October 1-31, 2003 -- Engine Hell or How Curacao Swallowed Us Forever

The month of October was busy with the engine, and with us trying to catch up on some of the maintenance that we needed to do on the boat.

I won't bore you with the daily details of what we did when, but here are a few of the highlights.

On October 10, the mechanics managed to get the oil pan off the engine and out of the bilge. The same day, folks on a boat called Traveler stopped by asking for information on Curacao and Aruba. Friends in Bonaire had recommended that they stop by and talk to us.

They took the oil pan back to the shop, and would start welding on it Monday, October 13. When we hadn't heard anything from them by October 15, I called the service manager who told me that they could not repair the oil pan. So, we spent the next two days working with Walsh Engineering in England to send out a new oil pan! Walsh was a great company to work with. They managed to get the oil pan to us in 7 days!

On October 25, the mechanics came out with our new oil pan to start installing it, and finally managed to get it installed on October 27.

On October 28, they lowered the engine down on its mounts. No more limbo! For the last three weeks, we have had this enormous pole holding up the engine, with a pole and chain lift system that blocks most of the walkway between the main saloon and galley, with a giant hole right in front of the only clear access between the two halves of the boat. We refered to this as the great divide, and we did anything we could to keep from having to cross it, because when we did the other person would chime in with, "Can you get this? Can you get that? And, oh I need this too." That evening, Tink, the small generator stopped pulling fuel. We checked as much stuff as we could. Unfortunately, portions of the starboard engine prevented us from going to the forward part of the engine room where our fuel control board is and the main raycors are. So, we postponed firguring out the problem.

On October 29, we felt like the light at the end of the tunnel was actually an oncoming train, but only for a few minutes. We found out they didn't put all of the studs in for the motor mounts so the engine will have to be relifted. We lifted the engine, got the bolts in and reseated the engine.

Now they just need to put it back together again. Which they did for the most part before the end of the day.

After they left, we went back to resolving the problem with Tink. We were beginning to think that we had a clogged fuel line. We changed the fuel board so the port engine and Tink draw off the starboard side. We cleaned the raycor bowl. We even started the port engine to help draw the clog through.

When the port engine stopped, we knew we had a serious problem. But, we also knew that the problem had to be between the fuel board and the raycor. So, Mike blew through that hose. We had no problems there. So, we reprimed everything and tried again.

Finally, I was crawling back into the engine room after failure 9 when I saw fuel dripping down on our port engine secondaries. Low and behold, I saw the crack on the fuel fitting from the secondaries to the fuel pump. At least we weren't going nuts! Apparently, while putting the oil pan in, or while taking the lifting supports out, the mechanics had banged the fitting and cracked it.

On October 30, first thing in the morning, I called Suser to let them know about this problem. They apologized and agreed to fix the fitting for us.

They came out and finished putting the starboard engine back together. We tried to test fire the engine at the end of the day, but the engine would not fire. After reviewing the engine, we found that they had put the stop solenoid back together wrong, and on the wrong side of the stop lever for the engine! Once they moved that, the engine started right up. Of course, in trying to force the stop solenoid, they also bent the holding pin!

As we were going over the engine, we discovered that they had broken the hyrdraulic hose for the throttle on the starboard engine, and that would need to be replaced as well. In addition, wiring that had been run one way, was now on the wrong side of the motor mounts, as well as several other minor problems that needed to be corrected.

On October 31, I checked out this morning. The engine repair people finally showed up around 1:30 pm.

After putting the repaired fuel fitting back on the port engine, and the new hose on the throttle system, we test fired the engines and checked the transmissions.

We had a heart wrenching moment when we put the port engine in gear and heard grinding. We thought we had thrown a cutlass bearing. It turned out to be growth on the shaft <phew> .

After the mechanics left, we discovered that our depth gauge wasn't working. We checked wiring and locations, but could not see anything wrong. I freaked out because we were going to head for the Aves and Roques where we desperately need a depth gauge. Mike calmed me down by pointing out that we would be following Blind Date, and they could be our depth gauge. Besides anything else, we have a commercial grade sonar that will give us depth when correctly set.

So, we powered up the generator so we could cook. After about 15 minutes, the depth sensor started working again. The batteries batteries had been deeply discharged from the work.

The anchorage in Spanish Waters is a wonderful protected anchorage with good holding. I am sure that we would have enjoyed Curacao much more if we had not had the engine problem we did. However, Spanish Waters is an inconvenient place to be. It is a $20 round trip by taxi to Williamstead, or a 2 hour round trip by bus (including waiting). There is a small grocery store relatively close that offers a daily shuttle service, but that is pretty much it. In order to get around, you really need to have a car.