Tag: Captain’s Toolbag

Oh No! Not The New Honda!

During our journey this last summer our Honda EU2000i generator had decided to take the big dirt nap. Necessitating a replacement be shipped to us in Nuka Hiva, Marquesas.  We use the Honda daily to assist in recharging the batteries, making fresh water and occasionally heat the water heater tank.  Needles to say we were happy to see the new one arrive before we continued our travels.  Wow!  I was glad to be able to give the Yanmar engine a rest from charging batteries when needed.  It was great having a Honda back online aboard Dazzler.

Everything was working well for several months.  About a month after going online the pull cord to start the generator started to fray.  No trouble, I have plenty of cord onboard.  A quick replacement and she was back in business.  About a month later the cord started to fray again.  Okay, now I’m starting to wonder what’s going on.  We were in VaVa U group of the Tonga islands when it happened the second time.  No trouble, I would replace the cord with a bite of Spectra cord which should be a bit more abrasion resistant than the nylon cord.  After getting Jack put back together, it wouldn’t start.  We called the generator Jack, because of all the assistance our friend Jack had done in helping us acquire the new generator.  

I hadn’t disconnected anything and it had been running that morning before I decided to replace the starting cord.  I have to tell you that after taking the end covers and the side covers off and putting them back on more than eight times looking for and diagnosing every wire and the carburetor, I was at my wits end.  Still no spark to the spark plug.  There are only five electrical components that could be the culprit.  Including the wiring harness.  I checked each piece for its factory resistance or ohms and everything seamed to be within specifications.  If everything is in specs then it could be the sealed electrical spark unit.  Nice!

I’m usually not a quitter, but this time I was.  I didn’t know what else to do. There is no Honda dealer in the Tonga island group to get parts and the closes supply would be New Zealand.  Many of the parts on our EU2200i are similar to the EU22i (European model).  It is sold and distributed in parts of the world that use 240 volt 50 hertz cycle electricity.  

We checked into the. Possibility of having a spark unit shipped to us in Tonga which was possible, but extremely cost prohibitive.  So, we decided to fire up the Yanmar again and wait for New Zealand.  I had checked online and the Spark unit for both model generators was the same part.  

After arriving in New Zealand, we went to North Coast Honda to order a new Spark unit.  A couple of days later it arrived.  Imagine my excitement.  I rushed back to Dazzler to install the new part and Shazam!  It didn’t start.  Okay maybe I didn’t get the wiring plug seated properly.  Yea that must be it.  So, I took the end cover off and re-plugged the wiring harness into place and put the cover back on.  Ready…1, 2, 3…no start!  WHAT the H E double hockey sticks?  Or something like that.  There I was removing all the covers again checking everything to no avail.

I decided that Honda was going to get the honor of our Honda generator for repair.  Once at the shop I explained to the technician what I had done and what had been replaced.  The service man was Paul Newman.  Who knew he was working at a Honda dealer in Whangarei New Zealand? It’s always the last place you look.  HA HA! They accepted it without a service receipt and said they would let me know.  Paul did tell me that Honda New Zealand is a private company and not a direct part of Honda global.  And although Jack was only four months old they would not be able to provide any warranty service on our unit.

Well, Jack was only four months old so I decided to contact Honda USA to see what they would be able to do for me.  The first response was “sorry you have to take the generator to one of their service centers”. And because it has had gas and oil in it NO airline would accept it for shipping to the Good ol’ USA. So it either was going to get fixed here or tossed into the trash heap.  We needed it.  I decided to go to the next level and ask for the supervisor at Honda Equipment Center.  Enter John into the picture.   I explained to him our situation and although sympathetic to our predicament he did not initially offer any warranty hope.  I did provide the Honda service center in New Zealand information to John as he offered to contact them to see if he could be of assistance in determining the problem.

To make a long story short, the Honda technician here in New Zealand found the same thing I did as far as the resistance and ohms for each piece of equipment.  The spark coil was a little off of specifications. So they decided to replace that first.   That didn’t work.  They did some more testing and put the spark coil on an EU22i and it worked. Now we are getting somewhere.   Well after ordering a new wiring harness provided by John of Honda USA and a few weeks of shipping time it arrived and was installed.  Now there was spark, but still not starting.  They removed the head and found that the intake valve arm was cracked and the intake valve was frozen in the closed position. 

Once again with the assistance of John at Honda USA, a technique of freeing the valve without breaking the motor case open was conducted and the valve was free.  The Honda dealer had an older Honda generator that they were using for parts, so they robbed the intake valve arm and after putting in some fresh gas…Jackie was alive and running again.  

The Honda dealer was unable to explain how the valve might have become stuck so I could avoid it in the future.  I suspect that after it lost spark in Tonga and then sitting idle for two months had something to do with the stuck valve.  When I arrived to pick Jack up and pay for the bill, they gave me the old wiring harness.  

