Black Moon is the message in a bottle: motorcycle maintenance on the go

How a day of sailing turns into a day of tinkering with Black Moon’s engine

“You know, I can’t remember the last time I slept through the night” I thought after another broken night. Niels can handle it better than I can. He is the one who watches Anchor Bay for every clumsy sound. Now that we’ve been stable for months you’d think we wouldn’t need to do a night watch. However, a tropical rain shower with 40+ knot winds will drag our anchor and/or our neighbors anchor, with all the consequences. Then the bay was suddenly scattered with those bright yellow hoods. A boat often has one forward and one aft for the helmet. Shouting and gesticulating wildly. We usually start the engine; What is to come. “Actually, the boat should always be ready,” Niels suggests as we sip coffee. Hurricane season has started, so if anything comes up…

The hurricane season in the Pacific is different from that in the Atlantic. In June 2021, when we were in Martinique, suddenly someone Cyclone came towards us and we went inside Hurricane hole Had to hide. Here the season does not run in summer, but from December to May. And the Society Islands, including Moorea, are gray in terms of risk. So if a cyclone does form, it will come from Australia and New Zealand via Fiji to French Polynesia. After that, we’ll travel north to Kiribati or Hawaii to paint the geological picture, until it blows over. Some sailing peers stay in Marquis, a mildly gray area. There is a gamble here or there, so we must be prepared.

Our anchor bay is located in a lagoon so it is safe to motor through the rocks

Sailing trip

I sip my coffee and think out loud: “If we keep everything and stuff safe, we might as well travel one day!” We’ve been anchored in Moorea for 3 months now and believe it or not, we haven’t sailed a single day since we left in 2020. Just for fun, so to speak. We only travel forward. Returning to the same place again on the same day is not a good sign. First, it’s a lot of work. Whether it’s for a day or a week, you should do the same preparations. Second, it is a risk. What if something breaks? However, there is no guarantee of silence. Rather…

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Bilge alarm

Within a week, we were roused from sleep by a screeching alarm. “Stop!” I swing my legs over Niels’ head in one motion, lifting myself off the prow and opening the floor of the main bilge. I doubt I’d be more surprised: me first or the watery bilge. “Engine propeller shaft leaking” I hear from the engine room. “Probably because of growth, because we’ve been stagnant for so long.” At the push of a button, we pump seawater from the engine compartment to the main bilge – the deepest part of the boat – and then through the main pump. Niels greases the propeller shaft. I start the engine so the shaft is set in motion. After two hours, the leakage was reduced to a few drops per minute. We crawl back into bed with a bouncing cat above us on the deck.

Adventures with an old dinghy
See also our old dinghy Movie With our most special moments


A few days later it was time: we were going on a day boat! Not that we’re stuck, but a few things have been added or changed to the boat in the meantime, making it a little more challenging. For example, there are diving tanks on deck – which still need to be secured in a sea-proof condition. A Litter Box – How many more weeks? We also have another dinghy – one with a rigid aluminum bottom. It’s the perfect size for Black Moon. We were looking for it for a long time and suddenly our front neighbor put up a 1 year old one for sale. In addition, a heavy outboard motor – purchased from our next door neighbor. In turn, we sold our old rubber dinghy to, yes, our neighbor. once again: Mana Here’s to strong!

The machine crashes: Time for engine maintenance en route

“Almost ready to drop anchor?” Neal nodded. “Then I’ll start the engine!” I almost cheer. I let the throttle idle at about 1500 rpm, preheat for 10 seconds, then turn the key all the way in: “Tuck”. After three tries it still wouldn’t start. We check the battery voltage – both the residential battery and the starter battery are OK. “So it’s somewhere in the engine itself” Niels opens the briefcase with the spare parts. We go through the system step by step so that we can rule out a few things. First we check the starter relay (a kind of receiver) – still good. Then we test the solenoids: using a screwdriver, we turn them. Niels held the bridge while I turned the key – again to no avail. “Then remove the starter motor,” Niels says a little worriedly. Well, first time for everything!

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Spare parts
Spare parts


Spanners and ratchets rattle in the engine compartment. Getting the starter motor out is a challenge, it has to be completely disassembled. “Wow, look what’s rusted inside”! The starter motor is carefully placed on the table, ready for operation. The bolts also appear to be rusted, and Niels has a battle wound on his arm. Neighbor Daniel and I help out: generator on, extension cord off, grinder on and taking pictures of every step so we don’t make the classic mistake of leaving a part behind. Upon opening, the probable cause was found: the pinion was completely corroded. A question of cleaning and grease…?


It’s dark outside now. Our stomachs churn. We will consider it another time as a thank you for Daniel’s help and moral support – an added value that should not be underestimated. We must continue. As with any job, all the stops are really pulled out. To imagine: the bed is disheveled, the benches are strewn with rubbish, the galley has become unusable, the tools around us. In short: you can no longer twist your ass. But after eight hours everything is ready to be reinstalled and we start testing the machine. I turned the key… “Vroom” worked!

Engine maintenance during the journey

Vital maintenance

Over the next few days we’ll be focusing more on our trusty little motor. It had failed us only once before, when we entered Suriname in the dark after 16 days of travel. It gave one Exciting story On that day. So, we find out now in a quiet situation, not when it really matters. Incidentally, the engine bay has flooded once about 2 years ago Cape Verde. Only then did we accidentally find it in time, and it kept the starter motor dry and didn’t spread all over the main bilge.

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Engine maintenance during the journey
Change the motor oil

We immediately plan a major maintenance: change the oil, change the oil filter, check the coolant, check the diesel filters, check the ignition, check the V-belt, clean the coarse filter, and be on the shopping list for a ‘bilge pump float switch’ Tahiti. By placing the engine at the bottom of the bilge, the pump starts automatically and the engine block stays dry. In addition to the boats we see, it’s good to pay attention to the Black Moon.

“What do you want to do on your birthday?” Niels asks. “Sailing” I began seriously and laughed: “But a trip with our new dinghy is fun!”

At the end of July 2020, thirty-somethings Grietje Dobbs and Niels Eikelboom left the Netherlands. black moon, for their Dalling 33, world tour. Every three weeks the authors of Zeilen receive their message in a bottle, which contains all the adventures and challenges.

Click on Here For all of Black Moon’s other adventures, and their social media channels, click below:

Want to read more departure stories? Discover adventures Column bro, Sailors for Sustainability And Yndeleau.

Photos and text by Greetje Tops and Niels Eikelboom van Sailing Black Moon

Tags: black moon, Black moon news in a bottle, Engine maintenance Last modified: January 26, 2023

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