Monday, October 29, 2012

Fuel Polishing

The good news about diesel engines is that with proper maintenance and clean fuel they will provide thousands of  hours of faithful service.  The bad news is that keeping diesel fuel clean is not that easy.  As soon as diesel leaves the refinery it starts degrading. 

Just for the record, we got clean fuel here.

Due to questionable storage facilities and delivery systems, the fuel you buy probably needs filtering by the time it gets to your tank.  But usually, most of the real trouble begins once it is in your tank.  

Dirty tanks and leaking deck fittings are usually the biggest contributors to bad fuel.  Bad fuel can clog your filters, damage your injector pump and/or foul your fuel injectors.  

There is a plethora of fuel additives on the market claiming to clean your fuel, dissolve water, kill bacteria (yes, bugs grow in diesel), give you better fuel economy, reduce exhaust smoke, and improve your love life.  Well, maybe not the last one, but all of the others.   Unfortunately, most of these products are “snake oil” and there are studies indicating that fuel additives may actually lead to early failure of injector pumps.  

To combat fuel problems, most boats are equipped with a primary and a secondary filtering system.  Motivator has dual Racors for the primary filter.  Only one of the Racors is use, the other is redundant in case the first is clogged.  The Racors are designed to separate any water that may be present from the fuel and filter it for impurities down to 10 microns. 

Then before the fuel reaches the injectors pump it filtered once again down to 2 microns through both of the secondary filters. 

250 Gallon Aft Tank under Bed

As previously stated, diesel does not like to be stored, and there is the rub.  Motivator has the fuel capacity that allows us to purchase fuel in locations with better prices.  The fuel we purchased in Puerto Rico was priced significantly less than any fuel we found down island. 

A system that allows us to store fuel then clean it on demand would be optimal.  Such a system is commonly referred to as a fuel polishing system.

DeFevers come with an impressive fuel manifold as standard equipment.  Motivator was also equipped with a fuel transfer pump allowing for the fuel to be transferred from one tank to another.  Commonly, the aft and lazerette tanks are used for storage while the two saddle tanks are used when motoring.

We decided that having the capability to pre-filter or polish the fuel during transfer or after it had been sitting in a tank would be useful, especially given our propensity for hedging on fuel.  

Basically, there are two ways to clean fuel.  It can be filtered or the impurities and water can be separated via a centrifuge.  A centrifuge works best and has the advantage of not requiring filter replacement, but most centrifuge systems are quite pricey.  There is one on the market, the RCI Fuel Purifier, that is reasonably priced, and claims to be effective. 

The system installed on Motivator included a RCI Fuel Purifier and a new fuel transfer pump.  

The original fuel transfer pump was only rated for a run time of 7.5 minutes.  This one is rated for 40 minutes. 

The jury is still out on the effectiveness of this system, but here are the lessons learned so far:
  •  Vane style fuel transfer pumps are rated for continuous run or less.  You will want a continuous run pump.
  •  Vane style pumps do not like to be over-sized.  The rating will say, “Use x inch minimum hose.”  The smallest tubing size in your system will determine the pump size.  A smaller, slower pump will probably be better.
  •  Work with RCI to determine the correct RCI Fuel Purifier.  Bigger is not necessarily better.
  •  Marine type fuel hoses (A1, A2, B1 and B2) meeting United States Coast Guard (USCG) regulations are only available in certain sizes.  Make sure hose is available in the size you intend to use.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How to Clean Your Lobster

The Caribbean spiny lobster, Panulirus argus, unlike their Maine lobster relatives, lack the large pinching claw.  Instead they rely on spines covering their bodies to protect them from predators.  Gloves are definitely an option when handling spiny lobsters.

Spiny lobsters are equipped with use a second pair of antennae in sensory perception, which are found folded alongside their body when it's not in use.  This is where you start in the cleaning process.

Snap off a section of the antennae so that you have a diameter of about 5/16” on the blunt end.

