Saturday, September 14, 2019

Another Ten-year Project

Well, almost ten.

Way back in 2010, I bought a pile of 6" square solar cells, with the intention of making a bunch of solar panels.  I had no idea that it would take me this long to finish this effort.  This was a low-priority project, dependent on acquisition of used shower doors for free.  Thanks to craigslist, I was able to find the necessary shower doors, but this took way longer than I anticipated.

Nevertheless, finished it is.  By the time I had built 5 panels, the remaining cells I had were not enough to build that sixth panel, due to breakage in transit, breakage due to my clumsiness (these things are *fragile* - in comparison, a potato chip is way robust), and missing collector busses.  The seller had included extra cells to cover breakage in transit, but sadly none to cover for my clumsiness.  I might be able to resurrect those cells with missing collector busses, but I don't know if that would give me the required 40 cells.  So for now, I am finished.

For each panel, no-load output voltage (at zero current) is about 22V, and short circuit current approaches 8 amps, as advertised.  But as I have mentioned earlier, you don't get to have short circuit current and no-load circuit voltage at the same time.

Something else I have learned is that the output of solar cells is temperature dependent.  The cells produce significantly more power when they are cool than when they are hot.  And that dark color means that they will be hot in the sun.  The highest output I have seen from my array is on a day that is mostly cloudy (panels are shaded), when the sun breaks thru (panels are in direct sun, but still cool).

So, a realistic assessment of the power output from these panels is about 100 watts each, at our lattitude.  This means that I have the capability to produce a little more than 500 watts (including the three little panels that came with Eolian when we got her).  That power is directed into a grid-tie inverter...  there are no batteries in our system.  In essence I am using the power grid as my battery bank.  The inverter turns the output of the panels into 110V, 60 Hz and pushes it back into the line, synced with the line power (if the line power disappears, say during a storm, the inverter automatically shuts off to prevent back-feeding the line).  If my home is drawing more than 500 watts, part of that draw is supplied by the solar panels.  On the other hand, if the house is drawing less than 500 watts, then the solar panel system runs my electric meter backwards.  (With a maximum output of 500 watts, I don't think I will ever need to worry about what happens if I end a month with a negative meter reading.)

Sadly, the day that Jane and I got the last panel up onto the roof of my shop was the first day of the fall rainy season.  I have yet to see what the finished system can deliver in sunshine.  Nevertheless, it feels good to tie the ribbons on another long term project.

(The remaining posts on this project can be found here.)


Saturday, August 3, 2019

Drip... Drip...


"What was that," Jane asked.
"I think the water pump just ran," I said.  "It was probably just on the verge, and a little leak back caused it to cycle," I said, hopefully.

15 minutes later...  Brrrrrp...

"OK, no one is using water and the pump just cycled twice.  Either we have a leak somewhere, or the pump is failing."

Hoping for the best case scenario (meaning I would not have to replace the pump...), I started at the bow and checked for water running aft in the bilge.  I didn't find any until I got to the last floor panel.  Yup, there it was:  drip, drip, drip.

Great!  It's not the pump!

But where was it coming from?  Best bet: a cracked fitting.  But where?  I could sort of see the general area where it was coming from, but serious boat surgery would be required to access that area.

Now those of you that don't own boats might be surprised to hear that there are quite a few places on boats that are either inaccessible or nearly so.  Boats are more like modern cars than those from the 50's and 60's.

So.  I began unloading and disassembling the flooring in the cabinet opposite the refer.

Getting access to the area...
I have been in this area before, but not as fully as this job was going to require.  Yes, I could now see the water actually dripping.  But the source was still hidden up inside that rectangular opening down at the bottom of the area, where the gray water lines are going. 

Deep dark hole...

I stuck my phone down in there and took a blind picture - yup!  Got it!  I even caught a falling drop of water in the air!  See how the left hand fitting is cracked?  That's where the water was coming from.  The fitting on the bottom of the tee is cracked too, but strangely not yet leaking.  Both of them need to be changed.  (The fitting on the right had already been replaced - it had a price written on it.)

I should point out that this space is at the aft end of the engine, and that when I finally got up the courage to dive into the job, standing on the engine mounting bunks, my shoulders were about level with the floor in front of the refer.  Deep.  And narrow - only a little wider than my shoulders.  And filled with hard things that hurt when bumping or kneeling on them.  In the end, I ended up kneeling on the engine bunks, straddling the shaft, and putting my legs back (fwd, actually) alongside the engine to get low enough to work in the opening.  Barely.

Once in position, and with good planning having the correct tools at hand, the job didn't take too long.  The hardest part was tolerating the pain in my shins and knees, knowing that it would all be over soon.  Voluntary bruising, the price to be paid.

These are the bad guys
When it was all done, I awarded myself with a beer in the cockpit, while waiting for the pump to cycle.  Hours later, it still hasn't.


Saturday, July 20, 2019

Leaning Tower Of....

Once again, crabbing has been good this year.  This is just three days catch - Jane likes to stack them up like this.  We have added so much to this that I am tired of crab for dinner...  Jane, infinite patience that she has, has picked most of the meat from these, and the many since these, so that we can fit it in the freezer here on the boat.


Sunday, July 14, 2019

A Tale of Two Tread Plates, Update

OK, it's now been two years since the original experiment...

Here's how they look now:

As you can see, the untreated tread plate on the left is still groady... in fact it is even worse in real life than the picture shows.

And on the right is the plate which was treated with BAC, still looking clean, tho grey.  I said BAC, but for this experiment I actually used a version of BAC that has some silicone functional groups substituted for some of the carbon-based groups.  This version, called "Gold Shield" (sample provided by Drew - thanks!) is considerably more proof against washing out.  In fact it is used by hospitals to sterilize and keep sterile their bedding, even tho it is frequently washed.

I call this experiment concluded, and a success.  I am going to treat the other tread plate, and our bare teak rub strakes, with Gold Shield.


