Category Archives: Technical Services

Westerbeak Marine Generator

How to Change the Oil in a Marine Generator in a Vessel With an Electric Oil Change System – by Ryan

On a vessel, everybody needs to know how to do everything. If one member of the crew is not there to take care of something, another person must be able to complete the task. On most boats, electricity comes from the generator and it runs on fuel. To keep running the generator requires its oil to be changed every one hundred running hours. This process is not as easy as just buying some oil and filling a tank, but needs an assortment of supplies and it takes many steps to complete this job. First, you must gather the appropriate supplies. This includes:

  • Motor oil of proper viscosity,
  • 5 gallon bucket,
  • Funnel,
  • New generator filter,
  • Garden hose,
  • Paper towels; and
  • 1 ½″ thick 3′ long rubber hose.

Before you start, it is a good idea to have paper towels, or special oil absorbent cloths, set aside to wipe down spilled oil or to clean the area that you are working in.

Once in the engine room, open the generator selector valve and attach the rubber hose to the pump discharge fitting. Place the 5 gallon bucket at the end of the rubber hose that is not being used. Flip the pump switch to drain position and pump the dirty oil into the bucket.

Ryan pumping the old fuel out of the generator

Ryan pumping the old oil out of the generator.

Next, disconnect the oil hose pump, wipe off any residual oil, and stow it away.

Ryan disconnecting the oil pump hose

Ryan disconnecting the oil pump hose

Coil the hose, wipe it clean & put stow it away

Coil the hose, wipe it clean & stow it away

Stowing the hose away

Stowing the hose away

Next, locate and unscrew the old oil filter. Clean the threads of the oil filter with paper towels, and securely dispose of any residual oil in the old oil filter.

Ryan pointing to the old oil filter

Ryan pointing to the old oil filter

Remove the old oil filter

Remove the old oil filter

Drain oil out of old oil filter into secure receptacle

Drain oil out of old oil filter into secure receptacle

Securely dispose of old oil filter

Securely dispose of old oil filter

Before installing the new oil filter wipe clean oil on the O-ring of it.

Dip finger in oil to lube ring of new oil filter

Dip finger in oil to lube ring of new oil filter

Lube outer ring of new filter with clean oil

Lube outer ring of new filter with clean oil

After wiping clean oil on the new filter, screw it in where the old oil filter was and hand tighten.

Secure new oil filter. Tighten with hand grip.

Secure new oil filter. Tighten with hand grip.

Next, disconnect the rubber hose from the pump discharge fitting. Pop the cap off where the oil is to be inserted into the generator and insert a funnel.

With funnel securely in oil input valve, pour in new diesel oil

With funnel securely in oil input valve, pour in new diesel oil

Carefully, pick up the five quart container with clean oil and pour approximately 4 quarts through the funnel. Be sure to pour it slowly or it will overflow over the funnel making a mess.

With funnel secure in oil input valve, add Diesel Oil

With funnel secure in oil input valve, add Diesel Oil

After adding approximately four (4) quarts of oil, take out the dip stick to check its level.

Ryan checking the dip stick oil level

Ryan checking the dip stick oil level

If the dip stick does not reflect the amount of oil inserted into the generator, you should probably check for a leak or other malfunction that could cause this. If the dip stick indicates it needs more oil, then  poor one more quart of oil through funnel before placing the cap back on.

Add another quart of oil

Add another quart of oil

Since this is a messy job, now would be the time to wipe down any spilled oil with paper towels, or oil absorbent cloths and to securely dispose of all of the garbage from this project.

Use oil absorbent cloth to clean any drips and spills

Use oil absorbent cloth to clean any drips and spills

Cleaning the engine room bilge

Cleaning the engine room bilge

It is also helpful to spray down the engine room with a garden hose to further clean up the mess. Once everything is closed back up, you should run the generator with no load to check for leaks. If there are not any leaks seal up the generator cover.

