Air Conditioner Cooling Water Issues, Old Water Heater, Electro-Scan replacement, Alternator Belt, Oil Change Pump, Leaking Rub Rail Bolts
Holding Tank/Fuel Tank Removal for Inspection & Cleaning
Sound Insulation Installation, AC Issues revisited
Air Conditioner Water Intake
When we were checking around the sea cocks with a moisture meter, we found one that was indicating a high moisture content in the core. Of course this is in an area that we can’t easily cut out from inside the boat and will need to be worked on from outside, working upside down.
There is an over-size hole drilled through the inner skin which is then filled in with a plywood (of all things) doughnut though which the through hull fits. This wouldn’t have been a real issues except (that old except thing again) for the slotted strainers over the opening that were screwed into the hull from the outside. These screws leaked, allowing water to penetrate the core. Through hulls without the strainers didn’t exhibit this issue, the surrounding core is bone dry.
We had full intentions of carving a piece out of the bottom in the spring but after having the boat sit over the winter with the cleaned out area exposed, the moisture level outside the area was such that it didn’t require surgery.
We settled on packing the cored area with solid fiberglass cloth in epoxy, adding a glass backing plate and installing a new sea cock and through hull.
In the three years we owned the boat we hadn’t really used the reverse cycle air conditioner at all, except to see that it worked. There were a number of reasons for that, the biggest one being that we were not paying the flat rate for air at our club. $200 seemed to be a bit pricy for something that we only really need a few days of the year. Since I had only recently finished the re-wiring of the boat so we could drive the heat pump from the genset and somebody was real slow in getting the genset sound cover rebuilt we also were not using it at anchor.
When it came time to winterize it we struggled with getting the air out of the line (again). There is almost no slope between the sea water strainer and the water pump due to the fact that the pump needs to be below the water line and the strainer, while mounted as low as it can be, is rather tall. We did add a T in the line with a valve to vent the line but sometimes you still have to shake the lines to expel the air. We finally wised up and did what we did on our previous trawler; cut the AC power cord to the pump and put in a plug and socket. Now we can run the pump by itself without cycling the compressor by simply running an extension cord to it for doing maintenance.
Ok, we got the pump doing its thing and now it is time to dump some antifreeze in the strainer to flush the pump. Shut off the intake valve, remove the strainer cover, bail it out, fill with antifreeze and plug in the pump while pouring antifreeze into the strainer. The darn thing would suck air almost instantly. After making a big mess three or four times trying to make this work we looked at things a little more closely. What we found was that the strainer was installed backwards. Honest. I found a picture of this area that I took before we purchased the boat and when I zoomed in, sure enough the OUT end is on the intake side. No wonder I couldn’t keep the thing primed as the inlet side of the strainer comes in near the top. It makes me wonder if anybody ever had to clean the strainer as the inside of the basket would always be clean and all the junk would be trapped on the outside.
While turning the strainer around isn’t a major project, I bet I can turn it into one. For now I will simply blow out the water line with compressed air before we get a freeze. We did that last year also. I am sure that I must have looked at the strainer when I replaced the hoses but obviously this issue never registered with me. Maybe I should put in some better lighting. We made a new mount for the strainer and re-installed it facing the correct direction. That should put this issue to bed.
Dead Water Heater
The 20 gallon water heater has been leaking since the day we bought the boat and fired it up. We knew that we would be lucky to get a year out of it when we initially looked at the boat as there were lots of water stains in the general vicinity. As the first summer went on, it began to look worse so we never left the boat unattended with power supplied to the tank.
When fall arrived and Bobbi broke her leg we realized that since we weren’t using boat that much this would be a good time to decommission the water system and junk this thing. After disconnecting it from the engine and draining it (the drain valve was shot) we removed what we could to try to snake it out of the engine room. There actually was room to maneuver it out, with not an inch to spare.
Sitting on the back deck, before being disposed.
The platform that the tank sat on is wet, wet, wet. Even though the platform was coated in glass, constant leaking via the mounting holes into the plywood coring has taken its toll.
After much thought it was decided to go to an on-demand propane system. Details of that project are under the Head web pages.
Electro-Scan vs VacuFlush head system
LIBERTY had an Electro-Scan system that was fed by a electric head and emptied into a 40 gallon holding tank. Since the Great Lakes are zero discharge zones and the Electro-Scan requires salt water to operate it was a no-brainer to want to get rid of the Electro-Scan. Having it sit basically unused for a number of years as we cannot legally dump overboard and then asking it to function once we got into salt water is asking for trouble. Since VacuFlush systems theoretically use less water per flush and are quieter it was decided to go that route. In addition, it seems that guests might find the VacuFlush easier to use than the old electric head.
