Thursday, February 9, 2012

Gasket Making

In many situations you may need or want to make your own gaskets for your boat's engine or other equipment. It may be difficult to find a gasket for an older engine, especially when you're cruising and the need arises suddenly. You may also enjoy doing it yourself and saving money.
This photo shows the inside of a cover plate for a 1980 Paragon transmission, which was installed with certain Yanmar and Westerbeke marine diesel engines. The Paragon company no longer exists, and parts can be difficult or possibly impossible to find. In this case, this sailboat owner needed to replace the original paper gasket between this cover and the transmission case, which had disintegrated when he opened the transmission cover to make a clutch adjustment.

Gasket material is readily available at almost all automobile parts stores and costs little. Buy the type of material that most closely matches the original gasket (whether paper, cork, rubber, or some other material). In most cases it won't matter if the gasket is a little thicker than the original, but be sure it meets the needed specifications (i.e., that it will stand up to engine heat or fluids, etc.).
In this photo, the boat owner chose a thick paper gasket with a light adhesive backing that will make it easier to mount the completed gasket.
The first step is to obtain an accurate outline of the gasket from the shape of the surface on which the gasket will lie. A simple way to do this is place the object (like this tranmission cover plate) on the gasket material and lightly tap it with a mallet.

If you look carefully at this photo, you can see the indentation made in the paper gasket by the edges of the plate when tapped with the rubber mallet. Often you can simply cut along these edge lines with sharp scissors, but this owner decided also to outline the outside edge with a market to make the cutting easier.
Sometimes, especially with thinner gasket paper and sharp metal edges of the piece to be gasketed, the tapping actually cuts through the gasket paper so that cutting with scissors is not needed at all.

Here is the gasket after it has been cut to fit the outlined edges of this transmission cover. (The gasket looks slightly smaller than the cover because of the camera's foreshortening due to the height of the metal cover.)
Note that in this case, using thick gasket material, the edges of the gasket are a bit rough from the scissoring, which is not usually an issue with thinner paper gaskets or those made of other materials. If this happens to you, be sure to neaten up the gasket's inside edges with a sharp knife before installation to ensure small bits do not break loose and fall into the engine or other part.
Overall, making your own gaskets is more satisfactory than using a silicon paste that hardens into a gasket after being applied to the edges. It is very easy to apply too much silicon, resulting in extra material inside the part that can break free and clog up the works, or to have gaps that allow fluid leakage. A well-made gasket of the right material prevents such problems and takes only a few minutes to create.

Replaceing Raw Water Impeller on a Yanmar

While you do not need to replace your impeller with every oil change best to replace yours before a failure. This is a simple procedure anyone can accomplish. The following is a 2GM20F which is similar too most common Yanmar configurations.
Sockets for removal of pump and pump cover.
Razor or gasket scraper.
Small hammer.
Impeller removal tool (if available).
New impeller and gasket.
Lithium Grease

1).IMPORTANT TURN off the engine freshwater thru-hull.
2). Locate pump on starboard front of engine and remove the 2 mounting bolts. Slip belt off pump.

  Once removed loosen the hose clamps and rotate the pump so you can access the pump cover.

3). Remove cover nuts. A light tap on the side of the cover should it stick will make it pop right off.

4). Now with cover removed note the orientation of the impeller blades as you will set the new impeller blades in the same direction.
(you may not see the missing blade yet)

 5) Using an impeller tool if available or simply pull out the old impeller. If it is stuck you may pry out or  grab using slip joint pliers. Just do not score the pump surfaces.

6). Notice the missing blade on the old impeller. It is important to located all the missing blades to ensure no blockage occurs.

Usually blades will be just outside the pump outlet (the right hand side here). In this case the missing blade was found in the hose  before the heat exchanger.

7). Now clean the impeller cover carefully with a razor and remove all old gasket material.
(as the pump wears the cover plate will outline the irregular shape of the impeller gasket).