Sunday, June 30, 2019

It Just Got Easier - An App You Have To Have

Previously I wrote about the tricky tide-driven currents in the San Juan Islands,and how important it is to take them into account when planning voyages there.  In that previous post, I referred to the Canadian Current Atlas for the area...  the bible.  I also mentioned the somewhat involved procedure needed to determine which of the 100 or so charts would apply to the current time.  This procedure had to be applied to each of the alternatives when planning a voyage, and involved a lot of flipping thru pages and reference charts.

No more!

It's now an app!

Someone has laboriously taken all of the information in the Current Atlas and built it into an app...  an app that makes it absolutely painless to scroll backwards and forwards in time to compare alternatives.

And here is the big bonus:  it's all in the appNo internet connection is required, so this is entirely appropriate for use in internet-deprived areas (there are quite a few in the Islands...).

You can find it in your app store - search for "Current Atlas".  Yes, you'll have to pay for it, once.   (You had to pay for the arcane hardcopy version didn't you?)  It is worth every penny.

Get it.


Friday, June 28, 2019

Genset Summer

After doing all that work on the generator this spring, when we got back after a couple of weeks at anchor, I found this...

Yep - the seawater pump on the generator had failed.

Apparently the first to go was the seal - that's what keeps the seawater inside the pump and away from the bearings that support the shaft:

That's not supposed to be three different pieces...

In fact the seal was so far gone that it came out in three pieces.

And then, because Kohler didn't see fit to use sealed bearings, the seawater running past the failed seal got into the bearings.  High carbon steel does not do well with exposure to salt water...

Bearings no more...

But thankfully, I have the tools and a rebuild kit was just an eBay away for a nominal sum, so one more time into the bilges, and the pump was as good as new.  Actually better than new, because the rebuild kit came with stainless bolts to replace the brass (?!) phillips screws that had originally held the cover plate on.  I also replaced the single brass (again...) screw that held the pump cam in place with a stainless one.  That brass screw came out in three pieces...  I can just barely imagine what would have happened if the cam had come loose in there when the pump was running...

Better than new!

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Thursday, June 13, 2019

Blocking Buoys

Port Madison
(Snatched from m/v Archimedes - hires version and a lot more information there)
When first we came to the San Juan Islands, one of our anchorages was Grindstone Harbor, a charming little cove on the south shore of Orcas Island.  Now that cove is filled with "mooring" buoys.

Our first  voyage in Eolian was to Port Madison, on the north shore of Bainbridge Island.  We had virtually the entire harbor to ourselves and our choice of anchoring spots.  But as the years progressed, more and more "mooring" buoys appeared.  And now the current situation (as shown in the picture above) is that there is essentially NO anchorage any more in Port Madison, unless you want to take your chances anchoring in the narrow channel still remaining for ingress and egress.

What has happened?  Well, first of all, nearly all of the buoys are perennially empty.   Then why are they there?

I cannot know in all cases of course, but I do know for absolute certainty (because I have talked to them) that there are those landowners who place buoys in front of their property in order to block boats from anchoring in "their" view.  Since these buoys are not intended to be used for mooring, they may be anchored with nothing more than a couple of concrete blocks.

In Rusty's blog, m/v Archimedes, there is a lot of information about what it takes to get actual legal permission to install a mooring buoy.  It ain't easy!  My guess is, that whatever their intended purpose, less than 10% of the buoys in the picture above are registered, legal buoys.  Even if they all were (ha!), Rusty raises the case for anchorage as a prior right.

So, what to do?

I have a suggestion.

Mooring tender in Friday Harbor

There are many outfits around the sound that install moorings.  Place a bounty on illegal, unsanctioned unoccupied buoys of, say, $300.  Further, allow the mooring tenders to keep the removed moorings and their anchors for later sale as legal moorings.  Kind of like towing companies get to tow your car if it is found abandoned along the freeway.

Now someone is sure to complain that the buoys should not be removed without notifying the owner.  Do you get a notification when your car is towed? NO.  And in any case, the illegal buoys are unmarked (or at best are marked "Private"), so ownership cannot be determined.

With this plan implemented, my guess is that within a year or two, most of the buoys would have been removed and their space returned to general anchorage usage.


Monday, June 3, 2019

Rust Stains 

Over and over again I see people querying for a method to remove rust stains from fiberglass.  And over and over again I have typed in a quick answer.  Because my quick answers are not always complete, and also because I am getting frustrated at answering the same question over and over, I am writing this post so that I can just refer to it.



The surface of fiberglass (gelcoat, actually) is porous at the molecular level, that is why it stains so easily (spill a glass of wine and you'll see what I mean...).  And so it is with rust stains - they are not *on* the surface, but *in* the surface.

So what is the best way to remove rust stains from gelcoat?  Certainly one method is to simply remove the rust contaminated gelcoat - that is what abrasives do.  Besides the elbow grease required, this approach is limiting because eventually you will run out of gelcoat.

And then there is chemical treatment.  Boy have I seen a wide range of suggestions here:
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Cider vinegar
  • Coca Cola
  • Pepsi Cola
  • Ospho
  • Whink
  • Bar Keeper's Friend
  • Starbrite
  • Scotchbrite
  • FSR
  • Clay Bar
  • Rubbing compound
  • Bleach (numerous variants here...)
  • ...
Some of these are abrasives, and as mentioned above, they work by removing the stained gelcoat.

Some of the non-abrasives will be marginally effective.

But for a sure-fire, elbow-grease free and effective solution, use oxalic acid.

Oh no!  Acid sounds scary!  Must run away!  Oxalic acid is a weak acid, in the same vein as vinegar but a little stronger.  Do you wear rubber gloves when handling vinegar?  I didn't think so.

