Running Rigging, The first ride, and engine tragedy!

I missed a weekend on the boat and then went back this previous weekend for more work. It took a while to get all of the lines in for the running rigging since I had to order bulk. Most places charge similar amounts for the line, but West Marine had the best bulk discount. Interesting because they seem to be more expensive on most things. So I ordered a 600' spool of 7/16" New England Ropes Sta-Set to replace all of the sheets and halyards. I also got 200' of 1/4" to do the topping lifts and outhauls. During the week I have been testing my woodworking skills at home on the teak magazine rack and front cabin door. The magazine rack will be my test project to see how my cleaning and finishing methods work. I will then apply what I learned to the door, which also needs to be glued back together in places. To clean the wood I used a mixture of detergent, bleach and TSP (tri-sodium phosphate) watered down and scrubbed on the wood. The mix didn't give the wood a consistent color so I upped the cleaning power with Ajax, which has the same chemical in single part teak cleaner at a fraction of the price. That cleaning did the trick on the magazine rack, so I went on with some light sanding. I went with lemon oil to finish and after applying to the magazine rack it looked amazing! The oil absorbed throughout the night and it is obvious more applications will be needed. All of this advice on cleaning and finishing come from Don Casey's books I wrote about previously. He says to re-oil after a week, so I'll see how that comes out. Maybe someday I will get into the whole varnishing thing, but for now oil will do well. I have enough projects to worry about before I go the lengths of varnish. I will begin on the door after I re-apply the oil and see how it comes out.

This weekend I took Jenny and my roommate Mark up to the boat for the work. I had already figured out the lengths for all of the lines before hand so all I had to do was measure, cut and run the new lines. We measured out the lines on the dock and then run them by attaching an end to an end of the existing lines, then pulling the new line through until it was fully run. It took a few hours of being out in the heat, but the result was stunning! It was the first change to the exterior I have done, and the new lines make it look sharp. I still need to buy a couple of shackles, and get the eye splices on the lines instead of knots,  I hope to learn how to do that this week.  While I was busy with the lines, Jenny has been working on stripping the wallpaper from bulkheads on the interior. She got most of the work done while I was doing the lines, and it is looking great.

After we finished the rigging, I planned on taking Windsong out for our first ride since the sea trial. I was extremely nervous due to the tight canal and unfamiliarity with the boat and river.  I had hoped to take the boat out to actually hoist sails in the Gulf, but I would be happy with a run up to the inlet and back. I did a little work on the engine before we left: I checked all fluid levels and topped off the coolant, I cleaned the raw water strainer, and I tried to install a new air filter element. Unfortunately, the new air filter element did not fit, so that will remain a to-do project.

The engine cranked up smoothly and after some nervy moments getting the boat away from the dock, we were riding smooth! I let out some fishing lines to troll once we got to the brackish water, hoping for some good lunkers. Around 2/3 of the way to the inlet, I noticed that some smoke or steam was coming from the engine, then all of a sudden a LOT of it. My heart immediately sank as I shut down the engine to check it out.

First we had to deal with the fact that we were free floating in a river only 2 times wide as the boat is long! One of the things I had meant to do that day was to test the anchoring system out, moreso so I know how to use it in practice than anything. I ran up and let loose the anchor as best I could with plenty of scope after the engine shut down, quickly gaining that experience.

I couldn't believe my sore luck.  The first time out on the boat and I already had a huge problem.  I had hoped to gain a bit more knowledge about everything before something broke like this, but I seem to have to learn through experience every time.  I am also worried that this will make me more terrified to ride the boat out of Inglis and bring her home.

When I checked out the engine, the expansion tank for the engine coolant had popped its lid and was spewing steam and coolant everywhere. I had noticed that the air silencer had popped off and had kinked a hose coming from it, maybe from me not sealing it correctly when trying to replace the element. So I put everything back where it should be and we let the engine cool down. A while later I give it a try and it cranks up without a problem. However, I notice that the oil pressure is pretty low, and the temperature reading is very high...not good. So we limp back home and as soon as we are about to enter the side canal where the house is, the coolant expansion tank explodes with more steam again. Thank goodness we got back though, and were able to dock up without problems. I didn't attempt the big turn around in the canal due to the engine, so we just docked with portside on the dock.

After thinking about it for a day, I think I may have an idea of what happened to the engine. First, the kink in the hose from the air silencer definitley had something to do with it, but that doesnt likely seem to be the main culprit as the engine still ran with high temp and low pressure after I fixed that. I may have also not sealed the raw water strainer correctly, not giving the raw water pump solid flow. But the primary concern is the belt tension. I remember checking the belt tension a few weekends ago and it was very loose. I had forgotten to tighten it, so will do so first thing when I get back up there. Aside from all of that, I may have to replace the impeller on the raw water pump if I did any damage. I will inspect the raw water circuit if none of the above works. Hopefully I can figure it all out this weekend and I'll do some other maintenance on the engine as well. To do list for next weekend:

  • oil change
  • oil filter change
  • primary and secondary fuel filter change
  • impeller inspection/replacement
  • belt tension adjustment/replacement
  • Get main and staysail sheets or splicing
  • Continue cleaning/restoring inside
  • Continue woodwork at home

I had planned on doing all of this this weekend, but I didn't expect the lines to get in either, so that took priority.

Overall the experience wasn't detrimental, unless I severely damaged the engine somehow, but I think I avoided that. If I can get it repaired, I will have built a lot of confidence in my ability to work with the engine. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I need to become self-sufficient, this means tackling the hard problems :) And aside from the engine experience, the ride up the river was very fun and the others enjoyed the ride. I also got to lower and raise the anchor! I still need to figure out how to use the fast gear on the windlass, but the slow one raised the heavy chain and anchor just fine, albeit slowly.

Here are pictures from Saturday.

Measuring the lines:

Running the lines:

Figuring out the ol' GPS:

The bowsprint is definitely the best seat in the house: