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2021
14
Jul

Close Call

Wherever the reefs have died around here, the rocks are covered in coarse turbinaria algae. A depressing sight. In such areas large, floating patches of those ugly plants cover the sea. They are a constant nuisance when the outboard sucks them in.

Today they brought Pitufa close to a major catastrophe: We were motoring to a new anchorage inside the lagoon, when Christian noticed that the exhaust quit spitting water–the water-cooled engine was overheating! I checked–the temperature was rising, but still below 90°C, the alarm had not gone off. A quick glance at the depthsounder, 20 m, shallow enough to anchor. Another panicky look at the reef–far enough away. We dropped the anchor immediately and turned off the Yanmar.

As a first step to find the problem we opened the sea strainer–full of leaves. Quickly cleaned. Then we filled a bucket with seawater, put a hose into it, so the engine could either suck from the sea strainer, or if that was still blocked, from the bucket without running dry. We started the engine–some spitting from the exhaust, but not enough and the bucket was empty. Turned off again. Plucked more algae from the strainer, tried the same game again–and this time the engine could suck enough sea water through the strainer. Problem solved. Phew.

The situation could have easily ended in a ruined engine and/or Pitufa on the reef. We got lucky thrice: Christian happened to be sitting on the stern (or he wouldn’t have noticed the smoke and lack of splashing), the lagoon was shallow and we manoeuvred far enough from the reef.

What’s to be learned? We already have a basket-like strainer glued on the hull to keep the watermaker from sucking up stuff (algae, plastic bags, jellyfish, etc.)–next time on the hard we’ll put one over the engine thru hull. Next: keep a safe distance from obstacles while motoring, keep an eye on the engine temperature and be ready to react quickly…

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