Oxalic acid is a crystalline solid - looks a lot like sugar.  To be effective, it must be used in solution.  Now here is an interesting fact:  oxalic acid is way, way more soluble in hot water than cold...  so when making a solution, always use hot water.  And always make a saturated solution (that is, no more will dissolve in the water - you can tell because there are still a few undissolved crystals on the bottom).

So just make up a saturated solution of oxalic acid, wet a piece of paper towel with the solution and stick it on the stain.  That is all.

Also some notes:
  • Bar Keeper's Friend is a soft abrasive with a small amount of added oxalic acid.
  • The active ingredient in FSR is oxalic acid.
  • Whink contains HF - hydrofluoric acid.  HF is scary stuff - it will even dissolve glass.
  • Bleach will be completely ineffective.  In fact it may serve to set the stain.
  • Phosphoric acid (Ospho, Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola) will be marginally effective
 So how would your average boat owner be able to obtain this magic oxalic acid?  Actually it is quite easy.  Oxalic acid is sold at Home Depot, etc. as "wood bleach"... look for it in the paint section.  Now why would this be?  Because the dark brown color in wood is due to iron oxide - rust.  And by the way, the dark brown staining from tannin-loaded waters is also due to iron oxide - oxalic acid will work on it too.

Now a final note on toxicity.  You have already eaten oxalic acid.  The sour taste in rhubarb is oxalic acid.  But you don't eat the leaves of rhubarb - why?  Because the oxalic acid concentration in the leaves is higher.  As with almost everything, the dose is the poison (even water and oxygen...  drink too much water and it will kill you...  deep sea divers use exotic gas mixtures containing far less than the 21% oxygen in the air because the pressure makes oxygen that much more dangerous).  So don't eat or drink the acid solution.  Don't breathe any dust.  Don't rub it into a cut or use it as an eyewash.  Wash your hands after contact.  It is about 3 times more toxic as a poison than aspirin, and about 1/4 the toxicity of caffeine.  Yes, it is poisonous but no heroic precautions are necessary.


Saturday, May 25, 2019


It's a rainy day here in the San Juan Islands... a perfect day for eggrooms.

Whoa - what's that?

Eggrooms is a recipe that I invented nearly 50 years ago for a romantic morning after breakfast. I've never seen it published anywhere... before now.  So the secret is now officially out.

A good blogger would have pictures, both intermediate and finished.  I'm a hungry blogger.
This is way easier (especially for one who fears flipping floppy things with a spatula) than a mushroom omelet.


  • Mushrooms, sliced 1/8" thick
  • Four eggs
  • Butter
  • Garlic salt
  • Pepper
Start by slicing enough mushrooms 1/8" thick to cover the bottom of your non-stick frying pan.  Try to make the slices uniform in thickness so they all will cook at the same rate.

Melt a tablespoon or so of butter in the pan and saute the the mushrooms over medium heat until they are getting golden brown edges on the bottom side.  Don't try to turn them over - you can't, and even if you could by the time you get the last one done, the first will be over-cooked.  Romove the mushrooms from the pan, retaining as much of the butter in the pan as possible.

Did I mention that I am spatula impaired?  I can only handle two eggs at a time.

Return half of the mushrooms to the pan and arrange them into two circles, more of less, with the centers large enough to contain the egg yolks.  Crack two eggs into the mushroom circles.

Sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper.

We like our eggs over easy - cook as you would normally

Prepare the second two eggs the same way.

You will find eggrooms to be as tasty as a mushroom omelet, but in a different way...



Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The First Time...

[As I write this, we are at anchor in Blind Bay, a gentle breeze riffling the water and the Sun flashing diamonds into my eyes off the water...]

The first time is always a little scary, no matter how many times you have done it.

Getting 50,000 lbs to do what you want in the close confines of docked boats, with no brakes, ineffective steering, and a strong tendency to move to port whenever the engine is engaged definitely requires experience.  And wisdom.   And after so many months of Eolian resembling nothing so much as a cabin on the water, and me, well, forgetting what it is all about...

But God smiled on us - He gave us a morning with absolutely no wind to interfere with maneuvering in the close quarters at the dock and a lovely day to cross over to the San Juan islands.  Getting free of land was uneventful.  {I'd say it was easy, but that would truly be tempting the fates...}

Under way, finally

 Of course, with no wind at the dock it would be unreasonable to expect wind down Guemes Channel and across Rosario Strait, right?  So we came across with the diesel engine.

But as soon as we cleared Thatcher Pass and were in the Islands proper, we were faced with 21 knots of cold wind, right on the nose.  No chance for sailing there either.  But somehow by the time we entered Harney Channel and finally turned into Blind Bay, the wind had dropped to a gentle, warm 5 kt.

So, here we sit, at anchor, a glass of wine in my hand, the flag flapping quietly off the stern, and diamonds flashing into my eyes.

And now in their old arrangement, the Canadian geese are honking in their nightly takeover of the nearby rocky islet from the American geese who seem to hold it during the day, in some kind of weird truce...

It is good to be off the dock!


Saturday, May 11, 2019

Mainsail Stack Pack is Done

This weekend I completed the last portion of the mainsail stack pack sail cover.

Wait... "stack pack" - what's that?

A stack pack is kind of like a basket - it captures the sail when it is dropped and keeps it from going all over the place.  Yes, lazy jacks do that too.  In fact a stack pack uses lazy jacks, but it also serves as a cover for the sail when it is not in use - there is a zipper along the top surface which closes the stack pack over the furled sail.

For our mainsail, the stack pack is 18' long - much, much too big to do the fabric lay out inside the boat - I did it on the finger pier next to us.  Because of the height of the sail when furled, the fabric wasn't wide enough so I had to splice a panel at the forward upper end of each side.  Somehow I managed to not take any pictures of the process.

Needs Viagra
When the sewing was completed, it needed to be fitted to the sail and boom.  This turned out to be a non-trivial task.  There is a lot of fabric, the sail is heavy, and there is lots of opportunity to get the straps that go under the sail hooked up to the wrong places.  It took me most of an entire afternoon to get to the point in this picture.

