The Zen of the Engine Room

Ahh, another successful getaway weekend to Astoria. We’re beginning to develop little habits that make us feel right at home there. We drive down on Saturday morning and work the rest of the day on Andromeda. On Sunday we walk down to the Three Cups coffee shop for a little Thundermuck coffee, some Wifi, and the local newspaper. They are getting used to seeing us there. While the baristas don’t exactly know our names yet, they refer to us as the couple who ‘bought John’s boat’ and say ‘see you next weekend’ when we leave. Soon they will have our order ready when we arrive. We’ll be ‘regulars’. I’ve always wanted to be a regular somewhere. After coffee we might do a little sight seeing before returning to the boat to work a few more hours, then driving home.

Next time there will be coffee on the boat. And I also bought this nifty bamboo cutting board to replace the one that was totaled by years of use. It stores several of these great flexible cutting surfaces. Starting to feel like home away from home!

Today we saw sights that made us feel right at home: Home Depot and Costco. At Home Depot Mike purchased new outlets and wiring, primer for the aluminum oil pan, and tiny paint rollers and pans for the day we actually get to paint that engine room. At Costco we purchased a new coffee maker for the boat because it looks like we’ll want one of these for all the time we are spending at the dock. We can’t spend all our time at Three Cups or we won’t get anything done, although after my first day doing the cleaning in the engine room that idea was starting to sound pretty good.

Yes, that’s right. Mike and I thought we’d mix it up a bit this weekend and divide the pink/blue jobs differently. I got to work in the engine room. Ok, so it’s true I was cleaning. Don’t burst my bubble. I got to touch the room! I got to BE in the room! All. Day. Long. And I didn’t fall into the bilge even once. (Because, hello! That would be completely disgusting!)

Ah, the meditation that is deep cleaning. I could probably use at least a week in this little space, such is the amount of sheer filth. As seen in the photo, all hoses run to this bilge.

After trying a number of cleaners, Krud Cutter saved the day and did the best job. Good thing I have a gallon of the stuff. One day in the engine room completely ruined all the scrub brushes I bought, and I will need to go to the restaurant supply to buy the ‘fun pack’ of green scrubbies for next time. On my wish list is a cleaner that I can spray on the deep walls of the bilge where I can’t reach. It would dissolve the grease and I could rinse it off and remove it with the shop vac. Know anything like that? Or how about some of that bacteria they use to help control oil spills. Can’t consumers buy some of that somewhere?

Still, I made a ton of progress and can sort of see the end of the project of cleaning, sanding, and painting. Today Mike couldn’t stand watching me in the engine room for one more minute, so he took off for Englund’s Marine Supply, right down the street, and bought a gallon of Bilgecoat. I think that should do it.

We got to check off two systems on the list this weekend, making us feel like we are slowly becoming knowledgeable about this boat. The propane system is up and running so we fired up the Force 10 and boiled our first pot of water. Luxury! We’re going to love this stove. It needs some maintenance: Only one of the automatic lighters works, and one of the knobs broke when Mike tried to turn it, but we think these are easy fixes and overall it’s in great condition and very clean inside and out.

Even better than home!

While Mike fiddled with the on switch for the propane, he discovered what turned out to be a great vent fan for the galley, just to the left of the stove. That thing could suck up a dishtowel, as Mike demonstrated by holding a dishtowel up to the thing. Apart from the occasional lost finger, due to the spinning metal thingy inside, this is going to be dead useful. We also have a hatch over the stove, which I think is a grand idea to keep heat and steam from staying on the boat.

This silver knob was one of many things we are still curious about on the boat. Pull it out and the vent fan turns on. Cool!

As we had a bit of a storm on Saturday night (read: wind literally howling, boat trying its best to sail away from the dock), the boat was getting cold so Mike checked out the diesel furnace. It works brilliantly! The boat was toasty warm. It’s like having a little fireplace on the boat, only better because I don’t get along with wood smoke. We are so glad this stove works perfectly. I know our readers in more southern climes can’t relate, but believe me when I say that this kind of heat makes the difference between a cozy boat and bone chilling cold and wet.

