Friday, June 11, 2021

Update on Engine Issues

 I think it is about time to write an entry about the last two weeks. To say that it has been difficult, would be a huge understatement. And the bad news is that it is not over yet. 

In my last entry, I wrote about me working on the engine to get it ready for the replacement of the fuel injectors. I hired a mechanic to do the injector job. That is unlike me. I normally like to do my own work, but I have never done this before, and was hoping to make it easier on my ageing body. 

When Steve the mechanic arrived, he went to work preparing for the removal. He did an excellent job getting everything out of the way and removing the fuel lines. I got in the area and cleaned around the injectors to ensure no debris would fall down into the engine and noticed that I was able to move the #3 injector by hand. That was a good sign, I thought. I have read and watched videos showing that removing them can be very difficult. Our Yanmar engine has three cylinders. Numbered 1,2,3 from front to back. In a short time we had #3 out and then just as easily removed the top precombustion chamber below.

This is a shot of the intake manifold below and the three injector ports above. #3 has been removed.

Steve then tried to remove #2. It would not budge. He tried all the tricks he had in his bag and it would not move at all. He tried #1 and it would not move either. After trying for about an hour, he left to think about what to do next. He has been working on diesel engines for a long time and had never seen injectors this tough to remove. 

I spent the evening doing research and reading horror stories of other people having a difficult time removing their injectors. Some had to disassemble the engine and take the head to a machine shop get them out. There are many reasons why I didn't want to do that. One major one is that we are now in hurricane season and the marina we are in, requires us to be operational. We have to be ready to leave if a storm is coming. They evacuated this marina 6 times last year for storms. At this point, I was still OK. I would reassemble the engine and get underway if needed. 

In my research, I found a tractor supply company in Texas that sold a slide hammer that was set up to remove Yanmar injectors. Yanmar engines are used in many John Deere tractors. It cost $100 to get it here, but I placed the order. Steve agreed it seemed like the best plan. We waited through the Memorial Day weekend and on Tuesday the beast arrived. 

The first problem was that it was too long to fit in my engine compartment. I made the first of many trips to Harbor Freight to buy a grinder to modify my new slide hammer. 

My 9 lb. slide hammer with a short shaft made of allthread for getting into tight spaces.

I then determined to use the hammer, I would have to remove the studs in the head and disassemble the injector. That sounds a lot easier than it was. It took me about 4 hours hard labor to be ready to try to pull #2 injector. All of that work paid off and within about 30 minutes of hammering the injector was out. Then came a small piece below called the precombustion chamber. I worked on it with a pick for about an hour and had it in my hand. Ok, now for #1.

As you move forward in the engine compartment, the front corner gets in the way. I had to further modify my slide hammer to barely fit it in there. I hammered well into the night and into the next day before it finally let go. I was happy, now to just remove the chamber. I worked on it all of the rest of the day and it would not budge. I made another trip to harbor freight to by a seal removal tool. I have one just like it at the ranch, but never thought I would need it on the boat. $75 for that. My hands at this point, were bruised and sore and every muscle in my body was sore from the contortions I had to make to get in the best position to work.  

I inserted the seal puller, which I had to modify with the grinder to fit, and began to hammer. The damn thing would not budge. It was at that point Kim told me to take a break. I walked the docks thinking about what to do next. I found a good friend that agreed to come take a look. We agreed that we may have to cut that thing out with a grinding bit on a rotary tool. I did not want to do that because of the fear of getting debris down in the engine. I decided to go by some allthread rod to replace the shaft of the hammer to get a better angle for hammering. That worked well, but the chamber still would not budge. It was at that point that the bit broke and the lip on chamber also broke. 

This is looking down in the injector port at the top of the precombustion chamber.

 Now, I was really screwed. I had to get that chamber out. I decided to drill it out to the next larger bit size, which was 5/8". I stuffed it full of rags to try to prevent any debris getting down into the engine. I attached a tube to the end of my shop vac to create a suction tube, like you see in a dentist office. Kim was right there with me during this entire ordeal. She would hold the suction tube as I drilled catching most of the debris. I think it worked well. 

I inserted the new larger bit and went to hammering, still no movement. I went for a walk on the docks and met another boater that was a diesel mechanic for 30 years. He brought over a torch to heat it up to see if that would help. No go. It was now 10 PM. He said, the best bet it to cut it up. I went to bed Wednesday night exhausted, depressed and nervous. 

