Improvements to Rhapsody (6) - Miscellaneous

New Engine Coolant Pump

When I got Rhapsody, one of the things that was pointed out during the General Survey, and that I noticed as well, was that the engine's cooling pump was corroded and needed replacing.

So, the very first thing, before any of the other improvments, I hired Phil Jones, the guy who had done the engine survey, and had him replace the pump. It cost a pretty penny, took over a week to organize, and took all day to do. The (English) Perkins pump had to be special ordered, and then when it arrived, we had to fashion a new set of cooling hoses ourselves, as no shaped hoses existed that would meet our needs.

In the end, I could have done this job by myself, as the only thing I was lacking was confidence. But it was good to have Phil do it and impart some of his knowledge of Perkins motors to me in the process.

Clean Fuel Tanks and Polish Fuel

Another thing that took a week to schedule and a full day to do, and that I hired someone to do, was to clean the fuel tanks. When I had taken the fuel sensors out one time, I notice a pretty thick layer of black gunk in the tanks. Since this can clog the fuel filters and stop the motor, it constitutes a safety issue.

Roy, from the Diesel Fuel Polishing Company, came out and hooked up his tools and cleaned the tanks and polished the fuel. He pumped the fuel out of the tank and off the boat to a set of hefty filters that he brought to the dock. It was then pumped back to a power washer that he inserted in the tanks thru the inspection plates, and with which he washed the gunk off. By running the fuel thru the filters for several hours he was able to show me how it changed from gunky grey to pretty pink, and guaranteed that the inside of the tanks were good to go.

Change all Fuel and Oil Filters

After the fuel was polished I changed all the fuel filters. I had actually already changed the oil and filters in both the genset and engine, and needed to wait until the fuel was polished before I changed the fuel filters. And although this is really more of a regular maintenance issue, for me, since it was the first time, I consider it an improvement that I've learned how to do it, if nothing more.

Rhapsody has FIVE fuel filters. The genset has a primary filter, located nearest the fuel tank, and a secondary fuel filter on the motor itself. The engine also has a secondary fuel filter mounted directly on it, but it has dual Racor primary filters. The way these work is that one of the two filters is in use at any time. Then, if one clogs and threatens to stop the engine, you can switch over to the other one to keep running, and change the clogged one without stopping the motor. Nifty, eh?

Changing the fuel filters was smelly dirty work. I cleaned each filter housing and put in new elements. Changing the secondary filter on the engine itself was the messiest, as once you remove the bottom screw all of the fuel runs out. The filter hangs pointing downward, and is just an element in a housing. Then you have to fill it with fuel before replacing it. Imaging holding a screw up thru the bottom of a cup of fuel while while reaching under the motor and screwing upwards from the bottom, and you've got the picture. Of course, with fuel filters on diesel motors, it's crucial that no air gets in the line, so you can see the dilemma.

I ended up learning how to bleed the fuel lines and injectors, as the motor stopped running about 1/2 hour after I had changed the filters. I didn't remember that I had actually turned the main fuel valve off in the very beginning of the process, and the engine died because it was starved of fuel. I thought it was because there was air in the line and bled all the lines and got a little frantic when the engine wouldn't restart, until I remembered I had turned off the fuel! When I turned it back on, the engine started up and I ran it for a few hours just to be sure. There were no drips, and now all the filter bowls are clean and clear for inspection, where they were black and filled with gunk before.

Rework Engine Access

Minor detail and rant. I don't know what they were thinking when they designed the island that goes over the motor on this boat, but they sure weren't thinking about how hard it makes it to get to the engine for maintenance or repairs.

It's a little complicated to explain, but they had hinged the bench dinette seat so that it swings open, away from the engine. However, because of the dining table legs, it only opened about 60 degrees and would not stay open. It would fall closed and had to be propped up in a precarious position. It weighs about 60 lbs and would give you a nasty blow if it fell on your head while you were under it trying to work on the motor. I really hated it. I ended up having to remove the dining room table to open the bench seat everytime I wanted get at the port side of the engine (like when we changed the oil pump, or I when had to run wires thru the compartment for the video system).

So one day, in the middle of a minor conniption fit, I went to West Marine and bought thumb-screw brackets and replaced the hinges with them. Now I can just unscrew the thumb screws and lift the bench seat out of place if I need to get to the port side of the engine. I also made other assorted modifications in this area so that I didn't have to unscrew and remove the vertical hand rail everytime I wanted to move the island to get at the starboard side of the engine.

Clean all and paint many compartments

I spent several days to a week in the early days of the refit just cleaning all the various compartments. Most were smelly with diesel and various ocean science experiments. There was, apparently a full bag of dog food spilled in the bilge at one point. I kept finding kibbles in the strangest places. And the fact that one of the heads had obviously overflowed repeatedly did not help either.