Out with the Electo-Scan, which turns out was clean and dry inside as well as the old electric head. The head details are covered in the Head web page section.
Rather than using flexible tubing for waste, we chose to use Schedule 40 PVC pipe from the head to the vacuum generator. The VacuFlush people don’t really like do-it-yourselfers installing their products for some reason. It is not exactly rocket science and following some simple guidelines insures the product will work as expected. The most basic thing is to keep the waste line more or less level so the vacuum has something to work on.
Installation of vacuum generator.
Alternator belt project
The picture below doesn’t look like much but it represents a lot of grief and expense. To make a long story short, the alternator had been replaced with a 125 amp model (good). The alternator had a double pulley mounted on it but there was only one belt driving it (not so good). The reason there was only one belt was because the water pump pulley only had a single groove (bad). There was considerable dusting of the single belt which meant it was slipping at times (real bad).
Ok, purchase a $300 double groove pulley from Westerbeke and add another belt; easy. When the new pulley arrived we went to mount it which required removing the single belt. Not so fast. It turns out that there was not enough play in the adjusting bracket to allow the alternator to rock back enough to get the belt off. Removing the bracket didn’t help as the alternator case ran into other engine components. This means to get a belt on you have to roll it on by bumping the starter. Not being particularly fond of that method since replacing the raw water pump belt would require removing the alternator belts as well, we decided to fix it right. That meant making an adaptor for the foot of the alternator as well as a new adjusting bracket. Cardboard templates turned into wood prototypes which eventually turned into finished metal parts after many trial and error mountings of the alternator. This was done after we did a lot of CAD work trying to determine what geometry would work given all the clearance issues as well as making sure there would be enough room to get a standard size belt on and off.
We also found that Westerbeke didn’t leave enough clearance between the back side of the new pulley and bolts for the water pump requiring us to make two trips to the machine shop to remove enough material for the pulley to spin freely. In the end it all worked out and now we have two belts driving our alternator. When this project was completed, we ended up halved the size of the house bank (long story), so in reality we probably will never be driving that alternator hard enough to really require two belts but at least we have it if we ever need it (belt and suspenders).
Adaptor for the alternator and a new adjusting bracket.
Oil Change Pump
This oil change pump was mounted on the top of a bucket, a messy accident waiting to happen so we decided to plumb it directly into the engine oil pan drain. This makes draining the oil so much easier and we don’t have to think about where to store the bucket and pump. When not being used, we pull the fuse and tape it to the fuse holder as it would be too easy to inadvertently bump the switch on the top. We also remove the plastic drain hose and insert a plug to keep things clean.
Leaking Rub Rail Bolts
The bolts holding the rub rail onto the hull are leaking (badly). A good downpour will produce about ½ gallon of water being trapped outboard of the engine stringers. The stains on the inside of the hull are quite evident.
As you might expect, this region is outboard of the fuel tanks, in this instance on the port side. Our 40 gallon holding tank is mounted aft of the fuel tanks making access to this area difficult to say the least. While on the hard for the winter (2012/13) we pulled the holding tank to allow us to address this problem. The rub rail on later model Pilgrims is escalator hand rail that is “snapped” over aluminum T track that is bolted through the hull to deck joint. Since water is making its way into the hull along the bolts, the “right” way to fix it would be to pull the rub rail allowing access to the bolts that would be removed, rebidded and reinstalled. We don’t believe that we would ever get the 25 year old hand rail that has been baking in the sun back on the track again. Initial installation was done by soaking the rail in a tub of hot water water to make it more pliable. That sounds like a lot of fun, 90 feet of stiff rail in what might be a small swimming pool with no guarantee that it will soften up again. We better wait until we destroy a large chunk of rail before having to tackle that job.
Ok, lets proceed to plan B. Other Pilgrim owners have been able to stem the tide (or leak) by tightening the nuts. We decided to go one better since access is so difficult by designing some “special” washers that would be concave on the back side to retain some butyl rubber caulking.
We had some ¼” stainless left over from another project and drilled 11/32” & ¾” holes in the plate. Bronze would have been a lot easier to drill but the material is really expensive. Brass is out of the question as it would disintegrate and aluminum and stainless don’t go together if you ever want to get things apart.
Shearing slightly deformed them, but nobody is ever going to notice.
The special washers were installed with the butyl rubber backing which in some areas was a bit of a challenge. While we could just barely access the fasteners behind the fuel tanks the problem was that the bolts wanted to turn with the nuts. Of course the heads of the bolts are on the outside of the hull, buried under the plastic rub rail which was not going to come off.
