Friday, March 17, 2017

Zihuatanejo: Fuel Oops, Brief R&R & We're Off to Barra de Navidad

Intermezzo arrived in Zihuatanejo early this morning. We dropped anchor close to shore off the Playa de Ropa, ate some breakfast and caught up on sleep. We swam to the beach around noon, got some much needed exercise, jogging and beach yoga, and then cooled off with a piña colada at a local beach bar.

The remainder of the passage here since my last post was motoring into light headwinds on mostly smooth seas, with a few hours of bumpy wind chop. The forecasted wind that would have let us sail materialized in terms of strength but, unfortunately, not from the predicted direction but rather from nearly dead ahead. A familiar story.

We did have a bit of excitement around 9 pm when the starboard engine slowed and then stopped. I figured it was clogged primary fuel filter but it looked pretty clean. I replaced it anyway,  but shortly afterwards, the engine slowed and stopped again. I had noticed a bit of diesel bug crud in the glass bowl of the Racor fuel-water separator and wondered if there was similar crud in the fuel tank that was clogging the fuel pickup. That would be a problem.

As the trusty port engine kept us moving along, I spent the rest of my watch working out a troubleshooting plan to diagnose and solve the fuel problem. If it required draining contaminated fuel from the tank and replacing it with clean fuel, that could be tricky depending on the quantity of fuel in the tank. To get a feel for what might be involved, I took a look at the engine hours run since I filled the tank. Hmmmm…more hours than I thought. Hmmmm…enough hours that the tank might be nearly empty.  Hmmmm…perhaps that is why the engine stopped?

When Renee came back on watch at midnight, I transferred fuel from one of our 8-gallon jugs into the starboard engine’s fuel tank. Voilá, the engine started and ran fine! I dumped another jug of fuel into the tank and went to sleep, grateful that it turned out to be such a simple solution.

That I didn’t consider that we were out of fuel from the start isn’t quite as stupid as it sounds. We normally run the two engines for equal, alternating six hour intervals.  If we had done that, the starboard engine couldn’t possibly have run out of fuel. But we didn’t run the starboard engine hardly at all on our passage from Puerto Chiapas to Huatulco because the water pump was leaking. So, on this passage we ran the starboard engine a lot longer than the port engine to even out the total engine hours. I had forgotten that.  On top of that, I think the tank might not have been completely top upped at the last fill because the Pemex fuel dock we stopped at was for big commercial boats/ships and we had to use an unusual adapter on the fuel nozzle so that it would fit into our tank fill opening.  So I feel more relieved that the problem was solved than dumb for letting the tank run dry.

We looked at the weather for the next few days and our best move is to weigh anchor in the morning and set sail for Barra de Navidad, with a quick stop to top off on fuel (!) in Ixtapa. It looks like we might catch more opportunities to sail with less swell than what’s forecast for a few days from now.

So, after a very brief R&R pit stop in Zihua, we’re back at sea again tomorrow.  That will help us make up some of the time lost to the water pump repair.

Full moon sailing off the Oaxaca coast near Puerto Escondido, a special place with special memories

Sunrise as we approach Acapulco

Funny to watch this bird trying to land on mast, only to get its bottom poked by our antenna as we pitched and rolled in the swell.

Sunset enroute from Intermezzo's salon

Zihuatanejo from the Playa Ropa anchorage