We all know that the goal is to keep the water on the outside. I’ve noticed water in my bilge for a while now but I haven’t been able to figure out where it’s coming from. Before the last trip, I wasn’t even sure if it was rain water or lake water (I’m moored in fresh water). I’ve made checks in the lazarette and engine room while we’re underway and haven’t been able to find any water coming in. However, we tend to do our cruising at 9 knots a lot of the time lately and I’ve only been snooping around down below at slower speeds–that was about to change.
On our most recent trip to Gig Harbor, we were slow cruising over to Blake Island on Friday evening to spend our first night. It was really peaceful out so we were slow cruising at 8 knots. About 5 miles out, the wind picks up and we’re taking waves on the port beam so I decide to speed up. I push the throttles forward and soon we’re at 20 knots. Something about the way the boat felt made me decide that it was a good time to take a look in the lazarette and engine room. I asked my wife to take the helm and let her know what I was going to do. I opened the lazarette and saw water in the aft bilge–more than I’m used to seeing. I grabbed a flash light and stepped down and tried to see where water could be coming in from. I couldn’t find anything obvious so I decide to check out the engine room.
Being in the engine room at 20 knots is a lot different than being in there at 9 knots. First of all, it’s much louder. Be sure to wear ear protection before entering the engine room when the motors are making peak power. Also, take a look at your person and make sure you’re not wearing any loose clothing or long hair (not an issue in my case!) that could get caught in machinery. Also, be sure to let the person at the helm know that you will be in the engine room.
I stepped into the engine room and decided I should peak at my shaft seals since that seemed a likely culprit. Both of my shaft seals are covered by large pieces of wood that make up the walk-way into and around the engine room–so I’ve never been able to get a really good look at the seals while underway. I grabbed my flash light and did my best to peak under the wood covers. This time, it was easy to see that a lot of water was spitting out of the port seal. Yikes!
I went back up to the bridge and slowed down and then went back down to check the seals. No leaking (or, not enough to see at least) at slower speeds. Hooray! We’re not going to sink today! We slow cruised into Blake and got tied up. I then removed the wooden walk-ways over the seals so I could get a good look at what was going on–something I had never done before. The starboard side did not really seem to have much of an issue but the leaking on the port side had clearly been going on for a while because one of the four hose clamps (two on each end of the seal boot) had corroded and broken off. Luckily, I carry spare hose clamps and was able to replace them all. I also burped the seal which seamed to clear out a bunch of debris.
I planned to keep the boards removed so I could keep on eye on the seals until they get repaired or replaced. This meant I needed to do something to prevent a bunch of salt water from spraying all over my engine room (since normally the boards fully cover the seals). Luckily, we had a one gallon clear plastic bottle of drinking water that was almost empty. I cut it and half and was able to use long zip ties to place one of the halves over each seal. This worked out perfectly because I could clearly see the seal and check how much water was leaking at various speeds.
Port shaft seal with custom spray cover
We did a sea trial around Blake Island in the morning and found that the seal was sealing much better at high speeds–now there was only a thin strip of water at 20 knots instead of a major flood. Unfortunately, I also noticed that my port shaft did not seem perfectly true when spinning at high speeds. Because of the state of the port shaft and seal we decided to continue on to Gig Harbor but at 9 knots the whole way there and back. Luckily, the seas were calm and the currents were with us so it turned out to be a beautiful cruise. Plus, I learned a lot about shaft seals in the process!
After I got home and did more research, I learned that my seals should be replaced every 5-7 years and mine are now 10 years old. Doh! So, I have a couple of new projects to tackle. A boating friend is highly recommending Rick Lee from Relius Service and Repair for this type of work. I talked to Rick last week and he seems knowledgeable and we’re coordinating when he can come down and take a look–most likely starting with an engine alignment since my props we’re just balanced in November and my cutlass bearing was replaced in 2012. I’ll be sure to leave a review on Seattle Boatnuts of course! 🙂
Although I keep a cordless drill on the boat, I hate using it. Mainly because it’s hard to undo a hole that’s already been drilled. When something needs to be mounted, I won’t drill a hole unless I’m 100% sure that I’ve picked the perfect spot. So far, the only holes I’ve drilled have been for mounting fire extinguishers.
