Gang Aft Agley

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

At least things started well on the voyage to New Caledonia. We got the ship all prepared, we cleared Customs and Immigration, and the good Fijian folks at the Vuda Point Marina came out to sing the lovely Fijian song of farewell, “Isa Lei”.

fiji last 1The weather was stunning, the sea was sparkly and full of light, and the winds were predicted fair.

fiji last 2We went out through the channel by Momi Bay. I hadn’t been through it since the time that I wrote about in Old Bill Rises From The Dead, and that was at night, so it was great to go through it again in the daylight.

fiji last 3I found a good spot to mount my thermometer to measure air temperatures, well shielded from the sun under the awning (red arrow) but fully exposed to the wind. I’ll discuss my results in a future post.

fiji last 4And here’s the thermometer in use …

fiji last 5However, day was turning to night when the first sign of trouble appeared. The diesel engine started “loping”, meaning it would speed up and slow down, speed up and slow down … grrr. Now. I’m a decent diesel mechanic, as are many commercial fishermen. However, we were fortunate to have an Australian “diesel fitter” among the crew, and he knew his stuff. After a long battle with the engine, he figured out that it was drawing air into the fuel from … well, somewhere. Here are the possible options, the red lines are fuel lines, any one of which could be leaking air …

fiji last 6As time went on, the problem got worse, and efforts to find the leak failed. At about thirty hours into the voyage, since it was just about twice as far to New Caledonia as back to Fiji, the prudent mariners decided to turn around. Discretion is almost always the better part of valor on the ocean, and a bad engine on an ocean crossing is no joke.

However, there were still temperatures to take, a trip back to make, and more awesome weather than a man could hope for. Outbound it was calm, but on the way back, we saw lots of thunderstorms.

fiji last 7 fiji last 8I got to thinking about “virga” on this trip. Virga is rain that falls from clouds but evaporates before it hits the surface. I saw lots of it, and I wonder how much of it is captured by the climate models. In fact, how much of it is captured by observations? How would you even measure it when it doesn’t hit the ground? Gotta love the settled science …

In the night, a half-dozen flying fish flew on board, attracted by the lights. We also got a couple of flying squid on the deck, which is about a metre and a half (5’) off the water … amazing creatures. The one in the photo is about 200 mm (8″) long.

fiji last 10And of course, under it all, the ethereal shimmering cobalt-blue sea parting under the bow, deep beyond imagining …

fiji last 9All too soon, however, we were back inside the reef in Fiji, with the headlands standing proud in the afternoon sunlight and us boys looking on in awe …

fiji last 11 fiji last 12So … that was our trip. Great fun, but far too short. We got in an hour before sunset, tied up to the Quarantine Buoy outside the Marina, and put up the yellow “Q” flag that signifies we’re waiting for Customs and Immigration to board the boat and check our papers.

fiji last 13Now, it’s the next morning, the “Q” flag is still flying, and we can’t leave the boat. The Customs folks will get here … sometime. It’s Fiji. Meanwhile, the trip is delayed indefinitely, so I’m going to fly on to Australia. I started out to go there, and by gum, I’m gonna make it. Am I upset about the trip evaporating? Nope. As the poet said, “The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley”. Or as the swabbies say, “God is my co-pilot, but Murphy is my engineer” …

Besides, one thing I’ve learned in my voyages is that Bokonon was right when he said, “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.” Me, I just dance it as best I know how. Plus which, I want to meet Tu the tattoo god …

So the beat goes on. Of course, I’ll continue the story of my meanderings, more to come.

My best wishes to all, fair seas and fair winds to everyone,


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May 8, 2016 1:29 pm

Good read, and the cobalt sea is incredibly beautiful. 👍🏻

May 8, 2016 1:30 pm

Sometimes, **it just happens.

Reply to  Perry
May 8, 2016 1:46 pm

I’ve always said at sea that the bigger the audience the greater the likelihood of a major f**k up. Given the virtual audience you created for your trip Willis, I was wondering what was going to happen.

george e. smith
Reply to  Rod
May 8, 2016 3:15 pm

So this ‘ ICE ‘ is a sail boat; right ? Well in the same sense that Ivanpah is a solar free clean green renewable energy source; in this case, powered by un-natural gas.
Sounds wonderful.

george e. smith
Reply to  Rod
May 8, 2016 5:35 pm

Well Willis,
We’re glad that you and your Sailing; excuse me, that’s ‘Motor Sailing’ Mates; are safe on dry land.
But it certainly is a teaching moment.
It seems that one should build a good SAIL BOAT before adding the fire contraption to it, rather than the other way round.
Besides sailing is much more funner than inhaling diesel fumes.
Take care new landlubber.

george e. smith
Reply to  Rod
May 9, 2016 3:23 pm

Used to sing ” Isa lei ” as a kid Willis. Forgotten all the words now.
Didn’t realize it was Fijian, I always thought Hawaiian. Well we Kiwi glommed onto anything that seemed Polynesian.
Of course Fijians are sort of border line Polynesian / Melanesian, but were always welcome in the Shaky Isles.

Reply to  Perry
May 9, 2016 1:29 pm

A seamanlike decision – to return – was taken. Excellent – many thanks.
Your voyagings are utterly enthralling, as ever – but – here – display the seaman’s care for the sea, the ocean: if not really ready – review.
And – so – go home!
Yes! Much appreciated!
Many sailors – amateurs and – especially – professional need to review this.
Perhaps a review of the MIAB report site, , ma be of use.

