The Tyro Saga 6 – more problems


..with Lut who’s come over from Belgium to go sailing…and to see me.

Friday 17th July         brightish; light rain at times

Drove down with L, picking up reconditioned alternator en route.  The alternator man was chatty, and complimentary about ‘foreign women’ in general and L in particular.  Found boat completely dry in the bilges and with the domestic battery well-charged by the little solar panel.  Good news.  Refitted the alternator (eventually – we had to go shopping first) and the repaired sprayhood, to find the latter still had a rotten seam.  It’ll have to go back.  By the time it was all done the tide had gone down too far to run the engine and test the alternator, so that had to wait till later.  Meanwhile we cooked a delicious penne alla Bolognese with stir-fried mange tout.

Saturday 18th                       rain o/n; warm and sunny

Luke was expected at 0930 to examine the gearbox and assuming it got a clean bill of health we were ready to go.  ‘Whither?’ was a question to consider as all the marinas in the central Solent were full or fully booked since there were a number of rallies going on including a WOA one at Island Harbour and ‘Classic Yachts Week’ too. The tide was right for going west in the afternoon, so we considered Newtown Creek but I didn’t consider that our first night away from base should be on a barely-tested anchor in a quiet creek.

He hadn’t appeared by a quarter to ten.  I ’phoned him and he said he was ‘stuck on Hayling Island’.  I didn’t pursue the details, nor why he hadn’t called to let me know.  Anyway, he turned up after an hour and got the full story about the gearbox.  I started her up and slipped it into gear: it ran fine and made only the normal noises – virtually nothing in ahead and a reasonably encouraging-sounding whirr in astern.  (I’d written in the log, quite accidentally, ’He listened to my tale of woe and then he heard the engine go’…).  He fiddled with the Morse lever and linkages to make them work properly and pronounced them worn and in need of repair or replacement, since there was some play in the controls.  Not a major nor expensive job, and to be expected after forty years of use.  Apparently the spline on the control should be rebuilt with ‘Monkey Metal’.  A little research needed.

Then we noticed that even when the throttle lever on the engine itself was moved, it was reluctant to respond.  Specifically, when the gears weren’t engaged (button on the lever pushed in) it took several seconds to start accelerating, and when either gear was engaged it merely continued to idle – and slowly at that, about 400 rpm.  No amount of fiddling rectified the matter and the exhaust was worryingly smoky, oily and sooty.  Luke pronounced that the injector pump was faulty (which, now I’ve learned a little about it seems reasonable) and that he didn’t know anything about those and I’d have to call in a specialist.  He only asked for a fiver for his 40 minutes’ work so I insisted he also took the other fiver I didn’t have last time.  Tom, of course, was too busy, and I didn’t feel confident to remove the pump myself, particularly since the timing gears on it are crucial.  Sarah, however, told me of a firm at West Quay that would fix it.

None of that was going to happen at the weekend, however, and we clearly now weren’t going anywhere in the boat.  By the time we’d got ourselves sorted out, the marina’s summer barbecue had started.  Free (well, paid for out of our marina fees, no doubt) food and booze, and a Sinatra-style singer (all very excellent) provided a good atmosphere and we chatted with several of the other berth-holders.

There was also a boat jumble – which consisted of one chap sitting behind quite a range of gear.  I took my spare jib and winch, but had no interest, and Chris (for it was he) also had failed to sell anything by half past three.  I went to have a good look and expressed interest in an LED tricolour (too expensive at the moment) and a pair of solar panels.  He was about to pack up and said (!) he didn’t want to put them away again.  I ended up buying the two 12W solar panels (about 4’ x 1’ each on a very solid home-made frame), 45m of 8mm chain (complete with heavy-duty bucket), a hand-pumped pressure washer and a through-hull fitting – all for under £50.  He was happy to get rid of them and I was happy to get some stuff I needed at a good price.  A little research in the catalogues came up with a retail price of over £350 for that lot.  Although the ends of the chain were rather rusty, they’ll be easily cut off and I’ll still have 30 – 35m of well-galvanised heavyweight chain, a lot stronger than the old one.  I later sold the old cable (27m of 6mm chain) for £25, so a good deal all round.

