Engine Update

This blog post gives a summary of what was ACTUALLY wrong with our engine leading up to this point. It conveniently compresses two weeks of troubleshooting down into one post. If only I had read this post before starting the process…

When we suspected that our raw water pump was leaking into the engine the first step was to disconnect the pump from the engine so that no more water would get in. I continued to monitor the engine oil level even though we weren’t running the engine while waiting for the new pump. Even with raw water pump separated from the engine our oil level continued to rise! This meant that we must be getting water in through our exhaust system. As soon as I disconnected the exhaust hose leading to our muffler I found our “smoking gun”. I had finally found the real problem. The exhaust hose was full of water and it was at a level high enough to be running into our exhaust.

The short version of this problem is that the exhaust system was installed improperly, and has been allowing saltwater into our engine for a long time.

The long version is that three things were wrong at the same time which allowed water to backfill into the engine.
1. There was no anti-siphon loop on the water injection into the exhaust. This should have been installed with the engine.
2. The water lift muffler was mounted higher than the exhaust outlet. This is supposed to be at least a foot lower.
3. Our raw water pump was allowing a trickle of water to leak by when the engine was off.
The combination of these three items allowed the water into our engine.

This video shows these parts of our engine.

Once the problem was located we took steps to fix the situation. All of our resources indicated that with this much water coming in through the exhaust our engine should be at a high risk of “hydrolock”. Hydrolock is when one or more cylinders inside the engine are filled with water and since the water can’t be compressed the engine can’t turn over. Not wanting to do any damage to the engine trying to start it. I disconnected the exhaust system from the engine, and flushed the oil system. I moved the oil through the engine by turning the engine over by hand using a large wrench. After cleaning the lubrication system thoroughly we refilled the engine oil including a dose of Marvel Mystery Oil an oil additive designed to help clean the engine. I reconnected the muffler at a level lower than the engine exhaust and ran the engine long enough to get it up to temperature and drive out any residual moisture. The engine started much easier and ran smoothly!

An Endeavor 37 here in St. Mary’s also has a Perkins 4.108 and we went over and listened to his engine to make sure ours wasn’t make any highly unusual noises. The owner Josh was nice enough to start his engine up for us and let us listen at a variety of RPM’s. Josh’s engine was just as loud as ours, and sounded nearly the same!

After I setup a proper exhaust system our engine will be running better than ever. Hopefully having saltwater in the system hasn’t added too much wear to the engine.

Why the holdup?

To answer the question that I am sure all of you blog readers are asking…no we have not moved in to St. Mary’s, GA permanently. Very soon we plan on getting underway again and heading for the Bahamian islands.

Our engine has been continuing to exhibit some strange behavior with very inconsistent oil levels. It would go up for a little while and then it would go back down, and we decided to take a little bit of time to get it completely sorted out before we leave the country. The engine troubleshooting indicated that our oil level would go up while the engine was not running, so we found a good secure anchorage next to our friends on Anthyllide and proceeded to not run the engine. After about a week the oil level had risen very significantly, so it was time to drain the oil and see what was in our oil pan other than oil.

We managed to pull out this liquid


This is water that was sitting in the bottom of our engine oil pan! YIKES! Thankfully we didn’t run the engine with this much water in there, but it indicated that we have been collecting saltwater and then evaporating it out of the oil for a while now.

The good news about having water in the oil is that there are very very few options for how it can get there. The mostly likely cause is our cooling water pump. It bolts on to the front of the engine and has the possibility that if seals fail then it can leak into the timing case on the engine.

We had a problem with this pump dripping previously and a rebuild had appeared to fix the problem, however now it looks like the rebuild just changed the location of the drip to a location where we couldn’t see it. We currently have a disabled engine, but have a brand new raw water pump in the mail. While it is shipping we are going to continue to monitor our engine oil level to make sure that disconnecting this pump actually fixed the problem.

After identifying the fact that we had salt water in our oil we changed the oil and oil filter twice to try and remove any salt from the system. After we reinstall the new pump we will run the engine for about 25 hours ( not continuously) and then change the oil one more time. Hopefully this will end our engine excitement for a long time!

Meanwhile we are enjoying the reasonably warm weather here in St. Mary’s. The town is full of very friendly people who have made us feel very welcome here. We even met another boat registered out of Portsmouth. The owner Ron has sailed his 33ft steel boat around the world in the high latitudes around Cape Horn. He has amazing stories and is giving up cruising (at least temporarily) to bike around the United States. If anyone is looking to join us we can check out his boat for you…I’m sure we could delay another week before we get under way.

