Old School Photo Hack

Dewinterizing for the new sailing season


For the past couple of weeks we’ve been working on getting Shearwater dewinterized and prepped for the new sailing season.  One of the tasks is getting the engine back into operation, which includes:

  • Tracing all the hoses, lines and cables to make sure all are connected and in good shape
  • Cleaning out the saltwater pump filter and making sure it looks okay
  • Installing a new saltwater pump impeller
  • Installing new oil filters in two separate locations
  • Checking all the v-belts for wear, proper tension and replace as necessary
  • Checking for any corrosion that developed during the winter months
  • Flushing the eco-friendly pink antifreeze from the engine

Cindy is in charge of the diesel; since she’s the engine queen for our household, the diesel has become her baby and she has really focused on pampering it.  I only get involved when she needs a knuckle-dragger to provide brawn to pieces that choose to ignore her.

So while I’m out in the cockpit working on stripping down the winches and servicing them, Cindy is down below addressing the engine task list.

She’s able to get the saltwater pump off the engine, but the impeller housing ignores her.  I pry it apart with my thumbnails and we check the condition of the impeller.  It’s not in too bad of shape, but we’ll replace it just to be on the safe side.  Getting it out of the housing calls for some serious brawn; I was surprised at the effort required to get that miserable thing removed.

Next, Cindy checks the seawater intake filter housing.

Uh-oh…  Cracks are not a good sign.

How on earth has this not failed already?


We know the drill and immediately get everything cleared out of the cockpit and stowed below in the cabin; this calls for a parts run to the West Marine over in Solomons Island, some 22 miles away.  We get there and discover they don’t carry Yanmar parts — certainly not for a diesel dating back to 1986.  We get directed to Zahniser’s Yachting Center — just down the road — as they are an authorized Yanmar dealership.  We scoot over to Zahniser’s and find that we just missed their closing deadline; we’ll have to return first thing in the morning.

Early Sunday we find ourselves at Zahniser’s front door step, waiting for them to open.  More confusion.  Yanmar has seen fit to change all the numbers for the old parts, so we buy what everyone thinks are supposed to be the correct new parts.  For what it’s worth, our diesel doesn’t exactly match the official Yanmar owner’s manual, which led the previous owner of Shearwater to stock all sorts of extras that don’t actually fit the engine.  How do we know?  Because we raided his stock that conveyed with the boat and found most of them to be wrong.

We finally get back to the boat and discover the new impellers are way too small for the housing.  Cindy decides to stay and use the very last new-old-stock impeller we have on board while I return to Zahniser’s to return the parts we had just purchased and get the correct ones.  This time I’ll take the parts that we’ve removed from the engine to make sure what I get matches the size.

On the way to Zahniser’s I receive some frantic text messages and a phone call from Cindy, all of which I ignore since we have a policy of not responding to them while driving.  Once I reach Solomons Island and pull into the parking lot, I call her back to discover that Cindy’s distraught; she had been able to get the last impeller replacement installed, a new gasket in place and was putting the bolts in the impeller housing cover when disaster struck…

One of the bolt heads sheared off.

Knowing how careful and gentle Cindy is with mechanical components, I realize that she didn’t over do it; there was likely metal fatigue from earlier efforts by the previous owner and it was simply that bolt’s time to expire.

Cindy wanted me to come all the way back to the boat, collect the impeller housing and run all the way back to Zahniser’s to get them to fix it.  Keep in mind that I’m already on my third trip to Solomons Island for this weekend alone — 44 miles roundtrip for each — and you’ll understand my reluctance to do it as she asked.  Instead, I go into Zahniser’s and ask the marina manager, Jim Sharkey, what he would suggest (everybody — including his wife — just calls him Sharkey).

It turns out that he’s very familiar with the problem and has a simple solution: unbolt the impeller housing cover and see if the sheared off bolt has a tiny amount still sticking out.  Usually when the bolt heads shear like this, it’s flush with the cover and a small amount of bolt thread remains exposed from the housing body once the cover has been gotten out of the way, the remains of which can then be grasped with a pair of pliers and gingerly removed.