I got up on Thursday and drained the coolant out of the motor. I wanted to try more heat first. After two hours, I gave up that effort. I went back to Lowes and bought a diamond cutting tool for my rotary tool. We went back to the dental office thing with the suction. I drilled and then ground for a couple of hours. I cut it into pieces. It still would not come out. I was beginning to think it was welded in. I then got a chisel and began to try to break the smallest piece loose. After about an hour it finally moved. And just like a dentist, I worked the piece back and forth until it came out. The rest still would not budge. I got my slide hammer reinstalled and hit it with my poor aching, bruised hands and after about 10 hard hits it was out. 

This is what is left of the chamber.

I am not sure who was happier, Kim or I. We spent the rest of yesterday getting everything ready to reinstall the injectors. I think I could do it myself, but I have asked Steve to help me. We are hoping for this afternoon, but it may be Monday. It will be after that, we can test the engine to see if this solves the original problem of emitting the smoke. I will try to update this blog after that test.

I was up early this morning and took my coffee in the cockpit and watched the sunrise. I needed that time to remember why I do this crazy life. 

Sunrise in Gulfport, the day after the ordeal was over. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Update on Future Plans

 It once again has been over a month since I have written in this blog. I think it is about time for an update and some discussion of our future plans. 

We left the boat in Gulfport on April 8th, which is our son Mark's Birthday, and headed north in the truck. We first made a stop in Arkansas to see our son, Michael and his wife Audrey and their two boys, Connor and Cameron. We went for a fun hike at a place called Long Pool, which has an awesome waterfall. 

Kim, Michael, Audrey, Connor and Cameron along with some beautiful Dogwood flowers.

Then we headed north to the ranch in Missouri. 

We had a difficult time getting all of the systems in the trailer working after it sat for over 6 months through the winter. The biggest problem was the hot water heater. I was able to get the trailer livable, which was our home base for the next month and a half. We quickly made our way to Ozark to see the other 6 grandchildren. We went to soccer games and hung out at the house and caught up. Shannon decided that we all needed to go ice skating one afternoon. So off we went to Jordan Valley Ice park. Kim didn't skate, but I gave it a go after not skating in close to 20 years. 

Will doing his usual full on attack. All of the kids did great. 

We arrived at the ranch at a beautiful time of the year. The dogwoods and red buds were in full bloom. Kim loves to take a ride out to see the beauty this time of the year in the Ozarks.



The forest is alive with the beautiful colors.

We had the crazy snow storm on April 20 that I mentioned in my last entry. We ended up getting about 3 inches of snow, but it was all gone in about 12 hours.

Snow on April 20 in the Ozarks, that is crazy!

One of my favorite young men is one of our local National Level Professional Riders, Noah Clark. It has been awesome to watch him grow up. He was at the ranch a lot while we were there to teach riding schools. I have known him since he was 7 years old. It was awesome catching up with him. 

National Pro, Noah Clark teaching a riding school

 I even got my bike out of the cobwebs and did some riding. I still love the feeling of going fast on the trails through the woods. 

The main focus of our time at the ranch was one of our races that we promote and organize. I love to spend time in the woods putting markers up on trees and marking off the course. The event went well this year with over 240 riders attending. We had no major injuries and the race went off without a hitch. Just the way we like it. 

We went to Will's Choir competition and Band concert (The boy does it all), Isabella's band concert and then Amelia's Ballet recital. It was a full schedule, but we loved it all.  

We left the ranch on May 18th. We spent the next few days at each of our children's houses. The first night was at Mark's new house. We had dinner with Mark and Callie, his soon to be wife, and then were the first houseguests in the guest room. The next day we spent at Shannon and Brian's house and then went to our oldest Grand Daughter, Hannah's College Graduation. She just completed a 3 year program in Occupational Therapy.  Then back to Michael's in Arkansas for a quick visit. It was a crazy busy trip, but we really love and need our family time. We ended up sleeping in 5 different beds in 6 days. 

Now we are back at the boat and we have had some time to relax, but I have been focused on getting our engine diagnosed and hopefully working perfectly. We had a mechanic come to the boat and told us the engine is solid, the smoke looks like a fuel injector problem, but he wanted me to go through the cooling system also. I have spent the last few days doing that. I pulled apart the heat exchanger, the raw water pump and replaced all gaskets and seals. That part should be good to go. I decided to order new injectors. The mechanic will be here tomorrow to install them. 

