Engine TLC
in Bundaberg

Cruising the Coral Coast has been suspended for the next week as we repair a small leak in our oil high pressure line.

We fist noticed the fault just after we crossed the Wide Bay Bar and immediately ordered parts from the engine manufacturer to be sent to Bundaberg. When we arrived, the parts were already here, and we set about removing the faulty bits ready for the new.

On a boat everything takes three times as long, and nothing ever goes to plan. It's just the way of things.

Boat engines are notoriously hard to get at. Ours is no exception to the rule.

Our engine bay is very tight and the physical dexterity of a 13 year old gymnast would be of great advantage. At 49 I've sadly lost those abilities (not that I was ever a gymnast) and so squeezing into the engine bay makes for a cramping experience.

The oil leak is coming from a corroded banjo bolt and pipe which is located directly below the raw salt water pump. In line with the banjo bolt is the engine mount. So to get to the leaking bit, we need to remove the leg off the engine and then remove mount from the hull to make room for a socket wrench. Not surprisingly these bolts are tight. Really tight. We'll need to use a bully bar to get enough leverage to move them.

And so it begins. Getting the engine mount off required propping up the engine with blocks of wood. After 20 minutes of playing "tetris" with many bits of wood, we were happy. Off came the leg without too much problem. But the mount itself had salt-water welded itself to the bolts in the hull. It took another 25 minutes of trying to get a screwdriver under it to prise it up without damaging the mount. Eventually, success.

To get to the oil pipes under the oil cooler, it was becoming clear we'd need to remove the entire oil pressure/cooler assembly. We went to work, disconnecting salt water pipes and undoing incredibly tight bolts. The assembly came away and on inspection we decided we needed more parts than we'd previously ordered to do a thorough job of it and hopefully not need to revisit this engine part for the next 20 years.

The leaking oil cooler pipes on First Contact's engine.

So we have ordered more parts taking the total parts bill to just under $1000. We have bought 7 nights in the marina as our engine is in bits. Today (Thursday 31/5) is a public holiday in Bundaberg for their annual show day, so nothing is open and the buses are not running. The shops are 18km away. So on Friday we will catch the bus into town as we need to go to Bunnings and buy bigger spanners to release the pipes from the oil cooler, because, of course, they are a different size to the bolts that fit onto the engine block of the pipe!

But that's the way of boats, isn't it? Oh well, I can keep working on my cruising guide Townsville to TI (Thursday Island). Check it out. It might be just what you are looking for if you are heading north this season.