Sunday, 12 July 2015

Why it has take so long to get an engine working

Some of you have been asking why it takes so long to sort an engine out. I thought I would explain. Last Summer, I had rather grandiose plans of going on a transat cruise, in a sort-off sabbatical . My plans were rather spontaneous, so due to the short notice I could not get my usual engineer who is excellent. The default engineer at Kings Yard in Pin Mill, a certain Mr. Abbott, was asked to sort out the crunching in the gearbox and service the engine. He was also asked to clean out the tanks, and add inspection hatches to the tops, so that I could access in future. The stern gland has a manecraft seal. I asked him to revert this back to a stuffing box arrangement as the ceramic plate has jammed twice on me and each seal cost around £500 to replace.

I almost started having problems from the beginning. The bolt down lids to the tanks were designed with minimal overlap to bed down a gasket, and on filling the tanks diesel spewed out of them. I put this down to bad luck rather than bad design. To be fair the tanks are old and the tops were not totally flat. I teach design though, and the limited overlap looked rather ambitious to me. I would have designed a hatch that had at least 10-15mm from the nearest bolt hole to the edge. Anyway, after I paid for newly laser cut lids, the problem was solved.

The engine and gearbox was lifted from that yacht, to allow ease of working when servicing. What a luxury for any marine engineer. The engine was left on a pallet in the paint shed whilst I worked on refurbing  the yacht.  The gearbox was taken away though. Very little happened on the engine from what I could see.  Weeks passed.  Incremental invoices came – one even for parts to be paid in advance. I paid them, I wanted a working yacht.

Launch was looming at the end of September last year, and I was worried that the bearing required to service the gearbox was getting increasingly hard to find. Abbott admitted to me that he was not good on computers and that an internet search for the parts was proving unsuccessful. Time was running away, and no bearing. In the end a bearing was sourced, but from where I do not know as he did not divulge the supplier. It looked like we were in business. Launch was due, but no engine in, the new gland was not yet in. After 3 months of being out of the water without much progress, Mr. Abbott was now working to a tight dead line.  Some parts were missing, but hang on, had I not paid in advance to get these sourced? No, they were not sourced it seems. By paying in advance I have not expedited anything except ease Mr. Abbott’s cashflow!

I asked Mr. Abbott to supply with a whole list of engine spares for long-term cruising. This should have been easy to source (Perkins 4107 spares are easy to find). This would had been an easy job for him and it was never done.

My batteries were tested by him, but they were dead apparently. So I ordered a new set – Mr. Abbott volunteered to kindly take the old ones away with him. Before the new ones arrived, I and the old ones were taken away I asked electrician who was working on the yacht and to test them. Of the three batteries, two were below parr, but serviceable. One was in good condition. So onboard they went again!

Just before launch I noticed the grub screw missing from the prop. I reminded Mr. Abbott this needed to go on “ Oh yes ofcourse, I always do this last was the answer” . I am pretty sure if I had not reminded him the prop would have been unsecured on re-floating.
An invoice was provided to me with no hourly rate, no record of any hours, apart from a reference to time spent researching the bearing for the gearbox when he admitted to me he could hardly use a computer.

Once afloat though I noticed a leak from the waterpump and the fuel lift pump. These leaks were not there before. The gearbox also crunched into gear. He has stopped the bearing rattle, but a new noise of crunching had been introduced. It was time to get a second opinion in the form of the rather excellent Tom at diesel marine based in Ipswich.

What was discovered (and can be independently verified) after  Mr. Abbott’s an alleged complete service of my engine was:

  • ·         Not enough coolant – engine was running hot
  • ·         Not enough engine oil – on min under the dipstick
  • ·         Hardly any ATF in the gearbox. Under min on the dipstick
  • ·         Water leak on waterpump
  • ·         Fuel leak on fuel pump
  • ·         Oil leak off side of engine
  • ·         Crunching gear box in slow ahead and slow astern

All the levels were sorted by diesel marine, and so were the leaks.
After 4 hours of engine running we ran the engine under load and all of a sudden the shaft gland started rotating with the shaft, taking with it the greaser tube and allowing water ingress through the shaft gland that threatened the yacht. Luckily I was in the marina and managed to get Tom out after a day of manning the pumps. It transpired that the hose clips were not done up properly!
After much work on trying to work out what was up with the gearbox. The gearbox was even sent down to Lancing Marine for a service.  Some new cogs and drive plate were added.  We also discovered that the shaft coupling used was eccentric as it had holes drilled out and these holes were the wrong size for the bolts and were elongating. The face was not flat so you could see daylight through when bolted on. The shaft to prop coupling was not a new part as it had evidence of being banged up with a hammer.

Diesel marine fitted a plastic R&D coupling to allow for some movement and after a new shaft coupling and gearbox coupling was sourced. After many months and lots of expense the engine and gearbox installation are as they should be and I feel confident Rosie is capable of motoring without the fear or loss of drive through a gearbox failure.

I know fellow wooden boat owners read these sorts of blogs. The moral is not to assume people are up to the task. You need to get a personal recommendation however small a job is on a boat. Sadly I encountered a marine engineer that really is up to the job.  Please give Mr. Abbott  a wide berth if you have any jobs you need done on your engine as you might end up in a similar position to me.

