Wednesday, February 27

Privateer Wins the Caribbean 600

Privateer, a Cookson 50, wins the Caribbean 600. Click here for more results and pictures.

CO Emissions

By Andrew Spaulding

One of the great pleasures of boating is getting a few boats full of friends together, and heading out to a favorite anchoring spot to raft up. Once the raft is set up everyone can enjoy swimming, cracking open a few cold ones, and setting up for a barbeque dinner. It is great fun to hang out with friends and enjoy the scene. While this is going on, you may find yourself running the engines or generator for extra electrical power. However, there is a real danger from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning that you have to be aware of any time you are operating the engines or generator.

CO is a colorless and odorless gas that is very poisonous. It is produced when carbon-based fuels are burned. The most common source on a boat is from the exhaust, but it is also generated by the propane or charcoal grill. CO can be present without the smell of exhaust fumes, and it certainly is present with the smell of exhaust. 

There are many documented cases where carbon monoxide gases get trapped around boats which can lead to swimmers being overcome and drowning. The largest contributor to this problem is running the generator or engines when the boat is not moving. This effect can be magnified any time boats are in close proximity to each other in a raft-up or at the dock. When the boat isn’t moving, exhaust fumes containing CO can become trapped under the swim platform or become trapped between boats.

What are the symptoms of CO poisoning? Early symptoms of CO poisoning are irritated eyes, headache, nausea, and dizziness. Since these symptoms are similar to sea sickness and drunkenness, they may be ignored or not recognized as CO poisoning. If someone is showing these symptoms, be sure to get them to fresh air immediately and seek medical attention.

What can you as the boat owner do to be proactive about avoiding CO poisoning? The most effective thing to do is to install CO alarms in areas where CO is likely to accumulate. On most boats it makes sense to have at least one below and one in the cockpit if you leave your canvas up while boating. On a larger boat it makes sense to have one in each sleeping cabin if you will be running the generator overnight.

For more information, the USCG has an informative brochure that you can find by clicking here

Wednesday, February 20

Crowley's Ship's Store Upgrades

Crowley's Ship's Store New Counter

The Crowley's Ship's Store has a new look. Next time you are in the yard be sure to stop by the store to check it out.

FYI: Propellers

By Andrew Spaulding

Propellers are last in your boat’s drive line and often forgotten. This never made much sense to me, since without the props the rest of the boat makes a nice downtown apartment for the summer, but doesn't get you out on the water. Knowing the ins and outs of propellers will help you identify performance and vibration issues that may entice you to have a prop expert take a closer look at your “wheels”. Considering your propellers are the engine’s interface with the water, I want to spend a few sentences describing how they actually work without getting too technical.

The propeller blade acts much like an airplane wing by developing areas of low pressure in front of the prop and a high pressure area behind the prop. This difference in pressure is what pushes an airplane up and your boat forward. How much pressure differential there is depends on the pitch of the propeller and the rpm.

There are many designs of propellers that use different aspects of the prop to achieve their designed performance. The most efficient propeller according to a physicist is one with a single blade. Having a single blade allows the prop to operate in the least disturbed water making it the most efficient. Unfortunately, a single bladed prop would be impossible to balance so prop designers use multiple blades to reduce vibration. By this logic, we would expect boats to only have two bladed props, except that blade area affects the amount of power the propeller can transfer to the water at any given time. Due to the need to transfer large forces to the water larger power boats that are heavy with powerful engines will see 4 and even 5 bladed propellers.

So how do you tell if you have a propeller problem? The first indicator of a propeller problem is variations in a wide open throttle (WOT) test. If your engine goes over the manufacturer’s recommended top operating rpm at WOT, then your propellers are too small in pitch or diameter or both. This situation is commonly referred to as “not having enough prop.” If your engine won’t reach that top operating rpm at WOT you have the opposite problem which is “too much prop.” You should conduct this test once a year and note the engine rpm, boat speed and environmental conditions (waves, air temp, water temp, etc.) at WOT. This is important information to record since if there is ever a change either your props have changed or your engines have changed. If nothing has changed with your props, you just discovered a potential engine problem that you should investigate.

