Archive for January, 2009

Mounted mirror aft of engine

I picked up a piece of 24″ x 20″ mirrored acrylic from TAP plastics for $15, cut it with a fine-toothed blade on the jig saw (still managed to fracture off the corner at the end–that stuff is a pain to work with) and mounted it with four wood screws to the bulkhead behind the engine.  Our engine faces aft (we have a v-drive), and the belts and pulleys are less than 6 inches from that bulkhead, which makes it extremely difficult to see and to work on.  This mirror changes that!  I’m very pleased with myself.  I just hope it doesn’t warp from the heat, or get scratched in under a month . . . we’ll see, but man if it holds up I will be bragging about it for some time.

Added/replaced spinnaker hardware on deck

The old downhaul was routed down the starboard side, to the same winch as the topping lift.  Which meant that when flying the spinnaker, the starboard cabintop winch was needed for both of those purposes, while the port cabintop winch was unused.  Jonny had pulled the downhaul hardware (a fairlead and turning block) out of the deck months earlier anyway, and filled the holes with epoxy, so I was free to put it wherever I wanted.  I ended up routing it just inboard of the handrails on the port side, back to the port cabintop winch.  We’ll try it out this weekend.

The topping lift runs from the mast down the starboard cabintop and comes under the dodger just right of the companionway.  The old rope clutch exploded one day when we were out sailing (which is my way of saying that the pin busted apart the plastic).  The old clutch was mounted atop standoffs also–not particularly strong.  Finally, it was a terrible lead from the clutch to the winch.  So we replaced the clutch and added a turning block jobby–check out the pictures.  It’s a necessary evil; I wish we didn’t need the turning block jobby, but I’m glad that it exists to solve this problem nicely.

You’ll notice that both the clutch and the turning block mounted on top of blocks of polyethylene (starboard in one case, UHMW in another case) in order to provide a fair lead.

Rebedded stanchions and bow pulpit

I had been imagining that this task would involve annoying labor over a period of months, but Jonny decided the issue by removing all the stanchions on Monday.  Since we wanted to sail on the weekend, we got our act in gear.

We drilled out the holes, cored out the deck a little ways back inside each hole (more on the gates since we wanted a larger load bearing plug of epoxy), taped the bottoms of the holes, and filled them with thickened epoxy.  When the epoxy cured it left little mounds on top of each hole (we slightly overfill) which I then sanded down.  I’ve taken to duct taping the shop vac to our orbital sander and using 36 grit paper–it is an extremely efficient and clean way to fair off the excess epoxy, without the danger of accidentally grinding off the gelcoat (which seems to happen everytime I turn on the grinder).

Then we drilled out new holes through the center of each epoxy plug, and remounted the stanchions using 3M 4200UV fast cure as the sealant.  We used to use Lifecaulk, but it takes too long to cure.  See, this is the thing: in order to do it right, you need to not tighten the bolts all the way, but leave a gap in which the sealant can cure, then you tighten the bolts fully and it’s a perfect gasket since the squeezing expands the rubbery sealant to fill all gaps.  But if you use a slow drying sealant, it is too tempting to skip that step and just tighten it fully, rationalizing that the seal will be good enough.  But it’s not true.  We did this exact thing–used lifecaulk and tightened before it dried–when we remounted the bow pulpit after trucking it up from Mexico (we should have cored and epoxied then, but we forgot).  And this time when we pulled it up, the forward starboard plate very clearly had water penetrating beneath it.  Bummer.  The fast cure dries in 24 hours, so use the fast cure and leave everything loose for just one more day because it’s worth it.

We still have to rebed the stern pushpit.

Replaced water pump

After replacing the thermostat housing gasket, we discovered a second, more serious leak from the water pump.  The water pumps are designed to leak through a weep hole to indicate when the bearing is going bad, thereby inspiring you to replace it (before it fails and something worse happens). Fortunately, the previous owners had left us a brand new one as a spare in one of the buckets.  It was easy enough pulling it off the front of the engine, especially with the new mirror I installed on the bulkhead.  However, the new pump needed the pulley from the old one, and it was NOT easy getting the pulley off the old or onto the new.  The pulley has four threaded holes on the front of it, to use with a puller.  The puller is placed against the center shaft, and two bolts are threaded into the holes, pulling the pulley off the shaft.  Well we didn’t have a puller, and couldn’t find a reasonably priced one nearby, so with the help of a good friend Pete we managed to finally jury-rig a puller out of a sturdy door hinge–really we just needed a stout piece of metal that wouldn’t bend, and it was a fantastic bonus that the holes just happened to match up to the holes on the pulley.  It didn’t go onto the new one easily, either.  It needed to slide on 2.4cm, or something exact like that, and I managed to get the first 1.4cm with a hammer and a block of wood (no banging directly on the cast metal, or you’ll crack it).  To get the rest of the way, I ended up buying a small vice from Ashby Lumber nearby.  I was wanting a vice for the boat anyway, so when I realized this could be the tool I sprung for it.  It STILL was a bitch to get on there–I ended up bending the handle of the vice slightly (now I know why every vice on the farm has a bent handle).

