Sea Otter
Who: Jim Lowe
Port: Elizabeth City, NC
View Complete Profile »

Wedding Preparations
Jim Lowe
12/22/2012, Memphis, Tennessee

Took some time away from working on Sea Otter to visit family and friends this Christmas. Had a great couple of days with my son Sam and granddaughter Story in Indiana. Then drove down to Memphis Tennessee to be with my cousins Robert and Amber. Amber has met a fine man to share her life with. John Bapst and Amber will be married tonight at 7pm. The wedding will be at Robert and Melinda's home so everyone has been busy preparing for the big event. Here's a family photo taken last night of Amber and John with his beautiful daughter Bane.

Engine Hoist Hinge
Jim Lowe
11/30/2012, Lamb's Marina

I know that engines are often hoisted out using a block and tackle attached to the boom. I'm sure that is a fine way to go about it, especially with a small engine. However the marina where I'm at happens to have tall mooring posts that served my need for an attachment point to support a lifting hoist. I didn't want to bolt anything to the post so I opted to use line instead and tie the "mast" portion of the hoist to the post. Wrapping the line to the post in a figure eight enabled the line to serve as an upper hinge with over 90 degrees of rotation. The bottom of the post pivots on a pin made from a plumbing flange and a short length of 3/8" pipe. Here's a picture of the rope hinge. Can you tell I'm having fun with this.

Engine Hoist
Jim Lowe
11/28/2012, Lamb's Marina

I have turned my old shed into a diesel engine repair shop. So, the next step is to get my engine out of the boat and into my shop. Easier said... The engine weighs 375lbs. Besides it's bulk there is also its location deep inside a floating boat. So, after due consideration I decided not to muscle it out. Not that I couldn't do it of course. It's just so much more fun to "think" it out of the boat. We start with amputation. Removing everything from the engine that can come off easily. The cylinder head is already off. The starter, intake and exhaust manifolds and the fly wheel are next. This brings the weight down to about 250lbs. I built a hoist from some pine 2x4s and some spare parts I had laying around, a trailer winch and some blocks. The drive coupling and the engine mounts are the last to be disconnected before the hoist gets harnessed to the engine block. Here's a picture of the hoist, poised for action.

Jim Lowe
11/28/2012, Lamb's Marina

I've settled into my new home at Lamb's Marina in Camden, NC. It is a bit of a trailer park but the people are friendly. Everything one would need is readily available. Water, power, showers wifi, and a small market. Best of all, this is one of the most protected marinas anywhere and quite reasonable to boot. First order of business is to get to work on the engine. I remove the the valve cover and immediately know that I made a good decision to stay. There is, what can only be described as, green snot coating the inside of my engine. This can not be good. So lets review shall we. Difficulty starting, overheats at cruising speeds, loosing coolant and now, snot. What can cause all these symptoms? A blown head gasket or a cracked block seem like reasonable candidates. Both possibilities require costly repairs. Things seem pretty bleak for our intrepid adventurer. But all is not lost. Figure I might as well have a look at the head gasket to determine for certain what the problem is. I grab my trusty wrench and start to loosen the first nut. As expected it's tight but gives way without to much trouble. I move on to the next nut and am surprised when it gives way easily. The third nut is also loose. Turns out that six of the eight nuts holding the head on are loose. My head gasket isn't blown. The head just wasn't tightened down. I suppose vibration caused them to loosen over time which accounts for the engine becoming progressively difficult to start. Also coolant leaking past the head gasket accounts for the engine running hot at higher engine speeds. And the green snot is from coolant getting into the combustion chamber, being vaporized and condensing in the engine. So what now. I could just tighten down the head bolts but there is still all that coolant snot. Coolant is not good for bearings and has to be cleaned out. The engine has to be removed from the boat. Disassembled, cleaned reassembled and then put back into the boat. The good news is that although this will be a time consuming task it may not be terribly expensive. Guess I'm going to be a diesel engine mechanic. Whatever doesn't kill ya makes you stronger, right.

11/29/2012 | rhod
I don't know much about engines but was wondering about something. If you are taking it all the way apart, should you replace the highest failure parts while it is out of the boat? Interesting blog by the way.
a new neighbor
Jim Lowe
11/18/2012, Elizabeth City, NC

I have a new neighbor. His name is Zack and he's sailing in a Drascome Longboat. This is a wonderful craft, remarkably able and quite a comfortable camp sailer. However, with the exception of a canvas tent, it is completely open to the weather. Apparently, the folks from "down east" don't feel cold as others do. Zack has no heat onboard. Cuddling up to his dog, an Australian shepherd, is his only defense against the night chill. Hopefully, he'll make it south before temps drop to the "three dog night" level. Of course if he's delayed I could direct him to the local animal shelter for additional comforters. Zack sailed into the free dock just last night and came aboard to share the warmth of Otter's woodstove. His journey began in Bath Maine and he is heading South for the winter (as all cruising sailors generally do). The dock master was quick to offer Zack the hospitality of the Bible College making him feel quite at home.
One of the wonderful experiences of being on the water is meeting the people that share this cruising life. One young man I met built an actual Tom Sawyer raft of logs tied together and pitched a pup tent on it. Powered by a small outboard he slowly made his way down river. Another time I met a family that had built a fine open boat as a home school project and was returning from a winter sabbatical in the Bahamas when their mast broke. They limped into Elizabeth City hoping to find someone that could help them build a replacement mast. Fortunately I happened to be on the docks that day and was able to help them on their way. Their boat, like Zack's, was completely open. I was just wondering what they did for shelter when it began to rain. Without a word, Dad, Mom and each of the four children went to their stations. The only command I heard was a count. Moving with practiced precision, each member of the crew would lift and tie down a corner of a canvas cover that was kept in a storage box in the center of the boat. Once they completed the task at their station each would shout out their number. By the count of seven the cover was stretched tightly over their craft and all were safely sheltered. The entire operation took about 20 seconds. What a fine memory for each of these children to carry with them. There is nothing like a shared adventure to unify a family.

The woodbox
Jim Lowe
11/18/2012, Elizabeth City, NC

Found a marina nearby that will put Otter up at a very reasonable cost. Since it is beginning to look like I may be rebuilding or perhaps even replacing my engine I have decided to go there. The marina is also close to a Marine repair facility where I can order parts and have access to pros when needed. If the cost of repairs start to mount I plan to cut my loses and replace the engine. Of course, that is not an inexpensive option so I may take on a winter job somewhere and built up my numbers. The diesel heater will not be needed since the marina comes with electricity. While I have been waiting for a slip at the marina to be available I built a box from some left over cedar to store firewood. What do you think of it?
I go into the marina on Tuesday and will begin disassembling my engine shortly after. It won't take much to convince me to replace this engine since the cost of replacement parts are absurdly high. A new thermostat which should cost about 8 dollars is $115.00 for my engine. Add to that the difficulty of even getting parts and the replacement option begins to look quite attractive. I've been looking at the BetaMarine engines. These engines are actually Kubota engines which have been modified to work in the marine environment. Very intelligently designed and not too expensive. One of the best things about this engine is the fact that I can get replacement parts for it at "Tractor" prices at any Kubota dealer, rather than "Marine" prices.
The old Volvo engine can be parted out to try and cover some of the replacement costs.

11/18/2012 | Matthew Lowe
Too pretty to be a wood box!

Newer ]  |  [ Older ]