After a short but memorable trip we are anchored opposite Zeke’s restaurant, waiting to go onto the cradle and haul out Chasamba for the first time in four years. The last time she was out of the water was in Thailand, in Asia Marine, near Ratanchai in Phuket, since then we have just dried out next to bamboo piles , once in Puerto Princesa and once in Bonbonon. Whilst it is cheap to paint antifouling this way it isn’t really good enough, and Chasamba really needs this haul out.
The way here was much easier than the trip from Puerto Princesa to Bonbonon. It was a short trip, we spent one night at anchor, and the weather was good, in fact too good, with very little wind. We had to motor much of the way, which gave us an opportunity to see how our overhauled engine works. It was fine, except for one incident when we got air in the fuel lines three times, one after the other. Oren disconnected the primary fuel filter, which must have been sucking air in, and it stopped happening. The scary thing was that we were just at the narrow part of the channel between Mactan island and the reefs opposite Cebu, and the current which is very strong there kept pushing us closer to the reefs. In the end we got fed up and went back a few miles to find an anchorage for the night. The next day we easily passed the channel and arrived here. Internet is better here, so I’ll be uploading photos and video of the haul out soon.
Not us! But friends of ours, a Swiss guy living in China and his Chinese wife, plus their two small children. They arrived at the entrance to Bonbonon after dark last Tuesday in bad weather. Their engine had given them problems on the way, showing low oil pressure, and their main sail had ripped in nasty squalls with 50 knots gusts of wind. Exhausted, they decided to try to enter the harbour under sail; they had the track and thought they could manage it. Bonbonon has a difficult entrance, with a long sand bar across most of the width. To enter, a yacht has to close with the land until it is almost on the shore, then turn smartly and dash into the channel which runs parallel to the rocks. Unfortunately the wind had dropped with darkness, leaving huge waves. As long as they were approaching the shore they were pushed along by the waves, giving them the impression that they had enough wind to maneuver- when they turned side on to the waves to get round the sand bar at the entrance suddenly they had no speed and were swept onto the rocks. This could have been a bigger disaster, but luckily all escaped unhurt, largely because another cruiser and Boy and Arlene came out in dinghys and helped, first trying to pull the yacht off the rocks and when it began to break up pulling the children out and up the cliff. The cruiser, a German called Gunter who is a brilliant mechanic, lost his dinghy and outboard motor in the process, and Boy and Arlene overturned and by luck managed to save their dinghy, Boy manhandling it over the coral somehow and avoiding puncturing it. Gunter was injured, getting a nasty gash on his knee, and all had cuts on their feet from the coral.
The yacht , a 30 year old Beneteau, was completely destroyed during the night, only little bits of wood and trash was left to wash up on the beach. During the next few days local people dived to find anything which could be saved, but found little, only winches and the mast, which was in two pieces. The outboard engines of which there were three were smashed to bits, and there wasn’t much else on the boat since it wasn’t a full time cruising boat. The engine is still on the sea bottom. We came out with the rest of Bonbonon’s cruising fraternity to see whether we could help the next morning, but there was very little we could do. Oren found some clothes washed up on the beach; until then our friend had only his shorts to wear. Other cruisers fixed Boy’s outboard engine, which had been submerged. Luckily there is a resort on the rocks called Kookoo’s Nest, and the family took a room there to recover before flying back home.
This story makes me realize how much we have learned in the time we have been cruising; we also arrived after dark in bad weather, also without an engine. We also thought that we could probably make it in to the harbour, and really wanted to, since staying outside is uncomfortable and we were tired. But we didn’t do it. We overcame the natural urge to finish the journey and chose a spot far enough from shore to be safe, put down our trusty fisherman anchor with 200 metres of rope in 40 metres depth , just like the fishermen do, and rolled around, even managing to sleep, until morning. Then we fixed the engine enough to get in, waited for the tide and easily chugged in. This is called experience. It is gained when you come in to shore at night and get up in the morning to find yourself in a big coral reef ( Eritrea) and when you follow the chart to enter harbour and find it is not in the right place ( Galle, Puerto Princesa), and when you have a hundred other near misses. Everyone has them, but an unlucky few don’t manage to survive them intact.