I had Sharkey share that bit of insight with Cindy and went about the rest of my business while she was tackling the problem back at the boat.  A few minutes later we received a call from Cindy…  success!

It was just as Sharkey had described and we were rolling along again!  Many thanks, Sharkey!

So back to Shearwater and a delighted Cindy I went with the new parts.  At least she was delighted until I arrived; it seems she had run into another knuckle-dragging brawn issue and was frustrated to the point of anger that she couldn’t complete the v-belt change-out without my assistance.  She was visibly shaking when she saw how easy it was for me to simply use my thumbs to get the new v-belt onto the pulley.  I had to remind her that my grip is much beefier than my hands look — I can easily reach 130 pounds of grip strength when called upon, and higher if needed.  That seemed to mollify her and she calmed down once she was able to continue forward with the engine task list.

Of course, we couldn’t just get the engine taken care of in one weekend, could we?  No!  Another problem raised it’s ugly head.  The new hose for the replacement saltwater filter we picked up wouldn’t go onto the Kingston through hull valve, no matter what she tried.  I tried it.  And tried it.  And tried it until I grew concerned for the through hull to retain it’s integrity with the bottom of the boat.  That stinking hose just didn’t fit.  Period.

By this time it was the end of the afternoon on Sunday and we’d have to resume the following weekend.

We returned to Shearwater the following Friday night, and first thing Saturday morning I try the new hose that I had purchased at West Marine.  But it — too — doesn’t fit.


I look real closely at the old hose that came off the Kingston valve and realize that it’s not 5/8-inch hose, it’s actually 3/4-inch hose.  Gah!  The new saltwater intake filter fittings don’t match the Kingston valve, which means another run to Zahniser’s — this time with all the pieces and parts that have to match one another.

Once I’m back at Zahniser’s, everything finally becomes clear and I’m able to get all the parts I need.  I also learn from Sharkey that mesh-reinforced clear hose is no longer allowed on boat fittings below the waterline and that metal wire reinforced black hose must now be used to meet current safety codes.

Fine, no problem.  Back I go to Shearwater, where I quickly discover that the new parts work together like a dream and everything reassembles in just a few minutes.

Above is the final hose connection to the Kingston valve, just before I installed a second hose clamp on it for insurance.  And below is our new seawater intake filter — finally in place!

Once we have everything put back together, Cindy stays down with the engine as I go out into the cockpit and switch on the power to the diesel.  Woohoo!  She fires right up without any hesitation whatsoever, and within seconds we have a steady stream of water coming out the exhaust port at the stern of the boat.  Everything works!

Later, Cindy and I agree that if/when we ever replace Shearwater with another boat, we’re going to spend the first year at a marina that’s much closer to marine supply stores.

4 thoughts on “Dewinterizing for the new sailing season

  1. Tillerman

    LOL. So it's not just me that has those kind of problems when tackling any DIY task. I always totally underestimate the things that can go wrong, will break unexpectedly, won't fit, won't fit without knuckle-dragging brawn, will break because I used knuckle-dragging brawn when I wasn't supposed to use knuckle-dragging brawn etc. etc. etc.

    Oh, and I suppose you know what an incredibly lucky man you are to be married to the only woman in the world who likes to do diesel engine maintenance?


  2. Mitch Zeissler

    Nope — not just you. Cindy and I have frequently remarked that it takes us X times longer than we think it should for many of the DIY boat projects, in part because of the domino effect of other components that need to be addressed in turn. When something on the boat looks like it needs the delicate touch, she takes lead or gets volunteered to take lead, as I'm known for my knuckle-dragging brawn, bull-in-the-china-shop tendencies, which all too frequently are the wrong solution to a 1986-era sailboat.

    And, ohhhh yes, I know just how lucky I am to have Cindy as a partner in my life!


  3. Buck

    Every DIY project takes more time than I'd like, but I think it's a reasonable trade-off vs paying a pro to do it faster.

    This was a great documentary, told very well!


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