3/28/2012 – Where the hell is that water coming from?

In anticipation of heading out to sea this coming Sunday morning, yesterday was engine room day. Even though the engine room on Siempre Sabado, as on all Westsail 28s, is amazingly roomy for a 28 foot boat, it’s still cramped and not that much fun to work in. But, if I remove the cockpit sole, it’s not too bad.

Besides, the work had to be done so it didn’t really matter whether or not I wanted to do it.

So, what did I have to do? Mostly it was just check and top off vital fluids (oil, antifreeze, battery water). Those are all routine and easy enough to do. However, I also wanted the take the front plate off the new water pump and replace it with my new Speed-Seal pump cover. You might recall that I had already done this for my old water pump some time ago. So, why didn’t I just transfer the Speed-Seal to the new pump before I installed it? Well, that would be because, in the interim, Westerbeke has discontinued using the particular Johnson pump that they used to use. Johnson may have quit making that model, I don’t really know. All I do know is that my new pump was just enough different than the old one that the old Speed-Seal wouldn’t fit the new pump. Kind of a bummer as these Speed Seals are spendy little items. But, nevertheless, I bought a new Speed Seal and now it was time to install it.

Why all the dread? From past experience I knew that at least three of the machine screws holding the faceplate on the pump were nearly inaccessible using normal tools. I do have some offset screwdrivers which should help. This being my most dreaded job of the day, I decided to tackle it first. And you know what? It wasn’t bad at all. Why? Well, Johnson made one tiny little change on the new pump that made all the difference. Instead of attaching the faceplate to the body of the pump using 6 round head machine screws, they used 6 hexagonal head machine screws. Made it a piece of cake to reach those back screws with an open end wrench. Don’t know if I would have ordered the Speed Seal if I’d known how easy it was going to be. Still, the Speed Seal has a feature that allows you to run the pump for brief periods w/o water and not burn the impeller up. And, you can remove the faceplate to inspect or replace the impeller with NO tools, so that’s a good thing, too. So I went ahead and installed it.

That job went way smoother than expected so I moved on to the heat exchanger. I wanted to remove the inspection plate on the end to make sure the cooling tubes were clear and there were no pieces of zinc or water pump impeller floating around inside. Once open, I found the heat exchanger clean as a whistle. And, as a bonus, for the very first time, I found the pencil zinc in good shape rather than in need of replacement. Woo-Hoo!

The rest of the job was just the aforementioned checking and topping off of fluids. Then I brought a bucket of fresh water down below to wash away the salt water that had come out when I opened the pump and heat exchanger, sluiced stuff down, opened the cooling water valve and fired up the engine.

Much as we cuss our engines from time to time, they are pretty amazing. We run them for sometimes days on end and then turn them off and don’t start them for maybe two or three months. We turn the key, push the button and fully expect them to start right up. And you know what? They usually do. Yesterday the Westerbeke, which has not been started since we moved the boat to La Isla Marina back before Christmas, fired right up. Oh, she died a couple times while working out air or something but she always started right back up with a minimum of cranking. She hunted (RPMs fluctuated) a little at first but then settled down into a nice smooth rhythm. Sweet.

Just after I sluiced down the engine room, the bilge pump came on, as expected, and pumped out what looked like about the same amount of water I’d just dumped into the bilge, maybe just a tad more. Just to be sure, I checked the new cover on the water pump for leaks and found none. I closed up the engine compartment, put my tools away and declared the day a total success. And then the bilge pump came on again and pumped another gallon or two. Hmmm…

Well, no matter. Life is good and I’m all done working in the engine room. But, later in the afternoon, or maybe early evening, the pump came on again and pumped a couple gallons.

Now we’ve had the bilge pump run occasionally before. Hard to track down the source of the water since it could be from washdown water getting below somehow, a leaky freshwater hose somewhere, a little water getting past the dripless shaft seal, or maybe some seepage at a thru-hull. Whenever the pump runs, we empty out lockers to check the thru-hulls and open the engine room door to check for cooling water leakage. We never find anything definitive or even particularly suspicious. I generally don’t worry about it too much as it’s only a couple of gallons every few days. But, now we’d pumped several gallons in a few hours. Again, we looked everywhere and found nothing. I ran my hand under the bottom of the cooling water pump and it came back dry. There’s almost always some water in the engine room bilge because the bilge is part of a liner and any water that gets in (mostly through water leaking past the cockpit sole gaskets) can’t get out until it’s high enough to overflow the back end of the liner and enter the main bilge. So, it’s not like I can say. “Hey, there’s water under the engine and there didn’t used to be” because there did used to be. Still, since then engine room is the only place that had any work done yesterday, and since the work done involved the cooling water system, this does seem like the likely place to look for a leak in spite of the lack of damning evidence.

