Thursday, April 5, 2018

Not where we hoped to be

The Kids rowed out to Kintala last evening for the final hugs and good-by. No tears, since we will be meeting up again in a few weeks. This morning dawned perfect for the first run toward the Keys. It felt good being up on deck setting the rigging, pulling off the sail cover, running the sheets. We were cruisers once again, heading back out to where the rest of the tribe lives. It had been a long time since I felt that good getting about my day.

Kintala hasn’t been completely stationary lately, having been out to the anchorage a couple of times as well as making runs to the pump-out. In fact she has been riding to her anchor for the last ten nights while we Dinged in each day to help with the final prep for Blowin' In The Wind to be on her way as well. There was little thought of touching a dock for weeks, and then just for fuel. Everything has been checking out okay, so I gave little thought to Deb doing the engine checks last while I finished up the deck and got ready to pull the hook. 

When she called up from below to ask me to come look at something my good mood vanished. I could tell from the tone of her voice we likely weren’t going very far. In spite of the checks being completely normal for the last couple of weeks, this morning Ye ‘Ol WesterBeast appeared to be adding engine coolant all by itself. It was hard to say for sure. There is no overflow tank, Kintala being an antique when it comes to marine coolant systems. So checking the level means peering down into the actual coolant tank and judging that the fluid is where it normally is. And it certainly appeared to be higher than we are used to seeing. Deb also thought that the color was wrong and I took her word for it. My color sense was never very good and hasn’t gotten any better with the passing of decades. Still, that is some pretty sparse evidence of there being a problem, and the very idea of having to fix yet another thing on the boat was setting firecracker thoughts off in my brain, none of which should ever see the light of day.

After some debate and a call to the shop to see what the engine gurus might suggest, (as if I didn’t already know), we pulled the hook and headed to one of the face docks inside the yard. A pressure test on the coolant system would tell the tale, and the tale it told was the we were definitely not going anywhere. The gauge confirmed that the coolant system is breached somewhere, that somewhere being a place that lets raw water in where raw water shouldn’t be. About the only place that can happen is in the core of the heat exchanger.

The WesterBeast’s heat exchanger was overhauled about 5 years ago because the engine was overheating. Of those five years we have spent nearly 2 tied to the dock here at Snead Island. That seems a pretty limited service life for a unit that isn’t particularly modest in the price department. My joy at being on our way was long forgotten. In its place was my opinion of the mechanical side of the marine world in general, and the WesterBeast in particular, falling to its normally abysmal low. But, what else to do? It has to be fixed. This is a far better place to get that done than somewhere 50 miles from the nearest shop. And Deb caught it on some very thin information; one quarter inch or so of too much fluid, and a slight color change. I don’t think I would have noticed.

We moved the boat to a more permanent pier, one less exposed to the wakes coming in off the river. It is a good bet that we will be here a week or more. It was at least a week the last time the heat exchanger came off the boat. Though it was late in the afternoon, my mood grim (to put it mildly) and my head filled with thoughts of meeting my daily limit of alcohol intake as quickly as possible, it would be best to pull the heat exchanger with the hope of having it in a shop before the weekend. Cruising clothes were shed, work clothes were dug out of the locker, tools located, and boat parts removed.

I remember the last time taking off the heat exchanger as being nearly 8 hours of continuous hurt and frustration. Whomever it was that decided pulling the exhaust manifold was a perfectly acceptable first step to reaching the heat exchanger should be flogged repeatedly with hot coolant lines. He should also be forced to pay for the $100 exhaust gasket required as part of the job. Practice makes a difference though, and this time the heat exchanger/exhaust manifold landed on the work bench barely two hours after the engine covers were pulled. Ten minutes later the heat exchanger was free and ready for the shop.

Ten minutes after that I was well on my way to meeting that daily limit of alcohol intake.


pfrymier1 said...

There's a limit? No one told me about the limit.

I feel for you. When I was young, broke and foolish, I looked forward to being elbow-deep in the recesses of an engine compartment, be it dingy, yacht, or land yacht. Ever since I became a real adult however, I have not been enthusiastic about engine work. Seems like there is always one or more nuts in the wrong place, too much oil or water where neither should be, and I'm bound to break two things for every one thing that I though needed to be replaced originally. I can't tell you how many times I have imagined all those nuts in the wrong place being put on when the car was assembled and the assembler chuckling to him/herself about the day when it has to come off.

Here's hoping it's a quick fix. As they say, it can be done quick, right or cheap; pick any two. With a boat, maybe only one and I'd take cheap off the list.

TJ said...

I come from a long line of very accomplished alcoholics. My personal limit to keep things on an even keel has worked well for a lot of years, though living full time on a boat can put it to the test once in a while.

My main complaint with engine work on the boat is the horrible lack of access complicated by butt stupid engineering. Replacing a heat exchanger shouldn't be any more complicated than removing a few hoses and unbolting it from a mount. Since the old unit is likely original and has already been repaired at least once, we decided to replace it a new aftermarket unit. I would like to get a factory original but suspect the cost would be prohibitive, nor is there any reason to think that Westerbeke's quality control is somehow superior. With any luck the parts should be here by the middle of next week and we should be ready to try again by next weekend.

Matt Mc. said...


Mike Boyd said...

Aw man. Sorry to hear but at least you did catch it in the best place to remedy the situation, so there is that.

I think you should paint the new heat exchanger blue...or green...or anything other than westerbeke red. At least you will "see a little less red" when looking in the engine compartment...maybe. ;-) I guess Westerbeke must have reengineered a few things as my exchangers don't require removal of the exhaust as best I can remember.

Hope the repair goes easily and you will be on your way soon.

Deb said...

Mike it all has to do with the fact that we have a V-Drive. The engine is backwards so some accessories are in places that prohibit dropping the heat exchanger down off the bolts.

Mike Boyd said...

Hey Deb. Yeah, I guess a good or bad engine probably has a fair amount to do with the boat configuration as anything else. I know I actually have a fair amount of room around my motors to work (at least by sailboat standards). In any case, I hope it all goes as well as it can for you two and you get underway soon.

s/v Sionna said...

Hoping by now youo’ve got it all put back together and running like a top! Meet you in Cayo Costa!