Thursday, July 10, 2008

Surprising Things About Maine, and more...........

Surprising things about Maine....

The Wild Maine Blueberry is tiny – about a fifth the size of a Michigan blueberry which, itself is a pretty small fruit. The ones we’ve sampled are not that sweet and the pie we sampled was not that sweet. They grow everywhere like a weed along side the road, in the national park, everywhere. So, there’s plentiful opportunities to have yourself a blueberry feast, but they’re so small that it would probably take a few hours to pick enough to make a pie which would explain why the pie is so expensive, but also raises the question of who is picking the berries that go into the ubiquitous blueberry foods up here (pancakes, muffins, pies, cobbler and martinis!) -- Norm has a theory that the Wild Maine Blueberry is actually farmed – blasphemy! … domesticated berry could not be a “Wild” Maine Blueberry – and it is always, always referred to as a “Wild” Maine Blueberry, never just a plain old Maine blueberry. We’ll get to the bottom of this yet.

There are 700 moose-car collisions in Maine annually. Since we haven’t actually seen a moose yet, dead or alive, there’s some suspicion about that statistic. Norm has a theory for this, too. He suspects that there is only one moose in Maine, owned by the state bureau of tourism and they trot him out, then bandage him up, and trot him out again to support the notion that there are lots of moose here. (Don’t think about it too hard, it’s kind of icky.) Norm has revised his theory a bit and now believes that there could be more than one moose – each town chamber of commerce may have one to boost tourism. Based on our microcosm of consumer behavior, it’s working. Our first stop (after the hair salon) was the ‘Cool as a Moose’ store. No t-shirts or sweatshirts yet, but we’ll be back.

The Bar Harbor harbor was too unprotected from the strong winds and waves that had kicked up--the boat was rocking and rolling uncomfortably on the mooring. Look what we saw on our way out. Royal Caribbean and other liners cruise up here during the southern hurricane season. (We gotta get a bigger boat!!!)
We cruised around the corner to Northeast Harbor this morning. Northeast Harbor is a hurricane hole - very calm. We're still in Acadia National Park. Took another lovely hike this afternoon.

Back on Track

It’s been quite an emotionally exhausting week worrying about the possibility of replacing an engine. Luckily, all is well-- yesterday’s sea trial went fine.

We distracted ourselves by hiking and taking frequent trips to town. Southwest Harbor was a wonderful place to be stuck – reminds us a bit of Door County in Wisconsin. The people at Dysart’s Great Harbor Marina were very generous to us. They let us take their truck twice to Walmart and to Hamilton Marine. Nice restaurants - we had some very good meals and discovered the early bird special which runs from 4:00-6:00 in this part of the world and fits in well with our preferred dining schedule. The library and the internet cafĂ© (conveniently set in an ice cream store) were useful since connectivity was so spotty. We also borrowed a DVD from the library – saw a fun Cary Grant movie which was probably the most recently filmed movie on their shelves!

Yesterday we cruised around the corner to Bar Harbor – a bit more populated – more stores, restaurants, and hair styling salons. The first order of business was haircuts. Norm was unhappy about paying $12 which didn’t even include a beard trim – hey, for his hair anything over $10 is a rip off! He’s lobbying hard for Vicki to get out those trimmers and save him some money next time. (Fixed incomes can drive you to extremes.) Vicki went to the New Image Salon where Cassie gave her a pretty good and mighty short trim. Not bad for a first experience out of the trusty hands of Lorraine in Delaware. How was this particular salon selected? Easy – there are two in town and this was the only one with availability. Undoubtedly not the best selection criteria, but the hair was getting shaggy. And the $36 price tag was very reasonable.

We’ll be in Bar Harbor on a mooring at least through Sunday, recuperating. Today is a hiking day – going to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the tallest point in Acadia National Park. There is free and very comfortable bus service throughout the park making it very easy to get around. Beautiful day for a hike – 78 degrees, a light breeze, and partly sunny. We have had the best weather on this trip and it continues.

Norm writes.........
Enough about the hair, already. We're moving on!

After installing the engine and transmission oil coolers and the engine heat exchanger and refilling the coolant we fired her up and she ran great--still a couple of hose clamps to watch. The cruise to Bar Harbor went well running at 1800 RPM all the way in calm seas. We're going to run a few more days on this side of the pond until I feel we have given the engine a good sea trial. Then we'll decide when to make the crossing to Nova Scotia. We've been in touch with the mother ship. She and its lone resident, Jim, are doing fine in Halifax. We hope to see them all in the not too distant future.

Mechanical Update 3

Warning, do not do this at home!! The contents of this blog entry will be the equivalent of an overdose of brownbag vino to the mechanically uninterested reader; but, will propel engine-maniacs to new highs never before experienced!!

Where was I? Oh yea, we installed the new (rebuilt) muffler and hose today. Then we turned on the engine and weeeee, worked...................except that the water flow out the exhaust was still restricted. DARN! The mechanic said "it looks different from the starboard engine, but I think it's ok." Norm told him that it's not ok and that the oil cooler, engine heat exchanger and transmission oil cooler must be removed and inspected. He suggested that yesterday, but the mechanic did not think it was necessary. Today he was insistent! He and the mechanic removed the parts and..............presto!................lo and behold the oil cooler was filled with parts of the neoprene fins of the impeller that disintegrated when the engine overheated. Norm asked the mechanic to complete a muratic acid cleaning on all three coolers. That's where we are today--waiting for the acid cleaning. We're scheduled to have the clean parts reinstalled tomorrow AM.