Really I have to stop calling our engine names. Or start calling it Mr Lovely, or Ms Nice-to-Hear. After about a week of working getting all the bits fastened on and finding out which wire should go where, we finally turned the ignition switch yesterday for the first time. Nothing happened, but again, it wasn’t the engine at fault, but us again. We had mixed up the starter wire with the alternator wire. Sorted out that, and tried again. The engine roared into life, in fact it started to work frighteningly fast, and the oil pressure seemed to be very high! Then it died suddenly. All very worrying signs, and we worried that something awful was wrong. After calming down a bit we had a think and played around a bit with things and discovered that the throttle control, which we had had mended since we couldn’t find a new one, was sticking and making the engine work at 3000 revs. The oil pressure sensor was in the wrong place, and the oil pressure alarm had been accidentally used for a bilge pump. Lastly there was a bit of air in the fuel pump which caused the engine to stall when it got through the pipes. After fixing all these we started up again, and lo and behold, we have an engine! The gear is working perfectly, and when we make a lengthening strip of metal for the throttle that should work too. Now we have a few minor problems left; a minor fuel leak probably caused by high pressure pipes which need tightening, a new tensioner for the alternator and a slight leak of water from the seawater cooling pump. But we have an engine, and it sounds good. Very good.
This is a clip I uploaded to youtube showing how we got our engine back;
Getting Mr Grumpy back on board…
Mr Grumpy has been reborn as Mr Misunderstood-Trying My Best Under The Circumstances. We really need to apologize to our engine, and I will explain why. But the important thing is- it is working, sounds good and is sitting in the Yacht Club, enjoying a cold beer and waiting to be refitted.
Now, why should we apologize? Well, after the overhaul was complete, all new insides and scrubbed clean, almost a new engine completely, the mechanics tried to start Mr Grumpy. Just as before the overhaul Mr Grumpy turned over with the starter but refused to start. The mechanics couldn’t understand why; took off the fuel pump and took it to be retested even though it had been refurbished, changed the battery, checked the stop control. No, no, no. Then they got desperate and sprayed a bit of petrol in the air inlet, and the engine started- a second later there was a big explosion and the water cooling pipes flew off, narrowly missing several workers in Hammerhead’s machine shop, where the overhaul was being done. When Oren looked inside, the whole of the salt water cooling inlet was blocked with a kind of white powdery substance, and the aluminium was eaten away round it. It turns out that because the engine was not used for so long seawater which was sitting in the intake caused electrolysis which ate away the aluminium and deposited the oxide in the middle of the pipe, blocking it. There was no gasket between the stainless steel pipe adjoining the aluminium heat exchanger, which probably caused part of the problem.
Luckily the only aluminium welder in Palawan works in Puerto and was available, he filled the hole and did elegant work- not cheap, but better than waiting for a replacement part from England for much more money.
So, the engine would never have started on the boat. Maybe it didn’t even need to be overhauled at all- the mechanics said that the amount of pressure generated could have caused the pistons to stick in the first place. But we are glad we did do the overhaul; there were so many little problems we found while doing it, and Oren learned a lot about engines. It didn’t cost too much either, and here is the breakdown of costs for whoever it interests;
Parts from England ( we ordered from Parts 4 Engines, and they were good)- 20,000 pesos
Import tax-5000 pesos
Parts bought in Philippines- 6600 pesos
Fuel pump and atomisers – 6,400 pesos
Work (two mechanics for a week and use of the workshop plus workers)- 22,500 pesos
Aluminium welding- 1,200 pesos
Altogether 62,000 pesos, which is 4,844 shekels, or about 1,400 dollars.