The blunt end of the antennae is then inserted into the lobster’s anus and twisted.  The spines on the antennae are barbed so when you pull the antennae out, the digestive track is removed.

Next, insert a sharp knife between the carapace and the tail to slice the connective membrane.

With a twist, the tail is removed.

This is where many people stop.


The tail can be split and prepared for grilling.

Grilled Lobster Tails with Garlic Butter

  • 2 petite lobster tails or large tail split
  • 2-4 TBS butter, melted
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • dash paprika
  • dash crushed red pepper
  • pinch of tarragon or other herbs
  • ½ tsp. parsley, minced
  • 2 lemon wedges

Using kitchen shears, remove thin underbelly from lobsters.  Bend back lobster tails to crack slightly and insert wooden skewer (reduces curling).  Heat grill.  Combine butter with garlic, paprika, peppers and herbs.

Grill lobster over medium heat, brushing with seasoning butter until done.  Cook 75% of the time shell down and 25% of the time shell up, approximately 6-10 minutes, do not overcook!  Serve drizzled with butter, sprinkled with fresh parsley and garnish with lemon wedges.

Many of the locals will tell you that you are discarding the best part, the head.  To prepare the head, split it length wise and remove all but the translucent white meat.  Grill or steam the halves until the meat is white then remove from the shell.

This meat can be use to make Curried Lobster:

Dingis’s Curried Lobster

This treatment showcases the flavor of the rich meat without overwhelming it with butter.

1 large lobster (about 2 pounds)
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 large clove of garlic, grated
1 small cubanelle or green pepper, thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon seeded and finely chopped hot pepper (red pepper flakes)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 green onion, smashed and chopped
2 teaspoons white vinegar or lime juice
1 teaspoon (approx.) curry powder
1 tablespoon ketchup
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1.      Steam the lobster over boiling water (1 – 1 ½ minutes per ounce).  When it is cool enough to handle, remove the tail meat and cut into small chunks.
2.      Toss the rest of the ingredients, except the oil, with the lobster meat.  Taste and adjust seasoning, adding a little bit more curry powder if necessary.  (There should be just a hint of curry flavor.)  Refrigerate for a couple of hours to allow the flavors to blend.
3.      When ready to serve, heat the oil in a heavy pan or wok until very hot.  Stir-fry lobster mixture for a minute or two.  Add about ½ cup water to create a bit of sauce and allow to cook for just a couple of minutes longer.  Serve over rice.

Serves 2
Recipe from An Embarrassment of Mangoes, by Ann Vanderhoof

Unfortunately, the young men that caught the lobsters for us suffered the bends on a subsequent dive.  One died and the other, Curt, is seeking treatment in St. Lucia. This happens too often in the Caribbean where the industry is largely unregulated and the young men diving for lobster and lambi (conch) are poorly trained.  Should you wish to help with the medical expenses, please contact Curt's mother, Mary Benjamin at: 473-536-7568.  Thank you.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


This morning Pollie reminded me that today was our two year “sail away” anniversary, and then she added, “and we haven’t killed each other, yet.”

 If you are going to sail away, you have to set a departure date, and then just do it.  We had decided that 10-10-10 was going to be our departure date, and we only missed by seven days.
John Harris, one of our Herrington Harbor North marina buddies captured our departure and put together this photo montage, click here to see.  Thanks, John!

 That first trip down the east coast was chilly.  The above picture was in St. Augustine, FL (note the heavy jacket).

Our first Gulf Stream crossing came with a lot of trepidation.  So we waited for a weather window that gave us almost bathtub sea conditions.

Soon, however we were enjoying our first season in the Bahamas.

Serenity served us well for seven years on the Chesapeake and then as our cruising platform for nine months.  Before we left the Bahamas we decided that we loved the lifestyle, but wanted a bigger boat.

With help from Curtis Stokes, Motivator was purchased and Serenity was sold.

So how long will we be “sailing away?”  Only time will tell, and besides, “we haven’t killed each other, yet.”

