Even the Best aren’t Perfect

For some reason our water alarm stopped functioning. It is an Aqualarm and for the most part a real engine saver.  We added it in Panama. When the water flow stops the alarm screams at us. The light quit working after about 100 hours of use. So what. We never stare at the panel anyway and I don’t care about the light. But the alarm screaming definitely informs us the cooling water has stopped. We count on the alarm to let us know that the engines heat is removed. The water alarm sounds well before any engine over heating alarms and that saves the engine.  But, the alarm quit working.

I contacted Aqualarm and asked for advice. They indicated removing and cleaning Aqualarm Sensorwith WD-40. I don’t carry WD-40 on the boat and I can’t find any in Savusavu.  I will do my best to inspect and clean the sensor. Working with plumbing is not something I love. This is an adventure in how few curse words it takes to complete the repair.

Luckily, the removal went ok.  I shut off the seacock. We don’t want to flood our home and sink. Then I removed the switch emptying  the water from the hoses into a catchment container. W/ disposed of the salt water back into the sea.  Once removed we check over the hose clamps and replaced one that was suspect. Out of the three clamps, the one that looked in the best shape is one that failed.

W/ Cleaning the Aqualarm Sensor
W/ Cleaning the Aqualarm Sensor

We cleaned the sensor with Vinegar and Q tips.  There is a piece that slides back and forth on a spindle. As the water pushes down the piece moves indicating that we have positive water flow. We cleaned around it, moved the disk up and down several times and soaked it in Vinegar.  When the vinegar wash was clear I made sure the disk on the spindle moved freely.  Back together it goes.

Once I connected the sensing wires we checked to ensure the alarm was “screaming”. It did.  I finished the plumbing and tightened the hose clamps. Two small drips. I tightened again. One small drip.
I left the little drip hoping the older hose would snug up a little more over time. I am always concerned about over tightening clamps. One drip every minute or so will not sink the boat in one night.  Maybe a couple of months but not one night.  I left a paper towel under the drip to gauge the amount.  That evening we ran the generator and the alarm worked like new.  It screamed when the key switch was activated and once the engine started the alarm went off. Sweet!

The next morning I went in the engine room before running the generator. Working in the engine room after a diesel has run is like working in a sauna.  The paper towel was soaked. In the sump under the main engine exhaust there was about 10 liter of water.  Normally there is one or two liters underneath the Aqualift exhaust. This is due to the daily condensation of our refrigeration system.  The end result is we added 5-8 liters of water.  We clean the sump and I  attempt to fix the drip.

I identified again the drip off the pump. The other drip was no more. Good. One clamp worked and the other never closed the gap. The shields hose I am using is showing its age and getting stiff. That is why I was hoping with  a tight clamp the hose might adapt and close up any gaps. While the hose may have adapted some it didn’t seal any gap. The next step is to tighten a wee bit more.  And that is exactly what I attempted to do.

I tightened, then tightened some more, and finally tightened more until I realized that the clamp is broken. I can tighten all I want and the drip will not stop.  W/ digs out our box of clamps. We carry almost a 100 spare clamps sized for a 1/2” up to a 3”. One thing that surprises me is how many clamps we seem to replace in a year, every year.

Practical Sailor had a clamp evaluation in Feb of 2013 (page 18) that gave AWAB clamps the best score.  On a  boat when life depends on small things we take no risks. Our last purchase of replacement clamps were all AWAB.  The clamp that Failed AWAB clampjust failed; AWAB. It goes to show, even the best isn’t perfect. The screw piece that attached to the band let go.

I replaced it with, you guessed it, another AWAB.  I screwed it down. I still had a small drip. I tightened a bit more. Still a small drip. I went to my clamp bank. I found a narrow 3/4” clamp (not AWAB) to add to the hose. I was able to clamp it just inside the ridge at the end of the fitting. I tightened it.  No noticeable drip but a wet spot when I touch the towel to the fitting. I tightened both just a little more. Finally, dry. Bingo.  I leave my wrenches in the engine room. I will check later today and check the tightness tomorrow ensuring we have no leaks.  As a reward, W/ and I have massages this afternoon at Una’s.  Life in paradise. Can it get any better?  🙂
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long