After returning to Dazzler with a working Jack, I checked the ohms on each wire in the old harness. John had first told me that many times an issue has been a poor ground connection.  Hummm, when checking the ground wire, I discovered some interesting readings consistent with a poor connection.  Could all of this trouble have been right there all along. Well, we won’t know for sure because there is a new wiring harness in place.  But, I’ll put that tidbit of information in the memory banks for future issues and being able to help others that use a Honda generator.

A few days later, I fired off an email to John at Honda in the USA thanking him for his assistance to the Kiwis in getting our generator up and running again.  I also re-approached the warranty issue with him again.  Several days later I received a message to give him a call.  He advised that Honda was going to offer a good faith payment for our inconvenience that worked out to be a little less than half the service bill at Honda in New Zealand.  Better than a poke in the eye with a stick.  

I did ask John several questions to help avoid any of these issues in the future.  He indicated to always use fresh fuel if possible. Hummmm, fresh gas in the South Pacific might be hard to come by all the time.  John also indicated that turning the switch off and  pulling on the start cord until you feel resistance will put the crank at top dead center and both valves would be closed. He explained that this should be done when the generator is turned off and it should help aid in preventing stuck valves in the future.

I can’t always get fresh fuel in some of our destinations, so we will be looking for a source of gasoline additives to help stabilize the fuel that is stored.  I’m not sure this will be the end all, because the Yamaha outboard uses the same fuel and we very rarely have any issues with it. Keep in mind that I regularly service it as well.  The bottom line is _________ we will see what happens with Jack’s continued service in the future.  Until then once a week Jack is started to keep things lubed up and everything running properly until we get back to the anchorages and needing daily use of Jack.  

So turn Jack off and pull his cord until it gets hard before you put him away for the next use.  LOL

Cheers Mate!

Captain Dan and Jilly

SV Dazzler


New Zealand Bound … The Captain’s View

The time has come for us to say goodbye to the wonderful islands of the South Pacific as we watch Nuku’alofa rise and fall with the southeasterly swell.  The cruising season is winding down and we are now en route to Whangarei, New Zealand.  Dazzler is in need of some maintenance and some minor repairs and we plan to enjoy time in a new country.

As we prepared to leave, I was watching the weather daily and sometimes twice a day.  There has been a high pressure in place over the east coast of New Zealand for more than a week.  The South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ) was somewhere near Samoa and southeasterly trade winds have accelerated in velocity as a squash zone has developed with 20-30 knot winds.  Additionally the swell generated by these increased trade winds has grown to 2.5-3.5 meters.  Here in our anchorage we have had steady 15-30 knot winds out of the southeast for the entire five days we’ve been here.  The wind generator has been doing an awesome job while the days have been filled with clouds and the occasional shower.  

The questions, not just in our minds, but the minds of cruisers on the other 13-16 boats anchored nearby is when will the weather subside and when should we leave for New Zealand?  You can hardly head to shore without encountering another cruiser with the question of “when are you leaving?”  

We don’t have the luxury of Al Roker weather forecasting available to us.  We rely on weather downloads using our single side band radio (SSB), satellite or some other forms of electronics to obtain our weather information.  This is a new weather pattern for us that we haven’t experienced before. In Southern California or in the sea of Cortez when the wind was 15-20 knots, most of us held off for a better weather window.  That is not the case here in the southern Pacific Ocean.  With cyclone season closely approaching, brochure sailing days ARE 15-25 knots with 2.5-3.5 meter swells.  You get what you get.  So, it’s time to put on our big boy pants, throw on the foul weather gear and accept that it’s going to be a wild ride for over 50% of the eight day passage.  Buckle up Buttercup!

We decided in addition to the weather tools we have, to enlist the assistance of a Weather Router. There are a couple of them available for hire.  We chose to use Bob McDavitt aka MetBob.com.  Bob has been weather forecasting for over 30 years and his specialty is the South Pacific region.  Information from Bob indicated that our weather window was narrow and not really much in the way of 10-15 knot warm tropical breezes with easy following seas.  No!  In fact, it was more like 18-25 knots from the Southeast with 2.5-3 meter swells at 10 seconds.  Okay, I guess if he says “go”, we go! The reason for our departure into this kind of weather is the back side of our passage.  Eight days from now a series of pre summer trough patterns are going to start up.  That means a series of troughs riding over New Zealand from west to east with 15-25 knot south westerlies.  Since we will be arriving on the north island’s east coast our arrival would be into those winds and swells which I hear would not be pleasant.  Hummmm!   So, we decided to go!  We had already checked out of Nuku’alofa and were in standby mode for departure on a good weather window so we were prepared to leave but  that nagging question came up again, “when do we commit and actually go?”

Our option was Wednesday evening or Thursday morning.  MetBob had set a time of 1300 hours departure for Thursday, but he indicated that we should try to leave a bit earlier because one of those troughs was possibly going to be greeting us on our arrival date.  We chose to leave on Thursday morning.  After a nice diner, a few adult beverages and a good night’s sleep. Check, check and check! We’re ready to go.