We used local products as far as possible and paid nothing for the lorry which took the engine back to the Club. Altogether we were very happy with the work done; in the Philippines many tools and parts aren’t available and the workshops are used to making parts from scratch; the sleeves used were reshaped from similar ones available here, a saddle which broke was replaced with a new one made on the spot, but these mechanics do this all the time and keep old engines running for ever.
Another update to follow with pictures of the overhaul.
As you can see, Mr Grumpy, soon to be reborn as Mr Nice Guy, is on shore! We took the cockpit sole out and hauled the engine up with the boom and tackle, it really wasn’t too hard. Then we swung the boom out and gently lowered the engine into the yacht club tender. It went well, and on shore Oren organised several Philippino helpers to get it into a tricycle and off to the industrial zone. Hammerhead, Oren’s machine shop guy has already finished the head, and now we are trying to find piston rings. The sleeves were no problem but Hammerhead says the rings must be original Perkins rings, and they are hard to get here. Perkins’ distributor in Manila say they don’t have any in stock, but will try again to find some and will give us an answer today. If they really don’t have any we will have to order from England, but they should arrive quite quickly by DHL. Just hope the customs don’t have a field day.
The gear is clean and painted, and has new hoses, the injection pump has been checked and fixed; it had a leak and apparently was causing high fuel consumption; the water pumps are both fine and the cooling system is ok too, just needs cleaning with a bit of vinegar in the pipes. So, it’s just the rings holding things up, and that problem should be solved soon. So far it hasn’t been too expensive; as long as you take bits to the shops yourself and do all the running around things are really cheap here. When everything is done and (hopefully) working, we’ll give a summary of costs.
The gear is out! After a lot of pulling and pushing. Now it needs cleaning and painting, then it can wait to go back in.
The wind hasn’t changed, still easterly and still quite strong, so we are still sitting here. Oren has finally gotten fed up of waiting, and has decided to take the engine apart and take it bit by bit to be fixed. Thanks to my father we have the engine manual, and poring over it we gradually managed to take off all the bits and bobs and get the cylinder head off. This is going tomorrow to Hammerhead, Oren’s favorite machine shop guy. It will have to be followed by the rest of the engine, which is heavier, and we will borrow the yacht club’s pontoon float for that, plus a few Philipino lads to manhandle it on and off.
The engine looks awful inside, and surprise surprise- sea water was in two cylinders! This is probably because of turning the engine over to try to start it lots of times while the sea cock was open. It isn’t the only reason the engine is stuck, but it certainly can’t have helped.
The cylinder head waiting to go to the doctor….
And the rest of the engine feeling airy and waiting for it’s turn!
Nasty muck in the cylinders!
The plan now is to overhaul the engine here and get it working again, change or overhaul as many peripheral bits as possible- fuel pump, atomisers, oil filter housing, water pump- and then we will have a way to get to Port Carmen to do the rest of the work we need done. By the time the engine is ready the wind will have died down and we will be into the calms between monsoons, so motoring will be a reasonable option, at least part of the way. And meanwhile we aren’t just sitting here twiddling our toes. If the engine is still not as good as we would like we can sell it as a working engine in Port Carmen and get a much better price for it than selling it as a lump of metal. But we hope that with Hammerhead’s love and care the engine will rise from the dead and become a completely different engine; clean, reliable, economic in fuel, quiet… Maybe our expectations are a bit exaggerated!
The weather looks good on Tuesday, with a northerly wind according to grib files; grib files are not always accurate, particularly for wind strength, and often underestimate, which is what happened on our last try to get out of Puerto. However, we are willing and ready for another go, and Tuesday seems the best day. Fingers crossed!
Meanwhile buffet day at the yacht club has rolled around again, it’s a hard life!
