We planned to spend several weeks in Trinidad at the start of our 2013 cruising season, primarily to participate in some of the Carnival festivities. Trinidad’s Carnival is second only to Rio de Janeiro’s in size and complexity, and these festivities and parties consume the better part of a month. We also planned to visit Tobago, but what we did not anticipate were many unexpected major repairs to the boat.
One such repair only became visible after tearing apart the entire starboard side of the main saloon, twice, before I positively identified a water leak coming from one of our 7-foot long stainless steel tanks. I first thought the leak came from a plumbing fitting that I located and repaired, but after reassembly we still had a leak. The second time I removed the tank, I moved it out to the dock, filled it with water, and saw two streams of water coming from tiny cracks on the back side. Repair to the tank required welding patches over the two cracks, one at either end.
The process of removing, repairing, and refitting the tank to its home consumed the better part of four days. Thank goodness the tank sat in an accessible location and not buried somewhere in the bilges.
Our next surprise came as I was trial running our engine, Perky, after completing its major service; I noticed fuel seeping along one of the diesel tank lines. It took me a while to determine that the fuel was weeping from a cracked fitting that was situated in a most inaccessible location, only visible by using a light and a mirror while I lay spread eagle on top of the engine. The fix was relatively simple once I narrowed the problem to the fitting, but the process, once again, took a couple of days. Here’s a photo of the fitting below, cracked from 27 years of vibration. I replaced all the fittings and lines while I had it apart. I can only imagine what these repairs would’ve cost if I had to rely on other “experts” to solve my problems.
While sitting in the cockpit with Joy one morning for coffee break, I overheard our boat neighbors, Greg and Elina, talking with a mechanic about a fuel related problem on their boat, Sapphire, a Mason 43 which has the same engine as ours, a Perkins 4-108. I watched and listened as the mechanic assured Greg that he needed to replace his high pressure injection pump to solve the problem. I thought about the symptoms I’d observed and said to Joy – “No way does he need an injection pump.” Joy prodded me to intervene. After the mechanic left I walked next door to talk to our friends about their engine problem – rough running, smoking, RPM’s running up, and dying. I looked, listened, thought about it, and told Greg, “In my opinion, this is not an injection pump issue; it sounds, looks, and acts like air in the fuel lines.” So, to make a long story short, we discovered a couple of air leaks and a clogged primary fuel filter. The clogged filter caused the engine to suck hard for fuel at the air leak site, resulting in smoke, run-up, and dying. The total repair cost was a $15 fuel filter, and a few hours of his and my time.
There are important lessons to be learned here – take your time, use your intuition, common sense, and ask your boat buddies for help.