About Ms Bettencourt

Ms Bettencourt is a Swedish built 25-foot trailerable trawler. Her hull was completed in 1971, No. 1117 of about 2500 built. The boat is named for my wife Dia, whose maiden name is Bettencourt.

This little vessel came to me as a gift in 2004. Before then she had been abandoned about 12 years on the Savannah River near Augusta, GA. I have repaired and refitted the boat extensively, and I have cruised her along the East coast of the US, from Cape Lookout, NC, to the Florida Keys. I dream of taking her to Havana some day.

This blog started in 2011 to chronicle the building of a hard top for the boat to replace leaky canvas. Since then the blog has become an Albin-25 boatkeeping and cruising journal.

Monday, January 12, 2015

She runs!

Ms. Bettencourt's 1980-something marinized 3-cylinder Kubota power plant may not look like much, but when it has clean fuel without air it runs like a clock.

Such was the case this afternoon after I reassembled the fuel system and bled air from the on-engine fuel filter and the injection pump.

The last time this engine had been running was December 26, 2014. Despite having been sitting cold since that date, she turned over and started easily with only 15 seconds of glow plug help.

This close-up (below) presents an opportunity to point out a bit of marine engine historical trivia.

Take a look at the black label on the air intake tube. If you click the photo at right to enlarge the picture you may be able to read the legend:

Atomic Diesel

In spite of the label, this engine is beyond a doubt a 1985 or later Kubota D-1101 tractor motor. Kubota was using them in its L-245 DT tractor in the 1980s.

Universal was a very successful marine gasoline engine manufacturer that had sold about 40,000 of its Atomic-4 sailboat engines between 1947 and 1984. Then, suddenly, sailors and sailboat builders quit using gasoline engines. Small diesels had become more reliable and were much safer than gasoline engines in marine environments.

Universal needed a diesel product, so they bought a bunch of Kubota tractor motors, painted them gold and sold them as Universal Atomic Diesels. But, they didn't move fast enough. Universal lost market share to other engine firms and ultimately went out of business.

It is still possible to buy Universal labeled parts for these engines, but the smart money avoids the premium price on this stuff and buys most needed parts from the local Kubota dealer.

It is said that these engines, when well cared for, can go about 10,000 hours before needing a major overhaul. Ms. Bettencourt's engine has about 2,500 hours on it.

Newer marine diesels are lighter and quieter that this old piece of iron, but some would say they are more complicated and somewhat less reliable.

But, of course, all of this motor trivia begs the important questions: Have I or have I not found the elusive air leak in the old Kubota's fuel system?

Please stay tuned for test results to come.

UPDATE 1/14/15 Cold engine started easily and idled smoothly. Temps in the low 40sF.

UPDATE 1/16/15 Another easy start and smooth idle.

UPDATE 1/18/15 Started easily. Ran smoothly. Changed oil and oil filter. Declared victory. Awaiting arrival of Spring in full readiness condition.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Cold, cold, cold

Ms. Bettencourt is there, in the water on the other side of the gazebo, obscured by the fog. But I am not going down there. Too dank and chill.

So, what little boat work is being done is happening in the 70F shop, where I think I found the long elusive fuel system air leak (again).

I believe air could have been getting past the o-ring on the secondary fuel filter bleed valve. The take-out o-ring, shown in the clamp in the center of this photo, is the suspected culprit.

If you click the photo to enlarge, you will see the old o-ring is somewhat flattened and deformed, compared to a new o-ring shown in the foreground.

The bleed valve  is in the hex bolt on the top of the filter assembly, shown below on the bench, freshly painted and with a new o-ring installed.

The forecast is calling for warmer weather next week.

If that proves to be true, and if it doesn't rain, I'll go down the ramp to the boat and start putting Ms. Bettencourt's fuel system back together.

Assuming success with this repair, the next job on the list will be a routine oil and oil filter change.

At least I hope it's a routine oil change. Seemingly simple jobs have been having a tendency to turn into protracted dramas around here lately.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Diesel showers

A diesel engine won't run when air gets in its fuel system. I have been contending with the air problem in Ms. Bettencourt's 30-year-old Kubota 3-cylinder diesel for at least a couple of years. Every time I think I have the problem fixed, the fix has proven only temporary.

Only one thing appears to be sure about the air intrusion: It has to be happening some place between the tank and the fuel injection pump. So this time, I disassembled the whole system -- from tank to injection pump.

The first fault I found was not air related, but was a lucky discovery nevertheless. This bracket, bolted to the aft end of the engine, serves as a pivoting point for the throttle and shift cables, and as a mounting surface for the on-engine fuel filter. The filter body bolts into the two large holes in the foreground in this photo. A replaceable spin-on filter canister screws into the bottom of the filter body.

Anyway, if you click on the above photo it will enlarge and you should be able to see the pre-catastrophic crack in the rusty metal. This was a the lucky find. I will get this fixed and will clean up and paint the part before re-installing.

The next discovery was on the filter body itself (left). The mating surface between the filter body and the gasket on the spin-on filer canister was heavily corroded. I wire-brushed the mating surface corrosion, then polished the surface with steel wool. Once re-assembled with a new canister, this part of the puzzle should be air-tight.

And, while I have it all apart ...