You may ask, why are we so focused on getting this engine perfect? Well, we have big plans for the next 2 years. We are going to be heading back up the river to Demopolis for hurricane season. It was bad down here last year and we want no part of that. We will leave Demopolis when the season is over and head for Florida. We would like to get the boat in South Florida by mid December. We will leave the boat and fly back to Missouri and then drive to Colorado for a family gathering with all of our kids and grandkids in the mountains. We are hoping to get everyone on the slopes, including us. We will then go back to the boat and hang out in the Keys until the Christmas winds die down in February to March. Then we will head to the Bahamas. We may sail with at least one other boat, but we will see how all of our plans sync up. Then in June or so, we will head north along the eastern US. We are hoping to make it to Maine for the hottest part of the summer. Then start heading south again. It has always been our dream to make this trip and the reason we started this crazy sailing adventure in the first place. We think we are ready, we are hoping the boat is ready. Pray for us, we will probably need it. 

That is about it for now. I will leave you with a nice sunset from our time in Missouri. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Real Time update and 3 Day Sail Exploring Gulf Islands

 It has been a little over a month since I have written in this blog. It seems that we have been very busy while we were at the marina in Gulfport. Hanging out with new friends and working on our boats. Then we went on a great 3 day trip out to the islands, which I will write about in this entry. We then had a short window to get in the truck and head north to see our son, Michael and his family before he went into an outage at his Nuclear Plant, which seriously limits his availability. We then continued on up to Missouri to see the rest of the grandkids and spend some time on the ranch. We have an event here at the ranch on May 16, which we will assist with, and then we are hoping to attend our grand daughters college graduation before heading back to the boat. 

I am sitting here today and it is snowing! Yep, snowing on April 20. I have been watching this crazy Cardinal all morning flying into the windows on the RV thinking he is attacking his adversary, while in fact he is attacking his own reflection. 

Crazy Cardinal attacking our window.

Back at the end of March, we noticed a new boat had arrived on our pier. Not just any boat, but an Island Packet, the same brand as SHIFT. Her name is Moosetracks from Houston, Texas. She is a 45, making her 10 feet longer than SHIFT. Her owners are Brian and Gill. They sail with their two Blonde Golden Retrievers. I didn't get many shots of them, but here are a couple:

Moosetracks in the marina. She is immaculate. You can see Gill along with Winston and Henley on the dock.

Gill taking Winston and Henley for a walk

We had a great time getting to know these two. They have recently retired and are just starting their sailing life. Brian has much more sailing experience than I do including a trip from Hawaii to California, so it was great to talk sailing with him. We also spent some time going over the charts to discuss their options for their upcoming trip to Florida and the Bahamas. We also spent a couple evenings playing dominoes and cards. We got together with another couple, Bill and Annie, that sail on an Island Packet in the marina and went out to dinner. Yes, we actually went to a restaurant and had a sit down meal. We all commented on how much we had missed that over the last year during these crazy COVID times. 

Here is a shot I took of Bill's beautiful IP 485, Sea Cloud.

We had some rough weather for a couple of weeks, so we just stayed in the marina and got some boat projects done. Brian and Gill were waiting for the right wind to go East to Pensacola and then off shore further east. We had also been waiting for the right wind to go east along the Gulf Island National Seashore. We had been watching the weather and we found a good day on April 4. The wind was predicted to start out from due East, which would allow us to go south  to Ship Island and then clock around to the south, which would allow us to head east up the chain of islands. Much to our delight, Brian and Gill decided to go with us.

April 4th dawned a beautiful day, with light winds. We got going and once we got in the sound, we raised the sails and shut off the motor. The wind filled in and we had a nice sail out to Ship Island. I took a few shots of Moosetracks under sail. She is a beauty. 

Moosetracks an IP 45 under full canvas

So pretty! and Fast.

Moosetracks sailed right past us making about a half knot better than we were. 

We were hard on the wind all day trying to make the best angle we could to get east. When we got to Ship Island, we tacked back and headed to Pascagoula, Mississippi. The wind did clock around as predicted, but not far and fast enough for our plans. We ended up sailing about 45 miles to make 40 miles East of Gulfport. We ended up motoring the last 3 miles to make our anchorage at Petit Bois Island before the sun went down. It was a 10.5 hour sailing day, but it was sure fun sailing alongside our new friends. 

