It has been about 15 weeks since we’ve seen Vaega tolu. We chose to leave her in Mackay and return to Brisbane for the usual Christmas family type stuff. It has been a nervous time leaving a boat in the tropics during the cyclone season but she has been well looked after by Tim at NAUTICARE (a boat management organisation) and the Mackay Marina staff.
Those 15 weeks has also given us plenty of time to settle into the house, catch up with and keep an eye on my aging father, let me get my head together (see last blog post “Bitten by the Black Dog”) and get accustomed to life in the Southern Moreton Bay Islands. Island life is a lot like boat life – nothing happens quickly. There are no bridges to these islands so it is passenger ferry or vehicular barges to get anywhere. There is also the consequence of those logistics – any goods and services to the island is also dependant on these schedules and subsequently reflect the cost of travel and time.
Of course the Christmas and New Year break is also the time mechanics and tradesmen all take time off too so there has been no work done on the boat over that time either.
As the winter cruising season rapidly approaches we are now looking to what needs to be done to get ‘VT’ sailable again. Since going back to work the local Yanmar agent in Mackay has been to inspect ‘Grumble’ (our engine) and from what was expected to simply be a blown head gasket has turned into a cracked head, deeply scored cylinders and more. His advice – “re-power with a brand new engine”. After talking to a number of other sailors and people with a little more mechanical knowledge than I, he seemed to be the only one thinking a new engine is needed.
However, further investigation and discussions really just created more confusion and doubt about the condition of the remainder of the engine. Whilst a repair of the head and re-bore of the block may be possible the probability of finding more parts needing attention is extremely high. Any prior maintenance of the engine, or of anything about the boat in general, had never been recorded by the previous owner so there is no indication of when anything had been serviced, repaired, replaced or even just looked over. A rebuild could open a Pandora’s Box of time consuming and equally costly repairs and replacements. After many hours of deliberation through sleepless nights and early mornings, ‘VT’ is to get a new engine. With a shiny new engine will come a new gearbox, alternator, starter motor, heat exchange unit (no radiator so its sea water cooled), control panel and wiring and of course hopefully fewer causes of motor related stress whilst we’re cruising this coming season.
To replace the engine the boat needs lifting out of the water, the steering pedestal and cockpit floor will have to come out, and then the engine can be hoisted from the boat and the new one going back in the same way. Not a simple task – but we are talking about a boat so what task is simple? Similarly, it is also not going to be an easy one day or overnight job. The boat will be up on the hardstand and engine out for what will easily turn into four or five weeks or more. Whilst the engine space is clear it seems a good time to attend to repairing or replacing the leaking fuel tank. It was way back in Jan ’21 that I installed a bladder for fuel as a ‘temporary’ measure. (see blog post – Gladstone and plenty of work ).
For now it is more wait and bide our time whilst we wait for things to happen. The plan is for engine replacement and then stock up and commence our Winter northern travels from Mackay – an easy day sail up to Brampton Island at southern end of the Whitsundays and then beyond.