Compression tested engine

Did it dry on each cylinder.  Then put a capful of oil into each cylinder and retested.  This allows you to determine how much of the reduction in compression is a result of “blowby”–gases escaping past the rings on the cylinder–rather than gas escaping around inlet or exhaust valves, or a blown head gasket.

The results:
#1 480
#2 400
#3 420
#4 480

#1 540
#2 580
#3 480
#4 530

This signifies to me that we’re getting some blowby.  I don’t yet know how to interpret the absolute numbers.

Update 5/27/11:

The engine has run flawlessly since writing this post, with the exception of air in the fuel lines which is unrelated to the internal condition of the engine.  It always starts right up and sounds great.  Many people have told me not to worry about the compression numbers if the engine is running well.  So I won’t.

Fabricated gasket for dinghy gas tank

The old one let gas leak out after we filled it at the gas station, and let water leak in when it rained later that day.  Which required another few hours of effort to siphon to good gas off of the water (after first transferring it to a clear container) so we could move forward with getting the outboard operational.

Caulked companionway with 4200 UV

There was a leak manifesting itself in the engine room, just below the companionway, and I think it must have been coming from the seam of the wood with the deck.  I caulked it and it hasn’t rained since, to test this theory.  But it needed it anyway.

Replace raw water intake hoses

(referring to the hoses from seacock to strainer, and strainer to v-drive) The old ones were looking somewhat dry and cracked on the outside, and the hose clamps all around were heavily corroded.  All new now.

Adjusted valve clearances

Pete showed me how to adjust the valves.  All of them were within a thousandth or so of where they were supposed to be, anyway (which is .012), so this job will not have made much of a difference.  It was a valuable experience, however, to help de-mystify the engine.

Replaced engine key switch and push button

The old ones had to be jiggled and messed with to get them to work, bad connections inside.  I replaced both switches, and all the wiring behind them.

Rebuilt engine injectors

Well, we didn’t do it.  Diamond Diesel in Oakland did it, and did an excellent job with quick turnaround for $80/injector.  And when I took them in they let me watch as they tested them for free (and I could see exactly why they needed to be rebuilt).


Rebuilt Monitor Windvane

Boy was this a task.  It was vintage 1989, and it was in tatters.  One of the supports broke off under my weight one day, nearly dumped me in the drink.  The chain broke off in my hand.  Then we tried to take it all apart, and half a dozen bolts and things sheared off.  Some of the tubing had rotted (I didn’t even know 304 stainless could rot, but that’s sure what this looked like.

Conveniently, Scanmar is located just 10 minutes away in Richmond.  I went up there with the monitor in pieces and carried it inside, and they had a grand time poking it and giving me fantastic advice on how to restore it to pristine condition.

I took a piece of it back home to my dad to weld this past christmas (before I learned how to myself).  I did a post about it on the syzygy site.

We spent $600 on new parts–everything that wasn’t in excellent condition was replaced–and put it all back together fastidiously (do I know any other way?).  Everything is as frictionless as possible and as tight as possible (with out binding).  And ready to go.

Remounted diesel heater

Carriage bolts were sunk through the deck to mount the heater.  This is the perfect way to mount it–if you want to guarantee that it will leak and rot your deck.  I constructed a mounting plate from 3/8" plywood, epoxied some countersunk bolts through it, and epoxied it to the ceiling of the engine room with thickened epoxy.  I managed to move it back into the corner more in the process, gaining us some extra room.


Replaced jib car tracks; replaced deck underneath tracks

We traced a bad leak in the quarterberth to the port side track, and it was bad enough to need to be addressed immediately.  Jonny pulled up both tracks.  On the starboard side we got away with drilling, coring out the balsa, and filling the plugs with epoxy before redrilling new holes and mounting the new track from Garhauer (1-1/4"  10′ long).  On the port side we weren’t so lucky.  Jonny discovered that a 1′ x 10′ section of the balsa was rotted out, so he cut the top side of the deck off, chiseled out all the balsa, cut a new piece of marine plywood to fit, and glassed over the top with epoxy and knytex (great fiberglass available from TAP plastics–layer of cloth backed stitched to mat–good for building up thickness fast).  I laboriously ground down and faired it afterwards (Quik Fair is my fairing product of choice for this task).  Initially I was trying to do my grinding with a grinding blade on our 4" grinder, but the radius is too small for quick, pretty work.  So we bought a variable speed 5" Milwaukee grinder, took the guard off, and put a 7" sanding disc on it.  I bought some 36 grit discs for it, and ran it at low rpms.  This is DEFINITELY the tool to use for this job.  We painted over the work with a two-part epoxy primer and we’ll finish the rest of the painting, etc when we get around to doing the rest of the deck. 




