Light the Blue Touch Paper and Run Like Hell!

Light the Blue Touch Paper and Run Like Hell!

Watch out seagulls! La Mouette now has an engine that works, however, as we all know, it’s not enough for a diesel engine to just go suck, squeeze, bang, blow.  It also has to propel the said vessel through the water to destinations with palm trees.  Well at least to get the boat out of the marina to where the sails can take over, and then go to destinations with palm trees.  But I am getting ahead of myself here – there won’t be any palm trees until La Mouette can get out of her berth!

The engine rebuild went fabulously, unfortunately, we faffed about too much and by the time the rebuild was completed, Christmas was upon us and the installation was delayed, in fact, until February.   As I am inexperienced in aligning the engine with the propeller shaft, we got the boys from Minards Diesel shop to give us a hand.  James, who lives in nearby Ettalong, helped out.  Tuesday was set aside as the big day, and I took a couple of days leave to prepare the boat and do all the last minute jobs.  Monday was spent finalising the engine mounts.  The original ones were quite rusty and pitted and needed a jolly good clean up.  The rubber mounts were going to be replaced, but the actual brackets, which were basically 90×90 angle needed a good clean and a coat of paint.

The starboard forward mount seemed to be the worse one out of the four brackets – mainly because it was situated directly under the water pump and at some time in the past, the pump must have leaked with the result that the bracket was incredibly rusty. It was so rusty in fact, that despite being cleaned up with degreaser, hit with a wire brush bit in a drill, and then being treated with rust converter, followed by two coats of primer, the rust was still coming through.  I even cleaned it up several times  and after several more coats of primer, the rust still came through!  Very frustrating to say the least.  In the end, I filed and sanded it – eventually, I ended up with four engine mount brackets that looked good enough to go back in.  There were also a few other bits and pieces that needed cleaning and a coat of paint which was duly done.  The centre piece of the engine is the red five litre fuel tank that sits on top and it was going to need to look good.  The original tank had had a leak at some stage and was fixed with epoxy.  The boys from Minards recommended scrapping it.  The spare tank I had was in pretty poor condition as the flange was separating due to rust.  E-Bay came to the rescue and I purchased another tank.  However, when cleaning this one up, I found that someone had repaired a leak by braising an old two cent piece to it!  I had definitely got my two cents worth with this tank!

With all the bits painted up and looking new all that remained now was to do one last clean of the engine bay, install the mounting brackets and ultimately the engine.

Tuesday morning dawned to the sound of ducks quacking around the marina and fisherman scooting around the bay in their tinnies. James came around with the engine and we man-handled it out of the truck onto the trolley, up onto the wharf and ultimately into the sparkling clean engine bay using the boom as the lifting device.  Surprisingly, all the engine mounts located correctly except one, the forward starboard mount.  Guess which bracket gave me all the trouble when I was painting and cleaning?  Correct, the forward starboard mount.  For some strange reason it just didn’t line up with anything.  James went out and found some 90×90 angle from somewhere and made up a new bracket.

By the end of the day, the engine was pretty much in but a lot of things still needed to be done before we could hit the starter button. Friday was the next scheduled day and things would continue then.

We stayed over on The Gull on Thursday night in order to get an early start. Friday morning saw more of the Yanmar come together and by the end of the day it was pretty much ready to go.  As we sat back in the cockpit in the late afternoon enjoying a couple of well earned beers, we watched a huge storm front come through.  First, the black clouds headed south west, then the wind changed direction by a complete 180 degrees.  You could see the storm still heading one way and some of it coming back the other.  It was quite strange.  Then the air changed and we all felt that pre-storm feeling – a disturbing quietness.  Perhaps it’s the negative ions that give that feeling, or it’s just the anticipation of what’s to come.  It was time to go.  We packed everything up and headed back to the city.  With the storm had come a blackout and there was no power in the area,  including the train crossing at Woy Woy.  The resulting detour and traffic jam added another half hour to the trip home.

Saturday morning was the run down the final straight. Everything had been connected, aligned, bolted, painted, crimped, fuelled, charged and given one final wipe over with a clean rag.  The big moment had arrived.  James had mentioned a problem with the alignment in that he couldn’t turn the propeller shaft.  This was strange as I had been turning it around a few days earlier to paint the flange.  It appears that the shaft had to be pulled up into the boat a little bit in order to get it to mate with the output shaft from the gearbox and it we figured that the most likely reason was a barnacle build up on the propeller itself.  To check if this was the case, I gaffer taped a waterproof camera to the boat hook and stuck it over the side to have a look.  The propeller wasn’t just encrusted with barnacles, it was basically a blob of them.  No wonder we couldn’t turn the shaft!

Would it work? That was the big question.  The wiring harness had been in as a poor condition as the rest of the engine bay and some stopgap repairs had been needed.

I am surprised that we haven’t experienced any problems with the wiring to date as a lot of it is in pretty poor condition. High up on the to-do list is a total rewire.

With all the battery cables connected up and the wiring loom connected, the ignition switch was switched on and we quite surprised to hear the shrill warning buzzer sound. Of course, it’s supposed to sound and boat owners are conditioned to expect it when you turn the key, but it still came as a surprise!  We must have got something right!  That was the first position of the ignition key, the second is the actual start and we gave it just a quick turn and were gratified to hear the engine try and turn over.  All that remained was to bleed the fuel line.  Once bled we hit the key and ….  It started!  It took a few moments for it to settle into some sort of regular idle but it was going.  We killed the engine and again hit the starter.  Bang, it went straightaway.  The various deities were looking upon us favourably.

Until the prop is cleaned of its barnacle collection, there wasn’t much more to be done. Just clean up the boat and make it ship shape again.  The wooden engine box was put back in place and the main saloon was tidied up.  Things were starting to get back to normal.  The afternoon saw another storm front come through and this time the drive back to Sydney was fraught with excitement as hail stones were bouncing off the bonnet and the motorists on the freeway couldn’t handle the hail stones, nor the rain which seemed to be a wall of water at times.  Sydney drivers are just like cats – a few drops of rain and they go into a mad panic and rush around doing stupid things.

It’s one thing having your engine looking brand new and working, but La Mouette still has to leave her berth and once again brave the currents and tides of the Brisbane Water Channel, not to mention all the kayakers, jet skis, ferries and the antics of the BBQ hire boats. But more of that next time.


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