Hook down, boat stowed, New London, and all we want to do is relax for a while. Chill out.
But we’ve got to get the ball rolling. So we jump in the dink and row into Burr’s Marina. We run into Paul, just like we’d never left. We tell Paul what’s up and he says you need Billy and calls him up. He’s on his way and will be there in a half hour. Invited aboard for coffee, but we were drawn by the memory of soft serve ice cream from Fred’s Shanty.
Soft-served, we talked to Billy, who wondered if it could be the injector pump. Ugh. He walked us over to his boat where Carl was working.
We told the entire story for a third time (funny how people seem to want to hear it, even if they have no intention of helping diagnose the problem), and discussed getting him out to the boat where it sat at anchor the next day.
The ball was rolling, so we went to the convenience store for bread, chips, and soda.
Carl really is an incredible guy. He is a diesel mechanic of the highest level, working on these room-sized engines that produce outrageous amounts of power. There was nothing that was going to surprise him about our little diesel engine. We had a real diesel mechanic coming out to look at the engine and we felt like it was time to relax.
The next day, he showed up while we were finishing our coffee and proceeded to go through the same process we’d been through. But something caught his eye. Remember way back in the last blog when we said it was spitting the WD-40 back out at us? Well, according to Carl, this machine should not do that. He put his palm to the air intake and looked somber. He could feel light suction but also blowing. Not right.
He worked through all the possible problems with fuel and tentatively ruled them out, though he wasn’t satisfied with the amount of fuel that came through the pipe nuts at the injectors. Once again, though, this guy worked on diesels for icebreakers that burned 150,000 gallons per day. That’s a lot of fuel at the injectors.
He wanted to make sure our batteries were topped off and he wasn’t satisfied with the behavior of his charger/battery jumper. He also wanted to be able to come and go as he needed. So he talked us into letting him tow us into the marina. We gulped and agreed.
Pulled up the anchor and set up dock lines, did the fixed-dock dance with four lines in the exact same slip we’d spent some small time in last year.
At the end of the day, he had no firm answers. He wanted to go to his community of mechanics, each specializing in a different type, hoping that one of them knew what it meant when a Yanmar behaved badly in this particular fashion.
So we went sailing.
Not on our boat, but on the Schooner Argia out of Mystic. Our great friends Fred and Sue drove over from Westbrook to hang out, get some food, and feel some wind in their hair. It was a light-wind, easy-going sail and we got up-to-date on the life of Madeline, who we’d met last year on the Schooner Virginia. The schooner world is very, very small.
We had a great evening, drinking and talking, and a mild hangover the next day.
Carl had tried to contact James while we were out on the boat. He’d had an idea. Since James hadn’t answered, he came down to the boat the next morning and gave James his two cents (far more valuable than most people’s and worth a great deal more to us than two pennies).
He told us that he thought it was a clogged mixing elbow. The mixing elbow. From the manifold on a marine diesel engine, the exhaust comes straight up and goes through a 180 degree turn. At that elbow, the sea water that cools the manifold at the heat exchanger is injected into the exhaust.
This means that volatile gasses are mixed with salt water, all under pressure. As a point of failure, it could hardly be better designed to corrode through and allow water in the oil or exhaust in the cabin. However, that’s not what happened to ours.
The Yanmar 3GM30 is rated to run at 3400 RPM continuously and 3600 intermittently. We’d been running this engine at 2000 RPM for years, conserving on fuel, keeping down the noise, and going just about as fast as we wanted to. It’s not so good for diesels to be run gently all the time, though. It allows carbon to build up in the system.
In our case, it built up in the mixing elbow to the point where there was no where for the exhaust to go. We’d checked the air filter – even removed it altogether – so we thought nothing could be wrong with the air. We could decompress and actually feel the engine achieve compression. We kept thinking fuel, because it wasn’t compression!
So we pulled the elbow off the manifold, turned the engine over once, and it exploded into life.
Since this part is 1/3 or less the cost of a new injector pump, we were doing cartwheels. Even if we had to buy a new elbow, it was only going to be a couple-few hundred bucks. (A week or two in food money, but…)
We asked Carl if we’d be able to clean it out and he said we should definitely try. We took the elbow assembling up to the shop at Burr’s Marina, took it apart, and discovered that there was, indeed, nothing passing through that channel. No light, no air. Nothing.
When we tried to clear the blockage, we couldn’t even make a dent in it with a hammer and a screwdriver. Couldn’t chip pieces of aged carbon off with an ice pick!
Just when we were starting to do some internet searching pricing the elbow, Billy walked in and threw what looked to be a brand new Yanmar mixing elbow on the table. He said no guarantees on free shit. We both stood with our mouths open. Are you fucking kidding me?
So we installed the new elbow, started the engine, ran her for a few hours, and took off the next day. We motored at 3000 RPM (we may be pitched wrong on our prop) for six hours between New London and Dutch Harbor, RI, one of our favorite places in the world. The engine ran strongly the entire time.
We’ve been here a couple days because the weather turned crappy on us. We needed the time off, though, and it’s such a beautiful place to decompress. We’ve had some chemical assistance in the form of shots of rum and whiskey (not together), chased by ginger ale and cran-cherry. Sweeee-eeet!
Walking around town has been some gentle exercise, and everyone has been welcoming.
…And the scenery, well, we can’t complain.
We had one clear day and one foggy day.
We plan a long day tomorrow, pushing to Onset at the mouth of the Cape Cod Canal if the conditions allow.
That was a good story, er, well they are all good stories. That’s why I check your blog every day.
What I should have said: that was a good DIESEL story.
Diesels, a love/hate relationship. Problem is they don’t talk much. They quietly do their job, never complaining, and even when their health starts going south, they keep chugging along, rarely speaking a cross word. Often we don’t know they’re sick til they completely give up the ghost.
So, yours was faithful til death, then some walk-on-water mechanic breathed life back into the dearly departed.
Like I said, a good diesel story.
I just love that you gentled your motor to death. That’s gotta be a parable of some kind.
Hope your shot north was heaven yesterday.
A good diesel story (for me) usually ends with the engine being torn out, cleaned up, tossed over board and used as a mooring!
… And we really did want that to happen until it started and ran.
Love/hate, that is the best way to describe it.
I hate the fact that internal combustion technology is killing our planet and I love starting that killer after hours of doldrums.