Saturday, October 09, 2021

LIFE IN THE SLOW LANE - SLOW CRUISING ABOARD TWIN-ENGINE PLANING VESSELS PART 2

Our last posting detailed how cruising at around displacement speed dramatically decreases fuel consumption and increases cruising range. It also highlighted the problems which can be encountered through cruising consistently at low rpm. Running diesel engines for long periods at idling speed is particularly detrimental and engine “wear” is said to occur at about double the rate compared to running them under normal loading. Ideally for that reason engines should only have 3-5 minutes of idling following start up and then be brought up to around 1,200 rpm with some load applied.

Not only can idling cause a build-up of carbon in the engine but also causes mirror glazing, which is the creation of a mirror-like surface finish on cylinder bores, eventually allowing more oil to pass the rings and creating more blow-by (the adverse effects of which were detailed in Part 1 of this article). Mirror glazing can also be caused by constantly running engines at the same rpm, so this should be avoided. Before shut down a diesel should also be idled for 3-5 minutes to allow the turbo to cool down. In practice this is catered for when entering your marina or approaching your anchorage.

Now let’s consider some options for low speed cruising and their relative merits.

Option 1 – run both engines at low rpm

If you’re wanting to do this, avoid running below 1,200 rpm and it’s recommended to at least run at 60-75 per cent of WOT for about 30 minutes after reaching full operating temperature, then again for about 15 minutes every 4 hours and then for about 30 minutes about 1 hour before shutdown. This last one is considered to be especially important to reduce soot formation and to clean the turbocharger and it’s better to spend less than optimal time at higher rpm than none at all.

Pros 

There will be a considerable reduction in fuel usage and increase in range.

All ancillary equipment driven by the engines such as power steering, refrigeration compressors, hot water manifolds will operate (unlike Option 2).

Both gearboxes and drive trains will be cooled (unlike Option 2).

Full maneuverability is maintained and there is no rudder bias (unlike Option 2).

There is no potential problem with prop shaft couplings (unlike Option 2).

In practical terms this option is easy to manage.


Cons 

Some monitoring and planning is required for the periods at higher rpm and it is difficult to achieve on short cruises.

May cause issues with alternators.

Hours-based service costs may increase because you are using more engine hours to run a given distance.


Option 2 – run on one engine at a time at higher rpm

Under this system only one engine is used at a time, alternating periodically (eg every one to two hours).


Pros 

It will take more rpm on the one selected engine to reach your chosen speed than it would be using two, thereby eliminating or at least minimising the problem of light loading.

Fuel saving and range increase will be considerably less than Option 1, but still in the order of 10 to 15 per cent.

Higher rpm will make your in-use alternator run more efficiently.

The process is relatively east to manage.

The frequency of hours-based engine servicing is reduced thus saving service costs.


Cons 

Maneuverability is considerably reduced using one engine, particularly at low speed so this option should only be considered in open waters and not for example coming into or out of marinas.

There will be a slight steering bias in the direction away from the in-use engine ie using only the port engine the vessel will veer slightly towards starboard.

The not-in-use engine’s prop will still turn or “windmill” causing drag and the gearbox to operate. The inactive engine’s gearbox must be kept in neutral so that the engine doesn’t turn over. Most gearboxes are water-cooled using its engine’s heat exchanger, so without the engine running this cooling will be lost and gearbox damage can potentially occur. Consult your installations Owners’ Manual to ascertain for how long you can windmillThey normally suggest running your engine for about five minutes before wind milling and will advise the allowed time interval before it needs to be started again to activate the heat exchanger and circulate gearbox oil. My Caterpillar manual recommends idling the engine every 12 hours for five minutes, however the Twin Disc gearbox manual recommends idling the engine for a few minutes every hour, so I will follow that guideline.

If initiating this procedure it would be a good idea to check the temperature at the rear of the wind milling prop’s gearbox using an infra-red thermometer to see how long it takes for the temperature to rise. The lower the boat speed, the less the wind milling engine’s gearbox temperature will rise. Bear in mind there’s a good chance that some time in the future you’ll have a problem with one engine and need to run just on the other one, so this is not a wasted exercise.

Take into account that engines often run ancillary equipment, for example Rapport’s port engine runs our refrigeration compressor while her starboard engine runs our power steering and heats our hot water supply.