... all the fuel lines and hose clamps will be replaced and I will do something about this strange fixture on the top end of the fuel withdrawal tube (shown here laying across the coil of fuel line hose).

Here's a closer look at this funny fitting. The pipe coming out of the solid-looking elbow has a substantially smaller inside diameter than the rest of the fuel system plumbing. It could be a fuel-flow choke point. It could be making the the suction side of the lift pump have to work harder. Perhaps this too could be a part of the air intrusion problem.

My plan is to cut this little tube off and bore, tap and thread this thing so it will accept a 5/16-inch barb fitting such as the barb shown in the assembly at the bottom of the photo above.

After that's done, I'll put the whole system back together and bleed the air out of everything.

That's when the diesel showers will happen. I have never failed to avoid liberal sprayings of bubbly diesel fuel when I bleed air from Ms. Bettencourt's fuel system.

After the bleeding, and probably before I clean my glasses and launder my shirt, I expect the old girl's power plant to start up easily.

Only time will tell if this will solve the air problem. Stay tuned to find out please.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Redundant, but useful

If you have an extra chartplotter, why not use it? Ms. Bettencourt has a perfectly good Garmin 546s plotter that has provided excellent service. It replaced a Garmin 192c  a few years ago only because the newer instrument offered a depth sounder function and a bunch of other desirable features.

The dashboard instrumentation was functional, but that big Humminbird fishfinder in the middle was old and sometime flakey.

It also bugged me a little that the 546s has a depth sounder feature that duplicated data from the fishfinder.

So I pulled the old fishfinder out yesterday and installed the Garmin 192c in its place.

This closeup (right) of the 546s shows that instrument's depth and subsurface structure display, with the boat parked at our dock.

And here, surprise, is the reason I think having two chartplotters in front of me is a good idea: It's not redundancy for backup safety.

It's because I can zoom one in for near and zoom the other out for far. One plotter can show me where I am in larger scale and the other can show me what's to come.

By the way, there's another layer of  GPS redundancy on the dashboard. The Standard Horizon VHF GX 1700 radio's channel selector display also shows course over ground, speed over ground and geographic coordinates.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Slow and steady...

The Beaufort to Charleston and return cruise was concluded last week, with Ms. Bettencourt splashed off the trailer and back into her home river without incident. The weather was perfect, though a bit lumpy going through the wide and shallow Coosaw River on the outbound leg. For the most part, it was sunny and not too warm.;

Charleston is a great destination. My friend Major and I took a water taxi across Charleston Harbor to the Patriots Point maritime museum. We toured the retired aircraft carrier Yorktown (left) and a World-War II submarine, among other exhibits.

Beaufort to Charleston is about 60 nautical miles by Intracoastal Waterway. Tides and currents can be rip-roaring. Our run from Beaufort to Charleston took Ms. Bettencourt about 11.5 hours. At one time, speed over the ground was reduced to less than 3 knots by a frothy opposing current in Elliott Cut, just south of Charleston Harbor. The return trip was a little faster -- 9.5 hours. The whole excursion required only a little more than 10 gallons of diesel fuel.

Charleston City Marina, on the Ashley River, was our base. Ms. Bettencourt was dwarfed and surrounded by high-dollar yachts.

Our end of this finger pier was in a sinking condition, but stable enough. At least they parked us close to the showers.

We felt pretty good about Ms. Bettercourt's teak brightwork, until we got a closer look at the sailboat parked behind us.

Overall, it was a nice trip. We got a lot of compliments on the boat, the machinery performed without fault and we had plenty of time to flesh out ideas for a couple of more cruises.

Ms. Bettencourt's next voyage will probably be up the St. Johns River from a point near Jacksonville, FL.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Packing for Charleston

My friend Major and I will haul Ms. Bettencourt tomorrow and trailer her over to his house for loading and final checks before departure. We plan to leave about 0900 Tuesday and to return Saturday.

Notable events since the last post include replacement of both 12V batteries, one of which was 8 years old and the other 7. They still worked, but why take chances?

I also replaced the push-button intermittent switches on the dash that control the engine glow plugs and the horn. And, since I was into the electrical panel, I also replaced skimpy 18 gage wiring in the glow plug circuit with 8 gage wire. That change has made a BIG difference. Before the re-wiring, a cold start might require 30 to 45 seconds of glow plug current. Now, I'm consistently getting strong starts in 15 seconds.

Did I mention the horn? Oh yes, I not only replaced the horn button and the wiring, but also the whole danged under-powered electric squeaker.

I found a neat single-trumpet air horn on Amazon for an irresistible price. It came with a little compressor that  fit nicely under the dash. It is now possible to hear Ms. Bettencourt a mile away.

So here's the plan for this cruise: We will trailer to Beaufort, SC, launch the boat at Lady's Island and spend the night in the Beaufort Downtown Marina.

At Ms. Bettencourt's 6-knot cruise speed, it's an 11-hour run up the ICW from Beaufort to Charleston. So we will be leaving Beaufort before sunup Wednesday, running a few hours in the dark so as to arrive in Charleston Harbor about dusk.

Major will conn the vessel while I start the 1000-watt Honda generator and fire up the microwave for coffee and a power breakfast.

Meanwhile, Ms. B is scrubbed down, fully fueled, ready to haul out and roll. The weather forecast appears to be promising. It should be a good trip.