TRAWLERING: The Art of Keeping Various Fluids in Their Place

Ophelia was used heavily this season, as we basically lived aboard for 5 to 6-days a week, May thru November.  All of last year’s hard work, repairs & preventative maintenance paid off, for Ophelia’s systems ran essentially flawlessly.  We had only minor issues come to the surface.  For a few different “external” reasons, we did not venture up north this season.  We stayed very local, staying on the Chesapeake, covering only 900 nautical miles, between Baltimore Inner Harbor, Annapolis, and various Eastern Shore trips (Swan Creek, Magothy, St. Michaels, Wye Island, & Cacaway Island).  A fun season, with many great memories, has now transitioned to winter repair projects.

We hauled Ophelia out, at Pleasure Cove, on the last day of November.   She is safely tucked away in the heated storage shed, until next April.  Since we were one of the last boats into the shed, we will be one of the first boats to come out of the shed, when spring hits!  LIFO – Last In, First Out!  And yes, that was strategically planned!

Owning a complicated trawler boils down to the art of keeping various fluids in their respective places!  Raw water, fresh water, grey water, black water, diesel, engine Oil, ATF transmission oil, hydraulic steering oil, coolant, and even stray electricity (if we stretch the analogy)!  If you can keep all these fluids in their proper homes, you are bound to have smooth sailing, assuming your navigation skills are in order!!

I decided this was the year I would chase down 3 nagging drips.  Two of these drips have been bothering me for the last two seasons & one new one.  As such, my first order of business was to remove & bring home the following items: a) Wing Transmission, b) the Main engine transmission’s MB-15 shifter mechanism & c) the Hynautic hydraulic steering ram. Now to be clear, I have never dug into any of these 3 parts before, so I will have much to learn!

The first part to be removed was my wing engine’s ZF Transmission, as it was the most complicated to get off the boat.  Removal required Ophelia to be on the hard, because we needed to push the wing engine’s shaft back a few inches, in order to pull the transmission out.  Perfect winter storage job! This was also the newest drip to develop.  It began leaking red ATF fluid late November.  I am guessing that this ZF wing transmission has never been removed, so I will use this opportunity to change out the damper plate, check the shaft & repack the stuffing box.  My yard removed the transmission for me very quickly, so I have ample time to ship it out to T and S Marine, and get it back for re-installation in late January.


The second part to be removed for repair, was the MB-15 shifter mechanism, on my Main Engine’s ZF transmission.  This part has been leaking for last 2 seasons.  It was not immediately obvious where this leak was coming from and it took me many many tries to actually determine where it was coming from.  It only leaked when underway and probably only a tea spoon every 4 hours of run time.  Once I figured out it was the MB-15, I spoke to the kind folks T and S Marine, in Crisfield, Maryland (ZF Authorized Service center).  They confirmed it is pretty common for the seals to wear out over time and that it is only about an hour’s job, once on the bench, assuming the re-seal kit is in stock.  They gave me a view tips on how to remove it:  4-Hex bolts, remove the oil line, & remove shifter cable.  Easy!!  Got the transmission & the MB-15 drained of all oil (as best as possible), bagged them up to prevent any dripping, packed up in a big box, with tons of bubble wrap, foam & paper to protect them for their UPS ground trip to the eastern shore.


With both the MB-15 & the Wing transmission shipped off to T and S Marine, the third part to remove was my Hynautic Steering ram.  The ram has been holding 20PSI for months at a time, although it was consistently leaking steering fluid, ever so slowly, for last 4 years, at 30PSI.  Time to fix it!  This has been removed, boxed up & shipped to Rose’s Marine Oil, in Gloucester, MA, along with kit K-3-3 Seal Se For Hydraulic Cylinder.

Second order of business that needed immediate attention, only made itself present upon Haul-Out.  All my underwater thru-hulls have a distinct “Halo” effect on the bottom paint. This was a first for me & Ophelia.  This issue is proving to be an incredible learning experience for me.  I reached out to local area expert, Bob Campbell, Marine Consultant, ABYC Certified Electrical & Corrosion Technician.  He visited the boat last week (Dec 12th area), doing a detailed review of running gear, bonding wires, AC & DC schematics, etc.  He made several recommendations, which I will implement over winter, so that when we launch the boat in the spring, he can return to Ophelia to officially perform his testing.  The testing can only be performed with the boat in the water.  I will need to electrically shut down Ophelia for 24 hours, after which Bob will come aboard with his Multimeter and systematically turn things on to look for stray current or other issues causing my Halo around the thruhulls.

Bob’s initial analysis of the problem is that the bottom paint is forming a halo around each bonded thru-hull fitting. This appears to be an interaction with the copper paint and the voltage produced by the hull anodes. Thankfully, Bob did not see any degradation to my prop or running gear.  The Aluminum Anodes have been found to be doing there job!  We still need to wait for spring, to launch the boat and really test things in the water, but at least we seem to be addressing the issue early on!

Bob’s recommendations, which I will be completing this winter, with some professional help, are as follows:

  1. All bonding wire connections are showing signs of corrosion at the connection to each underwater metal and the transom anode. Replace each wire end with a #6 AWG closed lug properly crimped and sealed with adhesive heat shrink.


IMPORTANT OPTION: The current bonding wiring is set up as a “Daisy Chain” meaning one thru-hull is connected to the next, and then the next, and so on. The problem with this system is if one fastener is corroded or loosens, then all the thru-hull fittings “downstream” are also unprotected. A preferred method is to create a “backbone” going from the anodes forward to a common busbar in each compartment then out to each underwater fitting individually. If each wire end is to be replaced it will be less labor to make this change at the same time rather than push it off to the future.