Close up and secure sound shield covering on generator

Close up and secure sound shield covering on generator

Secure sound and fire proof generator shield

Secure sound and fire proof generator shield

Finally, so you know when to change the oil next, log the generator’s hours in your captain’s log.

Equipment Updates to the Pilots’ Discretion – Summer 2017 – by Randy

Since Pilots’ Discretion left her home base, Port Tarpon Marina back in 2014, we have developed a schedule for her that is dictated primarily by the weather. Our requirement to have the boat at, or near, suitable shelter during the hurricane season has resulted in the bulk of our travel occurring outside of the North Atlantic hurricane season (June 1 thru November 30th). During the hurricane season, we have settled into our hurricane home away from home. The first couple of years out we elected to weather the hurricane season in Grenada. (See A Day in the Life of Grenada, 2015/08/07 and Summer in Grenada, Season 2, 2016/09/03.)

This year, with the pre approval of our boat insurance carrier, we decided to spend the hurricane season a bit further north at the Rodney Bay Marina in St. Lucia. As a result of our increased familiarity with the service providers in the areas that we spend the hurricane season, it only follows that we have tended to deal with our “boat projects,” first in Grenada, and now this year, in St. Lucia. In addition to the normal operational maintenance, that is just a part of owning and operating a floating home, we also have elected to make various improvements to the Pilots’ Discretion while we have been in the Caribbean. This year we have made a few additions, both large and small, that hopefully will add to the capabilities of our vessel.

FUSION SOUND SYSTEM

Those of my friends that have known me since childhood would probably reject the notion that I am becoming an aging hippy afloat in the Caribbean. My more conservative characteristics aside, it is true that I do occasionally still enjoy a few rifts on the air guitar while listening to geriatric rockers like Mick Jagger and Robert Plant. In my quest to further develop the musical tastes of our boat neighbors, I have tried to share my impeccable musical tastes with however many marina mates are within earshot of the Pilots’ Discretion sound system. Much to my chagrin (and our neighbors relief), the Pilots’ Discretion came with a rather anemic 180 watt sound system that labored to comply with my demands for accurate fidelity at an adequate volume level. Something had to change and it has. We have replaced our old sound system with a Fusion AV-750 4 zone audio and video system (https://www.fusionentertainment.com/marine) that includes 4 zone dedicated amplifiers that put out an ear splitting 1600 watts of power. Let the audiophile lessons in the Rodney Bay Marina commence! In addition to the improved music, the system also allows all of the Giant’s fans aboard to enjoy our MLB subscription as we listen and watch our favorite broadcasters (Dwayne Kuiper and Mike Krukow) describe the action at AT&T park (OK, admittedly there has not been much to enjoy with this Giant’s season, we steadfastly remain the eternal SF Giants optimists).

KAHLENBERG AIR HORNS

Kahlenberg Horns

Kahlenberg Horns

Next up on our list of noise making improvements is our addition of a set of Kahlenberg air horns. We first became aware of these exceptional horns while we were boat shopping with our favorite Marlow sales rep, Eric Gervais. Our pal Eric was quick to point out these top of the line signaling horns are standard equipment on the Marlow Explorers that we have been drooling over for years. The Kahlenberg horns have an unmistakeable sound. If the neighbors don’t notice our new music system, they will not be able to ignore our new signaling horns.  We have decided that if we are not going to buy a Marlow, we may as well sound like one. (Click here to hear it!)

