Yes, I heard all the jokes: “Definition of a boat: A hole in the water you throw money into”; “What BOAT stands for: Bust Out Another Thousand”; “Owning a boat is like standing in the shower tearing up money”. But you kind of don’t realise how much maintenance is involved in boat ownership until you see it. And I had to buy one in order to see it. So, here’s another (delayed) Adventures in Maintenance post.
Basically, Bob’s donk when ‘plonk’ in mid-January. The 12hp Drofin was seriously problematic. Firstly, it didn’t have reverse. Yes, that’s a problem, especially for a less experienced sailor. Worse, sea water had got in and rusted it. I had a mechanic fix the offending thingame, replace all the oil, etc but the damage had been done and in January the fuel injectors and fuel pump seized. I really didn’t want this to happen within the first year of buying a boat!
Old Drofin 12hp on the way out
We had 3 options: pour more money into an old, damaged engine with expensive parts that come from France and still have an seriously underpowered boat with no reverse; buy a reconditioned engine and gearbox and pay around $3K to have it installed; or go ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ and buy a new engine that we know will start when we need it to and have enough grunt to keep us out of trouble.
I did some research on new engines, short-listed a couple and Beta came in first. Beta is a Kubota engine (tractors, etc) marinised in England. Parts are readily available around the world. The boys at Beta Diesel Australia seem to have passed on the savings from the strong Australian dollar which has helped reduce the price of late. Another deciding factor was that Glenn came out to the boat, checked out what he’d need to do, and was able to give me a fixed price on, and guarantee, the install. This is incredibly rare in the boating industry. When you need some sort of marine service it seems that you are expected to hand them a blank cheque that they fill out after the work is done.
So we got Pelican Bob towed to the marina and put up ‘one the hard’. So far so good. Next we got the shipwright to have a look at the somewhat dodgy, slowly leaking p-bracket (see photo). The p-bracket is a through-hull piece of metal that holds the propeller shaft just above the propeller. Most leaky p-brackets leak from the join and need to be re-bedded. This one appeared to have become porous and was leaking from the inside out. Very odd – until you consider that there has never been a sacrificial anode on this boat! Why? No idea.
The offending p-bracket
Anyway that old nemesis electrolysis did what it does best and ate away at the p-bracket. That would be fine except that this bracket was a bit tricky to cut out and replace. Tricky = hours = dollars. The part itself was pretty cheap – $350. But in addition to the labour costs we waited 7 days for delivery with every day in the yard co$ting u$ dollar$. So the big spend on the big ticket item became a somewhat alarming spend on a small ticket item. But at least we don’t have a hole in our boat anymore and were given confirmation that the hull is fundamentally sound.
In retrospect I think I made the right decision regarding the engine and installer. I can’t speak highly enough of Glenn from Beta. He communicated very well through the whole process – and I think this is worth a lot. He gave me a fixed price and guaranteed the installation. Sadly, I had to call on that guarantee.
To cut a long story short, the p-bracket drama pushed us up against the Easter long weekend and Glenn was rushed. He didn’t get the chance to check the install in the water and the first day out we got water siphoning through our low-in-the-water engine, water in the cylinders, and a little water turned up in the oil. Okay, so that put a damper on the Easter weekend but Glenn stuck to his promise and installed a completely new engine at no cost including a variety of anti-siphoning measures.
I wasn’t impressed with the error (to say the least) but I was impressed with him coming through on his promise. He was very flexible, working around the shipwright on and off as required. Through everything Glenn was professional and good-humoured. I only wish everyone was half as professional, friendly, and efficient as he was.
The old Drofin dying was really crappy. The new Beta being drowned was incredibly stressful. But having a reliable and powerful engine is absolutely wonderful! Knowing it will start straight away first time is just superb. Having reverse has taken the anxiety out of motoring, especially mooring (that complex mooring apparatus may never be necessary again), and made sane docking possible. In addition, the extra speed has meant more time spent on the east (wider and more scenic) side of the Bridge. Oh, and I don’t have to become a mechanic just yet either.
Smaller, more powerful, quieter and… red!