Maintaining the raw water system: seacock, strainer, impeller, zincs

My sailboat to-do list has been growing all year, and there was no way around it, this weekend I had to do some maintenance and work off some of my lingering projects.

Universal 2420 Diesel

Auxiliary power on Gimme Shelter is supplied by the original 1982 Universal 5424, a marinized Kubota diesel. This weekend I decided to work through the raw water system.

Raw water seacock

I checked to make sure it moved freely open and closed. I checked the hose for cracking, and I checked to make sure the hose clamps did not show any signs of corrosion. Everything looked fine, so I closed it and moved on to the next piece of the system. (Closing the raw water seacock is a key step in all raw water maintenance and repair, as is opening it before you start the engine again!)

Raw water strainer

The strainer is basically a jar with a metal basket inside. Water is pushed through the top of the basket, and then shoots out all of the tiny holes of the metal strainer while leaving debris inside the metal strainer basket. If you look at the photo above, mine is very easy to access on the port side of the engine. I pulled out the strainer basket and found just a little mud, sprayed it with the hose and put it back together. No problems.

Raw water pump impeller

It’s recommended that you change the raw water impeller annually. I hadn’t had any water flow issues, and we hadn’t put many on hours on the engine, so I had let Gimme Shelter go two full years without replacing it. It was still working, but when I pulled it out, I could see the difference between the old and new impellers.

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I really like the Oberdorfer pump because it’s easy to access on the front of the engine, and it only takes four screws to open it up.

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The impellers just push onto the keyed center shaft, and you’re ready to go. The only catch is that you have to replace the paper gasket every time you open the pump. You also have to make sure you remove all of the old paper gasket before you install the new one or you won’t get a good seal. In the past I have resorted to cutting a new gasket out of construction paper with a pocket knife, but it’s definitely easier just to order a new gasket when you order the new impeller.

Sacrificial zinc anode

From the pump, the raw water moves to the heat exchanger where the antifreeze moves through tubes and transfers the heat of the engine into the seawater before it’s sent overboard in the exhaust. A sacrificial zinc anode is screwed into the heat exchanger to protect it from corrosion. If the heat exchanger tubes corrode out, you’ll end up with seawater in your antifreeze and vice versa, so this zinc is very important.

I’ll admit it. I’d been as lazy about the zinc as I had been about the impeller, and it hadn’t been changed in two years. When I unscrewed it, this is what came out.

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On the left is the two-year-old zinc. On the right is a new pencil zinc. This was bad. However, I didn’t have any seawater coming out of the hole, so I resorted to taking a selfie with the heat exchanger to see what was going on down there.

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There was still zinc left in the hole. However, two or three pokes with a screwdriver, and that little bit of zinc left crumbled to pieces and fell right out. I then installed the new zinc and promised myself I’d start checking it every six months.

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Once the new zinc was installed I opened the seacock and watched for leaks from the strainer lid as it filled. With no leaks from the strainer, I cranked up the engine and looked for waterflow from the exhaust. Water was flowing, so I popped back into the cabin to check for leaks from both the raw water pump and then zinc.

Once I’d verified that my maintenance hadn’t caused any new problems, I moved on to my next project, which I’ll blog about tomorrow — installing a NMEA 2000 backbone.

Mary’s thoughts on Sperrys

One of my friends the other day asked me if it’s true that boaters wear special shoes. Well we do, and for us at least in the past our choice has been Sperrys. These below are the current members of our collection. (I might have a few more pairs of shoes than Fred … )

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When choosing boat shoes I look for four things: non-marking soles, good grip on deck, comfort and style.

While I love my Sperrys for their style, I have trouble with blisters. They’re fine for short stints on deck, but if I walk around the marina in them my feet are killing me.

Fred, while finding his shoes to be very comfortable and wearing them all the time, has only had them for 14 months, and they are no longer gripping the deck. When this happens the shoes are actually dangerous, so he’s not allowed to wear them on the boat anymore.

We have fallen into the pattern of using the shoes for the first year on the boat, and then after that they become casual city shoes.

