Friday, August 28, 2009

Lucky Update

The port drive showing the newly added seal plate. This should stop water getting into the drive in the future.

It's been a week since Lucky was dropped into the water and a lot has happened. Sort of.

On Friday, International Marine Diesel's lead tech, Neil, came on board and ran a bunch of diagnostic tests to try and work out what's going on. End result - better go for a sea trial. As a safe guard, Neil "shimmed up" the oil pressure relief valve on the port drive so that it would maintain slightly higher pressures. He wanted to be sure that when we went out, the drive wouldn't be starved for oil. It was getting late on a Friday, so we planned on doing that Monday morning.

On Monday, Neil showed up at 10 am, reasonable early by mechanic standards, and off we went. I'd been stressing over this all weekend and hadn't got much sleep Sunday night. as it turned out, the trip down the river was stress free and reasonably uneventful. The tide was coming in, so idle kept us going at a sedate 3 knots, which was fine by me, and I had plenty of time to react to oncoming traffic. The only boat of note was a 95' yacht. I was well prepared as I'd been listening to the captain talk to traffic ahead of us and the bridges. When he showed up around a corner, I had plenty of space to jockey aside. We were out in the ocean by 11. Nice and flat, the seas were less than 2' coming from the north east. I pointed her in that direction and we were off. Up to Wide-Open-Throttle and back a number of times as Neil used his little HP hand-held, plugged into one engine or the other, for data capture. we were able to get the port engine up to 3200 and the starboard up to 3400, but both engines overheated, showing 205 degrees coolant temperature. They should maintain 185, even at WOT. As for the drive, all though it showed low oil pressure at low RPMs, once the RPMs were above idle, the pressure came right back to normal. Once he'd got all the information he needed, we turned around and headed back. An uneventful trip up river and we were docked by 12:30. I moved Lucky into another slip, getting her closer to the shore and a stern-in, starboard tie-up, so I could put the tender back on the swim platform.

Neil came back on Tuesday and I got the full scoop. Both engines are over heating. Cause most likely due to heat exchanger fouling. Bearing in mind we replaced both fuel coolers for the same reason, it seem likely. So Neil had come to pull both heat exchangers, that use sea water to cool the engine coolant and both charge air coolers, that cool the compressed air going into the cylinders. As for the low oil pressure in the port drive, he didn't know and Volvo hadn't got back to him yet.

Meanwhile, I was having electrical issues. There was still a lose battery cable showing ground when it should show +12v and the generator wasn't starting up. An electrician came in Tuesday afternoon and we were able to solve both problems. The battery cable only showed ground when the "Helm C" breaker was on and further investigation showed that the spot light was the culprit. It's never worked right (always popped a breaker) and I've never needed it, so we unplugged it from it's breaker. I'll solve it another time or just pull the whole thing off. The generator needs a new emergency stop switch. The original was corroded. Another victim of salt water intrusion. To be safe, I replaced the breaker just above it as well. I had to order the switch, it should arrive next week.

The underwater lights were installed, but couldn't be tested as they were lacking the correct fuses.

To finish off a full day, I moved aboard. Stephanie would be horrified at the mess, but if you promise not to tell her, there's no reason why she should ever find out...

Not much happened Wednesday and Thursday, other than the electrician finding out that he needed insurance to work in the yard. I decided that if the engines were having all these issues with raw water cooling, then the A/C condensers were probably needing a little TLC as well, so I went out and purchased the makings of a flush system (hoses, pump, fuse, switch).

Today has been a busy day. Neil came back and took the transmission from the port drive. After pouring over schematics, they've decided the only way for the drive to show low oil pressure at idle but not at load is for one bearing in the main shaft to be leaking oil. The transmission is pretty trick, in that it used the oil pressure to engage the clutch and two channels in the drive shaft to move the oil up the drive to the top side of the clutch pack. At idle, when these channels are closed, there's only one thing maintaining pressure from the oil pump, and it's this bearing. So they're going to replace the bearing. It'll take over a day to replace the drive and the four coolers, so we're planning on another sea trial next Tuesday. All being well, everything will check out and I'll be off to CA with a lifted heart!

