Saturday 1 June 2019

Arctic Smoke Refit – Trials and Tribulations, Autumn 2017 to Spring 2019

On my return to Chatham from the Azores in July 2017, my plan was to undertake a few local passages over the summer and then lay Arctic Smoke up for a long-deserved re-fit. Replacement of the engine and the stern gear being the most obvious and significant jobs on a VERY long list (see previous post). The engine had slowly been losing power over the last couple of years – not helped by a number of over-heating episodes some of which were self-inflicted as described in earlier posts. However, first I needed to get a fractured water pipe in the cooling system repaired and a combination of laziness and family duties meant that didn’t get done until late in the summer and then Autumn was upon us and so Arctic Smoke was hauled out and put to bed in the yard at Chatham in November 2017. 

I had also found work by then and so work on Arctic Smoke was restricted to single days over the weekend for many months.

A Typical scene during the long months of re-fit

The longest job was scraping off the old failed copper antifouling. This took weeks of effort over the following months. 

February 2018

April 2018

June 18 - Clean bottom with treated Keel

A whole host of other jobs were also undertaken including the replacement of the engine and stern gear. I eventually sourced a second hand Bukh DV10 to replace the existing one. I managed to get the old one out myself making use of a borrowed engine hoist and removed the old stern gear and sourced the various replacement parts. 

Old Engine



July 18 Old stern tube and propeller shaft

I found a local engineer to help with the installation of the ‘new’ engine in early spring of 2019. Two attempts were required because it turned out that the configuration of the newer model gear box on the ‘new’ engine meant the output shaft did not line up with the prop shaft. It was out by about 1/8th of an inch. The only solution we could think of at the time was to put the old gearbox on the new engine. This would however also require yet another propeller shaft because the gearbox’s were of different lengths. However, it turned out that there had been an earlier misunderstanding at the supplier and they had actually made two shafts; the first one of the ‘wrong’ now correct length.  With the help of the engineer the ‘new’ engine and old gearbox were duly fitted.

New Engine

In she goes (first attempt)

February 2019
Painted the decks during the February 2019 Heatwave
March 2019

Eventually, having worked through myriad other jobs including applying 6 layers of epoxy paint on the bottom of Arctic Smoke, relaunch day approached. In preparation I thought a very quick engine test would be sensible just to make sure the ‘new’ engine did actually work.
First though I needed to get all the engine electrics connected in order to be able to start the engine and charge the battery. I therefore dragged Mick out over a couple of chilly weekends in April. I have failed to make a note of where all the various wires went when I took everything apart and so that all had to be figured out from first principles. An electrical challenge beyond me but which Mick was able to figure out.

Once that was done, I bled the fuel system which (and this should have rung alarm bells) was much more difficult than I anticipated. The only way I could get fuel all the way up to the fuel filter outlet was through a combination of syphoning and manually filling up the filter bowl. Anyway, the engine started and I ran it for a few seconds and then shut it down (the boat was in a cradle out of the water with no water supply other than a bucket of water). I was so pleased with the result that I ignored the ‘little questions’ at the back of my head about the fuel and proceeded to launch day.
My pal Howard was on hand to help. The engine started fine…. and then stopped! Air leaks were suspected and we worked through various possibilities but the same thing kept happening. The lift pump was then suspected and so I took it off and placed an order on the Friday afternoon for a replacement. The boat would be able to stay on the lift dock over the weekend but I would need to get a tow to a marina berth on the Monday. The next day another pal, Bernie, came over and we went through everything again. He tracked down yet another air leak. We put everything back together – bleeding the fuel system was still difficult! But bingo. The engine ran for 20 minutes plus.
Great, next step motor over to the marina berth. Less than two minutes into the short trip, the most horrendous banging/knocking noise developed and so we headed back to the dock very slowly and tied up. Our inspections eventually revealed a loose flywheel bolt and then another and another. 5 out of 6 had completely sheered and the 6th was about too. We were probably within 30 seconds of an extremely heavy spinning lump of iron flying off the engine through the bottom of the boat!!
Much scratching of heads. I then recalled that earlier in the year I had noticed the pipework to the water pump was loose and that the only way of sorting it out required removing the flywheel. I had done this before on the previous engine and so followed the same routine which included doing up the bolts has tight as I could manage. They have Allen key heads and so that involved putting a chunky adjustable spanner on the end of the Allen key and applying as much brute force as I possessed – not a great deal. Bernie and I concluded however that this must have been too much and that I had weakened the bolts.

It was approaching 1830 on the Saturday evening and we just had time to get to the local Toolstation to buy a bolt extractor kit and some replacement temporary bolts. Bernie worked long into the night but by around 2300 there was still one sheered bolt left in the main shaft. I called a halt and rather sheepishly sent Bernie back to his boat across the river at Hoo for a kip.

The next day a new pal, Mike from the wonderfully named yacht ‘Tardis’ gave me a tow to the marina. I then managed to get the last stud out and replaced the flywheel with the temporary replacement bolts – being very careful NOT to over tighten them. Feeling very smug and pleased with myself I started the engine AND… the same awful knocking noise appeared.

Once again, I was back in the depths of despair. “That bloody engine was a dud. The big end must have gone, I’ll have to get it out AGAIN and get it fixed/replaced. I drooped over to Tardis to bleat my woes to Mike. He came over and prodded and listened and scratched his head. ‘Sounds like the noise is in time with the injection stroke. Does it happen when the engine is de-compressed? Perhaps the fuel timing has slipped. If we ….” It turned out that the noise was not present when the engine was decompressed suggesting it might well be linked to the injection of fuel into the cylinder. He explained how to make a quick and dirty change to the fuel timing to see whether that made any difference… He went on to help me do that. It didn’t. We went through everything again. Now the noise was present when the engine was decompressed! That did it must be the big end. Bugger, bugger, bugger. A little later after a consoling cup of tea with him and his pal we all gathered round the engine again and I retold the story again! Oh, said his pal, “so the flywheel is secure now”. “Oh yes” I said “apart from the fact that it seems to have a slight distortion that makes it look like a little wobble (that Mike had spotted earlier), it’s fine look…”. I got a spanner out and applied pressure on one of the bolts that turned… and then another and another….They were all lose and on the verge of sheering once again!

I dashed round to Toolstation again and bought some more bolts. Tightened them up as tight as I possibly could. Stood back started the engine. It ran as sweetly as one could want. By this time my nerves were shredded but I was mightily relived. The only thing left to do regarding the engine, was to cancel the order for the expensive lift pump which was no longer required. I did that first thing on the following Monday morning.

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