Richard Keen
May 8, 2016 1:43 pm

“At about thirty hours into the voyage, since it was just about twice as far to New Caledonia as back to Fiji, the prudent mariners decided to turn around. Discretion is almost always the better part of valor on the ocean….”
Sounds like the prudent Italian aviators in “Night at the Opera” (1935) with a twist – Chico Marx speaking here, as Fiorello, the aviator,
“The first time, we get halfway across when we run out of gasoline. We got to go back. Then I take twice as much gasoline. This time, we were just about to land, maybe feet…when, what do you think, we run out of gasoline again. Back we go and get more gas. This time, I take plenty gas. We get halfway over, when what do you think happened? We forgot the airplane. So we sit down and talk it over. Then I get the great idea…we no take gasoline. We no take the airplane. We take steamship. And that, friends, is how we fly across the ocean.”

May 8, 2016 1:48 pm

Willis, I hope you visit the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and give us a report on its beauty and how climate change is not killing the reef. See Eric Worrall’s article.

David L. Hagen
May 8, 2016 2:23 pm

A Blessing

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

St. Patrick

Reply to  David L. Hagen
May 9, 2016 6:12 am

I prefer the translation of the last verse which goes
“May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.”
Seems to flow better.

David L. Hagen
Reply to  Oldseadog
May 9, 2016 6:39 am

Excellent. May we know the security and protection of Him who quiets the waves with a word: Peace. Be still! Mark 4:39

May 8, 2016 2:23 pm

Never been there but have seen photos of PNG reefs. The fishing and diving is fantastic by the looks of it.

May 8, 2016 2:24 pm

Since you’re all on the scene and the action is habitual for many used to diesels.
Still, I’ll state the obvious.
Make sure the fuel filter and the fuel-water separators are tight.
It might even be a good idea to pull the filter and separator canisters to make sure the seals are oiled and seating properly. Sadly, one must stick one’s nose practically into the filter mounts to verify the seal seating surfaces are not scarred.
Hoses that leak air one way, should leak oil the other way. Theoretically anyway. I’m sure you all tried opening the fuel tank cap to see if there was a vacuum; just another silly suggestion from someone thousands of miles away from the problem.
Other than that; I hope repairs are simple, inexpensive, quick to find and that the rest of your journey sheer pleasure!
Flying squid on deck; great! Fresh calamari! Though I imagine getting hit in the head with wet squid at night could be exciting.
Flying fish on deck; great bait!
Check for fishy predators causing at least a few of the flying fish to jump. A little tuna or mahi-mahi goes great with calamari!

george e. smith
Reply to  ATheoK
May 8, 2016 3:29 pm

Well you haven’t lived if you haven’t had a swarm of 10# or 10 kilo Humboldt squid come flying out of the water; Polaris missile style, perhaps with a nasty Sperm Whale hot on their asses.
Seen it several times in the Sea of Cortez in broad daylight. Luckily, I’ve never had one come on board. Biggest one I ever boated (on a fly rod) was around 15 kilos. They do get about three times that big. Mine was about seven feet long.
Around 5-10# is better eating size. We let the big one go, to join his friends; about eight of them, all the same size, trying to get a piece of whatever mine had a hold of, in the event he let go of it.
Very dangerous critters.

Reply to  george e. smith
May 8, 2016 9:24 pm

George e. Smith:
I’m with you and Willis!
Catching a small one for calamari or sushi sounds great to me; but one doesn’t choose which size surrounds the boat.
Having a 10Kilo squid sail through the air and land clicking and grabbing nearby reminds me of catching large bluefish or large King or Spanish Mackerels. Then again, some fresh water muskellunge with mouths full of sharp pointed teeth were large enough to make me very careful.
I saw one documentary where the camera crew interviewed a number of Mexican fishermen with Humboldt squid scars up their arms. Smart, tasty and very dangerous.
One can imagine what those giant squids of the deep must be like, especially after seeing some of the scars left on whales.

Joe Crawford
Reply to  george e. smith
May 9, 2016 9:01 am

There is a simple solution for boating large fish with lots of teeth. Pour a bit of rum or vodka, etc. on their gills. It paralyzes them almost immediately.

