As many of you may have seen in your various news feeds, Friday August 26th is/was International Dog Day.
Based on my observations of our dogs, it seems to me that EVERY day is pretty much Dog Day, but apparently the 26th makes it official.
Ruby is our 14 year old “Spoodle”, a mix of Cocker Spaniel + Poodle and
Barney is our 10 year old Yorkshire “Terror” as Christine affectionately calls him.
They have been with us from the very beginning of their respective lives as well as ours as a couple.
Going to the Dogs is a bad thing?
I’ve always been curious about the origin of all the various sayings we have in our language and years ago I was quite surprised when I looked up “it’s a dog’s life” and found it defined as “a difficult, boring, and unhappy life” and that “going to the dogs apparently means “: to become ruined : to change to a much worse condition,The economy is going to the dogs.” All my experiences with dogs had been quite the opposite and as you can see in the photos above, Ruby and Barney certainly seem to have a life that many would envy.
However, I must admit that of late things aboard Möbius do seem to fit the dictionary definition of “going to the dogs” with the various problems that have cropped up with our FireFly batteries, Kabola diesel water heater and the list goes on. Latest addition this week was finding that the Bow Thruster was not working and I’ll use that example to highlight my contrarian perspective wherein I regard all these as challenges to be taken on and resolved and that in the end they turn out to be good things.
That’s not a Bug! That’s a Feature!!
Another common phrase we often hear is that when life deals you lemons, make lemonade. Along similar lines, one of the more profound and transformative concepts I synthesized during my decades working with software and technology, was that rather than “problems”, such challenges present me with the opportunity “to transform bugs into features”. I have come to realise that it is largely a matter of perspective. If you look at things differently, things look different. In addition to the new understanding and skills I learn by fixing things and resolving these challenges, they also present me with the opportunity to improve and make things better after they are fixed than they were originally. The problem with the Bow Thruster “challenge” this week is the most recent example I can use to illustrate how I apply this “bugs into features” approach.
After spending time with my multimeter tracing all the wiring for the Bow Thruster, the issue turned out to be caused by very poor electrical design by the manufacturer, in my opinion, for the way the fuse and wires from the controller joy sticks at both helm stations, are placed and connected to the Bow Thruster motor in the Forepeak.
The four wire connector on the Left and the 5Amp ATC fuse on the Right are located on the outside of the 24V motor of the Bow Thruster and thus completely exposed to the damp and often salty air in the Forepeak.
This is the four wire connector with the 24V positive connection being completely corroded and making no connection to the Red wire it joins.
The ATC fuse holder and the 5A fuse itself were in even worse condition.
Compared to the new Orange fuse on the far Left, you can see that both of the spade terminals on the factory fuse have completely corroded into dust.
Not much surprise then that the Bow Thruster wasn’t working.
Quite surprising and disappointing to me to find such an obvious design fault in what is otherwise a very high quality bit of kit, and it made no sense to just clean up the fuse holder and redo the four wire connectors as the same thing would just repeat itself, presenting me with the “opportunity” to not just fix the problem but to improve the whole wiring setup.
My apologies that I forgot to take photos as I was working and hope these generic images will still help you understand what I did to transform these bugs into features.
I carry a good supply of these sealed ATC in-line fuse holders for just these kinds of situations and so I replaced the original factory Black plastic built in fuse holder on the Bow Thruster with one of these. I also extended the wire length so that the fuse holder was located up higher in a more protected spot which also provides better access if/when this fuse ever blows and needs to be replaced.
√ Fuse now fixed and working
√ Sealed fuse holder
√ Better protected location
√ Easier to access for future fuse replacements
For the four wire connector, I replaced it entirely with new wires that I spliced directly to the wires on the Bow Thruster using these crimped butt splice connectors that have adhesive lined heat shrink coating that completely seals the connection.
√ No more exposed connections
√ No more corrosion
Hope this helps illustrate my perspective on how to transform bugs into features.
