautiful.

Diesel Mechanic - He was a good guy. His company.. not so much

Diesel Mechanic – He was a good guy. His company.. not so much

It took much research, discussions, consultations with Bob Perry, etc. to find out why we took on this much water in our tank. Let this be a warning. Our diesel tank vent is located on the port side of the boat, on the topside, below the level of the deck. When we are sailing the boat hard and the rail is under water, the vent is completely submerged and acts as a water scoop. From what we have since learned, tank vents must be located well above any location that may see water. Hence one of our winter projects is to move the vent to a more suitable location. This small flaw ended up costing us over $1,100 and much grief. I’ll post about our new vent location and design in due time. You’ll see, it’s pretty clever.

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