The maiden voyage!

It finally happened, the Seadog made here first real maiden voyage!
And the weather gods were certainly working in our favour on this most auspicious day. The moment we left the harbour the sun started shining and kept it up the rest of the day, even though the weather forecasts were pretty bad.

The engine was still running a little hot, but after lying at anchor for an hour and flushing the engine cooling chambers one last time with some more cleaner all seemed OK.
We then changed our course to the nearest island and the engine seemed to perform superb.
Even when running the engine at very low RPM, Seadog slices trough the water like a knife through butter, with considerable speed.
Don’t believe me? Check out the video clip below.
The next projects will include installing solar panels, battery banks, an inverter and building a custom fridge, so longer voyages are possible without losing all those luxuries.

Seadog sets sail for the first time (or doesn’t?)

Good day everyone,
This month it finally happened (well, sort of). Seadog was ready to go for her first sail (engine only) in five years. To bad January is one of the coldest months in the Netherlands, which meant we didn’t get to far. Actually we didn’t even get out of the harbour, because the water at the entrance of the harbour was frozen solid! We did go around the harbour a few times and were able to top off the water tanks and take some video’s and pictures while on the move, so check those out below. The days after these pictures were taken the entire harbour was frozen solid and Seadog was (and still is) laying in solid ice. So, right now she is not going anywhere. The weather forecast for February is well above 0 Celsius though, so in a few weeks the real “maiden voyage” will be a reality.

Finally a running engine!

After the new diesel tank was installed, there was still a lot of work to be done before the engine could be started (for the first time in more than 5 years). First the electrical system was checked, and properly installed again. Some of the gauges where not functioning correctly (plus had a lot of moisture inside) and also the lighting on the dashboard was renewed. I had two identical dashboard which I combined into one that was functioning correctly. I also added two new gauges to the engine dashboard. One battery volt gauge and an hour counter gauge to automatically count the running hours of the engine.

Then came the throttle, which was totally stuck and unusable. With some help of my father and a lot of patience we managed to dismantle the throttle for cleaning. Both the throttle and all of the electric system was now working correctly and the engine could be started for the first time.
All did not go O.K. the first try though, but after some effort with the manual diesel pump and venting of the diesel supply the engine did start and kept on going. But again, all was not well.. One of the cylinders was getting way to hot. Finding and fixing that problem took more than a few weeks, but it was also solved eventually.

We took the exhaust manifold off and on a few time checked the cooling chambers, tested the thermostat, and checked the internet for all sorts of solutions. Turns out that even though we thought we cleaned all the cooling chambers correctly, somewhere there was still some debris stuck that was blocking the cooling water from flowing through. The solution that finally fixed this problem, was to use a very strong chemical (hydrochloric acid) and run that through the cooling system, let it sit for 30 minutes and pomp it out again.
Sadly, then there was another problem. If the engine was running more than 20-30 minutes it started to run unevenly and would eventually stop running altogether. We did notice that one of the fuel injectors was leaking bits of diesel, so eventually concluded that this should be the cause of the problem. After disassembling the fuel injector from the engine we took it to a local company that could clean and check the injectors. Actually we already brought both of the fuel injectors to them a few month ago and they totally refurbished them. But somehow this one was not working properly. Luckily they found the problem and fixed it free of charge (and even provided some new sealing rings etc.). And yes! Now the engine was finally working!
And for those who don’t believe it here is a small video clip of one of the first times then engine was running ;-).

A new diesel tank

Now that the engine is fully refurbish it was time to check out the diesel tank.
The Seadog still had the original steel tank from 1974 which turned out to be in a really bad shape.

Old tank corrosion
Old tank corrosion

The tank had two inspection holes on the top to check out the inside, so at first we inspected the tank through those holes. Strangely enough the tank was filled to the top with diesel, which appeared to have come out of nowhere. Two years ago the tank was completely empty and no extra diesel was added since then. The only way that diesel could have gotten inside the tank was through the overflow pipe of the diesel heater, which is connected to the diesel tank of the engine. Which means the regulator of diesel heater is malfunctioning.
After pumping out nearly 160 liters of diesel it was clear that the diesel inside the tank was contaminated. The diesel was more murky and darker than usual, plus there was a lot of sludge left after draining the tank, which indicates diesel bacteria. Now that the tank was empty we could lift it out of the floor and take it outside for further inspection. After cleaning the tank from the inside and the outside it became clear how badly corroded the steel was. When cleaning the outside to the tank with a vacuum cleaner for a second time the suction even broke a hole inside the bottom of the tank. In one way I was very lucky the tank did not leak all of it’s 160 liters of diesel inside of the boat, but the sad part is of course the tank was beginning to look beyond repair. It would have been a lot of work to repair and clean this tank. And even if it was fully restored it still would have been a steel tank (not stainless steel), which would eventually start to have the same issues all over again.
So the decision was made to get a new diesel tank. One problem though, I could not buy a regular tank from a marine shop. The tank needed to have a custom shape in the form of the hull of the Seadog. After some research I also decided not to go for a stainless steel tank, but a special kind of plastic tank. These plastic tanks seem to have some superior characteristics over their steel counterparts. For one, there is less change of diesel bacteria forming, because the plastic parts have less change of forming condensation inside the tank. There are a few companies in The Netherlands that can build these custom diesel tanks for marine purposes, and after shopping around I found a company in Koudekerk aan de Rijn which came with the best offer. The company is named Liquid Storage ( and they make all kinds of storage tanks. There service was impeccable and I can really recommend them to anyone who needs new tanks aboard their ship (also for drinking and wastewater tanks).
We brought the old thank to this company where they used it as a mold to create the new one.
The new (and old) tank
The new (and old) tank

