Turning back the clock to Vancouver: As we prepared to set sail, I came to pay closer attention to the “mobility” of the boat that had been serving as a home for over a week. On the first page of my petite journal, I wrote down the dimensions of the boat, such as its length, maximum width, draft, and displacement. I also included information about the water and fuel tanks, the anchor, and the engine. This way, I could easily reference this important information in the future. I also took the time to read the Tayana 37 owner’s manual, which I had found online.
Before coming to Vancouver, I took on the role of a skipper for the first time. This experience made me realize the importance of being familiar with all of the boat’s systems, including the engine. Otherwise, I would have skipped the engine section as I did in the past.
Now I finally understood what those gauges on the engine panel were. I saw them on the panel each time I started the engine, but my ignorance almost prevented me from noticing them. Before I carefully read the manual, I didn’t know that they monitored the engine cooling water temperature and oil pressure. I felt the same surprise and excitement that a formerly illiterate person might feel upon interpreting a ‘Sale’ sign at a shopping mall for the first time.
Furthermore, I didn’t know that the engine oil prevents damage from metal-to-metal friction. If the engine cooling water temperature was too high, it was an abnormal signal, and the engine oil pressure on this boat should be between 30 – 60 psi. I now understand that the gauges are located in a visible spot so they can be easily checked on a regular basis.
On the day we accidentally put too much engine oil into the engine, the oil pressure gauge caught my attention thanks to the manual I had read. This was the moment I became gauge-literate and interpreted their numbers for the first time:
Before starting the engine at Otter bay, we barely reduced the engine oil to the maximum level by shaking and turning the tube around with the oil drain plug open. The gauge showed 60 psi, indicating that the engine oil was at the maximum level in the normal pressure range. As we sailed on, the gauge reading decreased to 50 psi, which we were relieved to see after all the trouble we took to remove the excess engine oil. However, when it dropped to 40 psi as we approached Port Angeles, we realized something was amiss. Could it be that the engine is using oil as fuel instead of diesel?
As the boat wouldn’t start at the fuel dock no matter how many times we tried, the captain suggested,
“Let’s have a tea.”
and began boiling water. We both took deep breaths and sipped our tea to calm our nerves before turning the key to the engine. Brrrumph – the engine started! Now we need to hurry and move the boat to the transient dock before the engine shuts off again…
As soon as we successfully tie up the boat at the transient dock, the captain opens the engine room and says with a trembling voice:
“The oil drain plug was left open…”
It turns out that we had forgotten to close it after removing the engine oil at Otter Bay, causing it to completely run out during our two days of sailing.
If the captain had checked the engine as usual at Sydney Spit before weighing the anchor, he would have caught the mistake. The captain, who couldn’t shake off the guilt of the previous day’s mistake, refused to check the engine saying,
“I’m overchecking the engine every morning and this mess is the result.”
And the engine oil continued to drip while sailing another 35 miles to Port Angeles.
It is slightly early, but it is now morning in Korea so our Korean expert friend is summoned on phone. Taejin has now become the official technical consultant for our boat regardless of his own will.
With a sigh, he says,
“I’m not sure if the engine machinery is stuck together,”
Taejin suggests trying to turn the crank using a wrench or something. Fortunately, the crank turns and we see a glimmer of hope. Before arriving at Port Angeles, we also noticed that the engine output dropped and then seemed to rise again. Taejin explains that this can happen when the fuel filter is dirty or the fuel supply is not working properly. We decide to replace the fuel filter and bleed the engine, against any possible consequences of the improperly added coolant.
- bleeding is the process of removing air from the fuel system of a diesel engine, typically by opening a valve and manually pumping fuel through the system until all air is purged.
In the late 1700s, a Spanish explorer landed on this place where the indigenous people had been prospering for generations. He declared,
“I name this place ‘Puerto de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles’”
Later on, as the population of this region changed to English-speaking residents, the city became known as Port Angeles. Located at the eastern end of Juan de Fuca, which looks like a river but is actually a sea connecting to the Pacific Ocean, this city serves as a gateway for boats coming from Canada to the United States.
