Monday, February 11, 2013

Keep Your Senses Keen and Your Mind Sharp

One practice that is wise to get into the habit of when cruising is the art of being observant.  Your senses will undoubtedly become heightened on a boat.  You will immediately notice an altered cadence, a different odor, a strange vibration... Depending on how complex your boat is, you will either have a lot to keep tabs on, or a little.  Regardless, it pays to be observent and hone in your senses because - on a boat - what you don't know can hurt you.

Yesterday we ran our generator to put a little juice into our batteries.  As we do whenever we start a mechanical system, we watched and listened for anything out of the ordinary.  Thanks to this habit, Scott was able to notice a steady stream of water dripping out of the bottom of a bolt on our Westerbeke.  Where it was coming from he had no idea (we're new to this whole "generator" thing, after all).  So I shut of the generator and Scott went in to investigate.

What he learned was that the leak was coming off our heat exchanger and that inside that heat exchanger is a small sacrificial zinc.  Initially, we thought that perhaps a bad zinc was to blame for the leak, so Scott decided to swap that little baby out.  Luckily for us, I had ordered a nice arsenal of spare parts from Trans Atlantic Diesels for both our Westerbeke generator and our Perkins engine so we had what we needed to accomplish the task.  When you change a zinc however, it's also wise to clean out the corroded remnants of that zinc that might still be in the housing, which Scott did.  And that is when he noticed the crack in the heat exchanger cover.  Leak source:  discovered.

The only problem was the fact that in my awesome arsenal of spare goodies, I did not have a heat exchanger cap. Gasket, yes.  Cap, no.  What to do?  We pondered...

Turns out we did have a spare heat exchanger cap for our Perkins engine so Scott decided to try that on for size.   We fired up the generator again and this time, no leak.  It worked like a charm.  Problem: solved.

So...if the first habit to get into is observation, the second habit to pick up is creativity.

*Huge props and thanks to "Maine Sail" for creating THIS SITE and the fantastic tutorial of the autopsy of a Westerbeke.  If you have not visited this page, you should.  It is a WEALTH of awesome, first hand knowledge and Maine sail is a true expert on all things boat.
That bolt on the left is where we noticed the dripping
So we decided to change the zinc and clean out the heat exchanger a bit.  This is the old gasket. 
Gnarly!  Cleaning out the bits of corroded zinc.
All clean.
The old zinc and bits of dead zinc removed from heat exchanger

 New zinc
Perkins cap
Voila! Problem, solved!


Tasha Hacker said...

There must be something about zincs and heat exchangers in Bimini. Man, did I learn a lot about heat exchangers in that place! Glad you got yours sorted so quickly. xx


Philippe (VA2PHL) said...

This is always paying to check those things. By the way your last picture comment should read voila! (this is it) and not viola! (r a p e)

Windtraveler said...

@Tasha - thats right! You guys had heat exchanger issues too...crazy!
@Philippe...YOWSAS! Thanks for that...guess my mind wasn't so keen this morning! haha - appreciate it :)

Philippe (VA2PHL) said...

My pleasure.

Unknown said...

Your blog is very informative.
Heat Exchangers in Perth

Unknown said...

How cool that you were so prepared! This was a great experience to share. You just never know what small things can lead to big problems while out on the water. If ever you're in need of a new or used generator this company is a resource as well :

Industrial Motor Power Corp

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