While waiting on the new diesel tank I cleaned the bilge underneath the floor where the tank used to be. While cleaning there I found out there was a lot of wasted space besides the diesel tank that was unacceptable before (with the tank in its place). When living aboard even a little extra storage space is always welcome. To make this space accessible I needed to saw the floor up into pieces to create hatches and add some bulkheads to divide the space up. After that was done I painted the bilge and the new storage spaces with two layers of bilge paint.
Painting bilge
Painting bilge

Because there was some more time before the tank was finished we also painted the deck with special non-skid paint and mounted the windlass, plus the guard rail. The diesel heater has also gotten its own overflow tank (with its own gauge), so that the old contaminated diesel can be burned in the diesel heater this winter without any of that nasty stuff getting inside the new tank. The issue with the diesel heater regulator was also solved so it should not be overflowing anymore.
All the hoses to and from the tank (plus all the filters) where also replaced, so everything connected to the engine is now brand new.
And voila, new storage spaces, clean bilge, new overflow tank, new diesel tank, and a freshly painted deck.
With the guard rail back in place the Seadog is starting to look more and more like a real sailboat again. After more than 5 years inside the harbour, the first trip is almost becoming a reality.
The next step will be connecting all the wiring, hooking up the battery and if all goes well starting the engine for the first time.
Guard rail back in place
Guard rail back in place

A complete overhaul of the engine

In 2012 we started to take apart the engine in an attempt to do a complete overhaul. Most of the parts that could be disassembled were taken off and inspected. It was quickly apparent that most of the vital parts where severely damaged and needed to be replaced. The cylinders and gearbox had freeze damage which where visible by cracks at points in the cooling channels. Most likely those parts would need to be replaced so we kept the engine disassembled, storing the parts in the front of the boat until we had more time to proceed with the overhauling process.
All the work that was done in 2012 can be viewed here:
4 years have come and gone while the engine was lying around with it’s bits and pieces scattered around in the cabinets aboard. The main reason for all the delay was the fact that there where more urgent repairs needed, like rebuilding the main cabin and other issues regarding rotting away of wood which was causing leakage. Also some personal issues caused work on the boat to be stopped for quite a while.
But now that the whole upper side of the boat is finally finished it was once again time to start work on the engine. So in the beginning of July the engine was taken out of it’s spot and further inspection began. This was also a good excuse to clean the bilge (the part of the ship below the engine) and repaint it with a bright white color. This way one can easily see if the engine is leaking oil, or when water is coming into the bilge indicating other leakage.
We decided that if we where going to repair this engine, we were going to do it without any constraints. Meaning we where going to do a complete overhaul to make the whole engine truly as good as new. We had acquired an almost identical engine from which we could take the parts that needed to be replaced.
The definition of a completely overhauled engine is the following: “An overhauled engine is an engine which has been removed, disassembled (torn down), cleaned, inspected, repaired as necessary and tested using factory service manual approved procedures. The procedure generally involves honing, new piston rings, bearings, gaskets, oil seals.”
So that is exactly what we did, and then some!
Literally all the parts were disassembled, cleaned, repaired or replaced. Some of the work like honing the cylinders and restoring the cylinder heads we could not do ourselves, so those parts were brought away and were restored by professionals who had the specific tools needed for those tasks. Other parts were replaced by new (Volvo Penta) parts like the piston rings, fuel atomizer, engine rubbers, fuel filters, oil filters and of course all the gaskets, oil seals etc.
Getting the engine back in position was quite a challenge given he fact that the whole engine block was now back to it’s original size and weight (which is around 260 kilogram). With a 3 meter long heavy-duty steel construction beam, a manual hoist which could handle 1 ton of weight and some wooden blocks we created a support system to hoist the engine into place.
Now 3 months later (October, 2016) the engine is once again back where it belongs, in tip-top condition and ready to go for a spin.
We still have to do some minor work before we can take it for a test drive, like connecting up the diesel tank and hooking up the electrical systems etc. Also the diesel tank itself is very old and rusty and will likely need to be replaced. But more on those topics next time….