Quick Lube March 2010
05 March 2010 | Whortonsville, NC
For regular readers, I regret to inform you that there is not a lot of excitement in this ship's log entry. This winter's weather has been brutal. The best we can do is get to the boat once in a while to check it out and do a little work. This weekend was on of those. Hopefully there will be more exciting entries later in the season.
I had requested a vacation day so I could do the spring maintenance on the boat. My plan was to spend Friday and Saturday working and getting her ready for the new season, then come home on Sunday. There is a long "to-do" list this spring because I have paid more attention to sailing than to maintenance in the last few years. Judy is working during tax season and she does not get any days off.
Thursday March 4, 2010
I left home as soon as I finished work. I had a good trip stopping for gas and for a burger in Goldsboro. The forecast was for temps in the low 50s on Saturday but when I arrived at Ensign Harbor, winter was still there. I unloaded clothes and a bedroll and turned the cabin heater on. To say it was cold would be an understatement. I turned in early and was really glad I had a warm sleeping bag. I slept fairly well but the air in the cabin never really got warm. This is the disadvantage in arriving at the boat after dark. In winter we typically don't travel on Friday night but wait until Saturday for this reason. I was trying to be a tough guy because of the nice 50-degree weather forecast on Saturday.
Friday March 5, 2010
I woke at about 7am and made a pot of coffee. The cabin was still cold even after the little heater had been running all night. The sun was up and I could feel the heat it was generating. After my healthy breakfast of pop tarts I ventured up to the bathhouse to call home. When I stepped on to the wooden deck, I noticed a heavy frost on the decking just before I noticed the ice on the creek. The nice spring weekend I was counting on was just not working out the way I had planned. The part of the weather forecast that I failed to take into account was the howling 20-knot northwest wind. I figured I would start with the maintenance things that did not involve being outside.
I always dread the annual oil change and fuel filter change. When you consider the number of hours the little diesel actually runs in a year's time, maybe it would not be necessary to do this maintenance every year but I have heard many horror stories of clogged fuel filters and I know that changing the oil regularly is absolutely essential for extending the life of an engine. I own a 1992 model Toyota Pickup Truck with 276,000 miles on an engine that has never had a problem. The oil in the little truck was changed every 3,000 to 4,000 miles, which is why it has lasted so long. Changing the oil in a sailboat is a real pain because the oil cannot be drained. It must be pumped our of the dipstick tube.
I started by cranking the engine. I do this because warm oil is a lot easier to pump than cold oil. The hand pump is a real pain and it takes at least 20 minutes to extract (most) of the oil in the oil pan. It is an exceedingly messy job. No matter what I do, I always make a mess. I had some absorbent pads that are designed to absorb petroleum products. I spread these below the oil and fuel filters to minimize the mess. After the oil was pumped out I tackled the fuel filters. This is another dreaded, messy job. There are two fuel filters. One is external to the engine and designed to separate water as well as contaminates from the fuel before it reaches the engines fuel filter. Both filters have to be changed.
The absorbent pads worked really well to keep oil and or fuel out of the bilge. I refilled the engine with oil then used the primer (bulb) pump that I installed in the fuel line to pump fuel into the external fuel filter. After the external fuel filter was filled, the electric fuel pump stopped clicking. I opened the bleeder valves on the engine to get the air out of the fuel system. My first attempt at cranking the engine failed so I left the fuel pump on and bled the fuel system the second time. My second attempt was successful. The engine sputtered and coughed but finally started. I let the engine run for a while and checked both fuel and oil filters for leaks.
I checked the transmission fluid next. This should be a simple task but it is complicated by the oversized heat exchanger that I installed years ago. The new heat exchanger makes it difficult to check the transmission fluid simply because it is in the way. I managed to bend the transmission dipstick when getting it out of the transmission. I bent it back but I had to actually dismount the heat exchanger to get the dipstick back into the transmission. I changed the zinc in the heat exchanger next. The old zinc still looked pretty good but what I always change the zinc every year. Zincs are not expensive and they can prevent problems with electrolysis, so it' not worth taking the chance.
Trying to avoid going out in the cold wind, I decided to check the ship's batteries. I checked the acid level on battery #2, the cranking battery. The hydrometer checked ok but the battery appeared to be a little low on fluid. Since I had no distilled water aboard, I decided to postpone more battery checking until the next trip when I could bring some distilled water along. I checked everything I could think of inside the boat, then decided to at least reinstall the new painted propane locker on the stern rail. The fresh coat of Rustoleum made the locker look like new again. I also removed the outboard mount from the port side so I could take it home for a coat of paint.
By now it was about 2pm. I had done everything I could think of in record time and everything else required being outside. I listened to the weather report and found the temperature for Saturday was to be a couple of degrees warmer but the wind was to be just as strong out of the north. I made a command decision, packed the car and headed for home. I stopped for a burger in Grantsboro and had an uneventful drive home.