All I Want for Christmas Rant

The holidays are just around the corner, bringing their yearly stress. It’s time to start thinking about what you want for Christmas. You know it’s time because Halloween is not yet over, yet the stores are already gearing up. I guess hope springs eternal for them. All I know is that our list this year is really short. In fact there is only one item on our list.

Seems like not that long ago we were here.

What I want to say is this: If Santa really loved us, he’d get those tiny reindeer hineys in gear and shimmy down our chimney early with a brand new exhaust elbow for Galapagos. Have we not been good? Have we not practiced ‘believing’ in all things seen and unseen? Are we not on Santa’s ‘Nice’ list?  Is my husband not ready to spit nails on anyone who even mentions the word ‘exhaust’ to his face? Is he not dead tired of explaining what we’re looking for? All these things are true. So I believe it’s not too much to ask that we have a new fancy pipe before Christmas. This has been the warmest, sunniest fall ever to grace the Pacific Northwest sailors and we HAVE MISSED ALL OF IT with Galapagos stuck in her slip.

Why is this happening? Why is the progress on this project so slow? Oh, gently innocent reader. We love you so. I can hear your sweet un-boat-wordly thoughts saying things like “What’s the problem?”, “I thought you had a design already.”, and “Just get a welder and you’re good to go”. Insert sound of loud maniacal laughter here. Let me ‘splain something to you. It’s not that easy. It’s. Never. That. Easy.

Did we tell you we got the cockpit floor painted? And by ‘we’, I mean Mike. That was an easy project. They do exist. And very satisfying.

We have a design. In fact, we have two.  But Mike wants to redesign the plate that attaches to the engine so that the pipe coming off has a curve in a different direction. Then the pieces need to be welded together. So we need a welder.

You’d think this would be a simple thing. Possibly it is. But it hasn’t been for us. Maybe we just don’t know how to look for one. Mike has met with numerous welders; none of them have worked out for one reason or another. The stories of why are long. There are scheduling issues, equipment issues, personality issues. Perhaps over a brew at an anchorage we can share some of these stories with you in the future. Maybe by then we’ll be able to laugh about it. For now, suffice to say we’re still looking. Tomorrow morning will find Mike making the rounds of the local muffler shops.

Keeping our eyes on the goal.

Then there is the considerable issue of working for a living. Most of the trade shops are closed on the weekend. Tacoma Diesel, who advertises being open on Saturday, is, in fact NOT open on Saturday. Ask Mike how he knows. The term ‘spitting nails’, used earlier in this post, almost adequately describes Mike’s level of frustration when he discovered this. All I can do is make soothing noises, which, in fact, probably just make it worse. Mike finally went there on a Monday. They were precious little help. I strongly suspect this job is just too small for them to take seriously. OK, maybe I’m a conspiracy theorist in disguise. But still. I have my suspicions.

Aside from the myriad number of frustrations and hard brick walls we’ve come up against with this little project, underlying all of it is the issue of trust. After the experience of finding water in the oil of our brand new engine, we’re pretty gun shy about taking chances with other people working on stuff for our boat. In the end, we will figure it out. Mike has sourced some of the parts we need. If only he didn’t have to work Monday through Friday it would probably have been done by now. Maybe we are making this too hard, but we’re waiting for our gut to say ‘yes’ to making a move. We’ve been known to do that.

Let’s go back to Sucia. So soothing.

So the story continues. You know there is much more to it than can be put in one blog post but it’s been so long since we posted anything, I felt compelled to get an update published. Be assured that we’ve followed up with Broomfields in Seattle and that has not panned out any better than Tacoma Diesel did, probably because we’re still trying to do much of this ourselves, using what we already have. Yes, we’re trying to keep costs contained and still get a good system.

Never fear, Exhaust Manifold Santa. We will not give up. We are down, but we are not beaten. We still believe in you. And our stockings are extra large this year.

We miss this guy.

Remember this guy from Bellingham? We miss him right now.

Update: Halloween. We have a welder! And we have an isolator. We should be posting the results of those two acquisitions soon.

28 thoughts on “All I Want for Christmas Rant

    • Thank you. Yes, you are correct and that is the water muffler we have in the boat. It is a new one, but I wonder if there is something wrong with it. Another reader who is an engineer contacted us privately and suggested that there might be something wrong with the water muffler. But, again, the system actually works just fine when the exhaust elbow is intact, so I think at this point it’s just the breakage in the pipe itself that is the problem. If we can get that fixed and we still have a problem, then we will look at the water muffler again. Thanks for reading and commenting. We appreciate it.

