Boogie Nights

"Ever wondered what it's like to live the dream, with damp elbows and a feint whiff of your close friends toilet habits? This is a yachting blog with a difference, as we go on a journey of discovery, a journey of stupid ideas and ridiculous adventures. The daily commute will never look the same again."

21 August 2016

Diesel fitter


Have you heard the one about the two Irish fellows made redundant from their factory jobs and queuing for their job seekers allowance?

Two good mates Paddy and Murphy wait in line. First Paddy gets called forward and at the counter the lady informs him that the allowance he will get is based on the skill level of his previous job.
So he very proudly explains that he was a panty stitcher at the factory and it took him two years to train for the job as an apprentice.
Our lady looks up the job in her book of job descriptions and informs him that it’s a semi skilled job and he would receive 50 euros a week.

“Right you are” he says, and tells Murphy he’ll be next door at the pub.

Murphy steps up to the counter. Our lady asks him what job he did before in order for her to look up the skill level in the book.
He proudly tells her he was a diesel fitter.
She looks that up and tells him that it’s considered a skilled job so he’ll receive 60 euros a week.
Happy with that, he skips next door to join his mate for a pint.
As they discuss their allowance, Paddy is disgusted to hear that his mate Murphy has been given more than him. He marches back round next door to speak to the lady behind the counter and demands an explanation.

Well, sir, you are semi skilled as a seamster, stitching panties. Your mate there, he’s a diesel fitter, which is a skilled job. According to my book here.
Paddy, quite animated now responds to her,

“My mate there was in quality control! How skilled do you have to be to put a pair of panties on your head and shout ‘diesel fit ‘er’ ?”   


Badoom tish!

For the duration of June, July and part of August I have taken on the additional role of diesel fitter, alongside the usual hobbies of sewing, guffawing, drinking wine, writing cod -shite on here, researching for a masters degree major project and attempting to hang onto my current full-time job as a lecturer. (not necessarily all at the same time)

It all started back in Kinsale when the engine cut out just 3 or 4 minutes after we started it, having crossed the finish line of the first leg of the Triangle Race after a particularly choppy Irish Sea crossing.
Since then it has been a catalogue of sporadic running and annoying unreliability.

I already knew every centimetre of diesel hose and the tank fitment, having fitted it personally just three years ago. I thought, foolishly, that by running it on white diesel that I was keeping the chances of acquiring tainted diesel to a minimum as well as avoiding hassle when sailing to Holland or Belgium. Turns out, this isn't the case. *

I've been lucky, generally having engine trouble while moored up which has been mildly inconvenient, rather than in the middle of dangerous/tricky manoeuvres which could have been boat breaking or costly.

The engine had cut out enough times now that I had the process of re-bleeding fuel into the system down to a 30 minute art which included time for a drink and a snack.

On my last visit to the chandlery I had bought a short piece of extra diesel hose and a priming bulb.

It was while moored up rather clandestinely to a buoy in Poole harbour that the engine cut out once again. "No problem, I'll get that going again in no time." I thought, but after using the new priming bulb to bleed off nearly 15 litres of orange diesel it was increasingly apparent that the problem was tainted fuel and there was no point starting the engine again using dirty fuel.

orange bacteria diesel on the left, clean white diesel on the right

I got the dinghy out and called the local chandlery, Piplers of Poole to see if they had diesel treatment in stock. two bottles of Marine 16, a biocide which is recommended by the RNLI and neutralises diesel bug, were set aside for me. Now all I had to do was get ashore. It was one mile across the middle of Poole harbour. Life jacket on, waterproof vhf radio clipped to me and a dry bag with phone and wallet in the dinghy, I set off paddling.
Almost half way across the harbour a friendly jetskier came over to ask if I was alright. You don't see people rowing small dinghies, everyone has engines. I tried to reassure him that I was fine, but he insisted he give me a tow across the busy part of the harbour. (where the ferries go through)
I accepted on the condition he go slow.

what resulted was something like this:

"I arrived at the chandlery somewhat earlier than I had anticipated and soaked to the skin, mostly down my left side. I asked the chap behind the chandlery counter not to judge me as a I squelched off with my two bottles of diesel treatment."