Kahlenberg Horns atop Pilots' Discretion

Kahlenberg Horns atop Pilots’ Discretion

YACHT CONTROLLER

Yacht Controller

Yacht Controller

Our largest improvement to the Pilots’ Discretion this season is the addition of a “Yacht Controller.” The Yacht Controller is a microprocessor controlled wireless device that allows you to control any size yacht, wirelessly, from anywhere on board the vessel. It’s real utility is that it allows the Captain to be anywhere on board that provides him, or her, the best visibility, and even the ability to man the helm while simultaneously handling lines and fenders while arriving or departing a dock or while involved in anchoring operations. Picking up a mooring ball is also a snap with the Yacht Controller. Again we have to say thanks to Eric Gervais for allowing us to first experience the Yacht Controller aboard the Marlow Explorer. (Click here for Yacht Controller Demonstration)

We spent the day yesterday training all members of the Pilots’ Discretion crew on the capabilities of the Yacht Controller. It was actually quite entertaining watching the reactions of people on the docks, and in the waterfront restaurants, as our 50′ Sea Ray pivoted and maneuvered in and around the docks with nobody stationed at the helm.

We have been very fortunate this hurricane season to avoid any direct encounters with any tropical storms. As this is being written, we are currently watching hurricane Irma carefully. Sadly, we have many cruising friends with roots in and around the Houston Texas area. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of the people being affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey

Improvise, adapt and overcome! (by Randy)

Vessel Vanguard

Vessel Vanguard

GENERAL MAINTENANCE

We have been utilizing our boat as our floating home for over a year now. In addition to living aboard her, we have travelled approximately 3600 nautical miles since we left Florida. One of the constant and ongoing requirements for an active vessel at sea is a rigorous maintenance program. We have been utilizing the Vessel Vanguard program to track our ongoing maintenance and it has proven very helpful. We have access to an interactive website that follows all of the routine maintenance schedules for the Pilots’ Discretion. It provides us alerts to upcoming maintenance as well as maintaining a parts inventory and equipment utilization records for all of the various systems aboard. We have tried to be very proactive in anticipating the potential for equipment failure and it’s implications for our operational readiness.

Despite our diligent attention to the Pilots’ Discretion maintenance, occasionally we are confronted with an unanticipated requirement for technical support. Usually, it turns out that we need to find a part in an out of the way spot or get a second opinion on some minor equipment malfunction. A couple of days later we are on our way with the offending system back on line.

DINGHY ISSUES

During our passage from St. Kitts to Antigua, we encountered a potentially catastrophic failure with our dinghy. We took the dinghy to shore in Majors Bay, St. Kitts for Patton’s morning walk and I noticed that the fuel gauge moved very quickly from full to nearly empty in the course of 20 minutes (we had just fueled the dinghy). In addition, the smell of gasoline was extremely strong and upon inspection, the bilge had two inches of raw gasoline floating in it. Anyone with any boating experience knows that gasoline in the bilge creates a very hazardous and potentially explosive situation. I checked all of the fuel lines throughout the boat and motor and could find no leaks. We elected to drain the bilge, clean it out as best we could and bring the dinghy aboard, not to be run again until we found some competent help to track down and repair our mysterious fuel leak.

Ryan, Randy & Patton securing the dinghy in Majors Bay, St. Kitts

Ryan, Randy & Patton securing the dinghy in Majors Bay, St. Kitts

We communicated with our cruising friends,  John and Paulette Lee aboard M/V Seamantha (via our Delorme satellite communications system) and they volunteered to do some online research regarding options for us for our arrival in Antigua. Before we had Antigua on the radar,  John had gotten back to us with the recommendation that we contact the folks at Seagull Inflatables (www.seagullinflatables.com) in Falmouth Harbor, Antigua.

 

Seagull Inflatables, Falmouth Harbor, Antigua

Seagull Inflatables, Falmouth Harbor, Antigua

As soon as we had the Pilots’ Discretion safely secured at Nelson’s Dockyard, I reached out to Seagull Inflatables owner, Mr. Dino Bruschi, and explained our issue. Dino told me he would be at our boat within an hour to evaluate and advise. True to his word, Dino was onboard Pilots’ Discretion and hard at work evaluating our fuel leak within the hour. The bad news was that he felt the integral aluminum fuel tank had failed. Ordinarily, that would not be a big deal but the engineering drawings of our dinghy showed that the tank had been put in place with no access points for maintenance. In fact, the tank had been installed and then fiber glassed in place. The net result to us was that the only way to access the tank was to literally cut it out of the boat. This was going to be major surgery for our dinghy with it’s still shiny new 40hp Yamaha outboard. I was having visions of the entire thing ending up on a scrap heap in Antigua. To his credit, Dino was not quite as pessimistic as I was. He assured me that he had a first rate shop and could complete the repair in a fashion that would meet our requirements and our budget.

