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The Cost of Upgrading a Classic Sailboat

Posted on Apr 2, 2015 | 2 comments

Over the last year, we’ve been hard at work updating our 1976 Irwin 37. A lot of blood and sweat went into the process, as well as a substantial amount of money. We’ve cataloged all of our boat related expenses for the full process and were amazed at the amount spent on auxiliary items such as clothing, cooking accessories and new tools. I’ve broken the expenses down into groups and categories to be able to show all of you just what goes into updating an older boat. Just a note: when we purchased Horizon, she had recently had all of the rigging, sails, and most of the electronics upgraded. These are major ticket items that would significantly increase total cost if your boat had older systems.

Structural and Major Systems

Anything we felt necessary to upgrading the actual boat and systems.
CategoryTotal Cost
Power System$3335.37

Supplies and Equipment

Any item that we purchased specifically because we needed it for boat living or boat work.
CategoryTotal Cost
Cleaning Supplies$432.45

Services and Fees

Additional services and government fees
CategoryTotal Cost
Government Fees$649.14

Which brings our overall total to $32,796.93. No small thing considering we paid only slightly more for the actual vessel itself. We are fairly confident that the work and money we put in this year will pay big dividends in decreased costs for a couple of years as well as a big increase in overall safety for us and the boat. And with that, we’re off!

Perkins 4.108 Oil Change from Hell

Posted on Mar 19, 2015 | 5 comments

After hours in this position, I could barely stand up!

After hours in this position, I could barely stand up!

As part of the preparations for our upcoming cruise to the Abacos, I wanted to square away a few things in the engine room. First and foremost was to do the routine maintenance including changing the oil, oil filter, and fuel filters. I also wanted to add an hour meter to aid in keeping up on these critical maintenance tasks. Seems pretty straightforward, right?

Once the work began, however, it was anything but. Since the last oil change was my first on my new engine, I had hired a mechanic to show me the ropes. He had an issue with his oil extractor fitting down the dipstick tube and recommended I purchase one with a smaller tube. So, thinking I am prepared, with my narrow tubed oil extractor, I begin to suck the oil out of the pan. Unfortunately, the dipstick is located in a high spot of the oil pan and does not allow for the full extraction of the oil… it actually only allows around 1 quart to be exact. Not to be deterred, I located the actual oil drain plug and began awkwardly loosening the bolt while laying on my stomach with my hand behind my back (ok, not really, but if you’ve ever tried to work UNDER a boat engine, you understand the predicament).

Two rolls of paper towels were sacrificed to the cause...

Two rolls of paper towels were sacrificed to the cause…

The plug came freely the first few turns and then essentially stopped. I fished out Michele’s old makeup mirror and held it under the engine to see what was impeding my progress to find out that the drain plug’s flange was rubbing against a bolt that holds the transmission to the engine block. After much finagling and squirming and consternation, the drain plug was freed and then the flange ground down to a more reasonable circumference that will allow it to freely be removed and replaced in the future. A drain plug gasket also ensures that the pesky oil seepage from the never-before-removed plug is now a thing of the past.

Thinking the worst is behind me, I unscrewed the old Sierra brand oil filter and lovingly tightened on my shiny new top-of-the-line-for-eight-times-the-price Napa Gold filter and refilled the oil reservoir with Delo 15w-40. Side note: there is much discussion online on which weight of oil and which brand to use etc… I went with the recommendation in the official Perkins service manual.

Thinking I am done, I fired up the engine and checked my exhaust first for flow (a habit) and then watched for oil pressure. I hadn’t refilled the rather large oil filter, so I knew it might take a few seconds to fill the filter and then pressurize the oil system so I wasn’t worried when I saw 0PSI to begin with. Around the 30 second mark I became worried, however. I soon realized that no oil was flowing and killed the engine.

The first thing I checked was for proper oil level in the reservoir and found that, indeed, it was full. I then moved on to checking for leaks around the oil filter or any hoses and found that everything looked as normal. Perplexed, I fired up the engine again to the same results after 60 seconds… Even more worried now, I disconnected the oil line feeding the remote oil cooler and had Michele crank the engine. Oil immediately squirted out of the line, to my relief.

The oil sender looked quite corroded so we figured that must be the problem.

The oil sender looked quite corroded so we figured that must be the problem.

It was now appearing as though the oil was, in fact, flowing through the engine properly but I was getting an incorrect reading on my gauge or the oil pressure sender. A gaze at my sender let me know that it had likely given up the goose and a quick run to the boat bits store rectified that and the old oil gauge.

Fully expecting my issue to be resolved, I fired up the engine to 0PSI oil pressure yet again. Truly perplexed, I took a break from hands on work and began researching. Unfortunately there are an enormous amount of Perkins 4.108 variations, so this task is made significantly more difficult. My engine has also been customized with a remote oil filter kit (larger filter capacity) and oil cooler.