  1. Install HD commercial shaft slip ring assembly (Hodge Ordering)
  2. Underwater thru-hulls:
  3. Clean All Bronze thru-hull fittings to bare metal
  4. Coat with an epoxy barrier paint system
  5. Recoat each Thru-Hull with antifouling paint

Note: The epoxy will act as a barrier to insulate the bronze fitting from the copper paint.



Below is a list of all the other items we will do, with Ophelia in storage for the next 4 Months”

  • Install newer GROCO Hull Strainer for Gennie on Exterior Bottom (Owner Supplied)
    • Must be mounted reverse so does not scoop water into engine
    • Must ensure properly connected to bonding system
  • Paint bottom as needed
  • Perform Outboard Annual Service and Lower Unit
  • Finish Windshield Wiper Project (Box Parts in Pilot House)
    • Requires taking each wiper motor apart to remove the shaft arm, and then rebuild motor in place (not enough room, given the longer shaft arm, due to very very thick fiberglass bulkhead). Charlie tested this on extra IMTRA wiper motor & called Imtra to walk thru the gear labels for setting swing arm options
  • Re-Bed the Rub-Rail on Starboard Bow Section
    • About the first 10 feet, where the “dings” are visible
  • Guest Cabin’s VacuFlush – rebuild kit ordered & Motor ordered
  • T-12 Discharge Pump: Replace Duck Bill Valves
  • Tecma Master Head Preventative Maintenance
    • Pull Bowl and replace Motor & solenoid
    • Test it to ensure it works
    • Re-Caulk bowl back into Place
  • VacuFlush Guest Head Preventative Maintenance
    • Replace all DuckBill Valves
    • Replace the Belows near the pump, under Starboard Bunk
  • Holding Tank Air Vent Line: Blow Out the line, in both directions; Ensure Not Clogged on either end (The Filter is Under the Stairs, when coming down from Pilot House steps)
  • Order back-up NAIAD Cooling Pump & store under Master Bed
  • Order Spare Whale Manual Blackwater Pump
  • Order VacuFlush Parts: Motor & Bellows
  • Order T-12vdc discharge as back-up
  • Order Watermaker filters too for Spring
  • Vacuum SubZero Coils & AC Air Intakes
  • Epoxy Drawer Face in Master Shower to repair water rot damage
  • Lower Anchor and rinse the locker
    • Check Anchor Shackle & seizing wire
    • Spray Corrosion blocker on motor connections
  • EBAY Order Honda 40HP Stickers & Cans of Spray Paint
    • Did this last winter but discovered some coats did not dry properly, causing the paint job to fail over the summer
    • Ordered Heat Lamp for my shop
  • Inspect Every Fire Extinguisher and Replace as needed
  • MACBOOK PRO & 27” MAC MONITOR – will it run CE & AquaMaps at home?
  • Install the new 12% Buck-Booster for the dedicated HVAC 50-AMP shore
    • Look for space for possibly replacing Galvanic Isolator with Commercial Isolation Transformer
    • 12 Ft 50 Amp Smart Chord
  • Pilot House AC Condensate pan – Vacuum the drain line & ER weep hole drain!
  • Master Bedroom AC Air Intake needs to be Vacuumed
  • Replace the GENNIE Yellow Wire on Non-Service Side
  • Bottom work
    • Strainer Basket Service
    • Change All Underwater Aluminum Anodes out
      • Double up on the shaft wing anodes
      • Main won’t need one, once the new Slip Ring assembly is installed
    • Remove Thruster Bow Grates for Sand & Paint
    • Stern Thruster Anodes & Props
    • Bow Thruster oil Header Tank adequate?
    • Barnacle Bust all my Strainer Bowls & clean them well
    • Stern Thruster New Anti-Skid Coat on Step Plate
    • Add second Aluminum Anode to the wing engine shaft, for Total of 2 this season
      • Mil Spec only
    • Reverso Oil Change System: Kit for impeller & gaskets (Egrets was SRK-360-2)
    • Oil & Fuel Filter Change on ME, GE & WE closer to April
    • Drop Racor Bowls and clean them all out with Brake Fluid
    • NAIAD Barnacle Bust the Raw Water cooling
    • Caribe Dinghy Work
      • Engine Cowling Paint Job
        • Use New Heater for each Coat
        • Patch & Sand big Dings with Filler
      • Order Stickers Again off EBay
      • Edging Replacement for Seat
      • Fiberglass Seat Back Repair Spider Cracks (great learning job for me)
        • Remove all old caulk & Light Sand
        • Grind out & fill stress cracks with Total Boat Epoxy Fairing Compound
        • Prep, Sand, acetone, for Epoxy Primer,
        • Finish with White Topside Paint
        • Re-Affix the white seat back cushion
      • Lube the Steering Ram
    • Install TWO new Victron Inverters (MES Annapolis)
    • Install the Sterling Power Alternator Protection Device for 12V Balmar
    • Discuss installation of Emergency Disconnect Switch for potential 12V Alternator Failure with MES
    • TWO 50 Amp &ONE 30 Amp Breaker Replacements
    • ER Light Over Yanmar Wing Engine
      • Remove 12V Ballast and wire in the 12V LED to fit inside the Fixture
        • If this one works well, we will replace the others, but need to test fit, ensure no heat, etc…
      • Install Customer Provided USB Outlets
        • 1 in Port Cabin
        • 1 In Starboard Cabin
        • 2 In Master Cabin (Either Side of Bed)
        • 4 in the Salon
          • Outlet near the printer on Port side of Salon
          • Left of Fridge, kitchen counter outlet
          • L-Settee at ankle Level
          • Outlet at Starboard Bookshelf in Salon
        • 12% BUCK BOOST Installation in P.H. with activation Switch for secondary AirCon 50Amp
          • Investigate space for future isolation transformer for this secondary 50A
            • My house 50amp already has an Isolation Transformer
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