“Don’t fuck it up,” Jason warned (joking, but not joking at the same time), standing on my left.
“Just do your best, Kahlee,” Nicola reassured from my right.
I was motoring Kuna into the confined space of Newcastle marina, my first time controlling her in close quarters.
“Nah, you can land a drone in 10 seconds on a moving boat, you’ll be able to get her in the berth,” Jason assured me.
It’s been eight days since we’ve stepped on land, having now sailed without a motor for over 400nm – just after Wilsons Prom in Victoria, all the way to Newcastle in New South Wales through a steady trickle of lightning storms.
Arriving in Newcastle Marina on sunset, April 18 and Day 12 of our Adelaide to Brisbane journey, we were greeted by all of the luxuries in life – incredible hot showers, flushing toilets, stationary beds and a delicious meal.
We had a long to-do list for Newcastle. Looking back on it, planning to have it all finished by lunch was an optimistic projection:
- Food prep
- 4 loads of washing/drying
- Buy new oil and oil filter
- Drain old oil, replace with new
- Wipe down the engine
- Search the engine for oil leak
- Tighten the stern gland on the prop shaft that was causing the bilge pump to engage every 7 minutes
- Go to the chandlery for a new valve for the bilge as it gurgles for 30 seconds every time it engages
- Climb mast to fix nav lights
By midday Nicola and I had finished the shopping, cleaned the boat and had the washing underway. Jason was out getting oil and visiting a friend, so it was time for me to start cleaning the Bukh 24hp diesel engine in search of the oil leak!
This was the first time I have ever really looked at an engine in my entire life – I’ve never even opened the hood of my car! Using a bit of soapy water and a cloth I meticulously cleaned the engine from top to bottom until it was once again red and shiny. To locate the oil leak, I then only had to run the engine, find any spots of oil and, because oil will leak downwards, trace the leak back up to the highest point. Within a minute I’d spotted a leak and traced it back to a nut at the top of the manual starter thing – Jason tightened that one up and it seemed to be fixed.
But then we spotted it… A wet liquid on top of the engine – fuel leaking from the fuel injectors (I learned!). After consulting with some friends I was told to forget any oil leaks, oil can just be topped up without causing an issue, but a significant diesel leak is highly flammable and would need to be fixed before we left.
Tightening all of the nuts around the area did nothing. Wipe away fuel, tighten nuts, run engine, fuel would come back… Bugger. It was something else. We would be spending an extra night in Newcastle.
After discussions with my very clued-on and generous friends we had a list of potential culprits, some of which included:
- Fuel injectors
- Copper washer
- O-ring in the delivery valve
- Some cup and dome thing
It was all out of my league to fix, so I called a Tim from Endeavour Marine who I was recommended and sent him a video of the engine running and the fuel leaking out – he knew the issue right away and called Bukh, my engine manufacturer. They agreed it was the o-ring. This morning it’s fixed, and we’ve now embarked on our final leg – Brisbane-bound! Tim later messaged to wish me safe travels at sea and said it was really useful that I thought to send him a video of the issue as he knew what the problem was without even coming all the way out to the boat – a great tip for the future!
I don’t speak mechanic, electrician, plumber or sailor. Some incredible friends just get that and are so good at what they do that they can explain it in the simplest of terms that even I get, like…
“Oil leak is dripping onto the flywheel – the thing with all the teeth on it that spins around”
“The silver thing in the bottom left is the alternator – motor spins it, it generates electricity”
It’s embarrassing, but I didn’t know these things before yesterday! So kudos to all of the lovely people who are more than happy to lend a hand – it’s appreciated more than words can say. Working on the engine was a new high of my trip. It was such exciting and satisfying work – I truly loved every moment and every tiny thing I learned.
After all, that’s really what this whole journey is about for me – being in the deep end and learning about everything that I couldn’t otherwise be bothered figuring out. We never used to know how to ride a bike. We fell off many times before figuring it out, but now you can’t imagine ever finding that difficult. As we get older though we tend to let our busy minds tell us that the things we want to do are too big, too complicated, too time consuming, we’re too dumb, and learning will be too embarrassing. Did you know it’s actually a trait of evolution? We’ve evolved to be afraid of the unknown, because doing what we’ve always done has kept us safe so far. Overcoming that barrier can be daunting but, when it happens, you’ll uncover the most satisfying and fulfilling things that life has to offer. Oil leaks and all.