On Sunday we went to the traditional lunch buffet at the Abanico Yacht Club ( or Yatch Club as it says on their sign!) and with stomachs full of the things you can’t get at sea, like roast pork, fresh salad and braised Kang Kong (the Philippine version of spinach), we contemplated going out to sea. It is hard to leave any port after a few days, when things seem comfortable and you start to forget the feeling of flying through the waves on a good tack with a good wind. All the more difficult when you haven’t moved for more than a year and a half, and hardly remember how to access your navigation program, or where the halyard for the genoa is. After a year and a half of cancer treatment, too, I had fears of my own; would I have sea sickness? Would I have the strength to do shifts?
Despite all our queasiness we started the automatic preparations that lead to setting sail; lashing, which means getting all the things which could fall on the floor settled into safe places, clearing away anything which could interfere with sheets (ropes really), getting the gps connected and talking to the navigation program, checking the route out of the harbour to make sure there are no obstacles (important when you have no engine…). Somehow all this lead to us actually raising the main sail, throwing off the mooring ropes and unfurling our genoa as we gradually gained speed and found our course. We were both in shock that we were actually sailing again!
Chasamba behaved wonderfully; we had a strong easterly wind, not perfect for getting to Cebu, but good for sailing the first few miles. Puerto Princesa is a big inlet, and the yacht club is right inside at the far end, so it is about 8 miles to the entrance. The bay has lots of fringing reefs, but we have a really good map, one of the few which are accurate for this area and works with Open CPN, so we felt safe not sticking to the waypoints that most yachts use, and had a free hand to use the wind. We flew the first few miles, until the yacht club was out of sight; we had the ebb tide in our favour and a broad reach. The only problem was that for the last few miles the inlet changes direction, bringing us dead against the wind. It’s a few miles wide at this point, but fringing reefs make it hazardous to tack, and by this time it was getting dark, so we returned a short distance and found a good anchorage, well protected, just outside the Port area. After a reasonable nights sleep we set out with a nice westerly breeze at 7.30 the next morning, and nearly got out of the entrance without tacking. The easterly Amihan wind came up early though, and we had to tack a bit in the end. The problem now was that the wind was absolutely dead against us and very strong, at least 25 knots, there was a strong southerly current and we really couldn’t make much headway, no matter how much we tacked. We spent most of the day tacking, beating into the fierce wind and really not enjoying it much. Chasamba actually seemed to have fun, she likes a good strong wind, and she had been waiting to sail for so long, but in the end we made the decision to go back home and wait for a better wind. With a heavy heart, but also a bit of relief, we turned the wheel and surfed down the waves back into the inlet. We sailed all the way up to our mooring, just losing headway a few metres off, and one of the cruisers kindly came over with his dinghy and pulled us up to our mooring ropes. Later we saw that Robert and family on Emma Peel, who left a day or two before us, had also returned, and found out that they had hidden in Honda Bay for a day before giving up too- they were bound for Bonbonon, the same direction as us.
So, now we are waiting again, hoping for a south-westerly wind, just for a few days. We are doing jobs meanwhile; I greased a winch which had been sticking today, and found lots of dog hairs, for shame (Sheva has been gone for a year and a half), and changed the seal on the heads, a job I had been putting off, but it was really leaking a lot so no choice! I also went to the market and bought wonderful little calamari for dinner, mussels for lunch and chicken wings for a barbecue tomorrow. Oren is rebuilding the cabinet behind the stove, so the wind had better not change tomorrow!
This is just a little piece of what was stuck on the bottom of Chasamba. Sponges, soft corals, barnacles and seaweed made a haven for shrimps, little crabs and seaworms, as well as things I have no idea what they are. Now nearly everything is off, the bottom of the keel is the last refuge for displaced sea-beings and in the next few days that will be gone too.
We plan to leave Puerto as soon as we can, now we are waiting for a good weather window and just need to do stocking up and a few last preparations. The new wind vane is whizzing round making loads of electricity, the new solar panels are pumping electrons into our batteries and all we really need now is a fridge. Unfortunately there is no way to buy one here, we will have to wait until we find somewhere where they are common.
What a weird photo, huh? Oren’s tablet takes good pictures, but the blades of the wind generators aren’t really bent like that!