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Fuel system overhaul – 2017

March 20, 2017

Interested in cleaning out diesel tanks? Like talk of filth, choking and pumping? Or perhaps you’re struggling to sleep? If so, this is the post for you!

Over the last few years I’ve had nagging doubts lurking in the deepest recesses of my mind about our Macwester Malin’s fuel system. These question marks were completely unfounded, however when you buy a used yacht, you really can’t be certain of the integrity of components until you get up close and personal with them.

Our Macwester Malin has two large fixed fuel tanks, and three or four years ago I decided to stop filling them up at the end of each season and run them down instead, so that I could open up the inspection hatches and have a look inside (see above). Part of the overhaul project included dismantling and cleaning other components such as the pipework that joins both tanks, changing both fuel filters, servicing the Jabsco raw water cooling pump, and trying to find out why our Malin’s diesel tanks occasionally leak when they’re brimmed and our yacht is healed over.

Given there was up to a 100 litres of diesel in the tanks, I bought a 12v pump capable of transferring 45 litres per minute, and 10m of hose. Unfortunately the hose wouldn’t navigate a join in the fuel-fillers, so the skipper of Joint Venture helped get the inspection hatches open and we emptied the tanks in a matter of minutes. The bottoms of both tanks were pretty filthy, but the good news was that this filth didn’t appear to be diesel bug. The filters inside the tanks were completely choked (see below), and my chum reckoned that problem would have led to engine problems within the first 24 hours of engine usage during the new season. That being the case, my unfounded nagging doubts (a.k.a. paranoia) turned out to be a good thing.

As there was still a smattering of diesel on the bottom of the tanks, I agitated the murky contents with a stiff brush and then cleaned out what I could. Then, by decreasing the hose diameter incrementally, I pumped 25 litres of clean diesel back into the tanks with a little bit of pressure, and went through the agitation process once more before pumping it all back out again. After drying, I brushed the bottom of the tanks, and finally used a vacuum cleaner to suck up any remaining loose debris.

A week later I had another session brushing the bottom of the tanks in the first instance, and then using a telescopic magnet to reach the distant corners. I was surprise by how much debris was still inside, so I kept using the magnet until the diminishing returns diminished to the point of being unrewarding.

We dismantled the filters and pipe that links both tanks and I took those home for cleaning. I considered mothballing the starboard side tank, but having looked at the options and taken advice (thanks), I decided it was better to keep them both operational on the basis that it’s arguably the best way to stop the tanks from rusting.

I reassembled the pipework that links the tanks and re-installed the clean filters inside. When it came to re-sealing the inspection hatches, I bought 100g of Hylomar Blue gasket & jointing sealant, along with two 200mm x 200mm x 3mm sheets of nitrile which made up the new gaskets.

For the record, this was the first time that I had changed the secondary fuel filter, and I soon realised that it was impossible to simply unscrew the filter (see above), as there wasn’t enough room to drop it out of the housing. I therefore had to remove the housing from the engine block to get the filter off. None of this effort qualified as additional work, as I had to remove the secondary filter and the filter housing in order to get an allen key into the lower bolt that attached the Jabsco raw water pump to the engine block any-which-way. The good news is that the secondary fuel filter was clean and contained nothing but clean fuel.

My friend from the club took the Jabsco pump away and drilled out a bolt that had been left behind when the top of the bolt sheared off. The following paragraph is a particularly boring one for my future reference, so please feel free to skip on to the next paragraph.

The raw water pump is a Jabsco 29470 2531C model. The impellers we have always used have ten blades. The Lombardini part number for the ten blade impeller is 0042002040, while the Jabsco part number is 18653-0001-P (although “–B” is the same as “–P” without the gasket). Having spoken with Jabsco, a six blade impeller is also suitable (part number 653-0001). Jabsco stated that there was no difference in performance or longevity and it was okay to use either. In the end I bought the Jabsco SK405-0001 service kit which came with a ten blade impeller (although the SK405-0001 service kit typically comes with a six blade impeller), mainly because I wanted to replace all six of the bolts, because with the benefit of hindsight, I now think the existing bolts were non-original and could explain why one of them sheared off. The cost for the kit was £50 including VAT and delivery. Did you read all the way to the end of this paragraph? …well I told you it was boring.

Our chum from Ragdoll popped over for a look inside the tanks. He was briefly over at Port Edgar, before heading back to James Watt Dock on the Clyde, where Ragdoll was waiting ahead of a trip south to Liverpool. Having had a good poke around and performed a HD video survey, he gave the tanks the thumbs up. Not perfect, but pretty solid and serviceable. I bought some replacement braided hose and set about re-working the venting system as that appeared to be an unorthodox sealed configuration that might be the cause of the diesel leak. I didn’t get too far into that project before I spotted that the tanks actually are vented overboard not sealed, as the hoses running around the engine bay are not connected. Instead there is a hidden crossover and the hoses vent over the opposite side of the hull from the corresponding tank.

