Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Caicos Bank, gas tank problems

One third texmati rice, two-thirds La Gringa's conch chili, with a half inch of shredded cheddar on top?

I am still looking through the photos we took on our last foray onto the Caicos Banks.

This is what the top of one of the little uninhabited cays looks like, much lusher than I had expected:

The branches that look dead....they aren't dead. They go dormant when its dry, and green up real fast during the rainy season. This cay was probably mostly gray and brown on top two weeks ago, but we just had five or six days in a row with rain. If we came back to this same spot in another week, and took the same photo, I think you would see very little vegetation looking dead.

This cay is also thick with rock iguanas. La Gringa saw three of them, and then they all ran into the bushes. We could hear them rustling, and if we had been still and patient, we would have seen them for a photo. But we needed to move on. There was another cay just a little further away we wanted to see, too...

One of the reasons these little cays support life is the sinkholes. You come upon what looks like short trees, and when you look closer you see that they are actually six or eight feet tall. The bases are down in a sinkhole, where topsoil and rainwater collect, and the limestone holds the water. this one is about five or six feet deep. Its own little hidden world:

Well, I guess I will try to keep the thread going through good stuff and boring. Crummier photos will probably need more words. Good photos should be able to essentially stand alone.

As for a look at my day, yesterday it wasn't that exciting. I cut a hole in my boat. I have been chasing a fuel leak, and one area I could not get to, nor even inspect, was where the fuel and vent hoses connected to the tank. It was right under the deck.

SO, after gathering up my tools, screwing up my courage, running out of excuses, and buying a hatch, I went to the marina and prepared to operate. First, I measured and remeasured the numbers I got from the manufacturer about where the filler SHOULD be located, 193 inches from the outside of the transom, and 51 inches from the bow loop.

But, there are different ways to interpret "the outside edge of the transom". Transoms have all kinds of outside edges. They are not flat boards. And the same with the bow painter. And neither measurement is cant just measure up the center of the boat. There is a leaning post, a console, and a front seat in the way. You can measure along the top of the gunwale, but the transom is not a flat plane, and the gunwale is not a straight line, either.

As for the bow loop ( painter) well, there's a minor difficulty measuring from it, since its on the underside of the hull, under the bow, and there is an anchor locker between it and you...

So, I laughed, I cried, I prayed to various gods who should be watching over fools and mariners..and through a system of idiot's geometry, measuring several thousand times, using a boat hook across the gunwales and a washer on a string as a plumb bob....I made a mark:

You don't know what went into the making of that simple pencil mark. Leona Helmsly's plastic surgeon didn't sketch that first scalpel cut with any more care and thought... An explosive ordinance expert unscrewing a rusty bomb fuse would have appreciated the precision... I mean, this is my BOAT we are talking about here...

I needed to cut a 6.5 inch diameter hole for the hatch. The smallest hatch I figured I could install that would still let me get my hand and a tool inside the hull. And it had to be precisely over the right spot. So, after praying for rain, lightning, a water spout, a surprise interrogation by the police, ANY reason to delay, finally, I screwed up my courage and decided to deface my boat. I cut a 2 " hole first, using a hole saw. I did not know how close I was to fuel fittings and was very mindful of just how many sparks an electric motor makes..

Well, after the first hole is cut, it does get easier. I was committed now. No going back, once you cut a hole in your boat you have to deal with it. Holes in fiberglass boats don't just go away on their own. I now knew that the center of the bigger hole needed to be a couple inches aft of the original pencil mark. If you look in that little hole, you can see hoses. you do NOT see fittings and hose clamps. Not exactly the right spot. Man, am I ever glad I cut the small hole initially.

I also was able to feel the filler and vent hoses, and they were up against the underside of the deck with maybe an eighth of an inch clearance. Depth of cut gets a bit more critical at this point.
I got Bernard the Haitian Shipyard Worker to hook me up with power, and used the Sears and Roebuck version of a Roto-Zip tool I brought down from the States with me. Its just basically a power tool like something Swarzenegger would buy when he only needed a Dremel. It came with a circle cutting attachment:

You can see that the center of the circle is NOT where the center of the two inch initial hole was located. But that worked out okay. If it had been, I would not have been able to so easily use the circle attachment.

So, after cutting the big hole, it was relatively easy to run the silicone bead around the hatch fitting, drill six small holes, and install the hatch:

So, its done. Do I like having a hatch in the middle of my deck? Nope. But do I like having access to the four hose clamps ( jubilee clamps to you Brits) that hold the fuel filler and vent hoses, and the welds of the tank where I can get to them? absolutely.

So, after that I spent another hour working on other little projects on the boat that needed doing..there are ALWAYS other little things that need doing. But that's what I was up to while y'all were discussing choices of islands and health care. Not too exciting, I know. And its raining again.

I didn't find a "smoking gun" at the hoses. The welds don't look cracked, which was an unknown that's now gone away. Some peace of mind value, there. Would have been a major deal, involving taking the boat apart, being without it for a long time, lots of money..etc. I was able to tighten the hose clamp screws on the filler maybe an eighth of a turn. The two holding the smaller vent hose on, I was able to get a full turn on those so its a possibility that was a leak

In the meantime, I have been concentrating on the sender assembly. Still the primary culprit. Last time I put it back together after it leaked on Sundays excursion, I used the paste Teflon thread sealer instead of tape. If it leaks around those, I will now go to Teflon tape. I didn't want to because I don't want any Teflon tape shreds in the tank. But I know they are small, they are not likely to fall in if I do it right, and anyhow there are two fuel filters between the tank and the motor. yesterday I tightened those five machine screws and they feel solid, the four originals and the one I tapped out to quarter twenty-eight.

Now, we have to fill the tank with fuel, once again, and look for leaks. At least this time we can look everywhere for leaks, and if it leaks again, I should be able to find it. One last thing I am wondering about are the two pins that go through the sender plate for electrical connection to the floats variable resistor. I just don't think those senders were designed to be under any liquid fuel pressure, and these are. I am going to NAPA today to see if they have any kind of solvent proof stuff I can use to seal around the two pins.

I saw a Dirty Jobs episode this week, where Mike Rowe was using some goop to seal the inside seams of an Air Force tanker's wing tanks. Wish I could find some of that stuff.

But Teflon tape and some pin sealer goop is my next Plan B. You always gotta have a Plan B here. Even when Plan A seems to be working.

As for the panga, six months experience with it proves to me that it was an excellent choice for these waters. We really like it, and it takes us places many boats cant go. And its fast enough. My second choice would be a catamaran with as shallow a draft as I could find, and two outboards. It's the boating equivalent of comparing a dirt bike to an ATV...with coral heads and narrow reef cuts being the trees you have to go between and around.

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