Recently Sperry came out with these new shoes, which for me anyway may be a solution.  Supposedly breathable, pack-able and flexible. I will have to give them a try to let you know what I think — except they’re $75. Maybe if I buy them I’ll be able to do yoga on a surf board like the girl in the picture.

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Lately I’ve just been giving up on looking fashionable and have been wearing some regular old Nike sneakers with white soles. I have to say, they look pretty awful, but man they are comfortable. They also dry fast and grip really well. I can walk for miles in them with no blister issues.

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Then there is always the option of going barefoot. I feel like there is some sort of rift on this subject with experienced sailors on either side of the issue. On one side going barefoot is comfortable, free, quick drying, and generally in the spirit of the vagabond lifestyle. On the other hand, if you are out on the ocean and you break a toe, it could be a problem. Although even on land most people will just let a broken toe heal on its own, so unless you manage to break your whole foot, it’s probably not going to be life or death. So far Fred has already broken two toes since we purchased Gimme Shelter. He kicked a dock cleat while not even on the boat, and then he broke the other toe on a pulley for the jib mounted on the deck. Since then he has been consistently wearing shoes, but with summer fast approaching and his shoes having hardened dangerous soles we will be back to barefoot before you know it. I can’t see myself dropping $150+ on another pair of Sperrys for both of us this year.

Does anyone have any suggestions for comfortable, long lasting boat shoes that don’t make me look like a soccer mom?

At the boat show

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It was that time of year again. A time filled with magic and mysterious polishes that will supposedly make old aluminum look like new stainless. A time when “For Sale” signs appear on vessels in local marinas like buds on the trees. A time to re-stock your supply of free key floaters and drink coozies.

It’s time for the Southwest International Boat Show!

South Shore Harbor hosts the annual Southwest Boat Show in Kemah, Texas. I have to admit, having now been on many different types of vessels, the show isn’t as exciting as it was a few years ago. However, there were two big reasons to stop by this year.

The first reason was the Lagoon 450.

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Our upcoming summer charter will be on a Lagoon, but we’d never actually been on a large cat, so we were very excited to get a tour and see what they were really like.

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The 450 would definitely be a comfortable live-aboard with plenty of amenities and space for guests.

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There was no shortage of cabinets, closets, drawers, and other storage throughout the vessel.

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Call me selfish, but I much prefer the “owner’s” version over the “charter” version of these boats with a big cabin and head on one side — not that we’ll ever be able to afford ownership of either version. But maybe someday we’ll at least have a vessel with a stand-alone shower.

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Unlike some of the older, smaller cats we’ve toured like the Prouts and the PDQs, Mary had no trouble seeing over the helm of the Lagoon 450.

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Once we were finished there, we headed over to the next pier to check out the pre-owned Fountaine Pajot Lipari 41.

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The FP was also a cool boat with a very similar layout. Though smaller, it still had plenty of storage and space to entertain.

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Mary’s only complaint was that she did not like the design of the shower stall in the owner’s head. She prefers clear glass walls. I don’t know if that’s a deal breaker.

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However, she had no problem with the kitchen.

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The FP also had an elevated “flybridge” helm.

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Although on both boats, once the sails are set, it’s easy to keep watch and adjust the autopilot from inside at the nav station.

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However, the very visible escape hatches in the FP remind you of the one underlying danger of cat sailing — ending up upside down.

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Once we’d had our fill of touring boats we can’t afford, we walked through the vendor area and spent almost $40 on two burgers, fries and drinks while taking in some live music.

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And while nobody escapes the boat show for free, at least we didn’t end up with a radio-controlled boat.

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Or one of these three-wheeled slingshot cars.

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Or $99 for 20 minutes of being tethered to a jetski on a hydro-rocket.

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But there’s always next year …

Winch replacement progress and roadblocks

Well, after sitting in the rain all weekend waiting for a chance to work on the boat, I finally made some progress on the winch replacement this morning. A star-headed screwdriver and vice grips finally gave me enough torque to break the set screw.

I wish I meant break it loose. Unfortunately I mean I broke the head off of it.

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Once the head of the bolt snapped, the Barlow 25 came apart quite easily. Mary worked the deck side of the screws while I went below with a ratchet, and we had it removed pretty quickly.

