24 August 2016

Pumps, Sensors, Windlass - Everything Breaks

Bob Damiano

The Windlass

During our return trip from Nova Scotia, our windlass control switch failed in a most inconvenient way. Our switches are these deck-mounted rubber covered things that are designed to be operated by foot or finger. Although they look pretty robust, underneath all that rubber is a cheesy little plastic microswitch. This seems to be a pattern in marine electrical controls and is not the first one that has failed for us.

Because of this failure, our "up" button consisted of shorting two wires together for the last couple weeks of the trip.

Frustrating Night in Maine doing surgery on the windlass switch

Normally, I go looking for replacement parts for things that break and order a few spares. In this case, I had no desire to replace this switch with the same crappy setup.

Instead, I found some heavy duty stainless momentary pushbuttons. I had no idea how I would mount them but I decided to figure that out as I went along.

The microswitch(right) and the new stainless pushbutton (left) that will replace it.

First, we filled the old switch holes with epoxy so they could be re-drilled out to whatever the new switch required.
Filling the switch holes with epoxy

Drilling out the holes for the new switches

Almost a hole

Deep in conentration

Done - and they work!

Temperature Transducer

Our first indication of a problem was that the water temperature was "70F"... In NOVA SCOTIA!  From then on, it just kept creeping up and up. Eventually by the end of our trip, we had 116F in Maine. Pre-cooked lobsters - this could catch on.

Argon's Temp Transducer is a multifunction device that also does water speed and depth. To be precise, it is an Airmar DST-800 (DST for Depth/Speed/Temp). The extra cool thing about this device is that it plugs directly into the network backbone - no external A/D interface needed. We ordered another one (cha ching!) and did the fairly simple installation. With a little fooling with setup on our MFD (multifunction display) we were getting good data from the D, the S AND the T.  It said the marina was 74.2F.  I could buy that.

Temporarily wire in the new DST to test it

74.2F. That's more temperate than 116F
Since doing this replacement, we've also noticed that the Speed is more accurate as well.  This is actually very important for us because this input is used to compute the True wind speed and direction on our fancy instruments.

Fridge on the Fritz

Also, toward the end of the trip, we noticed that the fridge was not keeping things as cold and we could not make any ice at all.  After getting back to Boston, we quickly realized that the cooling raw water pump for the fridge was not pumping anything.  We considered putting in a call to a marine HVAC guy. In the meantime, I decided to have a look.  It's a pump and it doesn't pump. Can't be too many things wrong here.

After taking the hoses off the pump, I learnt via a mouthful of saltwater that the intake hose is definitely not clogged.  I also noticed there was a pressure switch (not indicated in the manual) so I also verified that this was opening and closing properly with a meter. All good. So I started taking the pump apart and soon things became very clear.  The main shaft bearing was ceased up tight (this explains why the fridge has been drawing so much power lately too).  I got the bearing out and started applying generous amounts of Liquid Wrench. It was still ceased right up. But after enough fighting with it, it finally broke free and I could get it spinning very freely. We put it all back together and now I have ice in my margarita (and the solar panels keep the batteries charged up).


The ceased up bearing

Success - it spins again.

And so on..

Just when we thought we were done for the moment, the float switch on the sump pump failed. This was an easy repair and it also prompted us to buy a spare sump pump.