Next the lazy jacks needed to be disconnected from the boom and attached to the sail cover, and adjusted so that the (PVC pipe) battens formed a pleasant curve.  This required a ladder.

Finally, a piece of canvas (lined with sailcloth for added stiffness) needed to be cut to serve as the front cover.

Front cover pattern
I picked a day when it was sunny, warm, and calm (a rare event!) to make the pattern using Sailrite's Duraskrim (highly recommended!  In fact, Sailrite is highly recommended...)

Long time coming - done!

Then a morning of stitching on the Sailrite LSZ-1 produced the product.  Looks pretty sharp!  The stack pack also eliminates the 1-hour long procedure of reinstalling the old sail cover over the sail after arriving at the dock, and eliminates storage of that cover down below while we are off the dock... hooray!

Next on the agenda is a new cover for the staysail - the old one has shrunken to where it can't be made up over the sail anymore.


Wednesday, May 1, 2019


I have to give all 3 of you patient readers closure on the generator issues...

It's done.  Finished.

I filled the fresh water side with water/antifreeze mix, opened the seawater valve and started it.

There were two problems.  The first was apparent even before the engine fired - diesel mist was escaping from the exhaust elbow flange.  I had been gentle with the 8 mm dia bolts that hold it on, fearing that I could strip or break them.   Apparently I had been too gentle.  A little judicious torque applied to the bolts solved that problem.

Next, after a few minutes of running, the engine started to slow down in what all of us with diesel engines recognize as the dreaded 'air bubble' somewhere in the system.  I bled it again (and got out some more air) but that didn't solve the problem.  Apparently there was now a bubble between the injection pump and the injectors.  Finally I started it up and applied a load (the water heater) which caused lots of diesel to be injected into the cylinders.  That did it - the air was swept out, leaving behind a smooth running engine.

So, this may be the longest oil change on record...  I started the oil change on 3/23, and here we are at the first day of May.

Gratuitous picture showing the finished product, again

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Sunday, April 28, 2019


It's hard to remember after so much work on the generator, that the original intent was only to change the oil.

Done, nearly
Nevertheless, here we are.  I got everything reassembled, with only a couple of difficult spots.

The first relief was that reinstalling the fuel line to the pump went a lot easier than when the filter end was firmly attached (I made up the filter connection, and then installed the filter...).  Everything else went pretty much by the book.

Old vs. New
But the new exhaust elbow caused a little difficulty because the water connection was rotated counterclockwise a little (see the little block bolted to the head at the far left in the 'old' view - where the wires go).  As a consequence, it interfered with the cylinder head over-temperature sensor.  But that was remedied by installing the sensor to another threaded hole in the head only an inch below the original.

The biggest problem was the wiring to the head over-temp sensor and the exhaust elbow over-temp sensor.  At the head sensor, there were two wires in the terminal (the sensors are in parallel - either can shut the engine down).  When I was sliding the connector on, one of the wires pulled out of the terminal.  It turns out that these are unusual terminals (read: Sebo's doesn't stock them), so I had to spend nearly an hour laboriously un-crimping the terminal and then re-crimping it with both wires firmly attached.


But I ran out of time.  I have bled the fuel system, but I still need to bleed the seawater side and refill the fresh water side of the engine.  Then I need to run it and look for:
  • Oil leaks
  • Exhaust leaks
  • Fresh water leaks
  • Salt water leaks
Hopefully there won't be any of these, and I can finally pull the curtains closed on this year's annual genset oil change.

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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Recursive Maintenance Continues

Maintenance recursiveness continues.

Being unable to budge the stubs left from grinding off the bolt heads, the only remedy was to remove the exhaust manifold/cooler to provide access for more drastic treatment of the bolt remainders than I could bring to bear with it in situ.

But...  before removing the exhaust manifold/cooler I had to drain both the antifreeze treated fresh water and the seawater from it.  This posed a problem because the genset and the heat pump share a thru hull, strainer and feed line.  Because it is still too cool here to do without the heat pump, I needed to install a shutoff valve in the genset seawater feed.

Genset seawater feed shutoff valve
This had it's own set of problems, first of which was a trip up into town to get some fittings.  Of course.  Despite the fact that I have a huge number of fittings aboard, none of them were suitable.  Then shut down the heat pump, close the seacock, cut the hose and clean up the mess from the drainage.  Finally, install the valve.

Draining the manifold/cooler
Now it was possible to drain the manifold.  Because Yanmar provided both drain petcocks and even drain hoses on the 2GMF, this was a clean job. 

And finally, removal of the now empty manifold was quite straightforward.

It turned out that the bolt stub removal was also easy...  because I took the manifold to Gustav at EngineTec here in Anacortes (highly recommended by Jason, and now I can add my enthusiastic recommendation as well).  An hour after I had dropped it off, Gustav called me telling me it was ready for pickup.  I barely had time to finish a post removal celebratory beer!

All I lack for reassembly is the gasket that goes between the manifold and the engine - currently on order.

I lay the blame for this incident at the feet of Kohler, the genset manufacturer.  Kohler adapted the Yanmar 2GMF to power the generator.  When they did so, one of the changes they had to make (in addition to relocating the oil filter) was to reorient the exhaust elbow.  The Yanmar elbow points straight down - that would have interfered with the generator body.

Kohler tilted the elbow to the right

So Kohler cut the elbow pipe off the flange and rewelded it at an angle to clear the generator body.  So far, so good.

The problem was that they made a dog's breakfast of it.  When the pipe was rewelded to the flange, the flange warped, making a seal against the manifold completely impossible.  Rather than redoing the weld, perhaps on a fresh, heavier flange, Kohler sealed the 1/8" gap using JB Weld or something similar applied to the manifold, and then to make sure, they installed two gaskets.  This all became obvious when I was able to inspect the manifold, and when I removed the gaskets and exposed the JB Weld (or whatever) on the manifold flange.  This crappy jury rig held for a while... perhaps 400 engine hours.  And then the leakage started.