I was up about 30 minutes earlier than normal at 0430 hours.  I wanted to sit back with a cup of coffee and go over the weather router’s suggestions and view the weather sources available to me one more time.  Those of you who know me know I’m not anxious about many things.  This trip, on the other hand, had me a bit on edge.  Sailing in weather you have not experienced before would make anyone anxious, right?  I mean I had a package of Depends on stand by if it got too bad, a drogue, an EPIRB and a flare gun. What could go wrong?

Just after dawn we were anchor up and underway making way towards the northwest entrance to the Nuku’alofa bay.  An hour and a half later we were out of the bay and setting course for our first waypoint.  This isn’t so bad.  Duh!  We were in the lee of the Nuku’alofa island group.  Wait for it!  

Motor is now off, we have a double-reefed mainsail and the jib hoisted and we’ve settled into about 6-6.5 knots.  Once we passed the protection of the southern edge of the Nuku’alofa island group and Duff’s reef, there they were, the 2.5+ meter swells.  It’s a bit daunting when you’re standing in your cockpit and you look off your port side and see nothing but a large swell of water…Gulp!  I reminded myself that we must endure this to get to New Zealand.  Okay all better now.

It’s now been two days into our journey and we are approaching Minerva Reef where we make our next course change.  A little more to the west please.  We still have over eight hundred nautical miles to travel to our destination.  The winds have eased a bit to 18-20 knots and the sea state has also eased to 1.5-2 meters.  All in all it hasn’t been too uncomfortable for me.  I’m sure Jilly would tell you different from her perspective.

The evening after passing Minerva Reef I was on the evening watch.  I was running the main engine to charge the batteries for the night.  About an hour after staring the engine, the high temperature engine alarm went off.  After letting it cool down for a bit, I restarted the engine and because it seamed to be working I shut it down. A short time later I started the engine to charge the batteries and it seemed to still be working fine. For now!

The next evening, the same thing occurred again.  High temperature warning alarm.  I immediately shut down the engine and woke Jilly.  We needed to diagnose what this issue was.  I first removed the companionway stairs and cowling to expose the front of the 4JHE Yanmar engine.  There were no visible fresh water leaks and the fresh water reservoir had an ample amount of water in it.  Next item to check was the raw water system.  I closed the raw water valve and removed the hose to check for any obstructions.  There was a generous flow of sea water that flowed in when I opened it. Next step was the raw water pump. I removed the cover of the raw water pump and observed all the vanes to be in place.  I did not actually touch the vanes or wiggle them but they looked just fine.  So, I put the cover back on and moved onto the exhaust heat exchanger mixing elbow.  Everything seemed to be in place.  When I restarted the engine the high water alarm came on again after a short while.  Keep in mind we were sailing in 18-22 knots of wind with 2.5-3 meter swells from the port quarter and by now it was 0200. I needed to get some sleep so I decided rest needed to happen before I could continue working on the engine. I left Jilly on watch and hit the bunk. 

A few hours later after some sleep I was ready to tackle the diagnosis.  I decided that whatever was going to happen I was going to replace the raw water impeller first. Whatever else needed to be fixed I would work on next. But first we needed a calmer work environment. We decided to hove to which is like parking the boat in the ocean.  With a double reefed main and a patch of headsail we put Dazzler into the hove to position.  Once she stabilized we were sliding sideways at about .5-1 knot and we were heeled at about 20°. This made for a much calmer work environment.

I got the stairs and cowling removed which gave me good access to the raw water pump cover.  Once I had the impeller removed the problem was very obvious.  Six of the eight vanes had splits along the hub with about a ¼” holding them in place.  When the impeller is not spinning they looked good from the open cover.  The newer Yanmar impeller had 12 vanes on it.  Once it was all slapped back together….success!  We put everything away and were ready to get back underway.  We were only hove to for about an hour and a half.

For the next several days the weather continued to improve in our favor.  We were still striving to get ahead of a low pressure system that could potentially cause us some issues upon our arrival.  The winds had dropped considerably requiring us to supplement with the Yanmar motor so we could beat the approaching system. 

The morning of our eighth day we were just off the northeast coast of New Zealand.  It was a cloudy, cold morning when we arrived at Bream Bay Head.  We encountered a small pod of dolphins prior to Bream Bay Head and at the headland there were thousands of birds floating on the water.  We decided that some more of Jilly’s dad’s ashes should be spread over the water at this point.  After a short stop we continued into the bay where we stopped at Marsden Cove Marina and cleared in with New Zealand Customs authorities. 

We had travelled just over 7500 NM from Banderas Bay in Mexico to Whangarei, New Zealand in seven months and one day. It was quite a journey.


Captain Dan and Jilly

P.S. Stay tuned for more about the whole New Zealand experience.