Applying Grease
8). Now liberally grease the impeller pump inside surface and shaft. This allows the pump to run dry until water starts flowing and assist removal of the impeller next time.
9) Reinstall the impeller with all blades oriented the same as the old one. Apply gasket following the same wear lines on the cover. Add cover plate again lining up the wear marks.
10). Tighten the cover nuts in a rotating fashion so you do not warp the pump or plate. Place pump on engine and insert mounting bolts. Make sure to re-tighten any hose clamps you may have loosened.
11). Replace belt and tension with hammer handle and Tighten mounting bolts.
12). Now IMPORTANT Open the thru-hull. Start engine and watch for water. It might take a few seconds for the pump to prime and water appear in the exhaust.
13). Make sure to check for leaks

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Bilge Pump Activity Monitoring

Being alert to bilge pump activity could save your boat. Here's a device that can even call your phone number (GSM network) if it exceeds certain parameters. I've been looking at this sort of device to not only monitor my bilge pumps, but to monitor my fridge freezer compressors and how many times they cycle on during a day. This would help with working out where my power usage is being used.  You can get all the details here at celectron.Here's some of there blurb....

While the boat is unattended, the BILGEWATCH 8 constantly monitors and records the pump activations and ALARM output activations (Counts up to 999 for each Pump, Alarm and Period) for up to 8 bilge pumps. Two outputs are provided to trigger an ALARM and an ALERT, with user set delays for each pump. The maximum recording time for each period is 99 days. There are 4 periods: the current period plus 3 history periods.

When the boat is attended, the BW-8 continues to monitor the pumps, but if the inhibit option is activated this will disable the ALARM output and the recording function, while maintaining the ALERT output - allowing the user to exclude expected pump activity, such as from washing down bilges or known water ingress when under way (e.g. Leaking shaft stern gland seals etc.).

Four keys are used to access all of the functions :- The two arrow keys are used to move between options or to alter settings - The YES key selects an option or accepts a setting - Pressing the EXIT key returns you to the previous menu option, it also switches off the alarm.

The BW-8 has a 5 second delay before it records a pump activation, to rule out false activations, such as those caused by the boat rocking due to wave action. When more than one pump is active, the display cycles through all active pumps. If a pump stays active and exceeds its user set alarm delay then the BW-8 triggers the ALARM and ALERT outputs and records the ALARM output activation; the Backlight, ‘AL’ and the BELL symbol flash. The ALARM and ALERT outputs are limited to 10 minutes, but can be stopped at any time by pressing the EXIT key.

Unused pump inputs can be skipped so that only the pumps in use will be shown on the LCD display

If a power failure occurs, it is indicated by displaying a BROKEN LIGHTNING FLASH symbol to indicate that the DAYS count may not be accurate. This is recorded with the history period information for future reference. The BW-8 will automatically recover from a power failure.

Recorded information can be accessed from the DISPLAY option in the main menu, the display will alternate between pump activations and ALARM output activations and will cycle through the pumps in use automatically (the arrow keys can override the automatic cycle). The pumps history periods can also be accessed from the DISPLAY option.

To conserve power, the display backlight (brightness is user selectable) is normally OFF until a key is pressed. The backlight will extinguish 2 minutes after the last key press.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Electronic Fuel Filter Monitor

A Filter alert system from Digivac gives advance warning of the need to change your fuel filters to prevent problems.
Their Brochure in PDF format can be found here
Compare it to a simpler product shown here on my blog earlier. Manual verses electronic.
Here's what Digi Vac had to say.....

This is a very simple breakthrough approach to avoid engine failure due to clogged fuel filters.  The Fail-Safe Filter Alert system notifies the operator of a fuel filter getting clogged.  The System uses a water proof display and a waterproof robust sensor mounted directly on the fuel filter with a clear character display, descriptive lights and a loud alarm so you can be sure what the system is telling you.  One of the worst fears of any boater is losing an engine during inclement weather, especially when making landfall in inclement or difficult conditions such as a narrow rock lined inlet.  Any engine failure could mean an unhappy boating experience and potentially the loss of the boat.  This system is one way to avoid the common causes of engine failure by monitoring fuel filter health.