With the above as context, I have a much bigger and much better example of my latest transformation; Mr. Gee 2.0! Here is a brief (consider the source) overview of what’s been happening with Mr. Gee lately.
Several months ago, after Mr. Gee had about fifty hours of run time, I began to hear a metallic “ticking” noise when he was running. It wasn’t very loud and sounded very similar to when there is too much clearance between the end of an exhaust or intake valve and the rocker arm. I had previously done the recommended valve adjustment after about the first five hours of running and all the metal parts have been through multiple heating and cooling cycles. Shortly after hearing this new ticking sound I checked the valve clearances again and found them all to be spot on but the ticking noise continued.
After that I kept my ear attuned to the ticking and it seemed to stay the same, not changing or getting any louder so I thought it was perhaps just a normal Gardner sound and just kept listening closely on every engine room inspection while we were underway. I do one of these ER inspections every hour or two when we are underway and record all other engine data such as RPM, fuel consumption, SOG (boat speed over ground), oil temperature and pressure, coolant temperature, Exhaust Gas Temperature EGT and temperatures at various parts of the engine and the air in the Engine Room. Reviewing this spreadsheet allows me to see what all these readings should be and makes it easy to spot any changes.
Everything stayed the same until we about ten hours into making our way from the Greek island of Rhodes to Athens on the mainland. I began to notice some increased temperatures in the area of the cylinder heads by cylinder #3. All the other temperatures of oil and water and metal parts elsewhere remained the same but I also noticed that the ticking noise was getting louder. More like a slight metal on metal knocking sound. Always hard to tell with sounds inside an Engine Room if this is just your imagination or if the sound really is changing but I shut the engine down and did a much closer inspection of every part of the engine but found no visible signs of any leaks or other changes. So I restarted Mr. Gee and we continued.
You know where this is going! Sure enough the heat around the exhaust and intake ports of cylinder #3 continued to rise, the ticking noise got louder and the engine ran more unevenly. Not a condition that could be allowed to continue and so we rerouted ourselves to the closest island of Kalymnos where I would be able to take on this latest challenge and figure out how to transform this bug into a feature. This would have to wait for a month or so because we now had our granddaughters and family onboard followed by some other dear friends so not much time to work on Mr. Gee.
Eventually though, I was able to do some deeper testing and dismantled the engine enough to find that the exhaust and intake valves on cylinder #3 were defective and no longer sealing on their valve seats and hence not getting cooled down.
Valves, the exhaust in particular, live in a very nasty high heat environment and they mostly are cooled when they are tightly closed and can transfer their heat through the valve seat. If they don’t seal tight they don’t work as a valve bringing the air/fuel mix into the cylinder, sealing it completely on the compression and then power strokes and then letting all the burned mixture out the exhaust port. And without the contact to the valve seat, they rapidly start to overheat and would eventually likely crack.
I am very fortunate to have some of the best experts there are when it comes to diesel engines and Gardner’s in particular. I have the Mr. Gardner himself, Michael at Gardner Marine Diesel GMD, the home of Mr. Gee and all Gardner engines and my long time friend Greg who I’ve known since we were in University and trade school together and who is the best expert on diesel engines I know. I spent a LOT of time texting and talking with Greg and Michael and they were both eXtremely generous with their time and patience. After going through all the possible scenarios and reviewing all the data and photos of what I was able to see, the problem and the solution became quite clear.
I had begun the restoration of Mr. Gee when Christine and I were house/pet sitting for some dear friends in Portugal and had a machine shop there do all the machining of the cylinder heads and block and install the new valve seats, valve guides and cylinder liners. Michael at GMD remembered this and he noted that installing new valve seats in these LXB engines is quite particular and he has seen problems in the past when other machine shops have installed new valve seats and valve guides, so this cast some doubt on whether these had all been installed correctly by the machine shop in Portugal. While we won’t know for sure until a more detailed examination of the valves, seats and heads improperly installed valve seats became the most likely suspects as to what was causing the problems with Mr. Gee and making that ticking noise.
