Friday, August 23, 2013

Tank you very much

After doing some troubleshooting to find out why the motor (Perkins 4.108) had quit on the last passage from Fiji to Vanuatu, Jordan discovered what the problem is. The injector pump's shaft sheared. Evidently it injected water that caused the seizure. Two possible sources: seawater entering the fuel tank vents OR water in the fuel when we filled up when we left Fiji.

We had a very rough passage and rough seas, so it is quite possible that some seawater did come in through the vents that are on the exterior sides of the cabin. We do have shut-off valves for these vents but never thought we needed to close them at sea. But from now on, if we encounter bad conditions at sea again, we will be closing them to make sure.

But the other real possibility was bad fuel (water in the fuel) from our last fill-up in Fiji. Jordan remembers the fuel attendant there said we were the last to get a fill-up before the fuel truck came to supply them, so who knows, maybe we got some stuff from the bottom of the barrel so to speak.

How can a shaft so thick shear?

Jordan has been in contact with several possible suppliers from around the globe and has ordered a rebuilt injector pump and 4 spare injectors. We will get a small credit for our old one when they receive it. (We will be sending it back on the slow boat to save shipping.) This mechanical repair will be an expensive one.

So the question remained, what's the condition of the fuel in the tanks, and for that matter, what is the condition of the tanks? They have never been cleaned out because they never have had inspection/access hatches.

So while waiting for parts, Jordan thought it not only prudent but imperative that the tanks get checked out. He had to cut 11.5 cm round holes in the tops and fabricate cover plates. Then all the fuel had to be pumped out, about 360 L, jerry jug by jerry jug, then carried to the drums on shore. The bottoms of the tanks indeed had 30 years of nasty sludge and crud build-up - to the extent that it was surprising that the fuel outlet ever let fuel through!

Drums for diesel transfer

It was a horrid painstaking procedure of reaching down with scrapers and rags, rinsing and sucking up the gunk repeatedly until acceptably clean. Then all the fuel had to be pumped, jerry jug by jerry jug, back into the happy tanks although he didn't even hear a Tanks. It was a Tankless job. Does he want to do that again soon? NO TANKS! Yes, he was wearing a tank top.

Now we wait for our package to arrive...

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