Preparation for Departure

I finally landed in Miami and arrived at Bueller January 6th. It was the first time I had seen her, or been on her since we first visited her back in the first week of November. 

Lars arrived back in Fort Lauderdale w/ Bueller after the test trip to Bimini earlier that afternoon. The test trip was a success for Lars, his family and buddy Jacob. They had a great time, flushed out a couple of issues, and added numerous required items to our shopping list. 

While the boat improvement list will most likely never end, there are certain items that need to be tackled immediately when they arise and others that we wanted to tackle prior to departing to make life easier. The major issue was a faulty engine overheat alarm (or we thought at the time), as well as the propane solenoid not allowing gas from the propane tanks to the stove. We also had the chocker valve in the one of the heads fail why we are at dock, which required replacement. Lastly, we wanted to increase our battery bank and replace all the cabin lights with LEDS to allow more efficient electricity usage on the trip. I’ve gone into more detail on the battery bank and engine overweight issue at the end of the post for those that are interested. 

With only 4 days to address the issues and improvements, then prepare, provision, repack the boat before we left. We had our work cut out for us, often working from 7am to 2 am. Preparation included taking everything off the boat, inventorying it all, making numerous trips to Home Depot, West Marine, SailorMan, Boat Owners Warehouse, etc to purchase spares, accessories, parts, and toys that we needed (or wanted). Provisioning included 3+ shopping carts full of food at Walmart (plus another shopping cart full of beer & liquor). Lastly, we had to somehow fit all this stuff in our Bueller, which was an effort in itself. We’ll write another post on our storage techniques later on as it’s amazing what you can cram in a boat.

Engine Coolant Temperature Switch

Our boat is equipped with a Westerbeke 42hp Marine diesel (44A model). It has a raw water and freshwater coolant system. The freshwater coolant system runs internal to the engine. The raw water is sea water that is pumped in from the ocean when the engine runs. The freshwater system transfer the heat out of the engine to the raw water through a heat exchange, then the raw water gets pumped overboard. This is all to keep the engine at the appropriate operating temperate.

While Lars was motor sailing back from Bimini, the overheat alarm on the engine started going off. Our engine is not equipped with a gauge to actual provide indication of internal temperature in the engine. Our engine is only equipped with an alarm that sounds if the internal temperature exceeds 210 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a heat gun, the temperature on the housing where the coolant temperature switch is held, was reading 130 degrees. Obviously, internal temp and external temp are different, but the degree of difference made us believe the coolant overheat switch was bad and activating at a lower temperature than appropriate. 

When we pulled out the coolant temperature switch, it was filled with gunk on it. That is not good, and dramatically reduces effectiveness of your coolant system, often causing overheats.  We open up the thermostate housing, and discovered more gunk all over the thermostat housing. It was also completely dry which is also not good, air is not a conductor of heat. The gunk and air altered our opinion that the engine was actually overheating before, and it wasn’t a bad sensor.

After some online research, we decided using a descaler solution to run through the coolant system was the best solution. However, our coolant system also runs to our water heater to create hot water, so we couldn’t simply drain the coolant. We had to flush it. We found a cheap marine water pump, disconnected hoses at the water heater as they were the easiest accessible and used the pump to flush the coolant system. we Flushed the system a few times with water, filled it with Tac descaler and let it run for four hours. Then we flushed the Tac solution out with distilled water, and flushed fresh coolant in, and topped off the coolant. That seems to have fix the issue for now, but we are still keeping on eye on it. We’ve added putting an actual internal engine temperature gauge on our to do list for sometime in the future.

Battery Bank

Our boat is set up with two battery banks: an engine starter batter dedicated solely to ensure you have a battery that works all the time to start your engine and a house bank used to power all other electronics on the boat. The batteries are charged when we run the engine and by our five 30 watt flexible solar panels on top of our bimini. 

When we purchased Bueller, the house bank consisted of two golf cart batteries that hold approximately 200 amp hours. We wanted to double it to 400 amp hours. This allows us to run the engine less to but still maintain electricity. Check out the handy work in the picks.