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Friday, December 30, 2011

Running the Engine

Here is a brief video of our second test run of the engine. This is a low miles 1993 12 valve Cummins 5.9 engine that was rescued from a wrecked truck. We stripped it down, added a water-cooled turbo and exhaust manifold and gave all the externals a once over before putting it in the boat last year. The beauty of this particular model engine is that it is almost completely mechanical- it only requires 12 volts to the "fuel-on" solenoid to operate. No other electronics are required for it to run... about as simple as it gets which should translate to good reliability. The first test run was cut short by a missing oil plug in a sender port on the port side of the block. Whoops. In trying to see the glass as half full, lets just say that I gave the engine room bilge a nice thin coat of fresh rust preventative oil. Once that situation was dealt with, the engine fired right back up and runs like a champ. Good oil pressure (50psi cold oil, and 30psi hot oil, at idle), no smoke, and a nice tone from our oversized/overkill exhaust system. With the keel cooler operating as an air cooled radiator, I was able to run the engine for quite a while (fifteen or twenty minutes without reaching high operating temp). Definitely a great milestone... This weekend I'll be installing mechanical engine gauges for the engine room, and electronic ones for the wheelhouse, as well as replacing some of my jury rigged testing wires with a proper engine wiring harness. Santa was kind enough to supply us with a Hurricane hydronic diesel furnace that will supply cabin heat as well as domestic hot water for the boat. This is a really neat compact unit and fits nicely on a custom shelf that I built at the back of the engine room. The next few weeks will be spent hooking up plumbing, exhaust etc. for this unit. Sue did some insulation work in the wheelhouse which we will continue this weekend, with the goal of getting the overhead and lighting finished.

Fuel, Water, and Oil

This has been a very busy month of work on the boat, though you wouldn't know it from my lack of blog postings. I'll do two to catch up... filled up the day tank with enough diesel to test the plumbing in preparation to run the engine. This resulted in a few nuisance leaks which I had to chase down. I designed the day tank size so that 1" = 1 gallon. As I filled the tank, this calibration seemed to hold true. With some fuel in the pipes, I was able to test the manifolds/fuel transfer system. All worked as planned and I was able to use the manual hand pump to run eight gallons (as measured by our fuel meter) from the day tank, through the polishing filter, and back to the day tank. I'll try the electric transfer pump once we get a little further along with the electrical in the engine room. I'll have to make some ID plates for all our valves and manifolds so (hopefully) someone other than me will be able to use the fuel distribution system... Had similar minor leaks with the steering hydraulics. The steering system leak was a little more involved as it was leaking at the cylinder end caps. Not much more than a drop an hour, but any leak at this stage in unacceptable for all this new plumbing. The cylinder was a used unit that I sourced (along with the rest of the steering hydraulics) a couple of years ago from a dealer /trader in South Carolina. The cause of the leak was a ten cent o-ring, but it did require draining the oil and taking the cylinder apart. Fortunately the helm pump in the wheelhouse had no problem with the seals. In retrospect I should have probably redone the seals on both units since they had been sitting on the shelf here for a while. I also fixed one other minor leak at the bypass valve and now all is dry and tight, and the steering works as it should. Once these kind of hydraulic systems are dialed in, they are very reliable. We filled the cooling circuit for the engine too, and again had a couple of leaks to take care of... the main one was a bad solder joint at the keel cooler crossover pipe (we are using two small coolers run in series). I fabricated the original piece from copper pipe a while back but was never really happy with the design. I was concerned about the location of the vent and whether it would allow me to bleed all the air out of this high spot in the system. The leak was a good excuse to tear apart the old piece and build a new one to a better design standard. Sometimes it takes a couple of times to get it right...

Monday, December 5, 2011


First off is a cool picture that I took from the top of a shipping container next to the boat. I spend so much time looking up at the hull, I wanted to get an idea of what she looked like if you were standing on a floating dock next to the boat. Not too shabby... Spent a busy holiday weekend (and some long evenings last week) installing all of our hydraulic plumbing. There are two systems on our boat, one for steering and one for the engine driven hydraulic pump which we are using to power our anchor winch. We may use our engine driven pump to power some other stuff in the future so I left room in that circuit for add-ons down the line. We went with all hose (instead of tube or pipe) for both systems as it made sense for this boat and gave a lot of flexibility (literally) for the install. Also less fittings this way so less potential leaks. It's all 3000psi rated Gates hose and I think that with proper support and chafe protection, it will last as long as we are around to care. I used a Gates hydraulic hose crimping tool to make up the hose ends and found it very easy to do. Thanks to Chad for setting me up with the machine and showing me how to use it. The hardest part was measuring the hose. The only real foolproof way to do this was to route the hose in the boat in its final position, mark it, take it out and down to the shop, crimp the ends on, back to the boat, and re-install. This was a lot of extra (aggravating) work, especially when wrestling with the longer sections, but you only get one chance with the crimper and the hose ends aren't cheap. The ball valve behind the steering cylinder in the picture of the rudder linkage is a bypass that can be opened to let the steering cylinder fluid free-flow when using an emergency tiller on the rudder post. Also on the list this last week was final assembly and hookup of the anchor winch. When I did the initial assembly after having it galvanized, I noticed that the drum had some end-play that I didn't like, but we were in a rush to get it put together as the crane we were borrowing to lift it onto the bow had to be returned. I figured that this should be fixed before I installed all the hydraulics and the chain drive. I ordered a pair of bronze thrust washers for the drive end, and these took up the slack nicely. After reassembly (for hopefully the last time) I mounted the spool valve, motor, and chain, then made up the last batch of hydraulic hoses to connect it all together. When I look at the prices for heavy duty, oil-bath, chain drive anchor winches these days, I feel better about the ridiculous amount of time that I have spent rebuilding, re-engineering and monkeying around with this thing. The plan is to have it operational when we are test running the engine in a week or two, so we can wind up our anchor chain on the drum and install the anchor (I don't like the idea of launching the boat without operational anchor gear). Our friend Karen came by over Thanksgiving weekend to help out, and play with the cat. This was the second weekend that we brought the cat up to stay on the boat with us and she seemed to remember it well from her first time onboard. She decided to to forgo the initial eight hours spent cowering under the floor, and pick up where she left off last time: lounging in the sun and exploring all the nooks and crannies of the boat. One other little project we completed was installing some temporary steps for the back door of the wheelhouse. This has been nice having an alternate straight path into the boat instead of just the side door that we have been using exclusively up to now.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Continuing with mechanical systems