Once Neil left, I used my jury-rigged flush system to flush weak acidic solution through the raw water system of the A/C condensers. I flushed the acid through for 2 hours, then followed it with a fresh water flush. We have four condenser units, connected to two raw water pumps. Today I flushed the most important - the main cabin - and the other condenser attached to the same pump, the aft cabin. It meant turning the A/C off for the afternoon, so I retreated off the boat into "The Captains Lounge", a very nice lounge with TV, leather sofas, kitchen and wi-fi, while that was going on. Based upon the color the solution turned - a mucky brown - they needed the clean. I was able to reconnect the units correctly and turn on the A/C. It might be my imagination, but it seems a little more effective :-)

In other good news, the electrician finally showed up with the correct fuses and we were able to verify that they work! I look forward to seeing them in full glory later tonight.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Taking it Day by Day

Well, Lucky is back in the water! And our port engine AND port drive are not working. Yup - the drive that we just spent 8 weeks servicing. So...

I'm heading back to SC this evening to visit my Mom for a week. Martin is moving back aboard Lucky tomorrow. He's out with the mechanics doing a sea trial today. We had plans to go home on September 3rd. I'll now be home on the 1st. Martin still plans on returning on the 3rd, unless hell freezes over and Lucky is fixed and working before then, in which case he'll head back to CA a bit early as well. Sorry for dripping sarcasm but this is getting really, really old! We'll return to Fort Lauderdale on the 14th and see what happens then.

We haven't been up to a lot to report on the blog. Martin spends his days on Lucky with mechanics and electricians and I hang out at the hotel. I'm getting back into running, doing the "couch to 5K" program, a 10 week program to get you running a 5K without walking. I've been run/walking for a few years so I thought it'd be cool to get back to the serious jogging! I start week 5 this week. I'm very proud of myself for getting up at 6:30am to head out before it gets too hot to run! It'll be cooler in SC and at home so I'm looking forward to that.

Last Thursday we went to a happy hour at the marina and had a tour of a 62 foot Nordhavn - what a gorgeous boat! Martin and I had a lovely walk along the beach on Saturday and celebrated Lucky being in the water with a dinner at 3030 Ocean. Wow, that was awesome! Last night we saw CJ & Margie and said goodbye for 3 weeks. I'm going to miss them!

I feel badly leaving Martin here but we both think it's for the best. It takes some stress off him to know I'm not going crazy at the hotel. (It's so hot here that daytime activities are pretty limited. I wish I were a beach person!) He'll be able to chill out in the evenings and not have me bouncing around like a puppy, "what are we doing now, what are we doing now??" :)

As for the technical difficulties with Lucky, I have to leave that for Martin to write about. My expertise is limited to - oil pressure in drive low, big problem. Engine sucking too much gas, could be big problem. Not very enlightening, I know!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Getting Wet At Last!

Lucky is in the water after 52 days on land, yes, I counted! I just spoke with Martin and the engines turned over and no water is coming in from anywhere (she had a lot of holes drilled into her - looks like they're all well sealed!) This is the good news.

The bad news is that the port engine still seems to be burning more gas than the starboard. We aren't necessarily surprised, this issue was never diagnosed or addressed since she has to be in the water to run the engines (but we couldn't run the engines because the drive had watery oil and that had to be fixed before the engines could be run - you see the conundrum...) It was hoped that with the drive fixed and new alternators, super-chargers and all the rest, that it would simply correct. Eh, well, maybe not.

The plan is to take her out on a sea trial tomorrow morning with an engineer. Hopefully he'll be able to figure out what is going on with the port engine. Tomorrow afternoon the electrician needs to finish up a few odds and ends as well.

In the meantime, theoretically, engine work can be done while we're in the water so we're looking at moving aboard Saturday/Sunday - though that could change if there are any "revelations" tomorrow. Once the engine is fixed we'll cruise up to Delray to stay until we return home to visit on Sept. 3rd.

*We're coming CJ & Margie...really, really...we'll be there soooon.....*

Fortunately there's a boat show and happy hour tonight at the marina - a welcomed distraction :)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Quick Update - Getting Closer!

I thought I'd post a brief update. We were supposed to splash Lucky today but they sent the wrong part on Friday. So we are hoping the correct "supercharger" will arrive today, then we could get Lucky in the water tomorrow or Wednesday.

The next possible adventure is Hurricane Bill. We will leave Lucky at the marina where we are now if the hurricane looks like it's going to come close. The marina is located well up the river and is a good place to weather a storm. Oh the adventure never ends ;-}

Seriously, we're so close to getting Lucky in the water, we're almost there. The new hotel is bright and sunny, has a pool and an oven (yay - I baked quiche yesterday!) I'll post pics today. It's a very pleasant place to hang out. There's a farmers market down the road on Sundays with incredible home-made hummus, we found an awesome sushi restaurant we can walk to, and of course, our friends CJ & Margie are close by...