Instead of fighting the set screw in the port winch I decided to try removing the nuts from the bottom first. Magically, I was able to get all five off, so the port winch is still intact, but not serviceable. I think I’m going to have to spend a couple hours this week drilling out the set screws and re-threading the center of both winches, so we can sell them.

Meanwhile, I began filling the old winch holes in the deck and patching some of the cracks with thickened epoxy.

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I thought I’d actually finish this project today, but then I ran into the next big hurdle. Our replacement winches are vintage Lewmar 44st spring jaw winches with six allen bolts on top. I just assumed that when I removed the six allen bolts, the winch would come apart. Wrong.

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I’m stumped. I searched the internet for a diagram or service manual with no luck. I also posted on cruiserforum.com looking for help, and nobody has responded yet. Until I can figure out how to take these winches apart to drill new holes and bolt them to the deck, I’m stuck.

Anybody have an idea?

Update: Lewmar sent me the answer, and it involves a rubber mallet. I will post the instructions soon.

Lonely islands, black rats, and giant bugs

NPR had a very interesting story this morning about the tree lobster, a 12 cm long flightless insect from Australia. Thought to be extinct since the 1920s due to the accidental introduction of black rats to Lord Howe Island, biologist found one small group of them living on one plant way up a mountain on a tiny island off the coast. It’s a very interesting story about invasive species and conservation.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2012/02/24/147367644/six-legged-giant-finds-secret-hideaway-hides-for-80-years?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20150310

Australia definitely isn’t the only place with huge insects. Check out this beetle we ran into in Hopkins, Belize last summer.

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Giant bugs are part of the adventure, right?

What’s the craziest insect or animal you’ve ever run into?

Finally developed that last roll of film

From time to time I still carry around a 35mm film camera. In this case it was a Leica M4-2 with a 35mm Summilux and a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus 400.

It takes me a long time to finish an entire roll of film, so when I finally develop the negatives, it’s like opening a time capsule.

Here’s some scenes with friends (and dogs) on film from the past few months on boats and around the marina.

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Time to load a new roll …

The Dredge Report

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We’ve seen the dredge barge in action a lot lately. It feels good to know that all the money we’re spending on slip fees is actually being put to good use. Watergate has also removed pier 2, and it will soon be replaced with a new floating pier.

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Thanks to the many trips of these dump trucks back and forth to the barge, we can actually go sailing in the middle of winter at low tide. At our old marina we would be sitting in the mud from Thanksgiving until St. Patrick’s Day!

Our new feathered friend

Last weekend we had a new bird take up residence near Gimme Shelter. Every morning this snowy egret was walking the shallows just the other side of the breakwater.

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While he kept an eye on us and refused to eat while we were watching, he never flew away. I left him to catch his breakfast while I went to eat mine. I was excited to see him again the next morning when we got up to walk the dogs.

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Rarely are birds and animals close enough to shoot with the rangefinder, but he (or she, I have no idea how to tell the gender) was close enough that I managed to capture these shots with the M9 using the 135mm f2.8 Leica Elmarit lens.

All of the rocks in that area disappear under water when the summer tides and south wind return, but hopefully our new egret friend will stick around and have breakfast with us for a few more weekends.

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Sunsets

The brief appearance by the sun last week brought a weekend full of really nice sunsets.

Friday we had pink clouds over Clear Lake.

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Saturday was by the far the most dramatic. The sunset snuck up on me from behind Crazy Allen’s Swamp Shack at the Kemah Boardwalk while we were still celebrating the finish of that afternoon’s Icicle Series Regatta.

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And after two beautiful sunsets in a row, Mary and I wanted to be ready for Sunday’s show. Unfortunately after making the hike around Watergate to find a great viewing spot, it turned out more low key than the others, but it was still nice.

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Today the gray skies and rain have returned. Hopefully it clears up and warms back up by Saturday.

Anchor lights and other things at the top of the mast

When we purchased Gimme Shelter, she did not have an anchor light. The previous owner had been hanging a small light off the backstay. After a few close calls with some not-so-smart boaters while anchored out to watch fireworks last summer, I decided the backstay light was not hacking it. (Yes, I said last summer. You can’t rush these projects when there’s important things to do like sailing, drinking and playing music.)