Yanmar: 1
Kohler:   0

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Friday, April 12, 2019

Genset Stage Three

Heads ground off the bolts
As I mentioned previously, I intended to grind the heads off of the bolts.  I could not budge the two on the right with a wrench without risking twisting them off, and the two on the left had corroded to the point where their heads were just nubs.  The plan was to grind off the heads, remove the elbow, and then use ViceGrip pliers to grip the stubs and turn them out, if possible.  The only tool that I could get to bear on the bolts was a Dremel tool with a little 3/4" grinding head...  it took about an hour for each bolt.

It's off!

Amazingly, even with the bolt heads removed, I had to drive a screwdriver between the elbow and the exhaust manifold to free the elbow. Corrosion products completely filled up the space between the bolts and the holes in the elbow flange, bonding it tightly. This does not bode well for being able to remove the bolts...

The inner tube is loose

...And this tells part of the story. The inner pipe was loose and had been ejected part way down the hose that attaches to the exhaust elbow...

Warped flange

And this is the rest of the story: the near edge (the bottom) of the flange is significantly warped. Combined with the loose inner pipe (above), this meant that hot seawater would be leaking out of the bottom of the flange. That seawater was supposed to cascade down around the inner pipe and join the exhaust gases near the far end of the elbow. Instead it was right there at the warped flange.

New fuel pump installed
With the primary and time-limiting task out of the way and the old elbow shipped off to Ben at, I had more room to work and more time, so I installed the new fuel pump.

Shiny new exhaust elbow

Late breaking news: Ben has completed the new elbow and will be shipping it soon! Gotta get those bolt stubs out!

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Monday, April 1, 2019

Genset Saga Continues

Well, there has been a little progress.

Kohler oil filter stand-in

I have removed the remote oil filter mount, the (rusted out) oil lines and the heavy iron casting that Kohler installed to replace the oil filter and provide attachment points for the oil lines.  Holy cow!  That was not trivial work.  The banjo fittings at the oil line ends used 25 mm bolts, and it was pretty much everything I could muster in the confined space to break them loose.

As another example of Salnick’s Law of Recursive Maintenance, it was not possible to actually separate the oil lines from the engine because they were behind the water feed line to the sea water pump.  Since I had then to drain and disconnect the pump, this provided a perfect opportunity to replace the pump impeller.  The old impeller looked like it was new.

And while the pump was out I got the oil lines out, tho even with the water fed line out of the way it was still a complex geometry problem to unthread the lines in the cramped operation space.

Oil filter in Yanmar factory location (oil lines still in place)
In order to ensure that I had no leaks, I installed a new filter, reconnected the sea water line and fired up the genset.  There were no leaks, oil or water!

Next on the agenda:
  • Replace the corroded mess of a fuel lift pump
  • Remove the exhaust elbow and send it to the fabricator who will make me a new one out of 316SS.  This will not be easy.  Two of the bolts that hold the elbow on are corroded to the point that the heads are just nubs.  And of course these are the ones that are nearly impossible to get at.  To add, I can’t budge the other two... without risk of snapping them off. 

    My next plan is to use a Dremel tool to tediously grind off the heads of the bolts, remove the elbow and then use vice grips to attempt to remove the remaining “studs”.  Two of the bolts go into thru-holes in a flange on the block, so the worst case scenario there would be that they get drilled out and replaced with bolts and nuts.  The other two, the hardest to get at (naturally), go into blind holes...
And so the saga continues...

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    Sunday, March 24, 2019

    The Boaty Way of Things

    As a normal part of pre-season maintenance, I change the oil in the generator.

    No big deal, right?  Should take less than an hour.

    Before I remove the oil via a suction tube shoved down the dipstick hole, I heat it up - this makes the process go much faster.  I heat it up by running the generator, naturally.  So I started the generator.

    After a while, it shut itself down.  Not the slowly chugging of a fuel starvation issue, but sudden - like I had hit the kill switch.

    I pulled up the floorboard and was rewarded with an oil-spattered view...  the generator had spat out all its oil and shut itself down on lack of oil pressure.  What a mess!  Thankfully there is a drip pan under the engine big enough to contain the entire oil charge...  and that's where it was.  The part not on the batteries, walls, floorboards, etc.

    I had had this happen once before due to the failure of the oil filter gasket, so I presumed that was what had happened here.  Consequently, I purchased (dearly) a factory authorized oil filter, presuming that the aftermarket filter that I had installed last year was the culprit.  And installed it. and filled the generator with fresh oil (whew!  that was the original objective).

    When I started it, I was greeted with a spray of clean oil, right in the face.

    OK...  not the oil filter.

    A close examination revealed that the leak was likely at the oil pipe...  "Oil pipe," you ask?  Yes.  Kohler, the manufacturer of the genset, used a Yanmar 2gmf diesel engine as a power source.  But the Yanmar design has the oil filter screwed into the block in a horizontal position.  This means that when it is removed, it dumps a cup of oil all over the place, and more particularly, it would dump it outside the drip pan under the engine.  Kohler's answer?  Relocate the oil filter to the other side of the engine where there is a tight spot where it could be mounted vertically, and over the drip pan.

    The fuel pump is in that corrosion... somewhere...
    But sadly, this location is exactly under the location where the exhaust elbow will drip, if it is failing (uh oh...).  Yeah.  And so add the fuel lift pump.