In other news, we bought our tickets for our visit home - 9/3-9/14. I'm looking forward to visiting with friends, cuddling with my fur-babes, attending Susan Folkman's festschrift, getting my hair cut, and teeth cleaned!

We'll update again soon, hopefully from the water!

[ps: here's the definition of "festschrift" from, I hadn't hear of it before talk of Susan's:

(plural ‐iften)a volume of essays written by the disciples of an eminent scholar or writer, to whom it is presented as a tribute on a special occasion such as a birthday or retirement. The custom and the term (‘celebration‐writing’) originated in German universities in the 19th century.]

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Back in Ft. Lauderdale

On Tuesday Martin and I went to the Ostrich Farm on the other end of the island. It was a very interesting tour. They are such strange animals - funky looking, a bit stupid and frankly, tasty...we had lunch there too :p Tuesday night we had a really nice evening going out to dinner with Sunshine and David. I was so sad to leave on Wednesday. Sometimes you visit a place that just "fits". That's how I feel about Curacao. The combination of the tropical island, wonderful people, the great apartment, and gorgeous diving - I can't wait for us to go back again!

We arrived back late afternoon yesterday in Ft. Lauderdale. We're staying at a new hotel/suite. It's located downtown on the waterway and it's sunny and bright with a full kitchen. I like it a lot more than the other place though Martin has a longer drive to the boat. We found a vegan restaurant last night and had a tasty dinner - Martin was very surprised but he really liked it! Then we went shopping at Whole Foods - a healthy return.

Unfortunately, I've been smacked with a horrible headache today. I'm getting paranoid - thinking that it's Fort Lauderdale. Maybe the weather? Barometric pressure? The last one was 4 days long, I'm hoping this one is short lived. So I'm hanging at the apartment and Martin is off to the boat to check on the progress. I'm sure he'll be blogging soon with an update on Lucky!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Treasure hunting aka diving

We've been having a wonderful time relaxing at Sol Food and diving. Diving is a lot like a treasure hunt - you go as slowly as you can searching for all the wonderful and elusive critters out there. On Thursday we did another dive at Alice in Wonderland to double check equipment. Good thing too because Martin's regulator blew another O-ring! Luckily Andreas was there and he was able to diagnose and fix the problem. We had a really nice dive and saw our first turtle.

Friday we went to Porto Marie about 20 minutes south of the apartment. It's a beautiful beach with a restaurant. We did a morning dive, had lunch, and then went back for another dive. The reef/wall drops down to well over 100 feet. It's very deceptive. You cruise along and suddenly realize you're much deeper than you'd thought! We kept to our profiles though and had a great time. We saw a string ray, a couple very large moray eels and several drum and trunk fish (all in the pics).

Friday night there were several people eating at Sol Food including some of the OEW crew. We had a nice time chatting with a visiting family and a couple from Holland who are here on their honeymoon. We also solved a mystery. Yesterday, while diving Alice in Wonderland, Martin and I came across an inflated yellow duck tied to dive weights at about 35 feet. When we asked at dinner we got blank looks from the OEW crew and teased quite a bit with questions like "what kind of drugs do you like to dive on" and " Were you narc'd?" (if you dive deep, around 100 feet you start to "narc'd" - feeling/acting/reasoning like you're drunk...) No one has ever seen a blow up duck in the water! We were having quite a laugh when (luckily) the honeymoon couple arrived just then and said "oh, you saw our duck?" Whew, I thought Mart and I may have been suffering from a joint hallucination :) Well, their last day is tomorrow, so it's a no dive day, and we have officially inherited the duck to use as a navigation aid - yay :)

Saturday we went to town with David to run some errands and then we went diving at Playa Largo. It's a gorgeous dive off a remote beach. I found an octopus in the shallows (pic)! Saturday night we hung out with the crowd at Sol Food and had another great evening.

Sunday we went on a morning boat dive with OEW. On our way out we encountered a large pod of dolphins with babies! Then we dived Lagun and saw our first post-larval juvenile smooth trunkfish. They are the size of a large pea! Toni the dive master found the first and I spotted the second. Very cool but we weren't able to get a focused pics. Then we got back in the boat and Tuki the captain pulled aside so we could pick up some garbage floating in the water. It turned into a rescue at sea as there was an iguana floating on a bottle. We backed up into the rock face and let him go (see pics). Off to Watamula, the next dive site. There are outrageously gorgeous corals there and Martin found a sea horse! It's a real prize to find sea horses since they are pretty rare. Sunday evening was another great time hanging out with the OEW crowd.