So I cleaned, and cleaned, and cleaned, and cleaned.

I also pulled down some of the old, messy, foam dust encrusted headliners and replaced them with shiny new white paint. These areas had to be sanded by hand and/or with a power sander, to remove the old foam and glue, and were tough to do, especially when it was a small area and above your head, so you had to lay on your back and the dust would fall directly on your face and into your eyes. Kudo's here to Theo who suffered that fate (as I did a little, too). Theo also helped out for several days, painting two coats of tough white bilge paint over the newly exposed areas.

In the end, I probably spent two weeks deep cleaning the compartments and the bilge. And although cleaning and painting are always part of the regular maintenance of a boat, I consider this a one time improvement, inasmuch as it was clear that some or most of these areas had not been cleaned for many, many years.

Custom made bushing for In-Mast Furling Mainsail

When I first got Rhapsody, the mainsail was "wrapped" and so I did not really get to try the furling mechanism. I crossed our fingers and bought the boat. Then when I had Fritz pull the mainsail off, we discovered that there was a problem with it. Apparently a bushing had broken up and disintegrated and, because of that, the furler had an eccentricity that affected it's ability to smoothly wrap up the sail. It was difficult to turn by hand.

Below is a picture showing the furler with the missing bushing. The real problem is that the bushing could not be replaced without removing and restepping the entire mast and all the standing rigging, as the mechanism goes into the mast from the bottom. Fritz was unable to help and told me I should contact the manufacturer, in England, and seek guidance.

So I sent an email to zSpars, England, and received a reply that I should contact their US distributor, which I did. Above is a diagram I included with the email to describe the problem. When we finally hooked up, George Fox from U.S. Spars told me that he had seen this problem before, and that short of unstepping the mast, he had heard of guys creating a new bushing and inserting in halves, which is the solution I had been thinking about too, and ended up using.

So I designed a new bushing (below) and had it machined from high-molecular-weight-polyethelene (HMWPE). Ray from Harrison Marine was recommended to me and said he could machine it for me, which he did.

Unfortunately, I didn't take a photo of the finished bushing; however, it came out very nice, and once I inserted it, the furler spun nicely in a circle without any eccentricity. I also re-rigged a new furling line, which had gotton fuzzy and fat from use, and would tend to jam in the mechanism, and lubricated everything to make it work as well as possible. When I was done, it was easy to turn the furler by hand, whereas before it had been somewhat difficult.

All of this work, of course, was done before I got the new sails.

Winch Buddy

One final improvement I'd like to mention is Winch Buddy.

I had debated the need for an electric winch while we were looking at boats. Some boats we saw had them and it sure seemed like a nice idea to have the extra umph, especially on these bigger boats and their bigger sails. The thought was driven home to me after I purchased Rhapsody and sailed her from Mission Bay to San Diego Bay. At the end of the sail, when it was time to bring in the genoa, I was huffing and puffing at the winch to wrap up that huge genoa. I even got Steve to help (just until I get into better shape, eh?).

Since I'm gonna have to furl the genoa virtually every day, as well as furl the mainsail, I could see that an electric winch would be very useful on the trip. However electric winches are very expensive (around $3000), require massive cable runs from the batteries, and lots of installation work. Then one day, John Gardner recommended I look into an electric winch handle thing he had seen in a magazine, so I did. I found it on the net, and it cost about $1000. However, it didn't take me long to figure out I could make my own for well under $500.

It's just a heavy duty Milwakee 28V right angle drill combined with a special bit that fits in the winch. The bit is available on ebay or at The drill is powerful enough to do the job, recharges in an hour, and can furl the sail about 5 times on a charge. I got the drill and an extra battery for about $400, and the bit for $50, and voila I had my very own Winch-Buddy.

I tried it on our initial sea trial and it worked like a charm. I highly recommend this setup for someone like me, who's a little lazy or has a large boat and is tired of struggling with winches, and who can't afford or doesn't want an electric winch. This might even be considered a piece of safety equipment if you ever had to use the winch to pull up an anchor in a hurry or something.

Summary of Improvements Thus Far

So, that's what I've done to Rhapsody so far. The webpages up to this point are all stuff accomplished in the first 3-4 months I owned the boat. There were many other things that also got done during this period, like sewing new fitted sheets, getting gaskets for the hatches, stowing stuff, and so on. In fact there were so many "improvements" that they were too numerous to list.

However, these previous pages give you some idea of the amount of work I have put into the boat in preparation for the big trip. I consider everything up to here to be "Phase I" of the work. I'm also in the process of selling, storing, or otherwise disposing of most of my possesions, renting the house out, taking care of medical and dental issues, figuring out how to handle the mail, bills, and a million life issues that need to get done in preparation for the trip.

- Pat Horton, 7/15/07

More Improvements (Phase II) ....