Granted, overhauling the fuel system wasn’t the most exciting of pre-season maintenance projects, and combined with my crane-out finger injury, it delayed the work that I still have to do to complete the heads compartment, but we now have substantially improved the fuel system, and that should mean that we’re less likely to have fuel-related problems out on the water. It’s fair to say that as we haven’t actually had any fuel-related problems since we bought our Macwester Malin back in 2011, that doesn’t feel like much of an achievement. However another way of looking at it is that we were destined to have fuel problems in the first few weeks of the season, and following the overhaul we’ve substantially reduced the likelihood of that happening.

In a last-ditch attempt to make this post a little more exciting, the shot above shows the Cutty Sark’s rigging …taken at the weekend in Greenwich, London. The crew and I walked around her and mused about the adventures she’s seen; inevitably our thoughts drifted to the adventures that lie ahead for our Macwester Malin over the coming months.

With just two weekends left to prepare for crane-in, it’s going to be a challenge to squeeze in; getting the engine recommissioned (including bleeding the fuel system), anti-foul painting, re-installing the mooring, repairing the dinghy floor, restocking, refitting the anchor, sails and the cockpit tent.

Guess what I’ll be doing at the weekend?

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Macwester Malin …as seen on TV

March 9, 2017

With just one month to go before crane-in, we got a surprise reminder of the adventures that lie ahead over the next few months, when we spotted our very own Macwester Malin, Indefatigable Banks in a fleeting, background shot roughly 14 minutes into BBC1’s Heir Hunters (Series 11:8) shown yesterday.

The footage was shot by a film crew onboard Christina II on her way back up river, while to the best of my calculations, we were heading away on our last sail of the season.

The Christina II crew did well; coming away with all of the fame …but none of the fortune this time.

Imagery copyright of the BBC.

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In search of Ferness

February 13, 2017

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Regular readers of this blog will know that if we’re not sailing, fixing, or fettling our yacht, we’re typically checking out possible cruising destinations.

Early in February we set off on a road trip with an aspiration of seeing the Northern Lights, but predominantly to find ‘Ferness’; a fictional fishing village that was the setting for Bill Forsyth’s 1983 film Local Hero. As it turned out, there was nowhere to actually stay in Ferness (a.k.a. Pennan) as the Pennan Inn was closed until March and there was no availability at any of the rental properties, so we rented a small cottage in Seatown; the oldest part of Gardenstown just a couple of miles west of Pennan.

We arrived in Seatown well after dark. The photograph above shows the shore-front road to the small car park, 100 precarious metres beyond our cottage [to the left of shot]. The dark area to the right is the North Sea.

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When we eventually made it out of bed the following morning, we were surprised at just how good the weather was. Yes it was cold, but it was very bright. As the forecast wasn’t amazing for the next few days, we headed directly over to Pennan, and we did all the things that tourists do on arrival. We took photographs of each other in the phone box where ‘Mac’ called ‘Happer’, took photographs outside the Pennan Inn, and also down at the harbour steps where the Russian character ‘Victor’ arrived by rib.

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Later that day, we walked to Crovie which proved to be a hidden gem [above]. Crovie feels like it hasn’t changed much over the last two or three hundred years; for example Crovie doesn’t have a traffic problem – as there is no road. Again the weather was fab, in fact it was so bright that all of the photographs I took were bleached out, so the shot above was taken a few days later when the sun was less generous with its rays.

The weather on Saturday was poor. We headed over to nearby Portsoy in the morning, but didn’t stay long as the crew wasn’t enjoying the freezing, blustery wind. The inner harbour was calm, but it was lumpy out on the open water. Days later, we realised that the helicopter that woke us up in the middle of the following night (Sunday night) was searching for a missing kayaker that set off from Portsoy late Saturday morning; precisely the same time that we were there. Unfortunately it’s not possible to wind the clock back.

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The weather improved again by the time Sunday rolled around. We were compelled to return to Ferness/Pennan as, having re-watched Local Hero the night before, we realised that although we had taken photographs outside the Pennan Inn, and in the Pennan phone box, these were not in the same places as the hotel and phone box in the movie. It turns out that the Ferness phone box was a prop, and the hotel was two houses joined together with some add-ons to make it look like a hotel. The real phone box is now a listed building (despite not being in the film), while the Pennan Inn is actually fifty metres to the right of the shot above, which shows the two houses that were used for the hotel exterior shots in the film.

