I may have resolved our port engine overheating issue, but then again, maybe I haven't. The water temperature has dropped considerably since I last ran the boat at speed, which was on December 1st, but after running more Barnacle Buster through both fuel coolers last week, we did see improvement in our running temperatures when we took Swing Set out last Sunday for a spin.
But let me back up. Last week I pulled up the carpet in the salon so I could access our engine room, and as I was rolling up the burlap backed carpet, I scraped a knuckle across the rough surface of the burlap and immediately opened the skin on my left middle finger not 30 seconds into my project. Normally I at least get to enter the engine room before I cut myself.
Band-Aid in place, I then put on the gloves I bought to protect my hands during chores like this one, and then hooked up my hoses to run the Barnacle Buster through one fuel cooler and then cross over to the other one. I had inadvertently omitted both coolers when I ran the Barnacle Buster the last time and since learned that it was a mistake that could still be causing our overheating problem. I do know that I didn't want to include the heat exchangers this time around because I didn't want to replace the engine zincs again. (The Barnacle Buster will eat up the engine zincs.)
I ran the concentrated solution for four hours, let it sit overnight, and then rinsed it out the next morning. I buttoned everything up, started both engines to check for leaks, didn't see any, and then all we had to do was wait for a nice day for a sea trial. My hands did not suffer any more injury. The gloves will be common procedure in the future.
Another project was to replace the screen on our salon door, which I had previously mentioned. It required me to remove both solid doors first. There is no other way to accomplish taking out the screen door. Having never removed both doors, I wasn't sure how to go about it, but one method that usually works is to just start taking out screws until something comes apart. This method worked this time too.
Once I had the screen door out, I actually started to go on line to learn how to install new screen, but the directions that came in the screen package gave me sufficient insight as to how to go about installing the new screen. I should try this more often, as most times the instructions that come with products are rather revealing. In several languages.
If I have ever, in all our years of home ownership, replaced screen on a window or door of this size, I don't remember it, but my first attempt was satisfactory, if not downright commendable. We now have new "no see-um" size screen in our salon door, minus the bug. (Our friends who have been aboard Swing Set know about "the bug".) Now, if Rosie can avoid running into the closed screen door, I may be able to avoid repairing our screen door for many years to come.
Last Sunday morning I took the last handful of change we had on our "change dish" and bought a bag of ice at the marina office. The nice girl there wasn't too happy about sorting out two dollars worth of change for the $1.85 bag of ice, but hey, I was giving her an extra 15 cents. In fact, when I buy ice, I just give them two one dollar bills for each bag so I don't have to get the fifteen cents back each time. (I remember scouring the river banks back when I was a teenager, just to find soda bottles to redeem for the two cents. I was ecstatic when the price jumped one summer to three cents!) If you're too young to remember any of this, go back to playing Candy Crush on your iPad.
With beverages chilling nicely, we headed out of the harbor and pointed the bow of Swing Set towards Cuba. Once we achieved normal operating temperature, I pushed our throttles forward and put Swing Set on plane and left her there for fifteen minutes, way past time when the port engine began to heat up previously. Both engines stayed well under 200 degrees, so I considered my test to be a success, but we are fairly low on fuel, so when we get fuel and I can run longer when the water temperatures rise a bit, I'll certainly be testing the engines again, maybe when we make a run to the Dry Tortugas in April or so.
We were well out past the three mile discharge zone, and since we were in need of a pump out, I raised the engine room access hatch in the cockpit and went down to open our Y-valve and pumped out the holding tank. Take that Miami!
That task completed, I turned around to give a visual once over to both engines and got a surprise. Not a good surprise, but one that made me a little sick.
The starboard engine had oil sprayed over it on the port side, and oil was just beginning to run down toward the aft bilge. I grabbed a big towel that I normally keep in the engine room and dammed up the oil. I grabbed another towel and began to wipe down the engine so I could determine what had failed. I was soon relieved to discover that when I had re-installed the raw water hose to the starboard engine fuel cooler, I had knocked the dipstick loose. Running the engines under load had caused oil to escape from the dipstick hole with the increased pressure. The lucky part for us, (and there always seems to be a lucky part) was that my concern over our fuel onboard prevented my from running longer on plane, and therefore puking more oil out of the engine. I really felt like we had dodged another bullet.
Relief settled down upon me like a soft blanket. I soaked in the warm fuzzy feeling for a few minutes before heading back into the lee side of Boca Chica Key where we could set in the calm water and enjoy the sun, and more than one or two cold Bud Lights. No more harm was done that day, even though the contents of our holding tank were bobbing along in its northern path. The beer cans were brought safely back to the marina and deposited in the proper recycling bin. We do what we can.