george e. smith
Reply to  george e. smith
May 9, 2016 12:24 pm

The big one I boated was a test subject for a very special fly rod, made for me on a custom (one only) S-glass blank. I figured a good test would be to haul a big Humboldt out of the depths to test its lifting power, so I had asked the guide to find a deep “squid hole”. He said, “Well there’s one over there, around 600 ft deep.
So we went “right over there” and I dropped a couple of ounce big squid jig on the end of my fly line, all the way don there. No fly casting finesse to it. My fly line backing was 50# test braided SPECTRA gell spun polyethylene. It has no stretch and one big surprise was that I could actually feel the jig hit the bottom 600 feet down.
If you are in the right spot (we were), you cannot get the jig back to the boat without a big Humboldt squid.
Just a couple of small jigs, and suddenly I was hooked up; Well actually the squid was caught on the jig by one of his tentacles, and everything came to a screeching halt. It was like trying to lift a five gallon bucket of water.
Well I got it up about 10-12 feet, and about that time the squid woke up. “What the hell am I doing up here, instead of down there with my buddies. ?
So then he fires up his jet engine and just takes off. It’s not at all like a series of jerky spurts. They can inhale and pump simultaneously, and generate a continuous powerful thrust.
The Mexican Pangeros are scared to death of them. A ten pounder, can outswim you in scuba gear, and will drag you under, down to where him and all his buddies will eat you.
When I finally got it to the surface, blood red, and mad as hell. there were about eight more, all the same size swimming around waiting for him to drop the jig so they could get it.
If they happen to drop off while your are hauling them up, well another one will grab it, so you never get the jig back without a squid.
So the friends, were all a creamy color, but with multicolor lights flashing and rippling all over the body. Totally beautiful to see but also mean as sin.
So my catch is now on the surface, tentacles facing me, and hence also able to eye me.
The eyes are huge, this one was maybe eight to ten inch diameter eyes, and he knows damn well what he is looking at.
Well first of all, he spied my son standing there with my Nikon camera, taking pictures and leaning over the boat gunwale.
So the squid fires a couple of gallons of water hitting my son right in the gut, and just missing my Camera.
The guide is going to try and unhook the squid, with a gaff about five feet long, but first off, he wraps his arm through the boat steering wheel, to be sure he can’t fall overboard, and he is reaching out to try and jiggle the blue jig out of the tentacle.
So the guide got the next two gallon shot right in the belly. They know what they are aiming at.
Finally it figures out that it is me and my bent over rod, that is causing him all the grief, so I get about three gallons of briny right in the face.
Alejandro finally pried the jig loose, and the school took off and went back down to the bottom.
I’m sure the Pangeros have lost some folks going overboard in the middle of a bunch of Humboldts, so they give them a wide berth.
Well there are some places where they can get 5-10 pounders for calamari, in about 100 feet of water
Unfortunately they do do the spawn and then die thing, and when that happens the sea is literally covered with their rotting remains. Talk about a stink.
Sperm whales are their main predator, and they often chase a whole flock of them into the sky.
Totally evil mean creatures. They are also cannibals, so if one gets into trouble, the rest will just attack and chew him up.
The seas are full of wondrous weirdness.

george e. smith
Reply to  george e. smith
May 9, 2016 12:27 pm

I forgot to add, their “suckers” are not just smooth anemone like or octopus like suckers.
They actually have a sort of toothy rim, so they actually grab onto you with claw like suckers that will tear you up. Not something you want to play with.

Reply to  george e. smith
May 11, 2016 3:05 am

Joe Crawford:
I almost never have alcohol on board. Nor do I consider looking for an alcoholic drink while a toothy critter is bouncing around my tiny craft.
Every one of the fish I named uses their vision to try and target nearby targets.
george e. smith:
Thanks for putting the emphasis in Willis’s description, “mondo scary!”.
“…If you are in the right spot (we were), you cannot get the jig back to the boat without a big Humboldt squid…”
I’ve been in that position for catching Spanish mackerel, little tunny, blue runners (a jack in the Gulf of Mexico), red snapper and bluegills. I believe I will be satisfied just visualizing flocks of airborne or at depth Humboldt squid instead of actually being so close.
It is a good thing their lives are kept short. An aggressive intelligent long lived squid would be discouraging.
I’ve never watched a full sized whale breach water, though I did once see a monster shark do an amazing airborne jump. While the shark was bigger than my boat, any sperm whale would be substantially bigger than that shark.
I can imagine the wave kicked up as equaling or besting the bow wave of a tanker ship really cranking along. I barely got my anchor off bottom so that I wasn’t swamped, but people and gear were thrown all over the boat. When the next tanker arrived at the pass entrance, we got off anchor immediately and cruised over the bow wave.

Reply to  ATheoK
May 8, 2016 4:56 pm

ATheo, most of my farm equipment is diesel. Exceptions are Honda 4 wheelers. You would not believe how much time we spend fixing subtle diesel problems. Especially in fall/winter, when diesel can gel.
But plastic diesel lines, we NEVER deal with. Would rupture with the least winter moisture intrusion.. Would crack in principle anyway (twice already failed plastic fuel line repairs to chain saw and weed wacker- PTO costing many hours but small engine learning experiences). Solid copper fuel lines, or go home.

Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  ristvan
May 8, 2016 5:53 pm

In the 1970s in the hot deserts of NW Australia, we lost two of those new-fangled 4-wheel drive petrol Toyota Land Cruisers because of plastic fuel lines. Rapidly changed to metal lines. The 4WDs burned so hot that windscreens melted and flowed like toffee over the dash. Of course, plastic compositions modernise over time, but I have to agree with your generality to use metal.