It was possible I could remove the cylinder heads, order in new valves and seats and find a machine ship in Athens or somewhere to properly install all new valve seats and guides, but this would not be easy to arrange and would not be a shop that had experience working on Gardner engines so we quickly ruled out this option. To be completely sure that all the valves, seats and guides on Mr. Gee were 100% correctly installed, this work needed to be done at the Gardner works at GMD. Our attention thus turned to how best to do this?
30 Horses Gallop into the Scene…..
I should also note at this point, that I have been having a completely separate conversation with Michael all this year about converting Mr. Gee from the 150HP @1650 RPM he is currently at, to the 180HP @ 1800 RPM option which the 6LXB can be configured for. The 150HP setup is a Continuous or 100% duty cycle which means the engine can be run at this speed and HP 24/7 which many 6LXB’s are. The 180HP version has a lower duty cycle which means that you can run them safely at full power and RPM for shorter periods of time and then continue at lower RPM. Almost all diesel engines have this range of RPM/HP they can be configured for and on mechanical fuel injection engines such as the Gardner LXB, this involves physically changing the fuel injection pump setup to inject a higher volume of diesel fuel on each intake stroke and adjusting timing of the injectors and valve advance. Not that difficult but requires specialized tools, equipment and expertise from Gardner than what I am comfortable doing.
In our trips this year, about 80 hours total run time, we have been finding that the Goldilocks or sweet spot for the best combination of loads, EGT, speed and fuel economy is about 1400-1500 RPM so why am I interested running Mr. Gee at up to 1800 RPM? Simply put, I would like to have the option to call on those additional 30 HP, a 20% increase, in an emergency situation when that extra power could mean the difference between getting out of a situation vs loosing the boat. One example of such a situation is when you are at anchor and find yourself on a lee shore when the conditions change unexpectedly such that there are high winds and seas trying to push the boat onto the shore. Of course this always seems to happen at O’dark thirty and you are in the dark with every second counting, so being able to start your engine and call on every pony the engine has can make all the difference.
Lest this should sound a bit farfetched to some of you, just this past week we were vividly reminded of how fast and unexpected this type of lee shore situation can develop when a very high wind storm swept over the island of Corsica in France. You may have seen this in video on the news you watched and seen these winds gusting up to 224 km/h (140mph) pushing hundreds of boats onto the shore.
I had therefore wanted to do this conversion to the 180HP setup before we start venturing out on our longer passages and later in the season and was going to remove the fuel injection system from Mr. Gee and ship to GMD to do the conversion and then ship back so I could install it and we could continue our travels. The trick was going to be when and where to do this as Möbius would need to stay in one place while the fuel injection was off being reconfigured. Now that we found ourselves with such a rare and ideal side tie dock arrangement we serendipitously stumbled upon here in Kalymnos, this latest challenge with Mr. Gee’s valves and the repowering all seemed to converge into a perfect storm kind of situation and here is how this all came together.
Go BIG or Don’t Go!
As long time sailors, we have come to understand how critical it is that you have complete confidence in your boat before you go to sea. When you find yourself in those rare but inevitable situations where things have become very nasty and every decision is critical, having ANY doubts about your boat, or yourself, can be crippling and life threatening. Mother Nature can be an eXtremely effective teacher and you soon learn the hard truth about how critical such confidences is and that if you don’t have full confidence, then you don’t go to sea.
Given the high dependency we have on Mr. Gee for our propulsion and the fundamental requirement to have eXtreme confidence in all the critical systems on Möbius, it was not difficult for Christine and I to decide that we needed to go “all in” on this situation and transform all these “bugs” into features resulting from us doing everything possible to ensure that Möbius is the most seaworthy boat we could create.