Some stuffing boxes have no cooling system beyond the sea water coming into it, others have oil or grease lubrication to keep temperatures down, while others and more particularly most dripless shaft seals are cooled with sea water supplied from the engine’s sea water pump, so for this latter category no cooling will be supplied if the engine is not running.

Note that some vessels have a system where either engine can supply cooling water to both shafts. However if this is not the case it is best to compare the temperatures of the not-in-use shaft seals with the in-use shaft seals using an infra red thermometer to determine for how long you can allow wind milling. A temperature up to about 40dC should be OK, in fact as a general rule mechanics say if the stuffing box is not too hot to touch it’s OK (be careful doing this though). Another measure is that stuffing box temperature should be 7-22dC above sea water temperature.

Note that some cruisers have adopted measures to eliminate wind milling. At an extreme level one cruiser crossing the Pacific decided to remove one prop until half way across, then replace the prop and remove the other one so the in-use engine could be changed. This was done at sea using a block and tackle to support the prop’s weight. At a less extreme level it’s not uncommon for long distance cruisers to install a mechanical or hydraulic system enabling either prop shaft to be locked so it cannot rotateI have discounted the use of such a system based on the inconvenience and practicalityof changing over engines and the compromise to maneuverability in the event of an emergency.

When an engine is driving your vessel it is trying to push the prop shaft and coupling flange towards the engine, therefore not putting any load on the securing boltsWhen the prop shaft’s wind milling it’s trying to pull away from the engine and therefore your coupling flange, so connections should be checked initially and at regular intervals thereafter.

Option 3 – run both engines with one engine at higher rpm than the other

Another option is to run one engine at high rpm and the other at low rpm so that all engine-driven equipment is operating, then interchange every couple of hours or so. If adopting this option avoid running the low rpm engine below 1,200 rpm for the reasons outlined in the opening comments.

Pros 

The issue of light loading is eliminated.

Economy gains similar to running two engines at low rpm are achieved and range is increased.

There is little loss of maneuverability.

There is no issue with cooling of gearboxes and shaft seals.

There is no issue with prop shaft flange connections.

The process is easy to manage.

All engine-driven ancillary equipment will operate.


Cons 

Both engines are still ramping up engine hours, so no servicing costs are saved.

There will be a very slight steering bias in the direction away from engine operating at higher rpm.

The alternator’s efficiency is compromised for the engine running at low rpm.


Conclusion

As mentioned early on Di and I prefer to cruise much of the time off the plane, even when cruising long distances, so considering all of the above options here’s a practical solution based on Option 2 for Rapport.

-Start both engines and leave the marina using both at low rpm (although preferably above 1,200 rpm wherever possible) providing maximum maneuverability.

-When in open waters shut down the starboard engine and as temperatures rise, gradually increase rpm on port to about 1,850 = 66 per cent of WOT. This will operate refrigeration and efficient alternator operation and battery charging at higher rpm. The power steering will not operate so hand steering will be necessary, however this is not much of an issue in open waters. Any time that power steering and autopilot is wanted I can start the starboard engine.

-When the freezer reaches its operating temperature (after roughly three hours on first day out and on subsequent days after about an hour), run the starboard engine at about 1,850 rpm and shut down port

-Then continue to alternate engines as required about hourly.

For subsequent days we normally use the genset every morning so the batteries are fully charged at that time and the alternators don’t need to run at high outputs. Every several engine hours I’ll run both engines at about 2,200-2,400rpm for 15 minutes or so as well as doing this for about half an hour an hour before shutdown.

Happy Slow Cruising


Sunday, October 03, 2021

LIFE IN THE SLOW LANE - SLOW CRUISING ABOARD TWIN-ENGINE PLANING VESSELS PART 1

 Although five of the six boats we’ve owned since the 1980s have been planing boats a large chunk of our cruising has been in the Med aboard Envoy at around 6 knots. During that time we really grew to enjoy life in the slow lane and now find that even though our current boat, Rapport, is capable of about 20 knots we prefer to cruise mostly around 8-10 knots.

