Bitten by the ‘black dog’

A simple burst cooling system hose, I had thought one week and we’ll be on our way.  One week becomes two, then three and now we’ll be here in Mackay into the New Year – another four or five weeks away. 

What I had envisaged to be an end of work lazy cruise around tropical islands and relaxing with sunset drinks has certainly not gone to plan.   I am aware I bought an old boat and things need attention, but I hadn’t imagined so much could happen in such a short time.  Work, weather and regular trips to Brisbane limited any time I had to attend to many upgrades before leaving.   All in all the breakdowns, delays and money spent during this trip has taken it’s toll in more ways than just the bank account.  Since leaving Bundaberg on 18 July, 20 weeks (140 days) ago we have spent 91 days sitting in marinas waiting out wild weather, tending to some planned maintenance and unplanned repairs or waiting for parts and tradespeople. Not much the lazy cruise of my dream.

Vaega tolu sitting lonely out where VMR put us three weeks ago.

Upon our unceremonious arrival in Mackay I went almost directly to the local Yanmar mechanic to talk hoses.  If there is a need to replace one, I may as well replace the others so there is some confidence to not repeat the same incident.  There are only three fresh water coolant hoses so not a difficult job ahead. Two of the hoses are available in Australia but one must come from Singapore – 5 to 7 working days to get here.  Of course, the one not in the country is the replacement for the one that burst.  Murphy’s law strikes swiftly and stabs deeply.

Book a second week of marina fees and follow up on an earlier investigation into the headsail furler.  Over the course of the past few weeks it has been increasingly harder to roll up the headsail. There is a local supplier so going through him to order, wait a week for delivery and replace the old one is an easy enough task.  Expensive but easy – it is a boat so it is always going to be $$$$$$$$.

A nice new headsail furler drum waiting for use

The day after installing the new furler drum the hoses arrive so it is all systems go to replace them and get the old diesel engine grumbling over again.  Space is always tight on boats and replacing the hoses did involve some extreme contorting and twisting to fold this old body into the engine room and around the motor. Some skin was removed from knuckles and wrists and copious amounts of blood sacrificed to the Yanmar Gods to get the three hoses in place. After five hours of kneeling, stretching and straining my old joints, the mood was lifting as the coolant was mixed and poured  into the block.  After two weeks of sitting idle the engine started easily and after a quick check for overboard cooling water discharge, I went to inspect my handy work to see no hoses were leaking.  I’m not quickly drawn to crying but coolant was streaming out the pressure cap on top of the head.  Following further investigation and discussion with people much more knowledgeable than I, the conclusion reached is a blown head gasket.

Whether or not it was caused by overheating when running the engine with a burst hose (only until the overheating alarm went off) or if the blown gasket caused the hose to go, we’ll never know. Or was it all due to a clearer cooling system and higher flow pressures?   It does seem coincidental that all this has occurred following a coolant system flushing out.   Nevertheless, it is now a case of taking the head off, inspecting the block and fuel injectors whilst it is off and then fitting a new gasket and whatever else on the system needs replacing.  Not knowing what is in need of replacing until it is all apart means any required parts cannot be ordered till then.  The head gasket is, needless to say, not in the country.  That will have to come from Japan – at least 14 days away.  Which brings us up to Christmas when everyone shuts down for the ‘festive season’ – who can be festive sitting idle spending money waiting doing nothing.

Time now to get away from the boat and all the woes associated with it and spend time with family.  Another one-way car hire and 14 hour drive including a vehicular barge to get home.   It will be good to be away and refresh mind and body and catch up with family and friends along the way.  It has been a difficult few months and now there are some serious decisions to be made regarding the future of my ‘sea-tirement’.

So, here’s a summary of the unplanned repairs in the past 20 weeks or 91 days in marinas;

Replaced three fresh water coolant hoses and coolant system flush (to be continued……)

Replaced three alternator belts

Replaced 4 x house bank batteries

Replaced the starter battery

Replaced MPPT solar regulator

Replaced 2000W invertor

Replaced the 240v shore power extension cord

Replaced the fridge thermostat

Replaced the freezer compressor

Replaced the engine room blower fan

Replaced the auto pilot drive belt

Replaced saltwater foot pump in the galley

Replaced the shower head and hose in the aft head

Replaced the saltwater strainer for raw water engine cooling

Replaced the ‘exit block’ for the ‘topping lift’

Replaced the headsail furler

Repaired the lazarette floor

Replaced LP gas hose.


  1. The black dog is an unwelcome visitor that has strayed and stayed too long. But black dogs can be taught to sit, lay down and to go away once and for all – it’s about finding the tools to wrest back that control and to then be confident it won’t return. We’ll find the tools together 🥰😘😘


  2. Feeling for you. We know the Mackay shipyard and marina well, having stayed there for 10 weeks for major work on Anui. Living aboard is a tough and expensive exercise and there are times when you wonder whether having fun sailing and exploring compensates for the haemorrhaging of money and extreme frustration! We think it does and you do get on top again.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s