Today we went to a pancake brunch at Daniels with Sunshine and David. They're pancakes ala Dutch and were great. Then we went to Playa Cas Abao, hung out on the beach for a while and then went for a shore dive using our duck as a navigation aid :) We found a balloon fish, a couple great file fishes and then Martin spotted the "pea" as we call it and got a great pic.

Today is our last dive day (you aren't supposed to dive 24 hours before flying). So tomorrow we're off to the ostrich farm and will enjoy a day on land!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Loving Curacao

Martin and I are so happy to be back at Sunshine and David's in Westpunt, Curacao! We came here last year in June and stayed for 10 days. We had such a wonderful time that we knew we'd be back - though we didn't think it would be this summer! We arrived yesterday on Insel Air. We rented a car and headed for the house. The whole gang was here, Sunshine, David, the pups, and the cats. Andreas came by later in the evening and we had a nice dinner on the back patio. In the morning Martin and I checked in at Ocean Encounters West (OEW) dive shop and opened an account. Then we went to town to the grocery store (35-40 minute drive) and got provisions for the week. In the afternoon David joined us and we went down to Playa Kalki for our first dive of the trip.

Oops - major equipment malfunction - not a good thing. Martin had a bad O-ring in his 1st stage regulator. OEW's manager Brian was able to replace it. Then I tested my set up and my BCD got stuck in "inflate" mode. Um - not good! Thank God it happened on shore and not under water. The schrader valve was corroded and once again, Brian was able to fix it. We like Brian a lot! So after an hour and a half in the sun we got our gear on and jumped in. David is a very patient man! The reefs are incredible here. Much larger and more populated than the Bahamas. And of course - no sharks. Apparently there's a hammerhead that passes through from time to time but he's rarely spotted, so much the better. We spotted several trunk fish, a drum fish and a small eel among many other critters. I've taken a few pics of the apartment and the pets - I'll be posting many, many more! Once we're back comfortable with diving Martin will be taking lots of fish pics too.

In the evening there was a birthday party at Sol Food for Julie, who works at the dive shop. We were invited and had a great time. We got to know everyone a little and hear fun stories. We have a reputation for being the "24-pounders" from last year (long story of messing up on the weights we thought we'd need.) All the new people we meet say "Oh - you're the 24 pounders"! :)

It feels so good to be out of the hotel in Fort Lauderdale and "outside" as well. The house is totally open - windows, huge sliding doors (see pics). There's air conditioning in the bedrooms but we seldom need it. While it's hot here, the trade winds blow constantly and make it comfortable. It also blows the mosquitoes away so you can enjoy being outside in the evening. Yesterday I thought I spotted a bananaquit (the "sugar birds" from Warderick Wells, Bahamas). We put a bowl of sugar out and sure enough - they're eating away on our balcony!

This morning I woke up to lots of birds singing and roosters - lots and lots of roosters. They sound like a stadium crowd when they get going in the morning. Now I'm sipping coffee, watching the bananaquits have their breakfast and enjoying a nice breeze while Mart sleeps in a bit. It's gray and overcast so the temp is cool(er). I think the rainy season is normally July so maybe we're going to have some late showers. The clouds reduce visibility but I don't think we'll have to cancel our diving today. We're planning on 2 mellow shore dives, at least one again at Alice in Wonderland (the OEW house dive). We want to be very sure that our equipment is working well before we head out to a remote area to shore dive! Rain or shine, it's another wonderful day ahead, life is good.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Yard work done, engine work not so much

So all the yard work is done subject to the final "does she sink" test when we drop Lucky back into the water. We'll be able to test the underwater lights then as well. Turning them on out of the water will cause them to overheat, so we left the ballast and bulbs out to be safe.

I've posted a few more pictures here:

No pictures of the new canvas, I'm afraid. Once we'd put up the canvas and got it fitted correctly, we immediately took it down. No point risking it getting damaged while in the yard. We'll put some pictures up once we're out of the yard.

The engine work, however, has not gone so well. the pulled drive needs a new clutch pack and there aren't any available anywhere. So we have to wait for the manufacturer to make some, send them to Volvo who'll send them out to us. Current estimate is August 10th. Hence our trip to Curacao.

Once the part arrives, it shouldn't take more than a day to fix the drive. Then another half day to put her back in the boat, followed by another day to do all the engine work. Then we can put her in the water and go for a test drive. That, unfortunately, means going all the way out to the ocean. Once we're out there, if she doesn't need to be hauled out again, I'll leave her in Bahia Mar. No point coming all the way up the river just to go back out again.

We have internet access in Curacao, so expect an update or two while we're there.