Pretty and functional, too.

Here’s what engine room progress looks like:

Not too bad considering the amount of grime I am up against.

And, for easy comparison:

I have to put this in here so I’ll know it’s worth all this effort. This bilge is seriously greasy. Seriously.

It’s hard to work around all the systems still in place, and next time Mike will get in there and remove more hoses. We want to be careful about removing things at this stage, as we still are learning what does what and why. The good news is that I determined that most of the engine room insulation is actually in pretty good condition, even if unsightly. The stuff that was disintegrating was a layer of foam insulation that had been added most recently, and only here and there. It literally turned to powder when I touched it so I was able to use the shop vac to remove it.  Mike is researching what else to put in, and we’ll likely find a product that is lightweight and flexible to go over the older stuff, just to make everything look brighter.

Since my forays into the man cave will take a few more trips, Mike is free to do things like work on a long range Wifi antennae for the boat. Once that is hooked up and working, three and four day weekends can’t be too far off. Then you’ll really see some progress!

A parting shot.


34 thoughts on “The Zen of the Engine Room

      • I used to drive tanker for Texaco and they make a product that you can spray on and it will disolve the grease and then hose it off. I would think that a truck wash place would have it. Sorry I don’t remember the name of the product (over 20 years ago). it worked really well for cleaning the diesel off as well as on the engines etc. It has been enjoyable following your adventure.
        Rob Morton

        • Thanks, Rob! Glad to have you following along. That’s just the kind of thing I am looking for. Perhaps an auto supply store? I see some stuff like that at Home Depot but don’t know how good it would be.

          • We just tried Purple Power so I’ll let you know. Oil is really a nightmare. Once it sprays off the you have the nightmare of getting the oily water properly disposed of. I’ve used diapers to soak it up with some success but nothing really great. And then the minute more water gets in the bilge, it’s mucky all over again. It’s been the least enjoyable part of boat ownership.

            • Thing is diapers will only soak up the grungy water. They won’t touch the oil. You have to get a product that is made especially to soak up the oil, usually called an oil sock, or bilge boom. Generally people just keep them in their bilges, at least we do. I plan to vacuum out all the muck at the bottom of this bilge and then dispose of it wherever I can dispose of oil in the Astoria area.

          • This was more of a commercial grade product. Have not see it at HD, Maybe a parts house would have it. Boy from the pics on the bilge thats pretty bad! I have enjoyed following your blog. I enjoy your style of writting too.

            • Many thanks, Rob. We’re very glad you enjoy reading our blog! The engine room is coming along. Crud cutter turned out to be my friend.

  1. A few years ago I had to replace the original leaking water tank in my 1964 Pearson Vanguard. The tank was in the bilge and had been built into the boat so I had to cut out a section of the cabin sole to remove it. I also had the engine out for replacement so had access like never before to the complete bilge and engine area. Every surface was covered with a layer of Vaseline-like grease (45 years of condensed engine blow-by I think) and I tried scrubbing it off with a number of heavy duty detergents but was mostly just moving it around. I went to Walmart and bought one of their $99 pressure washers and it worked like a charm. It cut down to the raw fiberglass in one slow pass, emulsifying the grease, and then I sucked it up with a shop vac. I also got a cheap plastic pump-up bug sprayer at Home Depot and put the liquid detergent in there and sprayed everything down before the first pass with the pressure washer and then again before the final pass over the once-cleaned surfaces. Then once dry, it was ready for the Bilgecoat. This would be perfect for you since you could spray all the irregular surfaces, hoses, pumps, etc. that are difficult to clean properly. I was concerned about spraying one of those things inside of the boat, thinking that it would shoot water everywhere but it didn’t. I just moved up to a Caliber 38 and the first thing I did was pressure wash all the bilges and engine room and even the engine. It’s a great tool and will save you lots of scrubbing. Good luck.

