Saturday, April 19, 2014

Escape from Stuart

We are anchored at the north end of Lake Worth (the lake, not the eponymous village), in the town of North Palm Beach, Florida (map). Notwithstanding my last post, wherein I opined that we might shove off Wednesday morning, the weather for an outside run deteriorated, and we held off for another couple of days hoping for good weather on the outside.

When Friday rolled around, and the forecast on the outside was still bleak, getting bleaker over the weekend and into next week, we conceded defeat and decided to shove off regardless and take the inside route down the ICW.  We did not want to chance waiting in Stuart so long that we'd have a mad scramble to make our reservations in Fort Lauderdale.

Martin and Steph spent Thursday night aboard with us, so that Steph could ride with us without them having to get up extra early and drive down from Jensen Beach.  We cast off lines at 8:45 and Martin headed next door to the Nordhavn docks to work on their boat, Blossom.  Even with the rough forecast on the outside, we had a very smooth and pleasant run on the inside.  The depth transducer had nary a problem the whole way down.

Once we had the anchor set here we splashed the tender, for the first time since we left St. Augustine, at the very beginning of January -- nearly four months.  It took me a few tries to get it going, but it did eventually start, and I took it for a spin around the nearby Old Port Cove marina, where we planned to go for dinner, just to blow the cobwebs out.  It was very reassuring to finally have a working fuel gauge, and all the other systems seemed to be working normally.

We made a dinner reservation for the four of us at Sandpiper Cove, the nice restaurant at Old Port Cove, and after a cocktail on the aft deck and some conversation we tendered over with Steph and her luggage, meeting Martin in the restaurant.  It was a great final evening with them until we reconnect in late May sometime, and it was hard to say goodbye at the end of the evening after nearly three months of being conveniently only a few miles away.

This morning we had intended to move a little further south along the ICW, enjoying another two or three anchorages on our way to Fort Lauderdale.  I was up early, but with only 45 miles left on the inside route, there was no rush, and we had a leisurely morning aboard.  Mid-morning, Louise started the generator to make hot water for a shower, even though our new battery system was far from needing to be charged,  That's when the plans for the day went off the rails.

The generator sounded a bit different -- hardly surprising since it has not been run since before we docked in Lake Park at the beginning of March.  Louise checked the exhaust for water flow, and, to her horror, discovered only exhaust gas, with no water, emanating from the generator discharge.  Not good.  We immediately shut the generator back down.  Fortunately, it had only run for perhaps a minute, not long enough to melt the exhaust hoses or start a fire.

I suspected a damaged impeller.  We opted to finish our morning coffee before diving in, although I did shut off a few discretionary pieces of equipment, such as the AIS and plotters, to keep the battery load down until we were sure we could restart the generator.  After breakfast I changed into my work clothes and started in on the generator, peeling off the sound shield covers.

Fortunately, the raw water impeller is pretty easy to access on this generator -- much easier than the one on the main engine.  Sure enough, the impeller was more or less completely destroyed.  Worse, I did not find much of the debris still in the housing, which meant is was further downstream and likely lodged in the heat exchanger.

The heat exchanger on this unit is accessed by removing a very weird double-bell/double-clamp rubber end cap.  When I had both clamps loose, bright red coolant immediately started coming out around the end cap.  It took me a while to realize that the inner clamp, on the smaller portion of the bell, closed around the inner, seawater-conducting, part of the exchanger, while the outer bell sealed around the outer coolant-containing portion, with the inner tube being a loose press-fit inside the outer housing.  It's a poor design requiring the otherwise sealed coolant system to be drained to access the seawater path.

It took some serious gymnastics on my part, but I was eventually able to get a cup and funnel under the exchanger's drain petcock, incoveniently located at the very back of the sound enclosure.  I drained about a quart or so of coolant, which let me get the end cap off without further incident.  Behind the end cap I found a considerable number of broken impeller pieces trapped at the inlet tubes.

Once I had all the pieces out it was pretty straightforward to get everything put back together, top the system off with fresh coolant, and install the replacement impeller.  Water flow from the generator exhaust is now better than we have ever seen since we bought the boat, suggesting that this problem has been brewing for a while.  I'm just glad we caught it before damage was done, and I am now thinking about adding a temperature switch to the generator run system which will shut it down if the wet exhaust hose rises above 200 or so.