What else to look for? You don’t need visible damage for the propeller to cause unnecessary vibration. Many times you won’t hear or feel anything in the boat when you run over a half-sunk log or other debris, but you will notice a slight vibration that wasn’t there before. Perhaps it comes and goes with different rpms or you notice it more on one side of the boat than the other. These are signs that you need to get the props to the prop shop. Ignoring a prop vibration can lead to all sorts of long term problems including damage to cutlass bearings, struts and engine mounts.

Other signs that your props are due for a tune are an increase in fuel consumption, cavitation, and difficulty synchronizing your engines. At Crowley’s, we have all of our prop work done by Airmarine right here in Chicago. Click here for Airmarine’s web site. Please contact us if you have propeller related questions. The closer the boating season gets, the busier Airmarine will be, so now is the time to get your wheels in the shop. 

Wednesday, February 13

Ethanol in Marine Gas Engines

Racor filter
By Andrew Spaulding

If you’ve followed any of the industry rags recently, E15 and what it might do to your marine engine should be on your mind. E15 is the common term to designate gasoline that has 15% ethanol in it. We are already using E10 gasoline and the federal government, through the EPA, would like us to be using E15. While the benefits of using ethanol to reduce harmful exhaust emissions are certain, since ethanol can be harmful to marine engines and fuel systems, and E15 is in the news, I thought I would go over ethanol and its effects on marine systems.

So, what problems arise from ethanol? There are two main issues: One, ethanol is a stronger solvent than gasoline; and two, ethanol has a strong chemical affinity for water. One might argue that as a stronger solvent ethanol would do a good job cleaning out a gasoline fuel system. The problem is that it will remove gasoline varnish deposits and surface corrosion from metal tanks and other system components, potentially causing clogs in small passages in the fuel system such as carburetor jets.  Ethanol also has the ability to dissolve some plastic resins which can cause serious problems in some fiberglass fuel tanks.

Ethanol’s strong affinity for water means that it would rather chemically bond with water than with gasoline. When the percentage of water in E10 gasoline reaches about 0.5% the bond between ethanol and gasoline breaks down, and the water molecules bond with the ethanol causing what is called phase separation. Gasoline will float on top of the ethanol potentially leaving the fuel pick up at the bottom of the tank in a water-ethanol mix which can severely damage an engine. Even if there isn’t enough ethanol and water at the bottom of the tank to cause this, the gasoline left over after phase separation has a lower octane level (approximately 2-3 points lower) which can be below the recommended level for the engine. 

If all of this is true, why don’t we have more ethanol related problems in our cars? Well, car tanks are typically smaller than boat tanks and filled more regularly so phase separation has less of a chance to occur. Also, automotive tanks have closed vent loops or are unvented which allows less moisture to enter the tank. Boats are used in wet environments (no news here) so the overall chance that water will enter the tank one way or another is higher.

As a boat owner what can I do to help minimize the impact of using E10 gasoline? Since as little as 16 ounces of water in 25 gallons of gasoline can induce phase separation (less at lower temperatures), anything that you can do to lessen the amount of water getting into your tank will help. Keeping your tanks full will minimize the amount of condensation that forms in the tank. Also, run through your tanks regularly so that you can fill them with fresh gasoline. Of course, for the casual boater these two things can be at odds with each other, but do the best that you can. Even running the tank out by then end of the season so that you can put in fresh gasoline for winter storage will help.

Installing a Racor gasoline/water separator with a drainable bowl is a practical fuel system upgrade that will allow you to determine if there is any water being pulled out of the tank. Also, MerCruiser and Volvo gasoline primary spin-on filters will trap water. The bottoms of these filters are not clear due to USCG regulations, but they can be periodically drained to check for water. If you find evidence of water in the tank from a Racor or primary filter, you should have the tank cleaned, or at least pump out the bottom of the tank to remove as much water as possible.