Reply to  ristvan
May 8, 2016 9:46 pm

Good thinking ristvan.
The bright colored tubing bothered me, but I didn’t realize why. The tubing appears to be silicone tubing and should last for a while with diesel fuel. Nor should it succumb to vibration as stiffer nylon tubes do.
How old the silicone tubing is, is a very good question. Copper is a choice, but they also sell stainless steel tubing for commercial diesel trucks. A tubing flare kit is necessary to get good compression connections.
I have a diesel tractor myself. MY biggest curse are the dweebs that contaminate diesel fuels with ethanol additives. Algae quickly grows in the contaminated fuel, (ethanol absorbs water from the atmosphere and quickly reaches a point where the water separates).
The in-line primary fuel filter begins to clog with algae. At first the engine surges, but then starts choking. In goes a clean new filter. I also replaced all of the fuel lines, but I stayed with the fiberglass reinforced rubber fuel hose.
I also have a boat that drove me nuts once trying find what was wrong with the fuel system, (gasoline). Salt water rusted a small hole in the bottom of the water separator and allowed air to reduce fuel pressure and fuel to the engine.
As always seems to be the solution I finally tracked down the problem by dismantling the entire fuel path, taking it out of the boat and checking it over carefully in bright sunlight. I happened to spot the small rust speck on the canister and pressed on it; first with a fingernail, then with a screwdriver. The speck ripped into a hole under light pressure.
The boat ran terrific later that day!
Yes, those nylon tubes quickly get brittle on chain saws, trimmers, rototillers and what not. Fortunately their very short sections and easily replaced. Don’t over tighten clamps as that can crush the hard plastic connections into the carbs. Replacing them with copper or stainless is always the best idea.

May 8, 2016 2:51 pm

diesel symptoms as you describe can by due to plugged lines/filters. especially if it develops when the vessel heads out to sea and gets worse. crap in the tank is getting stirred up and partially blocking the fuel flow. might be in the filters, but I’ve also had crud block the lines ahead of the filters.
You can often diagnose the problem by cracking the injector bleeds with the engine underway. If the problem is air, cracking the bleeds will solve it temporarily. it the problem is blockage, cracking the bleeds will solve nothing.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
May 8, 2016 4:09 pm

..Oh come on Willis, stop denying it !! You know very well it was caused by that evil CO2 !! It causes EVERYTHING bad ! LOL

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
May 8, 2016 9:55 pm

still might be blockage. as the fuel line vacuum builds up air leaks in at the weakest point. without the blockage the vacuum never gets hard enough for air to leak into the system.
I had a length of springy SS wire I used to push backwards through the lines to clear the crap. First couple of days at sea after sitting at anchor for the season, crap would collect upstream of the filters at the reduction fittings downstream of the day tank. Engine would run as you described. I’d pull the fuel line off the fittings at the bottom of the day tank and sure enough, almost nothing would run out, when it should be flowing cleanly. Shove the wire up, the crap would pour out and the fuel would run fine. problem solved until next season…
Eventually I vacuumed the tanks and installed a perpetual bleed on the injectors, so even if air did enter the engine was self-bleeding if I opened a small ball valve. Engine starts running rough, open the self-bleed valve, 9 times out of 10 problem is resolved until you have time to trace the cause.

Reply to  ferdberple
May 8, 2016 3:12 pm

Thanks Ferdberple, just fixed my tractor.
Good decision Willis, ‘ICE’ looks like it would go to windward like a brick. With the current weather pattern and without a main engine you would have sampled more of the ocean than ARGOS to get to Australia.

Jim berryi
Reply to  ferdberple
May 8, 2016 5:28 pm

Just a thought, sometimes “looping” is due to sticking linkage between the governor and fuel control valve.

May 8, 2016 2:52 pm

You write this, as if any of us ever thought such a motley crew would ever reach their destination.
Just kidding, glad everyone is safe, too bad the fun ended so early.

May 8, 2016 3:16 pm

One of my favorites is after great ground runs and check, a brand new engine
is placed on an aircraft and after an hour + into the flight , Murphy says:
“Gee, #18 cylinder on #4 just sucked an intake valve…” and it is the
weekend and the destination has no facilities for a DC-6B….
So back to home base (Santa Rosa in this case.)..
Enjoyed this very much Willis…

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
May 8, 2016 4:57 pm

Nope NE Oregon now -Union County…

May 8, 2016 3:32 pm

One inexpensive technique to find air leaking into a liquid fuel system it to attach a small diameter rubber hose to a common small propane tank.
Crack the propane valve slightly (you just need a small flow of propane). Now, with the engine running move the outlet of the hose around to all possible leak locations in the fuel system (tube fittings, flange gaskets, valves, etc.). If you find the leak the propane will be sucked into the liquid fuel instead of air. The makes the fuel more energy dense, the engine should rev up and/or smooth out.
This does work for gasoline engines, I suspect it would work for a diesel as well.
Caution Propane is heaver than air and will collect at the bottom of a sealed engine compartment. It’s use in a ship may need to be carefully evaluated before hand for the presence of open flames, sparks, and the ability to ventilate properly.
There are also sophisticated leak detectors that work by “hearing” the leak. A small microphone is moved around the system, the amplifier shifts the frequency down from ultrasonic (higher frequency than a human can hear) to normal tones. As the probe nears a leak the tone changes and a good operator can pin-point a leak by carefully probing the system piping.
Also, many systems have a vacuum breaker. Fuel tanks can be tightly sealed to keep vapors from evaporation out of the system. Good idea, but as you pump fuel out of the tank a vacuum is created. The vacuum breaker allows air into the tank to replace the volume of fuel removed.
It usually involves a spring and if the internals get “gummed up” it may take more force (higher vacuum) to cause it to open. So the engine could be running normally and taking fuel out of the tank, but the vacuum breaker may be stuck. It will stay stuck until enough fuel is pumped out, but the fuel pressure will drop because the pump has to work harder to overcome the vacuum. Then bang-oh the vacuum level in the tank is high enough and the vacuum breaker opens up and the fuel pressure goes back to normal. This causes “loping” (uneven engine speed) and can look like an air leak.
Cheers, KevinK

charles nelson
May 8, 2016 3:46 pm

A Green acquaintance of mine told me yesterday that sea level rise had already claimed part of Fiji.
Did Willis hear any such tales when he was there?