It’s said that Port Angeles has a “Mediterranean climate” with more clear days than other cities in Washington state. I’ve brought along three swimsuits from the Mediterranean, but ended up needing to wear a down jacket more often than not. I had also packed sandals and crop tops, but ended up having to borrow clothes from the captain, who was a good 15 centimeters taller than me. It seems that the term “Mediterranean climate” might not be the most appropriate technical term to describe Port Angeles’ weather.
Its downtown can be reached by walking about 20 minutes from the marina. It is made up of two main streets that form the commercial district. Despite being a coastal city, it is hard to find a variety of seafood dishes, with fish and chips and hamburgers being the main menu items. There are many restaurants near the ferry terminal that offer a view of the sea, but my favorite is one that serves Italian pizza and craft beer. The pizza is not the typical American-style like Pizza Hut or Domino’s, but rather authentic Italian and tastes great. The outdoor tables with a view of Juan de Fuca are a nice touch, and the indoor atmosphere is also quite exotic.
The bars in this town stand out from those in big cities like Vancouver, giving a distinct “I’m in the US” feeling. Live performances are also fairly common, although the music is usually just mediocre. However, you can always find people dancing in front. According to the captain, this place has the charm of a rural area in the US.
The majority of the people in this town are white, with a small number of Native Americans. The people are all kind and seem genuinely willing to help two awkward Asians. A bus driver, upon noticing us sitting on the bench after getting off at the terminal, would offer assistance and ask where we are headed. Or an old man on street would ask us out of the blue,
“What do you call the wife of a hippie?”
throwing a sudden riddle. (Note: the answer is “Mississippi.”)
The sky is always breathtaking just before sunset in Port Angeles, and my heart swells as I walk along the coastal path during the evening. It truly is a beautiful place. The best view point is at the city pier next to the ferry terminal. The stunning view of the Juan de Fuca and the peaceful scene of the orange-lit pier with tourists happily catching crabs in the traps is wonderful. (It is said that you can catch crabs just by throwing a trap here).
How did we, the sailors passing by on the boat know Port Angeles so well? It’s been two weeks since we arrived in Port Angeles today. The engine still shows no signs of recovery.
Engine Trouble: Persistence And Frustration
The captain had had previous experiences of reviving the engine after bleeding, so we bled it with great care at first. We were convinced that the problem was the air mixed into the diesel fuel.
Despite replacing all filters and repeatedly bleeding the engine, the boat still wouldn’t start. We then suspected the starter motor, which uses battery power to turn the engine crank and get the engine running on its own using diesel fuel. The captain had previously experienced issues with poor contact from the starter motor and had to grind off the contact points to get the engine to start. It’s possible that the issue is with the starter motor.
One of the amazing things about this boat is that it has backups for all of its parts, from the hinges to the starter motor. (It’s almost strange that it hasn’t an extra engine!) It looks like a boat that is well-prepared for an offshore voyage. However, removing the faulty starter motor and attaching a new one to the engine was not an easy task.
The engine located under the companionway stairs can be accessed from the front by lifting the stairs and removing the engine room cover. It can also be reached from the aft through an opening in the stern cabin wall. The starter motor, which is located on the side of the engine in the middle of various iron tubes, proved to be difficult to reach and surprisingly heavy. I had to contort my body and stretch out my arms in a downward dog pose, reaching for the starter motor with my face on the floor. My arms ended up covered in black oil.
Now, when we turn the key and press the switch, the engine cranks without fail. However, the engine does not start. After replacing the starter motor with great difficulty all day, we were never disappointed like this.
We receive an order from Taejin, our official technical consultant, to check the Injection pump, a part that pushes diesel fuel into the engine’s injector. We also try a spray which is said to help ignite the engine. The auto shop clerk told us not to use it on a diesel engine, but in our desperate attempt to catch anything, we sprayed it into the air filter. However, the engine still fails to start, a loud, jarring noise that sounds like metal scraping against metal, making our hearts pound. We attempt to bleed the system a few more times, but the engine still does not start.
