Saturday, October 24, 2009


Chris here... Day two was another *almost* no brainer with a fairly quick run down to Haverstraw from Kingston.  So what made it an almost no brainer?  Well, our engine was up to its old tricks where it just didn't want to turn over due to a partial hydraulic lock.  It eventually did start, though, and we left at around 7:30am and made it to Haverstraw by 2:30pm or so.  The highlight of the day was Kristen's chicken soup and matzoh balls.  Yes, my wonderful Catholic wife made matzoh balls, and I so love her for that.  It was quite chilly out, and she made the soup in the pressure cooker, so it warmed us up from the inside out in a most wonderful fashion. 

We pulled into Haverstraw and were assigned our slip.  While Kristen and Casey cleaned up the boat and hooked up the shore power, I took care of signing us in and checking in with Samalot Marine - the shop that was recommended to us by a friend to look at our Yanmar (for those who asked - it's a 4JH3E).  I called my mother and two uncles, all of whom live within an hour of Haverstraw and wanted to visit us while we were here.

On Thursday, Walter (the mechanic from Samalot) showed up at around 10am.  We walked through all of the issues we've been having.  Every time we've had a mechanic on Pelican since our problems started cropping up, our engine has started right up.  We were absolutely sure the same thing would happen this time.  So.... switch in, turn, press the start button - and - it didn't start!  I don't think I've ever been so happy to NOT have our engine start!  Walter agreed with us - it sounded like a partial hydraulic lock. 

(I'm not going to go into a ton of detail in this section, so "getting from point A to point B in our diagnosis might not always make complete sense.  I am including it because a lot of people have been following our engine troubles and want to know.  Skip these paragraphs if you just want to read about what else we've been up to)

We brainstormed together on the best way to get the water our of the engine and to determine how it was getting there in the first place.  We ended up taking the hoses off of the mixing elbow, and out poured water.  We had already replaced the anti-siphon, but regardless of this we started disconnecting various pieces of the engine to trace the water issue.  Anyway, long story short, we seemed to be getting immense back pressure from the antisiphon and beyond, and since the tube is not that far above the waterline, we decided that we would move the valve portion higher on the boat.

On to one of our other issues - unburned fuel coming out of the exhaust.  The combination of the water and the unburned fuel, plus some oil loss and blue smoke, was making me think that we had a broken piston ring or worse.  This would require the entire engine to be pulled out of the boat to be overhauled.  Well, first, the mechanic pulled out all of the injectors and found that there was significant carbon buildup.  This could cause fuel to be sprayed in a poor pattern, restricting combustion.  He then did a compression check on all of the cylinders and found that they all showed decent compression.  The compression level of the first cylinder was somewhat lower than the rest, but it was still OK.  He reinstalled the injectors and bled the air out of the system and had us try to turn the engine over again.  After listening to the starter, he felt that it wasn't turning fast enough so he had us switch to the house batteries.  We did so, and he thought the starter sounded better.

Regarding the carbon buildup, we have been concerned about that all along.  Diesel engines are made to run fast and hot, and with the propeller we use (Gori) and its overdrive mode (which allows us to dial down the RPMs and still maintain speed), we don't run it fast and hot.  As a result, carbon doesn't burn off and builds up in the cylinders and injectors.

We also thought we were burning oil, but it may be due to the fact that the engine was overfilled.  Kristen did an oil change in Norfolk, and it's possible we didn't completely fill it there (although she's fairly confident, as am I, that it was filled).  If it wasn't, that could explain the oil we had to add en route from  Norfolk to NYC, and the oil we had to add in NYC.  Then, we next checked the oil while the engine was turned on in Albany, and you can't do that since it's circulating.  We added oil at that point in time.  When we left Albany, the oil was a 1/4" over full on the dipstick, but the boat had been sitting for two weeks since the engine was last run, so every last bit of oil had filled the pan.  Then we checked it again in Kingston, 12 hours after we had run it, and it showed a 1/4" UNDER full, so we thought we may have burning oil.  We then checked it again in Haverstraw, and the level hadn't changed.  So... we're not sure if we are burning oil or not, and if the engine WAS overfilled, it would naturally burn the oil.

So... the partial hydraulic lock MAY have been due to the fact that our antisiphon valve is too close to the waterline (only a few inches above).  The unburned fuel MAY be due to the fact that the carbon buildup is preventing a proper spray pattern within the cylinders.  The oil burning problem may not actually be having.  The starter MAY not be getting the proper cranking amps from the starting battery.  We really liked the mechanic because he didn't try to be a miracle worker and give us a false diagnosis, but rather pulled things apart and told us what he would recommend to try, and what to do if those things failed.

We now have a project list: 1) Raise the vented loop/antisiphon to a higher level, 2) Add treatment to the fuel to clean the injectors, 3) Run the engine at higher RPMs, and 4) Soundproof the engine compartment so running at higher RPMs doesn't keep us from being below.

One last note regarding the engine - we never checked the impeller to see if the water was possibly entering the system from the intake side.  Kristen's Dad pulled it today and we found that several of the vanes were curved in the opposite direction from the rest.  This could definitely cause problems.

So that leads me into fate.  As I've mentioned before (maybe?), my 97 year old grandpa was diagnosed several months back with Leukemia.  He was receiving blood transfusions, but a week ago he decided to stop doing them.  He came to terms with his mortality, and said it was time to move on.  This past weekend, he attended my cousin's wedding, and he had a huge smile on his face during the whole event.  Not only that, but he stayed until the end as opposed to leaving early on.  We were all very impressed, and very glad to have the time with him.  My assumption was that it would be the last time I would see him.  Kristen and I drove him back to his home that night, and saying goodbye to him took on a whole new meaning. 