Most our time aboard Envoy we cruised at about 6kn. Max speed was about 8kn


Most cruisers we speak to own twin-engine planing vessels and many of these choose to cruise on the plane when going some distance to their destination, but then cruise off the plane
in the general area around their destination. There are some good reasons for this philosophy including some of these:

- You’re on the water to relax so why not enjoy the journey as well as the destination

- Helming at slower speed needs less attention so you can leisurely enjoy the scenery at your leisure and have more time to navigate safely, especially in what may be an unfamiliar area

- Many skippers prefer to tow their RHIBs at slower than planing speeds

- You’re often close to shore where in any case speed is limited to 5 knots (within 200 metres)

- At slower speeds you generally don’t have to move gear around as you often need to in all but calm conditions when going on the plane

- At slower speeds you’re not generating so much engine noise or causing so much wake

- Slower speeds are generally more comfortable for crew and it’s easier to undertake activities like making cups of coffee, using the head or having lunch under way

- At slower speeds your journey will take longer allowing more time for battery charging, for engine-driven compressors to reduce your refrigeration temperatures and for manifold hot water heaters to heat up. This is important because if for example we leave our marina for Oneroa and cruise at planing speed after the engines are up to temperature the journey will take about 90 minutes and this is insufficient time for the refrigeration to become fully effective. At 8 knots or so the cruise will take about three hours which allows plenty of time. This is not so much of an issue on the following days when refrigeration is already cold

- At slower speeds you can troll and catch a kahawai or kingi on the way (good luck with that one!)

- Due to lower rpm at slower speeds you’re saving a considerable amount in fuel costs and increasing your cruising range between fueling stops

In addition to these factors by nursing your engines along at low rpm you’re looking after them right? Actually NO - this is quite wrong so read on.


Although Rapport's top speed is about 21kn fully-loaded, we prefer to cruise at 8-10kn



So let’s focus on reduced fuel consumption and increased range even though we and most people we know aren’t greatly concerned about fuel costs, understanding this is one of the cheapest of boating costs.

Here are four examples of fuel savings and increases in range (taken from Pacific PowerBoat magazine boat reviews). Note that fuel usage expressed in litres per nm is more relevant than litres per hr as the former takes into account the shorter distance traveled due to slower speeds.

1. Nimbus 405 13.3m LOA planing vessel with twin 200hp Volvos and shaft drives:

At 3,000 rpm = 17kn, 95.9 litres/hr, 4.4 litres/nm, 200 nm range

At 1,000 rpm = 7.3kn, 6.5 litres/hr, 0.9 litres/nm, 1,000 nm range - so fuel usage per nm decreases and range increases by a factor of about 5x


2. Absolute Vavetta 14.9m LOA semi-displacement vessel with twin Volvo Penta IPS650 “Pods”, each 480hp:

At 3,000 rpm = 18.7kn, 112 litres/h, 6 litres/nm, 272 nm range

At 1,500 rpm = 7.3kn, 21 litres/hr, 2.9 litres/nm, 564 nm range

At 1,250 rpm = 6.1kn, 9 litres/hr, 1.4 litres/nm, 1,137 nm range – so fuel usage per nm decreases and range increases by a factor of about 4.2x


3. Maritimo S55 17m planing vessel with twin Volvo D13 each 400hp and shaft drives:

At 2,100 rpm = 23.8kn, 226 litres/hr, 9.5 litres/nm, 430 nm range

At 900 rpm = 8.1kn, 26 litres/hr, 3.2 litres/nm, 1,280 nm range – so fuel usage per nm decreases and range also increases by a factor of about 3x


4. Circa 24 - 26m LOA displacement vessel with twin Scania DI 090, each 250hp @ 1,800rpm and shaft drives:

At 1,500 rpm = 12.3kn, 39.2 litres/hr, 3.2 litres/nm, 3,234 nm range

At 1,000 rpm = 8.7kn, 13.3 litres/hr, 1.52 litres/nm, 6,809 nm range - so fuel usage per nm decreases and range increases by a factor of about 2.1x. Note that at 6.5kn the range increases to over 10,000nm


These examples include displacement, semi-displacement and planing vessels and similar results apply to all standard vessels including single engine vessels and yachts under power (however I’m not sure if this applies with foils.)

The above results are based on running both engines and we can see that reducing rpm results in a substantial decrease in fuel consumed per nm combined with a substantial increase in range as a result of cruising closer to the vessel’s displacement speed where the boat’s hull becomes wonderfully efficient. That’s why long distance cruisers are nearly always displacement vessels or faster vessels cruising at displacement speed. The figures would be even more impressive if I’d compared maximum rpm with idling rpm, but I wanted to compare realistic speeds.

