It is with surprising frequency that a chance series of events has led to an unexpectedly favorable outcome on this trip. It was on a whim that I decided to inspect my water pump last week, for instance, and that one small decision resulted in more positive developments than I ever would have guessed when I first started to loosen the screws that hold down the engine cover.
I originally intended to change the oil in the engine on that day, but after I opened the cockpit floor and peered into the oily pool of water that had accumulated beneath the engine in the drip pan I changed my mind and decided to begin the day by emptying and cleaning the drip pan. That task accomplished with the aid of a drill-powered pump I began to realize that it really was finally time to address the leaky engine cooling water pump that had caused the buildup of water in the first place. I had known about and been ignoring the leak ever since October back on Lake Sinclair. It only leaked when the engine was running, so it wasn’t a big deal, but it is a real pain to pump out and clean the engine drip pan due to the limited access. The engine also leaks oil from everywhere (I look at it as a corrosion protection “feature”), and that oil is much easier to clean up if it isn’t floating around on a pool of water.
I removed the pump from the engine, a task that necessitated the removal of the secondary fuel filter mount for access to the fasteners that hold the pump to the engine due to the tight clearance between the engine and the hull. The entire removal process took almost three hours even though detaching the pump itself really only required removal of two bolts and two hoses. Tight quarters slowed the work considerably, though now I know the process and could do it again in an hour–still longer than I would like if I ever had to repair the pump under emergency conditions.
Once the pump was out and the cover removed I could see that it was a good thing that I had finally undertaken this project because I discovered the broken vane that can be seen in the first picture in this post. The pump was very close to total failure! Luckily I caught it before it lost any pieces, as broken pieces from the failed vane would have caused quick failure of the remaining vanes as they were pushed around inside the pump. They eventually would have broken into pieces small enough to pass into the engine where they could have become lodged in the cooling passages and caused further cooling problems.
I completely cleaned and rebuilt the pump, replacing the leaky shaft seals that had been the original source of concern, and also the defective impeller. That impeller was supposed to have been new when I bought the boat. The previous owner told me that he had asked a mechanic to replace it. I find it hard to believe that a new impeller only lasted 150 hours! Anyway, now I know for sure that all of the important parts of that pump are new and I will sail from here with some additional peace of mind.
So, my impulse decision to look into something that wasn’t really on the agenda for that day possibly saved me from some future disaster. That pump could have failed while I was approaching a bridge with a strong tail current, or when I was trying to leave a harbor with the wind setting me onto a deadly breakwater… I can let my imagination run wild on that one. Maybe an even happier development was the friendly group of people that I met when I took the boat out to test the repairs, but that is a whole other story!