Friday, September 11, 2009

Cruisin' for a Bruisin' - Or: "Lessons Learned during our Shakedown Cruise"


"It isn't that life ashore is distasteful to me. But life at sea is better."~Sir Francis Drake~

So, as you know - we had our first and last "pleasure cruise" last weekend. First of all, let me say - it was AMAZING. Just the best time. We were joined by our friends Rick and Shawn, and let me tell you - you couldn't have asked for more kindred spirits to spend a weekend cruising on a sailboat with...but I digress...

It never ceases to amaze Scott and I how much we discover EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. we are on the boat. This past weekend was no different.

Here are some *very* important lessons we learned:
(I realize that these are pretty basic and will only highlight our naivete - but I don't care)
1) Have some "Standard Operating Procedures". We lost our engine not once, not twice but FIVE times on the trip across the lake. At 4am I took out our engine manual and found a page with a little list of things to check, monitor, change or top-off at various times. We realized we had been neglecting MANY of the suggested items. Once such item was the cooling system. Not only had we never checked it, but never even thought about it. When we finally did check it in the wee hours of morn it was empty and instead of water, it produced a sludgy oil mixture. Not good. We now know how and when to check this (cough - every day) - we also are pretty certain our engine needs to be rebuilt...moving along..

2) Carry Spares. Everyone keeps telling me that "diesel engines are pretty simple and straight-forward" and while I don't quite see the simplicity in that big, huge, hunk of piping, valves, rods and metal in the belly of our boat - I'll take their word. When a diesel ceases (as ours did...FIVE TIMES) the first thing you should usually do is check and replace the fuel filters. Not all diesel is alike - you CAN and WILL get bad fuel and when you do, it's not good - these "filters" are the boat's kidneys, taking out all the bad stuff and providing clean diesel to our engine. When an engine ceases - most likely the fuel filters are over soaked with ick and need to be replaced. Hence the spares. Which we did not have. Lesson learned. We should always carry at least 4 spares at a time. But, knowing me - we'll probably carry 6-8.

And, AHEM...speaking of bad fuel....

3) Diesel and Gasoline are NOT the same thing (wince). At 4:30am, while our guests were snuggled in their bunk, Scott and I were in the cockpit - me with a head torch sliding off my forehead and my nose in the engine manual reading aloud and Scott poking and prodding at our engine from various angles and positions - exasperated. We were at a loss. So there we are, staring at our engine blankly as if willing it to get better and Scott looks up after an "a-ha" moment crosses his face and says, "What color is diesel?" Perplexed I answer, "Pink". Pause. Pause. Paaaauuuuuse. "Ummm...I think I topped off our tank with gasoline." Wow. After some investigation - it turns out that Scott INDEED "topped off" our tank with diesel's cousin, gasoline. 3 gallons to be precise. 3 gallons out of 70. Enough to make our engine a little sick, but not enough to kill it, thank God (much more, however, would have so we are VERY lucky). Apparently, before we left, Scott motored over to the fuel dock and just absentmindedly said to the attendent "Gas please" - not even realizing the implications of not specifying. From now on, we will ONLY ask for DIESEL. Pretty, pink, non-combustible DIESEL.

4) Know where you're at. I don't mean physically know where you're at, I'm talking engines here. We had a mechanic come and take a look at our engine the next morning and he asked us questions like: "When did you last flush the system?" "When was the last time you changed your fuel filters?" "Was the coolant system full of oil last time you checked?"...all of which elicited blank stares from Scott and I followed by a few mumbles and finally "Uh...we don't know". We have now decided that we are going to rebuild the engine; take it apart, check all the gaskets, hoses, whosits, and whatsits and replace them. All the time making notes in our trusty "Maintenance Log" so that we will always know precisely "where we are at".

So...those are the top lessons we learned this weekend. After we realized the engine issues were related to gas tainting our tank and we just needed to let those little filters do their work and add more diesel, our engine worked like a charm. What ensued was fabulous weekend full of laughing, sailing, wining, dining and just BEING. There is something so magical about sailing and making a boat your home - even for a couple of days - I reallly don't know how to put it to words. Our friends Rick and Shawn officially "Get it" and are already planning on joining us somewhere around the world...



"Come cuddle your head on my shoulder dear - your head like a golden rod,
And we will go sailing away from here, to the beautiful land of Nod..."~Ella Wheeler Wilcox~

Love love,

Brittany & Scott

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ey I really like your blog and I wish you guys the best!
I have one comment though: is there really a thing like NON-COMBUSTIBLE DIESEL? or is this a typo?

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