The gas tank was sealed beneath the fiber glass & had to be cut out

The gas tank was sealed beneath the fiber glass & had to be cut out

Once the suspect fuel tank was removed, we found the source of our mysterious fuel leak. The fuel tank had been part of the boats electrical bonding system (a robust bonding system prevents a condition known as galvanic corrosion, a form of corrosion of metals that can present itself in the marine environment anytime salt water and electrical current are present) Somewhere along the way, the bonding strap that was attached to the fuel tank broke off.

The bonding strap on the fuel tank was missing which caused galvanic corrosion to occur

The bonding strap on the fuel tank was missing which caused galvanic corrosion to occur

Once that occurred, it was just a matter of time before galvanic corrosion would take its toll on the aluminum tank.

A tiny little hole in your gas tank can really ruin your day!

A tiny little hole in your gas tank can really ruin your day!

We found the corrosion holes, replaced the tank and installed a more robust bonding attachment to the new tank. After all of this, the magicians at Seagull Inflatables still had to reconstruct our tender in a way that was both cosmetically flawless and resulted in a stronger boat than we had arrived with. Throughout the process, Dino was diligent about communicating with me 3 or 4 times a day to make sure that I had the opportunity to participate fully in the development and implementation of the repair. Our dinghy is once again operational and if I do not show you the improved structure around the fuel tank, you would not be able to tell that there had ever been a problem. We cannot say enough good things about the way the folks at Seagull Inflatables go about their business. Thank you Dino and crew for an outstanding repair on short notice. For any fellow cruisers that require any attention to their tender or safety equipment while in Antigua, we would urge you to contact the folks at Seagull Inflatables. Dino can be reached on his cell at 1 (268) 725-4466. Thanks again Dino for a first rate repair.

Randy polishing the dinghy

Randy polishing the dinghy

Technical Services in the British Virgin Islands – by Randy

Given that the BVIs lie approximately half way between Florida and Grenada, it is a logical place to plan to stop to attend to the inevitable maintenance issues that come up on a cruising boat. We have encountered several mechanical issues that required the help of well qualified technicians both on our way south last year and again this month as we cruised the British Virgin Islands. As has been our policy in the past, we are not going to focus on the vendors that we have encountered that did less than satisfactory work but rather provide you recommendations for companies and individuals that we have found to be both honest and competent.

Welding and Westerbeke Genset

Our list of reputable firms in the BVI has to begin with BVI Marine Management in Nanny Cay. Mr. Tim Brown is the Service Manager there and he is a tremendous resource to call upon if you need anything boat maintenance related. We utilized BVI Marine Management to do some stainless steel fabrication and welding last year when we were redesigning our tender lift to better deal with the sometimes rough conditions that we have encountered in the Caribbean. Additionally, they have helped us obtain parts for our Westerbeke Genset (BVI Marine is a Westerbeke authorized dealer). BVI Marine Management can be contacted at (284) 494-2938.

Cummins QSM 11s

Sanchez Christopher

Sanchez Christopher

When we arrived in the BVI earlier this month, we needed to have some work done on our main engine heat exchangers and after coolers. I called Tim Brown at BVI Marine Management and asked if they could do the work and he informed me that they did not have the capacity to work on QSM 11s but he had a solid recommendation. I was referred to John, the Service Manager at Parts and Power, in Road Harbor, Tortola, (284) 494-2830. Again, we were dealt with honestly and the work performed was excellent and more than met our expectations. The technician assigned to our boat was Mr. Sanchez Christopher.  Sanchez is a very knowledgable and hardworking diesel mechanic and it was a pleasure working with him.