      • As one with much experience with failed exhaust systems, I agree with Melissa’s comment.; It ain’t the water muffler, it is a failure of the exhaust riser. That massive rectangular monster is a model of inertia, stress, and strain. This is an engineering problem with the exhaust riser.

    • Thank you for the link. We do have two water mufflers that are almost exactly like this, but we will look at it more closely to see if it is somehow different than we already have.

  1. Isn’t it amazing that the economy is suppose to be so bad but yet businesses are closed on weekends, jobs are too small and companies just don’t care about new business. Customer service is an antiquated term used by bygone generations. What happened? Life shouldn’t be this frustrating.

    Mark and Cindy
    s/v Cream Puff

    • We definitely need more trade people around here. All of the welders Mike has talked to are up to their eyeballs in work. Likely they are prioritizing things. This job is pretty small, and I guess I don’t blame them for preferring a big money making job to taking on this one, in a way. But yes, it is frustrating. Still, the silver lining to this is all the learning.

      • The previous woes are behind us. Future woes are ahead. The new tranny and shaft log repair are peachy. Now, the damn winter winds from the north and our severe prop walk have brought back the disembarkation blues. We will now back out of the fairway. Good luck to you.

        • Oh Lord, that sounds awful. I still get stressed out leaving the slip, even though that’s never been where the ‘problem’ has been. The more we are stuck to the dock, the more I’m going to have to get over those disembarkation blues myself when we’re back in business. Good luck back to you.

  2. I’ve talked to Clay at Broomfield marine exhaust about this. They are a little slow for a few days waiting for material. You really should call him, or email. He lives aboard about a block from his shop in Ballard. His shop is right nesxt door to Bad Alberts grill and tap. Great breakfast.

    • Mike contacted them twice. I can’t say why that didn’t pan out. Probably if we just took the prototype up there and said ‘make this’ they’d do it and it would be fine. But we were hoping for more of a collaboration than that I think. Mike would have to speak to why they didn’t work out in the first place. He did contact them.

  3. I’d start spreading the search to calling boat yards to ask who they use for welding and machine shops. If that fails, I know this will sound totally crazy, but call Bud Taplin @ Worldcruiser Yacht Co and ask if he can do the job from drawings or suggest a fabricator to take it on. He has always pulled through for us when no one else could.

  4. And as a totally extreme side note, if all else fails, and the only option is the nuclear option, I’ll share one of my ultimate hair brained ideas with you…. I had even considered this option on Sundowner.

    Our old engine had a metal bellows in the exhaust run. I’m guessing to prevent breaks/leaks due to vibrations in the riser, but it got me to thinking… What if you just didn’t use metal pipe in the exhaust all?


    You could in theory cut off the exhaust flange and join the hose to it with a lap clamp. Run the hose where ever, then lap clamp it into a water elbow. The entire thing would be lighter and way more resistant to vibration, plus, it could bend anywhere you want. You could wrap the hose as you do pipe.

    • Tate, all I can say is that we are thinking alike on this more than you even know. That is exactly, precisely the kind of set up I’ve been envisioning from the get go. A hard elbow off the engine mount, then a bellows then a flexible hose that bends and can take the heat run to the water injector area, then the flexible rubber type attachment currently in use to the water muffler. Parts that are easily replaced and you can afford to carry a number of extras. I almost ALMOST posted that in the blog, then thought better of it because I figured people who knew more than I did would run rampant over that idea. That being said, I still don’t really understand why this thing cannot be built from auto exhaust parts that are stock, are bolted together, and easily replaced when they wear out. I know they are not ‘marine stainless’, but even if they only lasted 2 years, they’d be so cheap comparatively that you’d still be ahead in terms of money, time, and stress. Especially if you have to get your elbow replaced in an exotic location. Thanks for being braver than me on that one. That is exactly what Mike is going to be looking at this morning. Who knew he and I were thinking along the same product line? I’m actually giddy with excitement that you posted that comment!

      • I don’t fear being regarded as wild, crazy, insane or stupid. I’d be insulted if someone said I was boring. Dani struggles with the “what if people think we’re nuts” sort of problems on our blog too. But remember, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” I encourage you to put those wild ideas out there, I mean hey, the internet geniuses haven’t killed me yet.

