After hours in this position, I could barely stand up!
As part of the preparations for our upcoming cruise to the Abacos, I wanted to square away a few things in the engine room. First and foremost was to do the routine maintenance including changing the oil, oil filter, and fuel filters. I also wanted to add an hour meter to aid in keeping up on these critical maintenance tasks. Seems pretty straightforward, right?
Once the work began, however, it was anything but. Since the last oil change was my first on my new engine, I had hired a mechanic to show me the ropes. He had an issue with his oil extractor fitting down the dipstick tube and recommended I purchase one with a smaller tube. So, thinking I am prepared, with my narrow tubed oil extractor, I begin to suck the oil out of the pan. Unfortunately, the dipstick is located in a high spot of the oil pan and does not allow for the full extraction of the oil… it actually only allows around 1 quart to be exact. Not to be deterred, I located the actual oil drain plug and began awkwardly loosening the bolt while laying on my stomach with my hand behind my back (ok, not really, but if you’ve ever tried to work UNDER a boat engine, you understand the predicament).
Two rolls of paper towels were sacrificed to the cause…
The plug came freely the first few turns and then essentially stopped. I fished out Michele’s old makeup mirror and held it under the engine to see what was impeding my progress to find out that the drain plug’s flange was rubbing against a bolt that holds the transmission to the engine block. After much finagling and squirming and consternation, the drain plug was freed and then the flange ground down to a more reasonable circumference that will allow it to freely be removed and replaced in the future. A drain plug gasket also ensures that the pesky oil seepage from the never-before-removed plug is now a thing of the past.
Thinking the worst is behind me, I unscrewed the old Sierra brand oil filter and lovingly tightened on my shiny new top-of-the-line-for-eight-times-the-price Napa Gold filter and refilled the oil reservoir with Delo 15w-40. Side note: there is much discussion online on which weight of oil and which brand to use etc… I went with the recommendation in the official Perkins service manual.
Thinking I am done, I fired up the engine and checked my exhaust first for flow (a habit) and then watched for oil pressure. I hadn’t refilled the rather large oil filter, so I knew it might take a few seconds to fill the filter and then pressurize the oil system so I wasn’t worried when I saw 0PSI to begin with. Around the 30 second mark I became worried, however. I soon realized that no oil was flowing and killed the engine.
The first thing I checked was for proper oil level in the reservoir and found that, indeed, it was full. I then moved on to checking for leaks around the oil filter or any hoses and found that everything looked as normal. Perplexed, I fired up the engine again to the same results after 60 seconds… Even more worried now, I disconnected the oil line feeding the remote oil cooler and had Michele crank the engine. Oil immediately squirted out of the line, to my relief.
The oil sender looked quite corroded so we figured that must be the problem.
It was now appearing as though the oil was, in fact, flowing through the engine properly but I was getting an incorrect reading on my gauge or the oil pressure sender. A gaze at my sender let me know that it had likely given up the goose and a quick run to the boat bits store rectified that and the old oil gauge.
Fully expecting my issue to be resolved, I fired up the engine to 0PSI oil pressure yet again. Truly perplexed, I took a break from hands on work and began researching. Unfortunately there are an enormous amount of Perkins 4.108 variations, so this task is made significantly more difficult. My engine has also been customized with a remote oil filter kit (larger filter capacity) and oil cooler.
I tinkered around, tried different oil filters, different oil filter brands, etc all to no avail. Eventually I put the old filter back on out of curiosity and the pressure immediately went to normal! I couldn’t believe this… why would the old filter work and the Fram and Napa Gold filters not? Thinking it is a filter density issue, I researched the Sierra micron rating and found that it was in the same ballpark as my other two brands…
Totally dumbfounded, I ran the issue by my father and his immediate response was, “is the oil flowing in the correct direction through the filter?” I hadn’t thought about this despite having tried several other fixes. I swapped my oil supply and return lines on the side of the block and put my Fram filter back on. Immediately upon firing up the engine my normal oil pressure returned! The oil had been running through the filter backwards! The older Sierra filter from the previous owner worked with this scenario because it didn’t have an internal check valve to prevent it from draining while the engine is off. Both my Fram and Napa Gold filters had this valve, with a side effect of only allowing the oil to flow in one direction.
So, several hours and a full day after beginning, my pre-trip engine maintenance is completed. Oil is flowing in the correct direction and all is right with the world.
Hopefully the knowledge gained and changes made to the drain plug (and oil flow) will make future oil changes take significantly less time than the significant investment this process took.
And this is after a year on board!
We are now finally in the final stages of prepping the boat and ourselves for our trip to the Bahamas. I would do a sigh of relief here, but there is so much work to be done that in fact it has been the busiest time that we have been aboard. We’ve made our list and checked it about one hundred times a day trying to find at least one more item to check off before bed. Dan even printed us some blank calendar pages that we filled in with all of our tasks to make sure they were getting done with the right time margins.
Our most time consuming project was repainting our non skid on the deck and cabin top. Previously, the deck was extremely slick anytime it got a little bit wet (I’m talking dew in the morning) and was a real safety hazard for walking, let alone going sailing. We decided to go with Interlux Interdeck paint as we thought it would provide the most value for our dollar and time. We also added some additional Interlux Intergrip dust to the deck paint after we did the cabin top a little more grip on the crucial areas. It cost a total of about $250 all supplies and paint included so we figure that justified giving it a try before shelling out a couple thousand on cutting out the old non-skid and replacing it with matting material. We are very happy with the results and feel much more secure on deck now that it is finished.
