Seacock Problem

We had a wonderful four days in Ubud, Bali at a nice hotel at very reasonable prices. I will be writing about that later and sharing photos of our tour up there in the mountains amongst the many hindu temples, rice paddies, volcano, and watching the traditional balinese dances. Beautiful scenery, and wonderful experiences!

Last night, back at the boat, something happened that ruined my day though. Just before we left to the hotel on the weekend, I completed a scheduled maintenance on the generator. It was particularly difficult this time because a couple of items requiring replacement were in very awkward positions and it was over 100 degrees in the compartment. But, I tested it afterwards and all was good.

We got back late in the afternoon and the boat was very hot inside. We can only run one air conditioner (A/C) off the shore power, so I fired up the generator to give the generator a good run. It worked flawlessly and the two A/Cs cooled off the boat quickly. Afterwards I turned back to shorepower and let the generator cool down a bit. A few minutes later, the generator shut down on its own. This is usually a raw water problem, and sure enough the control panel indicated that was the problem. I went out and checked our raw water intake filter catch, and sure enough there was a straw, trash, and a plastic bag in the filter. There’s a lot of trash in the water around the marina.

I cleaned the trash out, but needed to prime the system with some water before restarting the generator to let it cool down. This is easy, you shut off the seacock and fill the filter catch with a small bucket of water, and re-open the seacock. Except, when I went to shut off the seacock it didn’t turn all the way, possibly more trash stuck in the valve. When I tried to turn the handle, the handle snapped off! Not good. Now the seacock is partially closed and I can’t re-open it. Unless we can repair this we can’t run the generator. So far, no attempts to get the seacock valve to turn have worked.

This problem is not a show stopper – since we will likely be running the engine motors a great deal across the equator on our way to Singapore. Not much wind in that area. The engines and solar panels can keep our batteries charged. However, the other problem up there is that reports from boats ahead of us indicated it is extremely hot up there, especially at night. We rarely use our A/C, but this would be a perfect time for it. Which is why I made sure to do maintenance on the generator the other day!

For some reason, our boat manufacturer chose to install stainless steel sea cocks. These are not the best choice because the metal can corrode in crevices – like the handle/valve bolts. I had noticed some of this corrosion and planned to change out the thru-hulls in our haul-out later this year. A better choice is bronze which is a nobler metal and less likely to corrode or be sacrificed since the seacocks are not bonded. Of course, the seacock handle had to break just a few weeks before we planned to haul out and replace them!

Anyway, this kind of thing happens from time to time. You are about to depart on a big passage, you do all the right things to prepare maintenance-wise, and then something unexpected happens. Cruising boats have complex systems, and we live in a harsh, corrosive, environment. It’s a boat, in the ocean, we learn to live with it.

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One Response to Seacock Problem

  1. Kerry Mettert says:

    I have heard that stainless is not always the best metal to use on a boat because of the harsh corrosive environment. It looks nice and all but it can become very brittle. Has that been your ecperience?

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