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Sunday, October 17, 2010

10/17/2010 - Whew!


I started out the day dragging my feet because I really wasn't looking forward to twisting myself into weird shapes to work in the engine room. But, eventually I had to do it. First thing I did was remove the big cable that connects the engine block to the starting battery's negative post. Well, there is a shunt and a big honkin' buss bar between the engine and the battery but you get the idea. I started to do this the other day and found the bolt to be pretty freakin' tight. So, it's been steeping in WD-40 since. Today I applied the wrench and pushed. Nothing. Pulled out the rubber mallet and gave the wrench a little whack and that was all it took to loosen things up.

The connection was kind of crusty so I wire-brushed and emery-clothed all the mating surfaces. Put it back together nice and tight, sprayed it with corrosion inhibitor and called it good. Now to the next connection. To tell the truth, I looked at and yanked on all the other connections and couldn't see any reason to loosen them up and check them. They're all fairly new connections and are up where they can be easily seen. All were very tight and completely clean. I sprayed a little more corrosion inhibitor on them and decided to leave them alone unless all else failed. Checked the battery connection and it too was nice and tight and clean.

At this point I tried a test-start. No joy.

The next suspect was the starter and/or the connection between the starter and the engine. I decided that, if I was going to go ahead and pull the starter I was going to replace it with my spare rather than reinstall it after a clean-up and then find out the starter itself is the culprit. So, I dug down to the bottom of one of the v-berth lockers and pulled out a shiny red starter. I think it's new rather than rebuilt but I couldn't swear to that.

The bottom bolt on the starter was a piece of cake to remove. The other one, not so much. It was in a spot that allowed about 1/16 of a turn before the wrench was up against something hard and had to be repositioned. Of course, it was inaccessible to a socket wrench. And, even when it finally got finger-tight, there was no room to insert fingers so, slowly it came out. 1/16th of a turn at a time right up to the very end.

Now you probably can imagine how tough it was to get this same bolt started again when it came time to install the new starter. It's almost impossible to start a bolt using a wrench. You almost HAVE to start it with your fingers until it takes a bite. But what if you can't use your fingers because the available space just isn't big enough? Well, you grit your teeth, cuss like a sailor, and, after many attempt using various combinations of wrenches, fingers, and hemostats, you finally feel the bolt start mating with the first set of threads in the hole. You then back away slowly and then sneak back up on it with the box-end wrench and start ever-so-slowly tightening, praying all the while that you won't accidentally undo your progress. I did finally get it but I swear I could probably have translated this whole paragraph to Spanish in less time than it took to get that stupid bolt started.

But, ultimately I did get the new starter mounted (what choice did I have?) and wired up with nice clean connections. Time for a test-start. Transmission in neutral, throttle about 2/3 open, turn the key, hold down the preheat button for 5 seconds, press the start button and SHE CRANKS OVER A COUPLE TURNS AND THEN STARTS RIGHT UP!!!! And that was with the starting battery only. Hot damn!

I let her run for a few minutes while I readjusted the idle speed and watched for oil leaks. I never did see any leakage. Finally shut the engine down and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

I'm really hoping that all my starting battery charging problems weren't charging problems at all but rather just a case of the battery not being able to overcome the bad starter. A guy can hope, right? And while I'm hoping, I also hope the whole oil leak thing was just a red herring. Granted, the transmission was low but let's just forget about that for the moment. The bilge in my engine compartment has always been a bit oily. I always have absorbent pads floating down there. Maybe, just maybe, when the boat was rolling around the output shaft coupling smacked a nasty oily corner of one of these pads and threw oily water up on the wall. Could've happened that way. Right? One of the things that leads me down this path is the fact that the spray pattern lines up nicely with the back of the transmission where the coupling is. I know, this is also where the rear shaft seal is but I can't find any evidence of oil leaking past the seal. So, I guess that for now, we'll just keep an eye on the oil levels until we find an actual culprit.

In other news:

The sun didn't shine long enough yesterday to make up for our amp-hour deficit and it isn't going to today either. So, out came the trusty ol' Honda generator. Check the oil, set the choke, give her one pull and she starts right up. Hot diggity dog! So the battery banks are getting topped off nicely.

They predicted a slight chance of thunderstorms today. Well, we got 'em. Had some hellacious thunder and intermittent showers. Saw some lightning but not too much. There's a Damian Marley concert over in Avila this afternoon and of course it's an outdoor concert. Bummer.

Now that we're up and running again, I guess we have to figure out our next move. This one's a biggie since it will take us around Point Conception. This is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, Point Conception is known for having very rough, confused seas. It's not a for sure thing but it's something we need to be very aware of. On the other hand, supposedly once we round the Point, we enter Southern California weather. So, while we're not particularly looking forward to our trip around the Point, we are looking forward to being on the other side. Nice to have wifi here because I need to watch the weather more than ever this time.

Not sure where our next stop will be. We had planned to go out to the Channel Islands but we kind of need to do a marina stop sometime so that we can clean the engine room bilge, get a new foot pump for the galley, get the starter rebuilt or replaced, and get some more fresh fruit. We eat a lot of fresh fruit during passages. So, I'm not sure where we're going. I'll let you know after Lulu and I come to a decision.

In the meantime, I bet I sleep better tonight knowing that our engine will start.


Anonymous said...

Good luck, honey. I knew you would solve the problem. Sound more and more like your Dad. Just tell him it can't be done and presto he will find a way. Love, Mom

Anonymous said...

You are amazing!
As for Point Conception, can you go out to see further from the Point to avoid those confusing seas? I know you don't want to get out into shipping lanes, but if you get further away from land, does it get a little calmer?/Beverly

Steve and Lulu said...


Sure hope so.