You may recall that while in my remote island paradise in Namenalala Fiji last year, where I had those incredible life moments snorkeling, I also had a bit of a disaster in the engine room when all 3 gallons of oil in my main engine (6 cyl, 150HP Cummins) emptied into the bilge. Not good. After much head scratching and searching with mirrors and flashlights (very very tight quarters under the engine) I discovered that the bottom most part of the oil pan where the drain plug is located had rotted away and was like gauze and the oil slowly leaked out during the week I had been sitting at anchor. My best guess was that over the 23 years the engine has been in service the acid in the oil that never quite drains out when you change it had eaten away at the steel of the oil pan. The proper fix was to remove the oil pan, cut out the bad section and weld in new sheet metal. However removing the oil pan is not an easy task so I spent two days painstakingly cleaning and sanding the bottom of the pan where there is less than 1/2” 13mm of clearance between the bottom of the ban and the “floor” of the bilge. I had some good epoxy paste that I was able to mix up, spread on my fingers and feel around as I spread it into a thick coating on the bottom of the oil pan. It took three applications like this over three days to get it all sealed but it finally held and got me all the way to here in the Marshall Islands where I could remove the oil pan and do a proper repair.
Removing the oil pan turned out to be an even bigger job than I had thought as I needed to raise the engine about 8-10”/20cm in order for the oil pan to drop down far enough to clear the oil pickup tube and slide out. All well and good, but here is the short list of what I had to do to jack up the engine:
- Uncouple the propeller shaft from the flange on the shaft disk brake
- remove the shaft disc brake assembly
- uncouple the transmission from the shaft brake and prop shaft
- slide the prop shaft back 3” (the boat is still in the water during all this BTW)
- remove all four the motor mount studs and fasteners
- find & buy three “short” style hydraulic jacks and wrestle them into space under the engine and transmission
- remove interfering parts from the engine; hydraulic pump, fuel meter senders, starter, alternator, front safety screen and rear exhaust hose from mixer valve
- slowly pump each of the 3 jacks to raise the entire engine and transmission assembly and then block with wood supports.
NOW, I could remove all the oil pan bolts, you guessed it, 36 of them, pry the pan off the engine after likely having been on there for 24 years, wedge my hands inside the oil pan to reach the bolts holding on the oil pump pickup tube assembly and at last, slide the whole oil pan out from under the engine and then up onto the deck to assess the damage. Approximate elapsed time? 36 hours. And that is the beauty you see up on deck in the photograph at the very top of the posting and then the close up shots of the holes above.
All in day, or 3 or 30, days work out here in paradise and now you know what I do all day on the good ship Learnativity!
Oh, and of course I’ve only done the easy part of the oil pan repair job as I now have to cut out the rotted steel, fabricate some new sheet metal and a drain plug, weld it all into place and then put the oil pan back in and reverse all the steps above. But Oh, will it feel ever so much better to know that I now have motive power again here on the mooring where I’m only about 100 meters from shore!
This is also why I’ve not been getting much time for updates for you here but will do my best to get you some pictures and some updates in the next week or so.