However there are some downsides to cruising at low rpm and I want to mention these as well as suggesting several alternative options to minimise their effects. These thoughts are based on our own experiences and some internet research as well as discussions with four diesel mechanics over the last several years.

Diesel engines are not designed to be run for long periods at light loading, which is defined as rpm less than 40 per cent of wide open throttle (WOT). On the contrary the suggested rule of thumb is to run engines at 60-75 per cent of WOT for 60-75 per cent of the time, this 60-75 per cent range being the range of mechanics’ varying opinions.

So what happens if you do consistently run at light loading rpm?

At low rpm and therefore lower than optimum engine temperature the piston rings don’t seat so well resulting in faster wear, additional blow-by (more than double the normal), oil fouling of components such as turbos and carbonisation. Blow-by is the phenomenon whereby combustion chamber gasses consisting of unburned fuel and water vapour as well as soot bypass the rings causing a harmful sludge to build up on the rings in the process and to enter the crankcase. Some blow-by is normal, but increased levels can contaminate lubricating oil forming a sludge that can partially block lubrication feed lines as well as acids that attack engine parts, often resulting not only in later engine problems but in significantly reduced engine life.

This is one of several reasons why engines used in commercial vessels generally have a longer life span than in pleasure vessels, that is their engines are mostly selected according to their intended operational speed and therefore rpm.

Another cause of increased blow-by is over filling lubrication oil so never add oil beyond the dipstick marking.

Additionally alternators don’t operate so well at low rpm. For example aboard Rapport which has 24V battery banks our approx 50amp alternators charge at 23 amps at 1,170rpm and 36 amps at 1,510rpm – a 57 per cent difference. At low engine rpm alternators’ cooling fans also run more slowly causing alternators to overheat particularly in the early stages of charging when the battery banks need for charging is greatest and the alternators are working their hardest. Leaving the marina this should not be too much of a problem as most vessels have shore powered chargers.

A negative for running slower is it results in more engine hours accumulating for the same distance cruised theoretically resulting in an increase in service costs, though practically many vessels have an annual service without reaching their hours of service threshold.

But don’t despair as there are several options available to run vessels at lower speeds without compromising engine wear or longevity, each option having its own pros and cons. 

Read about these options in our next posting.











Saturday, September 18, 2021

PONUI ISLAND MAGIC

As I write this we’ve been in Level 4 lock down for nearly five weeks now and hopefully we’ll be going down to Level 3 next week and 2 the week after. So let’s hang on in there.                              

From a boating perspective we haven’t missed out on too much as until the last few days the weather has mostly been miserably wet, windy and chilly. Roll on Level 2, warmer weather and the resumption of boating – we can’t wait!

Here’s an edited version of an article to appear shortly in Pacific PowerBoat re cruising around the Ponui Island area.

In Auckland we’re spoiled for choice of great cruising destinations with about 1,200 square miles of the mighty Hauraki Gulf and dozens of islands on our doorstep, explaining why Auckland is said to have the largest number of boats per capita in the world.                                                                              

One of our favourite inner Gulf islands is Ponui. Maori were the island’s first inhabitants during the 1400s and evidence still remains of 23 separate pa sites. The island was purchased in 1853 by the Chamberlin family, who remained through the generations and still farm the island to this day. Ponui translates as “long night” and judging from the number of cruisers who frequent this area we’re sure there’s been many an enjoyable and long night spent here.

Ponui is about four miles long in a north to south direction, one to two miles wide and indented with numerous bays and coves offering at least 20 good anchorages, well spread around the island allowing cruisers to find safe shelter in all wind conditions. The highly informative Royal Akarana Yacht Club Coastal Cruising Handbook (a must have on board for cruisers) provides excellent information on most of these anchorages, so we’ll focus on just three of our favourite areas.