For other things that need to be attached or hung, I rely on suction cups and velcro. I must have two dozen suction cup hooks and holders around the boat. They hold all kinds of things like life jackets, pencils, small tools and my binoculars on the bridge. I’ve experimented with a variety of suction cups and I’ve found the ones that have mechanism to create extra suction work the best. Here’s some links to my favorites:
I keep velcro strips onboard and use them for all kinds things. I have my dust-buster velcro’d in place because I wasn’t sure if the spot I picked for it was “just right”. It’s been there for 6+ years now…still with velcro. I really didn’t want to drill holes into my dash to mount the holder for my thruster remote…so velcro to the rescue and my drill stays unused again. I was even able to velcro our knife block in place so that it wouldn’t move around while underway in rough seas.
I like both the velcro 4″ strips and the “coins” (circular size) like these ones:
Seattle Boatnuts is an extensive service listing, with ratings and reviews, for local boat owners like you! Our goal is to help you find the right businesses for repairs and upgrades. You can also help your fellow boaters by reviewing services you’ve used so they can make informed choices. Best of all, this is a free service for boaters and businesses in the Puget Sound area.
Why did I create Seattle Boatnuts?
I started Seattle Boatnuts because there have been times when I needed a particular service but didn’t know who to use. There were even times when I needed something custom and wasn’t even sure where to begin my search. I’m sure other boaters have gone through this as well and I decided to create a place where all the local businesses were listed, categorized and searchable to make it easy to find options when we have new problems to fix or just want to try someone new for the next upgrade.
Why do I feel it’s important to include ratings and reviews?
I’ve worked with many businesses that have been great but I’ve also worked with a couple that were not so great. There was even one that was so horrible that it’s partially responsible for the creation of Seattle Boatnuts because I wanted to warn other boaters by sharing my bad experience. We’re all used to reading reviews before we buy products on sites like Amazon, Defender and West Marine so I figured I could provide the same type of community driven feedback on Seattle Boatnuts. My hope is that the ratings and reviews will help each boater make the best choice for their needs and their boat.
How can boat owners help?
I hope you’ll support my efforts by visiting the site when you need repairs and upgrades and then adding a review for the business you chose. You can also browse the site and search for businesses you’ve used in the past and add reviews for them as well. Each review you add helps other boaters! Please tell your friends about Seattle Boatnuts and visit our Facebook page by clicking here.
How can business owners help?
If you’re the owner of a boating related service business in the Puget Sound area and your business is not already added, you can add it yourself by clicking here or simply email me the name and web site and I’ll be happy to add it for you. If your business has already been added, you can click the “Claim Listing” button on your listing’s page which will make you the owner. As the listing owner, you can edit your information and photos. Please email me if you have any questions or want to work on a special promotion.
I hope this site is helpful when your boat is in need of repairs and upgrades. If you have ideas, suggestions or any other feedback, please contact me–I’d love to hear from my fellow boatnuts!
As I mentioned in a previous post, my stern thruster stopped working right at the end of our New Year’s trip. My suspicion was that the brushes needed cleaning (the thruster is now 10 years old). I did some research and decided this was something I could tackle myself. The manufacturer (Imtra/Side-Power) has some really good instructions on their web site (send me an email if you need them). I went down to the boat ready to tackle this project, hoping I wouldn’t break anything.
The first thing I did was test the stern thruster to see if it magically started working again. Well, hocus-pocus and abracadabra it worked! Deciding what to do next, I factored in that, over the past few years, my bow thruster had become noticeably weaker than the stern thruster. So, instead of pulling the stern thruster, I decided to do the bow thruster first to see if cleaning the brushes really does make a difference in performance. Also, the bow thruster was a little easier to get to.
Removal was relatively straight forward and I did double-check that it’s OK to remove the thruster motor while the boat is in the water. Also, be sure to disconnect the power before removing any wires. The unit weighs about 40 pounds so you need to be ready for that weight as you remove the last mounting bolt.
Bow thruster motor
I took the unit home to clean the brushes. I used a can of compressed air in the garage to do a first pass at blowing the carbon dust out and then followed the instructions for removing and cleaning each brush. I did this part inside on a small table so I could have better light (but don’t tell my wife!) The whole process only took about an hour.
Thruster brushes ready to be removed and cleaned.
I put it all back together, making sure that I didn’t disturb any of the wire connections. I took it back down to the boat today and the re-install went very quickly. I turned the thruster power back on and crossed my fingers that it would work. I pushed the controller to port and from my normal spot up on the bridge I could immediately hear and feel the difference–it’s definitely stronger than it was before. It worked in both directions so it looks like I didn’t break anything. Success!
