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Project Log:  Saturday, February 4, 2012

After last Sunday's problems with my Seastar steering cylinder and fittings, I contacted the tech support department at Teleflex, through an individual I'd been in contact with earlier during my research process.  By afternoon on Monday, he'd responded with a few questions, then put me in touch with the warranty department, which was extremely responsive and concerned about the nature of the problem that I'd had.  The understanding I got from all this was that there'd been past issues with leakage at the fittings that caused Teleflex to change how they installed the fittings; whether or not this was now causing new issues (other than mine) would remain to be seen.

After various email discussions where I related what I'd done and what had happened, on Wednesday I received a brand-new cylinder, with the bypass kit already installed.  Certainly I can offer nothing but praise for how well this situation was handled by Teleflex.  Thank you.  I couldn't have hoped for an easier or more expeditious response to the issue.

Before I sent the damaged cylinder back as requested, I compared the two side by side.  Perhaps it was just the different fittings one each, but somehow the holes and threads on the first cylinder looked different than on the new one.  Maybe not.  In any event, the problem at my end was now solved.


There were a few minor things I wanted to do on the engine before putting it in the boat.  A constant frustration in working with things is fussy fasteners, and on this engine I decided to change a few things so that it'd be more convenient for me later on, both during later installation/connections steps and for future maintenance concerns.

I have always hated the little clamps required to hold engine control cables in place.  These clamps are comprised of two separate pieces--a base plate and a strap eye with a special ridge that holds the cable securely.   While the clamps are what they are, and I had to work with them, I could make some favorable changes to the stock fasteners, which always seem to be tiny panhead, slotted screws.  Slotted screws are always harder for me to work with.  Plus, I think the stock fasteners were mild steel.

Working in tight, dark spaces to install cables, these fasteners--both of which must generally be loosened and removed in order to clamp the cable in place--coupled with the two-piece clamp system always seemed to make the process harder than it needed to be.  To help make it a little easier to install my cables down the road, I replaced the standard screws with some stainless steel socket head screws of similar size, which I hoped would be easier to use when the time came.  I often mark screw and nut sizes right on a convenient surface, which makes future maintenance a little simpler.


One nice feature of Beta engines is that the raw water pump is located front and center, not hidden in some hard-to-reach area.  However, the cover plate over the impeller was secured with six tiny screws (also slotted), and I felt this could be improved upon.

On my last boat, which had a small Yanmar diesel with a backwards-mounted raw water pump, I installed a Speedseal cover on the housing.  Though I never had to change the impeller under pressure (I changed it annually as a matter of course), the Speedseal made it easy and convenient.  There were two features of the Speedseal that I liked:  first, it used a machined groove and an O-ring to seal the cover, rather than paper gaskets; and second, it used knurled head fasteners to secure the cover plate.

I would have installed another Speedseal here, but fortunately this engine used a Johnson raw water pump that already had an O-ring seal, not paper.  Because access to the pump was so straightforward, I elected to simply replace the existing screws with new knurled head fasteners to make removal easier.  Even under controlled, annual-maintenance circumstances, I'd no patience for dealing with such tiny screws, and I knew this simple change would make me happier for years to come.

Because I wouldn't be running the engine for some time, I removed the impeller and stored it elsewhere, so that the compressed blade didn't become permanently distorted.


Up in the boat, I set up the centering string one last time, and, with the flex mounts back on the template, aligned the template and mounts carefully, ensuring that the template was in the right position and that the four mounts were in line with the foundations.

I also determined exactly where I wanted the engine in a fore-and-aft direction, as I had a little leeway here.  I considered the length of the stuffing box assembly and propeller couplings, access to the front of the engine for impeller and belt maintenance, and clearance around the forward panel in the engine room, among other things, before settling on the location.

Then, I traced around the mounts' base plates to give me a reference for their locations.


Before removing the flex mounts from the template for good, I used some tape to secure the adjustment nuts in place, so they wouldn't move during later steps.  This would help ensure that the engine was more or less correctly adjusted when installed.  Then, I placed the mounts on the foundations, following the traced outlines, and marked the bolt locations on each.

I center-punched each bolt location, keeping them in the centers of the slots to allow for side-to-side adjustment if needed, then drilled and tapped each hole for the 3/8" fasteners I'd use to secure the engine to the foundations.  Because these were blind holes, I used a series of three taps (taper, plug, and bottoming) to ensure that the threads extended all the way to the bottoms of the hole, so that the fasteners wouldn't bottom out on the threads.  I used a hand tap handle to give me better control.


During an earlier test fit of the plywood panels that I was securing around the engine room perimeter, to cover the insulation and give me a place to hang various equipment, I'd discovered that the mounting studs didn't penetrate as far through the panel as I wanted, meaning that the nuts wouldn't thread completely on.  So on each of the three panels, I milled a recessed area at each fastener location so that the washer and nut could extend a little deeper.  Then, I installed the forward and starboard panels, and the port panel temporarily, as I'd need t remove it for a couple of the installations required there.


I'd lift the engine into its final position in two stages, since I didn't have enough overhead clearance to raise the engine above the pilothouse and its large overhead hatch:  first from the shop floor to the cockpit, then, after repositioning the hoist, from the cockpit into the engine room.

To make the transition between the cockpit and interior, with the pilothouse door sill well above the surfaces on each side, I built a simple plywood platform that spanned between the pilothouse and cockpit.  I'd rest the engine on this platform as I switched the hoist from one side to the other.


I set up my gantry crane and chain hoist, and lifted the engine off its shipping crate so I could install the four flex mounts.  Then, I raised the engine into the cockpit and onto the door platform, which I'd covered with some sheets.



I moved the hoist so it extended through the pilothouse hatch, then reconnected it to the engine and pulled the engine the rest of the way into the pilothouse.  after removing the pilothouse sole and supports, I lowered the engine into place on the foundations, lining it up with the predrilled holes.  With a little pushing and shoving, and straightening the mounts as needed, I secured bolts in all of the foundation holes, then removed the hoist.

The engine was a great fit in the boat, with plenty of room on all sides and excellent access to everything.  What a pleasure to have such an expansive engine room (though additional installations would shrink it over time).




As many times as I have put engines in boats, the anticipation and thrill of having the engine end up in the proper position, and aligned with the shaft, never gets old.  Despite my careful layout process, I never take for granted that the engine will fit as anticipated, so when it does, I continue to be somehow amazed; it's a palpable thrill.

With the engine loosely secured to the foundations, I peeked in from the outside of the stern tube.  If I'd done my templating, new foundations, and layout right, I should see the center of the transmission coupling more or less centered in the tube:  it was.  This meant that the engine was generally in the right position, though final adjustments would have to be made once it was time to install the propeller shaft.

To ensure prime real estate on the adjacent bulkhead panel, I went ahead and installed the remote oil filter housing right away, choosing a location near the engine more or less dictated by the stiff hoses and the angles at which they needed to attach to the engine end of the system.  Later, I'd secure the hoses against movement and chafe.

On the starboard panel, I installed the duel Racor fuel filter setup, which location and bolts I'd laid out long ago.  This filter system allows on-the-fly filter switching between two identical filters, allowing one to always have a clean filter ready to go.  To make maintenance on the filters easier, I replaced the standard drain plugs beneath the bowls with small valves.


Total Time Today:  6.75 hours

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