Archive For The “Technical” Category

The Case of the Missing Oil Leak

The Case of the Missing Oil Leak

An engine seldom “just gets better”—close to never—but our generator was leaking vast amounts of oil from the rear main oil seal prior to the cylinder head replacement. If the generator sound attenuation shield front cover was removed during operation, it would spray the engine room floor and the neighboring wing engine, creating a real…

Read more »

Ship’s Log

Ship’s Log

We keep a detailed ship’s log that records where we have been, what we have done, system state, and things we fix. Unlike commercial ship’s logs, that normally are hand-maintained and can’t be modified, ours is a bit primitive in that it’s just a Word document. We focus on it being easy to maintain rather…

Read more »

Part III: Replacing 12kW GenSet Cylinder Head

Part III: Replacing 12kW GenSet Cylinder Head

  This installment of our maintenance series picks up from our previous video, where we replaced the defective cylinder head in our Northern Lights 12kW generator with a brand new one just shipped in from the US. In this video, we complete the job by adjusting the valves, replacing the coolant and bleeding the fuel…

Read more »

Stornoway Haulout

Stornoway Haulout

The Stornoway slipway is a big commercial railway that can lift boats up to 50m long and weighing up to 850 tons. The railway cradle uses three pairs of hydraulic support arms to hold boats in place, making for an efficient lift process. Once the vessel is in the correct position, the arms are simply…

Read more »

Part II: Replacing 12kW GenSet Cylinder Head

Part II: Replacing 12kW GenSet Cylinder Head

  This installment of our maintenance series picks up from our previous video, where we removed the defective cylinder head from our Northern Lights 12kW generator and ended with the engine in pieces on the floor. In this third part of the set covering the low power output issue with our generator, we install the…

Read more »

Lead-Acid Battery Lifetime

Lead-Acid Battery Lifetime

Batteries are complex electro-chemical devices and sensitive to operator mistakes and charging system configuration errors. Just a couple of deep discharge cycles can lead to early failure. Long periods without fully charging can reduce the capacity of a battery bank. Equalization (extended charge periods at controlled high-voltage charging) can partially reverse some of these effects,…

Read more »

Replacing GenSet Cylinder Head Part I

Replacing GenSet Cylinder Head Part I

  In the previous installment of our maintenance series, we diagnosed lack of power output on a Northern Lights M843NW3.3 12KW generator with 6,700 hours of use over 10 years. We concluded the #3 cylinder exhaust valve seat had failed. In this second part of the series covering the low power output issue with our…

Read more »

Valve Seat Recession

Valve Seat Recession

About four weeks ago, our generator suddenly went from normal output to having far less power. Instead of the 10+ kW it normally produced, it could only generate 7 kW. We worked through the Northern Lights diagnostic procedure and concluded we had a valve or valve seat problem on #3 cylinder exhaust. The steps we…

Read more »

Diagnosing GenSet Low Power Output

Diagnosing GenSet Low Power Output

  In this installment of our maintenance series, we diagnose low engine power output on a Northern Lights 12kW generator. This engine is unable to produce more than 7kw of power, but can reliably deliver that, and otherwise is running fairly well. We walk through the diagnostic procedure checking for intake blockage, fuel system problems,…

Read more »

Replacing Generator Overhead Light

Replacing Generator Overhead Light

The overhead space between our generator and the ceiling is rather limited, and the fluorescent light mounted directly above it consumed a large chunk of that. So much so that James recently broke a bulb when jammed over top working to free the exhaust elbow from the exhaust hose. So we decided to remove the…

Read more »

Changing Starter in 12kW Northern Lights

Changing Starter in 12kW Northern Lights

  Our Northern Lights 12kW generator is just a slight bit slower to start. In this video, we check the likely possibilities for slow to start, including air filters, fuel filters, voltage at battery, and voltage at starter during cranking and determine that the starter is at fault. We then show the process of changing…

Read more »

Gen Rear Main Oil Seal

Gen Rear Main Oil Seal

Our generator showed a light misting of oil around the generator cooling fan a month back. At just under 7,000 hours, it’s a bit early to be leaking, but it’s not a huge issue since rear main oil seals don’t fail catastrophically nor even quickly. It just means that in the next year or so,…

Read more »

Maintaining at Gigha

Maintaining at Gigha

While our cruising lifestyle may be on pause during the Scottish lockdown, our maintenance log isn’t. Several scheduled service items came due in mid-May, including annual testing, lubricating and changing the oil and filter in our gasoline engines, changing the hydraulic zincs, and charging our backup batteries. We also completed some unscheduled maintenance work, such…

Read more »

Load Shedding

Load Shedding

One of the challenges with the smaller electrical systems found on most boats is managing the power load. Whenever electrical loads are running on a boat, they are delivered by some power source. It might be the generator, it could be shore power, or it could be the inverter. But, whatever the power source, it…

Read more »

Water Leak

Water Leak

Saturday morning we lifted the floor covering in the master stateroom head to access stores and found the floor underneath soaked wall-to-wall. We opened up the storage area below and it also had a lot of water in it. The first task was to get everything out of the storage areas and all dried and…

Read more »

Reduced Generator Output

Reduced Generator Output

Our Northern Lights 12kW generator ran for years without any hard-to-diagnose problems. It just ran, and that’s the way we like it. For its entire 6,600-hour life, it’s been able to reliably produce 42 amps. It’s nominally a 50-amp generator, but due to highly non-linear load on Dirona, the power factor often is less than…

Read more »

Generator Oil Change

Generator Oil Change

  In this video, we change the oil in our Northern Lights 12kW generator and discuss related aspects including oil storage, obtaining new oil and disposing of used oil as we travel the world.    

Read more »

Inspecting John Deere 6068 Accessory Drive Belt and Bearings

Inspecting John Deere 6068 Accessory Drive Belt and Bearings

  An important annual service check on a diesel engine is to check the drive belt and bearing condition on all engine-driven accessories including the alternator and coolant pump. The video below steps through this simple service check on our John Deere 6068AFM75. The engine is a 266 hp, M2-rated marine diesel that is just…

Read more »