I’m sure you can see where this is all headed. Rather than send just the fuel injection system to GMD to convert it to the 180HP version, go Big and send all of Mr. Gee to GMD. Michael made this decision even easier by kindly offering to do a full exchange of Mr. Gee for a new 6LXB that they would put together at the Gardner Works there at GMD. We send them Mr. Gee, they send us a new 6LXB we will now refer to as “Mr. Gee two point O” or Mr. Gee 2.0 They will transfer over a few of the external bits such as the items I have already polished such as the rocker covers, GMD side covers and the custom brackets I’ve designed and built for things like the sea water pump and hand crank system but these can all be done right after Mr. Gee 1.0 arrives at GMD and after the new Mr. Gee 2.0 has been built.
Michael will also put the new engine on the Gardner dynamometer where they can run it through its paces, do the initial break in and create a full HP/Torque/Fuel graph directly from the readings on the dyno. I don’t have a photo of their dyno yet but this one will give you a rough idea. The engine is mounted to the dyno with flywheel connected to the measuring devices that read horsepower, torque, fuel consumption, etc. and plot this out onto a graph. This will add to our confidence that we know for sure what these outputs are and will make it a relatively straight forward process for me to lower the new Mr. Gee 2.0 into the ER, connect him to all the mounts, Nogva CPP, hoses for coolant and exhaust and electrical and we will be able to get back out to sea and set our sights on destinations West.
I hope that all of the above does not come across as me being flippant or suggesting this was all easy or without a good share of sadness and frustration along the way. It was all of those things and I do have thoughts about “Why me?” from time to time. But as I’ve often found with the big decisions in life, these were also very clearly Goldilocks decisions being just right, just for us and in that sense they were easy to make. The harder part has been dealing with all the time and logistics it has taken to do all this from a small remote island in the middle of one of the busiest and most disrupted summers in the EU and now waiting for the new Mr. Gee to get back here.
Out with the Old
As you might imagine it was rather hectic here going through all this testing, making the arrangements with the local crane truck to remove Mr. Gee 1.0, securing him to the pallet and arranging to get him trucked from Kalymnos to Athens and then onto two more ferries to get him all the way to the GMD in Canterbury in England, so I don’t have too many photos but here is a quick summary of all that.
Gee, I wonder why it doesn’t take me too long to disconnect everything and get Mr. Gee ready to be lifted up? Oh yeah, lots of practice!
I enlisted the help of two local men to help extract Mr. Gee from the Engine Room and …..
….. then over to the concreted dock we are side tied to.
All the openings sealed and taped off and engine strapped onto the shipping pallet.
Shipping labels attached under Shrink wrap to keep him clean and protected for his long journey home to GMD.
And just a few hours ago, I received this photo of Mr. Gee in the storage warehouse of the trucking company outside of London waiting to be make the final leg of his journey over to GMD in Canterbury on Tuesday as Monday is a national “Summer Bank Holiday” in the UK.
Don’t even think about asking me how long this whole journey has taken! Let’s just say that all you’ve been hearing about disruptions to supply chains and shipping, record high tourist traffic this summer in Europe and how the whole EU tends to take their holidays in the month of August, is so very very true.
Leaving me with a very sadly empty Engine Room and a lot of greasy hand prints to clean off the walls.
Going Out with a BANG!
Thanks to Christine, I can leave you with a dynamite ending to this week’s update by sharing THIS LINK to her latest SailingWriter newsletter.
She continues to be very self disciplined with her daily physio routines after her knee operation and been taking full advantage of her “Freedom Machine” aka her eBike, to explore this fascinating island we have been living on since July and finding new beaches for her in the water exercises. Click the link above to see all her photos and explanation of how this island is literally a dynamite place to be!
Back to where I started this posting, I will let Barney send us off into a new week as he wistfully enjoys another sundowner and contemplates what it truly means to live a dog’s life
Thanks for joining me again this week and hope you’ll be back for more next week. I will!