Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Young hands

Parts for the WesterBeast’s heat exchanger repair finally started to show up. It took a while to find the required gaskets, which were then shipped via the slowest boat to China ever commissioned. Or maybe the second slowest? The gasket arrived before the new heat exchanger, though the heat exchanger was ordered first. Both ended up being about a week late.

“Why a new heat exchanger” you ask?

The original one was, well, original. We have already had it repaired once. This time the yard's engine guru took a peek and told us that it had been repaired at least once before that. New seemed better. But a new factory bit proved hard to locate and was rumored to carry, should one actually be located somewhere, a price that bordered on astronomical. A new one "manufactured to the original specs” could be had at slightly less than a week’s wages. Yes, I had the same misgivings, but ordered it anyway. And yes, I wouldn't be surprised if we had ordered a "factory new",  they would have gone and bought the same one we did, stuck a factory price tag on it,  and then shipped it to me.

The heat exchanger showed up today, packaged professionally, glistening in a Westerbeke red, and looking good. All the fittings were in the right places and of the correct sizes. The new end cap is clearly superior to the original rubber one. And it had a certain amount of heft to it, a good thing with something that is a serious chunk of metal. Seeing as it was after lunch already, tomorrow seemed like a good time to start. Five year old grandson JJ, however, was of a different opinion. He wanted to help in the worst way, this being “engine work”. Grampy T bowed to the inevitable and changed into work clothes.

One might normally cringe at the idea of“marine diesel heat exchanger install” and, “five year old” being used in the same sentence. True maybe, if that five year old isn’t JJ. It didn’t take long to find a job needing done that he could do. This heat exchanger hangs off the exhaust manifold, requiring 3 new gaskets for the install. Old gasket bits needed to be throughly removed before the new ones are installed. JJ insisted that he could handle the task as long as I could find him a piece of ScotchBright. I did.

And he did.

New gasket installed, we went to place the heat exchanger in place and…remember that “original spec” claim? Apparently that did not include placing the slots for the mounting bolts exactly where they needed to be. Fortunately bronze is pretty easily worked, they were only off a few hundreds of an inch, and we own a Dremel tool. I really couldn’t explain to my five year old co-worker how the people building the heat exchanger managed to screw up the one measurement they really needed to get right to make the thing work. Dremel tool humming, I did get the chance to explain that taking off a little bit at a time, seeing if it was enough, then taking off a little more, is a far better option than taking too much off the first time around. He is a little too young for the sarcastic “I cut it off twice and it was STILL too short” quip. I’ll save that for when he is in his teens.

Mounting slots now properly located, we once again attempted to mate the heat exchanger to the exhaust manifold, and found a second place where the “original spec”, wasn’t. The body of the heat exchanger was fouling against the ends of the mounting studs, though the original one fit fine. I don’t know which original spec was off. Maybe the new one is of a slightly larger diameter than the old. Maybe the new mounting flange is slightly thinner. Either way the studs were too long.

The Dremel tool wouldn’t be much of a match for the hardened steel studs. But we also own an angle grinder with a cut-off wheel.

Even in Grampy T’s work shop five year old’s don’t tangle with angle grinders. Still, JJ stood near enough to see what was being done, and to remind me not to cut off too much. It is always fun to tell kids that the sparks flying off a grinder are hotter than the sun. JJ wanted to know how that was possible and so learned something about friction and heat…and not to touch the part just cut without gloves or a rag. No, I didn’t. I sent him to get a rag.

Mounting slots modified and mounting studs custom cut to size, the heat exchanger and exhaust manifold could be properly introduced and joined together in engine cooling bliss. The only hitch in the ceremony was the lack of space for slipping the two all the way together before installing the mounting washers and nuts. But with a pair of 5 year old hands working along side a pair of 62 year old hands, exchanger and manifold were ultimately torqued firmly together.

Tomorrow they will take up residence in their permanent home, the move likely to be aided by boat mechanic JJ.


S/V Via Bella said...

Tim, I love this! What a wonderful time with your grandson. And what a gift you have for sharing your experiences in words. Thanks for posting this. --Nancy

Jeff Pfister said...

How many of us can trace our mechanical inclinations back to our father or grandfather? Nothing will ever be cherished more in the years to come as a grandson grows and matures -- in the hearts of both parties. You are a lucky man Tim, with a very lucky grandson! Thanks for sharing!

TJ said...

Hi Jeff, how goes things? This has been a bit of a rough go for us this year, and I'm not sure how I would have managed it without Daughter Eldest and the Grand Kids being around. I am, indeed, a very lucky man.