Air conditioning and Refrigeration

Our final recommendation for the BVI is Mr. Alfred August , Manager at Marine Cooling Systems. If you have any refrigeration or cooling issues while in the BVI, Alfred is the guy to call. Alfred can be reached at (284) 441-6556 or email at marinecoolingsystems@gmail.com.

We recognize that there are many other well qualified technicians in the BVI and this list is in no way intended to be all inclusive. We have always felt more comfortable calling on someone whom we have had a favorable recommendation from a fellow cruiser; someone who understands the lifestyle and the resulting demands on our mechanical systems aboard our floating home. If our recommendations can provide you with that little bit of extra comfort factor while trying to address mechanical issues in unfamiliar territory, we are happy to help out. We will keep our list updated as we establish relationships with other vendors and technicians along the way.

Monocrystilline flexible solar panels

The Continuing Evolution of a Cruising Boat – by Randy

Those of you that have been following our blog from the beginning know that we spent a good deal of time and effort prior to our departure to equip the Pilots’ Discretion appropriately for an extended cruise through the Caribbean. You also know that most, but not all of what we have added has worked well for us. Like all cruising boats, our Sea Ray 480 Motor Yacht is a product of compromises and as opportunities to improve upon those compromises have presented themselves, we have made some changes to our boat’s original configuration. The past several weeks in St. Lucia we have made some additional evolutionary improvements to our floating home.

The boys taking the new 40 for a spin

The boys taking the new 40 for a spin

We will use this post to detail some of those improvements for our readers. Since it is more fun to talk about what is working than that which is not, we will start there. Our 11′ AB center console tender has been like the family pickup truck during our cruise and it has served us well. The only drawback we have noted with the dinghy itself is that it has been somewhat under powered when we travel in it with all hands aboard. That characteristic is only growing more pronounced as the boys are doing what young boys do and that is growing like weeds. We decided to splurge and trade in our trusty Yamaha 25hp outboard for a new 40hp model. In addition to the new motor we put on a new, larger set of smart tab trim tabs to better handle the increased power. The good folks at International Inflatables in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia did the work for us and we are happy to report that our trusty pickup truck dinghy now has more in common with a Mustang GT than it does with an F150 pickup. The new motor brings the dinghy out of the water and onto a plane instantly with a full load on board. That may seem like a small difference but when we have several miles to cover to get

The boys taking the new 40 for a spin

The boys taking the new 40 for a spin

to a town or shopping center for provisioning the difference between cruising at displacement speed (6-10 mph) and our new planing speed (25-30 mph) is huge! When we are in marinas that require us to Med moor (that is when we tie the Pilots’ Discretion with the stern to the dock) we have had to leave the dinghy in the water so that we have a clear path to shore from the big boat. As a result, while we were in Grenada this past summer, the dinghy had so much marine growth attached to its hull that we literally had to chisel it off. To combat this we elected to paint the dinghy hull with an anti-marine growth bottom paint. Hopefully we can now spend less time with a snorkel mask and chisel in hand.

One of the other issues we have been dealing with is limited battery capacity. The Pilots’ Discretion is a planing hull design, great for going fast, not so good for carrying lots of heavy batteries around to provide DC electrical current to power things like refrigeration or coffee pots while at anchor. As a result, we have been running our generator a lot when not in a marina (over 1500 hours since leaving the states). This week, we have added 4 monocrystilline solar panels to the roof of the Pilots’ Discretion. The panels are capable of generating just over 40 amps per hour of power in ideal conditions. Given that our cruising grounds is by definition in the tropics, we have lots of long and sunny days that will allow us to harvest enough free electricity via our solar panels to reduce our generator run time by a little more than 400 hours per year. In addition to being one of the few things that we could add to the boat that will actually pay for themselves, the solar panels will save us diesel fuel thereby giving us added range.

