When it rains….it pours…..


August 3, 2013 by Last Star blog

When it rains….it pours…..mostly into my eyes

So after what felt like 180 days in Charleston Maritime Center (CMC) and Charleston (ok, it was 17 but for 14 of those we were sick) we finally pushed off this morning to go to Carolina Beach NC for a month.  Now we hoped to go sail “outside” in the Atlantic rather than troll north up the ICW for hours again but the weather would not cooperate.  A weak front went through last night and what southerly breezes there were became weaker and confused.  In fact the weather indicated that it would be westerly this morning, passing through north (our direction) and dropping to less than 5 knots in the afternoon.  IF we went outside we would have approx 10 more miles and STILL have the engine on ALL day to get there at sunset.  So our solution was to go to Winyah Bay SC (our first leg) on the inside and then jump outside tomorrow in route to NC.

Now with the ICW routing we had to contend with a swing bridge restriction until 9:00 AM so leaving at 8:00 AM was still fine but we were no longer in a huge hurry.  We spent a few extra minutes at CMC getting ice (we are loving ice in these temps) as we would be on the move 4 days and no AC–another of our recent addictions.  We got the motor started, pushed off with the help of George from CMC and as usual the tide and current were a mess in CMC and we struggled to get off the dock–that place is jacked.  I got the boat turned towards the exit and we set off.  We monitored our speed and got to the bridge right at 9:00, so far so good.  A large thunderstorm was trying to run us down but when we got through the bridge and headed north we started to put some distance between us and the storm.

Now as we were waiting for the bridge the exhaust sounded a bit “hollow” and there was some white “smoke” coming from the exhaust–this was new and odd.  Over the weekend when Cole and his friends were visiting I asked Cole if we had water coming from the exhaust and he said “I think so”  which is not the best answer but as I glanced over the side there was some water belching out so we were good to go.  Well about 5 minutes after the bridge a shrill alarm came from the instrument panel; “third light, third light” shrieked Patricia nearly drowning out the alarm to which I said “Oh WTF now?”  Well we were in the middle of the ICW and not the best place to pull over but thankfully the traffic was nil so we tossed out the anchor, killed the engine and began the investigation.  So I cracked open the engine compartment and it did feel warmer in there but hey after 2 weeks of AC everything felt warmer.  I checked the raw water filter and it had no bubbles and water flowed through it freely.  I could tell the engine was warmer than usual and the only other thing to check was the raw water impeller or pump.

Standard new raw water impeller

Standard new raw water impeller

This is what one looks like new.   I had the impeller changed in June when we serviced the cooling system so I didn’t think that was it but it had to be examined or eliminated as the problem.  Now Yanmar decided to put the impeller facing backwards just in front of the starter.  I got the doors open on the engine compartment, asked Patricia to dig out the socket set and prepared to enter the fires of hell.  The weather man from Charleston was calling for “super muggy” for today after the previous nights rain—that didn’t begin to describe it.  I was on my knees contorted getting the socket on to the raw water pump cover and starting to leak sweat from every pore in buckets!  Thankfully as the cover was off a month ago the bolts were easily loosened and the cover came right off.  Well the impeller was toast and I was roasting.  The impeller was a Yanmar original part and normally these should last quite a while!? We left for the Bahamas last year with the impeller that was put in by the previous owner (date unknown) and cruised for 8 months before we replaced it in June. 2 months later it was destroyed, here’s a picture of what came out.

Slightly used impeller, best for abstract art

Slightly used impeller, best for abstract art

Getting it out of there was hell, many of the impeller blades were mushed together and I had to try and pull those out with needle nose pliers, the whole time trying to keep my hands dry and sweat out of my eyes.  Patricia was topsides ensuring that we didn’t float around in the narrow ICW and create an additional hazard to others.  After 15 minutes and 2 quarts of sweat I made little progress with the impeller.  I elected to “phone a friend” and I called my buddy Dirk to see if he ever removed a difficult one and knew any tricks.  Our old Beneteau had the good sense of putting the raw water pump on the FRONT of the engine and easy to remove and change–thumb screws even, no tools required.  I put some PB blaster on the spline before I talked to Dirk, he offered some advice and had his own horror story and said crazy shit like “had to remove the pump”.  I didn’t want to hear that.  Well the PB blaster did the trick.  After another quart of sweat poured on the floor–no kidding I had to get towels on the ground as it was getting so wet I couldn’t keep my footing nor exert pressure on the damn thing as I was slipping all over the place, I was able to get some channel locks on the damn thing and remove it.  Fortunately I had a Jabsco spare that in fact fit nicely and able to replace the impeller.  Patricia did a nice job of applying the lubricant that comes with the part.  I bled the air out of the system and tightened up the face plate until the water stopped.  The moment of truth!  Patricia fired up motor and we waited anxiously watching the exhaust…..then BEEELLLLCHHH a big ol spray of water shot out and came right on coming after that.  We were back in business.  What did we learn?  If you “think” water is coming out it probably isn’t enough–look into the impeller.  The $45 dollars I spent on the new Temp Sensor last fall was money well spent–it went off when the engine got hot and there was no damage.  Keep lots of spares.  I currently have no spares so when I get to Carolina Beach I will buy two–that’s pretty standard.  Without the Jabsco today we would have been towed BACK to Charleston to continue our sentence there!  Finally keep lots of mung rags around to try and dry yourself off when pouring out buckets of sweat all over the cabin.  It was hotter than sitting on the ramp in Seymour Johnson AFB waiting for the number one engine to provide some cooling air with the canopy closed–pure hell.  We were lucky that we took the ICW as otherwise ALL this would have happened out at sea with no anchor and the boat tossing in the small waves,.  I can’t imagine my head down in that humid furnace trying to wrench out the old impeller while adding vomit to my sweat–livin’ the dream.  Maybe the weather and wind did us a favor by keeping us inside.     



4 thoughts on “When it rains….it pours…..

  1. dave and jen sardonini says:

    We’re so sorry for all the hell you guys are going thru in the past month…but we have to be honest..the way you guys run across adversity and always manage to come out smelling like a rose is what keeps us waiting for the next chapter…

    The Ocean…the Final Frontier…these are the voyages of the U.S.S. Last Star..its 18 month mission..to explore the worlds largest natural swimming pools….to hoist the admiral 40 feet to change a light bulb…to change a piece of crap impeller while sweating 5 gallons of hell…to boldly go where no couple has gone before…Da Da Da DAAAA Da Da DAAAAAA….

    P.S. Sorry Squire 😦

    • Dave, Jen,
      Too funny!! Thanks for the post and oh just wait a few days to see the most recent near calamity that tried to undo our plan!!! That was a close shave. Oh and BTW the mast light is out again, at least this time we have the time get LED lights. In some ways the mast light being out after about 7 months says that we were doing what we wanted to be doing–out anchored and enjoying the boat!

  2. LOL, you have to be a cruising Captain to truly appreciate the impellor story.
    Why does “Murphy” always strike on days like that?
    I can relate, my son and I were limping down the ICW on one engine in a 1958 Chris Craft a few years back and ran into similar problems under similar conditions.
    Cap’n Lee

    PS/ I found your site here because I am interested in your vessel

    • Cap’n Lee,
      thanks for all the posts and comments. Great stuff. We’re up in NC right now and will be for a while. If we don’t sell the Last Star up here we will be returning back through Florida after hurricane season, maybe you can see it then? Send me your contact details at the g-mail address on the 43IrwinLastStar4sail webpage.


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