Atlantic Circuit,  Engine,  Northern Europe,  Sailing

Engine problems at Vejrø

September 7-10, 2020

We spent one night in Gislövs läge before our departure out of Sweden, towards Denmark. On Monday morning,  September 7th, we left the marina. Strong westerly winds were approaching the night towards Tuesday so instead of going around Denmark towards Kiel we chose to go between the islands Falster and Sjælland to take cover from these winds. How we sailed and at which dates and some small notes can be found under Our route.

We set sail right after we left Gislövs läge and kept the sails up for some time until we reached a wind turbines park that was not on our charts (and our charts are only 1 year old), so we had to start the engine for a while so we wouldn’t sail through the park. Shortly after we passed by the cool cliffs at Møns Klint. Would loved a visit but this time we just had to enjoy them from the sea.

Passing by Møns Klint.

We arrived to the village Stubbekøbinge before sunset, ate dinner and watched some series. The following morning, Tuesday September 8th, we continued the inshore route through Denmark, under the bridges between Sjælland and Falster towards the island Vejrø. Once more we had to run on engine against waves, and finally we arrived to the island.

On the way towards Vejrø we thought there was too much vibrations in the propeller shaft so once we arrived we wanted to take a look at that. Once we opened up towards the engine we first noticed that we had a lot of sea grass in the sea water filter and it was only one week since we cleaned it last time.

We cleaned the filter and continued with what we meant to do; to take a look at the propeller shaft. We loosened the shaft from the gear box to check the alignment. The propeller shaft wanted to be a bit lower than the gear box so we lowered the back of the engine a bit in hope that this would solve the vibration problem.

We started the engine to check for any improvement and as we had everything open towards the engine we almost immediately noticed a strange sound from the engine and by a quick look we noticed that the pulley for the circulation pump was loose and banging on the engine. Not good!

The pulley is attached on the circulation pump shaft with a woodruff key and earlier we have had some issue with the pulley, as it got loose (but did not fall off the woodruff key) and had to be tighten. When we renovated the engine the winter 2018/19 we were also surprised that the pulley was loose when we took the engine apart but after inspection it looked good but apparently not.

Anyway, our initial hope was that the pulley just had gotten loose again but that it was not damaged. If that was the case we could get it back in position, tighten the pulley and at least get to the mainland. But that  is a tricky task as the heat exchanger is in the way, making it hard to reach and see what you’re doing.

Trying to get a look at the pulley to understand what could be wrong.
Trying to get the pulley back onto the woodruff key on the circulation pump shaft.

When we had tried enough, without any luck, we decided to remove the heat exchanger so that we could get a good look at the pulley. Removing the heat exchanger went pretty easy, but it was not so easy removing the pulley. But after a while, with the help of our impact driver, we got it removed.

Heat exchanger removed and after some effort pulley removed as well.

Now we could see what had happened and it was not exactly a happy finding. The track for the woodruff key on shaft for the circulation pump was broken as well as the key and the pulley. The hole for the shaft on the pulley looked like it had been worn out and was much bigger than the shaft.

The circulation pump shaft.
The broken woodruff key.

So, we quickly realized that this is not something that can be fixed and that we need to somehow get a new circulation pump and pulley. That turned out to be harder than we first thought.

The first issue was how to get the parts to the island we’re at, a private owned island with no public transport. But we talked to the people on the resort on the island and solved so we can ship it to the resort. The second issue was finding the parts. The circulation pump we found pretty fast at Indenor Retro, which we had ordered spare parts from before. But the pulley turned out to be harder and we spent a lot of time searching on internet and calling different people to find what we searched for. Finally we found one from Skoogs marin (or at least we hope it’s the right one, haven’t got it yet).

So now we are stuck at Vejrø until the parts arrive. In the meantime we try to fix other things on the boat that we didn’t have time to do before departure and explore the island and try to do some reflections and thoughts about what caused this to break.

As mentioned above the pulley was loose when we took the engine apart about 1,5 years ago, so maybe it was already worn. Maybe the hole towards the shaft was too big from the start and by time it has gotten bigger and finally the impact caused the woodruff key to break. We have pushed the engine a bit lately, due to the waves and wind, so maybe that’s the reason this happened now. When we did renovate the engine we thought about both buying a new circulation pump and also rebuilding the entire cooling system with a new heat exchanger. Instead we just renovated the circulation pump. Safe to say, today we regret that we didn’t rebuild it.

But nothing we can do about that now and here are some things we are happy about anyway:

  • That we can fix this ourselves. As we have renovated the engine completely ourselves we don’t need to hire a mechanic and we don’t need to get towed anywhere as we have packed the boat with a bunch of tools. We went by the motto “The older the boat, the bigger the toolbox”.
  • That the engine didn’t break while underway. It has been pretty strong winds lately and it wouldn’t be fun to get stuck near the coast in strong winds and waves with a failing engine…
  • There are good facilities on the island, really fresh toilets, showers and washing machine and it is a pretty island, a bit expensive but we could definitely be stuck at a worse place. We also get a lot of time to do other stuff on the boat, finish autopilot installation and  bow thruster installation for example.

And we hope:

  • That there is nothing wrong with the parts we ordered.
  • That it is just a question of putting the engine back together and that nothing else that is wrong with the engine. We usually check on the engine continually while running it (our passage to Vejrø was an exception, then we mostly checked on the shaft and did not open the hatch towards the engine). But as we pushed the engine a bit we checked the temperature and number of revolutions a lot and the temperature was as it should be. So hopefully it has been able to cool a bit even though it was broken, but that we will find out when we get the new parts and can start the engine once more.
  • That the vibrations in the shaft gets better with the small adjustment we did.
  • That we don’t have a similar issue in a while, now we want to enjoy sailing and explore new places!

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