Sunday, May 19, 2013

Minor repairs

I've come to the conclusion that a boat is all the work of owning a house, times ten.  This little truism first struck me as I got deep into the build process for N6062, and has been confirmed when I look at the list of little repairs needed on Tanglewood II.  Houses always need something.  Boats always need more somethings.  Aside from the routine maintenance and prep work to get the boat launched, I've worked through a variety of minor repairs this spring.

It's really nice having the boat so close to home (about 15 minutes), so I can pop over anytime, fuss for a while, then go home and warm up.  Actually, in the spring the boat stays pretty warm by itself.  The shrink wrap protects from the wind, yet the warmth of the sun goes right through so there is a nice greenhouse effect.  I'm also stored right next to the light/power pole in the yard, and discovered that the nasty looking 50A outlet actually works just fine, so I have a couple of little electric space heaters that I run in the colder weather.  That's all past us now, but back in early march it was very welcome.

Anyway, looking back at my notes, here are the repair projects from this winter/spring:

Forward Hatch Leak:

One of our forward hatches has had a leak for the past two years, which isn't so good on a 4 year old boat.  Last year I traced it to the rubber seal that holds the glass into the metal frame of the hatch.  A little googling last year lead me to a place in CT that can rebuild them by installing a new seal, but they only do a complete rebuild which includes both a new seal and new glass.  That's OK except for the $700 price tag and the 6-8 week turn around.  That didn't fit with our travel plans for last summer, so I carefully gooped up the seal lips with silicon figuring I had nothing to lose.  Well, it improved things, but didn't fix it, and we spent last season with a rag tucked under that hatch to catch the drips.

This winter I decided it had to be fixed, so I started hunting around again and decided to contact the manufacturer directly.  They are in Taiwan and are an otherwise unknown brand.  Their first response steered me to the repair shop in CT for warranty work, but I replied back that they wanted to be paid for the work even though the hatch was nearly new.  I then asked what the cost would be on a new hatch cover figuring it couldn't be much more than the repair cost.  Their next reply asked for pictures showing the problem area.  Because of the time difference, each of these exchanges is a day apart, so it's a dialog in slow motion.  Well, to my surprise and delight they said they would send me a complete new hatch, freight pre-paid, to replace the leaking one.  Now that's excellent service.  I have since received the replacement hatch, installed it, and so far so good!  This has been a nagging problem that will be good to have fixed.

Oil Leak in Engines:

There is a crankcase breather tube attached to the side of my engines (Cummins QSC) with a little fitting screwed into the side of the block.  There is a little streak of oil below the fitting, identical on both engines.  Last fall I was at the Ft Lauderdale boat show crawling around a brand new Grand Banks with the same engines, and guess what?  They were leaking the same way.  I guess someone on the Cummins assembly line didn't get the memo about sealing the threads.  This little leak is completely benign, but I prefer to keep on top of little issues like this, otherwise they can mask more serious issues.  The fix was easy - remove the fitting, clean it up, apply sealant, reinstall.  I'll check once the boat is back in operation, but I'm pretty confident this problem is fixed.

Holding Tank Level Sensor:

An issue developed over last summer where the "Empty" indicator for our holding tank never comes on.  We have started flushing the tank with some fresh water at pump out time to help keep accumulation to a minimum.  You pump out, then add 5-10 gal of fresh water, then pump that out.  Regardless, our "Empty" indicator still appears to be stuck, so fixing it went onto the winter fix-it list.

My initial plan was to remove the gauge, give it a good cleaning, and reinstall.  But that plan was quickly foiled by the mass of plumbing lines crisscrossing the top of the tank right where the gauge is located.  So, I went for plan B.  Last fall I flushed out the holding tank multiple times so it was as clean as it could be, and then added some pink antifreeze.  Vinegar is a popular solution to dissolve accumulated crust and crud in a black water system, so I decided to give that a try while the boat is still on the hard.  I first pumped out the antifreeze so the vinegar would not get diluted, then poured in 5 gal of vinegar to let it soak.  A few weeks later when I commissioned the water system, I pumped out the vinegar and guess what?  The Empty light came one!  Problem fixed, and hopefully our new regiment of flushing and re-pumping at the end of each pump-out will prevent a recurrence.

Dripping Drain:

Ever since installing the stabilizers, I've had an ounce or two of salt water below the starboard actuator after running is heavy seas.  My assumption has been that it was due to working of the actuators allowing water ingress somehow.  This of course was a significant blow to my ego and otherwise successful stabilizer installation.  But over the last season I finally tracked down the problem, and the hit to my ego will be much smaller than expected.

Behind the starboard actuator is a drain thru hull that serves the bilge pump and the condensate drain for the freezer.  When I installed the stabilizers I had to redo a complex section of this drain where the anti-siphon valve, Tee for the freezer drain, and thru hull come together.  It turns out this is the source of the water.  In heavy seas, water sloshes in the thru hull which is located just above the water line.  With water in the line, it drips.  In calmer seas or while sitting at anchor, the line is empty and there is no drip.

Fixing it, however, was much easier said than done.  This complex assembly is strategically located back in a tight corner behind a variety of stabilizer equipment, and barely reachable.  I made sure I can reach the valve shut off, but access to repair is another story.  After struggling blind to get it disassembled, I finally decided to bite the bullet and remove the stabilizer gear to gain better access.  I'm a slow learner on this front.  It's almost always faster to remove and reinstall equipment that is blocking good access to a job, than to struggle with poor access.  But I never seem to remember this until I've already done the struggling.  Anyway, I had to dismount the hydraulic oil tank which involved disconnecting and capping the return line before too much oil spilled out, then dragging the thing out of the way and zip tying it upright so it wouldn't fall over.  The tank is wicked (that's a New England technical term) heavy so all this was not easy.  Then I dismounted the control valve for the actuator which allowed it to be moved enough to the side to gain access.  From there I cut out the whole clump of plumbing, rebuilt in on the bench with new hose and new clamps, then reinstalled with the top still disconnected.  From there I closed the thru hull valve and filled the thing with water for a test.  With paper towels strategically placed all around the thing to quickly show any drips, I left it all for a few days.  On return, there were no drips, so I made the final connection and put all the other stuff back together.

And there you have it.  That was the list for the winter, and all-in-all, a pretty short list.

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