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.

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