It was well after lunch time by the time we finished and I had everything cleaned up.  As long as the tender was still in the water from last night's dinner run, we lined it around to the front of the boat so I could look at the bow eye shackle pin, which appeared to have broken it's mousing and backed out of the shackle several turns.  I noticed this during a routine check of the snubber yesterday evening before turning in.

When I got to the bow eye I found the stainless seizing wire we had used to mouse the shackle broken, and the pin backed out of the threads almost completely.  However, the pin itself was completely frozen to the bow eye, in which it was a tight-clearance fit by design.  Louise kept handing me down tools, staring with the four pound engineer hammer, and progressing through three sizes of pipe wrenches, but nothing I tried could free the pin enough to rotate it back into the threads on the shackle.

The silver lining here is that, with the pin this jammed, it is unlikely to come free and let the shackle loose.  Unfortunately, the single thread of engagement on one side is not really sufficient to carry the anchoring load in a big blow.  We will need to find a way to free the pin, clean out the bow eye, and replace the whole shackle assembly at some point.  In the meantime, I moused the pin to the shank of the bow eye itself with some light line, and declared it "good enough."

By this time, we had decided it was not really worth raising anchor just to go another few miles down the ICW, and besides, the forecast for outside has improved and it looks like we might be able to take the outside route all the way to Fort Lauderdale if we leave here in the morning.  We opted instead to just have a relaxing afternoon on board, and stay right here.  It's a pleasant holiday weekend, and several small boats pulling water skiers ran around the anchorage all afternoon.  Some of the wipeouts inspired us to make number signs, such as used by, for example, Olympic skating judges, to hold up when one happened nearby.  After that, three young men skiing from a very small outboard hammed it up for us the rest of their stay.

This is a very popular anchorage, and there are perhaps twenty other boats here, although we chose to anchor some distance from the pack.  One reason for this is that there is a small beach next to PGA boulevard where you can land your dinghy and walk to some shopping and restaurants.  I needed to resupply myself with eye drops, which I am consuming at a prodigious rate, and we were nearly out of beer, so I decided to dinghy in for some quick supplies before we hoisted the tender back aboard.  Louise decided to join me and we got beer, eye drops, fruit, and milk.  We already had dinner cooking, or we might have also decided to stay ashore and sample one of the restaurants.

It turned out to be a very enjoyable day, and we're glad we just stayed put.  The generator impeller was probably overdue for a change anyway, so it's hard to complain that I had a pleasant, calm anchorage in which to do it.  Mostly, it feels great to be back cruising, and away from the dock.

If the weather forecast holds, we may get an early start tomorrow and head outside.  With four days before we are due, though, it will be no problem to continue down the inside route, should that be our mood as we pass Peanut Island.


  1. Good to see you back in the move again, although the link to the map shows up for me as just out of Coffeyville, Ks, I am sure you are still in Florida.

    1. I had the same problem -- all my links were showing up as just west of Tampa. Some weirdness with Google. I deleted all my Google cookies and that fixed it.

  2. I've heard those impellers can be a constant source of frustration. Same with the radiator fan hydraulic motor on the motorhomes. I'm guessing since you had a spare that is correct information ;)

    1. It's considered a "wear item" and should be replaced on a schedule based on engine hours and age. We replaced the one on the main engine preemptively but did not get to the one on the generator soon enough, clearly.

  3. Our Jurassic model Onan genset has a dead simple temperature shutdown. The circuitry to the run solenoid passes through two normally closed temperature switches. One is mounted directly to the head and the other is mounted to the mixing elbow. The Lehmans don't have anything like that so I mounted an aftermarket system. I can't remember who makes it but it consists of thermocouples attached to the mixing elbows and connected to an alarm on the dash. I've seen recommendations to change those impellers annually but you'd have to put on some serious hours to make that necessary.

    1. I'm guessing your aftermarket system is from Borel Manufacturing. Adding a temperature shutdown to the genny, as well as an exhaust alarm for the main engine at the helm, is on my lengthy to-do list. I've already got the thermocouple for the main and I need to find the right one for the genny. Wiring it up is a pain but not complicated.


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