Monday, January 6, 2014

A Tale of Many Leaks

Leaks are never a good thing on a boat.  Over the past few days, I've certainly discovered my share of them.  Thanks to a recent rain, I found three portholes and two hatches that leak in heavy rains.  Ironically, the two that the surveyor mentioned might leak...stayed perfectly dry.  At this point I'm pretty sure at least two need to be rebed, the others I hope just have something on the gasket and if I open, clean, and reseal them that will resolve the issue.  Guess I'll find out the next time it rains.

Remember that red stuff in the bilge that I thought might be transmission fluid?  Well, it was actually diesel (either my sense of smell is going or this was the least diesel smelling diesel I've ever encountered). During my survey, the surveyor noted diesel in the bilge but did not see any leaks so he thought it may have just been a filter change that had gone bad.  Well, no such luck.  After having someone that knows more about diesels than I do come check things out, they found the injection pump is leaking.  In fact, 3 of the 4 pistons in the pump leak.  So that will be sent off to be rebuilt as it is certainly above my current skill level.

I also discovered that our fresh water system has a leak.  Under the sink on the Leopard 38 is a rat maze of plumbing for the fresh water system.  At the end of this is an interesting plastic manifold that directs output from the pumps to the accumulator tank, a bleed valve, and the two main cold water lines.  One of the cold water lines had a drip.  What's worse is that it appears that someone tried wrapping some black, sticky stuff around the fitting to seal the leak.  Of course, that didn't work.  The one thing that bothers me about this is that the surveyor didn't pick up on this as it seems a pretty obvious "quick temporary fix".

The leaking fitting with the black stuff pulled back

Since this appears to be a fairly standard plumbing repair, I dove right in to fix this one.  Step one, remove the black gooey stuff.  It appears to be some sort of rubbery tape-like substance.  This might be the inferior grade butyl tape I heard about when researching how to bed hardware on a boat.  In any case, it doesn't stop a drip in the pressure system.

The leak appears to be where some PEX tubing is connected to the plastic manifold with a brass barbed fitting and a clamp. The interesting thing is that just above this connection is another PEX pipe that is connected with the press to fit fittings.  There also looks like there might be a little crack in the plastic where the brass fitting is threaded.  Since the whole manifold is held to the wall with a couple plastic clips, I try to pull the manifold out to get a better look.  Big mistake.  The grey PVC is much thinner than the PVC I'm used to and at 14 years old, it was very brittle...and snapped.  So, now I get to recreate this manifold.  Oh, guess I should mention that this boat, built in South Africa, is made with metric parts and that includes pipe and hose diameters.  

The old manifold, broken

So, off to the hardware store I go.  Of course, US hardware stores typically only carry US/imperial size items...and this makes sizing some of the parts interesting.  Fortunately, most of the fittings are of the type that we can merge metric tubes with imperial connectors (just crank the hose clamp a bit tighter, right).  After the requisite 4 trips to the hardware store (why do all plumbing jobs require a minimum of 4 trips to the store?), over the course of two days (mental note: stop starting projects after noon so I have time to get back to the store before they close), I finally have all the right sized parts to complete the project.  After spending a couple hours cutting PVC, cleaning and assembling the manifold, this is the result.

You will note I went with the easy press on connectors for both PEX lines, so I can easily disconnect if I ever have to, instead of the barbed fitting that was there and was the one leaking.  Due to the size differences in the fittings, the new manifold doesn't quite snap into the old holder on the lower end, so I drill a couple holes in the old clamp and turn it into a zip tie holder so I can "belt it in".

Other than having to re-seat one of the PEX pipes in the connector, the installation went well and now is leak free.  I have running water again.

Installed and Leak Free

Oh, and one last leak...a propane leak.  When we took possession of the boat and opened the propane locker, it had the smell of propane.  Sure enough, when I checked the weight of the bottles, I found both were empty.  Since the propane system was checked during the survey, the bottle was apparently left on and all the contents slowly leaked out from a leak between the bottle and the electric shut off valve. Sure am glad this boat has a propane locker and the propane didn't just empty into the bottom of the bilge.

I went and got the bottles filled and proceeded to test the connections with some soapy water.  Sure enough, found bubbles at a fitting just before the regulator and also at the tank connection fitting.  After retrieving some pipe joint compound (liquid not tape) I was able to resolve the issue with the regulator fitting.  The tank connection fitting was easier to resolve.  The prior owner added one of those propane tank gauges (I assume to serve as an adapter from the older style propane fitting that requires a wrench to the one that can be hand tightened) so I simply removed it.  Now the system seals.

So, that is how I spent several days working on leaks and why I wasn't posting on the blog as regularly as I would like.


  1. Nice fix on the plumbing. But have you priced injector pump rebuild? When I was looking into them, the prices for rebuilt and new were a little surprising. Good luck and continued success on the repairs.

    1. Thanks. Yeah, I've heard they are expensive...of course having diesel filling up your bilge isn't good either so what do you do.

    2. I think he meant that the cost of a rebuilt or new injector pump may be a more cost effective option than having your's rebuilt.

    3. I'm definitely not having mine rebuilt "in the field". We are checking on options for swapping a core for a rebuilt or new.

  2. I believe the black stuff was probably very old Rescue Tape, a very valuable thing to have on board in an emergency.I truly feel your pain on the rebuild since we just had to have that done. It is absolutely a pro job. We had ours done at Coastal Diesel in New Bern, NC which was fortunately close by. Hope your install is much more straightforward than ours!

    S/V Kintala

    1. Looking at the Rescue Tape web site, I'm not sure this stuff was rescue tape. This stuff was fairly thick and somewhat pliable and sticky. Seems rescue tape is thinner from what I could gather on the site. Sounds like a good item to have on hand, will see about getting some.

      The pump is getting shipped out for rebuild...supposed to be one of the best places in the state. We will see.

  3. Keep us posted on the re-fit Mike! The trials and tribulations of prepping to be a liveaboard cruiser are some of the most interesting and useful parts of a sailing blog, I think. Persevere through the craziness of Previous Owners.

    1. Will do my best Nate. Although so far I can't really say that what I've been doing thus far counts as "refit" as much as "repair". ;-)

      I also don't want this blog to turn into "bitching about broken boat bits" so I need to find some other stuff to throw into the soon as I get to the point I feel I'm at least treading water.