        • Point well made. Mike went and looked at that stuff yesterday and the guy said it was meant for temporary repairs, not permanent. But I can’t help but think ‘how temporary’. Would it last a year? Two? With a boat still sitting at the dock, it’s tempting. Can’t help but think there is a product out there that would be flexible like that and last longer. We’re sure learning a lot about what is available.

        • Really? I would love to see a photo of that. I like using things that don’t have the word ‘marine’ in them. My checking account likes it, too.

  5. Don’t take this the wrong way but have you considered hiring a shop that specializes in marine exhaust systems to design and fabricate a system for you? If you’ve got your own design already, they can at least validate it and then weld it up properly. It may cost you more $$$ than a general welding or muffler shop but they’ve got the experience and skills, plus they’ll stand behind their work.

    Here are a few links:

    • Yes, that is on the list of possibilities. National is the one that was recommended to us in Marysville. They are a possibility. Broomfields has been contacted twice and it didn’t pan out. We have two designs, plus another engineer sent us a drawing this morning of his idea. There are many ideas, many designs. And that would be the short and easy solution. But we would like to be able to replicate this system should it break down in an exotic location. So part of the process going on behind the scenes, too long for a blog post, is learning how to do that. Haven’t seen Hatton Marine. Thanks for that link, too.

    • No. There are very few of these boats in the US. But we know of one owned by a Canadian couple. They kindly sent us photos if their setup and it is much like what we had except higher above the wAterline even and with a bellows unit as a vibration isolator. It works well for them and that is why we believe we are on the right track with our original design and it just needs a little tweaking to make it right.

  6. You are on the right track.
    The engine exhaust close to the waterline. The distance from the waterlift muffler to the hull is also long. To reliably keep water out of it a high loop dry part of the exhaust is the way to go.

    Basically the case study of used in the summary of this article.

    Problems are:
    Increased back-pressure. This calculated as not so much of a problem. Small things like mounting the waterlift a bit higher and turning the run to the hull into a downhill slope also help.
    Increased heat because of the much larger hot exhaust surface. This can be reduced with insulation. Not only the wrap but also the blanket type.
    And the main problem here: The exhaust turns into a large lever arm and engine vibrations have much more effect.

    The fix for that has two parts:
    Much larger mounting brackets to take the force of the exhaust pipe. Fighting leverage with more leverage. 😉 Also take a look at vibration mounts to decouple the bracing from the engine.
    Flex joints to allow for heat expansion and maybe even insulate parts of the vibration. The bellows type, NOT the braided version. (Braided develops leaks in no time, a Bad Idea(tm) inside a boat.)

    Did not think that finding a welder or fabrication shop would be such a problem. =/

    • If we wanted to send a drawing in someplace and let them just fabricate the whole thing it probably wouldn’t be. We are such novices that we don’t trust ourselves to just send in a drawing to someplace and let them make something up. Mike spent a lot of time doing a mockup version, but that one actually isn’t going to be the final deal, so no good taking that in really. It’s too close to the wall for fire hazard purposes. And if we send a drawing, what if it doesn’t fit? What if it’s off by 1/4″ or something? Mike may have an engineer’s mind, but he isn’t technically an engineer. Add to that the issue that each of the ‘marine exhaust’ folks we’ve talked to wants to know ‘why are you doing it like that?’, ‘why aren’t you doing it like this?’, ‘have you considered this possibility’?. The number of opinions, most of them educated at least, is off putting and makes us fearful of making a costly mistake. In the end, it’s up to us and we’ll pay the cost of a mistake. So maybe we are overthinking it and being too careful. Mike is sourcing the bellows isolator to make sure we get something that is good quality. Glad to have an encouraging word about the track we’re on! Thanks for that.

  7. Melissa,
    Dry stack. You know you want it. Right up thru the cockpit sole and out the hard top. It’s time. Won’t get the sails dirty either cuz I know you guys only motor when you have to. Somewhere to warm your hands on those midnight runs home from the San Juans. Don’t tell Mike. You could wrap it up and put it under the tree. Only 1/2 joking. I do wish you the best and you KNOW I feel your pain.
    …someday maybe you’ll be able to laugh… sorry if this isn’t helpful 🙁

    • Oh John, You know me too well. Yes, I would LOVE to have a dry stack and you do know it. Perhaps in the future. We’re too far into our Beta now to turn back, but if ever there was a sailboat that could accommodate a drystack, this one is probably it. As frustrating as this has been, we wouldn’t turn back for the world. It will get done. Had to laugh about your comments about midnight runs from the San Juans. You’ve read the blog. I can tell!

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