October 13, 2012 by Last Star blog
Idle hands the devil’s workshop
OK, so it is day four of rain (Tuesday) and we are set to leave Wednesday morning regardless. The weather and wind seem to be abating but still awful-ish. We do a few chores in the boat, and have designs of replenishing the fuel and water later that evening when the wind will hopefully be even lighter and not blowing onto the dock.
As I’m taking a peak at the engine I glance at the Racor 220 fuel filter and see that the bowl has some sediment and water in it. Not good. Previously I had the engine running at red-line for a few minutes to burn off some old deposits and I thought I “felt” a slight drop in rpm or maybe just a little burp. Could it be this offending matter in the filter? I mean look at this thing. The bowl is supposed to be clear.
So as I peered through this discolored bowl I could see a soup of algae, deposits etc that I could easily drain out of the nylon drain at the bottom. So I got my best empty can of cat food and asked Patricia to hold a flash-light on the filter while I opened the valve and drained the bowl. All this requires excruciating pain in your knees, a horrible contortion of my VA approved 100% neck and some sort of extended ab-workout to maintain the awkward position. After about 6-9 drops of offending material came out I knew this was not working properly–so I yelled at Patricia (standard ops). No really I got the user’s manual and it said to open the vent-valve. OK, fair enough. I found the nylon vent valve and got my trusty flat head screwdriver and slowly began to open the valve. Some more goo came out but not a deluge? OK, continue to unscrew the nylon screw….and then WTF? Did that really just happen? Yes the damn top of the nylon vent fastener snaps off the top leaving the bulk of the screw/fastener IN THE FREAKNG FILTER HOUSING!! A long string of profanities followed suit. Fortunately I had Patricia nearby as she suggested I put an exacto blade into the nylon fastener (it has a hole in the middle for venting, and two grooves in the sides ALL contributing to its weakness). Well Patricia’s idea is pure genius, the blade does go into the fastener and I can actually continue to extract it gently with my fingers on the blade and no blood.
OK, now what, I turned in the rental car the day prior, I am in desperate need of a new bolt to as a minimum plug the vent or we are going nowhere. I have no internet (need to go to the USO and fight off the 80 yr old lunch ladies to use the wifi. multiple sign-ins, they call me “sonny”! Really? I’m over 50, nobody calls me sonny?) so I slink up to the Marina to seek assistance. Well “Mutt” is there and recall from previous post that I said he was friendly. Well he’s much more than that. He’s a retired “pipe-fitter” and he says that nut is 1/8th pipe thread blah blah coreolis effect, curvature of the earth, pirate pickle blowfish…(he lost me early and often) so he says hop in to his car and we are off to the hardware store. We find the suitable fitting and it is $2.89 and voila problem temporarily solved. Back to the boat and down I go into the engine compartment. Well the fitting doesn’t fit, you can’t see from the following photo but the threads are crap, not machined properly, no way this is going into the Racor without doing some permanent damage. You see this nice brass fitting is from China–hence the price but you see it is crap so even if it was free it would be crap. If you have any doubts to the utility of China in many cases I can introduce you to my buddy BK, he’s a huge fan of China.
OK, now what? I go back to find Mutt, well he’s at lunch, back in an hour….tick tick tick goes my departure for tomorrow. Well Mutt returns and we discuss possibilities. He gets on the horn, the internet, he’s got connections all over Norfolk for this stuff and all are coming up dry. There’s one “next day delivery” but we’re close to deadline and no guarantee it will fit (read as waste of time) so he calls Paxton and they have 13 Racor 220s at $176.00 each. Patricia and I discuss and I say “let’s buy it” as the rest of the fitting and its innards are 20+ yrs old and will fail just like the nylon washer. So I’m off to Paxtons with Mutt (again he drives, refuses gas money, beer, any offer besides a thankyou–great guy) and we get the Racor that now has a BRASS vent fitting–surprise the nylon is replaced with brass. I elect to replace just the vent fitting as I suspect diving into a full replacement of the Racor at 1530 would end in disaster. I’ll save that for later when I have my truck back for the extra trips to the store.
Here’s a photo of the new filter and housing with the clear bowl! Also the cheap brass fitting from China, had to have that to throw them under the bus. Finally there is the weak-ass nylon fastener and O-ring that failed. Oh and finally a banana for scale; my boys would want a banana for scale.
Ok, so what did we learn? Maintenance is over-rated. Fly ’til fail, if it ain’t broke don’t touch it. Patricia has “exacto” epiphanies, Mutt (AKA Carlos) is a Saint and class act with a generous spirit, and finally when it is late in the 3rd quarter and you are down by only 3 it is OK to punt (replace just the bolt) and get the ball again later. Oh and $176.00 for a bolt that fits is much better than a $2.89 POS from China that doesn’t.