OK, we haven’t had a technical boat post for a while. Mostly travelogue recently. But it is time to get a few issues off my chest.
|Monashee at anchor in Baracoa, with fishermen setting their net from an inner tube behind. I don't think they really needed to come right behind our boat, but they seemed to want to get a look inside.|
Having said all that, though, we have been struggling with a few issues on our boat, which in the grand scheme of things are relatively minor. For sure, if we were still in Florida, they would be really minor. We would probably have them all fixed in a day or two, and they wouldn’t occupy much of our attention. But sitting here, in the isolated bay of Baitiquiri, on the south coast of Cuba, where we are not even allowed to go ashore, minor issues have a way of seeming a lot more significant. Mainly because, without everything working perfectly, the safety margin that we depend on is being chipped away. We are getting close to the point where another minor issue or two could add up to a major issue, and make things more sketchy than we are happy to live with.
|All of Baitiquir that we are allowed to see, since it is forbidden to go ashore. Although I'm not sure there is a lot more to it.|
|The Baitiquiri Guarda Frontera, heading in after they checked out our boat.|
We seem to be able to work around it by turning off the battery charger, and running those systems independently. But that means we need to run the generator twice as long, and use twice as much diesel if we want to make water. Before we left Georgetown, I contacted Rafael in Fort Lauderdale, and he had some trouble shooting suggestions, but nothing seemed to fix the issue.
I also contacted Outback themselves. They didn’t get back to me for a while, but just before we left the Bahamas for Cuba, they sent me links to a bunch of Youtube videos about the system to “help me understand it.” For all I know, the answer might be in there somewhere. But with next to no internet access in Cuba, that is not the most helpful approach. Fortunately it has not been that big an issue so far, since we spent several days in a marina when we first got here. That allowed us to charge our batteries right up on shore power, and fill our water tanks. That means we have been able to pickle our water maker for now, and just ignore the problem. Still, frustrating. And something we will need to get sorted out eventually.
|Our AC pwer panel. The analog dial in the upper left may or may not be right in telling us we have a gremlin in our A/C. system. I will need to find a marine electrician somewhere to help me out with this one.|
The next issue that is troubling us has to do with our outboard engine, on our dinghy. Before we left Ft. Lauderdale, we knew it was in need of a 100 hour service. We tried to get this arranged there, and we did go over the engine with Rafael, who didn’t find any problems with it. Strangely, we couldn’t find a place in Ft. Lauderdale that was willing to come and pick up our engine to do the service. And since we had already given up our van, we had no way to get it to them. So, we figured we would get it done in the Bahamas, where we could bring it in by boat.
|The bay at Baitquiri is full of jelly fish. We were hoping to get under the boat to clean it here, but were not so keen after seeing this.|
When we were in Puerto de Vita, I managed to hook a hose up to the system and tried to back flush it. It seemed to clear a bit, but we haven’t gotten to test it yet, since we are really not allowed to use our dinghy in Cuban bays and anchorages. Again, it is not a huge issue, since we seem to be able to run it a little bit, and it is OK over short distances. But it does erode our safety margin, since the outboard on the dinghy could also be used to tow the big boat in the event of engine failure there.
Which brings me to our third issue. As we were motoring from Puerto de Vita into Baracoa, we noticed the rpms on our starboard engine started to drop periodically, and then pick up spontaneously. This started to happen in the last hour of our 20 hour trip. Previously, it had seemed to be running fine. We didn’t run the engine the entire way, but it ran for a big chunk of that trip.
When we left Baracoa for the overnight trip around Punta Maisi, to Baitiquiri, where we are now sitting, initially, the engine seemed to run fine. Then, again, two hours before we got here, the rpms started to drop. This time, it was further, and more frequently. With our limited knowledge of diesel engines, we have pored over our diesel repair book, and the owner’s manual. It seems the most likely problem is a faulty fuel injector, although air in the fuel lines could also account for the problem. Given that I have no way to repair a fuel injector in our current location, I decided to bleed the fuel system, and hope that might help. I suspect it won’t, though, since you would think if there was air in the fuel system, the problem would have been consistent, instead of getting worse as we ran the engine longer.
|The fuel injectors are those three things in the middle of the picture with the small pipes running to them.|
And it remains to be seen whether we can get fuel injectors repaired in Santiago de Cuba. Apparently Cuban mechanics are miracle workers with limited resources, so our fingers are crossed. But if we need parts, like a new fuel injector, we are probably screwed. Which leaves us with trying to get the boat somewhere else. Like 115 miles across open water to Jamaica.
Adventure. Not always fun when you are in the middle of it.