We took the dingy out on the next day, a holiday for most folks, but around here it always seems like a holiday as it's a vacation destination. We ran along the southern side of Key West toward Fort Zachary, with our target being a small beach on the most western end of Fort Zachary State Park, a place we have been to numerous times.
I pulled into the shallows, just along the fence line for the Navy yard, where some long ago abandoned fence post footings provide a place to tie the dingy up in order to keep the waves from washing us up onto the beach.
Some officers of some sort were running off some woman who had committed the grave error of crossing the imaginary fence line over to GOVERNMENT PROPERTY, in order to lay out her beach blanket and sun her butt, a most grievous offense.
I ignored them, seeing as how we were not officially "on the beach", plus there were the normal ten to twelve other sun bathers just a few feet away, on the other side of the imaginary fence line, on the side away from the GOVERNMENT PROPERTY.
I paid no heed to the action going around behind us, behind the big fence of the GOVERNMENT PROPERTY sign, where the two naval officers were joined by a Key West policeman, but soon enough I heard footsteps on the gravely beach, and a voice calling to us.
"Are you Mr. Arliss?" I heard a voice say.
I turned around and saw a huge policeman with an automatic weapon strapped across his chest. He was flanked by two servicemen in fatigues, standing with legs spread, yet at ease.
"I'm not Mr. Arliss", I said.
"Well, your boat is registered to Mr. Arliss", is what I was told. News to me.
"Then there is a mistake, I'm afraid, because this is our boat, but I'm not Mr. Arliss".
"You've been told to move along, this is a restricted area".
"No, I haven't been told to move along, unless you consider your statement, just now, as us being told to move along." I tend to get picky in these situations.
"Mr. Arliss, you need to be 100 yards away from this area."
"I'm not Mr. Arliss."
"But your boat is registered under Mr. Arliss."
"Then your system is messed up, because I can assure you that this boat is registered to me, and I'm not Mr. Arliss." I don't suppose it occurred to the officer to ask me what my name was. I would have gladly provided it.
"Do you have a chart?" is what I was asked next.
"Yes, I have a chart." I looked out to the water, over to the very nearby sunbathers, and then said, "You're saying I need to be 300 feet away from this beach?" Hoping he would notice the sailboats filing past, certainly less than 300 feet away, plus the very obvious sunbathers, just on the other side of the fence, some of them actually leaning up against it.
"Yes, this is a security issue, and the sign clearly says to stay 100 yards away from this area."
Now, I hadn't even had my first beer, so I wasn't thinking as clearly as I could have been, but I decided to be co-operative, seeing as how we were outnumbered, and there was that huge automatic rifle to consider. "I'll tell you what. We're leaving. But only because you don't want us here. We're not hurting anything, and you and I both know it. Are you going to allow us to leave in a timely manner, and not get rushed?" I asked him.
"You may leave in a timely manner", we were told.
"Thank you", I said, and then we gathered up our stuff as they left, most certainly to return with the heavy artillery if we were still there in ten minutes. I'm running out of places I can go. (I hold no grudge against the officer, just doing his job. Someone somewhere complained at some point for something. Who knows?)
I don't say that "we're" running out of places to go, because I'm sure Rosie is welcome anywhere. It must be my appearance, or my attitude. I don't plan on changing either.
Given "the bum's rush", we ventured to the north side of Key West, which just a day later, was the lee side of the island. The water was glass smooth and we explored some areas we haven't been to before, and then we went to the shallow gathering spot just off of Boca Chica until late in the afternoon when the clouds rolled in.
Yesterday we wanted to take a trip to the grocery store, but just as we got ready it started to rain and the rain did not let up until nearly sunset. It was a real drencher. We played gin rummy all afternoon, and then grilled some spare ribs in the convection oven before settling in for a movie.
Some strong winds blew in last night and we could feel the boat gently bouncing around in the slip, and this morning there was another chill in the air as a front moved in. These are times that we are very happy to be at a dock and not bobbing around in a remote anchorage in the cold.
The marina is buzzing with activity. The grand opening is this weekend and a big fishing tournament and live music is planned for Saturday and Sunday, after a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday. The bocci ball courts are finished, some new sod and palm trees have been planted, and the sand volleyball court in being prepared.
Pleasure boats continue to come and go. Just yesterday some folks who were leaving came by with an armload of supplies; butter, eggs, cheese, yogurt, etc. Turns out we didn't need to go to the grocery after all.