Friday, December 12, 2014

And Sometimes You Win

In my last post I told you a story of a couple days that just didn't go my way.  And that is how it goes sometimes.  Of course, a few times you win the battles too.

After learning the little secret on burping my air conditioner sea strainers, I thought I had the problem solved.  But, during the latter part of the trip south, I found that one reason for the need to burp may be result of the design of the boat.  I found that if the boat goes over about 7 knots or so, the Bernoulli effect actually sucks water out of the system.  I confirmed this at one point when I removed the lid of one of the strainers and the water was sucked out through the open through hull.  Since the strainer is below the water line, normally opening the strainer would cause water to enter the boat.

Unfortunately, part of how I discovered this was that I had attempted to fire up one of the AC units to provide some heat during the trip down to Brunswick.  After noting that the system wasn't providing heat I shut it down.  But, it had been running for at least 15 minutes or so and when the raw water pumps run without water...well, it is a bad thing.

So, of course, when I got to the marina and tried it out I found that the pump wasn't working even after I burped the system.  The raw water pump would buzz but not turn. Not a good sign at all...and I was thinking that I would probably need to drop another couple hundred dollars for a replacement pump. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I decided I would first try to remove the pump head and see if there was anything I could do to revive it.

I pulled the head off and then turned the system on for just a few moments to see if the motor would spin by itself.  Of course, it did not.  I then tried turning the motor spindle by hand and was finally able to get it moving pretty freely.  Restarted the system and now the motor would spin...this was a good sign.  While I had the head off I cleaned it up (it seemed to have a little dust from the ceramic magnets caused by it running dry) using a soft scotch brite pad, some towels and water.  I was able to clean it up enough that everything seemed to move freely.  I re-assembled the unit and gave it one more try.

At first it just buzzed, but I tapped it with the handle of my screwdriver and it started working.  I let it run for a few minutes and then shut it off.  When I tried restarting it, it again needed a little tap to get going, but once going, would run OK.  When I contemplated taking the pump apart, I had found a website on beer making that talked about servicing these pumps (yep, I guess these March pumps are also used in beer production) and mentioned that if you had one that was sticking, you could loosen the screws just a little while it was running and then re-tighten them and that would help realign the pump head.  I gave it a try.  After loosening and re-tightening the screws on the pump head, I shut the system down again.  When I restarted it, the pump spun right up.  I've been testing it the past few days (OK, with the colder temperatures I've been needing some heat so have been using it) and it seems to be working just fine now.  Success!

So, in a welcome change, a little time and patience saved me a few hundred dollars for a replacement pump.

Another issue that cropped up on my trip from Virginia was that my steaming light went out.  It worked fine when I was at the boatyard, but the first time I tried using it on the trip, it didn't come on. Since it has been cold here, I have been reluctant to go up the mast and check on it.  Yesterday I decided that I had nothing to lose and decided to clean the connections of the terminal strip that contained the electrical connections for the mast (I had previously verified that electricity was making it to that point on all 3 of the lights).  At worst, I would be cleaning up something that could use a little TLC, and at best maybe I would get my steaming, anchor, and/or deck light back.

In my boat, this connection is found in a cabinet under the galley sink.  While this isn't the most comfortable place to work on the boat, it does beat climbing the mast and hanging on to a big piece of aluminum when it is only 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit outside.  So, I disassembled the connections on the strip, one by one.  I used a wire brush and scotch brite pad to clean up the terminal strip, spades, and screws.  I then reassembled each connection, using a little dielectric grease to help combat future corrosion.

After getting everything reassembled, I turned on the 3 lights and went outside to check and see if any were alive.  The anchor light was still out.  So was the deck light.  But the steaming light was once again functional.  So, for taking a complete stab in the dark that was convenient to try on a cold day, I got one of my lights back.  I'll chock this up as a win as well.

I also got the motor back for the dinghy that day.  The cost to fix it was probably right around the same as the cost to replace that pump, so I guess in the grand scheme of things, I'm about even.  I put the motor on the dinghy and went for a spin around the marina.  I even managed to get the dinghy up on plane for a few moments and that 15 hp engine can make the dinghy move.

After the failed fixes the other day, it felt good to have a few things go right.  Definitely improved my spirits.  Now, if it would warm up a little, maybe I can get some other things done.

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