a cheap childrens gardening mat is great to save the knees on a hard floor.  
Both bottles were emptied into the fuel tank then a bit of online research to find a local diesel polishing service. The biocide would take up to 72 hours to work but the tank would still need emptying and cleaning.
There was no point getting the engine going there and then a day before the appointment to get the diesel filtered, instead waiting until just two or three hours the before heading to a marina that I had arranged a berth at the following day. There was some misplaced confidence that the engine would be running again in record time.
using a flexible funnel as a way to give some "head" to the diesel which allows it to flow easily into the engine unassisted.
A sewing machine oiling bottle makes a great mini diesel primer for filling up the air gap in fuel filter bowl

modification, using an outboard primer bulb
Now after all of the above had been tried, the diesel still wouldn't prime through the engine. The priming bulb seemed to be solid and not pumping. The fault seemed to be with the lift pump. Fuel simply wasn't getting through it.
I called a Yanmar specialist. I explained all of the steps I had taken. He suggested removing the banjo bolts from either side of the lift pump and clearing it with a cocktail stick or needle.
As luck has it, I have kebab sticks, cocktail sticks and a variety of needles on board.
But nothing seemed to be working. What I wanted to do was blow through the lift pump but it's impossible to access.
Then as I was on my knees praying to the sacred Yanmar, something caught my eye.
Next to me, hung my bicycle frame, complete with puncture repair kit and pump.

useful for inflating tyres, clearing diesel lines and lift pumps

I took the pump off the bike, quickly disassembled the valve fitting to reveal a simple tube, which as luck would have it, was a perfect fit for the diesel hose. I put a banjo bolt on the end of the short piece of spare diesel hose, then attached to the fuel-in side of the lift pump.
Attempting to pump air through was met with solid resistance. No air would pass through at all. I figured I had little to lose by insisting a bit. It's a high pressure pump. So I gave it some effort.
A couple of pumps to build up pressure and then PAFF! Splat. Out blew a black gob of shite and diesel spray.

Fuck yes! We were back in action. Reattaching the primer bulb,  it easily and rapidly had fuel wooshing out from every open orifice. Close them off, fire up the engine and we were good to go.

temporary fuel tank allows 45 minutes of motoring
Motoring around to the marina at reduced revs to avoid excessive fuel consumption, it used 1.6 litres, which was perfect timing for the makeshift 1.75 litre Diet Coke fuel tank.

diesel polishing system, by
Highly recommend this mobile service covering most of the south coast.

this was a pristine new fuel tank just three years ago. thankfully with inspection hatch.
That black stuff is dead diesel bug sludge. 
The fuel was pumped out, filtered, the tank was vacuumed dry and wiped clean. The fuel hoses were air lined to clear out any remnant bits of diesel bug goop and then the fuel was put back into the tank. It took just less than 5 minutes to pump 125 litres out of the tank, then another 5 minutes to filter it and pump it back in. It was just three hours to get the fuel system tiptop again.

The Yanmar 3GM started almost immediately after turning over just a couple of times. It was then watched for a while, looking for any diesel leaks and nipping up hose clips or quickly swapping an old copper washer for a new one.

I expect there will be diesel leaks from any of the many places that have been undone and done back up again numerous times during the struggle to get it primed, so I'll be keeping an eye on it.

The engine has a nappy to catch any diesel drips, so it doesn't slosh around if there's a leak when sailing.

* white diesel = beware that white diesel from the forecourts of British fuel stations now contains a small percentage of bio-diesel. This is a weakness in the "use by date" of diesel. If it sits in a warm or damp tank for any length of time, as is common with sailing boat fuel tanks, then you stand a risk of bacterial blooming. Use of a biocide is a good idea to stop it before it has a chance to get started. 

buy the biggest lowest cost nappies available, they make great diesel soaks and are much cheaper than marine versions. 
fresh engine nappy.

19 August 2016

Defeat, Deelbows and Dediesel

A freshly un-silenced Disco Barbie tells the story of the third and final leg of the 2016 Triangle Race.

Yo suckers, I've got her hat...
As we finally tied up alongside James Jermain's shiny new Catamaran, Echo on 23rd June in Torquay, 11 days after our departure and with an additional 950Nm on the trip meter, there was no jubilation, no elation, no high fives or fist pumps. There was just a nagging feeling of failure and a distinct whiff of diesel.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The departure out of Treguier river was beautiful with sunshine and a very gentle breeze.

The start was serene and the fleet wafted gracefully around the place and eventually over the start line.
The wind was once again on the nose, but this time less of it.

committee boat

The usual 10 or 12 hours of rapid crossing from Treguier to Torquay (it's about 90 nautical miles) would be replaced with a slow upwind battle.
Boogie Nights isn't equipped for light wind sailing particularly. We don't have a fancy light airs code wotsitorother and we don't have a massive genoa (no never met her)
The "ickle" jib, called Mistress Jibima we've got is perfect for bashing away across the Irish sea into 30 knots of snot, but not so perfect for this wind seeking.

