June 12, 2017 Race Report – NMBN – Light, Gusty, and Swirly

After months in hiding Billabong has finally poked her nose back into the racing world! The rebuilt motor purrs like a kitten but what that boat really likes to do is sail and sail fast.

Race: Ballard Cup Series II Race 2.
Course in Shilshole: NMBN
Crew: Ben L, Robert K, Keith H
Winds: 0-8 knots (guesstimate) gusty and swirly
Average Speed: 2.7 knots

Robert let me helm the boat which surprised me a bit being as this was our first time out together and he knows I do not have much experience helming a big boat in general, let alone racing it as well. I think I did a decent job. I tended to overcorrect and reacted too quickly but I think that will get better with a couple more times out as I get to feel the boat better.

At the start winds were probably about 5 knots (wind speed indicator is busted, another project 😉 ) with a significant flood coming at us. We knew we wanted to head in to the beach and I mistakenly picked our start about 2/3 up the line away from the beach thinking of a port tack start. Most of the class started next to the committee boat which put them closer to shore and more out of the current. It also meant that when the wind completely died right after the gun went off further out they were able to eke their way up to the beach and tack back out to the M mark. We had nearly caught our class (On your tail Figaro!), even with the extra 2 tacks, when the wind died on our position. Anarchy, Blue Lullaby, and Figaro all coasted around the mark as we watched the rest of the fleet thunder down on us. It was a float fest for a while as everyone watched a wind line slowly come down on the fleet. We were all bobbing near the pin. Water Street, a Cal 24 which is much lighter than Billabong, took off and we were right behind her! We could hear the crews behind us leap into action and start calling out commands for spinnaker hoists and leeward space as they jostled for mark room.

We cleared the mark and headed down to the leeward B mark. We were making pretty good time just on the front edge of the wind line on a beam reach. We caught and passed Water Street. They are friends and I may have tossed out a few friendly jabs about their spinnaker handling skills. No offense guys! You did great! Winds were really shifty and we went from pointing at the locks to Bainbridge and back again several times, all without moving the sails an inch. At one point we fell into a hole heading towards Bainbridge and watched all the spinnakers go cruising past only to die a few hundred feet past us. We noticed the wind clock around nearly 180 degrees before they did and took off again.

Nearly the entire fleet wound up at the leeward mark together. It was a complete cluster. Crews were fending off other boats all around them. We managed to skirt around the outside of the cluster and were nearly around on a port tack when Water Street came charging through on a starboard tack and forced us to turn down. Mark thought he could sneak through and force everyone out of the way since starboard has right of way but he got pushed away from the pin and had to do a 360 to get back in the game.

The leg back from B to the finish was a smooth (nearly) upwind sprint. Boats were crisscrossing everywhere but nobody interfered with anyone. At one point a boat on starboard came pounding up toward Billabong as were were on a port tack. The smart maneuver would have been to turn down and go behind. Robert was busy with another line and could not let out the main for me to turn down so I spun up! One of those over corrections. I parked us in a hove to position and lost us at least 4 minutes of time…whoops! I am more familiar with Breeze and that boat does not like turning down with a tight main. Turns out Billabong could have done that with ease and lost hardly a beat. My motto though: If I am not winning I am learning!

We came in at least fourth, maybe fifth after time correction to Frog Prints due to my spinning blunder. Overall though I would count it as a good race with a shorthanded crew on an entirely new boat to me! Bigger and better action to come in the future I am positive.

Motor parts degreasing day

While I have the Yanmar 3GMD motor out of the boat I want to knock off the rust that is slowly creeping in. The paint on the motor is starting to fail, which makes sense after 34+ years of service.

Today I spent a few hours and 10 canisters of brake cleaner getting the build up oil and carbon off the external parts of the motor. There is still quite a bit more left to do but this was a good start.

I only took one picture, but see how much better the transmission looks?!

Motor disassembly and issue finding

Harold, a retired diesel mechanic who has generously donated his shop and knowledge, and I ripped into the motor today. What we found was both better and worse than anticipated.

The Good: All the major internals seem to be in fine condition. The issues seem to be limited to the piston.

The Bad…

We initially thought cylinder 2 had a stuck ring. We pulled that piston out first and sure enough, stuck rings. Stuck pretty good too. Barely a gap in the rings and no movement from them whatsoever. Then we popped out the cylinder 3 piston, whoops stuck rings on this one too! Worse than the first! The rings were stuck in so bad they had to be pried out. There was significant carbon build up in the grooves the rings fit into. Harold showed me a neat trick to use and end of the ring to scoop out the carbon. Made quick work of that.

That was not the extent of the issues though. The bearings and rods looked great. No discoloration on the piston or cylinder sleeve that would indicate overheating or worse. No grooving. However after we cleaned off the piston heads Harold was examining one and found a nasty crack that runs nearly through it, another had a crack forming. I am going to be replacing all three pistons and their rings just to be on the safe side. Because everything else looks so good I will have full confidence in this motor when we get it back into the boat.

While the motor is out I want to get the rust cleaned up and put new engine paint on for protection. That is the next actionable step.

