ASK THE EXPERTS
TOM NEALE: I can’t tell from your
question how much of the engine was
under, and that factor is very important.
The fact that it’s cranking is good news,
but that’s only part of the story. And it’s
not good practice to crank a motor that’s
been all or partly underwater unless you
know for sure the extent of the flooding
and whether water has entered any part
of the engine.
Because your flooding was from freshwater, you have a much better chance
of little or no damage, but remember
that fresh rainwater in a bilge may be
compromised by residual salt and other
impurities. If you know that the water
just came up a small distance on the
oil pan and had no way of entering the
engine or any of its components, you’re
probably going to be OK, but here are
examples of things to consider.
A major issue would be water in the
oil or transmission fluid. If those fluid
levels are higher than usual, that’s a sign
of problems. If you ran the engine and
either of those fluids was milky or had
the appearance of chocolate milk, this
would also indicate water in the oil/fluid.
At the very least, drain the oil and/or
fluid completely, refill with good oil, and
then drain and refill it several more times
to be sure all the water is out.
If water has come into the exhaust
manifold or into the air intake, you could
have hydraulic lock and, if you were
to crank the engine, you could cause
damage internally that may cost more
to repair than the engine is worth. This
could be indicated by hard starting or by
just a clunk without starting. Even if the
engine turns over, this isn’t a complete
sign that all is well. A qualified mechanic
can remove the plugs or injectors and get
the water out, as well as take other steps
that could save the engine.
If water has reached the alternator or
starter, usually the best bet is to remove
the alternator or starter and let it dry out.
Sometimes a freshwater exterior flush
is good, but one seldom knows for sure
what types of electronics are in either
device and whether you’d damage them.
When you push that start button, you
could also cause a serious short or do
so later if wiring connections have been
impaired. If water gets under the wiring
insulation, even if it’s good marine-grade
wire, the wire strands can corrode over
time and cause problems.
If any of the solenoids were wet,
that’s another potential source of problems. These are essentially coils through
which electricity is passed, resulting in
their becoming magnetic and thereby
moving the metal plunger inside the
solenoid. A solenoid may perform various functions. If water has gotten inside
a solenoid, it could damage the coils
over time or right away, particularly if it
shorts out the solenoid. Regardless, if the
plunger wall becomes rusty, a solenoid
could stick. If a solenoid sticks, the result
could range from it not doing its job well
If it were me, I’d take the boat (on
its trailer) to a good mechanic and have
him check it out thoroughly. These are
just a few examples. There are many
different things that could be affected
(hopefully none, in your case), but with
the cost of the motor, it’s worth spending
the bucks to have good help from a qualified mechanic.
I’m on the ICW on my Grand Banks
36 Classic, built in 1984. My windlass
is probably original equipment. Recently
it failed, and I wonder whether it can
be rebuilt rather than replaced. It has
power, but the gypsy clutch appears initially to engage, but disengages with any
load, and you hear a whirring sound like
an auto starter when it doesn’t engage.
Any thoughts? Timothy Bloomfield
TOM NEALE: I can’t tell for sure with-
out being there and being hands on, but
your windlass can probably be repaired
without having to replace it. You may
need some parts,
but they are a
lot less expen-
sive than buying
a new windlass.
And installing the
parts (or watching
while a qualified
them) will teach
you a lot about
The sound and
signs you describe could be due to the
clutch slipping. The surfaces wear over
time and use and take a lot of nor-
mal abuse. If your clutch is operated
electrically by a solenoid (and it may be,
if you operate the windlass from your
flying bridge), the solenoid could be fail-
ing to engage at its contact point (which
could be worn), or its coil could be weak.
You could also have built up mud/grease/
gunk that could be in the way, impairing
the function of engaging parts.
I’d get to a dock and start taking it
apart, if it were me. At the very least, it
will need cleaning if it hasn’t had this
before. You can probably find a manual
online. If you find anything particularly tricky or dangerous or beyond your
comfort zone, it’s best to get qualified
What plugs that hole?
I recently purchased a used 10-foot
3-inch inflatable dinghy built in 2003.
Whatever plugs the transom is missing.
There is a plug in the inside, but looking
at the boat from behind, there is what
appears to be a plug hole right at the bottom of the transom. It appears that there
is a double hull on this dinghy. There is
a plug on the inside of the hull to drain
the foot well and there is also a hole with
nothing in it on the outside of the hull.
It’s larger and lower than the one in the
footwell. My concern is that there was a
sleeve in the outside hole that the plug
was to fit in and that the sleeve came out
and was lost along with the plug.
TOM NEALE: I can give you some
generic information from the description
of your issues, but there are many differ-
to learn how
to maintain a
windlass so it
takes care of
BECAUSE YOUR FLOODING
WAS FROM FRESHWATER,
YOU HAVE A MUCH BETTER
CHANCE OF LITTLE OR