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Friday, March 26, 2010

Ultimate Engine Problem Solver

So here is the ultimate engine problem solver. I boxed it together from readily available yet really cool marine grade stuff. There are two filters in parallel to allow for fuel to go from one or another depending on which way the lever turned. One of the filters came with a 30 micron filter which I had to change it to 2 micron; the second filter is also a 2 micron. 30 and 10 micron filters allow more bad fuel to get to the engine and I didn’t want that for my auxiliary. The essence of the setup is such that one can easily switch from primary filter to the secondary all while keeping the engine running smooth at first sign of trouble. I first wanted to fit the y-valve at the diesel IN but later decided that it would be better from the perspective of the secondary filter to fit the valve on OUT; this assures that secondary filter is always primed; on the downside it may have to be bled a little from accumulated air as a precaution before switching. I know there are systems like that for sale, but I have never seen them or the filter elements for them; the spin-on series filter elements I used are sold in the smallest of marine stores. The spin-on filter can be outfitted with some crazy accessories like a fuel heater (yes, heated fuel gets to injectors long after the engine is running). I stopped at having all that except for a filter service indicator on the primary filter. I paid a lot of attention to making sure the system is air-tight and accessible. Before installing it I drained few gallons of diesel in case some bad fuel still wanted to come out. I tested the engine under load with various RPMs for about 3 hours overall, occasionally switching the filters with the engine running evenly smooth. Having ample time to deal with a bad fuel filter is truly priceless to me after ours had gone out at the worst possible time. I refurbished the old filter with a 10 micron element and fitted it onto the gen-set fuel system as a form of recycling. Fair winds!

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Shakedown Shake Up!

After one and a half years of tireless and careful work from team adventure cats, Victoria finally left her slip in Napa Valley Marina for her first test run on March 19, 2010.  Perhaps the old sailors’ superstition of never leaving on a Friday holds some water because the first run resulted in a brief emergency scramble.  The results were some damage to the first mate and team spirit but thankfully nothing else.  The rest of this cursed Friday was spent on several engine and wind vane adjustments as well as giving many thanks that things were not the worse for wear. 
            The brisk, springtime Napa air welcomed Adventure Cats’ second attempt at a victorious cruise to Tiburon to meet family for a celebratory lunch the following morning.  Little did we know that shakedown part two would result in some sound lessons for the team on the importance of details, particularly when concerning diesel engines.  With a mixture of excitement and confidence that the engine problems were fixed, we departed and cruised smoothly down the Napa River until Victoria reached the Mare Island Bridge.  Our rebuilt diesel engine got us past the pylons (with a little prayer) but failed shortly after. Slightly better prepared than before, Adventure Cats handled the situation admirably and with the help of the captain’s superior driving skills, docked safely in the Vallejo Marina with only some small cosmetic damage to our exterior paint and some shaken nerves.
            Thoroughly disheartened, Adventure Cats found themselves in an unknown marina with mysterious engine problems and a scratched paint job.  However, we hoisted ourselves up by our bootstraps and with a little encouragement from the first mate and help from team mechanic Greg Ward, Victoria is once again ready to sail the high seas!  Besides, an offshore boat with no tales of adventure or battle scars is no offshore boat at all.

Sunday Update: Adventure Cats spent about an hour at West Marine with Kent earlier today pulling together a diesel filter contraption that would allow switching from one filter to another through a Y-valve. Captain strongly believes this set-up will help avoid this sort of experience in the future.  Although old fuel got drained before departure, the primary filter got clogged quick as the boat sat at the dock for what seemed to be an eternity. An email was also sent to the maker of the Awl-grip paints to find out the best way to fix our battle scar. Lets not do that again.