31 August 2008 | Raiatea
I did the 250 hour service on the Westerbeke Genset and the Port Yanmar today. The Yanmars are so nice to deal with. Pump out the oil out, change the oil filter, change the fuel filter, add new oil, check the coolant, drive leg oil & flexible mount, engine belt and the impeller (all of which have never been an issue) and off you go. I have never had a part fail on either of our Yanmars (both have over 1,000 hours now). We changed the belts and impellers only because you're supposed to at 1,000 hours. It seemed a shame because the old ones were in fine shape. The only "what were they thinking" experience I have ever had with the Yanmar's is the silly seacock setup that is seize prone and gives you no visual indication as to whether it is open or closed. We replaced these with 90 degree shutoffs and have had no complaints since.
The Westerbeke is another matter. When it is working properly I like it, though it vibrates more than I would expect and is a little loud. We have the Westerbeke sound box but our install only has one set of isolators (inside the box). I would like to try double isolating it at some point as this seems to make a big difference. Perhaps I am spoiled. Our genset is mounted aft of the engine in the starboard hull, which is fairly far back in the hull, giving the shimmy some leverage. My favorite genset is the one on our friend's yacht, Kelp Fiction, a 53' Amel. I'm sure that mounting the genset directly on top of a 15,000 pound lead keel has some sound and vibration advantages that light weight catamarans will never be able to achieve.
The service side of the Westerbeke is more work than the Yanmars. First there are two fuel filters, a filter and a fuel element, and the element is mounted such that it is hard to get to and can interfere with the sound enclosure. The fuel filter is mounted in a tricky to work on location also and makes it very hard to see what is going on with the gaskets that must be lined up properly. A normal fuel filter mounted high on the engine is an easy to access spot would be a welcome change here.
The oil dip stick is also hard to get to. Would be much better if they had made the stick and the tube 6 inches longer so that you don't have to contort to check the oil.
The heat exchanger zinc is a problem. The manual asks you to check it but if you attempt to remove the zinc after more than 50 hours it will break off. I have never been able to pull a zinc for inspection once installed. This is a hassle because even if there is a good bit of zinc left it will break off and now it is floating about fouling up the heat exchanger (hopefully dissolving along the way when in contact with the housing).
We have had a lot of impeller problems with this particular unit. The service spare parts kit we bought from Westerbeke for our exact genset came with the wrong impeller. This is the part we thought we were supposed to have so we purchased several spares. The part fit but required the center pin be removed (we had to reuse the original). I knew something was wrong but could get no support. I have sent three unanswered questions through the Westerbeke web site. This impeller also never lasted more than 250 hours, at most. The problem being that you start the genset, everything is fine, then after a while the impeller goes and the genset overheats and shuts down. The shutdown feature works well but the overheat is no good for the plastic bits. Our plastic air intake box is warped and no longer mates with the block keeping the air from filtering properly (waiting for the part). One shut down also melted our coolant overflow line and damaged our pressure cap. Only the actual Westerbeke replacement pressure cap seems to work properly (we have tried several).
I was wandering through a chandlery in Panama one day when I found an impeller just like ours but with a different center pin. It had a different part number but I bought it anyway. When I contacted the Westerbeke distributer to see what was up they said, "oh, that is the correct part for your genset". I installed it and it has worked like a charm for nearly 300 hours (a new record). This was my first service without changing the impeller! I have come to believe that if yacht and systems manufacturers would just talk to their clients and answer their questions in a timely fashion, even over email, cruisers would have far fewer frustrations. Unfortunately there is a long way to go before the market reaches this mark.
As I was wrapping up the service a big Fountaine Pajot charter boat showed up and asked why we were on their mooring. Hmmm. The sun was setting and the wind was up. Fortunately a neighbor, Bruce on Top Cat, came by and told us there was a mooring available on the other end of the field. I buttoned things up and we motored over and picked up the last mooring in the bay.