We struggled and failed every day, but eventually in the late afternoon we took off our nitrile gloves, changed into clean clothes, and headed downtown. The distinctive, dry sound of the engine cranking but not starting echoed in our ears like a ringing, but we ate a delicious dinner and drank at a bar, also going for a walk at the supermarket that stays open late. It seems that it is now time to call a professional without any other choice.
Hiring A Professional
We reach out to Ryan, the helpful office manager at the marina, for assistance. Ryan has recommended several great spots in Port Angeles, so we trust his judgment. When we call the number he provided, we are surprised to learn that the hourly rate is $150. Although it is somewhat unusual to discuss rates so early in the conversation, we have no other choice.
According to Ryan, the best mechanic around used to be Jim, but he hung up his tools not too long ago and is now enjoying his well-deserved retirement.
The next day, two men in sleek black shirts arrived, pulling a fancy-looking tool tray. One was Rick, who had a sincere appearance, and the other was Chris, who had a muscular build and a bald head. To avoid wasting time (and money) on tests and bleedings we had already done in the past week, we explained the work we had done.
“Oh, that spray shouldn’t be used on a diesel engine…”
Rick and Chris tried to figure out why the engine wouldn’t start by examining it closely. Then the old fuel return tube snaps.
“Looks like this wasn’t a problem we could solve on our own…”
From that point on, we entrusted them with the job, no longer worrying about how many hours it would take or how much it would cost.
Unfortunately, the problem was not the old tube, but rather the injection pump, which Taejin had mentioned before. However, because it was an old British engine, it would take about a week to order a new part and get delivered. We paid $600 without a bill after three hours of work, but the joy of finding the problem was greater.
As our stay in Port Angeles stretched on for a week, we had to come up with ways to pass the time. Meanwhile, the captain kept making daily visits to the marina office, wallet in hand, much to Ryan‘s frustration. In fact, Ryan had already suggested to the captain a few days ago that he should just “pay everything at once”
Now, the walk from the marina to downtown feels like a familiar journey through our hometown. We have bought and cooked Sakai salmon from a fishing boat moored in the marina, traveled to a distant supermarket by bus to purchase meat for grilling, and visited the Olympic National Park recommended by the owner of the boat next to us. On some days, we have dressed up and searched for a fashionable bar in town. We have tried to make the most of our time while waiting to avoid boredom.
The boat becomes more beautiful every day. We repainted the anti-slip paint on the slippery coachroof, cleaned and dried the teak and applied a protective treatment. And now the 40-year-old boat looks rejuvenated.
We greeted and bid farewell to arriving and departing boats on our transient dock, dreaming of setting sail on our boat too.
And now, the day of replacing the injection pump has arrived.
Where is this voyage heading?
Rick and Chris checked all the various leaking parts of the engine and replaced the old fuel return tube. They diagnosed that the problem of the engine not starting was due to a lack of fuel supply and repaired the injection pump accordingly.
We were concerned for a long time about whether our journey would be interrupted by engine problems, but it looks like we’re close to resolving them. We sat on the deck, filled with a little hope, waiting for the cool sound of the engine starting up.
But even after replacing the injection pump, the engine still made that harsh, grating sound that stuck in our ears. Rick tries again.
Even Chris, who confidently claimed that the engine problem would be solved by replacing the injection pump and sent us the grandiose estimate before coming to boat, looks flustered.
“Can you give me that engine spray?”
They tried to start the engine while spraying continuously, ignoring the frightening sound of the machinery colliding with each other, but it was of no use. They failed. Chris, disappointed, spat out these scary words:
“I was a professional fisher before I retired and founded this company, and I know for sure that you guys will never make it to Mexico with this engine.”
“I just noticed that the engine hours are over 300,000.”
We are deeply disappointed and have not been able to think of anything. We had also talked about replacing the engine, but we were told that there was a minimum wait time of six months due to recent engine shortages. Additionally, we were told that our boat, with its narrow canoe stern, could only install a smaller engine of about 25 horsepower. Is this how it’s going to end? Are we going to find out about Port Angeles and then go home?