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 engine. 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 have! Joyce

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