Get your hands dirty

As you’ve likely gathered from Travis’ last post, the last two weeks of provisioning and fixing various systems on the boat have been intense. Although it can certainly be frustrating to have one (or multiple) systems go down on our new (to us) boat, Travis and I have been treating each equipment failure as an opportunity to learn more about that specific portion of this floating machine that we now call home. A self-sufficient blue water sailor must not only be a sailor and a navigator, but also an electrician, engine mechanic, cook, fisherman, and (unfortunately) plumber. Of course it’s important to know your limits and hire an electrician or mechanic for projects that are over your head, but there are many times where the nearest full-service marina is a 70 mile sail and it’s just you, your toolset, and the manual that are in charge of getting her to the next island chain that beckons.

In the past few weeks we have had our:

  • Starter not engage (caused by a loose wire on the starter solenoid)
  • Engine control panel shut off (caused by tripping a hard to find breaker while troubleshooting the starter issue =/)
  • Joker valve on our toilet clog
  • Propane stove and grill system go out (caused by a loose wire in our breaker box)
  • Engine overheat because of low coolant (we have yet to figure out what is causing this…)

Lucky for us, the manuals that come with marine diesels like Westerbeke 44A that powers Bueller are much more thorough than those that come with a typical land-lubber’s car. Troubleshooting tips, well-illustrated diagrams, and loads of spare parts, gaskets, and impellers aboard typically mean that the solution to most of the common engine troubles are right in front of you if you can find and decipher the proper diagram.

For example, with the engine control panel issue I listed above, we ended up calling an electrician as we had spent over 5 hours tracing the electrical system and we still had yet to find the elusive 20A breaker that we believed to be the cause of our woes. He showed up and within 30 minutes he found the breaker mounted directly on the top of the engine, pressed the button, and BAM, we were back in action. Paying someone 90 dollars to press a button on your boat is one of the many reasons why we are eager to master every system we can get our hands on.

The only real issue that still plagues us is that Bueller continues to lose coolant at an unreasonable rate. At this point we have traced all the piping, tightened all the bolts and fittings, and looked under all of the floorboards and we still can’t find where the coolant is leaking from OR where it is leaking to. A pint of coolant a day has to go somewhere, right?

At this point the leading theory is that there is a leak inside the heat exchanger which is allowing coolant to leak into the raw water (aka salt water) system. Since the used raw water gets shot out with the exhaust, that would explain why we haven’t been able to find any of the bright yellow coolant in the bilge or in the engine bay even though we are pouring so much in.

Well that’s all for now. Keep an eye on to see our progress. Press the satellite view button if you want to be extra jealous =]

Cap’n Lars