My mother and uncles were supposed to visit us on Pelican on Thursday.  At around 12:30pm I received a call from my mother that my grandpa had taken a turn for the worse.  His blood pressure was rapidly dropping and he was in a lot of pain.  She suggested I come right over.  I called up my uncle who lives about 15 minues from Haverstraw and spoke with his wife, and she drove us to my grandpa's home.  All of my cousins, aunts, uncles, sister, mother, nieces, nephews, second cousins and other family showed up through the rest of the evening.  My grandpa was on morphine at this point, but he was still waking up every so often and we could communicate with him.  All of the grandkids and great-grandkids took turns going up to him and giving him hugs and kisses.  Each time he would put a smile on his face and react positively.

Throughout the night, we all stood watch over him, taking turns holding his hands (if you let go, he would become agitated and seek them out), rubbing his back, and talking to him.  My mother was constantly repeating, as she stood vigil over him, "It's OK.  Everything is OK.  You can go now."  The morphine caused continuous nightmares.  He kept sitting up and screaming "Help me! I'm paralyzed!", and we'd gently lower him down, hold his hands, stroke his back, and tell him that everything is OK.  That we're all there, and we're making sure that everything is fine.  At times, when he appeared to be in pain, we'd give him a dose of morphine.  At around 3am, he calmed down.  His legs stopped trembling and his nightmares appeared to have gone away.  This was the last time we heard him speak.

Kristen and I left the home at around 6am to get some sleep at my uncles.  We left my uncles at around 10am to head to the boat.  We had never told Poppi that we were staying over, as we hadn't expected to, and we needed to pick up some clothes.  We were on our way back from the boat at around 2pm when I got the call from my mother - my grandpa had passed away.  She said that he was peaceful and that it was gentle.  He took a last few labored breaths, and then just stopped.  The nurse had opened the window to my grandpa's room a couple of hours earlier.  She said that this would allow the angels to come in to take my grandpa to heaven.  I'm not a religious person, but I'd like to think that's true, and that he is now dancing away with my grandma in a much better place.

My grandpa was Jewish, and "Bashert" is the Yiddish word for fate. When people don't have an answer to why something happened, they say it's bashert. We've been travelling up and down the coast of the US and the Bahamas for almost a year now.  We've been in many ports and been both in touch and out of touch.  The day before my grandpa passed, we happened to be sitting 30 minutes away from him.  We happened to have left Albany on a certain day, and to have engine troubles leading us to stay in Haverstraw for an extra day.  We happened to of had to attend to business in Albany which led us up here in the first place.  None of these things were good on their own, but they came together to allow me to spend one extra day with my grandpa, and that is something that I will never regret.  It's bashert.

Tomorrow is the funeral.  I'd love to get up and speak about what my grandpa meant to me, but I know I'll be far too emotional.  My parents were divorced when I was only four, so my grandparents took care of me a lot of the time while my mother worked full time.  My grandfather has been a huge role model in my life, as some of my earliest memories, and ones I am most fond of, are of being at the textile factory he owned and watching all of the people who worked for him treat him with respect, and him, in turn, talking about their families and how happy he was to be able to employ them.  A lot of my approaches to running my business come from those memories - the people who work for me are like an extended family to me, and I care as much (actually probably much more) about their happiness and well being as I do about how much money they make for my company.  The memories I hold of my grandpa are good ones, full of family, richness of life, enjoying oneself while the opportunity is there and respecting those around you.  He was a man full of vigor almost to the end of his life, and a person who (in my eyes) didn't let adversity get the best of him.  He lived through the Great Depression, two world wars, the invention of the television and the computer, and me living on a sailboat (although he told me I was an idiot and crazy for doing it), and I love him dearly, and will miss him greatly, but I will always have the memories.

Good bye grandpa, and I'll see you again one day.


peter said...

Sorry to hear about your Gandpa. I do hope you were able to speak at the funeral you said it so nicely to all of us. I'm sure that he was very proud of the man that you have become.
Peter R Carey

Anonymous said...


I am sorry for your loss. I too am not that religious but believe he is in a better place.

Wayne Pensiero

Anonymous said...

A very touching post. I enjoyed how it morphed from your engine technical issues to your now deceased Zadie (Grand Dad). The discussion of your diesel's problems did not bring tears to my eyes but the rest of the story, well...
Reminded me a bit of my own father who died in '01.
I also enjoyed your mentioning your Catholic wife making you matzoh ball soup. It was meant to be - Bashert.
Wondering when you will get to NYC?
CalebD on sailnet and elsewhere.

Sylvina said...

Chris, Thank you for sharing this amazing story. I forwarded it to my Jewish co-worker, who immediately recognized "bashert." She's just read it and said how beautiful it was. Wow.

Brian Pribis said...

I'm sorry to hear about your grandpa. Please accept our condolences. You are all in our prayers.

Brian (and the rest of the Pribis clan in central NY).

Jerr Dunlap said...

Thanks for the discussion on your diesel engine - Power plants are my one real weakness and you gave me some insights. I do have a hint for you about soundproofing your engine, though - Use the foam that's 2" thick and about 2/3 looser density and 1/3 higher density (closed-cell, of course), with a 1/8" strip of very high density separating the two and aluminized on one side. This breaks the sound very well. Now double it, so you're insulating to 4". It really takes all the bang out of the engine. Make sure you leave extra large baffled intake passages (I use the bilge).

Sorry to hear of your grandfather's passing and I'm glad it was quiet, with his family. I've been there.

I'm looking forward to following your adventures, especially because I'd like to raise a family cruising. Please feel free to check out my blog and ask any questions!
- Jerr

Tammara said...

You're blessed to be living your dream! :) Happy sailing!