A big box of things we don’t want to use.
Another major task was going for physicals, dental appointments, and assembling a thorough medical kit. While we were nervous about asking new doctors for prescription medications to have on board, they were actually very understanding about the situation. We brought a complete list that we compiled from OceanMedix.com prescription kit and the doctors prescribed for us the medications they thought would be appropriate for our situation. We are now properly stocked for an emergency in the case where we might be many hours (or sometimes a day or two) from advanced medical care. Our top concerns were treatment for burns, bacterial infections, and severe allergic reactions, all of which we feel sufficiently well stocked for now. Bandages, splints, and other supplies were ordered from Amazon and have all come in now other than the skin stapler. Please God let me never be called upon to use that thing!
Somehow my ID pictures always turn out the worst.
Don’t worry, it will only be 10 years until the next one.
Let’s not forget the good old government paperwork. Because we have dogs, we needed to apply for pet permits and get them vaccinated at least a month before entry into the Bahamas. Carter and I both had to get new passports, the first in his case and mine updated with my married name. Dan still had about 3 years remaining on his, but we decided to renew it anyway so that we would be on the same renewal timeline in the future. Interestingly, the only stamp that both of us had in our old passports was from our last trip to the Bahamas when Dan proposed to me while we were there for my brother’s wedding. The Bahamas certainly have a lot of meaning for our family!
We also decided to apply for the Customs and Border Patrol program called the Small Vessel Reporting System. This will allow us (as US citizens) to have a much easier clearing in process when we return home after our trip. To apply, you have to go to the SVRS website and fill out applications for the captain (with vessel information) and all passengers on your ship. Then you have to go in for a short interview with a customs agent at the nearest port. The paperwork process is a bit tedious to get through, but for anyone who does a lot of cruising between the US and other nearby countries like the Bahamas, Mexico, or between the USVI and BVI, it is probably worth your time to not have to clear into customs in person each time.
We still have a lot to do before leaving, but we are in high energy mode eagerly anticipating casting off. We are so mentally ready to go that it is hard to concentrate on getting our supplies to the same level. Just a few more weeks until we can be counted among the cruisers!
The shows at the Miami Seaquarium were very fun!
Carter insisted that he wanted to get soaked by the orca!
Over the last few weeks in the midst of our preparations for leaving (getting so close!) both sets of our parents were able to come down and visit us. Having family around was great for all of us and taking a break out from our work was a much needed relief. My parents came down first at the end of January and took us to some of the more popular attractions in this area that we hadn’t gone to visit ourselves.
A beautiful day
Our favorite one by far was an Everglades Air-boat ride. We took a one hour tour through the ‘glades and it was truly stunning. We spotted a few large alligators fairly early on the trip which Carter loved, but my favorite part was simply the feeling of solitude out on the water. With the wind rushing in my ears and the total feeling of gliding over the water, it was almost as if we were seeing a part of nature that had been preserved just for us in that moment. It was one of those moments in life when you get just a small glimpse of the majesty all around us.
The ship had characters from the Dreamworks movies that Carter got to meet.
Dan’s parents came down the week following mine and had the grand distinction of being the first overnight guests on the boat. We cleared out the aft head (aka storage closet), got a couple of blankets ready for Carter to be able to sleep in the main salon, and made up Carter’s bed in the aft cabin and we were ready to go. Overall, I think it went pretty well though 5 of us on the boat would have felt a lot tighter at anchor than it was on the dock. They slept on Horizon for 3 nights since the other 4 that they were hear, we all went on a cruise to Cozumel.
I think we’ll be installing an ice rink on Horizon next…
Carter and Dan had a blast in the pools and hot tubs.
Being on the Liberty of the Seas (2nd largest commercial cruise ship in the world) was quite the experience. Dan and I just kept talking about what their water makers must look like, how much electricity their generators had to produce, and what kind of galley storage they would need to supply us all with first and second breakfast, lunch, tea time, first and second dinner, and of course dessert. Let’s just say we spent a significant portion of our time at sea eating. Carter loved the kids area so much we practically had to bribe him to stay with us! We all had a great time and debated whether we should all just try hiding on the ship until they set sail again but in the end decided we should probably get off.
The kids all dressed up as pirates and paraded through the “Royal Promenade”
The hardest part of visits from the family is always the good-byes and this time was no different. It’s always heart breaking for us to hold Carter as he is crying about his grandparents leaving, wondering if we are really doing the right thing for him. We hope that the benefits of traveling as a family will outweigh the negatives, but these are the times that it is the hardest to convince ourselves of that. We’re hoping that the upcoming trip to the Bahamas and subsequent visit home will help us to have a little more clarity about the pros and cons.
A good lesson that we learned from our tourist time (and something that most cruising books talk about) is it really is worth it to go to a select few attractions in the areas you are visiting, even if you are on a budget. We probably never would have gone on an air-boat ride had my parents not taken us, but it was a fantastic experience that you can not have any where else. It is worth it to enhance your trip with the more iconic experiences of an area, so it is important to make space for those times in your budget. Hopefully we’ll be having more of the same in the near future!