    • That sounds like something we should consider. I’ve been spraying on the cleaner, letting it sit, then using a scrubby pad, but I’m going through those pads like crazy and I can’t easily reach down much further than I already have. I am mostly concerned about getting anything wet that has to do with the electrical system, but I’m already using a hose in there, under pressure, so might not have anything to lose. I can always cover stuff with plastic bags and tape tightly. Thanks for the suggestion.

    • Hello Brandon and Virginia! Your boat is absolutely beautiful. I’m already enjoying the photos on the front page of your blog. We haven’t learned to dive yet, but we’d like to and those photos make me drool on my shirt just a little. I fear you are a bit ahead of us in terms of timing. Next summer we are more likely to be headed north to Vancouver Island, or inland on the Columbia, than heading south. We still have a couple of years before we can do the long cruise 🙁 But we’re glad to watch while you go ahead of us! Looking forward to reading more of your blog. Love that boat design! She will be fast as well as beautiful.

      • Thanks for checking out our blog. We enjoyed your comments. Diving and sailing are our two passions. Lucky they are so compatible. Hope we can get together some time.

        Brandon and Virginia
        SV Oceanus

  2. This is the enzymatic stuff you want:

    The ad is cheesy as all getout but the stuff works great at cutting grease, wax, and other hydrocarbons. You used to be able to buy it at Seattle-area grocery stores (the company is based in Mountlake Terrace) but I don’t know if that’s still the case.

        • yes, I saw that. I ordered some today from Amazon, so it should be here in plenty of time for the weekend. Thanks for the recommendation!

          • Please let us know how it works. FYI, I use the solid/gel version. For tough jobs like this one I’d get a stiff nylon bristle brush, dip it in warm water, and scrape up some of the full strength gel on the brush before scrubbing the offending surface. Let it sit for ten minutes or so, give it another light scrubbing, wait again, and then wash it off with water. YMMV but with the exception of rust stains, I’ve yet to find an organic contaminant that it won’t help with.

            BTW, I’ve got no affiliation with the company, etc., etc.

  3. You said that you got wire at Home Depot? I don’t think they carry any marine grade cable. Also you need to use stranded cable to avoid work hardening, Romex should not be on a boat. Hope I misread that.

    Congratulations on the propane system!

    I like that steam cleaning option. I didn’t use it. I went the heavy chemical route. I started with warm/hot soapy water, a long handle stiff bristle brush (added an extension to the handle). Then when that didn’t work, to that mix I added bilge cleaner, then, foaming engine degreaser, engine degreaser. I used the brush to rinse that mix up higher in the bilge. Reused the dirty water a lot so as not to generate too much waste. Sucked it out with a shop vac into a 5 gallon bucket not the shop vac container. (Just added another hose to the bucket, so the muck stopped in it and the air went to the vac.) Then a wipe with either acetone or denatured alcohol. I can’t remember, it may have been both. I may have been a bit high on fumes. Probably lucky I didn’t blow up too. It did work really well. The foaming degreaser took a lot of the elbow grease out of the project. Took the 5 gallon buckets of goo to the local hazmat drop off for proper disposal. Then nice clean white bilges. You will love it! I would give the steamer thing a try first.

    PS: As bad as your bilge looks mine was worse! A basket ball size pile of solid junk, besides all the toxic liquid from above cleaning.

    • You didn’t read it wrong, but I did write it wrong, or something like that 🙂 Mike didn’t get wiring at HD, apparently. That was from the marine store down the road. I can’t keep track of the purchases already! Don’t worry, he’s an electrical guy, so he knows better.

      I like your idea of bypassing the shopvac. I haven’t started vacuuming the muck at the bottom of the bilge yet, but it’s greasy and nasty. I’ve pulled a couple of things out of it and they are dripping oil. Probably I should deal with that before going any further. I’ll run your idea past Mike.

