Perkins 4-108 | Raw Water Pump | Failure | Westsail 32

We were eager to be ready for our guest that would soon be arriving from Kansas City. We were in the Abacos and soon to be on our way to Nassau to meet them before heading to the Exumas. In preparation for the extended voyage I performed routine maintenance on Mary Rose. I changed oil and filters and went through the entire check list for a through shake down before our guests arrived. I noticed that the engine oil was a bit full before draining it but contributed it to overfill. We left the Abacos in route to Nassau on an overnight passage and had to motor sail a good deal of the way in rough seas to make way against a strong head wind. Fortunately we had allowed an extra day in our travel plans and we were able to fall off the wind and head for a safe and protected harbor in Eleuthera. We made an early daylight landfall and got some much needed rest after sailing all night. Later in the day, I checked the oil on the engine and it was overfull by at least two quarts. I was in shock. I knew that I did not overfill the engine with oil this time. I took the oil fill cap off and there were signs of water in the oil. There was a slimy white substance in the valve cover and also clogging the engine air breather screen where the valve cover breathes. I removed the valve cover and cleaned the top of the head as best I could. I then removed the contaminated oil, refilled it and changed the filter. We were supposed to have favorable winds the next day and I could run the engine at a minimum and deal with the problem at dock in Nassau. I suspected that the problem was the raw water pump but there was no water in the engine pan coming from the weep hole of the raw water pump. The weep holes are a safety for lip seal failure to keep the salt water from fouling the oil in the engine. We ran the motor at a minimum to leave the anchorage and set a course for Nassau outside of the reef. The winds were from the Northwest which made the reef system and Islands east of Nassau a leeward shore. Any engine failure or problems here could spell disaster as the passage through the reef and small cays is very intricate. We were about three hours from Nassau and about one and a half hours from the cut we had chosen to pass inside the reef. A small still voice coaxed me to look at the charts for an alternative cut through the reef. We were very near a cut that would actually shorten the distance to Nassau and was a bit wider and deeper than our original choice. We adjusted our course and plotted our new strategy on the chart plotter. We had to motor to get through the reef and I noticed that the temperature gauge was running a bit higher than normal. We were less than one half mile inside the reef when the temperature alarm sounded and we were only running 12-1500 rpm’s. Our normal cruising range is 1800-1900 rpm. I shut down the engine and did a quick check to find that the oil was yet again at least two quarts overfull. Obviously the lack of water going to the cooling system and into the engine was the cause of the engine overheating. We were in the lea of the small cays and the seas were calm. I performed yet another engine oil change and head cleaning while bobbing along on the banks just inside the reef. It is a good thing that I saved a couple of extra empty oil jugs and had a good reserve of fresh oil on board. We were very thankful that the engine did not overheat before we passed through the cut between the reefs. We dodged a bullet on this one. The admiral was extremely helpful and patient as I barked commands at her that had the tone of a surgeon losing a patient in a major operation. More paper towels….hand me this….hand me that….wipe the oil from the jug….you get the picture. She remained cool and calm and made the job go very quickly. We lost about an hour due to the unexpected maintenance and then we were on our way. By this time the wind had dropped to nothing and we had to use the engine if we were going to make Nassau before sundown. Thoughts began to race through my head: our guests arrive tomorrow…..how will I ever have this fixed in time to take them sailing…..should we try to charter another boat…..we felt horrible if this caused our guests to miss the sailing trip we had planned for them. As soon as we were within cell phone range I call my trusted diesel marine mechanic in St Petersburg, FL. He confirmed that the symptoms pointed to a failed raw water pump. Cristy gave me a great deal of comfort by telling me that there was most likely no damage to the engine as I had replaced contaminated oil with fresh oil which displaced the water and maintained adequate lubrication for the bearings. Phewwww…….another bullet missed us. Cristy explained the steps to fixing the problem and cleaning the engine of the thick milky substance we referred to as sludge.
1. Change the raw water pump.
2. Drain the contaminated oil.
3. Flush the engine with a mixture of diesel fuel and light weight oil. (3 qts oil to 1 qt fuel)
4. Flush the engine three times for 15 -20 minutes each time at slow speed.
5. Change the oil filter after the last flush and refill with normal oil for the engine.
Fortunately we had a spare raw water pump on board but that also presented a problem. The same person rebuilt both pumps less than a year ago in Ponce, Puerto Rico. The current pump certainly failed prematurely and could I trust the other one he had repaired??????
I started at 5 AM the next morning with the pump change and oil extraction as the engine was nice and cool. After breakfast I found a taxi that transported me to a NAPA in Nassau and I purchased the required oil and filters to clean the engine internally. The Starbucks across from the marina in Nassau provided us with all the old newspapers that we needed to keep the sludge from soiling the inside of Mary Rose. The job was finished by 11 AM and now I had to find someone to repair the pump I had removed. I found someone but it would not be ready before we departed the next day with our guests to sail the Exumas. Our guest arrived about 2PM and we were freshly showered and ready to entertain and spend some great time with our dear friends.
We departed the next morning and all was well and we had to motor most of the day to get to Allen’s Cay. We had a great time and then two days later the oil was overfull again on the dip stick. Pump failure in less than 24 hour run time. It all worked out as our solar kept up with our electrical needs and we only ran the engine a few minutes at a time when needed for entering or leaving an anchorage. We did have to cut our trip short by one day to take advantage of favorable winds to get us back to Nassau without the aid of our engine.
Once we were in Nassau I put on the newly rebuilt pump and had the recent failure rebuilt the same day. I also had to go through the steps of cleaning the internal engine again. The shop that rebuilt the pumps in Nassau explained the reason for the pump failures. The Ponce mechanic placed a seal on both sides of the bearings. These pumps only require a lip seal on the water side of the bearing. When he put a seal on both sides of the bearings it shut off the weep holes and when the seal failed the water went to the crank case instead of out of the weep holes and into the pan under the engine. We now have twenty-five hours on the raw water pump and the engine has never run better. The oil looks great and it is cooling well. You can be sure that I will learn to repair the raw water pump myself and keep the spare parts on board as well as a spare pump ready to replace any failure.
Speaking of replacements………while we were at the Marina in Nassau making the final repairs and returning our guests, we met a cruising couple on Osprey from Kokomo, Indiana that gave us a spare starter for our Perkins 4-108. We were in total disbelief. We want to thank Jerel and Tammy Roe for their kindness and generosity.
The shop that repaired our pumps in Nassau is Albert’s Marine Service. 242-394-6989 or 242-457-0139 Albert’s received very high recommendations from marina staff and seemed to have a very good reputation in the market. He is located a short distance from the Nassau Harbour Club Marina on a side street. Just ask anyone in the marina area and they will direct you to his shop.
Lessons learned: listen to the small still voice when it speaks, keep a working spare on hand, keep replacement parts on hand to make a repair, there are wonderful generous people everywhere, angels still protect us!

1 comment:

Mike DeGeorge said...

love the blog....I am delinquent on the blog post. glad the rebuilt pump is working and you know why the others did not work. already miss the sail, sun, and good friends. it was a very relaxing vacation.