July 15, 2010
Port Orford, Oregon
Today we motored from Crescent City, California to Port Orford, Oregon a distance of about 67 nautical miles. About half of the trip was reasonably pleasant if you discount the 8 to 10 feet seas. The second half of the trip was pretty miserable with winds building to 30 knots and 3-5 foot wind waves stacking on top of of the 8-10 foot swell. At times we would drop off the top of a swell and you would get that feeling in your stomach that comes with a sudden drop. Combined with feeling a little sea sick this is not a good combination. Although, it was a pretty short trip Kathy and I were taking shifts so the other person could lie down and close their eyes... the best relief for feeling sea sick short of being on land.
About one hour out of of Port Orford the brand new port side engine shut down. We were running pretty close to shore to find a tiny bit of relief from the strong winds at the time. I went out to check on the engine while Kathy battled the seas and stong winds fighting to maintian steerage and keep us moving towards our destinaton. Unfortunatley, the old starboard side Yanmar 2GM20 just doesn't have enough power to battle these sorts of winds and seas so Kathy more or less just fought to control our position. We could have raised sail and run off to a harbor of refuge if worse came to worse, but we were close to where we wanted to be so we fought on.
In the very warm engine room, I found a fouled fuel filter a classic problem when the going gets rough under power. Basically, the rough seas agitate the fuel and any contaminants in the bottom of the tank get suspended in the fuel and make their way to the Raycor filter. Eventually, this primary fuel filter gets sufficiently plugged up as to starve the engine of fuel and the engine dies. Typically, this only occurs in the roughest of conditions making a filter change out a bit of a test of wills. Hot engine, spilled fuel in a confiend space making toxic fumes, rough seas then 10 minutes of trying to get the engine fuel system reprimed all while crashing around in big seas. This is the perfect combination to make almost anyone puke. I certainly came close and by the time I climbed out of the engine room sweating, nauseous and with a splitting headache there were several minutes of uncertainty of outcome.
The good news was the engine fired right up and we were in a safe anchorage in short order and ready for a hot shower and cocktail hour.
Not much you can do to protect against fouled fuel filters short of periodically cleaning out the fuel tanks which is impractical on most boats. Best, just to keep filters on hand and be ready to swap in a new filter if the need arises. Or set up a hot switchable dual filter system where you can route fuel to another filter if one becomes fouled. This is a nice set up and highly recommended for all boats with just one engine. For us redundancy comes with two engines and thus a plugged filter on one engine is only an annoyance to change underway. Either way, it's a sailboat so we could have easily and safely gained some sea room (distance from shore) to sort out problems had both engines conked out at once.
Happy to be anchored here in Port Orford, Oregon where I can proactively change the fuel filter on the Starboard engine before we head back out to round Cabo Banco.