Sunday, March 16, 2014

A very worrisome day

The rest of the story about the starter on the Onan is that I put it back on, started the genset and it went downhill from there.  I ran the gennie for maybe a couple of minutes, shut it off and thought “I should check the oil”.  When I pulled the dipstick it looked like it had come out of a chocolate milkshake. I’m still not 100% sure what happened but with the benefit of 2 days hindsight here’s the current theory:

When we got back out to the boat in December I immediately changed oil in the engines and the genset.  At that time I ran the gennie briefly but it hasn’t run since then.  In the interim its been consistently cold and wet.  I think that lead to accumulation of condensation in the crankcase which was sufficient to whip the oil into a gray emulsion when I only ran the gennie for a brief period.  If I had run the generator “normally” it would have warmed up, burned off the water in the oil and by the time I shut it down I would never have known about the murky oil I had started out with.

Like I said initially, I’m not 100% sure that’s what happened but that’s the theory I’m running with.  I spent a sleepless night while the emulsion drained out, changed the oil in the morning, ran the gennie for about an hour and a half and then checked the oil again.  At that point the oil was as clean as when it came out of the jug and more importantly, the gennie never hiccuped or overheated.  So I don’t think I really ever had a problem but it sure scared the hell out of me.  And I’m going to carry a head gasket rebuild kit when we leave for Alaska, just in case.  There’s a really good website called SmokStak.com that is devoted to antique iron.  Its my go-to location for information about my two old Onans.  Through that connection I have found a guy in Washington who still has some Onan parts so that’s likely where the head gasket repair kit will come from.  The guy at Delta Marine in Sidney is also a really good resource so I’ll likely check with him tomorrow before I make a deal with the guy in Washington.

The guy in Washington also told me that the reason my Mitsubishi starter wouldn’t fit is because when Onan switched to Mitsubishi they needed to use an adapter plate with every starter.  So the guy in Selkirk – he had also been an Onan dealer – who sold me the Mitsubishi starter would have known it couldn’t work without that adapter plate.  In other words, I was whizzed by a Ukrainian ex-Onan dealer.   Bastard.

We got back to Cow Bay about 4:00 yesterday afternoon.  In the morning we did the work party thing at the clubhouse and then they fed us lunch.  Their work parties are a pretty easy gig – they don’t start until 10:00 AM and they wrap up with lunch.  This time the goal was to clean up the building and yard in preparation for some big sailboat race next weekend.  My job was helping set up a tent on the deck and then sweeping leaves off the patio.  As is usual in those situations there was a surplus of wanna-be supervisors but I made it clear from the start that I wasn’t there to make decisions.  Marilyn got to scrub toilets – fortunately I have never mastered that particular exercise.  I’m a piss poor vacuum cleaner operator too.

While I was sweeping the deck I got a call from neighbour Michael in Buchanan.  He had called the night before to say that they have been having a lot of frozen waterlines in town.  I had been a bit worried about that but what with all the more pressing immediate concerns and all the getting ready for Alaska stuff I hadn’t spent a lot of time worrying about frozen waterlines 1000 miles away.  Evidently right now the post office has no water and one house out by the highway is similarly frozen.  Likely there are other houses – like ours – where nobody is home and therefore nobody knows that they are also frozen. 

We blew the lines before we left but Michael – trooper that he is – went in yesterday and turned everything back on to see whether or not we were frozen up.  And it turns out we are not which is why he was calling me while I was sweeping leaves.  We agreed that we will waste  a bit of the village water in order to keep the line open for the next month.  This is the time of year when frozen lines are the most likely to occur.  Despite the fact that the surface is thawing, the frost keeps going deeper until about the 1st of May so we’ll let the water run for a month or so just to be safe.  We never come close to using our minimum so it won’t make any difference to our water bill.  I suppose someone will say we are wasting precious water resources but the alternative is letting the line freeze and then burning scarce hydrocarbons to dig it up in the spring.  Some days you just can’t win, particularly when enviro-quackery is involved.

As soon as we got back to The Bay we made a Walmart run.  It felt good to drive the big Ford again.  I bought three pails of Wallyworld oil but when I got home and did some crude route calculations it appears that will not be enough.  It takes about a pail and a half to do an oil change and I do them every 100 hours.  Based on my crude calculations I think the return trip to Juneau will be about a 300 hour adventure so that’s a minimum of 3 oil changes or 4.5 pails of oil.  I guess I’ll be making another Wallyworld trip on Monday although I’m not sure where I’m going to stash that much oil onboard.  Marilyn is encountering similar difficulties as she stuffs food and other provisions into every nook and cranny. 

Our goal is to leave next weekend or as soon after that as the weather is fit for a Georgia Strait crossing.  So the clock is definitely ticking now.  I talked to Terry-the-diver about buying a couple of used air tanks to use with the Hookah system that Van and Nancy gave us.  I’m kind of halfway looking forward to trying that out once the water warms up a bit although the shark that we saw on the dock two days ago will weigh heavily on my mind as I enter the water.  Terry is also going to come over today to give the underwater gear one last look before we leave. 

I’m about 90% certain we cut a crabpot line coming out of Bellingham earlier this week.  We ran through an absolute minefield of crabpots for about 4 hours.  At one point I saw one disappearing under the bow and there was simply nothing to do about it – it was too late to turn the wheel and too late to stop.  I think it ran down the starboard side, got caught on the stabilizer and snipped by the prop.  Snipped is better than wrapped and I may be making all this up but I don’t think so.  When we got to SNSYC, two days after the presumed crabpot incident, Marilyn found a crabpot float in the water amidships on Gray Hawk.  That float may have been there when we docked but I sure didn’t see it.  I think it managed to stay hanging on the stabilizer for two days and finally let go when we docked in Sidney.  It was trailing just about the right length of line to reach from the stabilizer fin to the prop and the end was frayed.  Whether or not that happened, I think its a good idea for Terry to look at our bottom before we leave. (later) Terry says our bottom is clean so the mystery remains but its all good.

2 comments:

Joey said...

1st time I seen your boat out of water, tell me it that a wood bottom and free board? When I hear you talk about old iron I remember my old 71 PaceMaker 47' Sportfish...

Jorgito's dad said...

They moulded lines into the hull to imitate wood strakes but she's all fibreglass. Its a non-cored hull, about an inch thick. The deck and house are wood core, fibreglassed over.