Two weekends ago I was back on board Wendy Ann again, taking out the mothballs with the help of my friend Supersam. Among the more important discoveries we made whilst doing so was that my generator would start only with fairly extreme persuasion, indeed I flattened one starting battery whilst attempting to get it going, luckily I keep a spare fully charged just for this kind of eventuality. Except for the ship’s stereo and a fairly pathetic pair of 12v fluorescents that I run off an old car battery, our vessel is unfortunately currently completely dependent on that lovely big machine for all electrical power- so sorting this engine starting issue was an immediate concern.
Working on the restoration of our boat has taught me an awful lot of skills so far, but since we’re devoid of a main engine diesel mechanics is not one of them. Luckily however while I was working on the tug Storebror I did learn a few basics, although I must stress that I cannot by any stretch of the imagination call myself an engineer. One thing I undertook regularly (but admittedly usually with supervision) was filter changes on Storebror’s engines, including her own generator which had a three cylinder perkins engine for a prime mover.
Although I was worried that something bad could’ve happened to Wendy Ann’s generator I decided that the best course of action would be to start simple, and undertake a complete oil and filter change; which I figured was about overdue anyway and therefore couldn’t do any harm. A quick visit to my local agricultural plant suppliers armed me with the correct replacement parts and I approached my task with a mixture of trepidation and excitement. Overalls on, I drained the old oil, turned the fuel valve to ‘off’ and began- all the time reminding myself to take it slowly and to be methodical. After changing the oil and fuel filters, filling the day tank to the top and cleaning up, I loosened off the three fuel lines to the injectors and cranked the engine over to bleed them through- which seemed to go straightforwardly enough. That done and everything once again checked for leaks I crossed my fingers and cranked her up in earnest.
No, she still wouldn’t start, same as before, loads of smoke and no soap. I stilled the rising sensation of panic and tried to think calmly. I thought, ‘now, what does an engine need to make it go? Fuel, lubrication…. and air! you dummy!’ In a proper eureka moment I realised that my generator has an air filter too, so I took the big air inlet pipe to the engine off of it in order to test my principle and behold, one three cylinder Kubota D905 with 8kW of generator started first time and running sweet as you like. You can really hear it sucking without the muffling effect of a filter over the intake. Out came the big old air filter from it’s casing and I mused about how best to clean it, or whether I should attempt the purchase of a new one, and also whether or not I could run my engine with no air filter for a day. So I phoned a friend, no- I phoned two. Jon of Griffin Towage and Bill of Becky’s Dad both provided me with some further illumination to add to my learning and now I’m considering a couple of extra small engineering projects as a result, so thanks to them both for their helpful insights.
The success of this little adventure meant I could get on with making a beginning at some work for the rest of Sunday, Sunday night and Monday. I had a tiny little bit of welding to do in order to provide some bearers for something big I’m working on, a bunch of stuff to organise/move about, and two tons of water ballast to pump off from those pesky IBC’s to provide some much needed space in the engine room for something else I’m about to begin too…
Yes folks, we’re back.