The Adler/Barbour Historical Preservation Society

One of the things to take into consideration when buying an older boat is that while the hull itself may be in great shape, you’re going to have to spend some money updating other things.

O’day 34s were constructed with two large iceboxes in the galley.

Galley

Sometime in Gimme Shelter’s past a previous owner converted the aft icebox into a refrigerator with an Adler/Barbour Cold Machine.

It wasn’t a terrible installation. They mounted to compressor in the lazarette and used the correct size wires run directly to the house batteries with its own breaker switch.

However, they mounted the evaporator very high in the icebox, so that there was no space to add any insulation to the icebox lid. This creates moisture and sweat on the counter, which in turn rots out the plywood icebox lids.

Last year I constructed a new lid, which I sealed with epoxy to hopefully stop the rotting. I also added a layer of neoprene on the bottom of it in hopes of improving the efficiency of the refrigerator.

It was only a matter of months before the cold and moisture destroyed the glue holding the neoprene onto the bottom. In the winter we still had ice forming on the counter. In the summer we still had a damp counter.

To make matters worse, during the heat of the summer, the battery charger couldn’t keep up with the refrigerator’s draw on the house batteries. We started having to turn off the refrigerator when we left the boat because without the air-conditioner running to keep the ambient temperature lower in the cabin, the refrigerator would run non-stop and run the batteries flat.

We knew we had to do something, but when you’re a frugal boater (aka cheap), it’s hard to spend money re-working something that already functions enough to get you by.

Well, last week we arrived to the boat and flipped on the refrigerator breaker only to get no response. It was dead as a doorknob.

Our friend Andy also happened to have an Adler/Barbour system that had just died, which he was troubleshooting, so he offered to stop by and troubleshoot ours this week. His first comment was, “Wow, your system is MUCH older than mine.”

In fact, I went scrounging through the folder of old receipts and manuals presented to us by the previous owner, and it turns out our refrigerator dates back to around 1985 — at least, that’s the copyright on the installation instructions.

AdlerBarbour

Adler/Barbour is also now owned by Waeco, part of the Dometic Group, instead of IMI.

While Andy’s troubleshooting showed that it’s probably the control unit that has gone bad, the four-pin control unit is no longer made. However, you can allegedly use a Frigoboat controller unit as a replacement. That’s a $285 non-refundable gamble I’m not will to make on a 30-year-old system that already had some fundamental problems.

Since the thermostat and evaporator seemed fine, our next option was to just replace the compressor/condendor unit. Unfortunately, our system is still running R12 freon, so I’m not sure how the evaporator would react if we hooked a new R134a compressor up to it. Not to mention the fact that Adler/Barbour has changed the connections on their lines sometime in the past three decades, and we’d have to pay an additional $199 for the adapter kit.

Seriously, how are those two short copper tubes worth $199?!!!

It looks like we’re going to have to negate our membership in the Adler/Barbour Historical Preservation Society and rip the old refrigerator out next weekend.

Right now we’re leaning towards this Isotherm Refrigeration Kit, which uses the same Danfoss compressor but is a couple hundred dollars cheaper than the Adler/Barbour system.

And most importantly, I’m going to install the evaporator in a spot that allows for a very well-insulated lid.

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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.

impellercomparison

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.

rawwaterpump

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.

zinccomparison

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.

heatexchangerselfie

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.

zincinexchanger

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.