May 2010 Cruising Tips
Repairs on the run
We take very good care of both Yanmar engines on our Outremer 45 catamaran. Before we left Thailand late last year we serviced everything and figured the engines were in good shape for our passage to the Med. Everything worked well until we spent a week motoring in the windless Gulf of Aden and noticed our port engine was using two pints of oil every twelve hours—and consumption was edging up.
Because there was no exhaust smoke, we knew the lost oil was ending up in the bilge and that we had a leak somewhere. After consulting our engine shop manual, reviewing Nigel Calder’s books, and sending a few e-mails to our Yanmar gurus at home, we decided all the easy possibilities—external oil lines, loose drains or bolts, and clogged breather orifices—were not the problem. Our next step was to clean the entire engine, slide a clean sheet of poster board underneath it and start it up. When oil appeared on the sheet we quickly traced the leak to the bottom of the timing chain cover at the front of the block. About 1/2in of gasket had slid out and broken away.
Shoreside repair facilities were more than a thousand miles away, and since the engine is located just six inches abaft a watertight bulkhead, I knew fixing this leak would be a challenge.
I concluded there were three ways to make the repair. First, I could pull the engine out and replace the gaskets and seals. That was the best idea, but unfortunately I didn’t have a complete seal kit. Second, I could loosen the timing gear cover, slide it forward, and insert a new section of Permatex and then re-torque everything. I was worried this might make the problem worse and figured the chance of it happening outweighed the probability of success. So I chose the third low-tech approach.
First I drained the oil from the engine and cleaned and degreased the affected area. Next I cut the visible parts of the bad gasket out of the way using a razor blade and a dental pick. Then I degreased the surfaces again, sanded the areas immediately adjacent to the leak with coarse sandpaper and then I cleaned the entire area again with acetone. Then I mixed a thick batch of Marine-Tex epoxy, squeezed it into place, and sculpted the epoxy with a sheet of polyethylene plastic. I let the epoxy cure for about two hours before I mixed a second batch and applied a second layer of epoxy over the first. I also bonded it more securely around the edges and to the gasket, in case more of it was about to fail.
I thought this would be a temporary repair, but I’ve put more than 200 more hours on the engine since then and the epoxy is holding just fine. If it continues to hold, I’ll leave it alone until it is time for the engine to come out for its next major overhaul.
– John Spier
A good night’s sleep
I’ve spent months anchored in places where wakes and wave conditions can make life a misery for the unprepared. But this simple stopper device that you can build in less than an hour from scrap materials will stop your boat from rolling and make the experience a pleasant one no matter what the conditions are. Here’s what you need.
•Two 18in x 12in pieces of plywood with a
thickness of 3/8 or 1/2in. Aluminum plate is better,
but more expensive.
• 20ft of 5/16 or 3/8in non-stretch line
•A weight (heavy belt or mushroom anchor) to hang
below the flopper stopper to hold it down.
•A drill and 7/16 or 1/2in bit.
•Some seizing twine or light cord.
Drill bridle holes in each piece of plywood that are big enough to receive the line you will use. Place the holes about two inches above the centerline of the plywood. Drill three more holes in the bottom of each piece of plywood about 1 1/2in from the bottom. Put a hole at each end and put the third in the center of the piece. The two outer holes are used for the hinges. Next loosely tie the two bottom edges together so they form a hinge. Make sure they will hinge open and shut smoothly. Make the bridles by cutting two pieces of line 6ft long. Mark the center of each and then run the two ends of the line through the bridle holes; pass the line through the holes from the outside to the inside of the plywood and put a strong knot in the ends. Make a small eye in the middle of each bridle line and tape it. Whip the two eyes together and your bridle is ready.
To deploy the stopper, hang the weight from the holes in the center of the stopper’s bottom edge and then tie an 8- to 10-foot piece of line from the end of your boom to the bridle eye. Use a preventer to wing out the boom perpendicular to the boat as you ease the mainsheet. Be sure your topping lift is strong enough to absorb the energy of the flopper-stopper: attach the main halyard to the end of your boom to back up the topping lift if necessary.
When the boat rolls up, the device will hinge open and check the boat’s roll. When the boat sinks down the hinges will close. The next upswing will open it again. You’ll be amazed how easy to use and how effective this device is. – Andy Deering