Friday, 20 February 2015

Sailing without engines.

There are a couple of good reasons for having two engines on a catamaran. A cat has a lot of windage and not so much grip on the water compared to a monohull, and so is harder to manoeuvre at close quarters. I sailed this boat for a year without the engines fitted (when I was running it as a commercial fishing boat), so I'm very familiar with the difficulties of getting this boat to behave in tight circumstances. I got better at it, but it was rarely easy, especially in harbours with cliffs or tall building nearby, so that the wind was much harder to predict.

And the other good reason for two engines is redundancy. If one engine dies, you can do pretty well with just one engine. I've often taken this a step further. When one engine fails, it becomes a source of spare parts for the other.

These engines are 20 years old. They were pretty clapped out when I bought the boat. I bought a new gearbox, a couple of carburettors, and many electrical parts. It seems remarkable that they've died on the same day.

The starboard engine has seized up. Opening the lid, there was salt encrusted round the edge of the cylinder head, and oil everywhere except in the crankcase. When the engine had started spluttering, I had checked that the cooling water was flowing. It was pissing out good and proper, so I assumed all was fairly well, maybe just a bit of crud or water in the carburettor. I had to assume that, given that we were very close to a narrow passage between breaking waves, and running out of options. It turns out that there is a way that the cooling water can bypass the engine! Who'd have thought? If the impeller is still working, but the cooling passages are blocked, the water runs through a bypass outlet. All looks well, but it isn't necessarily so!

So one engine dead. Given the narrowness of the passage we were about to attempt, I'd already tried starting the port engine, but it refused to start.

I've now spent a couple of days trying to get the port engine working again. Usually, the carburettor needs cleaning when it acts up. This time, the sparks in the plugs are very weak. I checked the pulsar coil, the ignition coils and the charge coil - and none of them from either engine read the correct resistance specified in the manual. I can't justify the expense of replacing those parts, when I still can't be sure of fixing the problem. I can't test the CDI, which is the fourth electrical component in the chain that could be the source of the problem. According to my meter readings, there could be up to four components faulty.

At last, after years of fixing these engines, I have given up. I have concluded that they are beyond the point of economical repair. Suddenly, I have no engines! Again!

We plan to sail to Turks and Caicos, and through the Bahamas to Nassau, where my crew fly off to do other things, leaving me to sail alone to Bermuda, the Azores and back to the UK.

I'm currently trying to exchange these two big broken engines for one small working one that I could attach to the dinghy (we have only oars at the moment). I'm thinking that in calms, we could tie the dinghy alongside and use the a little outboard to get us into a harbour. We're used to anchoring close to the shore. There's usually more room there, as the monohulls can't anchor is such shallow water, and it isn't as far for us to row. But now we will sometimes have to anchor further out, so an outboard might make it easier to get ashore.

I'm not exactly thrilled at the prospect of sailing engineless through the Bahamas with my neophyte crew, nor with the prospect of having to sail into port single-handed in Bermuda, the Azores and the UK, each time after a long passage. Hmmm...

No comments:

Post a Comment