The DigiVac Fail-Safe Filter Alert System Description:
  •  A straightforward vacuum instrument designed to detect fuel filter degradation and alert the operator—so action can be taken before an engine failure. 
  • Audible and Visual Alarm to Alert you to a problem before you reach failure point—to help avoid costly repairs and engine failure
Why use the DigiVac Fail-Safe Filter Alert System?
  • If you have the information that your engines are about to fail, you can take evasive action to avoid a dangerous engine failure in a crowded seaway during deteriorating weather.
  •  This system enables you to increase operating safety margins by giving you more time to make better decisions about the vessel.
  • Clogged fuel filters are responsible for entirely too many engine failures (see references). 
  • The DigiVac Fail-Safe Filter Alert System can monitor the function of the filters through the use of a robust vacuum sensor placed between the filter element and the engine. 
  • The sensor combined with the visual feedback presented by the display allows the operator to see the gradual degradation of the filter thus allowing plenty of time for corrective maintenance. 
How does the The DigiVac Fail-Safe Filter Alert System Work?
The DigiVac Fail-Safe Filter Alert System works on the principal of maintaining fuel flow.  In a healthy fuel system, the engine low pressure pump will pull fuel from the tank through a filter.  As the filter does its job and collects contaminants, the filter flow is reduced.  As the flow is reduced, the lift pump has to work harder to pull fuel to the engine.  There is a point where the filter is too clogged to support the flow necessary for the running of the engine.  When there is not enough fuel flow, the engine first loses power then stops.  Unfortunately, a filter is very likely to clog in precisely the kind of situation when you need a reliable running engine the most.  When rough seas toss the boat, they also mix-up the contents of the fuel tank, and more contaminants are likely to find their way to the fuel filter resulting in engine degredation and failure.
How is the DigiVac Fail-Safe Filter Alert System Different?
Before this solution, one of the only ways to get the filter pressure levels to the cockpit involved extending the very sensitive closed diesel fuel system 10-50 feet.  Extending the fuel system up to the cockpit can add significant risk to the fuel system through increased likelihood of air leaks that could cause an engine failure.  Additionally, it would require the operator to constantly monitor the gauge.   The DigiVac 500 adds close to zero risk of any air intruding the system since it replaces the T-Handle (which comes standard with Racor 500, 900 and 1000) with a a stainless steel double walled hermetically sealed sensor.  Even if the sensor fails, the fuel system will not be exposed to air.  Additionally, the DigiVac Fail-Safe Filter Alert has multiple visual indications and a loud siren to notify of a dirty filter that could stop the engine.   

The DigiVac model 500 not only gives a remote indication, but also shows a trend of a filter getting clogged.  Healthy systems show up as “all green”, marginal systems show up as “all yellow” and systems that are in danger of starving the engine are “in the red” and a loud auditory sound would be activated.  Before the model 500, an operator would have to choose a filter replacement interval that would keep the engine running, and frequently visually inspect the engine and filter for debris in the fuel bowls as an indication that the filters may be marginal.  The Fail-Safe alert allows the operator to constantly monitor the filter status while at the helm, and while the engines are powering. 
The DigiVac Model 500 Fail-Safe Filter Alert enables the operator to have one additional key input to the engine's health and allows the operator to focus on other critical safety factors instead of fear that the next rough see kicks up enough muck to stops the  boat in a crowded sea way.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Starboard as an Alternative to Wood

Over at Capt'n Pauley's Boat Yard, he's written about the advantages of using starboard. here's what he had to say.....

Are you tired of refinishing the wood aboard your boat? Has a wooden part aboard your boat rotted and needs replacement. Do you want durable and easy to clean surfaces aboard your boat? Something you can just wash down with a hose and not worry about drying?
Well, if your answer to any of the above questions is YES, you may want to hear more about a material called StarBoard (R). Starboard is a sheet polymer material especially compounded for use aboard boats. It has several features to eliminate the problems mentioned above. It’s waterproof; the same color all the way through and doesn’t deteriorate in the presence of UV rays.

King Plastic Corporation, of Northport, Florida, manufactures StarBoard (R). The material comes in a wide range of type, sizes and colors. Most boating supply stores either carry it or can order it for you. Some plywood dealers and lumberyards that deal with the marine trade also carry it. I’ll discuss the kinds of StarBoard (R) available, the sizes and colors, and then talk about some of the techniques you can use to work with Starboard(R).

Kinds of StarBoard (R) Available
If you have looked at this material in a boating store, you probably have seen only one, or at most, two types of the sheet polymer. In fact, King manufactures four different types at last count.

StarBoard (R)
This is the original material first offered to boaters. It is available in sizes ranging from 12” x 27” up to 24” x 27” at most boating stores. You can special order additional sizes up to a maximum of 54” x 96”. Thicknesses range from 1/4”, 1/2”, 3/4”, 1” and 1-1/2” (this size only available in 48” x 96” sheets).