Replaced zincs

Finally replaced (I should say “installed” because nothing was left of the old one) the zinc in the heat exchanger.  I’m ashamed that it took us this long, since we may have contributed to the disintegration of our heat exchanger, but all I can say is that we’ve been heavily occupied with other things.

There is a zinc in the seawater side of our heat exchanger (on the side).

There is a drain plug in the coolant side of our heat exchanger (on top).

There was a drain plug in the bottom of our oil cooler; I replaced it with a threaded plug that holds a zinc.

There is a drain plug in the transmission oil cooler.  I would like to replace this with a threaded plug that will accept a zinc.

Refinished rubrail

The rubrail is the wooden strip along the side of the hull that acts as a bumper.  For some reason, the Valiant factory built the rubrail out of two strips of fir closest to the hull, and a strip of teak on top of those.  Fir is not so waterproof.  The previous varnish was peeling up, etc, and the fir was rotting in a handfull of places.  Water was wicking down the gap between the wood and the hull, and rusting the bolts that hold it to the boat.  It was time to take care of it, before more drastic repairs became necessary.  Aside: there was no worry of the strength of the rail-hull connection.  Valiant used a bolt every foot to fasten that rubrail to the hull, so a few rusting bolts is no concern.

We elected to paint the rail rather than varnishing it, for two primary reasons: 1) varnishing is way more work, both in the beginning and ongoing maintenance, than paint  2) after filling the rotted areas with filling compound, varnishing over them would not have resulted in a particularly pretty final appearance, which is half of the purpose of varnishing

This was our workflow:

1) Strip off old varnish with heat-gun and scraper (get a good scraper, it was worth every bit of the $30 I spent)

2) Dig out rotted, soft areas as best as possible with scraper and chisel

3) Sand with 80 grit.  Buy and use a Fein Tool!  Damn that thing is sweet.

4) Soak rotted areas with penetrating epoxy (i don’t recommend this step, it was a mistake, more below)

5) Fill rotted areas, voids, low spots, etc with QuikFair, which is a two-part epoxy fairing compound.  QuikFair rocks.  It is easy to mix, a perfect consistency to spackle on, and a pleasure to sand afterwards.  We were in a rush and only did one round (one application of quikfair, then sand).  I recommend leaving the time and finding the patience to go through at least one more round of fairing–after sanding down the quikfair the first time you’ll find that it didn’t get perfectly flat and smooth, so fair it and sand it again.

6) Sand with 120 grit

7) Apply Interlux Primekote.  It’s a two-part epoxy primer that goes on really thick.  Probably too thick–we probably should have thinned it some.  But it is supposed to go on thick, and seal.  We put it on with the intent of really waterproofing the rail.  I would definitely recommend an epoxy primer like this one, for this job.

8) Sand 220 grit–since the epoxy primer didn’t self-level very well, there were some ridges and high spots to sand down fair

9) Paint 3 coats of Interlux Brightside, sanding with 300 grit between coats (just for giving tooth for the next coat).  We did not thin and it didn’t seem necessary, but be careful it sags pretty readily, even out of the can.  Meaning that you’ll put on what you think is a normal amount of paint, and then 10 minutes later you’ll see that it’s running down the side of the hull on you, and you’ll wish you had spread it out more.

10) On top of the second coat and the final coat, shake on non-skid beads (Interlux Intergrip, or whatever).  We want to be able to stand on the rubrail without slipping, and the nonskid had the added benefit of cutting down the gloss–the rest of our boat is worn down, dirty, and dull, and the gloss was starting to make the rest of the boat look bad.

11) Lay bead of 4200UV down the top seam.  The paint did a good job of sealing the crack–for now.  I didn’t want to take any chances, because you know that it will flex and soon enough there will be space at the joint again for water to wick in.  I was planning on using lifecaulk but Wally Bryant headed me off just in time–because that spot needs a product with UV inhibitors, like 4200.  Since we’ll have to strip it off and renew it eventually, we elected not to use 5200 (which is effectively a permanent glue).

I’m fully satisfied with the result.  It looks good and it certainly does the job (it’s protected).  Jon sort of misses the wood look, but agrees with the wisdom of painting it.

