It’s a Sailboat, Sail It

30 Jul

All right, it’s been two days—where do I start?

Well I don’t really know. After a few hours, reading e-mail, talking to friends, I came to a conclusion: the head gasket is blown and the cause of the overheating that caused it was the Bar’s Head Gasket Repair that I used when I originally thought the head gasket was blown. I think what happened is that when I dumped the can of Bar’s in it jammed up the thermostat or at least restricted the flow. I’m guessing this because the temp just went straight up—it overheated at idle in under fifteen minutes. And actually I probably shouldn’t say it overheated because I was watching the temp gauge and shut it down before it hit 200 degrees—more accurately it was on it’s way to overheating, and when I opened up the expansion tank it was bone dry.

Okay, anyway, so I’ve got a blown head gasket. Not the end of the world. It’s only a gasket after all. Problem is that this was not in “the plan” for the summer. We’ve got a house rented in Mazatlan—a house in which Ali, the kids, and I are supposed to meet at next Monday. A house we can live in while the boat is torn apart or on the hard this summer.

So with that the question became, “How do I get the boat down there?” And eventually it dawned on me—it’s a sailboat, I can sail it down there. Right? It’s only 360 miles. I’m pretty sure this tank can cover 360 miles in a week.

Okay, so I can sail it, but I still need to be able to get out of the marina. And I’d like to know that I can count on it in an emergency, or for getting me into the marina once I reach Mazatlan. So instead of replacing the head gasket (which is a pretty major job requiring the removal of roughly half of the engine piece by piece, including all of the really important bits) I’ll just try and jury rig it. Not with bailing wire, but with more of that Bar’s crap that I think caused—or at least contributed—to the problem in the first place.

Here’s what I did yesterday and today. First I removed the expansion tank to get at the thermostat. I boiled a pot of water and dropped the thermostat in it. It slowly opened, just like it is designed to do. I took it out of the water and it closed back up. Okay, so the thermostat is working.

But instead of putting the thermostat back in, I left it out, and put the expansion tank back on. Wha? Well the thinking is that without the thermostat in the engine will run cooler. A lot cooler. And cooler means less pressure. Or at least I think it does. And less pressure could mean less leakage through the head gasket. Fingers crossed.

Before you start typing up that e-mail telling me why this is a bad idea, remember that the idea is for me to be able to run the engine for maybe an hour at a time, just a couple of times on this trip south.

With that out I ran a radiator flush through the system and then did something crazy. I tried some more Bar’s Head Gasket Repair. A different one—but still.

It’s too early to tell if that worked because I decided against testing it out. Why? Because I’m tired of changing the oil, and right now there is fresh oil in the engine. I skipped a few steps in the above explanation, but let’s just say that in the last two days I’ve changed the oil four times. Four milky white times. Big deal right? Well, my engine takes two gallons of oil. At twenty-five bucks a gallon that comes out to two-hundred dollars in oil changes. And I’m planning on bringing enough oil along for another four oil changes en route. If the Bar’s hasn’t blocked up the blown head gasket then I’ll basically need to change the oil every one to two hours that the engine is run. Fun. I don’t even want to add up what this nonsense has cost.

Anyway, now that I’ve done everything I can think to do short of actually repairing the problem, I’m kind of excited about the trip ahead. The other night when this happened I actually thought for a while about just continuing on, but decided instead to see what I could do about fixing it. Turns out I can’t do much, so I’ll just continue on.

The weather looks good for the next week. Some light head winds here and there, but for a good part of the time it looks like I could have 10-15 knots on the beam. The boat will hum along nicely in those conditions, because hey, it’s a sailboat dammit.

Note: I did buy a new thermostat anyway and have that aboard. Should this little trick not work I’ll drop it in.

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Ouest has been getting a little homesick lately. She’s missing Bumfuzzle. She told Ali today that she likes Grammy’s house but it doesn’t go to new places like Bumfuzzle. Then tonight while Ali was singing Twinkle Twinkle to her in bed Ouest said that she wants to go on a hike when we get to Mexico… in the rain… with her new umbrella.


Should have just bought an RV.

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  1. Harold Norris

    Step # 1 Purchase towing insurance. I had similar problems with my “new to me” sailboat (no thermostat) and clogged water lines and heat exchanger.

    Step # 2 Whenever you run into problem use the insurance to get to the nearest port where you can either get help or fix the problem yourself.

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