We took the bull by the horns and decided to pull the holding tank as well as the port side fuel tank to give use easier access to these fasteners. A slot needed to be cut into the end of the bolt with a tiny rotary cut off wheel which would allow the use of a straight screw driver to hold the bolt from turning while we backed off the nut. We rationalized that the tanks would need to come out at some point so why not make our life easier and do it now. We could then do half of our sound insulation project while the tanks were out.
We thought we were golden but after a good rainfall found water in this area of the engine room again. Something was still leaking.
Baby powder is kept aboard the boat for doing fiberglass work, dust your exposed skin with it and you won’t end up itching from the glass work. You can also use it for detective work. If you put a light coat of powder on surfaces and you have a leak, it shows nicely. What we found was that it wasn’t exactly the bolts that were leaking anymore but the joint in the rail itself. Evidently somebody got a little bit skimpy with the butyl caulking that was used between the hull and deck joints when the boat was built.
This is a schematic of how the boats are put together from the pilot house – aft. The raised foredeck actually has the hull to deck joint at the level of the top of the rail.
In our case the caulked gap between the hull and side bulwarks was letting water into the joint which was finding its way below. The joint was reefed out with a Fein Multimaster.
Next we pumped quite a bit of raw epoxy into the back of the joint, thinking that the epoxy will fill the leaking gaps (which appear to be small) and then pushed about 3/4 of a tube of 5200 into about 4' of seam. Hopefully that will seal things up. Months after doing this we are still dry so maybe we licked this issue.
It is possible to get the aft port fuel tank out but not by much. We already took out the holding tank; it desperately needed a good cleaning and the level indicators replaced although that could have been done in the boat. A little snaking around is required by it does come out unlike Grand Banks where they cut holes in the side of the boat, replace the tanks and then glass up the hole.
The tank went home, got a hole cut in the center for a clean out port. There are two baffles in the tank which would require three of those $100+ clean out ports. Fortunately the tank was suprisingly clean (no gunk build up) so we just used the one port we previously bought.
. We also found some corrosion issues on the tanks bottom. These got welded up although $300+ will buy a slightly smaller plastic tank.
While the tanks were out it was time to get some more of the Soundown sound insulation in the boat to replace the old stuff that was long gone. Paper patterns were made for some of the more difficult to fit regions. The insulation was attached with both screws and Loctite PL caulk.
On the underside of the cabin sole we used plywood and temporary shoring to hold the insulation in place while the Loctite cured.
The finished result after the insulation was attached and the tanks replaced.
With the holding tank at home we could do a proper job of flushing the tank meaning we could fill and empty the tank as much as we wanted, really slosh it around to loosen up gunk and with the inlet and outlet ports removed be able to really spray the sides clean. We were also able to give the overboard discharge pump some exercise as it has never been used.
Once the tank was back in the boat we replaced the loop of hose with some ridged PVC. Due to the fact that the top of the tank was so close to the underside of the deck there was always a big loop in the hose and we were concerned about stuff sitting in the bottom of that loop. We can make tighter bends with the ridged stuff and even if there is sewage in the bottom of the U the smell won’t permeate the plastic.
AC Issues re-visited
All pumps die and the sea water pump on our AC unit is no exception. Its build date was 1995 so I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise. What did surprise me was the price on a direct replacement pump. I couldn’t believe the pump could cost that much so I decided to do some investigating. The specs on the AC unit only specified a pump that was rated for less than half of the capacity of the current one; no wonder it was so expensive.
We did the smart thing this time. We ordered two pumps that were properly sized for the unit for a total cost that was less than one oversized pump. I am not convinced that an oversize pump will last longer than a properly sized one.
Another constant annoyance is the condensate drain for the AC unit. The stringers that run down the boat are too high to allow the drain hose to be routed into the bilge so the condensate was left to run along the outboard edges of the stringers and eventually find its way to the bilge to be pumped overboard.
We didn’t want to drill large holes through the stringers even though it probably wouldn’t hurt so we built a condensate sump with its own pump. Right now this gets pumped into the bilge and then overboard but the plan is to make another sump so the veranda lazaret can drain into that as well as the AC condensate. Assuming we switch out the prop shaft packing to the Gore material, and build a small catch basin under the packing gland to catch the few drops of water that system produces we will obtain our goal of a perfectly dry bilge. For some reason I don’t like even an inch or two of skanky water in the bilge that the pumps can’t get out. I suppose if you had a ton of leaks the bilge water would always be “fresh”.
This still needs an acrylic cover made to keep things from going swimming. The inside was actually covered in glass cloth and epoxy before being assembled so it is fully water proof.
Still needing to be done:
Remove, inspect and add a access port in the starboard aft fuel tank.
Remove the AC unit (in order to remove the fuel tank), clean and inspect.
Clean and paint the Aquadrive support so it isn’t a rusty mess.
Finish the install additional sound deadening material.
So.. to be continued