Monday, November 24, 2014

Replacing the cylinder heads - Beginning

We awoke on Sunday to no electricity in the house. A call to the power company confirmed that we weren't the only ones in the dark so we headed out to find some breakfast. A nearby Burger King looked okay but actually wasn't. Indifferent service, lousy food and barely acceptable coffee. It reminded us why we avoid fast food whenever possible.

Thus fortified, we made our way to the boat. The idea was to give Frances a chance to take some last items off the boat for the winter.

While she did that, I took a look at what I'd have to do to replace the heads on our starboard engine.

Several years ago, we replaced the all four risers and had the heat exchangers rebuilt, so this wasn't new territory for us. We didn't really have all of the tools required but while Frances was busy, we took a look at removing the inside starboard manifold, since that was the easiest one to access.

As you'll see in the video, the riser on that side came off without much effort. The bolts on the manifold also came out, except for one, where we rounded the head of the bolt. We can get that out but we didn't have the tools necessary right then. The other bolts holding the manifold in were in quite good condition so we have to think that the manifolds had been replaced before with good quality hardware. That's good because we don't want to break off a bolt.

Next weekend, we'll take everything off that side and all the other stuff we're going to have to remove. At least that's what we'll try to do.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The last of the pink stuff

Saturday morning saw us back on the boat with a few more gallons of pink antifreeze. Nothing like seeing this stuff disappearing into our fresh water tank only to be pumped out in the spring.

But it's better than freezing and damaging all that new plumbing we installed last winter. We think we under estimated the capacity of our water system's new hot water heater. We drained it and then refilled it with antifreeze. With our new pump (see our last blog post concerning what we think of that thing), we got lots of antifreeze in the sink in the head as soon as we turned the pump on.

Then, the final test. Unless we have a serious urinary condition, this is a winterized toilet.

Thank God that's over!

On Sunday, we had planned to begin work on our starboard engine but the leaves, of which we have many, caught our attention and we raked the yard and cleaned out the gutters. Not as good as wrenching on our boat, but something that just has to be done.

Meanwhile, Frances was busy making an apple pie and she certainly can bake! Some time this winter, we hope to create a video on how she does it. Rehearsals are already under way and she is looking forward to it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

This kind of workmanship drives people away from boating

We just finished installing a new fresh water pump. Why do that at the beginning of winter? Well, when we went to pump potable antifreeze from our on-board water tank through the lines to the galley and head, our five year old ShurFlow Extreme Series pump wouldn't pump. No suction at all although the motor ran fine.

We know what you're thinking: It lasted five years. Sorry, but it didn't. Two years after we installed it, the diaphragm failed and we took it apart and replaced the old diaphragm assembly. That pump cost over $200 new and the rebuild parts were well over $100.

And, we're not running a charter boat here with a bunch of guys flushing their way through 45 gallons of fresh water, five or six days a week. During the summer, we're at a marina, drinking and washing in city water. We only use that pump when we are underway and that's not what we'd call extreme usage at all.

Cold weather is predicted here which means we should pump the pink stuff through our water lines sooner rather than later. We ordered a new pump from Defender Marine and because we don't have time to re-plumb the system to accept a completely different pump, we ordered a ShurFlow Par-Max Plus pump, which is very close in appearance and performance to the extremely failed old pump.

How long will the ShurFlow Par-Max Plus pump last? Judging from the price, probably not as long as good old Extreme. Par Max Plus cost $132 (plus $11.15 shipping and $9.15 tax) and that's a lot less than the old Extreme pump was.

Here's the old pump. Not only doesn't it pump, but it's rusty even after being in an area that is relatively dry. We're not sure that any of the pumps from competing manufacturers are any better, but if you are in the market for a pressure water pump, avoid ShurFlow or look forward to an hour in the engine space to replace it fairly regularly.

What happened to reliable equipment?
Here's another example of poor workmanship that we, unfortunately, own. It's our Standard Horizon Chart plotter.

This picture was taken when it was new, five years ago. Since then, the plastic cover has deformed, yellowed and no longer fits. But better yet, the unit itself is no longer reliable. When we set it to record miles traveled on a cruise, the result shown is roughly double the distance we have actually covered. On a recent cruise, our location was shown to be in the middle of a Connecticut state park when we were actually in the channel on the Connecticut River. Gee, just a mile or two off.

The Standard Horizon Chart plotter also came with an instruction manual that is beyond bad. Whoever wrote it has never been on a boat trying to figure out what button to push to simply display a route. That should be easy. The small computer we use to really navigate does that in a split second and it displays exactly where we are and how much distance we have traveled. It cost lot less than the Standard Horizon unit and it's now four years old.

We won't belabor this but looking at the chart plotter photo reminds us that the people who designed our Icom M-412 VHF marine radio also have never spent any time on a boat. The mic cord for this radio maxes out at maybe 35 inches. That means that we can't stand up while operating the radio. In fact, you have to bend over to use the mic while seated at the helm. Guess we should relocate our helm chair, right?

Sorry to spend your time on this rant. There are many other things we could complain about in the recreational boating world but this is probably enough for now.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Winterizing our engines

We winterized on Tuesday, November 4 during a very nice afternoon. Obviously, we only do this once a year and despite the fact that we've been doing it to our various boats' engines for perhaps 35 years, it is always a little sloppier than we remembered. Lots of hot oil, full oil filters and many jugs of oil and antifreeze to be poured or pumped. We wear plastic gloves but never attempt this task wearing any clothes that would be acceptable outside of a boat yard. The old hoodie that Bill wore on Tuesday has the stains of many colors of bottom paint going back 12-15 years.