Big Doris with Anthony and Yves one and only leg of the 2016 Triangle race. But would make it count as they would go on to win the class 1 race to Torquay. Well sailed team Big Doris. 

Jaldi, a J105  owned and skippered by Mary Sturgess had a slightly disappointing race in terms of results. The race has been won previously by two J105's but this year it was a race for the heavier cruisers.

After an expensive beasting across the Irish sea, a crash gybe run to France, we now faced an upwind, no wind run across the channel back to Torquay.

It was slow, infuriating and soul sapping. I nearly cut my own cable tie. I was ready to give up. Except I float and I'd probably get picked up again as they slowly drifted by.

We had a magnicifent sunset though and this kept spirits up for a while.

Jayne taking a picture of Sue taking a picture
France is behind us but where is Torquay?

60 miles and 24 hours into the crossing we hit a wind hole. We parked up for a little while. I felt a bit daft really holding my arms in the air like I'm commanded to do, when we weren't actually moving.

Jayne looked at Sue.
Sue looked at Jayne.
Jayne looked at the chart again. Then she looked at the ais radar screen.
Then back at the chart plotter. The skippers concurred. There was absolutely nothing to be gained from sitting out in the channel, uncompetitive, at the back of the fleet.

It was with deep sighs and resignation of defeat that the engine was turned on. The time taken and then my plastic, slightly sun damaged nose was pointed directly at Torquay, 30 miles away. Arms aloft. Come on, there's at least drinks to be had in port.

Jayne went for a lay down but couldn't sleep despite looking tired.
So she got up and gave Sue a much needed break after both had had a sleepless night before. At the very moment they swapped places, the engine note dipped dramatically. Then recovered.
Jayne nursed the throttle for the next hour as the calm sea state allowed good straight line progress.

As we neared Torbay, the dolphins jumped and played all around us. I'd sent out a message (the ability to speak dolphin is passed from one figure head to the next thankfully) for them to come and cheer Jayne up. Dolphins always make her smile.

And then the engine finally conked out.

Five miles from Torquay.

Sue jumped on the helm and got us moving under sail again while Jayne started to pull things apart around the engine. Pulling out the box of engine spares and making ready with spare diesel.
Priming the engine has always been difficult.

pineapple juice? No, it's diesel. 
Jayne may have had a helping hand.
Interesting hat you got there Grace...

Sue exclaimed it was perhaps the best bit of sailing in two weeks!
Meanwhile, Jayne had her sleeves rolled up, filters were swapped out, dodgy looking diesel was bled off from the diesel trap and all air voids filled with the use of a jug and a steady hand.
The engine refused to prime though and the lift pump wasn't lifting the fuel into the system as it should.

After exhausting all of her knowledge at the time, Jayne phoned through to race control to see if anyone had a rib or motorboat that could be used for a tow.
A fellow Triangleur was press ganged into helping.
After a scrappy and ill thought out plan of entry which involved a quick lesson for a long keeler on how fin keels work, and some fraught moments that had me ready to sacrifice myself to fend us off a sea wall, we somehow ended up tied up alongside Echo, James Jermain's new catamaran.

That was the end of the Triangle 2016 for Boogie Nights. Jayne sat in the cockpit, head in hands utterly dejected, silently and mentally adding up the financial and emotional cost of the past two weeks and wondering how to explain quitting a race.

But then the news broke for the final results and it couldn't have been better.
Amylou, a Maxi 1100 won the race overall. Having beaten off out-out race boats, the Maxi had raced with all the comforts of home which include scatter cushions, an electric kettle, a cockpit table and cockpit tent as well as hosting several drinks parties at each of the stop overs.

first place: Amylou skippered by Gary and Russell. 

But the good news kept coming. Katisha, the Contessa 32, which is the oldest and lowest IRC rated boat in the fleet for several race editions, won their category on each of the legs, giving them the treble and third in the race overall with an X-34 called eXehibitionist sandwiched in 2nd overall.

This is what the triangle race is all about.

for a full list of the results you can look here:

Despite the battering, despite the cost of the repairs, Boogie Nights will be back for another Triangle Race.

Meanwhile, there's a small matter of a sorting that engine out...

thanks to the two narrators of the story, Disco Barbie and Grace O'Mally.

two ship rivals, the figure head and the mischief maker. 

and the two skippers for taking good care of the boat and themselves in difficult conditions. 

Inna Flapp and Clara Onnatopp, later subbed for Lynn Goodhead. 

an easy way to silence a Barbie?
Her elbows don't bend. 

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