Quick overview of the upcoming repair, now that all the parts are here. We’re not usually bow-in in our slip, but it was pretty windy the other day and that’s what nature wanted.

Well, it turns out when I sucked a line into my thruster, I did do some damage. The line pulled tight enough that it ripped through the plastic on the tunnel around the thruster. This appears to have torqued it against the hull.

I started noticing sea water in the aft bilge a few months ago and after pulling up the floor I’m 90% sure this is the cause (I can see seeping coming from where the thruster is attached to the hull). Trevor and Dave both suggested the rudder, since the leaking is worse under way and it’s a known failure mode, but I just don’t see it (the top of the shaft is consistently dry). The good news is I was planning a haul out anyway, for bottom cleaning and paint. Bad news is everyone is booked solid. CSR took mercy on me, since it’s a leak, but they still can’t get me in until 23-May. Sitting at the dock, I’m getting maybe two pints of water per day. Under way, I’m getting maybe two pints an hour. I’m concerned that cruising is making it worse, so we’re dock-bound until haul out.

Ok, so plan of record:

  • Haul out for bottom paint and zincs
  • Replace the stern thruster tunnel and coupler, remount to the hull
  • Put a drain hole from the center lazarette bilge to the forward lazarette bilge, which has the pump
  • Repair the bonding strip (maybe move it)

There’s a little water in the midship bilge as well as under the generator. None of these is connected, so I suspect the respective raw water intakes. I tightened all of the hose clamps. I had an old leak from the emergency rudder port which I fixed back in Feb-2021 (though I didn’t clean it up as I should have), but the top of the rudder post (another ingress point in the laz) remains dry.

A note on part sourcing and work planning:

North Pacific has been great at helping me plan out the work. Both Dave and Trevor weighed in on the troubleshooting and Imtra tech support helped me identify parts to have on hand for the haul-out, which Trevor helped me source. The documentation is very good if you know where to look and who to talk to.

NTSB: Undertorqued Bolt Caused $3.8M in Damage Aboard WSF Ferry

The NTSB has released a report on a dangerous engine failure aboard the ferry Wenatchee after an overhaul in 2021. When an undertorqued bolt rattled loose, the engine threw a conn rod and half of a piston through an inspection cover, starting a fire and causing millions of dollars of damage.

PUBLISHED MAR 15, 2022 10:30 PM BY THE MARITIME EXECUTIVE

One point for the engineering mindset.

Springy weekend. We went to our favorite nearby anchorage for a quick overnight. This is looking west toward the Olympic mountains.

Pleasant Harbor

Our Hood Canal trip was a success. Not much to report. We had good weather on the way down and stayed at Pleasant Harbor on the first night. It’s an odd little marina without much to do, and they’re sticklers for rules (making us initial one-by-one that we acknowledge each and every rule), but it’s a nice sheltered place with good pizza – and they took good care of us.


Alderbrook had their usual outstanding service, though much of the resort is under construction. They’ve taken good care of their people over the pandemic and continue to support the town. Many people there recognize us now, including Cindy the harbormaster. It feels like coming home.

We left on a snowy day in a small craft advisory. The south end of the canal was fine, but we knew we were in for some weather once we approached Dabob. Slow Burn, the Nordhavn 47 we’d shared the dock with, radioed to set up a buddy boat, since visibility was less than 1/10 of a mile. At first, the weather got better – with good visibility and no wind. Then, we hit the full force of the winter storm. We were hitting 4-5’ waves in 50 kt gusts, with heavy snow. We could have handled it if it were just for an hour, but predict wind suggested it would have continued all the way up the canal, so we ditched to Pleasant Harbor again. They were very nice – finding slips for both us and Slow Burn, and not even charging us (since everything was closed). We waited out the weather in warmth and comfort in the marina and had comfortable conditions for our cruise home the next day.

It was great having a buddy boat to check in with in bad conditions. As always, discretion is the better part of valor when winter cruising.

After multiple begged rides, a bus trip, and a ferry ride, I’m back aboard Turtle. She’s spent the last month up here in the capable hands of Dave Rasmussen, who’s been diligently going through my list. I’ll be heading back toward home at first light (7:30-ish) with a planned overnight in La Conner. Conditions seem good.