    So far, it seems that I need to replace the feed pipe to the oil filter, the lift pump, and the exhaust elbow.  Here are the costs:

    Lift Pump$86
    Oil Pipe$209
    Exhaust Elbow$767

    Now I want to put this into perspective...  A fuel pump for a big block Chevrolet engine costs less than $20.  And $209 for a 12" piece of 1/4" steel tubing??  But HOLY COW!  The exhaust elbow is breathtakingly expensive for an 8" long fabricated mild steel item.  I would have to bet that if I just bought the parts to build this generator from scratch it would cost as much as the entire boat!

    In the boaty way of things, the perforated oil pipe cannot be removed without disconnecting and draining the sea water feed to the generator.  And a BIG wrench.  So, since I will have the feed disconnected from the sea water pump, I might just as well change the impeller there too, right?  Add another $40 and a big hassle.  And this presumes that I can get it apart without stripping any screws...

    So, the current status is this:
    • I have a new fuel pump on order.  
    • I have a water pump impeller on order.  
    • I will order the oil feed pipe once I have everything apart and haven't (hopefully) broken anything else in the process.  I don't see any alternative to this yet.

    And as for the exhaust elbow?  I have a query out there with an individual who will build me one out of 316 stainless for far less than the factory mild steel one...

    Salnick's Law of Recursive Maintenance

    Whatever you want to do, you have to do something else first...

    Next post in this series


    Monday, February 25, 2019

    Panang Curry, ala Eolian

    Panang Curry has forever been the benchmark by which I have judged Thai restaurants.  And I have been struggling for years to come up with my own perfect Panang Curry recipe.  Until now, I have come close, but have missed the mark in one gustatorial dimension or another.

    Not any more.


    I have found the magic.

    Now mind you, this doesn't get you all the way there, but it is close.  Still needed are a little more peanut flavor, some sweetness, and (perhaps the most magic ingredient of all) some ginger.

    Here's my recipe (makes 4 very generous servings).  If there are only two of you, make the full recipe, but only half the rice.  Use the rest on a second batch of rice another day.

    Ingredients - serves 4
    • 2 cups Basmati/Jasmine rice
    • 4 cups water
    • 2 tsp salt

    •  2 Tbsp Olive oil
    • 1/2 large onion, diced into 1/4" pieces
    • 3 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
    • 1 green Bell pepper, diced into 1/4"pieces
    • 1/2 cup of carrots sliced into 1/4" pieces
    • 1 large stem broccoli, sliced thinly, including the entire stem.
    • 1 8 oz can pineapple chunks in water, drained
    • 1 to 1-1/2 cups cooked chicken (left overs work best!), cut into chopstick-sized pieces
    • 1 12 oz can of coconut milk.  Do not use "light".
    • Mae Ploy Panang Curry Paste
    • 1 Tbsp peanut butter
    • 2 Tbsp brown sugar 
    • 4 Tbsp Thai basel, chopped with scissors
    • 1 cubic inch of fresh ginger, sliced thinly and diced
    • Zest and juice of one lime

    The Rice
    1. Start the rice - this always takes the longest and can tolerate waiting the best...  Bring 4 cups of water to a boil.  Add 2 tsp salt.
    2. Once boiling, add the rice.  Stir immediately to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan and cover.  When the water again comes to a boil stir again, lower the heat to low, crack the lid and start on the curry.
     The Curry
    1. Stir fry the onions and carrots in a couple of Tbsp of olive oil in a 2-qt saucepan until just beginning to get tender.  
    2. Add the pepper and continue to stir fry.
    3. Add the garlic and continue to stir fry.
    4. When the garlic just begins to stick to the pan and/or the pepper is just getting tender, add the broccoli.  Note that Asian cooks don't discard the stems of the broccoli - just cut off the dried out end and slice the rest thin.
    5. Stir fry the broccoli until the color changes to bright green.
    6. Add the coconut milk, sugar, pineapple, and peanut butter.
    7. The Mae Ploy paste comes in a plastic bag inside the container.  Cut off a corner of the bag to make an opening about 3/4" diameter.  Extrude a log of curry paste about 3" long and 3/4" diameter into the pan (more if you are a 4-5 star kind of person, a little less if 2 stars is more to your liking).
    8. Mix well.  Add the chicken. 
    9. Once everything has come to a simmer, turn off the heat and add the aromatics (ginger, basil, lime zest and juice).  Stir.  You should have enough curry to nearly fill a 2--quart saucepot - 4 generous servings.
    10. Reserve enough basil to garnish the servings

    Meanwhile, you have been checking the rice all along, right?  When there is no more water visible and there are a bunch of holes in the surface, turn off the heat.  Wait another 5-10 minutes, until the last of the water has been absorbed and you have "sticky rice".

    Divide the rice onto 4 plates, divide the curry onto the rice, and garnish generously with the chopped Thai basil.

    Present with chopsticks (naturally!)


    Monday, February 11, 2019

    Ten Years In, And Nearing The End

    As some of you may have noted, when not on the water, I am kind of a gearhead. In that vein, it was ten years ago this spring that I answered a craigslist ad for a 1959 Impala, a car that had sat unloved, outside, in the Tri-cities area of Washington for 46 years.  In fact, in the intervening years, a tree had sprouted and grown up beside it, actually pushing in the chrome trim strip at the contact point.

    As with all such cars, there was a story associated with the car.  It had been owned by the homeowner's son (he was the second owner), who joined the Navy in 1963.  This is not a sad story tho.  When the son was discharged in San Diego, he loved it so much that he made his home there.  And he never got around to moving the car south. 

    After 46 years outside, behind the house

    I paid more for the car than it sold for when new... but one must also consider inflation.  In 1959, gasoline sold for $0.29/gallon - now it is ten times that much.  In fact, by many other measures, the dollar has declined to 1/10 of its value in 1959.  So, I guess you could say that I got the car for about 1/10 of its price when new.