The wind died down over night as predicted and we had a very nice sunset and calm night. 

Beautiful sunset at Petit Bois Island

Brain and Gill had a little trouble with their windlass, but finally got set. The problem would cause them more issues the following morning. 

We awoke to a beautiful morning, but were sad to see Brain and Gill head out. We went on deck to waive goodbye, but that took longer than we both expected. The windlass was giving them trouble again and they ended up running aground. We dropped our dinghy and installed the outboard. I was able to push them into deeper water and they were on their way. Fair winds, Brian and Gill, we can't wait to see you again. 

We then headed to shore to explore this uninhabited island. It is a beautiful sand spit with some fresh water lakes. It took us a while to find our way across to the gulf side, but when we did, we found a beautiful pristine beach that we had all to ourselves. It was one of our best experiences yet!

SHIFT at anchor off of Petit Bois Island

Our dinghy, "Zoom", tied up on the sound side of the island.

Just another Kim on a beach photo. She spent a bunch of time picking up trash and putting in in Zoom. We later took it back to the marina to discard. 

This is a shot of Kim on the gulf side beach. It was one of our favorite beaches we have been to in all of the years we have been traveling and we had it all to ourselves. 

Lots and lots of shells. 

I shot more video than still images, which I plan to make into a vlog entry. We could sit on the beach and watch the surf roll in and then turn and see SHIFT at anchor on the protected side of the island. It was perfect. 

We went back to the boat and had lunch. We then decided to head west 18 miles to Horn Island. We had light winds when we started, but then it dropped off to nothing and we had to motor about half the way to make it before it got dark. I wanted to try something that I have not done before. We left the dinghy in the water and used the bow line called a "painter" to tow it behind SHIFT. It worked very well and made it easy when we arrived at Horn to go ashore.

Here is Zoom behind SHIFT. 

We went ashore after we arrived and stayed until sunset. We could not cross the island, it is a much bigger island than Petit Bois, but still very beautiful and humans

SHIFT at anchor about a quarter mile off shore. The chart showed shallow water, but I think it was wrong. 

We walked down the beach a ways.

Right after we landed the dinghy we noticed some tracks that looked a bit strange. We later confirmed our suspicions that these were in fact Alligator tracks. The creatures leave the inland marshes and go hunting on the sound side. We never saw a live one, but we will think twice before swimming in these waters. 

That is an Alligator track

Kim's hand for perspective

 We took a few shots of SHIFT at anchor with the sun setting. 

Cool shot

SHIFT at Horn Island

SHIFT has a very wide beam, which you can see from the stern. 

We finally got our sunset over the water.

We had a weather forecast for increasing winds the next day out of the Southeast. We decided that we would raise the dinghy and head out early to do the downwind sail back to the marina in Gulfport.

A beautiful sunrise at Horn Island.

We had good wind directly on our tail as predicted. We put the Genoa on the Starboard side and the main on the port and attached a line called a "preventer" to keep it from accidently gybing (or swinging across the boat).  We had an awesome 25 mile sail. As we neared the channel the seas were building in the 15 knot breeze. We dropped the sails and headed in. That is when I noticed something that has bothered me since. I powered up the engine a little more than I normally do, but still way below the recommended RPM to get into the inlet in the rough seas. The engine exhaust was putting out more white smoke than I have ever seen. We did not have time to get it checked out by a mechanic before we left, so that will have to wait until we head back to the coast next month. 

That will be it for this entry, I have a few more things to write about, so there may be some more entries in the coming weeks. Thanks for reading. 

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Sail out to Ship Island

 When we first arrived in Gulfport, we knew we wanted to sail out to the barrier islands that make up the gulf side of the Mississippi Sound. We had sailed along them on our trip to Gulfport from Mobile, and they looked beautiful. We have made a number of day sails out to the water around the islands, but the conditions have never been right to drop the hook and spend the night. 

We have been warned by many sailors in the marina that the islands can be treacherous. They offer no protection from the wind and waves other than a south wind. I have been waiting for warmer weather, good wind during the day that would drop off overnight, and out of the south. The forecast for March 12th and 13th, was for exactly those conditions. The only problem is that Ship Island is directly SE of Gulfport. That was the direction of the wind, which meant we could not sail directly there. We would have to make a number of tacks to get to our target. 