Changing the oil
The sloppiest part of this job is always changing the oil filters and that's where we begin. First, we start the engines and warm them to thin out the engine oil and make it easier to pump out of the crankcases. Then we remove the oil engine oil filters. Some time ago, we moved the filters from the engines themselves (where they were almost impossible to reach) to remote mounts in front of the engines. (Our engines are on v-drives, so the engines face aft.)

There's no way to do this easily. We use a strap wrench to loosen the filter slightly, slip a zip-lock bag over it and then unscrew it the rest of the way by hand. The hot oil makes the filter very slippery but it eventually drops into the zip-lock bag. The zip-lock bag never catches all the old oil so we use "Puppy Pads" stuffed down in the bilge under the filter to absorb what does drip. They are a lot cheaper than the absorbent sheets you can buy at a marine store and work great.

Putting the new filter on is pretty straightforward but it has to be filled with fresh engine oil first. A filter like this Fram PH8A takes about a quart. The whole oil change is supposed to total five quarts on our engines but another one-half quart is needed to also fill the remote oil filter lines, which are about three feet long each. Note the old filter in its baggie. Zip-lock bags are great for containing that crappy old oil.

Next we suck out the old oil from the crankcases.

We use a Marpac Fluid Xtractor. I think we've owned at least three or four oil pumps, both electric and vacuum, over the years but this one, now five years old, is the only one that really works. Give the handle a dozen or so pumps and it starts pulling the old oil up through the dipstick tube almost immediately. It holds 4.2 quarts and it does need to be pumped again a couple of times to get the last of the old oil out.

Once both engines have been filled with fresh oil, we start them up, watch the oil pressure build and check for leaks.

Winterizing the cooling system
Over the years, we've assembled some tools for this task. One is an old six gallon bucket that once held some industrial flavoring.  We cut a hole in the bottom and added a valve and then a long section of hose. This thing has winterized our boats for many years. Yes, it leaks a little, but for the few minutes it's in use, who cares? It all goes into the bilge.

Then we go to the thru-hull fitting that feeds seawater to the boat's heat exchangers.  Here, we've added a simple t-fitting that will allow the engine to draw antifreeze from our bucket, after we have closed the sea cock.

Fill the bucket with three gallons of antifreeze, open the valve and start the engine and about 45 seconds later, pink antifreeze is flowing out the exhaust and the bucket is empty.

It's probably worth mentioning that our engines are "fresh water" cooled, meaning that the cooling of the engine block itself and part of the exhaust manifolds is done through a heat exchanger that is actually filled with a 50-50% mixture of ethylene glycol (green) antifreeze and water. The pink antifreeze that we're using here only protects the seawater circuits in the heat exchanger and exhaust manifolds. That's why we can do it with just three gallons of pink antifreeze.

We've seen lots of discussion of this pink stuff on Internet forums. We shop for the best price and this year paid $3 a gallon at Tractor Supply. We've used this antifreeze through a number of very cold winters here (-20 degrees F at times) and have never had a freezing issue.

We ran out of time before we could winterize the boat's hot and cold water systems but we'll do that next weekend.

We've added a video showing some of this process. At this point, it clearly shows that Bill needed a haircut. Other than that, it was fun to do and to play narrator.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Frances comes up with stacked eggplant

Sunday, November 2, was much too cold and windy to winterize our boat engines. Maybe we're getting old, but why freeze your butt off when better weather is coming soon?

Too tell the truth, we both needed a day off and we spent Sunday reading the New York Times, puttering around the house and generally being relaxed.

Frances had gathered some ingredients that she felt would make a good dinner and, as it turned out, it was very tasty. Once she got started, we decided to shoot some video. It's a little silly but we thought worth preserving. It's not about boating, but who cares? We love to look back on these little videos and laugh.  We hope you will too.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Getting ready to winterize the boat

It's Saturday, November 1 and the boat has been sitting in Portland for a week. We had too much to do this week to begin winterizing it but today, despite rain and quite a lot of wind, we hauled down all the antifreeze, engine oil and filters down to the boat.

We got pretty wet and cold bringing the stuff down from the car. Guess we forgot how heavy three of four gallons of antifreeze is but we got everything stowed on the deck. The cost of the oil, filters and both pink and green anti-freeze was $100 from Tractor Supply.

We normally don't need the Ethylene Glycol (green) antifreeze since it's used in a 50-50 percent mixture with water in our engine heat exchangers, but in a few weeks, we're going to replace the heads on our starboard engine and in that process, we'll probably lose some. Yes, we normally check the solution in the heat exchangers with a hydrometer. Better to be safe....

If the weather improves, we'll get the engines, air conditioning pump and the hot and cold water systems done tomorrow.

We also like to change the engine oil and filters before we store the boat. No sense in leaving the old contaminated oil in the engines for the next five months. Five months?  That doesn't sound good at all!

Before we left, we stripped the v-berth beds and stuffed everything into a giant garbage bag. Frances has volunteered to get all this stuff washed and then vacuum bagged to the winter. Boy, do we love vacuum bagging! Hook it up to a vacuum cleaner, throw in a dryer sheet and all that bedding is reduced to two small cubes.

We put a camera mount on one of our aft rails and shot some video of us carrying down the stuff from the car. Not exactly thrilling video but we'll look at it and laugh next spring.