The definition of cruising referenced in the title of this post is well known to those who are actually out cruising in their own boat. Although not a usual occurrence aboard Beatitude, today I lived that definition. Instead of going into Pete’s Pub in Little Harbour and snorkeling the Sandy Cay Reef again, I and my lovely wife spent the day working on our boat.
I had envisioned that I would loosen the hoses and find a few more fragments of impeller that was causing my starboard engine to run hot. I did loosen the hoses and ran some water through them. But, I didn’t find any more fragments. I reassembled the hoses and then noticed something black sticking out from beneath the belt cover on the front of the engine. I grabbed it and pulled up a frayed, worn-in-half alternator belt (V-belt). If I had been mechanically savvy at all, I would have noticed the little black fragments in the bottom of the engine compartments and the fine black dust covering everything in the engine compartment on my previous trips down into the diesel dungeon. I actually did notice these tell-tale signs of belt disintegration, but it did not register that I had a belt problem. Now, all you diesel and automotive mechanics are likely shaking your head and laughing at me, but there is nothing like experience as a teacher. It retrospect, I should have known I had a V-belt problem, but I’m mechanically naive. No more.
So, it now appeared I had two problems causing the engine to overheat. I did have a shot impeller, but I also had a shot V-belt. The deteriorated V-belt also explained other unusual occurrences of which I couldn’t quite figure out the cause: My starboard engine battery was low, and my house batteries weren’t charged as usual by the engine running. Now it all makes sense. But what to do. We were anchored at Lynard Cay in the southern Abacos. I asked over the VHF if anyone had any alternator belts for a Yanmar diesel. It just so happened that a very kind gentleman who was single-handed cruising on his small monohull and was anchored right in front of me had one. I dinghied over, only to find out that it did not fit my particular Yanmar Engine, a 3JH5E. The captain of Grace, our buddy boat on the crossing back to the Abacos, overheard my call on the radio and suggested I may find a belt at the NAPA store in Marsh Harbour.
What to do? Go ahead and hang out and enjoy the rest of the day at Lynard Cay and take the boat into Marsh Harbour tomorrow with one engine? No. We decided to take a long dinghy ride from Lynard Cay into Marsh Harbour on Dalí. It was a 24.1 nautical mile round trip across the choppy Sea of Abaco, but Dalí held up well, and so did we (although we did get pretty wet… And Cindy has a bruised tailbone from all the bouncing up and down on the waves while sitting in the front of the dinghy.). We pulled into Boat Harbour Marina on the south side of Marsh Harbour and tied up to the dock. They charged us $25 to tie up, but this was taken off your restaurant bill if you ate there. It was 12:30, and we were starved, so we had lunch and enjoyed the best wifi we’ve had in the Bahamas. Pictures uploaded to the blog in record time! Aah! How I’ve missed good wifi!
We then took a taxi to NAPA auto parts. They had one belt in stock. We were quite happy with this fortuitous turn of events. After another stop at a store for some provisions, we returned to the marina, boarded Dalí, and endured the long journey back. Now the work had really just begun.
I crawled back down into engine compartment and struggled for a couple of hours to put this V-belt on. I’m not sure if it is the right size or not, but it was a struggle. I loosened the alternator bolt to allow the alternator to be moved inward so the belt could be put around it. But, the belt was still too small to fit. I then looked at my diesel maintenance book and saw that the pulley had to be removed from the cooling pump in order to replace the belt. So, I pulled that off, but it was still quite difficult to get the pulley back on after the belt was on. I don’t like to force things that don’t go easily. But, after a long, long struggle, I resolved on using force. I pried and pushed the pulley back on the cooling pump and put the screws in place. I did finally complete the job. There was no adjusting the alternator bolt for proper tension. There was only one tension on this belt and it was what it was. Fortunately, the spring test when pushing it with my finger seemed to be okay. Everything was tightened and I fired up the engine and ran it for a while. At least for now, it seemed to be running fine. We’ll see in the coming days.
Cindy was my faithful assistant during the entire job. She sat above the engine compartment passing and taking tools as needed and chasing down whatever other items I might need on the boat. Perhaps, more than anything, her most important contribution was moral support. By the time I had finished the job, it was almost dark. I showered off all the V-belt dust that covered my body from head to toe before grilling hot dogs for dinner. The rest of the evening was spent relaxing and watching a movie under a beautiful full moon that climbed above Lynard Cay shortly after dark.