The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

Retire early, be passionate, don't worry, die poor

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Oberdorfer Pump Mechanic

Why does a 30-minute job take 4 hours on a sailboat? 

This is how I replaced an Oberdorfer N202M-07 raw water pump that cost me the incredible sum of €486.
($266 for the pump + $127 for UPS freight + €118 customs + €9 credit card fee).

changing an oberdorfer pump n202m
Pump housing plate, with the pump already removed from the Universal 5444 engine (Kubota 1902 block).
1. Position, light and tools
I had to work on my knees with kneepads, needed a good source of light and had to search for a number of tools stored in what could be the largest (7 x 3 feet) and most disorganized tool box ever to exist on a sailboat.

2. Corrosion
For 14 years, the pump has been intermittently dripping salt water onto the lower 1/2 inch mounting bolt. Its head has become severely corroded, deformed and slightly stripped. The stripping part probably happened in the Azores where I removed the pump in an attempt to fix it.

The 1/2 inch wrench did not work so I tried using vice-grips. The bolt did not budge, but I managed to strip the head some more. Then I tried some metric socket heads and, you guessed it, mangled the head even more. Out of desperation and frustration, I selected a metric socket that was a touch too small and started hammering it onto the head. And, by God, it worked (but now I can't extract the bolt from the socket).

3. Finding an imperial bolt in a metric country
So now, with the pump off, I needed a 1/2 inch bolt of the same length which, incredibly, I found at a nearby car parts shop. I noticed that it weighs a lot less than the original bolts - obviously it must be made of superior quality Chinese material.

4. Scavenging parts
The new pump did not come with hose ports, which I needed to scavenge from the old pump which I clamped in a vice.
The hard part was placing the hose ports on the new pump at an angle matching the hose connection directions, which implied placing the exact amount of teflon tape so that the port would be nice and tight at the perfect angle.

oberdorfer marine pump
You can see 1 of the 2 accesses to the cluttered toolbox, which occupies the cavernous space under a long settee. I also have other smaller tool areas here and there.
5. Disorganization and bad memory
Although the pump came with an engine-to-pump gasket, it wasn't in the box. I looked in my gaskets bag but couldn't find it. No need to panic, the boat is only 39 feet long and I have all day. After searching everywhere, some places twice...nothing! Then I gave the gasket bag one last shot and there it was neatly packed in a thin envelope that looked like a piece of paper. At that moment, I wished I had beer or wine aboard, but I didn't.

6. Cleaning
The plate is attached to the engine with four bolts in cavities filled with muck and goo. I cleaned them out, drenched them with WD40 and then anointed the cavities with oil using Q-tips. Then, after sanding the pate surface with 400 metal sandpaper, I was ready for the big event.

7. Assembly operation
This was actually pretty easy; I simply followed the instructions I printed out from a website: Align engine slot with the pump slot; insert pump with bolts and gasket; tighten mounting bolts until finger tight; open sea-cock and start engine at low revs to allow the pump to self-center; lastly tighten bolts with a wrench while engine is running without losing your arm in the pulley belt. That's it! 

Port of Peniche

I was a happy man watching a copious flow of water gushing from the exhaust outlet.

Time for a late lunch and a walk around the port before cleaning up the huge mess.


Peniche Port Entrance


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Deck Leak - Quick Fix Artist

On a rainy Thursday afternoon, I was in the boat talking to the Dutch Sailor about boats - specifically about living aboard in winter and dealing with cold humid conditions. 

I was bragging about Jakatar's dry warm interior when he interrupted me. "I believe you," he said, "but a drop of water just fell on my head."

deck leaks

And, in fact, a constant drip was falling on the salon's cushions, coming from one of the small skylights that were originally meant for installing ventilation dorades. I hadn't noticed the leak because the white cushions are waterproof and the water was flowing behind and underneath them.

After removing the cushions, I placed an old bathrobe (that's right, a bathrobe) on the settee frame to soak up the drip and called it a day. If you're going to get all worked up about leaks on a sailboat you're gonna die prematurely!!

That night, at home, I woke up in a sweat from a dream about deck leaks and mushy deck coring. Although it was only a dream, it got my mind rattling about the never-ending list of boat maintenance tasks. Than got tiring pretty fast, so I began repeating my fail-proof chant "I'm sleepy, very, very sleepy" and fell asleep. It never fails!

