Saturday, May 10, 2014


We're sitting on Grace with all hatches closed, the cockpit enclosure all buttoned up, because its raining Gatos e Perros (cats and dogs) rocking in a vicious cross swell, sweat soaking our clothing. And we are back to counting the seconds between the lightening flashes and the arrival of thunder.  Thunder travels one mile per second, a 20 second count means we can relax because the lightening is four miles away.  That's oh sh_t number one.  We did not want to go through another rainy season counting off seconds.  We got hit by lightening last summer.  Once is way more then enough.

Oh sh_t number two is an el Nino is likely to occur this year. Conditions in the Pacific are displaying classic el Nino characteristics and are very much like those that existed prior to the worst ever el Nino that took place in 1997-1998.  A large body of warm subsurface water is moving from the western Pacific to the shores of South America.

If westerly winds appear in areas where easterly trade winds predominate the el Nino will occur.  Should westerly winds not develop then no el Nino.  There have been westerly wind bursts.  Meteorologists rate the probability of an event at 70 %, and could start in July.  I'm not going to head off to the Marquesas' some 4000 miles from here if we may have to beat into westerly's. 

And finally, the big OH SH_T, it may be that our coolant leak is a failing tube bundle in our heat exchanger.

Item #14 is the tube bundle

I spoke with the local diesel guru today, and this was where he felt our problem may be since we are not getting water in the oil (a sign of a bad head gasket) nor are there any visible leaks anywhere.  He says it is a function of age, and our motor is old.  It was made in 1985.  The replacement part costs $2300 dollars from Volvo.  We are at a point where it is beginning to make sense to repower rather then repair. 

I will remove the heat exchanger bundle and get it pressure tested Monday.  If it is leaking then we have a big decision to make.  Repowering will cost 15 to 20 thousand dollars, but when it is time to sell we might be able to recover some of this, as a fresh repower is highly valued by boat buyers.

Repowering probably means we stay here through another rainy season.  OH SH_T!!!


  1. Geez Louise. Still better to learn this now than in the middle of the Pacific.

    1. You are so right. We should be hoisting magnums of champagne to our good luck. We would if we had any money left, ice tea wlli have to suffice. Paul

  2. Paul, take a good look at how much power you really need. We have a 28 HP engine from Kubota via Westerbeke (who advertised it at 37 HP) and do just fine. The Westerbeke marinization is total crap; I've replaced or repaired every Westerbeke part, but engine and the ZF gear keep chugging along. When we had the old Westerbeke /Perkins 4-108, I figured it took 13 HP to travel at 6 1/4 kts. Now I use 1 liter/hour with the new engine, about the same as with the 4-108. Beta uses the same Kubota engine in their line.

    By the way, the Worsterbeke supplied heat exchanger failed catastrophically at 7 years. No Westerbeke heat exchanger available from the factory, distributor, or dealer anywhere in Canada or US, in spite of this part being used in four different engines. Limped home from Coal Harbour on north Van I with a cobbled together scavanged part. Replaced it with an aftermarket heat exchanger from Bellingham. Maybe they make a tube bundle for your engine.

    Good luck, Steve Hulsizer

    1. Thanks Steve, If we need to repower one of the options is the Kubota that is marinized by Beta Marine. Stewart's diesel shop in Ballard has be carrying them for years, and the old guy says they are pretty good.