May 8, 2016 3:48 pm

Glad our math guy is safe. Sorry he missed part of his adventure.
Think of our ancestors. Like before “fossil” fuels. But hey! no air leaks in fuel lines.

May 8, 2016 4:19 pm

Willis – once you get to Oz, check out Cairns.
Rafting on the Tully River – a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Diving on the Great Barrier Reef.
Best country I’ve been to – evah!
Regards, Allan

Reply to  Allan MacRae
May 9, 2016 11:30 am

Cairns (pronounced Cans) is ok but Port Douglas is nicer and has better diving. Try a 3 day trip up to the Cod Hole or go up to Cooktown and get over to Osprey Reef. You can have a great time just snorkeling on the outer reefs. The inner ones not so much anymore.
The fishing up on the north coast is perhaps the best in the world but tough to get to and can be expensive unless you go with a local. Best time of the year is about now. Have fun.

May 8, 2016 4:33 pm

Willis, some much less adventurous but related stuff. I sea trialed my new family 1991 sailboat (a Hunter 35.5) one fine spring morning way back when on Lake Michigan. We sucked in dead alewives (google invasive species and climate change) and the engine quit from overheating before we ever got to hoist a sail. Limped back. Stuff happens.
Would NEVER have a non-copper fuel line anywhere. Farm, house, boat. Plastic is VERY bad karma. Us farmers know this intuitively.
Bad Fiji repairs. Look good, in pactice bad. Plenty of former farm equipment dealers have learned.
May you enjoy fair winds.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
May 8, 2016 5:13 pm

You may be right about diesel fuel rails. But my 1983 hay tractor is still doing fine on its factory issue high pressure copper fuel rails. Heck, only the second set of tires. Now, I admit that its fuel pump needs regular annual maintenance. But not its rails or injectors. Of course, we are ~650 meters and many 1000’s of Km’s from any salt water. And we only get to typical -20F in winter, with 6 foot snow drifts.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
May 8, 2016 8:42 pm

My Diesels have metal (not sure what, looks whitish) from tank to near engine, then rubber cloth cover (nalgene?) to filters and such. Some bit replaced with none cloth cover rubber. Injector line high pressure metal, retun line cloth over rubber. The rubber hoses get replaced about every 15 years. Works fine…
I’d not be as happy with hard plastics (field repair harder than a roll of hose…), but frankly, even then, I’d expect a fitting or seal first.
Given the jury rig fixed it, you have a diagnostic tool… just add back in parts, one chunk at a time, and binary search down to the culprit, bypass it, and move on while you work on it… (much easier to do in port, when available, so agree with the decision.)
FWIW, my 27 inch shole draft motor sailer was fine on sail alone… as long as you were not going upwind into a 3 knt current .. The max V made good direct upwind was about 2 knt on a good day…

Ferdinand Engelbeen
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
May 9, 2016 12:26 am

Indeed Willis, injection lines are near always steel, as the pressure in slow (ship’s) engines is 170-200 bar from pump to injector (modern high speed car diesels even get around 2000 bar in their common injection rail!) and very few other metals would withstand the continuous rapid on and off pulses.
A pity that the trip was that short, but better short that having sailing problems and no motor in the middle of a storm…
I was looking at the manifolds of the fuel lines, maybe one of the valves was not fully closing and was sucking air from an empty tank? Leaking valves are quite common…
Murphy seems to have specific rules for picking the worst moments: we had once a motor failure in the middle of the Atlantic during the crew’s Christmas dinner, so every engineer going down getting the motor repaired while the rudderless ship was going from one 30° slope to another in every direction…