      • For the shop vac I modified a 5 gal bucket lid with a spare shop vac hose permanently attached, and an adapter so that the regular shop vac hose could attach to it. Then I just have to move the lid to a new bucket when it is full. Nearly everything drops out in the bucket.

        Just remember the shop vac is not a ignition protected device.

    • Andy,

      Good catch on the wiring. The wiring in the boat is generally pretty good but the outlets are old and you know how loose they can get. I bought new 20 AMP outlets plus a GFCI (which the boat lacks). to replace all of the outlets.

      The surveyor did find some romex on the boat which I plan to replace with 12/3 ancor wire once I find it. I also have to replace the main breaker. Lots to do.

  4. That’s a pretty snazzy little diesel heater. And don’t think that those of us to the south can’t identify. Summer’s definitely over and winter is here in La Paz. I swear it didn’t get much above 83 today and it’s a chilly 63 right now (11 PM). I might actually have to pull a sheet over me tonight to stay warm. Or, I guess I could just close the companionway hatch. Either way. Anyhow, happy to see things are progressing.

    Wish I had a dollar for every dollar I spent at Englund Marine in Newport.

    • 63 degrees, WOW, Poor You! Stay warm, Steve! Maybe an extra Cerveza or two would help. 🙂 Yes, Englund Marine is far to convenient for us. It’s basically walking distance from the dock. Wish they had a ‘new boater’ discount.

  5. Hey! Wow, so much progress already. I got excited everytime you found something new and awesome that works already! It’s like your a waking up a sleeping beauty who is revealing her past life to you. Our boat was so jacked up from the start electrically that instead of feeling excitement when some worked, we were worried about electrical fires since nothing turned on in any kind of logical way. That has since changed and I love our boat.

    I really like the vent in the galley and the HEATER. A diesel heater at that. That is soo, so sweet. I’ve been in the cold on a boat and it ain’t fun.

    Great work on that bilge…I was also the one to clean ours, mainly because i’m detail oriented by also could get in the bilge, where Tate could not. The whole time my thoughts were like: “Ew Ew ew ew, oh man this is gross, just a little more, I don’t ever want to have to do this again. AHH I touched it, ew I wonder if it causes cancer, gross, gross, what the hell is that?! Where is the bilgekote? We need to get done with this.”

    The boat afterwards smelled a million times better after all that grease and grime was gone. I’m sure know, but if you don’t that bilgekote can produce fumes that may be flammable, so be careful with the heater and ventilate well! Also it’ll stink for a month or more, but then, I promise, it’ll stop smelling like anything. In the colder temps you’ll also probably need to wait at least a full day in between painting to let the epoxy fully set up. I know the bilgekote also has a min working temp, but you folks are smart and i’m sure know that already.

    Can’t wait to see the progress, already things are so much brighter.

    • So funny you thought of the sleeping beauty reference. I have felt as though this boat is ‘sleeping’ somehow. I’m not sure exactly why because she isn’t nearly the project boat that we thought we’d have to get. Still, she feels asleep to me. Probably I will feel like she is waking up once we get her out on the water.

  6. Sorry, I should also mention that someone told us a story about a guy painting with fume heavy paints who blew himself by turning on a shop vac in the boat that caused a spark. Just be careful!

    • Well, that’s a hideous thought! Good thing I have a rule about working with fumes, and if I forget it my headache will shortly remind me. We are fortunate in that the floor to the cockpit, which is the ceiling to the engine room, has already been removed to get the previous engine out, and has not been reinstalled. So basically we can have the entire ceiling of the engine room open to the fresh air, and still be protected from rain by the hard dodger. I don’t have enough brain cells to waste to spend any time in a cramped space with chemical fumes and no air coming in.

    • We have to get this room clean so we’ll be ready to go when that new Beta Marine comes in. Just cleaned out the bottom of the bilge tonight. Yuck. What a job. Hope to never have to do that again.

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