That’s right. La Paz sucks. Sucks poor unsuspecting cruisers in and refuses to let them go. You stop for a few provisions and next thing you know, you’ve been here a month. Crikees!
We had every intention of heading out today. It was a beautiful day for it. Seas were calm and, although there wasn’t much wind in the morning, it did fill in later in the day. I got up and had my coffee and fresh pineapple and then threw the garbage in the dinghy and headed in for one last garbage drop and water-jug fill up. Oh, and we had also discovered yesterday that we were out of rice so I made a quick trek to Chedraui as long as I was ashore. Lulu hadn’t slept well the night before so I wanted her to sleep in as late as she could this morning.
While I was putting the water from the jug into the main tank so I’d have an empty to take over with me, I made a weird discovery. The tank was pressurized! As I unscrewed the deck fill lid, bubbles started to escape and there was the sound of air hissing past the threads of the cap. Then, when I took the cap off, there was a little whoosh of air and I could hear the tank flex (or unflex). WTF? The only explanation I could come up with was that the vent got plugged and, when we were making water yesterday, the high pressure pump on the watermaker was able to force water into the tank and compress whatever air was already inside. I wasn’t really overly concerned. I’d find the plug and remove it later. In the meantime, when we’re making water we’ll just crack the cap a bit.
However, there was one other thing that was bothering me. The last few times we’ve run the engine, there has been a strong diesel smell that lingers long after we’ve shut the engine down. The smell is pronounced in the head which is connected by a floor drain to the bilge. The smell is also strong inside the engine room. So, before we shoved off I needed to take a look at this and see if it was serious or something I could fix quickly. As long as I was at it, I’d have a look at the water tank vent as well. How long could it take? We should still be able to shove off before noon or shortly after.
On my way back from Chedraui, I stopped at a plumbing supply place to pick up some clear plastic tubing for a project that I can’t tell you about yet. Why not? because, if it works as it seems like it should, it will elevate me to the level of inventor extraordinaire. It’ll revolutionize the way people cruise. Okay, maybe not that but it is a pretty cool idea which I’ll happily share with you later. Anyway, my trip to the plumbing store, El Arco, was a lesson in humility.
Not knowing the local language but (and this is important) thinking you do, can prove to be expensive. El Arco is the kind of store where most of their merchandise is in the back, like an auto parts store. I marched up to the counter and confidently asked for tubo flexible de plastico, media pulgada diámetro. Necesito tres y media metros. I asked for 3-1/2 meters of flexible plastic tubing, 1/2″ diameter. The parts person called my order to the back and issued me a bill. I went to the cashier, paid what seemed like an awful lot of money, got my stamped receipt and went to the will-call counter next to the entrance to the back. The guy working there brought me exactly what I asked for and absolutely NOT what I wanted. The tubing I got was more like flexible electrical conduit than clear plastic water tubing. Too bad for me because, once it’s cut, you bought it. I saw the stuff I wanted on the shelf and asked him what it was called. he invited me in back and showed me all kinds of tubing that was more like what I was looking for. But it’s not tubo. It’s manguera (hose). He measured me off what I needed and sent me out front to pay for it. In the end I got what I wanted and some other stuff that I’ll probably find a use for someday. The stuff I wanted cost about 1/10 of the stuff I didn’t really want. My mistake was that I should have asked them to show me what they had before ordering. I’m humbled once again.
But, this has absolutely nothing to do with why we didn’t leave La Paz today.
Once back at the boat, I climbed down in the engine compartment, started the engine, and watched for leaks. The bad news was that I found a pretty pronounced leak. The good news is that it was right on top of the engine making it pretty darn easy to work on.
The leak appeared to be coming either from the threads around one of the injectors, or at a joint further up where there was a return fuel fitting. It was fairly obvious that this was not going to be a quick job. I told Lulu that it looked like we weren’t leaving La Paz today and she said she’d kind of figured that out already.
Before I dug in, I took this photo so I’d remember how everything goes back together.
I pulled the injector closest to the rear of the engine as this was the leaker. Of course, to get the injector off I had to disconnect the fuel lines from all three injectors so that I could remove the return fuel manifold as a unit. No big deal except those fittings are TIGHT! I pulled the injector out and, on the end, was a copper gasket. I was pretty sure that I had read that you can re-anneal copper gaskets so I pulled out my Nigel Calder Diesel Book and sure enough! Nigel says that, over time, copper gaskets can harden and cease to seal. To renew them you hold them in a flame like from a propane torch or a propane stove burner until the thing is glowing cherry red. Then immerse it in cold water. That’s it. All softened up and ready to do service again. So, that’s what I did.
There wasn’t much else I could do except put everything back together nice and tight and hope for the best. I have the torque specs for all the fittings so putting it back together right should be a piece of cake. Finally, a chance to use my new fancy pants torque wrench.
Our son Lucas, after he graduated from Arizona Automotive Institute, gave me a bunch of crap about my old school torque wrench. I had one of those kind that have the pointer and when you flex the handle the pointer points to a scale. You know, one like this:
Ooooh…. Anyway, I was finally going to get to use it. Except that it was a 1/2″ drive wrench and all my sockets were 3/8″ drive. And do you think I had an adapter in my bag of tricks? OF COURSE NOT!!! So, I figured, what they hey, I’ll just reassemble everything real tight and call it good. Torque specs? I don’t need no stinking torque specs! I’m a manly man, not some kind of pantywaist mechanic who can’t feel that he’s torqued the fitting to spec. So I put it all back together, torqued everything to “feel”, fired the engine up, and watched it leak like a sieve. Of course, I was relieved that it even started so the leak was just a minor irritation.
So, take everything apart again, put it all back together hand-tight and jump in the dinghy for a trip to the store to get a 1/2″ to 3/8″ adapter. I stopped at the first place I came to, even though he pissed me off with some too-high prices a year ago. The guy speaks perfect English and I was in no mood to have to screw around. If he overcharged, that was the price I’d have to pay for being a whole bunch less than fluent in the local language.
But, his price wasn’t too far out of line and I returned to the boat and torqued everything down. Wasn’t really to spec as the wrench never released like it’s supposed to when it reaches its setting. But that long handle gave me a lot of leverage and I was afraid I’d break something if I kept pulling. Those fittings are TIGHT! I have no idea whether or not they’re to spec, I only know that I was very uncomfortable tightening things any more until I have confirmation that my torque wrench actually works. Never had that problem with my old school wrench.
The upshot of it all is that the leak seems to be fixed. Ran the engine for 10 minutes or so and nothing showed up. So, it looks like we’ll actually be able to head out tomorrow. Need to do a last garbage run and might as well get some more water while I’m at it. And Lulu reminded me that we might as well empty the composter since we’re going ashore anyway. See how things multiply? Anyway, once that stuff’s done it shouldn’t take us more than an hour to get going. So, hopefully tomorrow’s blog will be from somewhere else. Not that there’s anything wrong with La Paz, if you don’t mind the suck factor (aka the “velcro effect”).