Then I needed a regulator for the solar panels, so a visit to the chandler was indicated.

Sunday 19th              warm and sunny, though not warm enough for L

An unidentified Border Morris side dancing on the quay at Lymington

Day off today as we can’t go sailing and L’s here on holiday.  Drove to the New Forest for a picnic, Lymington for a visit, ending in a very pleasant tea shop and then Keyhaven for a shoe-damaging walk along the spit to Hurst Castle.  Lots of photos of the standing waves and of terns fishing in Hurst Narrows and of other birds in the estuary on the way back.  Dinner very late, but a good day.

Monday 20th             overcast, mizzle, then real fog and real rain later.  Miserable.

Decided on a day trip to the Island to continue our ‘holiday’, as Lut wanted to see the Needles from close quarters. First we called at the chandler to buy a regulator for the solar panels and then headed for the ferry.  On enquiry at the terminal we discovered that they were fully booked until 3 o’clock.  A call to the Lymington – Yarmouth people came up with the same answer (and a higher price) so we went off to have a bit of a think.

Called at the injector specialists at West Quay and spoke to the (very young) MD.  They can fix it, (at £65 an hour!) if I can get it out, or send someone to remove it.  I’ll let them know.  I’d like to check the injectors first as if they’re the problem it’ll be easier and cheaper to fix them – and even if they’re not they’d benefit from their first clean in forty years.

Black tailed godwit at Keyhaven

Decided on the 3 o’clock ferry so went back to book that and then to Ikea to kill the intervening time.  I fell, of course, into their trap and bought a variety of items as well as lunch (the coffee was free as L had a loyalty card) although all were good value.  A reading lamp for my mother at a third of the price of the corresponding item in John Lewis and a set of three stainless steel pans for £6.50 (now in regular use on board), for example.

After a short walk to and on the old city walls we returned to the ferry terminal and got onto the packed vessel.  We both wanted to sit outside and see what was going on so we went and sat up near the sharp end on the ‘Promenade Deck’.  The more elevated ‘Sun Deck’ was closed, presumably because of the apparent lack of that celestial body.  The deteriorating weather added to the sense of sea-going adventure, and my commentary on the scenery, pilotage and idiotic behaviour of some of the nearby yachtsmen attracted interest (or was it?) from some other passengers.

An unusual view of Hurst Castle and its light

Arriving, after an hour’s journey, at East Cowes in the gathering murk we decided to head first for the Needles and to look at Newport and other towns later on.  With L navigating (excellently as always – well, she does work with maps!) we arrived at the deserted Alum Bay car park in swirling drizzle to find the pay-booth closed and unmanned which at least meant we didn’t have to pay £4 for the privilege.  Donning waterproofs we trudged the mile and a half through the mist up to the headland, or as close as we could get at that time of day, the National Trust access having just closed.  The multi-coloured cliffs were all but invisible, as were the Needles themselves so we returned under Tennyson Down half-a-league to the car and attempted to dry out.  Not one of our more successful expeditions but at least we got a bit of exercise, and the mist cleared enough to see Alum Bay on the way back.

Heading back to Newport in search of dinner we pulled off the road rather sharply (presumably to the consternation of the driver tailgating me) at a promising-looking pub advertising local seafood.  My mussels were delicious as were L’s garlic mushrooms (apparently) and sea bream (apparently).  My steak, however, was overcooked and the very solicitous (and young) waiting staff were apologetic and offered to replace it.  I decided to struggle on as the rest of the plateful was getting cold so they offered me a free dessert instead – which, of course, I accepted with alacrity.  Then I discovered a lemon pip at the bottom of my (also delicious) half-pint of local bitter and they offered me another which I sadly refused as I was driving.  More effort required in the kitchen and maybe a little less up front, I fancy.  We were also intermittently pestered by the house dogs, well-behaved but still not very welcome.  A mixed experience.

