Sammy Hagar’s “I Can’t Go 55” runs through my brain as Happy Times struggles first with one engine and then the other. Clearly there’s a problem with their operation and it’s the fuel. Before our family left to travel by plane, bus and car through Europe for six months, we had become complacent about boat maintenance on our 40’ Manta catamaran. We’d even ignored common wisdom and failed to top off the diesel in our 100-gallon tank. We paid for it yesterday.
In our absence, condensation had formed on top of the diesel and had sunk to the bottom of the tank where it festered and brewed a concoction of water, sludge and crud that peeled off black chunks of gunk. When the chunks reached the pre-filters they choked off the fuel and the engines refused to start.
Carlos came aboard to clean the fuel and the tank as we docked at El Milagro Marina in Isla Mujeres, Mexico. Some cruisers refer to this process as polishing. That truly was foreign to him. He knew what cleaning meant and arrived with a double, portable Racor filtering system. He ran the diesel through the filtering system three times, a process that took up four hours. When finished none of the 70 liters was salvageable and the sludge was reduced to a minimum. Next he cleaned the tank, a challenge since our diesel tank lacks a critical component, an inspection hole or port. He could see inside the tank from the top and used gasoline to clear out the crud.
At the same time Carlos discovered that the fuel gauge was broken and replaced it. It was a blessing in disguise. Had we left Isla Mujeres with what we thought was a full tank, we would have been rudely surprised off the western tip of Cuba.