So yesterday and today (Sat) has been interesting and very different for me. I am not mechanical. Don’t remember ever having changed a tire even on my cars (actually I now remember having changed a flat in my condo drive a few years ago and a neighbor who runs a car dealership in Iowa felt sorry for me, walked over and finished it for me). Certainly never ventured under the hood. As I recall, and recollections are getting dim, the last time I owned a power lawn mower was probably around 1985 and my idea even back then of performing maintenance like an oil change etc. was to trash the old mower and buy a new one.
Time to get my hands dirty.
Three months ago, in Savannah, it was time for the oil, filters, engine zincs etc. to be changed. I had Cummins come to the marina there to change the oil in the 2 engines, 2 transmissions and generator. The charge was well over $2,000 of which $1,600+ was labor. From what I’ve read, that’s on the lower end of labor charge for oil change and fuel filter change. To be fair, that charge also included changing the generator oil. Included in that figure for ‘professional’ labor was their certified Cummins mechanic tightening a hand tight spin-on secondary fuel filter on the port engine, not with his hands, not with the strap type wrap around filter wrench but rather with a huge wide jaw pliers. It scored and creased the outer ‘skin’ of the filter which subsequently split a week or two later near Camp LeJune. You may remember my writing in this blog of the horrible job of mopping up and carting off 40 gallons of diesel fuel out of my bilge resulting from this split open filter – not to mention ridding the boat of diesel fumes.
As you’ve also learned reading this blog, I’ve met with little (read ‘zero’) success dealing with marinas and their vision of ‘service’. Enough is enough! It’s now time to change the oil again. Time for a DIY! I was VERY STRESSED about a DIY but my crew attempted to quiet my fears.
The boat is equipped with a “Reverso” system which is an electric pump mounted on the forward wall of the engine room. It has 5 permanent hoses attached to it. One hose to each engine, one to each transmission and one to the generator. Use the selector switch to pick a hose, flip the switch to “out”, push the button to turn the pump on and the old oil is sucked out of the selected engine or tranny and pumped through an outlet hose into a 5 gal bucket. Bring in a 5 gal bucket (the engines take 5 gal plus 3 qts in the oil filter) of fresh oil, insert the outlet hose now being used as an intake hose, reverse the pump and the bucket of fresh oil is pumped into the engine. All that then remains to complete the engine oil change is to spin off the oil filter, fill the new one and reinstall. Repeat for the other engine, trannys, and generator if it’s being serviced. Being a monkey helps.
While on the hard in Ft Pierce, I found Rotella oil at a good price at Advance Auto so I stocked up with the buckets of oil I need for the engines and trannys for $270. I haven’t put that many hours on the genny so as to require an oil change for it. While here at Marathon ordered all the needed filters for engines, trans. and generator, from Amazon. Also got a fresh anode for the 20 gal water heater – all for $210. So I have all the needed materials for less than $500. I have all the replacement pencil zincs on hand already and I think all the right sized impellers are already in the spare parts locker on the boat.
So first up was draining and refilling the transmission oil. These transmissions don’t require transmission fluid but rather single viscosity motor oil. Just short of 5 quarts in each transmission. The filters are actually magnets to accumulate metal particles. Pulled those and they were clean. One transmission is only 2 yrs old and the other was replaced new by the seller as a condition of sale 11 months ago. The transmissions were easily accessible and the fluid change took maybe 1/2 hr total.
Next up was draining the port engine of oil. EZ PEAZY. Selected the port engine because it would be the most difficult. It’s massive oil filter is located on the hull side of the engine rather than down the roomier center walkway. On the hull side, what floor there is is severely slanted by the shape of the hull. To get back in there, one has to slide past the generator, the very large battery box (@ 2’x3’ by 2.5’ high) and past the fire suppression system. Once past, your feet fight for space on the angled hull and around numerous hoses, water heater, seawater water pump and more while having enough head room to be in a stooped position. I am not able to get in there. Then from that awkward cramped position, one has to remove a large, heavy, dirty oil filled filter pretty much by feel and the reinstall a new large, heavy, clean oil filled filter again by feel. Thankfully, my crew was able to get back there and accomplish the task
I had a brand new flexible oil filter wrench but the filter would not budge even by using a rubber mallet as an “inducer”. So it was off to NAPA to dispose of to solve the stubborn filter issue. NAPA was a big help taking the filter measurements and then getting me a filter wrench of the right size used by semis. Attached to it they provided an 18” steel 1/2” ratchet handle to turn the filter wrench and provide leverage. $60. Correct tools then made the disassembly job easy. Reattaching the heavy, oil slippery filter from a cramped position was quite difficult. Then pump 5 gallons of fresh oil into the engine block. Probably spent over an hour just removing and replacing the port oil filter.
Following that, it was a quick matter to do the starboard engine. Drain the block, take off the old filter and put on a new filter and refill the engine block. Probably a bit less than an hour for all of it. The filter is on the center aisle side of the engine, the aisle is nearly 3’wide with a flat floor and one can sit on a stool while performing all the work.
Felt good to save $1,600+ —— at rates here in the Keys, probably closer to $2,000 in labor cost. All it cost in labor was pizza for the crew whose help and confidence was invaluable. Total time spent including 1 hour trip to NAPA was about 6 hours. Having done it once now, think I can cut at least 2 hours from that time.
Still to do is replacing the pencil zincs (the zincs are sacrificial to prevent corrosion due to the dissimilar metals on a boat (like iron and bronze etc), salt water and electrical currents. The zincs are kind of pencil shaped, maybe 3/8” in diameter and 3-4” long which are insertedinto a brass nut and then bolted into the engine block, after coolers, heat exchangers, generator and transmissions.
Also still to be done in the next month or so is to inspect and replace, if needed, all the impellers. Impellers are used in water line type of equipment – like engine water cooling, air conditioning water pump etc. The impeller looks like a rubber water wheel on an old fashioned mill. The vanes help propel the cooling water thru the system and if the rubber vanes deteriorate, cooling efficiency diminishes and if the vanes become brittle and start breaking, the rubber particles will start clogging further down the system equaling expensive repairs.
A few weeks ago I wrote of my docking experience at Bill Bird Marina in Miami and the absence of dockhands on a very windy day. A fellow boater tried to help with my aborted attempt and after finally tying up, my crew and his crew visited on the dock for a half hour or so. They are from the Los Angeles area and are nearly completed with their Loop. Their boat, “Knot Ready”, left Miami heading to the Keys a week or more before I did and communicated the crab pot situation en route via the NEBO messaging system. When I arrived in Marathon we got together at a restaurant near their marina and got acquainted.
Since then, they left Marathon for a stay in a Key West marina for a week or ten days and then headed back to Marathon. Late Friday afternoon we got together again and yesterday, Saturday, they moved Knot Ready to the marina I am at. I took a short video of their arrival (with the northerly winds for the past few days, the marina has accumulated quite a covering of ICW grass) since you don’t often get pics of your own boat underway. They are slipped directly across from me and sent me a pic of Last Resort taken from their foredeck at sunset.