There are a limited number of colors available, namely sanshade (sand tone), light gray, seafoam, dolphin gray, white and black.

StarBoard (R) XL
StarBoard (R) XL is a cellular form of StarBoard (R). Being cellular in form it is about 33% lighter than regular StarBoard (R). StarBoard (R) XL is usually only available in full sheets which, for this material, is 60” x 90”. XL is available in 1/4”, 3/8”, 1/2” and 3/4” thicknesses.

Starlite (R) XL
Starlite (R) XL is a material specifically designed to replace the plywood backing typically used in cushions. The material is lightweight and easy to staple to. The material holds staples very well and can be easily formed into curves for curved cushions. Full 60” x 90” sheets are available in 1/3”, 3/8”, 1/2” and 3/4” thicknesses.

StarBoard (R) AS
AS is designed for use on decks and ladder rungs. The surface has a special dimpled anti-skid surface. Standard sheet size is 54” x 96” and available thicknesses are 1/2”, 3/4” and 1”

Material Properties
As noted before, StarBoard(R) is a homogenous sheet of polymer material. As such, it doesn’t rot, delaminate or swell when subjected to rain, spray or saltwater. The polymer is treated with stabilizers to protect it from UV damage and it will retain its color indefinitely. Cleaning is simple with a scrub brush or ScotchBrite pad and scouring powder. For tougher stains use bleach and water.

StarBoard(R) is made from FDA and USDA approved materials. This means its fine for things like cutting boards, galley countertops or fish scaling tables.

One characteristic to be aware of is that StarBoard(R) is not a structural material. That is, you will need to reinforce or support large flat areas of the material. You could use wood cleats underneath, but why introduce the thing you are trying to replace – the wood? When I need to reinforce a piece of StarBoard(R), I use a piece of extruded aluminum, angle or tubing, or a narrow piece of StarBoard(R) set on edge.

Using StarBoard (R)
One of the greatest advantages of StarBoard(R) is the ease of fabrication. Common woodworking tools can be used. Table saws, routers, saber saws and drills are all acceptable tools. Use carbide toothed tools for finer finishes. Table saw blades should have 50 to 75 carbide teeth for the best edge.

Routers also work very well on StarBoard(R). Use two or four flute carbide bits to allow chips to clear the cutting surface. Specially shaped router bits can be used to produce a decorative edge cut a rabbet or route a piece to a specific pattern. A technique I often use is to clamp a straight edge along the cut line. A router bit with a ball bearing follower on the end then follows the straight edge giving a smooth, straight edge. I find it quicker and easier to rough-cut the piece to size and then use this technique to finish the cut instead of setting up the table saw.

Most normal adhesives do not stick to StarBoard(R). There is an adhesive available, but it is extremely expensive and requires a special applicator. Plan on joining your StarBoard(R) projects together with stainless steel fasteners. Self-tapping screws hold very well in StarBoard(R).

Make it or buy it
If you choose not to make your own StarBoard (R) project, all is not lost. A wide range of fittings and accessories are available in StarBoard (R). In fact, almost any accessory available in teak is also available in StarBoard (R). Check the hardware and accessory isle at your local boating store.

Now for some examples of projects I have done in StarBoard (R):

I needed a convenient place to store spare lines on one of my boats. I attached a StarBoard(R) grab rail to the underside of the cockpit locker. The lines are hooked to the grab rail with short Velcro straps. With the lid closed, they lines hang down in the locker. With the lid raised, the lines lay back against the lid, allowing access to the locker contents.

I used StarBoard(R) for a propane locker aboard my daughter’s boat. There was no convenient place to install a commercially available locker, plus the lockers were expensive. So I built one of 1/2” thick StarBoard(R). I used 1” aluminum angles in the corners and bolted it together with stainless steel flat head machine screws and lock nuts. 3M5200 was applied to the aluminum angles before bolting in place, providing a gas-tight locker. A lid with rounded corners and teak fiddles looked great and provided a flat space at a useful height.

I have open cockpit recesses for things like winch handles and such. These openings have teak frames that I will soon be replacing with StarBoard(R). The mount for my electric bilge pump is made from StarBoard(R). It doesn’t mind being in bilge water at times.

These are but a few of the possibilities for using StarBoard(R) on or in your boat. As always, use the Internet to find more information and other uses. Visit the King Plastics site at for full specs, suppliers and articles covering other StarBoard(R) projects.