Heading back towards the ferry we stopped for a look at Carisbrooke Castle and, the rain having abated, walked the mile or so right round it.  Impressive.  As was the driving of the trailer unloader back at the ferry.  We finally got back to Tyro and our warm, comfortable and almost dry bed just before midnight.

Tuesday 21st             warm and sunny

After a lie-in we drove back to Mum’s and L took us both out for a curry. The next day L left for home and I began some internet research on fuel injector pumps.

Thursday 23rd                       Fair

Back to the boat and spent a merry few hours connecting up the solar panels through their new regulator.  By the time I’d fixed it all up (for a fraction of the price (the very helpful staff at) Maplin wanted) it was dark so I had to wait till the following morning to test it.

Friday 24th                Rain all day

It worked, even in the overcast and rainy conditions, – so at least I had electricity.  Then I started up the engine.  A bit hesitant but eventually started and ran for half a minute with oily soot and white smoke before stopping altogether.  Didn’t fancy working on it in the rain (it would have had to have been done from the cockpit, with the cover off) so went off to the library to continue research and ask members of the WOA about it.  After a late lunch I inspected the air filters and was surprised to find no paper element but merely a coarse metal grid – which was clean.  Also found a short rubber pipe connected to what I took to be the crankcase breather attached to one of them.  But not attached very securely at the other end – a loose sliding fit with no hose clip so it easily came off.  Is this a problem?

Spent the rest of this wet and miserable day reading and doing puzzles.  The forehatch handle was leaking again needs fixing properly.

Saturday 25th           Warm and sunny

Moved the solar panels to the south side where they worked very well.  I resolved to work through the fuel system from tank to cylinders to make sure there was nothing wrong that I could easily fix.   Just as I was starting, John from another Centaur, Polly, came by to see how I was getting on and ended up helping – or rather guiding – me through the process.

The secondary (fine) fuel filter with its bleed screw top centre and manual lift pump out of sight below. The primary filter is behind it to its left and the disc with six screws, bottom right, covers the sea water impeller.

The tank outlet was clear and only clean fuel came out.  Then I drained the primary fuel filter and water separator bowl, and disassembled it to examine the filter.  Clean, intact and new-looking so I put it all back together again and the fine filter at the lift pump got the same treatment, with the same result.  Refilling the filters with fuel using the lift pump was going to take for ever so John suggested sucking it through with a pump.  I dug out the oil extractor pump from the lazarette to find it and all the pipes soaking wet from the rain that had leaked in.  While I was drying it he went off to get his, and he soon returned with one of three or four times the volume, so we used that.  Applying the suction pipe to the fine filter bleed hole we soon had the system full of fuel and turned the engine over on the starter to bleed the injector pump and injector nuts.  Definitely a two-man job, but quite straightforward, once you know what you’re doing which, thanks to him, I now do. 

We fired it up, and it started at the second or third attempt, running consistently but still as before: not accelerating when asked, and with a very dirty exhaust.  Still, we left it in ahead and charging the batteries while we settled down with a well-earned G & T each while he told me a number of stories about his time as a Merchant Navy Deck Officer and Master.  Once I’d turned it off I had two batteries at 13.4V or thereabouts and a nicely hot engine.

A little later, on a whim, I thought I’d check the engine oil.  There seemed to be a lot of it and it was definitely a milky-grey colour, rather than black or the original golden colour.  I assumed this was bad news, but wasn’t sure what it signified.  Mentioning this on the WOA forum, I learned to my consternation that it indicates water in the oil and therefore a blown cylinder head gasket.  This is bad news, possibly the worst so far.  A new gasket is expensive for what it is, apparently, if I can even get one for this old engine.  And its fitting requires taking off the cylinder head and therefore everything attached to it, and therefore it’s worth doing a ‘top overhaul’.  This sounds like too big a job for me to undertake myself and very expensive to pay anyone else to do.  The phrase ‘replacement engine’ has started to enter my consciousness.  I don’t suppose that’s very cheap either.

Shared my dinner (and more gin) with Martin and left the following morning as there’s little more I can do pro tem.

About the author: Steve Freedman
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