How did it happen that two landlubber computer programmers, on contract in the far corners of the world, decided to exchange their perfectly good if somewhat hectic lifestyles for the uncertainties and trials of bluewater cruising?
This is the tale of the how. The why you can figure out for yourselves.
Pindimara's motor is a three-cylinder 29-horsepower Volvo Penta diesel engine. The service intervals are 100 hours, or once a year, whichever is soonest. We had now owned her for a year, and I had long been suspicious that precious little maintenance had been done thus far; not unless the previous mechanic had carefully repainted all the new filters in the original Volvo green colour. In addition, I am always uncomfortable running an engine that I haven't seen the inside of, so it was time to roll up the sleeves and get oily.
Being more used to land-based engines, I had to learn some new tricks. Even changing the oil was interesting. Since the bottom of the block rests directly in the bilge, there is no room to get a tray underneath it. In fact, you can't even get a spanner to the drain plug. What you have to do is to buy a special pump and suck all the oil out from the top.
I read various manuals and descriptions of how this process was supposed to work and all clearly stated that the oil was sucked out of the dipstick tube. I managed to buy an oil pump (a nice shiny piece of engineering, made of brass) without any problems, but just could not fathom how I was supposed to push the sharp end down a tube that was almost completely inaccesible and shaped like yesterday's share index.
After much cursing and to-ing and fro-ing with bits of brass and plastic tubing, I finally banged my hands painfully on a hitherto invisible pipe projecting from near the base of the block. Aha! A special, purpose-made oil pump tube. How convenient.
From then on, it was just a case of pumping. And pumping. And pumping...
The Penta is water-cooled, by means of a seawater heat exchanger. All the various filters were easy enough to check and to clean, but the screws that held in the pump impeller had clearly never been moved, and one of them snapped right off, so that I was obliged to call in the local shipwrights for a bit of work with a drill and thread-cutter. The impeller was downright weird; it's made of rubber and is designed to be far too big for the hole it turns in. The crankshaft obviously provides enough power to turn it, but it looks like a piece of old chewing gum when you finally cram it into place.
As for the fuel filters... I broke two strap wrenches trying to get them off, and postponed it for another day.
Scrubbing the Bottom
It was by now some eight months or so since we had treated the underside with antifouling paint. During the process we had been forced to miss out on treating a transverse strip that had been occluded by the loadbearing strap at the yard, and I'd been keen to drop under and see how that patch was doing. For some weeks I had also been noticing a distinct sluggishness in the engine response, so one day at anchor in a small bay, I donned a wetsuit and went down to have a look.
The strip of untreated hull was thickly overgrown, but I had expected this and had brought a stiff brush to scrub it off. However, there were other surprises in store. First of all, I found a length of fishing line wrapped around the prop. This had been intercepted by our line-cutter which had almost cut it all away, so it wasn't hard to pull out the melted remainder. The real surprise was the amount of marine growth over the propeller and the saildrive itself.
You may recall that while we used expensive semi-professional paint for the major fibreglass portion of the hull, we had borrowed some cheap copper-free paint from a neighbour to do the few metal parts; the saildrive and the through-hull fittings.
This was, it now turned out, a mistake. While the main bulk of the underside was perfectly fine and untouched by marine life of any kind, all the metal fittings, including the crucial seawater intake vents, were festooned with coral.
An hour or two with a snorkel and brush soon sorted that out, and then it was time to quit working, and go sailing.