MacGyver 101

December 31, 2019

On Monday we left our anchoring spot just outside of Bimini. We chose not to go into Bimini because the weather is conspiring to make Megan’s vacation less fun. There has been almost no sun, troublesome weather and now we add boat problems.

The run from south Bimini to Great Harbour Cay is about 75nm and at high speed, that would be about 10 hours.   We left a bit late, and didn’t really expect to get all the way into the harbour before dark, but it was a good weather day, so move on.

As mentioned in my last post, Sunday’s crossing from Florida to Bimini was a very uncomfortable day.   Far worse than I expected and I had many unscheduled fish feeding events.   Getting the boat up to 5 knots was often difficult and I think we averaged less than that 5 knots planned speed.  All of this while the Gulf Stream pulled us off course constantly, so a 40nm journey turned into 11 hours.

Mariners all over the world know not to go into unknown harbours at night without local experience. We dropped anchor near the entrance to Bimini (in the old entrance actually).   After being really uncomfortable for 10 hours, our speed started to rise around 5nm from shore, the waves settled and it looked like it would be a nice night.

It wasn’t.  Home Free rolled around all night.  Megan helped me put out the manual stabilizer hoping to stop the roll. It may have helped, but the boat rolled and rolled all night long.  I wasn’t able to keep food in my stomach, although Jinhee made a nice pasta and salad meal.   Oh well, the mariner’s diet plan is working out fine!  Finally around 5 am, I fell asleep.

To prepare for our departure, a number of items needed to happen.  First is to pull in that stabilizer, then move fuel into the supply tank, then lift the anchor and we are away . . . While pulling up the stabilizer, we saw a lot of rocks below the boat.   I couldn’t help but point out that those rocks had big fins on their backs and were shaped like sharks.   Megan and Jinhee have now sworn off swimming in The Bahamas.   There were about a dozen sharks taking a closer look at the stabilizer.

SHARK!!  Not the best shark photo, but they are sharks!

Finally, we pulled the anchor up and made our way around the North of Bimini.  (This is a little late, but we anchored near the south entrance to Bimini for the night.  After deciding to NOT go into Bimini, we needed to travel about 5nm North to get around Bimini.   Sunday could have been a lot smoother and saved 2 hours if we had made that decision earlier!).

Another nice sighting – all of the flying fish flitting around above the water as well.

Once you pass Bimini the average water depth is around 16 feet for the first 5 miles, then it goes to 25 feet for another 5 miles or so, then to 40-60 feet for the rest of the journey to Great Harbour Cay.   After spending so much time with hundreds of feet of water below my keel, I was on high alert through the first few hours of the trip.

By now the winds are down to a respectable 15 knots, but in these shallows the waves were rather small.   Despite that, I was not on my game and I ran the supply tank dry and the engine ran out of fuel.   AAAaaargh!   Its the first time that has happened to me, and it is embarrassing!

I went to the engine room to check, and yep, I ran the tank dry.   So I started moving fuel into the supply tank and priming the engine.  At the same time I started up the wing engine (with it’s leaking transmission) and got us back underway with the wing, but averaging about 3.4 knots.

Priming a Diesel engine is not that complicated.   You open a ‘bleed’ screw on the fuel pump, or take the fuel line fitting off of a cylinder head.  There is a little lever on the ‘lift pump’ that you press until all of the air comes out of the fuel line.  By about 500 presses, fuel had not arrived, so I took off the fuel hose to make sure I was getting fuel.  Oops, the copper fitting snapped off.  F*C#.


I don’t carry spares for that fitting.   So we just plodded along, travelling on the wing engine at about 3.2-3.9 knots until we arrived at the outskirts of Great Harbour Cay and dropped anchor around 1am.    It effectively doubled our time to our destination, but it was a calm night with a bit of wind and rain, but nothing like the crossing from Florida to Bimini.

My mind went into overdrive looking for a way to attach the fuel line to the fuel pump as a stop gap/MacGyver fix.   I had a spare lift pump with a different fitting, I had some plumbing bits, but they wouldn’t fit into the fuel hose.  Dinner was served, some card games were played; my brain continued working.

If you have been following along on my boat issues list, I have a leak in my wing engine transmission, so at dinner time I stopped our progress to check the transmission oil in my wing engine.  As I did so, serendipity struck.   There is a small fitting that has been sitting beside my wing engine for a long time, I have never put it away, I have never known what it is for, but it looks like that fuel hose fitting.    IT IS THE SAME FITTING!!

No, it isn’t the same. The fuel line side is the same, but the reduction has course threads, I need fine threads.    But wait…that new, spare fuel lift assembly has a different fitting, I can run a hose from this ‘found’ fitting, into a the fitting from the new lift pump . . . all I need is some fuel hose and clamps to run between them.

I will spare you from the rest of the story, but as soon as we reached cell phone distance I sent messages to YachtTech, I made a new friend on a Nordhavn 47 (Southern Star), just about to leave Great Harbour Cay and they were tremendously helpful, looking for a solution, and finding parts.

Today, after acquiring a dock at Great Harbour Cay (boy is this place busy, first full day after a long stretch of bad weather, everyone is trying to get across!) and speaking to a lot of very helpful people, I realized that I had all of the bits and pieces required to MacGyver the solution, already on board.  That little bit of fuel hose was left around from my ‘fixing’ of the dinghy in Bari, Italy this summer.   It was neatly tucked away and a perfect fit for the hose barb from the new fuel lift pump and the fuel line fitting with the wrong thread.   I also carry a number of spare clamps which will hopefully keep everything together until I get to a hydraulics shop!


By just after lunch time today, I had my main engine operating again!!  So exciting that we are not stuck here waiting for parts.    The team at YachtTech has spares and are happy to send them to me, but the transportation costs were going to be astronomical relative to the part cost.  Let’s hope my MacGyver fix keeps it all together for a while!

Megan and I spent a couple of hours washing the boat down (SHARK again!  A huge shark was swimming under the boat in the marina while we cleaned, kind of cool to see).   Jinhee began a deep clean of the interior (both interior and exterior had lots of salt buildup from running through the weather over the past few days).  The boat now looks much better, feels cleaner and the main engine works.

A bigger point.  One of the reasons that we bought a Nordhavn is that the systems are robust, there are redundancies built in and again yesterday the boat did its job.   It protected us from weather, from operator error and that gives us great comfort. . . let the boat do it’s job!


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