David Dibbell
May 8, 2016 4:59 pm

Willis, thanks for your interesting and insightful posts, and may you have safe journeys. Your mention of virga prompts me to put here as a comment a post I composed a couple months ago on social media. I know it’s a bit long. It astounds me how so many otherwise capable folks – scientists or otherwise – can buy into such an obvious (to me) misconception about how the atmosphere works. I address the global warming issue as an old-school mechanical engineer who started with a slide rule.
I was in Mr. Heinrich’s geometry class in high school. Great teacher. So does geometry matter? Is it reliable?
Can geometry help us examine the “global warming” hypothesis? Let’s illustrate with a geometry exercise. It’s a long post, but please read on if you are curious and wish to consider this question from an alternative viewpoint.
About one meter (40 inches) of precipitation falls per year, averaged over the globe. This is one cubic meter of volume per square meter of surface. Raindrops are 2.5 millimeters in diameter, more or less. From geometry, one calculates that the surface area of all the raindrops in one cubic meter of water is about 2400 square meters. Hold that thought.
The global warming claim is that the lower atmosphere will heat up as concentrations of carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gases” increase, absorbing more of the heat emitted upward by the earth’s surface. Then the warmed atmosphere emits more heat back downward, warming the surface. That’s the hypothesis. The geometry of this claim is one square meter looking up from the surface, one square meter projected downward from the atmosphere, as heat is radiated upward and downward.
But wait. The atmosphere does not actually work like that. The radiative emission and absorption of heat is in every direction from every location, not just up and down. In our illustration, as raindrops fall from cooler conditions higher up through warmer conditions down low, a huge surface area is exposed to the atmosphere for heat to be exchanged. Over a year’s time, this is 2400 square meters, on average, per square meter of earth’s surface! This geometric advantage applies to all forms of heat exchange between raindrops and the lower atmosphere: radiative, direct contact, and evaporation. The heat transfer happens rapidly as raindrops experience a stiff breeze as they fall by gravity. So just as the oceans and land surfaces are cooled by evaporation, convection, and radiative emission, so also is the lower atmosphere itself cooled, even more intensively as this geometry exercise about raindrops illustrates.
So what will an increasing concentration of carbon dioxide do? Logically, it will simply increase the effectiveness of the radiative part of the heat transfer between raindrops and the atmosphere. But will it change the temperature of the atmosphere? This is not plausible, as the fixed properties of water such as vapor pressure and latent heat of evaporation already exert such complete control over the temperature resulting from this intense interchange. Furthermore, if carbon dioxide increases the radiative effect downward near the surface, then logically the radiative effect is increased outward to space higher up where condensation occurs. Water vapor is recycled back up to condense again and form raindrops to fall back down to the surface, easily counteracting any tendency of “greenhouse gases” to change the resulting temperature down low. This happens without even implying any net change in rainfall reaching the surface. The atmosphere determines for itself how much of each raindrop makes it to the surface. We only measure the remainder. We don’t measure what doesn’t reach the surface, therefore it cannot have been modeled accurately enough for computers to tell us anything useful about it. But we can grasp what must be happening as we observe the rainfall and apply the geometry and the properties of water to this question.
So here’s the bottom line of this illustration: Some say “Dangerous carbon pollution!” “Climate catastrophe!”. But in reality, the atmosphere knows exactly what to do to control its own temperature, and will do it reliably using water as the vehicle with an overwhelming advantage in surface area. Geometry rules! Thank you Mr. Heinrich.

Reply to  David Dibbell
May 8, 2016 8:54 pm

One observation about virga that is interesting to me is the heat transfer. The condensation of virga constitutes the release of heat of vaporization as radiation at whatever altitude the cloud deck happens to be. At the same time, the virga, which by definition is not reaching the ground, then takes in an equal amount of heat in order for it to “revert” to vapor. That vapor would then head skyward once more, acting as a conveyor of heat energy from lower altitudes to higher altitudes.Willis has repeatedly underscored this. His photos underline the underscore. The small tropical storm systems are conveyors that carry heat upward. While a fraction of that heat roughly proportionate to the angular area of sky versus the angular area of land and sea at the altitude of condensation may once more “warm” the solid and liquid portions of the planet, more will head for space and will not return. As David makes the point, it is simple geometry.

May 8, 2016 5:04 pm

That fuel system looks unbelievably complex (the fuel must have got dizzy & couldn’t find is way out !! ):
lots of possible fail points, more valves than an old radio & lots of inverted loops for air bubbles to gather & have a convention.
There’s a lot to be said for a simple gravity day tank filled by float controlled electric pump + emergency hand pump.
Glad you made it back safe.

Reply to  saveenergy
May 8, 2016 8:37 pm

@ saveenergy, I agree, this system looks very complex as you mentioned, the inverted loops just ask for air bubbles and as soon as there are those you have a recipe for condensation. ( not good for diesel engines)

Reply to  saveenergy
May 8, 2016 10:11 pm

simple gravity day tank
agreed. we had 2 diesel tanks aboard the lazy bones, with 12V lift pumps to a common gravity day tank. all the complexity was upstream of the day tank, with valves to handle crossover. From the day tank to the engine was the simplicity. What could possibly go wrong? Yet for all that simplicity we still managed to routinely have lots of problems. Along the way I became a great believer in adding a liter of wood alcohol to the diesel tanks on each fill.

May 8, 2016 5:16 pm

One inexpensive way to find air leaks into a liquid fuel system with portions operating under suction (vacuum) is to inject something other than air into all the possible leaks locations.
Take a small disposable propane cylinder (the kind used for plumbers torches and small grills), attach a small (1/4″ OD, 1/8″ ID) rubber hose after the main control valve.
With the engine running crack the main propane valve just slightly open. Now run the outlet of the hose all around the fuel plumbing system joints. If you are lucky the engine will rev up and/or smooth out when you find the air leak and replace the air with the propane. This will make the mixture richer.
This may or may not be appropriate for the engine compartment on a boat. Propane is heavier than air and even though you don’t need very much propane you need to be aware of open flames, sparks from motor brushes and the ability to properly ventilate the engine compartment.
I have use this with success in gasoline powered engines, although in more open spaces than a boats engine compartment.
If you can safely replace air with propane at the location of a leak you should be able to detect it by the way the engine runs (smoother).
Or you can buy an ultrasonic leak detector if you have a fun hundred dollars laying around unused…
Good luck, KevinK.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  KevinK
May 8, 2016 7:01 pm

WD40 might be good in hazardous areas. Not as much fuel enrichment, though.

Reply to  Pop Piasa
May 8, 2016 9:06 pm

Volatile propellant and hydrocarbon solvent. My can says contents are flammable. Aeorsolize even some otherwise nonflammable substances and a spark can land you in the next county. I would suggest a CO2 cartidge “duster.” They use the CO2 cartridge from a paintball gun. You still need to watch out that you ventilate the compartment after using it, but CO2 won’t blow up.