The pump ran again yesterday evening, in the middle of the night, and while I was having breakfast this morning.

So, I’ve closed the cooling water seacock. Now we’ll watch. If the pump doesn’t run today, I guess we know where to concentrate our search for a leak. I almost hope it does run as a leak in the engine compartment should be easier to locate and fix than anywhere else in the boat. AND, if it’s the cooling water, then I can forget my fears that it’s our drinking water tank that’s leaking. Besides, the evidence is totally against that being the case. If there was a leak at the bottom of the tank, it would leak more when the tank is full than when it was way down. It’s way down right now and yet we had more pump runs yesterday. And, if the leak was higher up on the tank, it’d stop leaking as the tank level dropped below a certain point and yet, that doesn’t seem to happen either. Basically, we have seen no correlation between the level in our fresh water tank and the frequency of bilge pump runs. Also, inspecting the inboard lower edge of the tank, I’ve always found it and the hull underneath it to be dry. The water would have to get to the bilge somehow.

But this is all idle speculation and could end up blowing up in my face. We’ll have a better idea later when we see whether or not turning off the cooling water seacock stops the bilge pump runs.

And, if it does, just to confirm, I can take one more step. I have a little hole (currently plugged) in the front (lowest) point in the engine room liner (from an earlier, poorly-thought out experiment). I can remove the plug and drain the engine room bilge contents, which is currently pretty clean, into the main bilge. Then I’ll replace the plug and it should be very obvious within 6 hours or so, whether or not the cooling water plumbing is the culprit.

I’ll keep you posted.


About sryoder

Steve & Lulu... retired. Had enough of the cold wet dreary fall/winter/spring in the Pacific Northwest. Bought a boat, fixed it up, sold our home and sailed to Mexico in November, 2010. Been here ever since except for occasional forays to the States (summer only, thank you) to visit the kids, parents and siblings. If you're looking for a sailing blog, this is the wrong place. This is a traveling, hunkering in, eating blog. Sailing is just how we get from place to place when we can't walk.
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5 Responses to 3/28/2012 – Where the hell is that water coming from?

  1. Eric says:

    I know how stressful an unidentified leak can be!

    While tied to the dock at the Chesapeake Rondy, the day before we were to be hauled out, I awoke to find my bilge almost completely filled with water! I panicked for a second and then began the frantic search beginning with seacocks. When I entered the head I noticed water all over the floor but the seacocks weren’t leaking. WTF? I lifted the lid on the flushable porta-potty and watched as water steadily flowed over the rim, onto the floor and down into the bilge! My toilet’s blackwater reservoir has never been so clean! This made no sense to me as the height of the toilet was higher than the seawater level. It stopped after a while but I didn’t sleep until we hauled her out the next day. I guess there was some kind of vacuum which sucked the water into the boat but I never did figure it out, and since I ripped it out and bought an airhead, I guess I’ll never know. Have since removed all seacocks in the head and glassed them over. Only two more thru-holes in the bilge need to be removed!

    Good luck with your leak hunt. My guess is that closing off the raw water intake will identify the source of the leak.

    I would love to see some more pictures of the inner workings of your boat.

    I pulled the trigger today on new sails from NorthSails! Jeez that was painfully expensive! They should be delivered by july.

    • sryoder says:

      Eric, I’m happy to say that a previous owner bought our North sails for us. Of course, he didn’t know they were for us when he bought them.

      As far as photos if the inner workings, have you checked out all the back blogs yet? If so, let me know what you’d be interested in seeing. Maybe it’ll give me good blog fodder.


  2. Joan/Raymond Yoder says:

    You are such a worry wart. You definately take after your Mom. Dad just puts his head in the sand and figures it will straighten itself out. Sometimes it does but mostly it doesn’t. It seems we use more propane in the motor home than I think we should although I know that when heating with propane it will go faster so finally I convinced Dad to take the motor home in and have the propane lines checked. Haven’t heard the results yet but will sometime today. Also wanted all of the belts replaced as a belt or maybe two are slipping and squealing. Love, Mom

    • sryoder says:

      I’m really not that much of a worrier. But water coming inside the boat when it shouldn’t, water that then has to be pumped out before enough accumulates to sink the boat, that’s sort of a biggie. Granted, it would take a LOT of water to sink the boat, but still…

  3. Dani says:

    That engine room sure looks familiar. I would be definitely concerned about the the running bilge pumps! I hope you find it.

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