It's 1°C this morning. We're thankful for unlimited shore power, and two 1500W electric heaters plus a propane heater. Being at a dock is expensive, but sometimes the money's well spent.
We're thankful that I figured out how to operate the excess fuel cold start device on the Mr. Lehman's injector pump. Page 15 has cryptic advice on starting the engine when cold.
Clearly, we're not supped to crank more than five seconds. In Wrightsville, last week, I think I cranked for close to 30 seconds to get started. And in Mile Hammock, I think it took two rounds of 15-20 seconds. At the time, I didn't understand the excess fuel device. Instead I cranked until he caught. It's a lot of wear on the starter, plus the potential of long-term damage from overheating the starter.
Yesterday, when it was also 1°C, I experimented with the "excess fuel device". Wow! Amazing.
I had messed with this excess fuel/cold start thingy before; I wasn't able to figure out exactly how it worked. It's mounted through the the fuel shutoff lever, but, that's irrelevant to its operation. Ignore the lever it's attached to.
After looking at the manual (again) it finally clicked into place.
It works like this.
Climb out into the freezing cold cockpit and pull the throttle as far as it will go. I can't get enough leverage to move it from below.
Run back down to the freezing cold engine room and push the excess fuel button. It snaps into the fuel pump with an audible "ping."
Push the throttle down to half-way. This can be done from the engine without too much sweating and straining.
Run through the rest of the pre-start checks.
Run up to the cockpit and enjoy an explosive start on the first crank.
I'm thankful The Commodore insisted on a diesel engine class. And I'm thankful that Maverick organized exactly this class in Kilmarnock Virginia. One of the important lessons from that class is that something as bulky and over-engineered as an 80's-vintage marine diesel engine doesn't often fail catastrophically. There's a lot of room for error, therefore, there's usually going to be a slow degradation in performance as something wears away from abuse or neglect.
We were told to take notes. Come to understand Mr. Lehman's irrascible moods. Determine what is "normal" so that you can spot the subtle indications of "not normal". And they will start out as subtle.
Sighing. Eye-Rolling. Door-Slamming. "Fine, then." "Whatever." Those kinds of subtle.
I'm thankful for learning that. I keep a log book near the engine where I write down the following things during every engine pre-start check.
Battery Voltage Level.
Engine Hours. I installed the engine hour meter in the engine room because the binnacle hour meter stopped worked. Actual hours are 2300+ whatever the engine room hour meter says. When I finally replace the tach in the binnacle, I'll have to make an official placard for the engine room that says "Add 2300 hours".
Pan State. There's a pan under the engine that catches drops. What's in there? Is it Dry or Wet? Is the fluid Oil, Coolant, or Raw Water? Yes, I have stuck my finger in to taste it. It's no different from wine tasting; spit it out, don't swallow it. Because of the pan, I've detected problems with the raw water pump. And of course, when the fuel line failed in the spring, the pan was full of diesel fuel. But the pan also detected the leak from the oil cooler earlier in the fall (Heat Exchangers Exchanged.)
Fuel State. The pressure on the vacuum gauge and my recollection of the fuel tank level. The fuel gauge in on the binnacle, so tank levels aren't often right in the engine log. The vacuum pressure is important. As that inches up, it's time to look at replacing a fuel filter. It's not the absolute level, it's the change and the rate of change that matter.
Coolant State. Mostly, it's just two words to describe the overflow jug: "above add", "at add", "below add". Sometimes, I'll add a pint of water. Last year, I was adding a pint of water a day. Then I replaced the main circulating pump. I've added a pint since I changed the heat exchangers.
Oil State. What's the oil level on the dipstick? Also a two word entry: "above line", "at line", "x″ below line." Down to about ⅜″ below the line is fine. Below ⅜″, it's time to add a quart. When the oil cooler was leaking, of course, the oil levels were plummeting. As if oil and water in the pan wasn't enough indication that things were failing.
Once the engine has been inspected, I can officially turn on the engine alarms, confident that something good will happen.
Also, outside the pre-start, I write down all the things I've done. Filter changes, part replacements, fuel, oil. All that kind of thing. That way, I can answer The Commodore's question: "What have you changed since the last time it worked?"
And I'm thankful for that question.
We have to fix our flag. "Old Glory" is supposed to fly from the peak of the gaff on the aftermost mast. Lacking a gaff rig, the modern fallback is ⅔ of the way up the topping lift on the mizzen mast.
That fitting failed in Schooner Creek during the hellacious thunderstorms. Causing us to run up on deck in the rain and 25 knot gusts to figure out what the hell just went wrong. It was the flag, flogging. We reeled her in and wrapped the flag halyard around something handy and ran back below.
I have to rig a messenger line and drop the topping lift to inspect where the little block and tackle used to be sewn to the line.
Our windlass doesn't feel "right". I suspect that the cold has thickened the grease to the point where there's a perceptible difference. We don't see anything leaking out onto the deck, so we're sure that the grease is all in there. Another remote possibility is water intrusion thinning the grease.
I've tightened one of the bolts that often works its way loose. I've tried injecting grease in the zerk fitting. If it gets warm enough to work on deck today, I have to bring some wrenches forward and see if there are any other loose bolts that I can tighten.
We've had it apart once. It's full — full! — of thick grease. And it will be the worst kind of waterproof gear-box grease that can't be washed off. We hate the idea of scooping out the grease to get a good look at the parts inside.
I messed with the deck wash down and bilge system for a while yesterday. It might be fixed. I'm thankful for tools and spares.