Thursday, May 3, 2012

Groundhog Day

My frustration level has reached an all-time high.

The day started out with great hope and anticipation as I made my way to the mechanic's shop to hear, what I assumed would be, the steady purr of our Perkins diesel.  The plan was to run the engine in the shop for a day and, if everything looked good, install it on Friday.  The rebuild was completed on Tuesday and the engine, my mechanic assured me, was running great. 

Finally some good news, I exclaimed and began making plans to move the boat.  Millie was scheduled to fly back on Monday but, considering I'd be busy with the engine install for the next few days, we decided to change her flight until the end of the week.  This would give me time to get the boat in order and put some hours on the engine for the break-in period before Millie got here.  With any luck we could be ready to leave Barra and sail north soon after her arrival.  That was my hope, anyway.

But, it seems, the little village of Barra does not want us to escape.  And, the diesel mechanic here in Barra has a way of crushing any remnants of hope.

My morning cheer quickly soured when I walked in and saw pieces from the exhaust sitting on the bench.  Instead of the familiar hum of a running diesel I heard the somber voice of my mechanic:  "I think you need a new heat exchanger."  "Whaaaaat?!" was the only response I could manage.  How could this happen?  Is it Groundhog Day?  Anyone who has seen the movie will understand my despair.  Yesterday everything was fine and today it all falls apart...again.  Instead of moving back to the marina I'm facing yet another week in the anchorage and yet another expensive charge to my credit card.  This little lagoon has become my prison.

For those unfamiliar with the inner workings of marine diesel engines, the job of the heat exchanger is to cool the freshwater coolant as it flows through the block.  It's the same concept as a car's radiator, only it uses seawater instead of airflow to extract the heat.  Cold seawater is pumped through little copper pipes and the hot coolant passes over them.  That's the concept, anyway, and it seems to be an effective way of cooling the engine as long as you keep the freshwater separated from the saltwater.

Apparently, in my case, the little copper pipes in the heat exchanger have eroded to a point where the coolant is leaking into the seawater and flowing out the exhaust.  It's a small amount but the coolant is going somewhere and it doesn't appear to be in the oil (thank the gods that be for that).  More than likely, the heat exchanger sprung a leak after it was cleaned in an acid bath as part of the rebuild.  And, this little event wasn't detected until running the engine for an hour.  So, now, it would seem, I need a new heat exchanger.

As a result, our stay here in Barra will continue for a little while longer.  I'm working on the fastest method of acquiring a new heat exchanger.  It won't be cheap but at this point my time and mental health are more valuable than the cost of shipping.  I may move the boat back to the marina over the weekend anyway.  The boat needs a good cleaning and I need a break from the lagoon.  My visa runs out soon, so next week I'll take the bus to Puerto Vallarta to get an extension.  Then, on Friday, it's another long bus ride to Guadalajara to pick up Millie and Colin.  They will be a welcomed site for my sore eyes.
The last time I saw Colin he was just learning to walk.  He would grasp my hand and wobble across the floor.  Now, Millie tells me, he's running and climbing.  How long has it been?  I don't even want to do the math.  It's amazing how quickly children develop, how they process the world around them and adapt to the changes within their little bodies.  Each day brings new surprises in both physical and cognitive growth.  Those moments go by fast, and I want to be a part of it.  It's time to see my family again.  Some things are more important than engines.
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Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry that our 1st time cruising has had to end with such disappointment. Colin & I are coming back out to be with you soon. We Love & miss you much. Love, Millie