Reply to  KevinK
May 8, 2016 7:59 pm

Propane is the diagnostic method regularly suggested by the Tappet Brothers on NPR.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
May 8, 2016 9:14 pm

“Maybe ether? I don’t know how heavy that is”
Propane – MW = 44, same as CO2 btw
(di)methly ether – MW = 46, so marginally heavier
(di)ethyl ether – MW = 74, so much heavier.
People have from time to time recommended freons of various sorts. Sounds reasonable, BUT: If freon finds it’s way to the engine air intake, it will decompose during combustion and the exhaust gas will have free chlorine and free fluorine. This stuff is some of the most nasty and dangerous stuff imaginable, people have gotten hurt by it.

Bye Doom
May 8, 2016 5:26 pm

Did you eat the fish and squid?

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
May 8, 2016 10:31 pm

a 2″ length of broom handle cut on an angle with a hole drilled in the middle and a white plastic bag wrapped around as a skirt will bobble and dive when towed behind the boat, trailing bubbles like a fish or bird diving back into the water. great for low speed fishing on a sailboat with a great big treble hook offset to the end of the plastic skirt. like the old joke about how did the kiwi find the sheep in the tall grass, fish find the lure irresistible.

May 8, 2016 6:58 pm

WOW…the color of the ocean…amazing!

Pop Piasa
May 8, 2016 7:12 pm

Can you smuggle us out a case of FIJI waters?

South River Independent
May 8, 2016 7:42 pm

Sorry you sea adventure was cut short, Willis. Love the pictures so far. After your plane leg be sure to do some traveling by automobile, train, and any other conveyance available.

Pierre DM
May 8, 2016 8:20 pm

New computer, forth time writing this. The boat looks well built and well laid out in the engine room. Sounds like the fuel might have needed to be polished prior to leaving port. It looks from the picture that there is a Gulf Coast fuel polishing system aboard the boat. There is a roll of paper towels in the canister that is used as a filter. Might be a good idea to check the filter.
It looks like there are multiple tanks and manual transfer with ball valves. What kind of fuel management plan are you running by. Does this boat have a day tank and did it run dry? That would happen at right around 24-30 hours if it was full when you left port. How well does everyone understand the fuel system on this boat? You might be pulling air caused by a valve in the wrong position.

May 8, 2016 9:30 pm

Looks like an electrician wired the fuel system.
Here’s a song for you, for the theme of the previous post, the ultimate sailor’s song.
“Falling Slowly”, Coope Boyes and Simpson

May 8, 2016 10:19 pm

looking at the pictures, the most likely problem with the fuel system is complexity.

Dave Liggett
May 8, 2016 10:41 pm

Willis, I’m Montana born and bred and love the mountains and prairies. Spent four years in the US Navy in the early 70s and was very happy to leave the briny ocean for my beautiful peaks. You sir, have made me miss the sea- well done!

May 8, 2016 11:22 pm

Never was in Fiji, but your pictures remind me vividly of my time as a swabbie in Guam.

May 9, 2016 1:07 am

My Own experience of your diesel problem would be that there is a water layer in the tank and the fuel and filters are now contaminated – this was a regular problem on my old tractor, it would run uneven for a while and then terminally would run fast before stopping completely. It then would start but only run for a short time. This was caused by the tank contamination blocking the small coarse filter in the tank, the suction created by the injector pump would invariably then draw in air from somewhere – normally from the seal on the manual lift pump.
Sure I am saying the obvious but it took me an age of scratching my head to work out what was wrong – at the time I was unaware of this ability for growth on the surface between water and diesel – isnt nature amazing!! even if da**ed annoying at times

wayne Job
May 9, 2016 1:38 am

Good luck in OZ Willis we call it gods own country.

Reply to  wayne Job
May 9, 2016 3:46 pm

I thought it was The Banks Owned Country.

May 9, 2016 1:44 am

How would you even measure it when it doesn’t hit the ground?

I should think you could measure it with radar. You might need a specialized radar unit with a low beam and a higher beam both aimed along the same azimuth. But it could probably be done. So it probably has been done. Extracting virga information from radars designed for other purposes like air traffic control? Seems dubious in this modern digital age. Any useful information about virga will probably disappear during the data preparation.
Sorry to hear that the ocean portion of the trip ended early. But at least it ended safely. Have a good time in Australia.

David Dibbell
Reply to  DonK
May 10, 2016 10:11 am

There is an interesting study using radar, at this link, from 1988.

May 9, 2016 2:33 am

Hi Willis
Just a curious question, being at a third of the distance why not press on, I understand the risk of the known issue, but now you are forced to do the 1/3 way back, and again the full journey (with the unknown risks).
I am not a sailor at all, but I think in this case the risk is equally great. what do you think ?
p.s. love your contributions to WUWT !!!!! keep em coming.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
May 9, 2016 1:09 pm

Thanks Willis… Goes to show every day is a learning day. Have fun down under!

May 9, 2016 2:46 am

Nice one Willis.
Knowing when something is broken and needs fixing certainly sets you apart from the climate modellers.

Nigel S
May 9, 2016 3:34 am

‘A man who is not afraid of the sea will soon be drowned,’ he said, ‘for he will be going out on a day he shouldn’t. But we do be afraid of the sea, and we do only be drownded now and again.’
J M Synge, The Aran Islands
Good decision Willis, disasters usually start with ‘having to be somewhere’.