Boat Projects

We have been quite busy here in Newport harbor working on some projects around the boat.

1. New engine room shelves! This has been on the list for a long time, and while we were back in New Hampshire for jury duty I used Darren’s table saw to cut panels to almost the right size. My first attempt at installation ended when the panels just didn’t fit, but a little bit of work with the jig saw and most of our messiest items like the grease gun and engine oil are now securely stowed inside the engine room. The top shelf has a plywood door on it that secures with a barrel bolt, while the lower shelf has a bungee and a large plywood lip to keep its contents in place.



2. A new downhaul for the genoa.

Sometimes when the wind is really blowing the genoa doesn’t want to come down and Stephanie has to go out on the bowsprit to pull the sail down by the luff. Since we are starting to head farther offshore we want to eliminate as many trips out the bowsprit as we can. The new system is simply a block mounted at the base of the forestay and some fairleads back to the foredeck. By running our old staysail halyard through this system the genoa can be pulled down from all the way back by the mast. In addition the sail can be “locked down” by a cam cleat at the last fairlead.

3. New kayak tie downs.

Using stainless lifting eyes from the Fastener Warehouse, our kayaks can now be ratchet strapped in place. The new lifting eyes are through bolted through the deck and sealed in place with polysulfide sealant. It was really hard to drill 3/8″ holes in our solid deck, but the kayaks are now fully secure.

4. Installation of our new Cape Horn windvane!

This is one project that we are really excited about. This should allow us to set the windvane and then the person on watch will no longer have to steer the boat the entire time. We will be able to actually move about the boat while still maintaining a good course. The installation took a long time and involved a lot of steps, but it is now very solid and we should get a chance to try it out very soon.

The first step was to fill up the entire inside of the boat with the box that the windvane was delivered in and read the instructions. An entire booklet of instructions but only about 1 page was for our model. The instructions basically read “bolt it to your boomkin”. Doesn’t sound too complicated, but… it does come out of the box looking like this.


So now the parts are scattered across our bed, and the boxes with packaging are taking up the entire salon.


The first step for me was to assemble the windvane “tower” so I could see what was actually going to be “bolted to the boomkin”. This part which was not in the instructions at all took well over an hour.


After attaching the “quadrant” to the tower, it was time to start bolting pieces to the boomkin. When we bought the boomkin, we were told that it was predrilled to accept a Cape Horn windvane. When it actually came time to start the bolting, none of the holes lined up at all. Very clearly they were not predrilled for this type of windvane. I very quickly learned that the hand powered drill that has seen a lot of use around the boat for drilling wood and fiberglass was not going to drill stainless, no matter how patient I felt like being.

Fortunately this was a problem that could be solved by throwing money at it and a phone call to West Marine quickly located a power inverter that could power my corded hand drill for less than the cost of pulling up to a dock for the night and using their power. Of course getting to West Marine also involved an adventure of learning how to use the Rhode Island Public Transportation system and paying for a ticket from Newport to Providence ($2) and then getting off at the the first stop.

Back at the boat it was time to start drilling holes. The first piece to be attached was the U-clamp that holds the windvane tower to the back of the bowsprit.

Two holes and one broken drill bit later (drilling from a floating dingy isn’t the most stable platform) it was off to the hardware store for a new 1/4″ bit. Now it was time to move the windvane into place, we tied a safety line to the tower and Stephanie lowered it over the side of the boat while I guided it into place from the dingy.


Next it was time to line up the arms that would bolt to the boomkin frame. After a lot of jiggling and adjusting and making sure the windvane was straight up and down the spots were marked and it was back to drilling.


Then bolting the aft arms in place.



Then it was time to attach the more forward set of support arms. I think that they were originally meant to bolt on to the main tubes of the boomkin, but I decided to bolt them through the tabs that were originally meant for bolting on teak boards to cover the stainless bowsprit. This seemed to work very very well, and it was much easier drilling through the tab then on the rounded surface of the stainless tubes.


The windvane came with 6 support arms, and suggested that if the u-clamp was used on the boomkin that only 4 were necessary. During the installation I added the attachment points for the extra 2 arms directly opposite the lower arms on the boomkin tabs.

The tower is now bolted to the boat and all we need to do is attach the pieces that are kept inside when not in use and try it out!

It looks like we’ll get an opportunity soon, hopefully it will live up to expectations.