On January 24th 2019, Sam and I flew back out to the boat. We were greeted in Gibraltar by blue skies and 15 degrees, quite the change from temperatures in the UK. Within days of our return the engine arrived, cleared customs and was picked up by the mechanic. With the permission of the marina staff we were allowed to bring in a small truck with a crane to place the new engine onto our boat. This was a moment of true elation for us all, however the reality of what we were about to take on started to dawn on us.
Once we had the new engine, it was time for the mechanics to dismantle the old one. Taking as many of the attachments off the engine as possible would mean it was smaller and lighter making its extraction easier. To winch the engine out we rigged up a block and tackle to the boom, using the topping lift and main halyard to counter the weight of the engine below. It took 3 attempts and an impressive display of contortion from the mechanics to successfully remove the engine.
With the engine cavity having housed the engine for more than 30 years there was a considerable amount of cleaning that needed to be done. Further to this a lick of paint was required to return it to its full glory.
The block and tackle had remained in place ready to lower the new engine in, which went surprisingly smoothly, much to the relief of everyone. The gear box from the original engine had been kept and so the new engine would need to mount directly onto it. This unfortunately dragged over 2 days, with a bolt getting in the way on the mounting plate that was out of sight. Once the gearbox and engine were attached, the positioning of the feet was the next hurdle. Unbelievably Sam had managed to measure to a considerable degree of accuracy and they bolted in to the same holes as the previous engine.
The fuel separators and pipes were the first to be connected up. Next the exhaust pipe from the original engine needed to be modified to fit the new engine. This took a couple of days having to go back and forth to the welders. The wiring of the engine to the batteries was done by the mechanic and then it was over to Sam. He built a fitting for the new control panel to sit into the existing hole, painted it and installed it. Once the control panel was in place it was a simple wiring job. Finally we needed to put oil and coolant in the engine before we were good to get it up and running.
The day we first started the engine was one of enormous relief all round. Our poor mechanic had been for a swim in the harbour, visited hospital and spent hours on his hands and knees in our engine cavity. What a legend he was to have completed the job. It started first time, however conked out quickly thereafter. We discovered that the throttle cable had seized up meaning we couldn’t put the engine into gear, so this was another component that we needed to get fixed. Following this, and a further bleeding of the engine it started and ran smoothly. Over the following days we ran the engine for a period of time to see how it would go, and every time it ran smoothly. This gives us great hope for its future performance.
Over the weeks that Sam and the mechanics were busy with the engine I tried to occupy myself doing other things around the boat. One idea that Sam gave me was to paint the front cabin to see if we could brighten it up. I got stuck into this and really enjoyed doing something new, and having some respite from staring at an engine. The other task I set myself too was putting together a video of footage from our sail down to Gibraltar, so watch this space!
Further to the engine we had a host of little fixes we needed to do. We had an electric bilge pump fitted to alleviate us having to manually pump and as another safety measure. The drainage hose from the fridge was blocked with 30 years worth of gunk, so Sam crawled into the cavity and changed the tube. The steering wheel cables that turn the rudder needed greasing which again was a job for Sam. When Andrew (Sam’s dad) arrived he turned his attention to the rigging as our back stay was a bit loose. I managed to chip in and changed the lights in our compass to help with navigating at night.
After three testing months spent in Gibraltar, a whole host of changes to North Star’s inside and out, we are finally ready to set sail to the Canaries.