Here in Miri we've been catching up with old friends, as boats gather for the annual Borneo Cup yachting event. Jon and Pam (SV Tweed), Joe and Janette (SV Tegan), Wally & Robyn (SV Annwn) and Bryce & Martha (SV Silver Fern) are among those who've helped maintain our sanity as we addressed a range of maintenance issues. The stolen Tohatsu outboard motor has been replaced - we rented a car and drove 400km on dodgy roads to pick up the new unit in Sibu - saw a lot of northern Borneo and spent time in Bintulu, a town new to us. Everywhere we go the people remain friendly and courteous - Sarawak is a delight.
Many cruising sailors adopt the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) approach to boat preparation. With our techno past, Crystal Blues was never going to fit that category. She's a complex vessel that really needs her Onan AC genset, for at least a few hours each day, if we're to live the way we want (big freezer, cold beer, fans, music, computers etc).
Late in June the Onan had a major seizure (at 1400hrs), the flexible coupling broke and the drive pulley took out an oil drain line, as well as lots of the foam acoustic lining. The end result was a broken genset and black, greasy, foam particles spread everywhere in the back of the boat. We removed everything and washed down with warm soapy water, which took a whole day. Then Neil had to remove the fuel tank and covers to investigate. The failure was at the rear of the unit, only accessible by leaning over and working blind.
The broken bits were extracted and pondered over. Parts were sourced from the USA, albeit slowly, and the rebuilding began this week. It went back together surprisingly well over one and a half days. Neil pushed the starter and the genset roared to life, sounding much smoother and quieter than it had for a while.
Our good friend Jim Cate (who's familiar with our Onan issues) asked recently if we would ever deal with Onan again - on reflection I think they are a good company, but they simply weren't quick enough to pull what I believe is a lemon, off the market. Our original two year old unit was generously replaced free of charge (at 750hrs) when it proved to be a mess, and that was after Cummins had taken over Onan. However, all the good will in the world doesn't help when you replace one lemon with another…. Cummins have tried hard, but they didn't design or build this thing. They even extended the warranty, but the cooling system still requires way too much service. We average about 200 hours from a new impeller, and the seawater pump needed total replacement at 1170 hours - no rebuild kits available. So no Jim, sadly we wouldn't buy an Onan again.
Hydrogen Fuel Cells - Future Green Power
The flip side of this story is that we don't know any truly reliable small gensets. Right now we're "hanging tough" with the Onan, hoping that Hydrogen Fuel Cell technology will become reliable before this thing dies completely.
There are now two companies offering fuel cell products to the cruising yacht community, one version powered by methanol and one by LPG - see the Yachting World "Green Power" story in the Cruising Information section of our web site. Silent, low emissions and few moving parts - it sounds too good to be true. We'll wait and see.
Our Cruising Plans
Next month we'll participate in the Borneo Cup regatta, then do some more land travel in Sarawak, before heading back to the Rajang River and our Iban friends upstream at Sungai Tulai in October.