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Isle of Spice

Lying at the south end of the Windward Islands, the country of Grenada has three main islands. The northern most island is Petite Martinique, then Carriacou, and further south is Grenada.  Between Carriacou and Grenada there is an underwater volcano named Kick Em Jenny and several smaller islands that are mostly uninhabited. 

As peaceful and friendly as Grenada is today, it is hard to believe it has such a “lively” history.   

Cave where Arawaks stored provisions

When Christopher Columbus discovered Grenada in 1498, the island was already inhabited by the Carib Indians.  The Caribs had migrated from the South American mainland, killing or enslaving the peaceful Arawaks, the original inhabitants.  

Early European settlements were aggressively discouraged by the Caribs and it was not until 1650 when a French expedition from Martinique was able to defeat the Caribs in a succession of battles.  Rather than submit to French rule, the last surviving Caribs jumped to their death off of a cliff on the north end of the island that is now called “Leapers’ Hill.”

Fort George

For the next ninety years the British and French squabbled over the island, building forts and riding around in wooden boats taking pot shots at one another.  

Black Bay Plantation ruins

Under the Treaty of Versailles in 1783 the British gained control and immediately began importing large numbers of slaves from Africa to work sugar plantations.

Twelve years later, in 1795 there was a violent slave rebellion and tensions remained high until slavery was abolished in 1834.  Grenada became a Crown Colony in 1877 and in 1967 became an associated state within the British Commonwealth.  With independence in 1974 came a ten year period of political turmoil that culminated in the now famous “rescue mission” in 1983.  Since the general election in 1984 Grenada has enjoyed a peaceful democracy.

St George’s Harbor and Port Louis Marina

St. George’s is the capital of Grenada and the most protected harbor on the island.  The north and eastern coasts have no protection from the trade winds and associated seas.  

The western coast has several anchorages, but all are reported to be uncomfortable in certain sea conditions. 

The south coast has several anchorages and marinas that are popular with cruisers.

Grenada’s economy relies on tourism.  


Agriculture is Grenada’s next most important industry.  Exports include cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mace, cocoa, and of course nutmeg.

Petit Bacaye with the Tree Top Restaurant

There are a number of small resorts located throughout the island.

And, of course there are facilities and services for the “yachties.”

 Store at bus station

The per capita income in Grenada is $13,400 compared to $41,800 in the United States.  Grenada has high unemployment (estimates as high as 30%) that has not been helped by the economic problems in the U.S. and Europe.  Officially, Grenada has an income tax, import tax, and a value added tax or sales tax. 

 Pollie buying calabash candle holders from Thomas

Unofficially, Grenada has a thriving underground economy.  

Photo provided by SGU

On the bright side, St. George’s University’s medical and veterinarian schools are thriving in this economy.

“Janet House,” housing donated to Grenada after Hurricane Janet

The reason most of the pleasure boats spend the summer months in Grenada is that it is considered south of the hurricane belt by most insurance companies.   That is not to say Grenada is immune from hurricanes.  In 1955 Hurricane Janet hit leaving 122 dead and devastated the infrastructure.  Later, Janet caused the only loss of a hurricane hunter aircraft.

In 2004 Ivan hit leaving 50% of the 102,000 inhabitants homeless.  The popular theory is that hurricanes only hit Grenada every 50 years.  So, we are safe for another 42 years.  While I am writing this Tropical Storm Rafael formed just north of Grenada and moved north.

Aside from dubious hurricane protection, Grenada is a beautiful island with lush green mountains.

Concord Waterfall


Black Sand Beach

and spectacular beaches.  

Where, if you are lucky, you too can find a sea bean.

River Antoine Rum Distillery

Should you tire of nature, there are rum distilleries,

the fish market,

“What’s this?”

and the spice market to visit.

Although we are ready to start cruising again, we have enjoyed spending hurricane season in Grenada and plan to be back here next year.