Report from the Diesel Doc

While Stephanie and I were enjoying the dockside life last night Rode Trip was nervously awaiting her first check up by a real professional since 2009. This morning Gary our mechanic arrived right on time at 7:30 and asked for all the details. I gave him all the information that my equipment troubleshooting had enabled me to collect.

1. After we had been running the engine for a while the oil pressure would drop slowly
2. When the oil pressure dropped the oil level in the tank would go up.
3. We were collecting approximately 3/4 pint of additional volume every 3 weeks/20 engine hours
4. The engine seems to still start and run normally other than the fact that we were “making” oil
5. The tachometer fluctuates slightly (50 rpm) for the first 30 seconds to a minute after starting the engine.

Gary listened carefully to all the details that I gave and started asking questions. He still wasn’t sure, but we moved on to looking at the engine. His first reaction was ” this engine looks like it is in great shape”. After taking a quick look around he had me start the engine, he looked for a smoky exhaust, or a hard start. Our good old perkins started up right away, just like usual. He made another comment that most Perkins require quite a bit more cranking than that to get going. He reassured me about the fluctuation in the tachometer. Apparently our tachometer reads off of our alternator and if the engine belt slips at all then the tachometer will fluctuate, but the engine is really running fine. I suggested that I would tighten the belt later, and he said that it would be better to leave it the way it is, better for the alternator.

After gathering all this information his opinion was…that it almost had to be a bad fuel lift pump. We talked about how that had recently been replaced with a new unit. He suggested that with the symptoms that we were having it seemed most likely that we had been sold a bad fuel lift pump. We made a plan that he would check the new fuel lift pump first, and then move on to the injectors. While he was starting the fuel lift pump check he found that we had a glow plug (fuel preheater for starting the engine in cold weather) that he missed on his initial inspection. He decided to check this first as it was very easy to pull and check. His check indicated that the valve inside was most likely leaking past! Whew! Talk about relief, it seems that our problem was caused by one small valve that we don’t need and weren’t using. Ten minutes later the glow plug was replaced with a bolt, and I have instructions on how to install a new glow plug if we decide to do some cold weather sailing.

I was ecstatic! I had been convinced that we were going to be stuck at the marina here at Point Judith while we waited for parts and had to have major engine work done. Instead the mechanic was done in about 1 1/2 hours, we didn’t have to order any parts, and I got some of my lingering engine questions answered.

1. There are no pencil zincs on our engine or raw water cooler
2. The prop will always spin slowly even when we are in neutral.
3. The transmission fluid should be changed every 1000 hours approx

I also asked about what usually breaks on a perkins, and he told me “nothing, these engines are just about bulletproof”

Thanks to Rich and Carol for recommending Point Judith Marine. We were very happy that our problem was solved so easily, although I imagine that the marina was probably hoping we would at least have to buy some parts after we stayed at their dock and used their showers!

Snug Harbor at Point Judith, RI

I’d like to say that en-route to Point Judith we continued that smooth, downwind sail that we had started out of Newport Harbor. But, not so. The captain tempted the light winds but when our speed dropped to a consistent 1.8 knots (with a 1 knot current) the first mate determined it was time to motor. We could see Point Judith in the distance and wanted to dock before 5:00pm while staff at the Point Judith Marina would still be present.

Point Judith Lighthouse


We arrived with minutes to spare, the usual Grandjean time, through a narrow channel into Snug Harbor. This seemed to be a fishing hub and was quite the contrast from Newport.




We located the fuel dock and the vacant slip just inside the dock where we were instructed to go for the night. The Point Judith Marina would investigate our engine dilemma in the morning. A swift moving current proved challenging to get inside the slip, so we obtained permission to stay at the fuel dock for the night.


What a treat to be at a marina! Point Judith Marina has beautiful, impeccably clean facilities; bathrooms, showers, wifi, a pool, grills & picnic tables, a fish cleaning table, the works!
After freshening up, Brian set up his communication station for his annual Fantasy Football Draft while I prepared for grilling.



Brian reports that the draft was a success. He did have some advice from football guru, the marina cat, who stayed by his side the entire time! Here’s hoping for the big win so all this gambling pays off!


Kathleeeeen! (This is for MOM and for all of us counting down ’til our first born child…this boat already has the right name and it’s for sale! Does that count??)


Fingers crossed our engine problems will soon be solved and we’ll be sailing off into the sunset…until tomorrow’s adventure, sleep tight at dockside.


Save the Dinghies!

Our morning in Newport was rather usual to start. We had a few hours to spare prior to departure, so we decided to stretch our legs and walk to Fort Adams. We paddled the dinghy to the King Park Dock and tied up among the cluster of other dinghies.

The walk to Fort Adams was lovely. It was a warm morning, but not too hot for the 2-ish mile walk. We passed by several beautiful homes and then admired the harbor from a new view as we neared Fort Adams. We strolled the grounds and visited the museum. We missed the tour by only a few minutes, but we had to head back so that we could make our way to Point Judith for an appointment at the marina to inspect our engine.


Back at the dinghy dock, I climbed over the dinghies to our own. This is a bustling, free dock so the dinghies are stacked by twos around the dock’s edges. I stood in the dinghy for a moment and something seemed off. Hmmm…I realized something was off, our lifejackets and one paddle were missing! I informed Brian of the situation before he untied our dinghy. Relaying the message may have involved some profane language – I was NOT happy that someone would take our lifejackets. And how exactly would we get back to Rode Trip with only one paddle…

Brian, calm as ever, took a walk around the docks and looked around. He suggested we walk back toward shore to see whether the items had washed up. “They’re not going to just wash up, someone TOOK them! The lifejackets were clipped into the dinghy and who the $#!@ would take just one paddle, and with all these perfectly good outboards to choose from, one paddle HONESTLY!” Well all my blabbering was useless and so I accompanied Brian back to the shoreline where we found a lone dinghy at the boat ramp, unattended. And sure enough (that husband of mine is always right!) there were our paddle and lifejackets in this deserted dinghy. Well this made no sense at all. Brian recognized the dinghy as the one we had clamored over when tying up two hours earlier, and this dinghy had two of its own paddles and an outboard. I took a picture of the dinghy’s registration number and we agreed we should let the harbormaster know about this situation. We headed back to Rode Trip, past a group of boys that had congregated at the end of the dinghy dock.

I found the telephone number for the harbormaster while Brian secured the dinghy back on deck. I was able to leave a voicemail…in the meantime Brian had his eyes on the dinghy dock and asked for the binoculars. He observed that group of boys messing with the dinghies. One of the dinghies was untied and drifting from the dock. A man stopped to talk with the boys, they scattered and the man made a phone call while following behind. Another man went to retrieve the drifting dinghy. And then, the police arrived. The police did rounds through the park and chatted with the man at the dock.

(Renegade boys to the right of this pic, unattended dinghy holding our stuff to the far left.)
Wow! It seemed the situation was under control and the dinghies were secured once again. A few more sweeps of the police car told us there was nothing more to do and we hauled anchor.

Rode Trip made a stop at the “water for yachts” dock in Newport’s harbor. While we filled the water tanks, we listened intently to the radio. Those renegade boys had been spotted in a dinghy in the harbor. Both the harbormaster and the Coast Guard were now doing laps trying to spot the culprits. We suspect they have a dinghy-stealing ring and we were glad to be out of there! We’ve also labeled all of our lifejackets and paddles and decided that our clipped in jackets in the dinghy will from now on be the orange, foam, cheap jackets rather than our “custom” fitted, expensive jackets.


We sailed out of Newport Harbor, past the newly arrived cruise ship and scenic shoreline, bound for Point Judith.