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With this in mind we took lots of photographs of us outside the film set hotel and in the non-existent film set phone box. The top photograph of the pair of images above shows Pennan, and the image below shows the fictional Mackaskill Arms of Ferness, that I’ve roughly reconstructed (digitally) for no good reason that I can think of as I type.

Before we left Pennan, I abandoned the crew in the general vicinity of the phone box and headed off by car in search of a signal for my mobile. I drove for miles, and miles, and then even more miles. Eventually I found a signal and speed-dialed 01346 561 210 [‘Ferness 261’ in the movie].

At the very end of Local Hero, ‘Mac’ calls the Ferness phone box from the US but poignantly there’s no answer. When I called the phone box, the crew let it ring for a while and then we talked for a moment or two.

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With the exception of the wet and windy Saturday, we ventured outside every night at twilight and had a couple of drinks while the coal fire was warming-up our wee cottage, and the waves were doing their best to soak us. Our rental cottage was the pale blue one to the left of the shot above. It’s just possible to make out the livingroom window that faces north – the waves were bouncing off that on the Saturday night. In fact, a local told us that the waves were crashing over the roof tops just a week or so before. We were spared such excitement.

We had a great time in a lovely part of the world. If like us, you’re a fan of Local Hero, then Pennan should be on your bucket list. If we find ourselves up in that neck of the woods onboard our Macwester Malin over the coming years, we’re definitely going to spend a night or two in the harbour. Maybe we’ll be lucky enough to see the Aurora Borealis next time.

Right, I’m off to call 01346 561 210!

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Bridging the generation gap – Part 2

February 4, 2017

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My earliest childhood memories come from blissful days onboard my late grandfather’s boat Dara. Recently, I was given some old plans and charts that belonged to him. The large plan above for example is the rigging arrangement from the T.S.S. Clan Chisholm built by the Greenock & Grangemouth Dockyard Co Ltd. The blueprint is dated 27th September 1937, and after doing a little Googling I discovered that the 463.8 ft ship was launched on 05/08/1937, completed in October 1937, and sunk by torpedo on the 17/10/1939, about six weeks after the start of World War II.

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One chart in particular caught my eye.

Over the last thirty years, I have occasionally tried to rediscover the precise location of my grandfather’s mooring. I always understood that Dara was moored off Clynder. I had previously looked at the cine footage, looking for clues in the background (such as the house above), but was never able to translate that into tangible results on location in Clynder.

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The chart that I was given proved to be the holy grail; it gave me the missing detail that solved the puzzle. I had been looking in the wrong place, and with the map to hand, the crew and I found the house above, which is the same house that can be seen in the cine film …albeit with 2017-style hipster foliage.

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With chart in hand [see below], we positioned ourselves with the aforementioned house to our backs and the wall ruins to our right …and looked out on to where my grandfather’s boat sat all those years ago [above]. My recollection of the scene was clearly warped by my diminutive size at the time. The stones on the beach are large pebbles, whereas I remember them as heavy boulders. Nonetheless there was something comforting about having rediscovered the location of those early happy memories.

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In a mind-bending twist; one that really took me by surprise, on what was after all a journey to somehow reach out, through the formidable barrier of death, to my long-lost family sailing heritage …we then walked south to the peninsula two hundred metres away. Not visible on any map or chart that I had seen previously, we looked back over to my grandfather’s mooring from Limekiln Point.

Kismet, karma, whatever you choose to call it, I felt that somehow I had made some sort of improbable connection with my grandfather. Sure, you could put it down to coincidence that his boat was moored just off ‘Limekiln Point’, and that we randomly stumbled upon and subsequently chose ‘Limekilns’ on the other side of the country decades later; whatever your thoughts might be, on this occasion …I allowed myself to read something more into it.

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Bridging the generation gap – Part 1

January 20, 2017

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When we first heard of the new Queensferry Crossing we were thrown into disarray. We hadn’t foreseen a third bridge linking North Queensferry to South Queensferry, and that development threw a major spanner in the works of our informal naming convention.

If we had known, we wouldn’t have labelled the existing bridges ‘Jeff n Beau’. Instead, we might have called the Forth (rail) Bridge – ‘Lloyd‘, and the Forth Road Bridge – ‘Beau‘, which would have left ‘Jeff‘ free for the new bridge.

Quelle Domage.

Given the circumstances, I’ve unilaterally decided that the new bridge will have to be called ‘Kevin‘.

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With that thorny issue now resolved, I can proceed.

Roughly 47 years ago my late grandfather sailed his boat Dara under the yet to be completed Erskine Bridge (on the River Clyde), about 50 miles due west of ‘Kevin’, a.k.a. the new Queensferry Crossing (on the River Forth). My late grandfather captured the journey that he made on cine camera, as they passed under the bridge [above].