By far Ponui’s most popular anchorage is Chamberlains Bay (also called North Harbour) bordering the northern coast’s Ruthe Passage separating Ponui and Rotoroa Islands. This large bay offers great shelter in westerlies through to southerlies and for light north-westerlies and south-easterlies, although in stronger south-easterlies an uncomfortable fetch comes into the bay from the Firth of Thames. You’ll notice that Coastguard have a mooring for their rescue vessels in the bay’s north-west corner. Chamberlains Bay (note spelling of this bay is different to that of the Chamberlin family name) has no particular hazards except for its muddy bottom gradually shoaling towards the southern shoreline. Immediately to the east are two great sandy beaches easily reached by dinghy. If anchoring off these beaches watch out for the rocky outcrop between the two beaches and monitor your depth. Part of Chamberlains Bay’s appeal is that if the wind shifts to the north or east boats can easily move less than a mile across to Rotoroa’s South-West Bay to shelter. This bay also has three moorings available to rent by prior arrangement at $25 per night. The Salvation Army ran an alcohol addiction treatment centre here from 1911 until 2005 and during that time no landing was allowed. It’s reputed that sometimes desperate alcoholics swam out to boats moored here trying to score a drink. Nowadays visitors are encouraged, but no dogs are allowed as Rotoroa is a wildlife sanctuary with kiwi and weka abounding. It’s well worth visiting their interesting Exhibition Centre and your kids will certainly love the nearby brick jail house. You’ll have to avoid the temptation to leave them there! Take a walk over the island for spectacular views of the Firth of Thames and visit Men’s Bay and Ladies’ Bay on Rotoroa’s east coast - great anchorages in settled westerly conditions. Formerly cruisers could only gaze at these near-perfect beaches from afar, but can now enjoy their white sand, crystal clear waters and gnarly shade-providing pohutukawa trees.

Shark Bay on the island’s western side bordering the Waiheke Channel isn’t mentioned on the NZ 5324 Chart for this area, but it’s the bay to the north of Oranga and Poroaki Bays. Oranga Bay is too shallow for anchoring, but take your dinghy in to see the shipwreck on the shoreline with its impressive propeller and the nearby remains of two boilers. You’ll also see plenty of rays gliding across the seabed searching for kai

Shipwreck in Oranga Bay on a great early July day


Close up showing the wreck's huge propeller


Poroaki Bay can be recognised by
its several homesteads and protruding western headland providing protection from the prevailing south-westerly wind. Very often there’s also a large powered barge moored close to shore. Between Shark Bay and Ponui Head to the north are two unnamed bays with excellent sandy beaches and shelter from southerly through to north-easterly winds, but be aware of an unmarked rock south west of Ponui Head (marked on chart). The only negative for this area is wakes produced by large motor vessels travelling at speed through the Waiheke Channel.

Stunning unnamed bay south of Ponui Head


Barge at Poroaki Bay


Bryants Bay on
Ponui’s north-east coast is a settled weather anchorage suitable for northerly through to south-westerly winds. It’s well protected by Scully Reef and consists of three small bays, two of which are really stunning, together with a large anchoring area outside these bays. This is an area where we’re often happy to anchor for several days and holding is good, but be aware of close to shore rocks. About half a mile south is another well sheltered bay with a fine sandy beach.

Fishing is generally good around Ponui, particularly on the eastern side in the Firth of Thames and we’re always able to feed ourselves, however on the north-western side be aware of the Te Matuki Marine Reserve extending across to Awaawaroa Bay on Waiheke Island’s south coast.

There are large signs on Ponui Island’s foreshores advising the island is private property and that no dogs, fires or camping are allowed. I spoke to one of the island’s three farm owners who advised boaties may land on beaches provided they observe the above limitations. Ponui is home to nearly 2,000 brown kiwi, descendants of just 13 released in 1964 and dogs and ferrets are their main predators so there’s good reason to ban dogs. While most dog owners are responsible a minority apparently think leashed dogs are not a problem and that rules don’t apply to them. However even leashed dogs can upset farm animals and wildlife while their scent is an issue in bird breeding areas sometimes causing birds to abandon their nests.

There is no fuel, water or supplies available in this area, except for wine at the very pleasant Man O’War Vineyard. On a fine summer’s day you’ll find dozens of inflatables ashore here enjoying the sandy beach and the selection of winery beverages and snacks. Closest groceries are at Rocky Bay while for fuel and water you’ll have to make the eleven mile trip to Pine Harbour marina.

We really enjoy anchoring in these areas around Ponui and hope you will too, but remember if going ashore to act responsibly by taking no dogs, lighting no fires and taking your rubbish away with you.

Next Post will be about cruising at low rpm without compromising your engines’ performance and longevity.