John Buoy: Spring Refit

20170611_105732Well, it’s been a particularly nasty winter. I managed to head down to the marina as often as possible, and spent time on the boat, but we didn’t take it out over the cold weather, so now that things are warming up, it’s time to prep to go out.

The boat was particularly filthy. I started with a scrub down of the cockpit, only to find one of the cockpit drains was plugged. This sent a bunch of soapy water down into the engine compartment and bilge (dammit!). I wrestled with this for a bit, and managed to blast the crap in the drain free with the hose, then checked how much water went below. As soon as I opened the hatch, I could hear something was wrong.

The bilge in our boat is actually pretty well designed. There is a catch basin under each engine, this helps to trap any oil drips so they don’t get casually washed out. A channel runs down the center, and has a sump at each end, with a pump in each. There’s also a float switch in the middle that sounds the high water alarm in case of emergency. At the beginning of winter, I wiped everything down that I could reach, and changed the Bilge Socks (those white things that absorb oil). I put one in each sump, and one under each engine basin. In theory, if I get water below and any oil floats about, I’ll catch it before the pumps pump the water out.

When I washed the deck, I sent a lot of water below. I could hear the forward pump running, and some splashing. That’s wasn’t right. Pulling up the hatch, I could see that the forward pump was spraying water around, and running non stop. Somehow it had cracked at the top and failed completely. I had to hang upside down, and cut the wires to shut it off, then I pulled it out completely.

The upper cap had totally failed, I’m not sure why, but it was done. I grabbed an old spare from my tool box, and wired it up. Before dropping it in, I checked the water. The sock ad turned black, absorbing all the grime that the water washed about, but it was still pretty dirty. I got my hand pump and a bucket, and pumped the sump dry. I took this over to the oil disposal on the dock, and then put the replacement pump in. I gave it a test and it worked. A new clean bilge sock went in as well, and we were good.


I also checked under the engines, and some of the area was dirty and oily, so I wiped things with some oil absorbing rags as best I cold, and left some extras to keep soaking. The previous owner wasn’t big on cleaning the engines, so I inherited years of dirty bilge. It’s a great smell.

This was a good time to get the oil done anyway, so I pulled the couches out of the main compartment, and removed all three engine hatches so I had full access. Once everything’s out, it’s actually pretty easy. I can pump all the oil out the dipstick, and since the Oil filters are located at the top of the engine, they just spin out easy. I always refill them with clean oil before reinstalling. I’m not sure you actually need to do that, but it’s a habit I learned so the engine doesn’t run dry when you start it the first time. Speaking of oil, I use the best I can. This is the 20w-40 Mercury partial Synthetic. It’s not cheap, but oil keeps your engines alive. It’s worth the money. Two big jugs of oil later, and the engines are full.

Then, it’s to the carbs. I take off the spark arrestors, and blast everything with carb cleaner, wipe off any oil, and let it all dry. Same for the carbs; I blast the linkage, throttle plates, and all the little bits. A lot of grime gets in there, and if things stop moving freely, things just don’t run right. Once that all dries, I spray everything with Sea Foam carb spray, which lubricates everything and prevents corrosion. Then it all goes back together.

Before starting, I run a quick checklist:

  • Both Oil caps: ON
  • Both Dipsticks: READING FULL – IN PLACE
  • Spark Arrestors: IN PLACE
  • Coolant: FULL
  • Tools, Bottles all clear of the hatches.

Then I can run the blower and start things up. I don’t crank the engines heavy at first. I run a bit and stop, letting oil pressure flow and build. Then I crank and start them up. As usual, everything runs fine. I watch the engines run a bit, making sure nothing’s leaking or smoking. then once warm, I shut it all down. I check the oil level again, just to make sure, then I’m done.

Also, since I’m on the boat, I connect my tablets and boat computer to Marina WiFi and get all the latest system updates. I turn on all the electronics, and make sure it’s all talking. Since my last big project was getting everything to communicate on the boat, I wanted to make sure, and yes, it was all still working.

20170604_131934After than, I just powered it all down, closed the hatches, and was done. Time for a beer at the marina bar. Now we are ready for some good weather.