I would like to say that Kings Yard of Pin Mill are an exemplary boat yard, and Mr.Abbott is an independent that works on boats in  that yard bit from my understanding not endorsed by them. All the Work done on Rosie by the core team at Kings has been excellent.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Clattering Coupling Woes

Well at least we have diagnosed the clattering noise, by using the problem solving technique of ruling out the other problems. It seems that the rear coupling is not true and it is bent. I am not sure if it was dropped at one stage, or whether it is out due do engine misalignment but it clatters and it is not rotating in true. The only real way of seeing weather this theory is correct is to take the boat out of the water again, then machine some of the end of the coupling off in a lathe to make it true, and then add a flexible coupling that between the existing one and the end of the shaft. Its a whole lot of extra bother, expense and frustration, but it is worth getting this sorted once and for all. The good thing is that I know know that the engine is in top working order and that the rebuild gearbox is in fantastic order as well. After this work the engine should be OK for years to come....cross fingers.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Engine and Gearbox woes

Well it has been a year now since the engine was out to sort out a gearbox whine that sounded very much like the bearings had gone. At the same time the engine was serviced. I normally have the work on the engine done by my engineer that I used on my last yacht - he was excellent, and the engine bay always looked sparkly clean.

A sudden change in my work circumstances last Summer mean that I needed an engineer quickly and mine was booked so I went for the default yard engineer. This was a mistake as after many expensive invoices the engine and gearbox were delivered back in worse shape than I had handed them over. The brief was to get both working as reliably as possible for an extended cruise. he was well short of delivering that!

There were oil leaks, fuel leaks and water leaks! Oh, and the gearbox was worse than ever with it crunching into gear. The famous "velvet" drive sounded more like a coffee grinder.

After months of deliberation I finally decided to take the gearbox down to Lancing marine in Brighton where it was fully serviced. Sometimes the gears would stick in forward even though the lever was in neutral. This was because of some wear on the gear shift cog itself; it was quite badly worn. A new drive plate was installed to stop the crunching. As you can see from the pictures below, there is diesel in the sump - this from a poorly fitted lift pump that squirted diesel. The engine oil came from the cam plate that was not bolted on tightly enough. The water leak we sorted in December - we just needed a new water pump. So slowly, the engine is back to her former glory and ready to do many more miles.

I am not an engineer myself, but it is so reassuring when you know a "proper job" has been done! Now I feel confident in some cruising this summer with a reliable engine and gearbox to help me out in times of no wind!

Monday, 27 April 2015

Here comes the sun!

It is likely that I will spend much time onboard Rosie this summer. One thing I that Rosie used to have is an inbuilt ice box, but this was removed at some stage. The quarterberth used to be a generator locker, but now it seems electrics are provided by renewables. She is equipped with a Rutlant wind vane, but after auditing the electrics, this is not enough to run a fridge. I have decided to for the Waeco coolfreeze 18litre that just about fits in the locker under the quarterberth - where the original ice box would have been. It also has a very low power consumption. I need to install 50w of solar panels. It has taken some time to source ones that can fit on the coachroof and be as aesthetically pleasing to a wooden classic yacht as possible. The new Scanstrut deck glands are brilliant even though tricky to fit. So I now have 2x20w on each side of the coachroof and one 10w on the poop-deck which should provide 50w of power when the sun faces one side of the yacht and a lot more when overhead.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

A step up on the Ladder front

I decided that the plastimo standard chandlers ladder that was inherited with the yacht was bit below Rosie's standards. So a I have refurbished an old mahogany ladder and and with new stainless steel lugs, looks the part. The only trouble is that it can only be mounted on the flattest part of the hull, but that was true of the old one too so I am not sure why I am concerned. The wooden one though fold over so you get three rungs under water which is better for a swimmer (or a man overboard).

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Water water everywhere except on Rosie

It's Easter and Ipswich seems to have been invaded by eye wateringly expensive and smelly double-diesel guzzling mobo's. It's okay is you like that sort of thing, but it does seem they miss the tranquility of yachting. This one parked up next to me and rew's compliment came complete with teenagers requiring TV, Ipad, Pods, all over the place. All those Frozen songs being transmitted easily through the water into Rosie's hull. There was nothing for it but to be the electric drill out and do some onboard DIY.

It does appear that marina etiquette is somewhat missing these these days. The photo above shows this constantly filling the tank of water throughout the weekend. I wanted to use it - the only hose on the pontoon - but alas, the owners decided to go into town and leave it running. On their return I asked to retrieve the hose. No, they wanted showers onboard as their "ensuite" is nicer than the marina's ones. This required constantly filling the tank as a family of 5 went off to have their showers... Am I missing something here?

On a serious note though, I worked on Rosie's safety gear this weekend to bring it upto ISAF spec - something that is required for any ocean passage if I am to get her insured for that. This means an upgrade of the lifebouy. The old upside down light did not work and new more modern has been added. Then there is an old strobe light that came with Rosie's inventory that I have now added to the top of the danbouy. Lastly I have added a drogue to the lifebouy and connected the two with new floating line. The danbouy flag was very faded and that has now been replaced and there is now a cover on it attached to the backstay to protect it from UV. All of this took me all afternoon to set up and then I looked at mu neighbour. I could not see one bit of lifesaving equipment anywhere? No lifebouy, no lines, no nothing...

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Aries vs Haslar

This image shows Humphrey Barton  inspecting the Aries (no.3) onto the transom. It was installed in 1968 in Gibraltar before a transAtlantic. The mounting will be similar for the Haslar gear, as will the size of the wind vane (except Haslars are not ply but white). There is a lot of work to do to get the Haslar gear restored, and that is not frankly a priority at present. I would like to get it tested this season though.