Moved liferaft cradle & installed dinghy cradle

The dinghy is large heavy and unwieldy, and we had no place to put it expect the floor of the cabin.  We wanted to put it on deck.  Turned out the most efficient use of space was to move the liferaft cradle aft, just forward of the dodger, then install steel tubing for the dinghy in front of that. The hardest part of the whole project was gaining access to the underside of the holes, inside the cabin.  It was a pain in the ass to remove all the necessary ceiling panels, pull out the foam, cut out squares in plywood where necessary, and in one spot even relocating some wiring to make space for the bolts to come through. For every hole we cored out the deck, filled with a plug of thickened epoxy, and redrilled the holes down through the center.  When we put it all together we used lifecaulk as our sealant. Jonny built the new dinghy cradle out of 316 stainless tubing and fittings (a shout out to Marcus, a marina friend, for helping source the expensive stainless). The result looks really sharp and is completely bombproof.  We found a location for all of the mounts that doesn’t foul the running rigging (which all runs directly under both the liferaft and the dinghy).  We made the dinghy cradle wide and long enough so that it was easy use simple webbing cam straps to hold it down.

Replaced all red fluorescent lights with red LEDs, fixed broken ballasts

We have 9 of the pricey and wonderful AlpineGlow light fixtures (came with the boat).  These lights are dual function, white and red.  The white light is a low-power fluorescent tube, then and now.  They used to make the red side out of a flourescent tube covered with red varnish; nowadays they build them with red LEDs.  The red varnish was flaking off all of ours, so I went ahead and replaced the red tubes with red LEDs.  It was a bit of a wiring job, but made easy by the straigtforward conversion kit that AlpineGlow offers (for $15 each).  The new red LED uses so little power, it barely registers on the voltmeter (about a tenth of an amp; compare that to a standard 12V incandescent bulb which is roughly two amps).  When we turn on all the red lights, our cabin looks like the battle room of a submarine.

Additionally, three of the ballasts were bad, so I replaced those as well.

Ripped out 50 yards of extraneous wiring from engine room

This deserves a post of its own, even though it was just a big clean up project.

When we purchased the boat, I was most overwhelmed by the wiring of the boat.  It was utterly undecipherable to me, for months.  I spent hours looking at the original engine wiring diagram from Perkins, and the regulator wiring diagrams from Quad Cycle (no longer in existence, which didn’t help things).  Hours staring at the engine and cursing in frustration at the dozens of identical looking wires wrapped up in duck tape (rendering individual wires untraceable).  Yet more hours drawing up new arrangements and placements for bus bars and terminal blocks to organize things.

In the process of figuring it out, I discovered that it was made more confusing by a ton of extra, old wiring that lead nowhere, and also by some really fucked up wiring choices that had a single wire crisscrossing the engine room multiple times unnecessarily.  Piece by piece I discarded unneeded stuff.  There were two really big days, where I tossed enough garbage wiring out of the engine room to make a big rats nest pile in the cabin.  The old engine wiring was completely encased in ancient black electrical tape, which was all gooey and black, and all of the wires running to the instruments were at least 8 feet too long (no one bothered to shorten the wires as it came from the engine manufacturer, I presume).  The key switch, which is less than 3 ft away from the starter battery, was pulling it’s power from the starter solenoid across the room; twice a hot wire went an additional 4 ft past a perfectly functional terminal block, to be spliced into the middle of another wire directly under the wettest part of the engine.  I discovered the original alternator regulator hidden underneath the solenoid, with much of the wiring still spliced in place all over (this despite the fact that we have a nice regulator mounted elsewhere, with a backup regulator mounted right next to it).  The list goes on, but you get the idea.

Now it is organized, with clean connections, in the simplest arrangement that I could come up with, and it is reasonably easy to trace the wires when necessary.  And I drew up a big schematic of the whole shabang.

Replaced raw water pump cover with “Speedseal” cover

The stock cover requires you to replace the gasket everytime you pull off the cover (and it frequently leaks anyway), so in effect you are encouraged never to take a look at your impeller unless something goes wrong.  Problem with this is that when something goes wrong with your impeller, seawater stops circulating and your engine overheats, very possibly resulting in expensive damage. The speedseal cover is engineered with an o-ring in a groove; no gasket is necessary.  They supply it with hand screws, so that you can get it on and off in a hurry.  I think it cost about $80.  I can’t tell you yet whether it was worth it (not until something happens).


Changed zinc in heat exchanger; added zinc to oil cooler

We should have done this sooner because it’s important, but we’ve been busy with other tasks.

Since it is constantly circulating warm salt water, the heat exchanger is prone to corrosion.  It is also really expensive ($500 for a new one).  In the side of the thing is a plug, and a pencil-looking piece of zinc is threaded into this plug.  I replaced both the zinc and the plug (the old plug’s threads were all gummed up).

The oil cooler has what looks like a plug for a zinc on the bottom of it.  However, when I pulled it off I discovered that it is just designed to be a plug–there are no threads on the inside to which you can attach a zinc.  However, my bright idea was to buy a replacement plug, threaded, so that I could add a zinc to the oil cooler as well.  So this I did.