Crushed box corner was not looking good

Crushed box corner was not looking good

The final upgrade that we had planned for this week is an upgrade to our washer and dryer. The system that came with the boat was very small and really only sufficient to wash a few small items at a time. The result is that we have become quite familiar with the various laundromats throughout the Caribbean. As you can imagine, two growing boys, lots of salt water and sand,  equals constant laundry. The manufacturer of our original unit has come out with a new washer that is dimensionally identical on the outside to our original unit. That allows us to utilize it in the same locker space that we had been using but the new washer has 50% greater washing capacity. Boy, were we excited when we ordered our new unit. Images of lounging on the bow instead of the laundromat literally dancing in our heads as they unloaded the new washer onto the dock. Those images literally all came crashing down with a loud thud when we realized the new washer had been crushed during shipment.

imageNow, I admit I am not the Maytag repairman but I know enough about loud thuds to know the noise I heard could only mean bad things. The new washer and dryer are crushed beyond repair so our report on our new washing machine will have to wait for the replacement unit to catch up to us somewhere north of here in the next few months. For the time being, we will utilize the space in our utility room designated for a washer and dryer as additional storage space. As they say, when life presents you with lemons, make lemonade.

Technical Services Available in Grenada – by Randy

For cruisers working their way south through the Caribbean chain, Grenada is a logical place to stop to address whatever maintenance issues that may have presented themselves to you along the way. First and foremost, Grenada is physically located south of the hurricane belt at a latitude most insurance companies consider “safe” during the Atlantic hurricane season (safe is a relative term and although hurricanes tend to turn north prior to reaching Grenada, there have been exceptions with devastating consequences). A prudent mariner must maintain a weather eye and always have a contingency plan just in case mother-nature decides to operate outside of the statistical norms. Our insurance company mandated that we would remain south of 12 degrees, 30 minutes latitude from June 1, through Nov 1, making our decision to seek out yacht maintenance in Grenada a simple one. There are multiple boat yards capable of hauling everything from small mono hull sailboats, wide beam multi hull cats to mega yachts. In addition we found  skilled technicians, well versed in modern marine systems, including sailmakers, upholsterers, marine electronics experts and expert woodworking craftsmen that are capable of handling anything from a minor nick in the woodwork of a salon to complete yacht refurbishment. We did have some unfortunate experiences with some of the tradesmen and since it is not our desire to make it more difficult for motivated workers to earn a living we will not call them out publically. Suffice it to say, if we had a less than satisfactory experience with a vendor you will not see them listed here. We hope that the folks that let us down have learned from the experience and will raise their game. If we have listed someone on this blog, you can rest assured that they met or exceeded our expectations.

For a reliable maritime day laborer, there are many to choose from around the Port Louis Marina but we cannot recommend any of them more highly than Patrick King. Patrick has always been  professional, hard working, courteous and trustworthy. Everyone in our family has come to consider Patrick not just an employee but also a friend. Should you need to get in touch with Patrick he can be reached at (473) 416-9622 or (473) 538-6536. If you have a requirement for a diesel mechanic or electrician, or have any refrigeration issues, the guys that work for Palm Tree Marine are top notch. Palm Tree Marine’s number is (473) 407- 2783. Steffan Meyerer and his crew at Driftwood Fine Yacht Woodworking (473) 459-9859 did an outstanding job installing custom cabinetry in the main salon of the Pilot’s Discretion as well as redesigning our galley to provide room for our new Fisher Paykel dishwasher. While it is not inexpensive to properly maintain a 50′ motor yacht each of the people we mentioned above came in at or below their initial estimates for the work we requested of them, often times after circumstances required us to modify the initial plan of attack with a more complicated work around. All in all, we have found Grenada to be one of the best places in the Caribbean to address the myriad issues that come up while actively cruising aboard our floating home.