Saturday, June 21, 2014

Day 6: The Beast Needs Some TLC

You will see on our tracking map that we tacked a few times today. It
was necessary so Jim could do some work on The Beast (that is this
sailor's term for the necessary but dreaded engine). At about 1:00am we
had been flopping in a becalmed sea with our wind indicator swirling
atop the mast. You would think that being becalmed in the big ocean
would be quiet, even peaceful. Well, on a sailboat with sails up it is
anything but serene. The sails that don't have any wind in them flop
back and forth with the motion of the ocean, making a racket like
thunder that vibrates throughout the hull. Every creek and groan that
the boat makes is amplified in the quiet windless night.
So, we went to start the engine for the first time since we departed
Cabo six days ago, and received that dreaded sound – clunk. Nothing
turned over or engaged. Again, clunk. A half dozen times, clunk clunk
clunk. The troubleshooting began, checking the batteries and their
connection, charging the batteries, replacing the starter engine,
reading manuals and Diesel Engine maintenance books. Finally, Jim
figured it out. Because we had been on a starboard tack for 700+ miles
with a lot of wind and swell, water had back flooded from the sea valve
into the engine (this valve would normally be closed during a voyage
like this when the engine is not in use, but was mistakenly left open,
and who knew we would go 700 miles until we needed to run the engine!).
Once diagnosed, Jim and Colton began the process of removing the
water. Not a simple task, and it required tacking to port so that the
water could drain out of various parts of the engine while we heeled
over the other direction.
A few minutes ago, we were all relieved when the rumbling purr of the
engine kicked in. Right now, we are closing the engine room, putting
the companionway ladder back in place, and planning to celebrate with a
cocktail and snacks and some much-needed naps. So, it's been an
uneventful but exhausting 12+ hours and we are back on course with a
working engine (although we still haven't used it, as there is a nice
trade winds breeze today).
So, the Beast is happy again and we continue to sail. The reassuring
thing about being on a sailboat is that the engine really is not
necessary, because we can always sail to our destination. If we had to,
we could sail all the way to the harbor and get towed in. No big deal!
760 nautical miles down, 2,063 to go.


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