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Inside IYRS Blog

Learn what it’s like to spend a day in the life of a student.

Mar 28

Written by: Tom
3/28/2012 10:29 AM 

Systems report by Beth

Last week we started playing with engines. For some of my classmates, this is the part of the course they have been waiting for. There is nothing like the sound of a diesel engine.

You may recall that our “boats” are hulls suspended about six feet off the ground. Getting the engines into the hulls took teamwork, patience, and some stout chain.

For my team’s boat, the first step was getting out the sawzall to cut out the center opening, which had been boarded up by a previous class.

Oh, no! it’s too low to get in, and the forklift is as high as it will go…

A few minutes later, after shortening the chain a bit, we got it in:

Another engine goes in:

and another:

Once the engines were in, we attached the wiring harnesses we’d made while the other engines were being installed. We also ran the exhaust line out the transom. That hose is big and has to be muscled into place.

Unlike a car’s engine, which uses airflow to cool the coolant in the radiator, a marine diesel engine needs an outside source of water to cool the internal cooling system. The “raw water” and antifreeze solution circulate around each other in separate channels in a heat exchanger. The raw water absorbs heat from the engine coolant, keeping the engine from overheating. We have a custom homebrew water system with a pump and a hose to feed raw water to the intake (normally fed by a thruhull and seacock) and a collapsible 3” hose that attaches to the exhaust tube at the stern. The feed hose gets its water from a 55 gallon tank and the exhaust hose empties back into that tank. At the top of the tank is an exhaust fan with flexible ducting (used in home heating/ac systems) that we lead out to an exterior door and outside. Boat exhaust is a mix of water and gases. If you don’t hold that exhaust hose firmly, you can get wet. Let’s just say I have some personal experience here. I really should work on developing a longer attention span. Here’s a picture of the system in action:

We got all the engines in our hulls running, plus some others that are out on the floor. We have a broad assortment of engines. I think the Museum of Yachting could put on a great exhibit of “sailboat auxiliary engines of the past 40 years” using our inventory. There’s a sister engine to the Westerbeke 30 I totally abused throughout the Caribbean back in the early 1990s, and even an Atomic 4 gas engine. We also have some nice practically brand new Yanmars, and a high-end Cummins that I don’t think any of us will get to put a wrench on.

Most of our engines were donated after somebody repowered. They are old and have some issues. This is giving us a lot of troubleshooting experience. In my hull, we have a Perkins 4-154 made in 1979. If I could be confident of getting parts, I’d take that engine cruising anytime. If you have ever doubted the durability of a diesel, you should see what we have running in our shop right now.


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