Posts Tagged ‘Aquamarine Inc’

FRUSTRATIONS

Saturday, July 13th, 2013

Frustration raises its ugly head when work time becomes greater then the expected completion time. Since launching we’ve been playing dodge ball with this emotion and doing our best to readjust our time expectations. The main engine elbow is in

Perkins 4-236 Waterneck OLD

Perkins 4-236 Waterneck OLD

and 99% complete.  The water neck which sends water to the exhaust line via a loop and vacuum break was on the list to be fixed and so while working on the elbow I replaced that fitting too. With the

Waterneck Studs next to New

Waterneck Studs next to New

water neck while on the hard I figured I would make the switch in the water. Bad idea. Unbeknownst to me the neck sits slightly below the waterline so I needed to shut off the main engine raw water intake and clamp the water line that cools the dripless stuffing box. After some discussion on the CS-BB  bulletin board about the exhaust elbow I’m now going to add some fiberglass exhaust tape to the dry part of the fitting and hose clamp it in place, then once a year or so I can inspect the fitting and hopefully be forewarned of any potential issues.

Perkins 4-26 Exhaust elbow and mixer

Perkins 4-26 Exhaust elbow and mixer

The cost for the unexpected exhaust elbow: $350 bucks plus some misc parts. All told,  just shy of $400.  That’s counting taxis and various acutraments at Garcia’s, the sole best store for mechanical gear and tools in Colon. The cost of the water neck fitting I purchased in the US was approx $250.  We almost had a problem in that I never explicitly explained to the machine shop that the input and exhaust lines need to be adjusted for to run  parallel  to each other. However they were close enough.  Close enough with the hose on the hose is able to make the slight change in direction and not chafe on any other part(s) of the engine.  That single job took about 10 days from start to finish.  It was not on our list at all and a total surprise.

When you are in your home waters it can be so easy to  complete a project and know roughly how much it will cost, but once you’ve left for foreign shores  the price goes up and the days multiply. I expected the elbow to be close to $200 (Rob on Akka felt the same) and I was expecting 1 to 2 weeks. So our time frame wasn’t bad but the cost was double. With that job completed  I’ll look for picking up parts to be spares and never be in that specific bind again. From the main engine we moved on to the generator.

I now have 2 exhaust elbow setups for the generator and so when in the middle of the Pacific at some lovely atoll, should there be an issue I’ll be able to do a complete switch out. Sweet. That will be our goal when we leave here – that mostly anything that has broken in the first 4 years will have a complete drop in spare.  Other cruisers tell me that is the surest way to never have an issue with any specific part again. Either way; I consider it a win, win situation.

Aquagen Exhaust side complete

Aquagen Exhaust side complete

The exhaust side of the generator is in,  for the most part new plumbing and a new Aqualift muffler, new hose to the  muffler and all secured. The only gotcha there was that the mixing elbow on the exhaust pipe wasn’t aligned perfectly and I had to move the shelf for the Aqualift muffler.  Over all that job went rather smoothly. In the process I cleaned as much as I could, Ospho’ed any of the areas with rust and then sprayed high temp Silver paint on the engine. She looks ok, not as good as new but better then she had been. With the generator exhaust elbow spitting mists of salt water for the last 6 months of our time cruising Panama the engine wasn’t looking pretty.

Once I had exhaust side together I began to work on the water maker side. We received a new; much heavier bracket from Aquamarine for mounting the alternator. I had sent Dan (owner of AquaMarine) the old alternator bracket so he could match the critical measurements; but he insisted on sending me the new brackets with the tabs and insisted on me taking it to a welder in Panama to get it, as he said “perfect”. That cost alone was an additional $65. Thirty dollars for the welding and $35 for the taxi trips and translator. Yeah, we can talk some Spanish (we did go to Spanish school) but we didn’t want any misunderstandings and working with a local who can make sure the communication is correct and the work completed when indicated is worth the extra bucks. Rudi (my chauffeur and translator) had arranged for the work to be completed that same day but in the pm. My marina ride left the city at  a little past 11…. am. The following day I would return to Colon and Rudi would pick it up and join me at the bus stop in Colon.

I was on the bus at 8am and called Rudi when we crossed the Panama Canal Locks. It was then that Rudi told me the part wasn’t finished yet. Later he explained that the electric was out in the afternoon (a frequent occurrence outside of Panama City) at the shop and the piece could not have been welded. The machinist indicated he would have it ready by 9 am the following day.  As 9 came and went I began wondering if indeed I would be receiving the piece today. Not to be too disappointed Rudi shows up a little after 10am.  Then he took me to; of all places, Garcia’s where I picked up some more parts. Of the dozen fasteners I received 10 worked. One nut I was lucky enough to have discovered, didn’t spin on the bolt!  So back the girl went to get the correct nut. And of the nylon washers I received all were in a group. The group looked perfect yet the following day upon installation one washer had a much larger center, so large it wouldn’t work.