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Given that the seed for our sailing activities was planted by my earliest memories on board my grandfather’s boat, I thought that it would be appropriate to somehow re-enact his journey …albeit it fifty years later, on the east coast …and with a completely different bridge.

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The cine footage is in pretty poor condition, and obviously there’s no sound. Granted, it probably doesn’t mean all that much to others, but to me it’s one of the few scraps I have to connect me with my family’s sailing heritage. I like to imagine that my grandfather would have been proud of us taking up sailing, and crossing the North Sea back in 2011.

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The Erskine Bridge was completed in 1971, and the Queensferry Crossing should open later this year.  Despite this 46 year gap, if you compare the imagery, on the surface it looks as though the construction techniques haven’t actually changed all that much.

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Building work on the Queensferry Crossing has been going since we first took-up sailing (2011). We both fondly remember the Beamer Rock lighthouse [above] from our first season, but it was demolished later in 2011/early 2012 to make way for the new bridge.

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Ever since then the riverscape has been constantly changing. Although we miss the Beamer Rock lighthouse, we don’t particularly miss the protective covers that used to shroud the Forth (rail) Bridge 365 days of the year, as can be spotted in the photograph of the Beamer Rock lighthouse above.

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It’s been interesting to watch the new bridge slowly stretch across the river during the last five years. At some stage this year, ‘Kevin’ will be completed and the river will settle down once again. That new normal could prove to be a little strange, but I’m sure we’ll adjust.

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A slow start to 2017

January 17, 2017

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We had an unusually quiet time over Christmas and New Year as yours truly was feeling a tad under the weather. Despite missing out on a few social engagements, team Ragdoll dropped in to see us on Christmas Eve, and we managed to catch up with our sailing chums two or three times.

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The weather for the local ‘looney dook’ on the 1st of January was as good as I can remember. It was a prime opportunity to strip-off and take the plunge… …unfortunately I was still recovering.

What a shame!

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We carried on with our winter road trips, including a trip to the East Neuk. While we were there, we spotted a couple of yachts from our club that are spending the winter on the pontoons. With an eight-year waiting list it will be a while before we can join them.

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Not normally one to be taking photographs of vehicles when there are boats around, for some reason I spent more time than a grown man ought to oogling the RNLI’s tractor. In my defence, given that we’re members, I felt in some small way that I was entitled to be interested.

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As well as Pittenweem, St Monans, and Elie we dropped into Crail [above]. We haven’t sailed into Crail before as it has always seemed a bit cramped and busy. Over the winter though, there was more space and it was hard to resist considering an overnight during the coming season.

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Above: the view over to Inchcolm from the beach at Aberdour.

There’s no doubt that the weather has been very kind to us so far this winter. As I haven’t been in a position to carry out the onboard maintenance that’s required before crane-in, I have a lot to squeeze in over the next three months.

I’d better get my skates on.

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Quest for Inchgnome

November 30, 2016

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At the end of November, our chums from Ragdoll a Westerly 33, very kindly invited us out for one last sail. They spent the night at Granton, and we caught up with them at 11am on the Sunday morning. We soon formed a loose plan to track down the mystical island of Inchgnome.

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It was chilly, but the weather was really good given that it was only a couple of days away from December. Team Ragdoll unfurled the headsail, however there wasn’t enough wind to make much progress.

Our first stop was directly north from Granton to Burntisland [above].

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We brought a simple lunch with us and we collectively demolished that while we were alongside at Burntisland, including way too many chocolate brownies on my part (unfortunately, I kept unearthing conjoined brownies that would just not be parted). After lunch we took a quick tour of the inner harbour at Burntisland [above].

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Heading west, our next stop was Starleyburn, which is a privately owned harbour well off the beaten track. We didn’t actually stop off, as we weren’t sure what was underneath Ragdoll’s keel. Hat’s off to the skipper for getting us in as far as we did though.

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After getting up close and personal with the most easterly beach at Aberdour, the skipper pointed Ragdoll’s bow west again to the golden horizon out towards Mortimer’s Deep.

Could that warm glow be the fabled Inchgnome?

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Yes, indeed (apologies for the cheesy vfx; I couldn’t resist it). Although we had previously passed near by, Inchgnome (a.k.a. Swallow Craig) had slipped beneath our radar. We circled the diminutive little island, which sits just a few metres east of Inchcolm, and drank in the surreal miniature world that largely goes unnoticed out in the middle of the Firth of Forth.

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It was pretty dark by the time we reached Port Edgar, and the temperature was falling away quickly. The following day, Ragdoll was lifted out of the water and her first season in Scotland was at an end. Although the end of the season is always a low point, our chums have done well, squeezing in six weeks of sailing after we were craned-out.

Thanks very much to team Ragdoll for sharing their final weekend of the season with us.

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