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Boat Projects, Cypress Island, and Night 550

We spent a few days in Anacortes doing some boat projects and general things like cleaning and reorganizing cupboards (which included ditching stuff we aren’t using…good to do this when you spend a lot of time in a small space). It’s so easy to keep adding more things to the boat (or the Airstream) that you think you’ll use, or you use once and then forget about. It’s nice to periodically take stock of what you don’t need and remove it, opening up space to do it again and again, many more times.

Anyway, on Friday late afternoon after re-plumbing the way the engine coolant routes through the hot water heater (more on that below), we decided to head over to Eagle Harbor on Cypress Island for the night. It was late in the day but we calculated we’d arrive not long after sunset (still light enough to avoid crab traps).

Great day to be on the water…glad we made it out!

We grabbed a mooring ball and spent a nice night gently rocking. This was our 550th night aboard Airship since the end of September 2014. I’d say we’re getting some use out of our boat, wouldn’t you? 🙂

Yesterday morning was gray and drizzly, and after a bit of work and some breakfast, we took the long way back to Cap Sante by heading north around Sinclair Island and then on the east side of Guemes.

Up ahead what looked like a long log turned out to be a tight group of cormorants. I’ve never seen this many this close together floating around in a group like this.

Cloud-makers (okay, not really) in Padilla Bay:

Okay, now here’s all about what we did with the coolant plumbing!

Our boat came from the factory (we’re assuming for safety/liability reasons) with a regulator that bypassed the engine coolant from flowing through the water heater if the temperature was greater than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. We think the intention was to prevent the water from getting heated to over 120 degrees, but the result seemed to be that as soon as the engine warmed up to normal operating temperature (around 189-190 degrees F), this stopped any coolant from flowing through the water heater at all. So, we could run the boat for 4 or 5 hours and arrive at our destination with the water in the hot water tank still cold. Furthermore, when our coolant system was pressuring up, we were getting some coolant leaks around the fittings of this regulator. So we decided that we could be careful not to scald ourselves with possibly too-hot hot water and we took the regulator out of the loop. We routed the heater hoses directly through the water heater (actually the way the water heater is designed to be used.) Now, after cruising for a couple of hours, we arrive at our destination with 140 degree water.

Additionally, we had noticed that our coolant overflow reservoir was neither increasing or decreasing, meaning there was no flow (overflow) between it and the engine, and we suspected we might have a bad pressure cap. The pressure cap is supposed to open up when the coolant expands, letting excess coolant into the overflow tank. Then when the engine cools off, coolant goes the other way, back into the cooling system. We went to replace the cap and discovered that it was a ridiculously high 145 kPa (kilopascals…about 21 psi/pounds per square inch). We decided to try a lower pressure pressure cap because in our installation we don’t ever put that heavy a heat load on the engine, and the reason for having a higher pressure cap would be to let the cooling system tolerate a higher heat load. Anyway, now the coolant is going back and forth between the engine and the overflow reservoir as it should, there are no more leaks, and we have hot water that we make while underway. Win-win! (Also, Kevin went a little OCD in the engine room with the zip ties while I got in there with the Dyson and some wet paper towels and the engine room is SO. SHINY. I should have taken a photo for you.)


  1. Raggedy Anne Raggedy Anne

    Dan would like to know if you have or installed shut off valves to the coolant lines going to and from the water tank. So if you have a leak, you can isolate it and not drain all of your engine coolant out. Seems like a good idea to him, but wanted to get your take on it.

    • We have not. Further complicating things, the heater hose loop starts at the engine, goes through the hydronic heater under the stairs, then loops back and goes through the water heater and then back to the engine. So, one big loop of heater hose through both the hydronic heater and the water heater. But we do have two pairs of vice grips handy that we could use to crimp the hose in an emergency and have the same effect.

  2. Kevin McLaughlin Kevin McLaughlin

    How is it that the factory (assumedly) botches the hot water heater loop? Or did someone install the Red Dot salon heater afterwards and flub it? Add that to your shaft seal saga! Keeps you on your toes, or tenterhooks, whatever the case may be. I hope you have finally turned the corner on all the teething problems! Here’s to hot showers after a short cruise!

  3. GMertl GMertl

    That’s the way to troubleshoot and fix a problem (well, two problems). Hooray for you guys! Haulout time here, looks like a two week project this time.

    • Thanks Gary! What’s the project this time?

      • GMertl GMertl

        Outside of a normal bottom paint job… A previous owner had installed a bow thruster but didn’t add any water flow deflector so the back edge of the tube presents a flat spot to the water on either side causing drag. It became quite apparent last summer while I was cruising with a friend who has the exact same boat. I had to do about 400 rpm more than him to maintain the same speed. Should be an easy fix, just some fiberglass work that needs time.

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