A brief summary of the work completed:

  • Bunk is complete. Dave did an amazing job getting a 24” bunk to convert to a 36”. Plenty of space on the top bunk and a bigger cave for our solitary reader.
  • New dash looks great. I didn’t realize just how bad the old one was.
  • Gelcoat is repaired – seems like this may be a warranty repair, since both chips were on corners where the fiberglass wasn’t flush against the gelcoat (there were voids). Still needs a third coat, but it’s been rainy.
  • The 24v charger seems… ok. This deserves a longer post, but we sent it back to Pro Mariner and they said “everything’s fine” and sent it back to us. They did recommend putting it in “Power Supply” mode instead of “Battery Charger” mode – which is a little weird. There’ve been no ELCI trips and no measurable AC leakage. Crossing fingers.
  • The engine “smoke” seems to be steam from cold air and cold seas. I may have just started noticing it on the way up because it got colder. We did a sea trial and Dave said everything is nominal.
  • The weird noise at 2250 RPM is also something Dave has seen before. It’s how the engine is programmed. Nominal.
  • We added a foot rest in the pilot house, makes the starboard side of the bench sittable.
  • Replaced one of the blackwater sensors that had started detaching from the tank – mild corrosion as well. Seems to be reading right, now.
  • Flipped the port tank site gauge upside down, since the bottom acrylic was cracked causing the drip leak I’ve observed. Need to get a new one, but that’s an easy swap that I can do.
  • Installed the shaft brush.
  • Wash and Wax.

So good to be aboard again! After a quick turn-around in our home marina, we’ll set out for Hood Canal and our annual Alderbrook Christmas getaway.

We’re up to 219 hours on the main. There’s been a pretty steady stream of gremlins and I’m making progress on the routine maintenance, so let’s jump right in.

Oil Changes

Honestly, the oil change system makes this super easy. I changed the oil on both the main and the generator without too many issues. I initially overfilled the main. The Cummins manual says the total system capacity is 17 quarts, but the pan is actually 15 quarts + 1 qt. for the filter and the rest for up in the engine. But, the pump made it really easy to drain down to the right level. Just a brain fart on my part.

The hardest part of the generator was accessing the engine identification plate (behind the coolant overflow bottle) and removing the old filter, which had been painted on. My large filter wrench didn’t fit the small filter, so I wound up mangling it off with a channel lock. While the transmission and main engine oil have ball valves for controlling flow to the oil change pump, I could not find one for the generator. The hose from the generator oil pan goes through a couple of fittings/couplings that look like some kind of back-flow controller, so I’m guessing that’s why.

Minor Stuff

Blaine Trip

I took the boat back up to Blaine so Dave Rasmussen could work on it. He’s the same guy who commissioned it and does super high-quality work with innovative customizations. The boat will be up there for the next few weeks while we get several items sorted.

24V Charger Failure – Turtle is a 12v boat, but has two 24v battery banks for the thrusters and windlass. These are charged by a 24v charger that runs off of AC power (A DC-to-DC system would have been much simpler here, but I’m not going to rewire at this point). I noticed a while back that the fan was running a lot and I confirmed earlier this fall that it cycles on at full power even when the charger is on standby. I called ProMariner and they confirmed that it’s faulty, but they wouldn’t send me a replacement, instead insisting that I send it in for diagnostics. So, I filed the RMA paperwork and Dave will pull it out while the boat is in Blaine. This picture shows the fan on high when the charger is in standby and the case is 56 degrees Fahrenheit. This could be the root cause of my ELCI issues, which Dave is also going to spend some time on this month.

Engine Smoke – This was kind of disturbing. The boat has always made a weird sound when it hits about 2250 RPMs, which I assumed was the turbo. I noticed on the trip north that if you get the rpms exactly right, it kind of cycles on and off and makes a rattling sound. That was on Monday. Then on Wednesday, I noticed engine smoke when it was under load. I did some documentation and Dave will look into it. There’s no reason an engine with 200 hours should be producing smoke. Dave doesn’t think it’s serious, but was a bit mystified why it would start on the second day. I was cruising harder than usual to make my weather windows, but the boat should be able to go all day at 2700 rpm.

The sound as the engine changes modes.
The growling / rattling sound at higher RPMs
The engine rattling right around 2250 rpms
Engine smoke at 2200
Engine smoke at 2500
Engine smoke at 2900 (Max load)

Replace Ultraleather in Pilothouse – This was the original reason for the visit. The dash is bubbling up and the headliners are drooping. The factory just cut some corners, so North Pacific is replacing the defects.