We left the marina at 10AM. I almost made a major mistake as we left, by getting in a hurry and missing a major item on my checklist. I forgot to open the raw water through hull that provides cooling water to the engine. I caught it in time and all was OK, but it still bothered me all day that I would make such a significant mistake. I have since added some additional safeguards to reduce the chance that I would make such a mistake again. 

As soon as we were in open water, we had the sails up and headed out in the direction of Cat Island. The wind was strong at about 15 knots and we were moving at 6-7 knots under full sails. We made it to Cat island in less than 2 hours. That anchorage looked a bit rolly with the strong wind, so we tacked and headed in the direction of Biloxi. That was a long leg at over 2 hours and almost 15 miles. The conditions were perfect. That is when I recorded the first part of the video below:

Click this link to see a short video about our trip: Sail to Ship Island

Sometimes video just captures the scene better, but here are a few shots of our sail:

We are showing 6.8 knots on the GPS. We saw over 8 a few times this day.

Cat Island off the port bow.

SHIFT in her element! Cruising along with good wind.

As we approached the beach in Biloxi, we could see people on the beach and tell what brand of car was on Beach Blvd.. We then made another tack and headed back SW. We sailed all the way out the pass between Cat and Ship island into the open Gulf of Mexico. We then tacked back two more short ones and then motored the last half mile to the anchorage. The wind was dying off throughout the afternoon, so the anchorage was reasonably calm. We dropped the hook in 24 feet of water and settled in for the night. 

Our view of the fort and pier on Ship Island

A view without the sailboat hardware. 

We had the anchorage all to ourselves as we settled in for the sunset. Just as the sun was going down a catamaran joined us, but dropped the hook a good distance down the beach. 

Nice Sunset at Ship Island

Our neighbor for the evening

The wind died of to nothing as forecast. We had a very restful night. When we awoke the next morning, we were in a thick fog. It was so thick we could not see the island or pier.

Thick fog, no island. 

Around 9 am the fog lifted enough for us to get the dinghy down and put the motor on and make the short trip to shore. It has been since last summer that we had used the dinghy, but I have done the maintenance and it ran perfectly. 

SHIFT at anchor shrouded in the fog

Just another shot of our home

Our little dinghy tied to the pier.

Fort Massachusetts on Ship Island.

This is the main entrance to the fort, but it was closed.

Lots of damage from hurricane Zeta, that is not being repaired.

These Redwing Blackbirds were very friendly and followed us around as we explored the island.

There is a significant amount of infrastructure on this island. There are bathrooms and rangers quarters and even a snack bar. All were damaged by hurricane Zeta. The strange thing is there is no work going on to repair the damage in preparation for the coming summer season. I am not sure what is going on, I plan to do some research to better understand why.

There is a boardwalk across the island to the gulf side beach. Much of the walkway was destroyed, but previous visitors have found planks and laid them across the supports to make it possible to visit the beach. We all know that one of the main objectives was for Kim to take a walk on the beach. On this day we had the beach all to ourselves. It was foggy, but still beautiful.

Kim is never happier than when she is on a beach.

The view down this empty beach. The only footprints were ours. There are plenty of beautiful shells, but you shouldn't take them, it is a National Park.

Nice shore break on the gulf side. I want to surf fish there one day.

There is a big cannon up there on the top, I wish we could have gone inside to look around. 

We went back to the boat and I fished for a couple of hours. I caught 4 fish, but all Gaftop Sail Catfish, which I don't eat. It was then about 1 PM and even though the wind was still light, we pulled the anchor and started our sail back to Gulfport. The good news is the light wind was right behind us for a downwind sail back to the marina. As we went, the wind picked up a bit and we had a fun sail until the fog rolled in. At one point we could not see more than 100 yards. I was able to use by instruments to make the approach. We made the channel in the dense fog and felt our way to our slip. As luck would have it, a half hour after arrival the visibility was about 5 miles. All in all it was a great trip and we can't wait to go back out see some of the other islands. The problem will be waiting for the perfect forecast. 

We have had a warm week here in Gulfport with some highs in the low 80's, but last night that all changed. We had a strong line of thunderstorms hit us at about 9 pm with 45 knot gusts. It reinforced our thinking that we don't want to be out of the marina when the storms are around. That will influence our plans over the next few months. In my next entry, I will talk about our plans.