I tinkered around, tried different oil filters, different oil filter brands, etc all to no avail. Eventually I put the old filter back on out of curiosity and the pressure immediately went to normal! I couldn’t believe this… why would the old filter work and the Fram and Napa Gold filters not? Thinking it is a filter density issue, I researched the Sierra micron rating and found that it was in the same ballpark as my other two brands…

Totally dumbfounded, I ran the issue by my father and his immediate response was, “is the oil flowing in the correct direction through the filter?” I hadn’t thought about this despite having tried several other fixes. I swapped my oil supply and return lines on the side of the block and put my Fram filter back on. Immediately upon firing up the engine my normal oil pressure returned! The oil had been running through the filter backwards! The older Sierra filter from the previous owner worked with this scenario because it didn’t have an internal check valve to prevent it from draining while the engine is off. Both my Fram and Napa Gold filters had this valve, with a side effect of only allowing the oil to flow in one direction.

So, several hours and a full day after beginning, my pre-trip engine maintenance is completed. Oil is flowing in the correct direction and all is right with the world.

Hopefully the knowledge gained and changes made to the drain plug (and oil flow) will make future oil changes take significantly less time than the significant investment this process took.

So Much To Do

Posted on Mar 9, 2015 | 4 comments

And this is after a year on board!

And this is after a year on board!

We are now finally in the final stages of prepping the boat and ourselves for our trip to the Bahamas. I would do a sigh of relief here, but there is so much work to be done that in fact it has been the busiest time that we have been aboard. We’ve made our list and checked it about one hundred times a day trying to find at least one more item to check off before bed. Dan even printed us some blank calendar pages that we filled in with all of our tasks to make sure they were getting done with the right time margins.

Our most time consuming project was repainting our non skid on the deck and cabin top. Previously, the deck was extremely slick anytime it got a little bit wet (I’m talking dew in the morning) and was a real safety hazard for walking, let alone going sailing. We decided to go with Interlux Interdeck paint as we thought it would provide the most value for our dollar and time. We also added some additional Interlux Intergrip dust to the deck paint after we did the cabin top a little more grip on the crucial areas. It cost a total of about $250 all supplies and paint included so we figure that justified giving it a try before shelling out a couple thousand on cutting out the old non-skid and replacing it with matting material. We are very happy with the results and feel much more secure on deck now that it is finished.

A big box of things we don't want to use.

A big box of things we don’t want to use.

Another major task was going for physicals, dental appointments, and assembling a thorough medical kit. While we were nervous about asking new doctors for prescription medications to have on board, they were actually very understanding about the situation. We brought a complete list that we compiled from prescription kit and the doctors prescribed for us the medications they thought would be appropriate for our situation. We are now properly stocked for an emergency in the case where we might be many hours (or sometimes a day or two) from advanced medical care. Our top concerns were treatment for burns, bacterial infections, and severe allergic reactions, all of which we feel sufficiently well stocked for now. Bandages, splints, and other supplies were ordered from Amazon and have all come in now other than the skin stapler. Please God let me never be called upon to use that thing! 

Somehow my ID pictures always turn out the worst.  Don't worry, it will only be 10 years until the next one.

Somehow my ID pictures always turn out the worst.
Don’t worry, it will only be 10 years until the next one.

Let’s not forget the good old government paperwork. Because we have dogs, we needed to apply for pet permits and get them vaccinated at least a month before entry into the Bahamas. Carter and I both had to get new passports, the first in his case and mine updated with my married name. Dan still had about 3 years remaining on his, but we decided to renew it anyway so that we would be on the same renewal timeline in the future. Interestingly, the only stamp that both of us had in our old passports was from our last trip to the Bahamas when Dan proposed to me while we were there for my brother’s wedding. The Bahamas certainly have a lot of meaning for our family!

We also decided to apply for the Customs and Border Patrol program called the Small Vessel Reporting System. This will allow us (as US citizens) to have a much easier clearing in process when we return home after our trip. To apply, you have to go to the SVRS website and fill out applications for the captain (with vessel information) and all passengers on your ship. Then you have to go in for a short interview with a customs agent at the nearest port. The paperwork process is a bit tedious to get through, but for anyone who does a lot of cruising between the US and other nearby countries like the Bahamas, Mexico, or between the USVI and BVI, it is probably worth your time to not have to clear into customs in person each time.

We still have a lot to do before leaving, but we are in high energy mode eagerly anticipating casting off. We are so mentally ready to go that it is hard to concentrate on getting our supplies to the same level. Just a few more weeks until we can be counted among the cruisers!