Friday, 18 January 2008

Suck, Squeeze, Bang, Blow

Sex rears its ugly head, again? No, these are just words engineers use to help remember the combustion cycle.

TBH here. I have a guest spot on gerryantics having spent the day helping a cruiser with the same engine as ours (a Perkins M50).

Engines bloody engines. Love them or hate them or both, sometimes at the same time. Very handy when there is coral about or in fog, motoring up river or even maneuvering into a marina berth. A nightmare when they let you down and you spend your planned break with the engine stripped, the boat in chaos, waiting for parts. There are three or maybe four boats in that situation in the marina at the moment.

The local diesel engineers seem to have got it to a fine art. Once they have dismantled your beast in the bilges and walked off with a few key parts to repair, you aren’t going anywhere ‘til you have paid their hefty bill. Maybe I am unfair.

The problem with this cruiser’s engine was simple enough: a failed seal on the raw water pump. I know it well and keep a few spares. The trouble is that the shaft had corroded and simply replacing the seal might not work at all and certainly would not be a lasting solution. So we started calling Perkins’ Dealers looking for spares. The phone number gleaned from the internet for their dealer in Guatemala City was incorrect. A call to Perkins Head Office in the UK yielded the right number and my friend found it would take at least ten days to get the parts, so he began seeking them from US suppliers. This would take just as long, but at least they could confirm that had the items in stock.

Oh, and by the way, the prices are astronomic – about ten times what they should cost – what Australians call “charging like a wounded bull”.

There is nothing at all unusual about this experience. It’s the reason the cynics define cruising as “a series of repairs in exotic locations”. But it’s a long way from the romantic drivel dished out by salesmen at boat shows. We know several people whose expectations were so mismanaged that they have given up cruising.

Bottom line? If you are likely to be going anywhere off the beaten track, take a diesel engine maintenance course, buy the workshop manuals and parts lists, carry a full range of spares and a full set of tools – and seek out boaters with similar engines to show you what to do. Sooner or later you are going to have to tackle some awkward repair at sea. Be prepared.

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