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Starblazer - 12/05/2016 – The revenge of the engine water pumps.

We must have seriously annoyed the Norse God, Volvo! No sooner had I
written that the engine was running well, it decided to cause us further
grief. During Tuesday afternoon John decided to check the fresh water
cooling reservoir and the oil levels, he’d meant to do it on Monday but
forgot. The water reservoir was almost full, thankfully. The pipework is
push fit pieces that go in various different directions and they do tend to
leak, according to the Volvo engineer in Cape Town. The oil level was a
different matter, the dip stick showed too much oil (about twice as much as
there should be!) with the tell-tale grey emulsion evident, a sign that
water had got into the oil. It was too late to start dismantling the water
pump and draining the oil, that was yesterday’s job. We first encountered
this problem in Grenada, drained the oil emulsion, replaced the oil,
serviced both the water pumps with new oil and water seals and installed one
of them. It showed signs of leaking so John swapped it. We made it to the
BVI with recurrent cooling problems which we thought we had finally solved
in Virgin Gorda, only to have it recur on our way to Tortola. Replacing the
pump with the newly serviced spare appeared to put lots of water through the

We had a problem, one pump won’t put water through and the other appears to
put too much water through, including into the wrong place! John changed
the perfectly whole impeller in the one that wouldn’t pump in case the
splined brass tube down the centre had become unbonded, he also replaced the
speed seal with the conventional front from the other pump. The
recalcitrant pump now pumps water. Changing the oil is always challenging
as you have to drain out the old, thickened oil. The 12 volt pump John had
used the first time we had water in the oil would not pump hard enough to
prime itself. John remembered a small pump he had bought, powered by an
electric drill, dug it out, connected it up and made good progress until the
drill battery went flat. The pipes were all full of oil so he connected
them to the 12 volt pump which was incredibly slow but did the job
eventually. Just before the evening SSB net he completed the job but we
didn’t start the engine until after the roll call.

The SSB has been giving us problems on and off; sometimes we are a strong,
clear signal, at other times the signal is very broken and almost
unreadable. Yesterday evening was a case of the latter, even Allegro 40
miles away had difficulty copying us. I have a theory! In Cape Town the
engineer who tested the set could find no fault but he had the radio in a
workshop with, presumably, good batteries. Our battery state was very low,
not being able to charge for 36 hours. We had conserved as much power as
possible, turning off the freezer, using the Hydrovane instead of the
autopilot and ensuring all lights were switched off. We don’t use the
plotter on passage anyway. This morning we will find out if our signal is
improved because we have been motoring for over 12 hours now!

I should have mentioned that the weather Gods failed to take note of our
difficulties. All day yesterday the winds were light, swinging about a bit,
and the Hydrovane struggled to keep us on course. It works best when the
wind is stronger! Our day’s run was pathetic, not only slow but often in
the wrong direction. Oh well, now we have given up all thoughts of being
competitive and just want to arrive so the engine is running and the
autopilot has resumed its duties.

Once again, it is a beautiful, sunny morning with almost glass like seas,
only a very gentle swell affecting the boat, and a wind speed of less than 4
knots. We know we are heading north as it is getting cooler. At about 0100
I was moved to search out my jeans and a micro fleece, soon it will be time
to put a blanket on the bed. I am not looking for sympathy from people in
the colder parts of the northern hemisphere, just commenting on what we


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