Many months ago our friend Rene had donated this Seasense LED anchor light he had left over after a project on his Morgan. Many thanks, Rene!

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This weekend it was finally warm enough to tackle the job. However, first I had to do some investigation and answer some important questions like, where did the anchor light switch and wiring go? I wasn’t sure if I was going to have to run all new wire or not.

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Gimme Shelter came with a “solar charger.” Basically there was a huge 15 watt panel in the aft berth with a 12v DC plug. If you carried the giant, outdated panel outside and plugged it into the 12v socket in the binnacle, then flipped that “solar charger” switch, the panel would ever-so-slightly feed the batteries. I decided the “solar charger” switch was probably a good place to start looking for anchor light clues.

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Yep, under the solar charger label was the anchor light switch. However, it obviously was no longer wired to the anchor light, so the investigation had to move behind the panel.

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What a mess?! However, almost all the wires still had their tiny factory label ring on them. I found two red wires that were no longer hooked to anything. One was labeled “G” and one was labeled “5”. The wire going to the steaming light was labeled “4”, so I took a gamble and hooked wire “5” to the anchor light switch and flipped it on. Suddenly I had 12 volts  running to the wiring plug at the base of the mast! (I still don’t know where the “G” wire leads.)

The anchor light wires were still attached to the plug and running up the mast, but we had no idea if they still made it all the way to the top, and there was only one way to find out. It was time to put on the harness and head up the beanstalk.

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Since Mary doesn’t have the strength to crank me up the mast, and she doesn’t care for heights, we invested in a MastMate. It’s a nylon ladder that connects to the main halyard and runs up the sail track. I still wear a harness and connect the topping lift to my harness just in case, but it makes going up and down much easier. Mary just takes up or lets out slack and ties me off instead of having to crank me up.

I was greeted at the top with a disturbing sight.

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A lizard was literally impaled on the end of the windex. How does that even happen?

I’d taken up a bag of tools, so I went to work unscrewing the cap to the top of the mast. However, once unscrewed the top wouldn’t budge. I had to retreat down the mast to find a pry bar.

Once back up the mast with the biggest screwdriver in the box, I did manage to pop the top and found this.

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Can anyone enlighten me as to why there are two sheaves in the middle of the mast? If they had been the same size as the sheaves in front I would have switched them out, so I could run a second jib halyard, but they weren’t quite the same size. I lifted them out and began searching for the anchor light wires.

Hallelujah, the wires were still there. After spending what felt like an eternity balanced on one foot reaching down the mast with a long pair of needlenose pliers I finally grabbed them and was able to slide them back up to the top. I then clamped a set of vice grips on them, so they wouldn’t fall back down the mast. After trimming and stripping the ends, the multimeter verified that I had 12 volts at the top of the mast. (I was astounded because boat projects never go this way.)

At this point I needed to take another break, so I left the vice grips holding the wires and climbed back down with the mast cap. I decided the easiest plan of action was to mount the light to the cap on the ground, then take it all back up as one piece for installation.

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In the perfect world I would have cleaned and repainted the cap, but even though this project was going surprisingly well, I was still running out of daylight, and I needed to get everything back together before heading home.

For the third time I climbed the mast. I crimped the wires together, taped it all up, released the vice grips and screwed the top back into place.

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And just as I leaned back to bask in the glory of my flawless victory, I broke off the windex!

I wasn’t too upset. I mean, there was a dead lizard stuck on it anyway.

I ended the day with only one injury. Somehow I gave myself a blood blister on my pinkie – no idea how.

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It felt so good to finally scratch the anchor light off our work list (even though I had to pencil in “replace windex” at the bottom). I was amazed that we never even had to make a trip to West Marine! I don’t know if that means we’re getting better at projects or that we got really lucky this time.

As we took one last walk with the dogs before sunset, I could see our new anchor light shining proudly across the marina. (Our mast is the tiny one right in the middle of the photo. And by shining proudly, I mean, I could barely see it because it was still daylight, but it was definitely on, so that counts.)

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We finally have all of our lights functioning. Hopefully we will spend many nights anchored out this year.

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