May 9, 2016 5:56 am

Willis, it looks to me that the person who designed and installed the fuel supply system put a great deal of thought into it. Everything is securely fastened, placed conveniently and there are even drip pans for filters. There appear to be redundant filters and flow or pressure meters inline along with enough valves and filters to create tremendous flexibility and some diagnostic and backup capabilities. And then it failed.
It reminds me of some of the schemes for our future grid. Some want to add a huge number of components which will serve a wide range of needs and wishes and which promise flexibility and redundancy.
And then reality rears its ugly head and one rediscovers the truth about systems: at some point complexity becomes the enemy of reliability, maintainability, and repairability.
Good luck on your travels!

May 9, 2016 7:13 am

Hi Willis,
great reading, as an occasional sailor coming from country which doesn’t have sea access, I envy you from deep of my heart.. I practically feel salt calling me.
I drove diesel car in Europe for many years, knowing troubles of diesel engines and their sensitivity to fuel quality I mixed my own diesel additive which I used for 120000km in my diesel engine and kept my engine in like new shape. For full tank 65 liters I added 3dcl of gasoline, 1dcl of Kerosene, 50ml of two stroke engine oil and 10ml of ethyl hexyl nitrate or alkyl nitrate based diesel additive.
This is working in 2 ways, first enhancing evaporation properties where gasoline evaporates at 70 – 150C, Kerosene at 150 – 200C and finally diesel fuel at 200-300C. So fuel mixture starts to evaporate earlier than with pure diesel thus evaporate completely earlier and create better fuel/air mixture, well known problem of diesel engines.
Second ethyl hexyl nitrate has very low point of auto ignition, like 130C, pure diesel has 220C. This is lessening ignition delay in diesel engines causing better and faster burning through mixture.
Finally there is 2 stroke oil just to improve greasing properties of diesel fuel to protect all fuel pump, injectors.
Gasoline and Kerosene act as solvents in diesel too, solving parafines and other heavy stuff in diesel, clogging filters.
I used it in modern diesel engine VW 2.0 TDI, though built in US car Dodge Caliber 🙂 with high pressure 2000bar injectors. This engine is well known for its sensitivity to fuel and failing injectors due insufficient greasing properties of diesel. Thanks to this mixture I avoided it.
In simpler engine like boat diesel it should be without problems.

Reply to  Peter
May 9, 2016 3:54 pm

Not a good idea to add volatiles to the fuel in some diesel engines, as they use the fuel to cool the injectors, and then return the hot fuel to the fuel tank. GM 6-71, V12-71, etc.

Reply to  otsar
May 10, 2016 12:15 am

Hmm kerosene and gasoline are far from volatiles, Gasoline is lowest boiling point in this mixture and used same way in petrol cars. If you are scared of this skip gasoline. Kerosene in principle is very light and very pure diesel fuel (something between gasoline and diesel), it will do its part of job.

Joe Crawford
May 9, 2016 9:31 am

Sorry ’bout the engine trouble. I can sympathize. I also appreciate all of the discussions on how to fix diesel air bleeds. It reminds me of standard diesel bar talk among sailors in any bar in the Caribbean.
I had a Perkins 4-154 in my CSY-44 that would not run more than a couple of minutes after sailing for two or three of hours on port tack. Never did find the cause. As long as we changed tack occasionally it didn’t fail. And, I never found the cause, even after 6 years in the Caribbean. I finally gave up looking and either changed tack every hour or so or just bled the injectors when necessary. Of course bleeding the injectors in a heavy cross sea was interesting.

May 9, 2016 10:04 am

great pictures Willis. Your posts are never a disappointment.

May 9, 2016 11:55 am

Another great read, Willis, thank you. I also enjoyed all the diesel chat comments, having been an auto engineer for 50+ years.

May 9, 2016 3:42 pm

Stop bloody gloating.

May 9, 2016 3:43 pm

Thick walled teflon tubing works really well on marine diesel systems. Teflon tubing cold flows, so, barbed stainless ferrules have to be inserted inside all of the compression fittings. The nice part is that the bubbles and contamination can be seen. Teflon should not be used under high flow condtions as it will act like a vandergraaf generator.

Joe Crawford
Reply to  otsar
May 10, 2016 8:52 am

Would you not have to replace it fairly often because of the cold flow, or are you only using it in gravity feed lines?

Reply to  Joe Crawford
May 10, 2016 9:52 am

I use it only on suction and gravity lines on a small 18KW auxiliary. It has worked well since 1987.

Joe Crawford
Reply to  Joe Crawford
May 10, 2016 2:06 pm

Thanks for that info…,

May 9, 2016 11:32 pm

For comparison, here’s the fuel manifold on a 52′ ocean crossing powerboat.×450).jpg

May 10, 2016 8:47 am

Thank you for taking time out of your travels to share your story with us. Always fascinating and greatly appreciated.
Note, I shared your original posts with one of my best college buds…who lives on a sailboat in Rhode Island. He “jokingly” dismissed the vessel as “not a proper sailboat by R.I. standards.” Being just an ignorant farm-boy from Tennessee, I actually had no clue what he was talking about. But I get it now! Hah! Lots of fun and excitement.
And I just wanted to say that I appreciate the tone and graciousness of your posts. Yes, we’d all love to be sharing the same adventure, even though it turned out a bit differently than planned.
Happy travels.

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