So here I go again, back to Garcia’s, back to get more supplies and another day we’ll finish the HP pump and alternator. In the mean time I figured I could at least get everything mounted and lined up. I had the high pressure (HP) pump out and on the table ready to set the Amptech Alternator on it. Bringing the alternator out of the engine room where she’s been lying for 6 months I noticed the armature wouldn’t turn. Why I hadn’t noticed it a week ago when I started on the bracket I didn’t know. But now I notice. I take it up to the work area and put a wrench on her. I can turn the nut holding the serpentine pulley but can’t turn the armature. DAMN!  Ok. Another piece of the puzzle broken. Call Roger in Panama City and arrange with him to have the alternator taken to a shop there for a total refurbishment.  Then I’ll install and check it out and I’m going to buy a drop in replacement for that item too. Luckily some other boaters we met a year ago here live and work in Panama City. Bob was nice enough to haul the alternator to the city where Roger will pick it up and take it to the shop. We already have a back up alternator, we have one on the main engine and one on the generator but I’m feeling like when we’re in the Pacific I don’t want to be trying to fly one in. It is EXPENSIVE in the middle of that HUGE ocean to move supplies and who knows where we’ll be when we need it.

OK,  the Aquagen is only partially complete, on to other projects.  We ordered enough varnish for 2 years from Signature Finishes. We also included Paint and some supplies, then had it sent to the freight forwarder we use; Airbox Express. Good news is it got to the forwarders Miami address promptly, bad news is Airbox Express wants  $550 + dollars for paperwork and then we need to pay shipping and duty on top of that. No matter how one tries to make cruising a moderate endeavor it just isn’t. The cost of getting the material here will be about the same as the cost of the goods. We’ve hired Roger (our Panama City Chauffeur / Interpreter) to help. So far we’ve not made much progress.  Really, we’ve not made any progress. Roger sent me an email address to contact at Airbox which I did. I emailed her one week ago and have not had a response.

And so it goes. Damn good thing we don’t have to leave here by a certain date. Damn good thing we can tolerate Shelter Bay Marina, the Restaurant and the cost. Damn Good thing I say….

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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Almost

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

One of my goals this season had been to ensure the boat could  cruise a full  year without major issues. A major issue is one I can’t fix and forces us  to  high tail it to the nearest port where we can effect repairs.  We didn’t make it a full year but we came close.  We have had a few rather serious (not catastrophic)  issues.  The exhaust elbow in the generator has a smallish 2 cm crack.  I  fixed the crack with JB Weld that held  for a bit but it didn’t last more then 3 months and so I’ve re JB Welded it and put a cover over it so there is no spray, only dribbles. Till we get to the marina it will remain 1/2 fixed.

Then, the genset’s heat exchanger began to leak.  It’s an older style heat exchanger and now looking back I see where I could maybe have lucked out and recognized there was a Zinc in the heat exchanger.  Two of the three pictures in the Aquagen instruction manual identify a drain at the bottom of the exchanger and the third one now shows a Zinc.  The solder has  been etched away and now I has a leak.  I’ve since rubber clamped it shut so it will not leak and will send it back to Aquamarine for repair when we get back to the states. In the meantime I’ve ordered and received a new heat exchanger, a new model and it has a Zinc of which I need to  purchase many more and make sure this doesn’t happen again.

The High Pressure pump (HP) on the water maker leaks.  My error.  I had found difficulty with the original boost valve (it was of a lawn sprinkler valve and I had put the valve in  vertically when it needed to be below water level and horizontally – not well documented in the manual), so I had replaced it with a manual valve.  One time running the water maker I forgot to turn the valve on to start the system and this caused excess cavitation in the HP pump. Thus a small leak. I called Dan (of Aquamarine – and that is one great thing about the company — I can speak to him about any issue most anytime), and he indicated that I needed to get a new gasket kit.  I now have that and a spare and will replace it when I get to Shelter Bay Marina. It’s the rainy season now and we can catch plenty of water.

