Engine; windows; life raft

I met with engineers from the local Westerbeke distributor Thursday, and I was decently pleased with their competence in measuring and poking around to see if the 44C would be a suitable engine.  After 45 mins or so they left promising a proper quote for the repower job by next week.  They were the second contractor to suggest the job was basically a one-week deal, but I still don’t really believe that.  I did find out that the delivery ETA for a 44C is 8-10 weeks after order, 2-3 weeks longer than the Beta 38, but no big deal.  I am expecting a formal quote for the 44C and all the options I want along with the quote for the repower job, so then I’ll see the precise cost difference between the Beta and Westerbeke options.  I have to say, although the Westerbeke is more expensive and a little less user friendly, its lower RPM makes it attractive.  At this point I am pretty certain either engine will fit the space and will suit my needs, so it’ll come down to price differential and whether I think the RPM difference really matters.  I’m hoping to make a final decision later this week.

I also met with a French contractor from Langkawi briefly Friday.  He gave me an informal estimate for the job that’s much, much cheaper than anything I’ve seen yet (~US$2200 for the whole repower/replumbing job, minus materials).  The caveat: he may not be available this fall, pending another job.  If it works out though, that option will be hard to beat, especially since the guy is competent and has a good reputation.  Coincidentally, he gave me a rough guess of two weeks for the full job (including fabrication of custom mounts), which I think is more realistic.

I finally got the ball rolling on the new side dodger windows this week.  No progress of any real interest there yet, except I decided to mix a real epoxy filler for this job, instead of using an over-the-counter one like I did for the front windows.  (That worked fine, but was expensive.)  I ended up using West System, which was pretty much all I could find; unfortunately it’s not much cheaper than the over-the-counter putty I was using before.  So far, a colloidal silica filler seems to result in a pretty good paste that’s more easily shaped than the putty I was using before.  For the record, here’s why I’m replacing the windows:

At some point last week Capt Andy from Hye Seas II asked me if I wanted some diesel that one of the charter boats needed to get rid of during some engine maintenance.  I said okay, and found this the next day:

Something like 200L of diesel and a random lawn chair appeared on my boat overnight.  Since then, about 100L and the chair have mysteriously disappeared, but I’m okay with that.  Need to dump the rest into my tanks and pay Andy something for it.

On Friday I brought my old life raft to Supratechnic for a preliminary assessment to see whether servicing it made sense, or whether I should just buy a new one.  It ended up being pretty fun and informative.  The end result was that I should probably get a new life raft.  Better to find that out now, and spend the extra money, than to wish I’d taken care of it if I ever actually need the life raft.  I took a few pictures.

Here’s the life raft canister.  Already not looking very promising.  It’s a 4-man Avon raft.  It’s hard to see it here but there’s a little label-maker sticker that says “DATE OF NEXT SERVICE JAN 2000.”  So, this life raft hadn’t been serviced since at least 1999.  (I’m pretty sure it was actually 1998 based on the expiry dates of stuff I later found inside.)

At Supratechnic’s facility a couple of techs helped me open up the raft.  It was pretty exciting.  The painter (the line duct taped down in the above photo) is normally attached to a strong point on the boat.  When you heave the raft over the side, the painter pulls open a CO2 canister which inflates the whole thing in a few seconds.  We just tugged on the painter by hand, and stood back in case the fiberglass enclosure went flying.  Here’s an action shot of the raft inflating:

It worked flawlessly and the whole thing was inflated in about 10-15 seconds.  The CO2 canister releases everything, so there were some relief valves making a rushing-air noise for about 30 more seconds after the raft inflated.  Here’s the fully inflated raft:

At first things seemed okay, but a closer inspection revealed quite a bit of moisture had infiltrated the enclosure, and there was a lot of moldiness, especially on the canopy.  The whole thing smelled pretty musty.  Here’s a shot inside the raft before we pulled some things out to examine them:

There were a couple paddles, a bag full of all sorts of goodies (see below), a sea anchor in good shape, and a little webbing ladder to assist in climbing aboard.  Probably pretty hard to use but better than nothing.

The techs lifted the raft up to get a good look at the underside, while spraying the tubes with soapy water to check for leaks.  There were two dry cell batteries attached to the bottom of the raft to power a couple small lights (one inside, and one strobe outside); they disintegrated when removed.  Apparently dry cell batteries are not used on newer rafts.  There were a bunch of ballast bags on the bottom, which fill up with water and improve stability:

A few small leaks were immediately obvious; the techs said they’d leave the raft alone for a few days to see how severe the leaks were.  There’s a hand pump in the life raft’s kit to keep it afloat in case of minor leaks, but it was totally dead:

The survival kit inside was full of mostly-expired stuff:

There was a lot of drinking water, 3x more than the required amount.  No rations, which I found surprising but the techs said was normal.  A variety of flares expired in 1997.  Some sponges, a bailer, and a few nice little plugs for stopping bigger leaks in the raft.  Various whistles, mirrors, emergency blankets; a small survival manual; minimalist fishing gear.  A long expired (apparently never renewed) first aid kit:

The drinking water seemed interesting.  We cut a packet open to reveal a bunch of small individual packets inside:

After digging through everything, we determined pretty much the whole kit was in need of replacement.  That, combined with the general sorry state of the raft itself (mold abounding, uncertain status of glued seams, and at least some minor leaks — repairable but still not good), plus the apparent manufacture date of the raft (June 1985), points to the “buy a new raft” option as the clear choice.

According to the techs, the cost to get the raft patched up, cleaned up, and re-outfitted with a proper survival kit would be more than half the cost of a nice new raft.  (Of note: they weren’t trying to sell me a new raft, since they only do servicing.)  Couple that with the inherent uncertainties of having a 26-year-old raft, and it’s not a very attractive option.  I like the looks of the Viking RescYou rafts, and they have a good reputation and plenty of servicing shops around the world.  I’ll probably consider a few other options too.

Aside from gaining a much better understanding of what to expect from a life raft, this experience also convinced me beyond doubt that I need to have a good, well-stocked grab bag ready to go with various other essentials in case of an emergency.

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