Below is a short video showing the thruster in action both before and after the brushes were cleaned. Note that I incorrectly say “stern thruster” in the second half of the video…it’s the bow thruster, of course. 🙂
I guess only a boatnut would end up removing the bow thruster when the stern thruster was the one that was acting up. If you have a thruster and want to try cleaning the brushes in the electric motor, please feel free to contact me with any questions you have…I’m happy to help!
I didn’t realize it until the end of our big trip in August, but my VHF was not working properly. Performing more frequent radio checks is now at the top of my list! Looking back on the situation, it’s a bit discomforting that I did not realize the radio was having problems. Had we ever been in an emergency situation, it’s possible that my hails for help would have gone unheard. Scary.
VHF radio no worky!
Fortunately, I discovered that there was a problem when we we’re trying to get our slip assignment at Roche Harbor. I couldn’t figure out why the dockmaster would not respond to me even though they were talking with other boats. I finally switched to a handheld VHF and was able to communicate. That’s when I realized I had a VHF problem.
I spent a bunch of time under the dash checking connections and I even contacted Jon and JH Marine to get some advice because he is always super helpful. After inspecting everything, I could get to, I didn’t see anything obviously wrong. I put the dash back together and decided to look at the antenna again to re-inspect the wiring (and because I was out of ideas). I was beginning to lose hope and think it was time for a new radio.
My antenna is mounted on the side of my radar arch and the base is almost out of my reach. Because of this I had only inspected the wiring previously. This time, I reached up high and was able to get my fingers around the base of the antenna itself. I immediately could tell that the antenna was about to fall off the mount! I now realized that the antenna screws on to the base and must have worked itself completely loose. I screwed it back on tight and have started checking it every trip to make sure it stays tight.
Over Christmas break, we did 5 nights on the boat and I was able to do multiple radio checks and tests and the radio appears to be transmitting and receiving properly. I was relieved because I wasn’t looking forward to buying and installing a new one! However, on that same trip, right at the end, the microwave started having problems and then my stern thruster stopped working. For the microwave, I think it’s just the control panel that’s having problems but the microwave is 10 years old and I don’t think I can find replacement parts for it.
I like having my thrusters to save me for when I really screw up!
For the thruster, I did some basic trouble-shooting but my hunch is that the brushes need cleaning. I know CSR has a lot of experience with these units so I may end up calling them to tackle this problem for me.
One thing fixed, two more things break! Such is the life for us boatnuts.
We had a great year of boating this year. I hope you did too! I believe we spent the night on the boat at least one weekend of every month…many more in the summer months, of course! At the end of the year, I like to reflect on how we used the boat and also start dreaming of fun trips to go on in the coming year (I can hear Desolation Sound calling me already, can you?)
I scanned through all the photos on my phone and did my best to pick six scenic boating photos from 2015. In no particular order:
Leaving Coupeville after stopping for the night on our way to the San Juan Islands
Port Orchard on a cold winter morning
A bit crowded in the small lock!
James Island in August. We lucked out and (finally!) got on the dock.
Roche Harbor, getting ready for Colors
Approaching Bell Harbor on a calm, clear and cold day at the end of December
I hope you had a great year of boating and are able to do more trips to new destinations in 2016! I also hope you’ll help me make Seattle Boatnuts a great resource for all of us to use when it’s time for repairs and upgrades to our boats. Please continue to visit the site, Like Us on Facebook, and most of all, review services you’ve used. Reviews don’t have to be long, just honest. Thank you for your continued support.
Our boat has really good water pressure everywhere except for the faucet in the galley. The pressure at the galley faucet is so low that the spray setting doesn’t even work. I tried taking apart the attachment and cleaning the screen but the pressure stayed the same: way too low. The only good thing about low pressure is that it probably prevented us from running out of water during our big summer trips (I use way too much water when I wash dishes, but that’s a topic for a future post).
New faucet in box
Replacing the galley faucet has been on my to-do list for a while now…the pressure has been low for at least two years! I finally started looking into the project last month and at first I was looking at West Marine and Defender.com for replacements. I found some but they were both around $160 and I felt like there should be a cheaper option. I then looked on Amazon and found a great replacement for only $60, which you can see here.
1/2″ Brass Couplers
The new faucet came with everything I needed (even plumbers tape) except for two 1/2″ brass couplers which were needed to connect to the existing water lines. They were only a few bucks each at Lowe’s. Overall, the removal of the old one and the install of the new one went relatively smoothly. The space under sink is a little cramped and dark but I used my new favorite LED flashlight to light up the area. You probably have a bunch of the little LED flashlights you get free from Harbor Freight–I have a bunch of those as well but they’re not all that bright. I recently found a better option: Super bright LED flashlights from Amazon…two for $10. Check em out here.