Meanwhile, yesterday afternoon we decided to do some hiking during the pause in repairs. We hiked to the top of Acadia Mountain in Acadia National Park. Now let me digress here....Vicki knew that when Norm purchased the lifetime national park seniors pass card for a whooping $10, that he was allowed to take three guests with him. So, that's why she married him!! Back to the story..........

The picture on the left is Southwest Harbor, ME. This is a great place to be "stuck". The picture in the middle is us, we, both....whatever! We are at the top of Acadia mountain. It was a lot of steep climbing but well worth the effort. Lots of great views of the Maine coast and Somes Sound, the only Fjord in North America. We plan to cruise up and anchor there when done with our repairs.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Mechanical Update 2

Warning, read at your own risk!! The contents of the blog entry will put the non-mechanically-interested-reader in a sleep-like haze; but, will arouse goose bumps on the others.

Yesterday, we sea-trialed Tide Hiker for 2.5 hours running her at 1400, 1600, 1800 and 2000 RPM's and also at WOT (wide open throttle) for a short while. The engine ran good maintaining a consistent 180 degrees after getting to cruising speed, no knocking and no air bubbles backflowing into the coolant overflow bottle. Norm found a few hairline cracks in the muffler, continued restricted sea water exhaust along with white smoke (steam) and a couple loose hose clamps. He tightened up the clamps and reported the other items to Hinckley and to American Diesel.

Today he and the mechanic removed the muffler and discovered the baffles inside were all disfigured and forced into the center of the overboard (exit) tube. The mechanic says that is most definitely the main if not the only cause of the restricted flow and the steam. The restriction caused water backup which caused the elbow to increase in temperature. So, the fiberglass muffler is being rebuilt by Hinckley as we take a pause in the action. We might have the new one tomorrow or Friday. The 4" hose from the exhaust elbow to the muffler was delaminated on the inside and will also be replaced.

The mechanic also did a pressure test on the coolant system and it was found to be in working order with the exception of a couple more hose fittings which were tightened on the spot. This is not a 100% guarantee that the head gasket isn't bad or that the block isn't cracked, but is very good news! The mechanic is very confident that we found the problems and "they ain't the engine". Hope I did't just jinx it!

The cause still remains a mystery. We suspect kelp or some other debris was sucked into the intake, held there by positive pressure and then released when the engine shut down. Or, was sucked all the way through and lived it's last minutes being sliced, diced and steamed. (We did travel through several debris fields on our way out there.) Might never find out for sure, but that's what the mechanics think and they say that they have seen it before. The flow at the intake strainer now is perfect.

Tomorrow or Friday Norm and the mechanic will reinstall the new muffler and 4" hose, we'll do another sea trial and go from there. Wish us luck!!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Mechanical Update

Today we tried to determine the fate of our Port Engine. Norm and the mechanic from Hinckley replaced the sea water pump impeller, searched out all fragmented parts of the impeller in the oil cooler, refilled the coolant and checked all hose clamps. DaDaDaDa. We started the engine and it ran fine after some initial "whining". Water flowing good, but seemed somewhat slower when compared to the starboard engine. Ran the engine for over an hour and all went well. But, could not get her up to operating temperature at the dock.

After consulting with the Lehman engine experts at American Diesel in VA, we decided to postpone our crossing to Nova Scotia. The real test will be to operate the engine under a load for a good couple of days; and, coastal cruising will be the safest way to do that. So, we will meander on the Maine coast for a while to determine the real health of the port engine. Then, if all goes well, we will pick a day to cross the Gulf of Maine. Wish us luck!!

Busted but Safe

Vicki writes…
Perhaps titling the last posting 'Nova Scotia or Bust' was too great a temptation of fate. We started the crossing at 5:15 a.m. yesterday from Southwest Harbor ME to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia in heavy fog, going slow, dodging lobster pots. About 8 miles into the trip, Norm checked the engine room and yelled up to the bridge “There’s smoke in the engine room!” These are words you really, really don’t ever want to hear.

Those of you who are faithful readers of the blog will remember that about two weeks ago I committed to developing and drilling on our emergency procedures. Thank goodness I have been working on them. We now have emergency procedures for Fire, Boat is Leaking, Abandon Ship, Storm Preparation, Grounding, Man Overboard, Medical Emergency, and how to make May Day and Pan Pan calls. Having to think through exactly what to do, point by point, was excellent rehearsal and kept me reasonably calm in this situation. Norm seems to have the ‘calm in a crisis gene’, but I do not.

To continue… I radioed Jim and Robin to advise them of the situation. Then a bit of smoke started wafting across the bridge – that ratcheted up the heart beat! Remembered that I should point the boat into the wind so the smoke won’t choke the boat, but couldn’t figure out which way the wind was blowing. I started preparing for the possibility of an emergency call – figuring out where we are on the map, what’s our lat/long – when Norm called up that there was NO FIRE. We’d lost all coolant in the port engine and it had overheated, creating the acrid steam that resembled smoke. He shut down the port engine and we returned to Southwest Harbor on the other engine (a good advertisement for having two engines). The fog was still very heavy away from shore but lifted nicely as we approached the inner harbor. Norm expertly "shoehorned" our 49 foot boat in a 55 foot space on the dock on one engine.

We knew there was a Hinckley Yacht Company facility here in Southwest Harbor. So, Norm called a friend that used to work for his employer in Maryland, but now works for Hinckley there. Tom Turner is his name and he was very helpful in getting us connected with the Hinckley service folks here. Hopefully we didn’t do any damage to the engine – we’ll know today – the Hinckley mechanic should be here in a few minutes.

After determining that we were safe, Jim and Robin continued on to Nova Scotia and arrived safely. They will continue on up the coast to Halifax where Robin has airplane tickets on Thursday to fly to Annapolis, unfortunately for a funeral.