Wednesday, July 13, 2016


The filling of the cruising kitty is going well, and the boat project list has more items checked off than not, but summer has been hard on Worker Man. Snead Island is a great place to work: New Boss is fair, considerate, and hard-working himself, the owners and the rest of the employees helpful and easy to work with, and Tim's desire to produce quality workmanship expected. But the Florida sunshine - the emblem of this state - is his biggest enemy. Working down inside small, un-airconditioned boats that are sitting in the brutal rays takes its toll on his 61-year-old body.

On the other hand, the summer has been pretty good to me. Being in charge of The List has afforded me the opportunity to learn a phenomenal amount about Kintala. Most of my projects so far have been inside the air-conditioned boat so, other than the outside portion of the port rebuild project, I have had the benefit of cool working environs. Not having the benefit of a highly experienced mechanic at my beck and call 24/7 has forced me to research, learn, troubleshoot, and push through problems on my own with only the brief conversations after Worker Man returns for the day and before he collapses on the settee directly under the A/C vent. Checking off list items has gone a long way toward improving my confidence as a mechanic.

Until yesterday.

Early in the summer I decided to tackle first those items that would make maintenance on Kintala easier. The easier it is to change the oil or fuel filters, the more frequently it will get done. Installing the remote oil filter system was of the highest priority. Adding en electric fuel boost pump to bleed the engine after changing filters was next. I did my research, spoke to our friend Stephen who also owns a Tartan 42 (which is a very nice one for sale by the way), and spent time looking at various pumps. When Stephen sent a photo to me of the pump in his install, I realized all of a sudden that I remembered seeing one already installed in the boat. It was mounted on top of the fuel tank, hidden under the settee base, all the plumbing there, but the wiring was set up with ends to attach to an external battery when you needed it. Yes, we should have realized a long time ago what it was for but, you know, the out of site out of mind thing.

Not having a separate battery nor any desire to purchase one, I spent the day Monday running new wiring from the house bank to the engine compartment where I mounted a switch, then from there to the pump. As with all things boat project, it took the whole day, although I confess that an hour and a half of that was fashioning a wooden switch box to house the switch I happened on in the used box at the parts dept here on site. If you've been following this blog for a while then you know that Tim and I are both pretty anal when it comes to detail so the box had to be right.

The engine compartment showing the remote oil filter install and the new switch box for the bleed pump on the back wall.

The fuel filter housing with the bleed banjo fitting on top
Tuesday, new filters in hand, I began to learn the ins and outs of changing fuel filters on a Westerbeke 50. I had never done it before and, in fact, had usually found some place else to be when Tim did it because it is a very unpleasant job that involves bleeding of the human sort in addition to bleeding of the fuel sort. We had no spare diesel to fill the filter housings with, but everything I was reading on the topic of the electric fuel pump indicated that the pump would fill those housings given enough time. I changed the filters, turned on the pump, bled the filter fittings, let the pump run, bled them again, pump run..well you get the idea. 15 minutes later I started the engine. It started right up. Big smile on my face for the 10 seconds it ran until it stopped. Rats-n-frackin'.

Off to the maintenance manual and various Westerbeke forums. The general concensus was that I still had not removed all the air and had sucked it into the high pressure side of the system where it air locked the injector pump. It takes shockingly little air to stop a diesel engine, it turns out. Since I had cranked over the engine, I was now blessed with the learning experience of the Westerbeke 8-point bleeding procedure. An hour later and I was still not getting fuel to the injector B-nuts and the starter was getting warm from cycling the engine. "Uncle!"  Wiki says that the term "cry uncle" is from Roman times when children who were being pressed by a bully would have to say "Uncle" to be freed. How truly appropriate, as I can think of no better bullies than the designers of the Westerbeke 50.

When Worker Man returned to Kintala, I retraced my progress, showing him how far I had succeeded in obtaining fuel dribbles along the bleeding path. He loosened one B-nut that I had been unable to reach on the high pressure side of the injector pump. cranked the now cool engine, got fuel there. Then he bled two of the injector line B-nuts and the engine started.

I've learned a ton so far this summer, but perhaps the greatest lesson I learned through this project is that some times you quit just on the verge of success. I stopped because I was worried about damaging the engine and starter from too much cranking (probably smart), but had I taken some time to read some more, to think it through and continued bleeding the next day, I would most likely have gotten the job done without help. Don't get me wrong - getting help when you're unsure is a very good thing, and it's great when it's there to benefit from, but I'm sure there's going to be times when I just have to keep at it and not give up. At least when the Westerbeast is involved.

The oil pressure sender connection is, of
course, right by the dipstick so it can be
bumped into every time you check the oil...
And just so The Beast could show me who's boss...when the engine finally cranked to life there was no oil pressure on the gage. We immediately shut down the engine and closed things up for the night. This morning I started troubleshooting and discovered that the wire from the oil pressure sender to the gage was both loose and damaged. I cut it clean, installed a new connector, lock washer and nut, started the engine and was rewarded with oil pressure in the green. So take that you big bully.

4 comments: said...

Just call me totally IMPRESSED with you! There is so much that Mike knows having lived a life of working on and fixing things. Compared with him I hardly know where to start. I am taking more on as my work life dwindles while his is still on full speed ahead. But I, too, stop before I hurt something, or if I hit a decision point about a design or some such thing. When he's on the boat, it's way too easy for him to interfere with my learning by simply doing things himself, and it's way too easy for me to let him do it. We had a Westerbeke on our last boat. Mike used to say a lot of 'words' about that.

The Cynical Sailor said...

I'm with Melissa - completely impressed and in awe of you :-) It's amazing how much you've learned on your own. I've been trying to learn more about our boat systems, but it is a very slow process. So much reading and research to do.

Tom Wells said...

I fully understand your struggles with the "Beaste". We had a Westerbeke 50 on our Taratan 37 and I learned (and coined) lots of new words maintaining it. We took the coward's way out and re-powered with a Beta 38.

Deb said...

Girls- Thanks for your kind words. You both are very capable women who can do these things as well. I hope that your husbands are as supportive as mine is because that's a huge part of it. You're right Melissa that it's just easier to let him do it when we're together, but since it's not an option I've been forced into making it happen which is a good thing. It helps that I've always enjoyed mechanical work. I maintained my cars and motorcycles for enjoyment until my ability became limited by computer chips and complex systems. It's also fiscally prudent for us right now. I had hoped to be the one to get the paying job since Tim wasn't eager to punch a time clock again, but the reality is that women still make about $.67 on the dollar to men in most states so he can clearly fill the cruising kitty faster than me. My job is to save us money by doing as much of the work as I can.

Tom- believe me if we had the funds we would be installing a Beta as well. No possibility of that so I just keep plugging along and trying to make friends with the Beast.