Friday, March 26, 2021

Boat Projects, Progress Report 2

Well, work on the boat projects is progressing pretty well, although with challenges.

Project 1, Engine Charging Upgrade

The new port engine charging system is installed and tested. It went smoothly, looks good and is working well. I started on the starboard system today, several days behind schedule due to my fuel tank struggles, read onI think I'll be able to knock out the starboard work quite a bit quicker; it's nearly a duplicate of the port side and have a few less wires to pull.

Project 2, Standing Rigging Replacement/New Jib Furler

The riggers from Nance & Underwood arrived yesterday, installed the new Harken ESP jib furler and started loosening turnbuckles for the cap shrouds and diamond stays. The new furler is a major improvement over the poorly-designed and failing Z-Spar unit they removed. It turns so easily, I'm sure I will be able to furl the jib easily even in high winds. The old unit was so stiff, I had to use the electric winch to bring the sail in.

Today they replaced the cap shrouds, removed the diamond stays and spreader tips.  The mast looks naked, held up by just the cap shrouds and halyards. Hopefully, they will finish the job tomorrow. They are doing very good work.

Project 3,  Replace Starboard Diesel Tank

Oh boy. What a struggle this has been.

Last Wednesday, I removed the tank from its compartment below my berth. I pumped out all the fuel, about 28 gallons worth, removed all the hoses connected to the top of tank, disconnected the hot water heater hoses that interfere with removal and unbolted the tank. I straddled across the compartment and tried lifting the tank out, only to discover that the battery switch also interferes. So, I had to disconnect and remove it. Finally I was able to lift the tank out of its compartment and carefully carry it up and out of the cabin into the cockpit. Not an easy job for one person.

The sump below the tank was a mess- diesel fuel, crud and debris from the original build of the boat. I cleaned out the sump, a smelly, oily job.

I inspected the tank to see if I could figure out if it was leaking. I wiped down the tank and it was dry, no fuel residue. I saw a few white spots on the bottom of the tank, but nothing that looked like a hole. The tank looked good to me. Perhaps the fuel in the sump had just accumulated over the years when the tank leaked from the top when overfilled?

I had Jeff Kingree from Master Marine Welding come out last Friday to take a look at the tank. He poked around a bit with a sharp screwdriver and agreed that the tank looked good and probably wasn't leaking. I was happy to hear that, as time is tight for fabricating a new tank, not to mention the avoiding spending more money.

On Monday, I dropped the tank back into its compartment, bolted it down, connected all its hoses, re-connected the water heater hoses, re-installed the battery switch and filled it back up with diesel. It was a full day's work. I took a shower. As I was getting dressed, I thought I caught a whiff of diesel. Oh no!

I pulled mattress off my berth, opened up the compartment and, to my utter dismay, smelled diesel. Before replacing the tank, I  installed a hose into the sump below the tank so I could check for leakage. Sure enough, diesel was leaking into the sump. And not that slowly. If I listened carefully, I could hear it leaking. It never leaked that fast before. I couldn't let the tank leak at that rate all night, so I pumped the diesel back into the jugs again. It had been a long, discouraging day.

The next morning, I called Jeff to ask that he come by to pick up the tank the next day and start fabricating a new one. Then I set about removing all the hoses, disconnecting the hot water hoses, unbolting the tank, removing the battery switch, lifting the tank out of the compartment and carrying it out of the cabin...again.

There was quite a bit of fuel in the sump, over a quart had leaked in just four hours. I cleaned it out...again.

I looked at the bottom of the tank very closely this time. I didn't see any holes, but noticed a wet area around one of the white spots. I took an awl and pushed it into the white spot. Sure enough, the awl poked through, revealing a pinhole about 1.5 mm in diameter. I checked the other white spots with the awl. None had holes, but a few were kind of soft...leaks waiting to happen. The tank corrodes from the inside out, the white spots on the outside indicators of the corrosion's progress.

I felt disappointed and discouraged from the extra work of pulling and replacing the tank twice, but glad that I discovered the problem when I did. I figure the leak got worse from draining the tank, moving it and refilling it. It would have been a really big problem if it had waited until Intermezzo was in transit on a ship and leaked for two weeks; it would have put over 20 gallons of diesel into the bilge!

Jeff picked up the tank on Wednesday morning and promises to have a new one delivered to me by March 31, a rush order. I'm very grateful to him for giving my new tank priority in his shop, as he is very busy with customers whose livelihoods depend on his work.

When I get the tank back, I'll drop the tank back into its compartment, bolt it down re-connect all the hoses...I've got it down to a three hour job now.

The tank in its compartment...a tight fit.




The smelly, messy, oily sump below the leaking tank.

The removed tank. Looks pretty good, eh?

The source of the leak, a tiny hole in a spot of corrosion