All of the problems mentioned above get worse if we switch from E10 to E15 gasoline. Even if everything is okay on your boat now with E10 at the pumps don’t be complacent if E15 gasoline gets to marine engines. If you trailer your boat and fill up at an automotive filling station, be very cautious as I’ve read reports of E15 at automotive pumps not being properly labeled as such. Let us know if you have any questions regarding ethanol in gasoline as these issues can end an already short boating season.

Thursday, February 7

Harken Factory Tour

Crowley's riggers at Harken's new factory in Wisconsin. The team was there for training on the latest products from Harken and were treated to a tour of the new factory with the Harken brothers. From left to right: Tim Hill, Olaf Harken, Laura Thompson, Peter Harken, and Al Montesinos. 

Laura sent the following letter out to the rest of the boat yard:

Hello all.

We, the riggers, just wanted to give you all a little summary of our three days at Harken University.

We all were familiar with Harken products beforehand. They are on probably half the sailboats in the yard... But now as I walk around the boats, I can tell you exactly what the name of that block is, the size, the best use for it, and whether or not is belongs on that boat. (I'm thinking of you, Adios with T2 57 loop blocks...)

We covered everything from the basic blocks and travelers to winches and hydraulics. And ball bearings. I have dreams about ball bearings now...
We even got to spec out the fittings for new boats as a final exam. I can tell you how to outfit a brand new GP 52... without a budget, of course.

We also got a tour of the new factory. It was a monument to efficiency and organization. Raw material comes in one door and finished product leaves through the opposite door. They had laid out the plans for this building at least a year in advance. And I don't just mean the walls. I mean where all the machines would go and which processes needed to be next to each other. They even placed all the support staff offices directly over their related shop floor departments. 

It was 3 days of heavy classwork, raucous parties, and lots of snow. We are all very grateful that you gave us the opportunity to do this. So here's a picture of us with the brothers Harken.


Catalytic Converters on Marine Gas Engines

By Andrew Spaulding

There has been a lot of chat about the new requirement for catalytic converters on marine gas engines. California started the trend by requiring cats on gas engines under 500 horsepower in 2008. The Environmental Protection Agency thought this was a good idea and extended the requirement to the other 49 states for the same engines built after January 1, 2010. Why catalytic converters? Catalytic converters use chemistry to remove most of the hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide from exhaust fumes. The emissions removed are some of the most harmful to our environment and air quality.

So what does this mean to you, the boat owner? Your engine is going to be a bit more complicated with additional sensors and electronics. To make sure the catalytic converter is working properly, oxygen sensors are required in the exhaust stream before and after the catalytic converter to measure the fuel/air mix in the exhaust. The oxygen sensors report to the engine’s electronic controls to adjust the fuel/air mixture as necessary and to deliver an exhaust gas mixture that the catalytic converter can clean up, leading to the fewest harmful exhaust emissions.

How do catalytic converters work? The part of the catalytic converter that does the work is a mesh honeycomb covered with a mix of metals called the wash. The metals in the wash are platinum, palladium and rhodium. As the exhaust gasses pass over the wash, chemical reactions take place and the hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide are turned into water, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. While the resultant carbon dioxide is still a greenhouse gas, it is not poisonous to humans in low concentrations as is carbon monoxide.

In order to operate properly, catalytic converters need to run at high temperatures, which as we know, don’t always mix well with fiberglass and human beings. To address this issue all marine catalytic converters have a water jacket over them to reduce the external temperature…still hot, but the standard for temperature is one at which human skin won’t blister.

What maintenance issues do catalytic converters cause? For the do-it-yourselfer there are a few important things to keep in mind. Some marine grade lubricants contain high levels of phosphorus which will damage the catalytic converter. Be sure that you are using factory recommended lubricants in your catalyzed marine engine. Power Tune Engine Cleaner contains compounds and solvents that are not compatible with catalytic converters. Acetoxy silicone sealants can damage oxygen sensors and catalytic converters, but oxime silicone sealants are safe to use. Leaded fuel and non-approved additives can contaminate catalytic converters.

If you have ANY questions regarding the products that you use and their effects on your catalyzed marine engine, consult your owner’s manual and the manufacturer of the engine. What you used in the past may damage your new engine or void the warranty. If you are having trouble getting an answer, let us know so we can help.