In the morning I went out to the boat determined to fix the problem or, at least, make a temporary fix. So here is the quick fix artist's solution:

1. Removed the skylight trim.

boat wood trim

2. Dried the acrylic skylight area with a heat gun. Cleaned the surface with alcohol and repeated the heat gun drying.
heat gun for boats

3. Searched for silicone. Found a large tube I had bought last summer for a tiny job (long story). Since no silicone would come out the tip, even after penetrating the outlet with a long screwdriver, I cut the tube in half near the bottom where it was still gooey. Then, with a surgical glove, I dabbed gobs of the stuff along the acrylic-fiberglass joint. I kept applying the goop with my index finger until it looked ridiculously sloppy. Repeated the task for three holes, the other three holes looked dry.
cheap silicone for boats

4. Then I made a cup of tea, ate a power bar, set up the boat dehumidifier and relaxed.

boat dehumidifier
5. Lastly, I emptied three bilge compartments: the bow bilge collects water from the chain hawser; the bilge under the mast collects water that runs down the wires inside the mast; and the stern bilge by the engine collects water from the emergency tiller connection pipe.
bilge water

The plan now is to get some real marine silicone, clean up the mess and do a proper job on a long sunny day, probably in June...if I don't forget or if other plans don't get in the way. So many plans, so little time.

It felt very satisfying to get the job done, even if it's only a temporary fix. Action is the best remedy for non-action. How's that for a truism?

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sailboat Assets and Liabilities

Fouled propeller
Another victim of a fouled propeller...Everything that could go wrong went wrong - a one-month saga and still counting in both time and money.
Speaking of expenses, in the "Jakatar World" the year is almost over and it's time to compare sailboat assets and liabilities.

2015 Sailboat Assets
A 500-mile round trip to the Algarve. I departed from Peniche on July 26, returned at the end of August and visited Cascais, Sines, Sagres, Alvor, Albufeira and Culatra. Zero days at marinas, always at anchor, always solo sailing.

During the rest of the year, on average I spent one full day at the boat per week, either translating, just messing around or both.

2015 Sailboat Liabilities
Insurance and marina -----------------------------   2,186
65 m of 10 mm chain -----------------------------      690
Oberdorfer pump N202M7 ----------------------       486*
25 kg Kobra anchor --------------------------------     312
80W Bosch Solar panel+mounting+regulator --     339
Diesel -------------------------------------------------    300
Miscellaneous ---------------------------------------    450
TOTAL ----------------------------------------------- 4,763

* Shipping and customs doubled the pump's retail price.

The Bottom Line
If I didn't have the boat, I'd most likely spend the money on crap I don't need, or even want. It's a reasonable addiction, and I'm sticking to it.

The Dutch Sailor, who is in town, came by the other day, looked up at the mast, frowned at the peeling paint and said: "That sure gives you sore eyes." He's right, Jakatar has the ugliest mast I've ever seen, but I got used to it.

The air has been windy and cool and the ocean rough and wet; instead of going fishing I went for a drive to Baleal with Ana.
winter weather in Baleal

fishing in Baleal

Monday, December 7, 2015

Groco Mechanic

"Some people love to spend money on stuff. I'd rather spend mine buying free time. But if you own a sailboat, the conflict between time and money can get ugly. What's the purpose of free time without a boat, and what's the use of having a boat if you don't have free time?" ~ Martello Mateus 

My Groco's raw water strainer basket fell victim to galvanic / electrolytic corrosion or maybe the thin metal screen simply wore out during the last 15 years.


This is what it should look like.
Groco, Plastic Strainer Baskets for Raw Water Strainers
The basket is inserted in the hole shown below. It's ingenious in a simple sort of way: the incoming water flows into the basket in which debris is trapped and prevented from reaching the lower outflow hole.


This is Jakatar's only underwater thru-hull. Seawater is filtered by the Groco and then flows into a stainless steel distribution tank. I'm using only 2 outlets from the tank - one for the engine cooling and the other for the Lavac toilet.

I stopped using the salt water kitchen faucet a long time ago. If I ever cross another ocean, I'll hook it up again. In the meantime, I'm not too keen on washing dishes with salt water in anchorages where my neighbors are flushing their toilets.


Seeing as I'm still recovering from the shock of spending 486 euros on a raw water engine pump shipped from the US, I decided I'd make my own filter basket. Also, I can't seem to find baskets for sale in Europe, and I'm not too keen on spending a fortune on shipping and import VAT/customs like I did with the water pump.


So I spent nearly an hour enthusiastically making a basket from plastic mesh, white zip ties and very thin plastic-coated wire. It didn't fit. Frustrated, I took it apart, wound the plastic into a smaller diameter and shoved it into the hole, and that's that.

It looks like I've reached a compromise: I'm using my free time to spend money on the boat!!