Cruising the Chesapeake: From a different point of view

Brenda and Murphy have been doing a fantastic job of documenting many of the wonderful places and experiences we have enjoyed so far on our journey. I’d like to take a moment to share a recent event as a way to introduce you to the somewhat less charming and fascinating part of life aboard Slo Pace.

While anchored in Horseshoe Bay just off the shore of St Mary’s City, we fired up the generator in order to provide electrical power to the stove and microwave for dinner preparation. All seemed well at first, but just before dinner was finished cooking, we noticed that the generator didn’t sound ‘right’. Something was different, and on a boat, that is usually not a good sign.

We opened the door to the aft deck and the suspicions were reinforced; the generator sounded odd. Upon leaning over the side to check the exhaust, we were met with an odd sound, a bit more diesel smoke than usual, a hint of steam and far less water being mixed with the exhaust than normal. All of this pointed to some sort of disruption in the flow of seawater through the engine and exhaust.

There were still a couple hours of daylight left, so the investigation began. But first, nearly everything had to be removed from the lazarette (the storage area below the aft deck) in order to get access to the generator. Containers of spare parts and tools, fenders, fender boards, even the spare anchor all had to come out just to begin the investigation.

First step, check the seawater strainer. Clean, no issues.  The next most likely source of the problem would be the impeller in the water pump attached to the generator’s engine. Twelve bolts later, the pump and it’s access cover is off and all looks fine. Hmmmm.

Back to the raw water intake. The hose between the through hull and the strainer was showing some signs of age and needed to be replaced anyway, so out came the knife and the hose removed. AH-HA!!!!! A twig (sitck) about ¼” in diameter and 4 inches long had somehow managed to get sucked into the hose and provided just enough restriction to accumulate some sea grass and almost completely plug the hose.

New section of hose installed and problem solved! Fired up the generator to verify all was good. Nope. Still no water.

Back to the water pump. Same twelve bolts later and found that the impeller was spinning on the drive shaft. No wonder there was no water being pumped. Removed the old impeller and what was left of the drive key, replaced with new. Surely that was the problem. Re-assembled and re-test. NOPE! Still no water. Now the language is getting a bit more colorful.

Next stop in the flow of cooling water is the heat exchanger. Just like a radiator on a car except it uses sea water for cooling instead of air. Pulled off one end of the heat exchanger and verified a good flow of water to that point. Re-assembled and retested and still no water out the exhaust. There must be a blockage in that heat exchanger.

Sure enough after completely disassembling the heat exchanger, probing each of the cooling tubes to verify all were clear, the remains of two ‘pencil zincs’ were looming in the passageway. These zincs are installed to minimize the effects of corrosion of metal parts and should be replaced periodically. Apparently a previous mechanic broke one off during replacement and didn’t bother to retrieve the missing piece. Not good, but normally not a huge problem. But, do it twice and leave two pieces of the zincs in the cooler and the potential for blockage increases greatly.

After reassembling everything and retesting, all is good! Well almost….now the water pump has a slow drip so it will be replaced with a new one being shipped to Cape May, NJ. There is never a shortage of projects on a boat.

Guess it’s time to visit another quaint Chesapeake Bay town, watch another incredible sunset and enjoy a frosty adult beverage.

3 thoughts on “Cruising the Chesapeake: From a different point of view”

  1. Oh my, the ocean is so wide, the boat is so small and the wallet grows thinner.

    We’ve had our share of explore & fix-its and the wallet is thinning out too.

    Thank goodness for sunsets & wine. Life is good, enjoy!

  2. I’m proud of you Buba, not only for the mechanical sleuthing, but the perseverance and creative writing prowess ! In a fair world, boat problems should be a “one pull and done, grab a beer” scenario, but the “real” boating world keeps us humble.
    Thanks for the blow-by-blow 😉

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