    That tree was not there when the car  was parked...
    This "barn find" (no actual barn...) was a true project:
    • All four tires were flat... and nearly 50 years old.  But the tow truck operator was able to get them to hold air long enough to get the car onto a trailer.
    • Despite the fact that it only rains a few days a year in the Tri-cities, the interior was heavily water-damaged.  But since I planned to change the color of the car to Roman Red/Snowcrest White (these were original factory colors available in 1959), this meant that the entire interior had to go anyway.  
    • The engine was seized.
    • It had the original cast iron Powerglide transmission.  For those of you not in the know, this beast is much heavier than the engine, and is only a two speed automatic.  I replaced it with a TH-350 (the only non-stock change I made to the car).
    • The gas tank was rusted thru... on the top!  The fuel level sender was nothing but rust, and in addition the gas gauge on the dash was inoperative.
    • The radiator was full of dirt.  And it leaked.
    • The wiring in the car had been hacked up pretty badly
    • The speedometer needed to be rebuilt.
    • Somebody had backed the car into a post, denting the rear bumper and the nearby body.
    • Part of the power steering gear had been 'salvaged' during those 46 years - notably the pump and the hoses.  This car is old enough that the power steering pump mounts to the back of the generator (not alternator...) instead of being belt-driven - finding another one of these was not easy.
    • The paint was shot - but not a problem since I intended to change the color of the car anyway.
    • I mentioned above that rain storms in the Tri-cities are rare, but...  But dust storms are common.  Every single cavity in the body and interior that could hold even a teaspoon of dust was packed full.  Close a door, and dust would fall out of the body onto the ground...  And after towing to the rainy side of the state, an entire garden of plants sprouted and grew up out of the grill in front of the windshield after the first rain!  Just cleaning out the dust was a major ordeal.
    There's more.  I could give you a detailed, blow-by-blow of the problems that needed to be solved, items that needed to be trouble-shot, and things that needed to be rebuilt, but I won't.  There were three major things that sold me on the car:
    • Everything was there (well except for the power steering pump).  I would not be going on repeated eBay hunts for expensive little pieces of chrome, etc.
    • All four doors worked well with no slop - they closed like the car was new.
    • There was essentially no body rust

    Engine compartment, before and after
    Tho the car had only 77,000 original miles on it, the 50 years of neglect had taken its toll.  The engine was seized because coolant had slowly leaked into the #7 cylinder, and eventually filled up the space with corrosion products - it was packed solid.  I pulled the engine and tranny as a unit (not gonna keep that Powerglide...) and tore it down.  It took most of an afternoon to beat the piston out of the #7 cylinder bore...

    #7 Piston.  Yeah, I did knock the top out of it beating it out...
    Oooo... shiny...

    My machine shop was able to salvage the block by installing a sleeve in the #7 bore.  The engine purrs like a kitten now.

    Painting the car was also quite the ordeal.  Because I was changing the color, everything had to be painted.  The dash, the edges of the doors, the edges of the door openings on the body, the edges of the fenders at the hood, etc.  And of course, with a two tone paint job covered with a clear coat, there was even more masking.  I actually lost track of the number of times I masked - somewhere well beyond 16.

    Dash, before and after

    Interior, before

    Interior, after
    Here I must make a shout-out to Ciadella Interiors - they created, from scratch, the entire interior package (carpet, headliner, visors, door panels, seat foam, upholstery, kick panels, etc.) and it was superbly done.  Thank you Gina and company!

    I should also add that I blanked off the original radio antenna location on the right front fender, and installed the slanted rear antennas mounted on the rear fenders.  See, this old codger we met at a car show years ago in Oregon while admiring another red/white 1959 Impala whispered to us that, "you have to have the rear antennas to get the chicks..."


    Monday, February 4, 2019

    The Apostrophe 

    People please.  Such a tiny little mark.  And so abused.

    It has just two purposes:
    • To signify ownership.
    • To signify missing characters.
    To see some of the worst abuses, look at any number of craigslist ads...  people in there seem to think that if a word ends in "s", then every third time or so, an apostrophe must be inserted.  Randomly, as far as I can tell.

    The most common exception to this rule that I know of (pedants correct me) is with the word "its":
    • "It's" means "it is".
    • "Its" means the thing belonging to "it".  This disambiguation was required in order to separate the two meanings.
    There are a few other special cases - see this article if you are unsure.

    And please don't go back over my posts looking for cases where I failed to follow the rules...


    Saturday, January 26, 2019

    Unexpected Benefit

    I mentioned earlier that I had cataract surgery... Aside from the obvious benefit of being able to see clearly in the distance without glasses (!), there was an unexpected additional benefit.

    New vs. Old

    The lenses in my eyes had discolored just like a piece of Lexan left in the sun - they had acquired a yellowish/brownish cast.  Of course since this discoloration came on gradually over the decades, and because I had no other reference, I was completely unaware of the change.  I thought everything was normal - a real testament to the adaptability of the human brain.

    In the picture above I have tried to show the dramatic difference between the views supplied by my new left eye and my old right eye.  The view on the left is completely unadulterated - it is as the camera saw it.  On the right is my attempt to show how that same view looked thru my old eye (there is actually less brown and more yellow in the old view than I could get into the picture).  Yes, it is that dramatic!

    In another week I will lose this reference, because I go in for surgery on the other eye.  And then once again everything will be "normal".  So it is only in this brief interim period that I can enjoy the difference between "old" and "new".

    A clearer more colorful normal!


    Monday, January 21, 2019

    On Becoming a Refrigeration Tech

    As I mentioned previously, and you may have read, Eolian's heat pump quit working due to lack of Freon.

    Never fearing to tackle a new field, I ordered a 5 lb container of R-410a refrigerant and a syringe of leak-stop fluid compatible with R-410a.  Gonna find out if I can be a refrigeration tech...

    Before I begin, some basics that I may have discussed before.

