Frustrating Engine Issue – And Back To Jacksonville

Guided Missile Destroyer leaving Naval Station Mayport

May 11. [See engine issue in last post here] Basil the mechanic promised he would be with us before nine, and he did show up on time. He added a diode to the part that he had installed yesterday and we tested the windlass to see if it was still starting the engine – and it was not! So we felt that the issue was finally resolved. Paul took Basil back to shore and came back ready to lift anchor and motor over to Fisher Bay on Guyana Cay for the night so we could make the Nipper’s pig roast tomorrow.

Sian lifted the anchor and the port engine started again – the same issue we thought was resolved. We quickly shut everything down and called the mechanic. We waited and waited until finally he called but told us he had nothing further he could try. We believe that we tested the fix by using the windlass to lower the anchor, which does not put as much of a draw on the batteries as lifting it. When we lifted it the increased battery draw fed to the port engine start relay.

So we decided that it was time to skip the rest of the Abacos and head back to Jacksonville to get the problem rectified – all this over a $60 part!

Paul turned off the engine start batteries so Sian could lift the anchor without causing an issue then once the anchor was up he quickly turned the engine start batteries back on and started the engines to leave the anchorage. The weather was good to cross the sometime treacherous Whale Cay Channel so we set our waypoints for the anchorage at Angel Fish Cay/Crab Cay. Along the way we let Paul and Michelle on Nagari know that we would not be joining them for the Sunday pig roast at Nippers.

Crab Cay anchorage

We made the anchorage late afternoon and had a very pleasant and calm night.

May 12. We had planned to use the same process to lift the anchor and start the engines as the day before, only to discover that neither using the windlass to raise the anchor or using the key to start the port engine worked – it seems the brand new installed start relay had totally gone!

So we now started the starboard engine as normal on the key, Paul used a jumper cable on the start motor to start the port engine and we could just go ahead and use the windlass to raise the anchor without any issues. Totally losing the relay actually helped the process! (We know, confusing for those who don’t have to worry about marine engines!).

We cruised in great weather to Mangrove Cay, our jumping off point for crossing the Gulf Stream back to Florida the next day. There was another trawler in the anchorage when we got there and the couple from Allie Dee came over for a chat. We agreed a departure time before sunrise the next morning and to buddy across the stream together.

Mangrove Cay anchorage

May 13. We had a SW wind during the night and were anchored off the NE of Mangrove Cay so had a comfortable night. We were off the anchorage before light at 5:30 and soon started to feel the wave action from considerable wind. Allie Dee followed us out and also expressed surprise at the seas. However it was comfortable enough and we crossed White Sands Ridge at left the Bahamas, crossing into the gulf stream, at which point we lowered the Bahamian courtesy flag. As the day wore on the seas sat down and it continued to be a very comfortable crossing.

Running on instruments in the dark
Our last Bahamian sunrise

We were about 12 miles out of Fort Pierce when NOAA broke into our VHF radio warning of a severe storm running from Port St Lucie to Sebastian. That was exactly on our path into Fort Pierce. We contacted our buddy boat and we focused our radars on the storm. We thought we could outrun it so both sped up, but when we were a couple of miles out from the start of the inlet all hell broke loose. We lost all visibility, and we had winds up to 40 knots, with cloud to sea lightning. We decided to bail on trying to enter the inlet and we did big circles in big seas and winds making sure to keep out of each other’s way as we couldn’t see each other on the storm cluttered radar.

Allie Dee under gathering storm clouds

We finally saw the weather clearing to the north of the inlet and both headed that way, and an hour after aborting our first approach we got in through the inlet. Allie Dee anchored right inside the inlet, but we decided to go on for an other hour or so to our reservation at the Vero Beach City Marina. We had already called them and made them aware of the delay due to the storm. They wold be closed by the time we got there, but gave us permission to tie up at their fuel dock, which was easier to do that a slip without a dock hand available. Once tied up we walked across to the Riverside Cafe right by the marina for dinner.

View by Riverside Cafe Restaurant
Flight of Ibis
Flight of pelicans

May 14. We added some fuel at Vero and then headed north. We had fine weather and smooth waters. We had originally planned to stop at the NASA Causeway Bridge anchorage but got there early so went on and anchored off Titusville, saving us an hour on the next day’s cruise. On the way we encountered a black snow fall of love bugs. They swarmed the boat and blanketed the fly bridge and us! After anchoring we spent an hour with the hose getting rid of the mess. Then we set a table and had our last meal on board for this trip!

Swarm of love bugs
Last meal on board

May 15. We were off at first light and through Haulover Canal, past the huge NASA rocket buildings, into Mosquito Lagoon, New Smyrna, Port Royal, Daytona, and our evening dock at Palm Coast Marina. After cleaning up we went over to the European Village (as is now our return ritual) and had a nice Italian dinner at La Piazza Cafe.

Haulover Canal
Haulover Canal manatee
NASA building
Ponce De Leon Lighthouse
Woodpecker on Palm Coast Marina roof
Strangely named boat at Palm Coast Marina

May 16. Due to the tides at the channel into our home dock (we can only transit in at mid tide or better) we had a lazy morning at Palm Coast and set off at 10am. We transited the Matanzas area and into St Augustine. We then went outside from St Augustine to Mayport as we wanted to get outside of the three mile zone for a final flush of our holding tanks. As we transited up the coast we saw the smoke from a large fire. We checked the local news but didn’t see anything, we decided it was a controlled burn at the Guyana State Park. just south of Ponte Vedra.

Smoke over south Ponte Vedra

As we approached Mayport inlet we received a lot of military naval radio traffic. A number of US and Canadian vessels were coming out. So we managed our approach to keep out of their way.

Escorted guided missile destroyer
Carnival Ecstasy leaving Jacksonville

We entered the St John’s at Mayport, got to the ICW south and our channel for Queen’s Harbour. We were tied up at Home dock by 5:00pm.

At home dock

Another spring Bahamas cruise completed. A week or so after we arrived Nagari paid us a visit before continuing on north.

Sister ships!

4 thoughts on “Frustrating Engine Issue – And Back To Jacksonville”

  1. Enjoyed your blog of your Bahamas Trip.

    I am interested to find out what was the final findings on why your engine would start when you used the anchor windlass?

    I live in Man o War Cay Abaco, if you are cruising in this area again i would like to say hello to you.

    1. Update: once home we had our mechanic come to Sonas but he could not replicate the issue, nor could he find anything amiss.
      When we took Sonas over to the yard in September for a haul, bottom job, alternator refurbishment, and some other work, they found that the battery switch between the starts and the windlass was badly cracked so replaced it. They also gave the windlass system a once over, tightening some stuff, but couldn’t explain how the windlass could start the engine.
      Finally this past February I asked the tech doing the annual service on the engines to swap out the port engine relay that the mechanic in the Bahamas had put in. As he was removing the relay he found that one of the connectors was spinning – he felt it was over tightened and could have broken or partially broken the connection inside the relay, causing the intermittent start issue.
      So we had all of these things corrected. None seems to have been an obvious reason that the engine was starting on using the windlass – but we no longer have the issue.

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