PV to San Francisco – Safe in Turtle Bay – But it wasn’t easy!

Whew! Now that was a day!!
This morning started out hard, and things stayed that way for the rest of the day. Now, I’m not complaining – there are far worse things that I could have been doing today. But still….
Early AM (12am – 2am) – The engine is struggling. Something is not right. I open up the engine box and the intake pressure on the primary fuel filter is “off the charts” high. I suspect bad fuel, switch over to the secondary filter and change out the active filter element. Things are “better” but the pressure is still very high. Higher than I’ve ever seen it. It’s tempting to ignore the new sound patterns I’m hearing from the engine, but in the back of my mind I’m thinking Turtle Bay can’t come too soon.
Morning – Upwind in 15 knots. Heavy cloud layer just above the surface. Looks like home. Yuck. Big confused seas. We just couldn’t find a speed/angle that would allow the boat to work its way through the seas without pounding.
On deck this is uncomfortable, down below you can’t imagine how the boat keeps from breaking in half, or sending the rig over the side. Plus,those instrument issues plagued us for another few hours. Then suddenly, and nobody knows why they went away.
Afternoon – as expected the winds come on pretty hard climbing to 28 knots at one point directly from Turtle Bay. 25 was the average for the entire afternoon. The pounding was really something. We threw in a double reef in the main and that makes things more comfortable. But, those engine sound patterns are getting worse. Others don’t notice, but we are slowly losing power. The boat slows with each passing hour. I change out the filter again, but no difference. Suction pressure gauge once again off the charts. It’s blowing 25 knots and the boat is jumping all over the place. The throttle is floored and we are only making 5+ knots of headway. At this rate, we’ll never get there. I throttle back to see what happens if we just sail. The engine dies….
Opps….now the others figure out something is wrong.
No problem guys, we’ll just fix this thing and all will be well. The only problem is none of us really know anything about diesel engines and fuel systems. I grab the fuel filter manual to figure out what the gauge really means and have David grab the helm. His driving makes the motion of the boat tolerable and it’s down into the head and the engine box for me and Dan. I’m thinking this is hopeless, but can’t imagine another 8 hours to sail to Turtle Bay when we could motor there in 3.
The filter is the first place that fuel goes when it leaves the tanks. Since the problem was the same regardless of which tank I pulled from, it made sense to start there. I started pulling the fuel feed hose, and cleaning all of its fittings. Dan’s holding the head door open so I can get some ventilation. The boats slamming all around. The seas are big, and the boat speed is slow. This is no fun!! There’s diesel spilling everywhere. Mostly on me!! We use the fuel transfer hose to pressurize parts of the system and flush any “clogs” out. We look everywhere we can think of for a problem and find none.
Finally, Dan who’s been looking a bit green turns to me and very politely asks me if I could hold the door for a moment. Yes, indeed, everything they say about being down below and smelling diesel is true. Dan’s lunch quickly ended up over the side and I lost my assistant for the day.
Finally, I just threw up my hands and put everything back together. There was no reason for hope, but I tried the engine anyway and hurray!! She started right up and sounded great. A quick check of the fuel filter pressure showed all was well, and we were back in action!!! I don’t know what we did, but thank goodness we tried.
Sitting here in Turtle Bay now and very happy to be here. Everything I’ve seen and heard suggests that we should stay at least another day. Big storm off San Diego tomorrow and tomorrow evening. Need to figure out how that affects us here. I’m certainly not going to rush out to figure it out on the way!!
More later….
-Jim
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