August 2, 2009.
Guess who! That’s right. Guess where! Right again, Spa Creek in Annapolis, Md.
Well, I got my new parts for the generator and installed everything. There was to be a bit of irony though. You see, at work I’ve probably fixed a half dozen generators in the last 2 weeks. So it was ironic that when I cranked our newly reassembled generator over I found that I had screwed up the timing. The way that the incorrect timing made itself know to me was by the top of the piston coming into contact with one of the valves and bending the shit out of one of my pushrods. F*%k. I can’t believe this shit. Of course, it was on Saturday morning so I got to stew in my own juices waiting for Monday morning so I could order new parts. So it seems that I can fix other peoples crap but I screwed up my own. Ironic, moronic…..whatever. Damn.
Right after the generator “event” my boss called and asked if I could put in a few hours. So I dinghied in and found myself tasked with installing a new stackpack on a small sailboat. It all went pretty well and the new stackpack looks pretty sweet on the guy’s boat.
On Sunday Christy and I were supposed to go pick up a catamaran that had been hit by lightning and bring it in for repairs. But at 0835 on Sunday morning “Bob” called and asked if I wanted to put in a few hours as 2 boats had broken down in the city marina and were referred to us. So at 0900 “Bob” and I drove down to the marina and headed to either boat.
It turns out that the boat “Bob” went to was in the care of a new captain / engineer and he might not be as familiar with his new command as his resume might have led his new employer to believe. It seems that they had come in from Baltimore, docked for the night and when the boat was started in the morning it soon died. These bigger boats all have several fuel tanks and it turned out that they had run out of fuel in their selected tank. The captain was certain that he had 75 gallons of fuel in that tank before the beginning of their short trip to Annapolis. “Bob” had to explain to him that in a boat this size 75 gallons is nothing. So after changing to a full tank and a bit of bleeding they were up, running and on their way again.
My boat for the day was an 85 foot monster. They were also having fuel starvation issues. The engine room was massive and housed two 12 cylinder twin turbo diesel engines and a pair of generators that were each bigger than my boats propulsion engine.
The captain said that the port side generator failed, followed shortly by the other generator and then this morning during warm up both main engines died. He also assured me that nobody had been in the fuel system. So I was left to ponder how the hell all this air got into the system. Its gotta be sucking air somewhere. I crawled through the engine room and all the way to the bow tank, which was their chosen tank, looking for evidence of a leak.
There were 4 different fuel tanks, 2 main engines and 2 generators. None of them would run because of air in the fuel lines. The boat has a huge manifold system and I was able to determine that they all only had one line in common. The main fuel line from the number 1 tank. So I switched the selector to tank number 2 and isolated the port engine. Then I started to bleed it. The system is so big that it took me an hour to bleed it but viola, the port engine started right up and purred like a 4000 pound kitten. Then I did the starboard engine with the same results. It was when I was bleeding the port generator that I realized what the actual problem was.
You see, it’s a good habit that whenever you change a filter on an engine that you use a marker and date the filter so you can tell at a glance just when it was last changed. As I was sitting there pumping fuel to the generator I noticed the date on the spin on fuel filter and it was 8/1/09, yesterday. So it seemed that someone HAD been into the fuel system. Oh look, and they were in there on the same day the problems started. Coincidence? I think not.
When the port generator died the captain / engineer decided to change the filter and evidently screwed it up bigtime. Some how he got air into the entire system. The only thing I can figure is that he had the other generator running while he opened the fuel system and he sucked air into it as the other generator drew in its fuel. That would explain the starboard side dying and then there being air in all the lines when it was time to fire the main engines in the morning. So once realizing that there probably wasn’t any leak at all things went like they were supposed to and everything was soon running.
The owner was aboard and was pretty happy that we had come out on a Sunday and he was psyched that I got him running. As a result I got the first tip I’ve seen since working in Annapolis. But its already spent......new pushrods.
When I got home to the boat there was a bit of entertainment going on in the adjacent mooring field. It seems that someone brought their wee powerboat into the river and dropped the hook and then dinghied in to town. Then their wee powerboat dragged into the mooring field where it came to rest against one of the empty moorings. If you look closely in the picture you can see his tiny rope anchorline pointing almost straight down. And they'll be wondering why they dragged....