Equipment breakdowns are inevitable, and not just on boats, some due to age, some to neglect of the previous owner, and some my own fault. I smiled when I saw a forum member’s signature: If it ain’t broke, it will be when I fix it. There is much truth in this, especially for the Jack-of-all-trades boat fixer-upper.
The biggest problem so far has been the 6.5kw Kubota generator.
It all started when I smelled shellac coming from the control box, and discovered the circuit board insulation completely melted down. How it continued to work I don’t know, but it did—that is, until I found two unattached wires and decided they should be joined together—wrong, big mistake! When I started the generator engine it immediately started smoking and nearly chocked me, until I managed to switch it off using the manual lever.
I had shorted the stator coils and there was no option but to buy a new generating section. I got one wholesale from the manufacturers, but it was still $2,200 (“whata mistaka to maka” - that’s a British thing from Allo Allo). I did get $20 scrap for the old bits though.
I carefully dismantled the genny and made notes how to reinstall the new one. It actually was not a very difficult job, because I didn’t have to disturb the heavy engine section—a bit like rebuilding an electric motor, just bigger and heavier. Happily all the machinery on a Down East 45 is pretty accessible directly below the saloon floorboards.
When it was all put back together I started the engine and we saw 125 volts flick on to the meter, fabulous!
A month or two later I decided to inspect the raw water pipes on the generator engine. This had always run warm under load, and some pipes were only ½” diameter, when the spec’ calls for ¾”. Inspection revealed many pipes and waterways encrusted to less than half their diameter, so it needed attention anyway.
You would think changing ½” pipes for ¾” would be simple enough, yes? But not when you temporarily bridge the anti-siphon discharge pipes then run the engine and leave it for weeks while you go on vacation. I didn’t know any better, but without the anti-siphon, sea water can filter back into the cylinders.
So when I came to start the engine it would not budge - until I removed the injectors and shot a stream of dirty black water all over the ceiling.
The first test was obviously compression, which confirmed my worst fears: # one cylinder 85psi, # two 105psi and # three 125psi. A small diesel like the Kubota needs about 350psi in order to fire. Clearly, the piston rings had seized, so removing the head did not initially show anything wrong. I had to inspect at least one piston, which was easier said than done, because the whole assembly weighs about 350 lbs.