Pulling the engine for a rebuild

In the last post I mentioned that cylinder 2 was having some blowby issues. I took the head in for testing in the hopes that it was cracked and the issue. The head came back superbly. That meant it was time to dig deeper into the motor, which meant pulling it and putting it up on a bench at Harold’s house.

Today I pulled the motor with the assistance of Shane and AJ. Both great guys. It went remarkably smooth. I anticipated it taking a few hours but it wound up being less than an hour. I had everything prepped and disconnected when my helpers arrived though which certainly helped.

Tomorrow I will be heading out to Harold’s shop to put it on a bench and start pulling it apart to see what is what.

Engine finally fires! Now troubleshooting cylinder 2 issues

VICTORY! Billabong’s Yanmar 3gm finally fires!

(Read text under video too!)

Harold, a diesel mechanic and fellow Shilshole Bay Yacht Club member, came out today and helped me troubleshoot the motor. With experience backing him we found the air leak pretty quickly. It is coming from the external fuel filter. We bypassed it straight into the mechanical fuel pump on the motor and she fired up pretty quickly. I will be disassembling that to determine if the issue is in the filter rings or in the filter housing itself.

Unfortunately we uncovered another issue after the motor was running. I lost one of the nuts from the valve case when we pulled the cover to inspect underneath it previously. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it allowed us to see an excessive amount of exhaust coming from the cover. Harold held a finger over it and a significant amount of pressure built. A well running system will have little to no pressure here.

So….what does that mean? Could be several things, bad head gasket, cracked head, clogged vent, worn piston rings, etc.

We started by cracking open the fuel injector inlets. A good running cylinder will cause the motor to die nearly instantly when its injector is cracked open. Cylinders 1 and 3 both died with their injectors cracked. Cylinder 2 cracked open and the motor kept running for about a minute before conking out. That ruled out a clogged vent. Time to go deeper and remove the head.

We pulled the head off with our fingers crossed that the issue was the head gasket. Head gasket looks fine. What’s next? Harold worked the cylinders up and down while checking for any scoring that could indicate a broken piston ring, the cylinders seem to be smooth and scoring free. What’s next? No visible cracks on the pistons. What’s next? We learned several things, first the issue is not immediately discernible with the cylinder/pistons. This could be good because the second is to look towards the head itself. The head could be cracked or leaking somewhere we cannot see. We already had it pulled off so I will be taking it in to be tested. Fingers crossed that the head is the problem. If not we look deeper and begin to think about pulling the motor out of the boat to mount it on an engine stand and pull it apart to get the pistons out of the cylinders and send the bunnies down that rabbit hole. First though I will get this head tested!

Reminder to change fuel filters often

Billabong’s Yanmar 3gm is having a hard time firing. I am fairly certain it is due to fuel issues. When I pulled out the primary and secondary fuel filters there was a lot of gunk that came out with it. Clogged fuel filters restrict fuel flow and can cause issue inside the motor if not changed out. Based on what these filters look like I believe it is also time to suck out and polish the fuel tank as well. After changing the filters and trying to fire the motor out of a fresh can of diesel I am concerned the injectors and/or injector pump is also clogged up due to filter failure. Waiting on a real mechanic to come provide his opinion on the matter.

(Click images to make them larger)

This is the primary filter. It came out looking like mud with thick brown sludge oozing out. The fuel has an unhealthy look about it as well.


This is the secondary filter. It does not look muddy but there are big concerning chunks that nearly completely clogged the filter material and were swirling around inside the filter housing.

Categories: Log

What makes an outboard not turn…

I had a chance today to look at the Tohatsu 9.8 outboard on the dinghy. It has not been turning. A bit of a bummer when you are trying to motor along and direction other than straight.

Flipped the motor over and was greeted by the sight of a thickly rusted tube. The tube that the motor is supposed to pivot on. Oops.

My best guess is the sacrificial zinc was all eaten up and this tube is the next best “sacrificial” metal.

2015 Pink Boat Regatta

The Pink Boat Regatta is a fundraiser for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Here on Billabong charity and giving back is very important to us. Here are some photos I took of Billabong in the 2015 Pink Boat Regatta. These photos were taken from S/V Breeze before I ever imagined being part owner of this fantastic boat.

We look forward to giving back even more in 2017!

Sink rust be gone!

Billabong has primarily been used for racing over the past couple years. That means some things in the cabin have been accidentally neglected, like the sink. It had a few rusty spots in it. Luckily I learned about Krud Kutter recently while cleaning the dinghy and a kayak. Krud Kutter again proved its worth by cleaning out the rust an making the galley sink nice and shiny again.

Restoring the 120 volt electrical system

Three of the four 120 volt outlets on Billabong were not working… with only one switch on the power panel I knew there was an issue somewhere along the line. On another boat with a similar issue it came down to a faulty GFI unit. Billabong had the same issue. The GFI outlet in the galley was totally fried. The other two “faulty” outlets were further down the line. Wiring additional outlets after a GFI outlet is a cheap way to add a “breaker” in the line without running extra wires to the power panel. Cheap simple fix and now all the 120 volt outlets are alive! Soon I need to wire in an inverter to run the outlets off the batteries when swinging at anchor.