Heat-exchanger woes or “that looks expensive”

A distant island on a calm sea in Golfo Ancud
An Island in Golfo Ancud

Last Sunday we motored into Marina Costa de Huelmo with the intention of staying for a week to ten days. We planned to start the servicing and provisioning prior to a short trip across the Andes to visit Paula`s parents to say au revoir; which would also renew our visas for Chile allowing us an unrushed exit from Chile. We would then return to finish stocking up before departing Chile for Polynesia.

After tying up and meeting the marina owner, Hector, and a couple of the other yachties moored there I got to work on servicing the engine. Everything was going well until I pulled the heat exchanger stack to give the tubes a clean. One of the end caps was well and truly stuck and when I eventually extracted it by rigging a puller with some threaded rod and scrap materials I found one of those heart sinking sights. The aluminium housing was badly corroded and there was no way the end cap was going to seal again if I simply cleaned up the housing and put it all back together again. It was one of those disimilar metal situations that just shouldn´t exist. I knew this was going to be expensive.

I emailed Beta Marine in England for a quote on a new part and started to think about what could be done locally to get us mobile again. Raul, the owner of a Joshua called “Condor” and a very experienced Chilean sailor came around to say hello and immediately stuck his head in the engine box to offer his opinion. His first response was “Hmmmm this is a difficult one” but he suggested that we take the part into a mechanic in Puerto Montt who would know if anything could be done.

First thing Monday morning I set to work and dismantled the port side of the engine. The exhaust and alternator had to come off along with a few other odds and ends. Off we went into town in Raul´s pickup; which was roaring like a battle tank as he´d knocked the exhaust off on a rock somewhere. Also along for the ride was a Canadian guy called Mike and a Spanish girl, Anna, who were working on a nearby farm belonging to Raul´s friends (they are travelling on some farm-work equivalent of couch surfing and working their way around Chile). Mike had broken a tooth on a perl while chowing on a clam from Sunday´s curanto and needed to see a dentist.

The mechanic friend of Raul´s thought that the housing could be fixed by cutting out the rotten aluminium, building up new material by TIG welding and then machining the mating faces back to their original dimension. He couldn´t do it himself but knew a man who could. So off we went again to a small machine shop. They looked at the problem and said no problem however the owner wasn´t around to give us a price; “Come back at 2:30”. Off for lunch at Raul´s favourite Japanese restaurant where a set lunch was 3000 CLP, there was no way we could eat it all.

We also dropped in on another friend of Raul´s who had been the cook on the US research vessel “Lawrence M Gould” that Paula and I were used to seeing down south. He was yet another interesting character. He had a small well-tended garden full of carefully nurtured bonzai trees, all species native to the area, out the back he was smoking and packing some beautiful salmon and his front room was full of a drum kit and couple of guitars.

Back at the machine shop the boss was back. He described how they proposed to fix the heat-exchanger housing and said they would protect the machined metal with a ceramic paint to help prevent a repeat of the problem. The cost 75,000 CLP we asked about a pressure test to check the work and the price went up by 18,000 pesos! hmmm. Anyway we asked him to go ahead because if they can achieve the repair it will be a cost effective solution.

The quote eventually came in from Beta Marine at 485 British Pounds; which for us is just about out of reach at the moment. That is without shipping from England and customs clearance in Chile etc. etc..

Either way we are delayed until we can fix the engine and test everything. The repaired part should be ready on Monday, if it checks out OK we will be good to leave Chile for Polynesia, if not we´ll have to look at importing a new part.

In the mean time we have taken the bus ride over the mountains and are staying with Paula´s brother and visiting with her parents for a couple of days before heading back to the boat on Saturday. Roman, Paula´s brother will give us a lift back and hopefully give us a lift to and from the supermarkets to help us load up with several months of supplies.

3 Comments on “Heat-exchanger woes or “that looks expensive”

  1. Any photos of the buggered part? I need to have the transmission from my minivan removed and repaired so I join you in sobbing at the cost of the impending work. Hope your repair goes well.

    • Hi, We’ll find out later today (Monday 01 Feb) or tomorrow if the repair was successful or not. I took a before pic of the corroded area and will try to remember to take some photos of the whole thing and the repair before I put it all back together again. Hopefully good news for the next blog entry.

      Good luck with the van repairs!

    • AS usual in this part of the world things took longer than expected/promised. We got the part installed and tested on Friday and it looks like it will work. Busy now getting ready to leave.

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