Under the sinks
This is one of those projects that turned out to be cheaper and easier than expected. It’s also one of those projects where now that it’s done, I’m kicking myself for not tackling it sooner! It’s really nice to have good water pressure in the galley…finally. 🙂
Over the Thanksgiving Break, we had my father-in-law and his girlfriend staying with us (for eight nights, which deserves it’s own post, but I’ll spare you those details). They live in New Mexico and were really excited about going out on the water. As you may recall, the Saturday after Thanksgiving was a calm and sunny day–perfect for slow cruising around Lake Union and Lake Washington. We left the dock around 2:30pm and putted all the way from Fisherman’s Terminal, through Lake Union, into Portage Bay, through the cut and ended up over in Kirkland. We tied up at Carillon Point marina’s guest side-tie moorage to walk the dog and get the kids some hot cocoa at Starbucks.
Leaving Kirkland, we cruised back towards Lake Union and docked up at Ivar’s to grab some grub from the Salmon bar. It had been a long time since I’d had their salmon-n-chips…still delicious! Everyone was having such a great time we decided to stay on the boat a little longer so we could join the Christmas Ship Parade at the south end of Lake Union. My cousin was going to be in the parade on his sailboat so we touched base with him and met up on the water.
By now, it was dark out but the almost-full moon gave us that extra bit of moonlight and made nighttime navigation a little easier. I don’t think there was any wind at all that evening. It was the calmest night on the water that I can remember. It was a little cold, but that is part of the fun. My wife and her dad went out on the bow to get a better (but colder) view.
My wife and her dad getting a better view
The kids finally took a break from screens and came out of the cabin to see all the lights. We met up with my cousin and pulled up along side each other so we could exchange hellos. He had a few friends on board along with a variety of heat sources to stay warm in Briza’s cockpit (I suspected mostly rum!) It was great to see so many decorated boats out there.
Lots of decorated boats out there with us
The Argosy boats had a great choir and we listened to the music. My father-in-law’s girlfriend was singing along–so I know she was having a great time.
Wishing you joy and peace
If you haven’t decorated your boat and been a part of one of the parades, be sure to put it on your bucket list! It makes all the work of decorating the boat totally worth it (you did do that this year, right?)
If you haven’t joined one of the many Christmas boat parades in December I highly recommend giving it a try! It’s a lot of fun to be out on the water with your boat lit up and a big group of friends and family onboard. But first, you have to get your boat decorated with all those lights. This task can be a lot of fun or a total pain in the butt. It can take a few hours on a sunny afternoon or span multiple days in the pouring rain. As with most projects, the key to success and happiness is in the preparation.
Ready to decorate with lots of lights and zip ties
I like to do the lights in November so that I have time to wait for a sunny day. I get all the lights out of the garage and test everything. I’m at the point where I will only buy LED lights but even those can have problems because the zip-ties can damage the wiring. Always be sure to check the entire string of lights. This year, I had a string of lights wound up in a ball and it looked like everything was working when I plugged it in for a quick check. However, after I started putting them on the boat, I realized that one section was completely out–but I had missed that while it was wound up in a ball from storage. Which leads to another tip: always have a few strings of extra lights!
When you’re putting up lights along the bow, be sure to allow room for the crew to get lines on cleats and adjust fenders. If the lights are in the way, the lights could get damaged or worse, you could have an unhappy crew member. If you do big decorations on the bow, remember that the wind does pick up at times so they’ll need to be strapped down. Be sure to warn crew members of potential trip hazards that may be harder to see at night if someone needs to go up to the bow.
The prize winning Santa-copter on the bow!
This year it took me about 4 hours to decorate the boat. It was really cold but at least it wasn’t raining (I’ve done that in previous years and it sucks). My fingers got really cold since I don’t wear gloves because I need good finger control when dealing with all the zip-ties. I buy the 8″ zip ties in packs of 100. You’ll want at least 100, but I’ve gone through more than that in previous years when we went all out for the contest at Carillon Point marina back when we kept the boat there (see above photo for prize-winning form…we won two years in a row!)
Although it’s a lot of work to decorate the whole boat, it’s also very rewarding–especially if you’re able to go out on multiple nights and be a part of the parades. I’m always looking for tips to make the job of decorating a little easier…what tips and tricks do you use when decorating your boat?
Thanks for reading. I hope to see you in the locks or at the docks!