Thursday, May 23, 2024

An ounce of prevention...

There's a really good reason why clichés become clichés. There's always a huge amount of truth that went into the making of them. We've been trying to chase down a fuel leak in the starboard engine for a while now. It's enough to dampen an engine diaper in a long day's travel—not enough to be a huge problem, but enough to keep an eye on. So I went down into the engine room yesterday morning to change the diaper to a fresh one, and since I was only going to be down there a short minute I didn't bother putting on socks and shoes. Good thing, because when I stepped on the rubber mat that we have down the center aisle of the engine room, my foot was wet. Not hugely wet, but damp enough that it put a footprint on the dry part of the mat when I stepped forward to holler to Tim, and something I never would have noticed with shoes on. While he was working his way down, I lifted up the mat looking for the source. After a quick touch to my tongue from my finger (yes, ewwww...) I knew it was coolant not seawater. A few minutes later we discovered that a drain plug in one of the coolant pipes had shaken loose and was leaking coolant on the side of the engine and down onto the mat.

While we were sitting there, we went ahead and checked the fuel injection line nuts again, two of which seemed determined to shake loose. Not very loose mind you, 1/16 of a turn kind of loose, but this is the high pressure side of the fuel pump so it doesn't take much to lose some fuel in a place like that. The next leg will tell if we still have a problem. The Cummins 4BT3.9 engines are really reliable engines but they are notorious for shaking at lower speeds and we had to run just a bit over idle for quite a while on the way here because the following current was so strong it would have put us at the marina well before it had opened. Shaking does not encourage things to stay put.

While we were sitting there I also noticed that one of the clamps on the strainer to engine raw water intake was missing on the starboard engine and the backup clamp was pretty rusty. This led to all the clamps being checked, and a couple others being changed, something we had done not all that long ago. How we missed that missing clamp is beyond me, but it's a sinking item so it was a bit scary.

My point in telling this story is that you simply can't be too attentive when it comes to things like engine maintenance. I will often just go down there and sit for a bit looking around, not in a hurry, to see what seems out of place. In the case of boat engines, an ounce of prevention isn't worth a pound of cure, it's worth keeping many gallons of water out of the boat. And that's worth a few minutes of my time.

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