Widen the Midship Bunk – Turtle has an “L” bunk configuration, with a full-sized bed on the bottom and a single on the top. Not only does this cause the family “not fair” klaxon to sound, it really isn’t a great configuration as the kids grow. In retrospect, we should have had two twin-sized bunks in a regular aligned configuration (along the hull) with more floor space. But, given what we have, we’re going to widen the top bunk. This has the side effect of crowding out the already very small standing space (if the bunk comes out to the door, the distance between the forward hanging locker and the bunk is like 24″). So, Dave came up with the idea of making it retractable, similar to the pilothouse bench that converts into a berth. We’ll have a couple of expansion blocks that we can keep under the lower bunk and convert the bed from a single (with floor space) to a twin (with play space above and a privacy cave below, for our cellar dweller). We love this idea and are super excited to see how it comes out.

If There’s Time Stuff

  • Add a foot rest to the pilothouse bench.
  • Repair the blackwater tank gauge (the solder on the starboard foil sensor came loose)
  • Install the shaft brush.
  • Apply a coat of wax.
  • Repair a couple of gelcoat chips.

Cruising Notes

We’ve covered a lot of water this fall, including a fair amount of single-handing by me with and without the kids. We went to Dyes Inlet, Port Orchard, Downtown Seattle (Bell Harbor Marina), Edmonds, and 100 miles from Liberty Bay to Blaine. We filled up twice, including 350 gallons in Brownsville, which took a couple of hours with a dispenser with no lock on the handle (!). First world problem…

The trip to Blaine was interesting as I did it in the midst of a series of nasty low pressure systems that brought heavy wind and rain. I used a weather router to confirm my own planning and spent an extra day in LaConner waiting out the 50 kt gales, but it all worked out. Rich (The Weather Guy) turned around a float plan on short notice and checked in with me every day. Very nice to have some expert backup.

Pencil Zincs

Was probably a bit late given the state of the oil cooler zinc. Will get on to an every-three-month cycle. Ordered several zincs from boatzincs.com

  • Aftercooler – (port side of engine) Both larger E-2, 1/2 NPT, 2”The forward/bottom zinc looked ok, but the aft/top one was deteriorating quickly. Used Rectorseal Tplus2 (per Cummins procedure) but may not have spread it on thick enough. Monitor for leaks.
  • Heat Exchanger – (starboard side of engine) Both are on the bottom of the forward cap (E-1, 3/8 NPT, 2”). Both were deteriorated but outside was worse than inside. Inside one is a bit hard to get to due to the oil lines. Did not use rectorseal as instructions didn’t call for it.
  • Transmission Oil Cooler – (stern of engine) zinc on bottom of port side (E-1, 3/8 NPT, 2”). This one was completely deteriorated. Took off port hose (from aftercooler) to clean out debris. May need to flush more thoroughly next service. Some material on screen/plate. Did not use rectorseal as instructions explicitly said not to.

Raw Water Strainer

Raw water strainer was pretty clean – no major obstructions. One small feather. 

  • Note: There was a small finger-bolt on the top left (toward the stern screwed in from starboard/lever side) of the plate that the through hull ball valve lever is mounted on. The lever was hard-opening and closing, so I took it out but dropped it. I think it is under the gray water tank, but I could not find it. It looks like some kind of limiter to stop the lever, but it is hard to be sure. Could be for the bonding system (double check)
  • Note: The strainer cover was hard to get off – “hand tight” is sticky. Also, when going it, it initially only went half way on, but after some wiggling went all the way on. The top should be flush with the small black o-ring/gasket on the main assembly.

TODO Before Next Trip and after next Cruise

  • Check all bolts and strainer cover for leaks
  • Clean up any remaining water in bilge
  • Ensure engine and oil cooler stay at temperature.
  • Check hose clamp on oil cooler
  • Look to see if finger bolt from through hull ball valve lever shows up in bilge

Went smoothly. The pump makes it easy. Pretty straight forward job after all my consternation about parts sourcing.

Gotchas:

  • Before starting, clean the surface of the transmission, especially around the filter housing and dipstick to keep grit and other stuff from getting into fluid.
  • Lay out petroleum soaks. Don’t be stingy with them.
  • Ball valve for oil pump is under the forward starboard engine mount. It’s not really visible. Need to reach under mount to open and close. Found it by tracing line.
  • Paint chipped off around filter opening – remember to clean thoroughly so no pieces get inside. Need to source some new paint to prevent corrosion.
  • Same issue with ATF bottles. Make sure to carefully remove the foil top and keep pieces out of fluid. May be good to have a screened funnel. 
  • Small gasket is hard to remove. Used can opener hook on multi-tool
  • Torque wrench needs to be put away on lowest setting (torqued filter housing to spec)
  • Pink fluid is hard to see on orange dipstick
  • Only added about 5.25 qts (against a capacity of 5.8) So the rest must be up in the plumbing somewhere. Will check again after actually engaging the transmission for a bit. Then, hopefully good for another 300 hours.