    Here's how a heat pump works:
    • A compressor pressurizes Freon vapor.  This heats it up (feel that bicycle pump after blowing up your tire...)
    • The hot Freon vapor is passed thru a heat exchanger where it gives up its heat to the cabin air, and condenses to a liquid as it is cooled.  
    • The liquid passes thru a narrow orifice and is allowed to expand into a low pressure space (created by the inlet of the compressor).  This cools it down really cold.  
    • The cold gas is heated up in another heat exchanger , getting heat from sea water.
    • The re-warmed vapor enters the compressor inlet, and the cycle repeats.
    Thus, the system extracts heat from sea water and delivers it to the cabin.

    The problem aboard Eolian was that almost all of the Freon had leaked from the system, meaning that there was essentially 0 psi at the compressor inlet when the compressor was running.  With our current water temperature, the inlet pressure should have been around 100 psi.  Outlet pressure should have been 400 psi, but was only 200 psi.  When the compressor was not running, the system pressure was 150 psi, meaning that it was unlikely that any significant amounts of air or moisture had leaked in.

    Clearly there was a leak - otherwise the Freon would still be in there.  Thus the reason I ordered some leak-stop.  This came as a blue liquid in a big fat syringe, with fittings to attach it to the low pressure tap in the system.

    Here's what we did:
    1. Inject the leak stop:  Jane started the system, the inlet pressure fell to 0, and I injected the leak stop against the lack of backpressure.  I disconnected and Jane stopped the system.
    2. Hook up the Freon cylinder to the inlet port.  Jane starts the system again and the inlet pressure falls toward zero once again.  I turn the Freon cylinder over so that the outlet is on the bottom, meaning I will be injecting liquid.  I open the valve, briefly, and a shot of liquid Freon enters the system.  Inlet pressure rises briefly, and then falls again as the injected Freon evaporates and goes into circulation.
    3. Continue injecting bursts of Freon until the inlet pressure comes up to 100 psi.
    Ta Da!  The heat pump is delivering hot air!

    Too much is not good
    But:  overnight, as the system cycled on and off maintaining out nighttime temp of 63 degrees, I noticed that the compressor was making an uncomfortable noise when starting up.  I assumed that I had over-charged the system, and the the compressor was inhaling a little liquid on startup.

    A real refrigeration tech would have evacuated the system with a vacuum pump, and then charged it with *exactly* 1.45 lb of Freon. But I have no vacuum pump and no scale.

    So I had charged until I showed the desired pressure on the compressor inlet, but I failed to look at the compressor outlet - it was nearly 450 psi. It should have been a little less than 400 psi. Aside from damaging the compressor by feeding it liquid, too much Freon in the system also meant that the condenser and evaporator would be flooded with liquid, reducing the capacity of the system to transfer heat.

    I bled it down until the high pressure side read 400 psi.  Everything seems to be fine now.  Now the only question remaining is whether the leak-stop stopped the leak...  Time will tell.


    Friday, January 18, 2019

    A January to Remember

    One down, one to go
    January was quite the month!  In no particular order:
    • Eolian's heat pump quit delivering heat.  It didn't take too long to determine why...  Tho the Freon pressure was acceptable when the compressor wasn't running, the suction side dropped to 0 psi when the compressor started.  We're nearly out of Freon!
      Clearly there is a leak, otherwise the Freon would still be in there.  The operative question is:  Is this a recent, big leak, or is this a long-term tiny leak?  The heat pump is about 5 years old, so I guess either is possible.
      I have ordered and have been delivered of a 5 lb container of the proper refrigerant, and a syringe full of leak-stop.  Now all I need is the opportunity to load those into the system.  But...
    • Tho I am still recovering from the near-paralysis event I experienced late this summer, I had cataract surgery scheduled for January.  If you're not interested in this, skip ahead...
      A most interesting operation - takes about 15-20 minutes, and you are semi-conscious for the duration.  The room is darkened and you are staring into a bright light - you never really see the surgeon open your cornea, slide in an ultrasound probe that destroys your old lens and sucks out the pieces, and then slide in a new lens.  The anticipation is far worse than the operation.
      Here I am the day following - vision still a little cloudy and blurry - I was told to expect that.  But surprisingly, the view thru my new eye is quite different from my old one!  It is as if everything in my old eye is being viewed thru an amber/brownish filter.  Colors are much truer thru my new eye!  A huge and unanticipated advantage! 
      Other eye later in the month.  No more prescription sunglasses!  I can have Polaroid sunglasses!
    • The heat exchanger in our gas furnace at our log cabin developed a leak - we could smell combustion products in the house when the wind blew.  It was under warranty, but the labor was going to be $1700.  Thankfully, the technician that confirmed the perforation of the heat exchanger assigned the cause to under-sized ductwork - ductwork that the technician's company had installed.  They agreed to eat the labor charges, as well as to modify the ductwork at their cost.  That was completed this week.
    • Eolian's TV crapped out.  While we were watching it, it started to cycle thru red screen, blue screen, white screen, green screen, etc.  Nothing would break the cycle, including a last ditch bit of percussive maintenance.
      New TV ordered and installed last week.
    • Tho it has less than 50,000 miles on it, the rebuilt engine that our Suburban's Previous Owner installed in it is obviously failing.  Aside from a defective valve lifter that randomly turns it into a 7-cylinder engine, it consumes a half a gallon of water for every tank of gasoline.  I have found and fixed all the leaks (there were many), but the water consumption continues.  I presume that the intake manifold is leaking into an intake runner (there's no water in the oil).  I have the receipts from the Previous Owner's engine - he got a Chevy long block for $1000 - that is an amazingly low price - apparently too low in fact.
      So the Suburban goes into the auto hospital for a new engine.  My son convinced me that I should save myself for working on the classics in the shop:  65 Mustang, 68 GTO, and the current project, 1959 Impala. So somebody else gets to wrangle this one.
    • Oh, and I figured out how to make my Sailrite LSZ-1 sew successfully with Tenara thread...
    And it's worth remembering, the month isn't over yet...

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