In the last 2 weeks  the Aquagen began to crank over ever so slowly and finally it just wouldn’t turn over the engine. I knew we had plenty of power and suspected the starter we had fixed (almost) in Panama City. There they didn’t have a replacement starter but we found one that appeared the same size  and I put that starter motor in  the housing I had. However; I don’t believe the front bearing was ever replaced.  The starter worked but it took about 5 seconds on the glow plug and then it required about 5 seconds to turn it over before the generator would catch and 90% of the time or more I would hear teeth grinding as the starter disengaged. Well the replacement finally wouldn’t do the job.

Thinking ahead while back in the states I purchased a new replacement starter for this engine and had kept it as a spare.  Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.  I replaced the Panama City starter and viola!  I turned the key and the generator started just like new!  No longer did I need to hold the glow plug on for 5 seconds, in less then a second or two she fired right up. Sweet.

And about this same time I had taken some refrigerant out of the engine driven system and bought some fuel from a gas station in town. The refrigeration system was overcharged some and we were having to run the generator longer then we needed. When it’s running correctly we run it approx 45 minutes in the am and 45 minutes in the pm. With the overcharged state we were needing to run it approx  80 minutes am and pm. The extra time was a PITA. So I pulled out  approx 5 psi and the generator ran fine that evening; the refrigeration plates pulled down faster, but not yet perfect.  The next day we added 25 gallons of diesel to the tanks.  The next time we ran the generator to pull down the plates in the freezer and the ice box things began acting weird.  The rpms on the generator began to vary and once they went so low as to stall the engine. I suspected the new fuel.

Running the generator with the refrigeration compressor (RC) on, we heard some significant changes in engine rpms. It seems that both W/ and I are extremely sensitive to small sounds and how they end up telling me to find what’s wrong.  We shut the system down and I figured the fuel filters were getting clogged. Fuel was the last thing added and the last change to the engine.  Diagnosing issues on a boat isn’t a lot different from diagnosis in terms of computer issues or I suspect any other field where one has to problem solve.  It is a lot like playing 20 questions. As long as you ask simple questions and learn the answer you can solve the problem. Working on several things at once and then trying to  identify  the issue would  easily have me fumbling all over the place. That is exactly what happened. Since the fuel was the last thing I did it was the first place I looked to solve the problem.  I was hoping to make it to our respite in Shelter Bay Marina before a lot of this smaller maintenance work, but as  teenagers today say “Oh Well”.  So before I figure I needed to, I first chose to change the Racor fuel filter. I changed that filter and the next time we ran the generator it did the same thing; varying engine rpms by about 300.  Ok, next change the fuel filter on the generator. and I did that.  Now the fuel getting to the generator will be crystal clear and yet the same issue occurred. Last thing in the fuel system would be the fuel pump. I had a spare. Whoopee!  I changed that too.

This time while running the generator and the RC when the engine started to bog down (damn it’s still doing the same thing)  I shut the RC off. Viola!  The generator ran as expected.  What the $#%#$ !  I wasn’t expecting this!  Now I know there is an issue with the compressor.

Thinking I still have a bit too much pressure in the RC system I pull out approx 5 more PSI and I email Mike on Abake. He actually has training in refrigeration systems and I email Dirk on Lison Life who knows more about mechanic issues on engines than I do.  The consensus seems to be that I have a RC that is soon to become  toast. DAMN!  (I actually have a more colorful vocabulary marching through my brain but do try to keep this blog PG).

In this process of checking the RC out I had hooked up the gauge set and ran all the numbers. They were well within range if not a little low on the HP side. To get a full set of numbers when the engine began to bog down I tried reducing the rpms a bit. I went down to 2500 rpms.  Again, Viola!  There was no more bogging down on the system and running the RC an hour gave me a full pull down on the refrigeration plates as well as a working set of numbers.

With Mike and Dirk saying the same thing that the issue was the RC I contacted Roger in Panama City to help locate a replacement. Roger is a Panamanian that is cruiser friendly. He had worked at the Panama Yacht club till it closed. Since then he’s made a career out of assisting cruisers in transporting and securing supplies.  He speaks fluent English and obviously Spanish  and he knows where the places are that cruisers need to stay afloat and happy. While he searched in the city  I called Sanden International in the USA and got the run around trying to connect to a real person on the phone, then found out they know almost nothing of the Sanden unit I have except they don’t make it anymore and they have no idea where a supplier is in Panama. So much for them being “International”!

So I waited. Roger called about 4ish  and had  found a similar Sanden sized correctly and hopefully W/ will pick it up today. While I wait for her return  I changed the oil in the genset and ran the RC successfully at the lower RPM. I’m wondering now if I run it at full rpm if I’ll still get the engine bogging down. Time will tell.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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