Monday, June 28, 2021

The Latest on Engine Issues and Plans

 I have been trying to get myself to write this update, but it has been hard to get the motivation. I hate to deliver bad news. In my last entry, we had just removed the injectors and precombustion chambers and were ready to put the motor back together with new injectors. 

We scheduled the time with the mechanic to make sure the installation was done correctly. The good news is that it all went well and in about an hour we were ready to start the engine. The bad news is that when we did start the engine, we had the same problem as before. We are still getting white smoke at high RPM when the engine is under load. To say I was disappointed, would be an understatement. I spent the next couple of days consulting with every other person I could think of as to the next step. I was thinking the injection pump, which was recently rebuilt, but dismissed that when I called the place that rebuilds them and they told me that was not the problem. One thing that was suggested is that the prop was extremely fouled with either a fishing line or just growth. We decided to take the boat out and dive on the prop to check it out. We also really needed a day out on the water. 

We sailed out to Cat Island and dropped the hook. The water is not real clear, but with my mask, I could see and feel the prop. I was happy to see the prop only had two small barnacles on it that were easily removed. I checked the entire bottom of SHIFT and was very happy with the lack of growth. The new antifoul paint that was applied in Demopolis in November was working well. I did find some barnacle growth above the boot stripe on the stern of the boat, but was able to clean that up easily. It felt good to go for a swim and sail the boat for a while.

Kim enjoying a swim even if it included some cleaning of the boat.

We had an exciting return to the marina when a thunderstorm popped up. We were close to the inlet and decided to drop the sails and motor in. Just as we turned to line up for the channel the wind shifted 180 degrees and picked up to 25 knots. Not a big deal, but it was noisy. We still had the white smoke as I brought the engine up over 2500 RPM. Frustrating...

I put a post on a Yanmar facebook group that I am a member of. I had lots of good suggestions, so I spent the next week checking those out. I found nothing that looked like a problem and no change. Here is a link to a video I posted to show the group what it was doing: Engine Problems  

This has been my office for the past month. I was checking the raw water system to make sure we had good flow...we did. I also removed the exhaust system and had it cleaned at a local radiator change. I am beginning to think this engine is very worn and the smoke is coming from burning oil, which would mean that we will need to have the engine rebuilt or replaced. 

I have been searching all over this area to find someone that will come out to the boat and check out the engine that has significant experience with this Yanmar diesel. I have called three Yanmar Dealers, but can't get any of them to call me back. We even drove to Mobile one day to try to talk to one of them, but the service manager was not in and even after the secretary showed me the note that was on his desk, he still did not call me back. Unbelievable!

I was finally given a name of a single guy that is local in the Gulfport area that works out of his own small shop. He does not advertise, but I understand he is very good. I called and he answered the phone. He is busy, but has promised to get out here this week...we will see. 

While all of this has been going on, I have been watching the Tombigbee river. It is still our plan to head up the river for hurricane season. The river has been at flood stage, so going up the river has been impossible. The good news is that it is coming down and a passage might be possible as early as next week. We may be ready and we may not. I am really uncomfortable motoring the 300 miles from here up the river to Demopolis with an engine that is not solid. Once we leave Mobile it is 210 miles of no services of any kind.

I have also been looking into replacing the engine. I still need to do some more research, but I think I have found a good option. We may go that route, if the tech tells us the engine is not reliable.  So, that is the update for now. 

While this has all been going on, we had Tropical Storm Claudette pay us a visit. The storm was pretty much a direct hit on Gulfport. It came at night and brought with it some 50 knot gusts. and about 3 feet of storm surge. The good news is the marina did not evacuate because the forecast was for much less. Kim and I took turns getting up during the night to check on things, but we got through it unscathed. 

The following day was a wedding shower for our future Daughter in Law in her home town of New Orleans. We were not sure if Kim could make it, but we we awoke, the storm had mostly passed, and the water had receded. We made the 70 mile trip to New Orleans and had a great day visiting with Mark and Callie and Callies Mom, Christie. 

Last Saturday night, we had a dock party here in the marina. We are blessed to have a great band that is called Dock 4. We are on Dock 4 and many of the members are current or past slip holders on our dock. We had an enjoyable time listening to music and talking to other boaters. 


Dock 4 playing at our dock party. They are an excellent band and we really enjoyed listening to them. 

Well, that is about it for this entry, I hope to write again after we get a diagnosis of the engine and finally we should have a plan going forward. 

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.