Friday, 21 July 2017

Diesel engine course proves we were right not to rush out to sea

Photo of our diesel course certificates

Our diesel course certificates

Phil and I both completed the RYA Diesel Engine Course on Wednesday.

And it seems we were right to have put off our first trip out of the marina gates until after we had done the course as it flagged up a couple of jobs that needed doing before we take Ravensdale out to sea.

John Parlane, of Morecambe-based Bay Sea School, travelled to Maryport to deliver the RYA Diesel Engine Course on our own boat.

There are two ways to access the engine room – by lifting the steps that lead down into our bedroom and stepping down onto the floor or lifting two large sheets of plywood that form most of our sitting room floor and climbing in from above.

We cleared the sitting room, including removing the bench that runs along the starboard side of the cabin, lifted the carpet and removed the boards before John arrived to allow the engine room to cool down a bit as it was a very warm day.

Photo of Ravensdale's two 300hp Volvo Penta engines

Ravensdale's two 300hp Volvo Penta engines

Initially, John explained how a diesel engine works by showing us a demonstration on our dining table using a Perspex tube sitting on a block to replicate a piston.

John Parlane's diesel engine demonstration

He placed a small piece of cotton wool in the bottom as fuel and pushed a plunger down into the tube at speed causing the cotton wool to burn.

This was particularly useful for me as I had no idea how compressing air could create enough heat to run an engine.

He explained that this demonstrated the fire triangle – air, fuel and heat.

And I can’t repeat Phil’s response when John asked if we had ever heard of the four stroke cycle – suck, squeeze, bang and blow J

He took as through the basics of the diesel engine using a presentation on his laptop, answering our questions as we went along.

We then donned our overalls to learn more about the two 300hp Volvo Penta engines that power our Neptunus 133 cruiser.

Checking the oil level using the dip stick

Conditions in the engine room were not particularly pleasant due to a lack of headroom when entering under the stairs and cramped spaces if climbing into the gaps between the engines and the hull on either side of the boat from above.

At one point, I thought I was well and truly trapped down the side of the port engine, but I somehow managed to extricate myself.

I’m really going to have to lose some weight if I’m planning to spend much time in the engine room J

It was also very hot down there so I was pleased when we returned to the comfort of the seating around our dining room table to complete our course.

John explained what each part of the engine does, tracing the routes taken by water, oil and diesel, and explained the importance of the various checks that need to be carried out at regular intervals.

To help us remember the checks that must be done before going out to sea and daily while cruising, he suggested we remember the acronym WOBBLE (definitely a good aide-memoire as I’m never going to forgot a word like that J).

The letters stand for Water, Oil, Belts, Bilge, Leaks and Electric, which includes batteries and fuel.

We checked the drive belts on both engines and were amazed to discover that there are two water pump drive belts and two alternator drive belts on each engine.

I couldn’t help doing the maths in my head and, even though I didn’t know the cost of the belts, I calculated that replacing them all and buying spares was not going to be cheap – especially as they have words “Volvo Penta” on them J

That was the first time that we realised just how good a decision it had been not to go to sea before doing the course.

Both of the water pump drive belts on the starboard engine were slack, one much more so than the other.

John told us how to adjust and change them and Phil tightened them as much as possible, but they were obviously beyond saving.

Photo of Phil tightening drive belts on the starboard engine

Phil tightens drive belts on the starboard engine

We asked John if he would be happy going to sea with them as they were and he said that he would not. They really needed to be changed before moving Ravensdale again.

We also checked the pipes and hoses and discovered that the fuel return hose on the starboard engine was badly perished and could have burst at any time – another job that has to be done before we leave the marina.

Other jobs that we need to do asap include replacing rusty jubilee clips on some of the hoses and tightening some of the connectors on the battery terminals.

Photo of Phil and John checking the bank of batteries on board

Phil and John checking the bank of batteries on board

John also showed us how to carry out all the tasks needed to service the engines, including changing the oil and the air and fuel filters.

And he ran through the likely causes of various problems and which ones we could hope rectify ourselves and which really needed the involvement of an engineer.

Further topics covered included winterising the engines, although he said that, as we live on Ravensdale, she is unlikely to get as cold as a boat that is left empty during the winter months.

We now have a list of spares we need to carry to ensure we are as prepared as possible to deal with any breakdowns.

And we discovered that we didn’t have many of the tools we needed as most of Phil’s spanners and sockets were imperial when the boat is Dutch and all the nuts and bolts are metric so we have since been out to get the tools that will fit.

Photo of Phil checking out our new tools

Phil checks out our new tools

I am so proud that I now have a certificate stating that I have successfully completed the RYA Diesel Engine Course to go with my certificates for the RYA Day Skipper and Yachtmaster Offshore theory courses and my Short Range Radio Licence.

If anyone had told me 10 years ago – or even a year ago – that I would complete such courses I would have laughed at them, but I’m so glad that I’ve done them now and have enjoyed every minute of it.

Over the past few months many people have asked why we haven’t taken Ravensdale out of the marina yet and we are now very glad we stuck to our guns.

One other job that has been carried out since our return from Scotland was replacing the waste water pump for the wash basin in the aft heads and the shower.

Photo of Phil preparing for the installation of the new pump

Phil removes the old pump and prepares for the installation of the new one

It broke down the night we got back from our holiday – not the best type of welcome home present but not totally unexpected as it had been making a horrible noise for the past couple of weeks.

We ordered a new Whale Gulper pump (love the name and it is very descriptive of the noise it makes while operating J) on Sunday and it arrived Tuesday lunchtime.

Photo of the arrival of the new waste water pump

The new waste water pump arrives

Phil had it fitted and working in no time so normal service was resumed once again.

Photo of a weasel running along the pontoons at Maryport Marina

A weasel runs along the pontoons at Maryport Marina

Meanwhile, the latest visitor to the marina as far as wildlife is concerned was a weasel that I spotted on the pontoons as I was walking down the ramp one morning.

I immediately stood still and watched the tiny creature scampering along the pontoon, unsure what I was looking at, but determined to get a photo that would help me identify it.

I managed a couple of shots with my phone, but it was too far away to get a decent image. However, the images I did get were sufficient to look it up and it was definitely a weasel.

After running along the pontoon for a while, it came to a join between two sections, upended itself and dived down into the gap.
Photo of the weasel disappearing down a gap in the pontoons

The weasel disappears down a gap in the pontoons


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