Another busy month... The first few pics are of one of the Baylink Ferries fresh out of the shipyard, and now at the fit-out dock at Whidbey Island in Washington state. One of my duties as Ops Manager for Baylink is to help oversee this 18 month refit project on two of our ferries from an operations standpoint. We are about half way there right now with one of our boats almost complete and the other just having entered the shipyard for the tear down. This is a major overhaul on both boats with all new engines, gears, waterjet control systems, interiors, nav electronics, plumbing, wiring, etc... My last two weeks were spent at Whidbey Island and were supposed to culminate in seatrials on the first boat last week. A number of technical glitches kept this from happening, and it now looks like the boat may be ready for trials next week. Service speed for this boat will be in the mid 30s, with a top speed around 40 knots (or about 46 mph). A far cry from the slow and steady little ship we are building. Anyway, on to boat building closer to home... I have continued to fit in a day here and there working on mechanical systems. The engine cooling circuit is completely plumbed now, and I have been working on a few other little engine related projects such as plumbing in an oil change system with a gear pump that will pump oil in or out of both the gearbox and main engine. This makes for quick and easy oil changes. I also plumbed in an oil level site glass and gauge for the main engine. This gives a quick visual read on the engine lube oil level even while the engine is running, and has adjustable high and low level alarm points that ring to a wheelhouse alarm (another nifty gadget from the commercial marine world). I am now putting my attention towards hydraulics. We have two hydraulic systems on board: an engine driven hydraulic pump for the anchor winch (along with whatever else we can come up with to power hydraulically) and a manual system for the steering. Both circuits are relatively simple, but have still required a lot of research and advice in order to specify the parts and do it right the first time around. Initially, I was going to use a spare cylindrical tank that I had lying around for the anchor winch hydraulic reservoir, but after messing around with it a bit I decided to buy a 6 gallon ready made tank that was already plumbed correctly for our needs. It was just the right shape and size and fits in the engine room above the engine driven pump very nicely. If I can get all the adaptors and fittings together this week, we'll spend the Thanksgiving holiday installing all the plumbing for both hydraulic systems (with some time out for dinner with friends on Thursday). Last weekends project was insulating and finishing out the space under the console in the wheelhouse. This area will be home to lots of critical electronics and navigational systems as well as the electrical distribution for the wheelhouse so I finished it out in a way that would make it clean and easy to install and maintain equipment in. As you can see from the pictures, this job definitely falls under the category of "things that I should have done when I had easier access".

Monday, October 24, 2011

Exhaust and Engine Cooling

Lots of engine room work has been completed over the last few weeks. We fabricated a nice little header tank for the coolant that includes a level gauge/alarm that will ring to the wheelhouse if coolant is low. Most of the cooling system plumbing is completed and, with the exception of a few last bits and pieces, we are almost ready to fill the system with water for the upcoming engine run. We also completed the exhaust system including some very nice exhaust blankets that our friend Forest made for us. These will reduce the heat coming off of our dry stack exhaust system significantly and should also help quiet things down when we are running. If you are looking for exhaust lagging or blanket work, drop me a line and I'll put you in touch with Forest. As you can see, he does nice work.

Since our little Cummins engine came out of a truck, there has been a lot of design and fabrication necessary to adapt it for our use on the boat. In the long run if you count all my time I have into it, it might well be cheaper to just buy a marinized plug and play version this engine but, having more time than money and enjoying the challenge, this process has worked for me. I also like some of the design features and solutions that we have been able to build into the install vs. what you get from the factory. Control cables for shifting and throttle are now hooked up using some custom brackets that Sam and I made last weekend. Now we just need to do a little oil pan plumbing (for a level gauge w/ hi-low level alarm), some minor electrical (no electronic controls on these old 12 valve 6bts), hook up fuel lines to the filter, fill up on fluids, put some diesel in the day tank... and we'll be ready for a test run.