Not Quite What We Expected...

After a couple of weeks using Bandit, it became apparent that there were bits and pieces that needed some attention. We bought Bandit with the impression that the boat was completely ready to go, no maintenance needed. That, however, has not been the case.

First, there was a nasty smell coming from the bilges and in the heads a couple of days after we really began staying on the boat on the weekends. After lots of searching, we discovered that the sea toilet pipes were the source of the smell. We accepted this at just a bit of bad luck as the boat was 25 years old and the pipes looked original. We purchased the pipes from our marina chandlery and got straight to the job. The biggest worry for us was whether the seacocks were any good. The last thing we wanted to do was to remove the toilet pipes and find that the seacocks had failed which would let in a tonne of water, a possibly sink the boat. One brave move revealed that the seacocks were, in fact, watertight. Phew. Now to feed the pipes through the bulkheads, which were very hard to get to, and connect it up to the toilet... But no. The toilet then decided to leak and after further research, we discovered that this toilet was the original one fitted to the boat in 1991. The time, I think, for an upgrade. One new Jabsco sea toilet later, and we were back in business. New toilet, new piping. All proven to still be working well.

Next thing to occur was something far more serious than toilet problems. When we first went to view the boat, we were told by the owner that the port engine would not start and that the Volvo mechanic was coming out later that afternoon to sort things out. He promised us that it would all be running if we chose to purchase the boat. And yes, he was correct. The mechanic managed to solve the issue, which turned out to be a dry petrol pump where the engines had not been run for a long period of time. When we got Bandit back to our marina, we did have some engine issues right from the word "go". Firstly, the engines were not starting as they should be. They turned over and over before they eventually fired. This didn't seem right to us as the carburettors have automatic chokes on them which should automatically adjust the carbs for starting the engine and right the way until they are warm enough to idle naturally. We began to wonder if the chokes were faulty. We took the carb off the port engine to investigate and found that the carburettors themselves were leaking fuel where the gaskets were so old. Two new refurbishment kits for the twin Rochester Quadrajets later and we experienced the same issues. We were aware that the previous owner did not use the boat much out at sea and therefore the engines were started very rarely. We were suspicious that after years of sitting there, there was either A) water in the petrol tanks causing the engines to run so poorly or B) the petrol had been sat there for so long with no storage additives and it had gone off. What we thought turned out to be true; both tanks were half water, half gone off, orangy, waxy petrol.
A petrol sample from the Starboard tank
So, we borrowed a pump (a frustratingly slow one at that) from our marina mechanic and set about pumping out all the fuel from both the Port and Starboard tanks. Luckily, our marina mechanic knew of somebody that would take our manky petrol in cans for us for free because he could use them to mix with oil for his heating (or something like that). This was good for us because disposing of 200l of petrol isn't very easy and can be hugely expensive.
Pumping out the  2-year-old petrol
Next was to replace the two huge inline petrol filters and then the two on the twin engines. A word of advice: never believe you've sold an issue until you can physically prove it. Both engines ran better but nowhere near how a V6 engine should. They were both still very slow to respond and still failed to start as they should. Since then we've had both carbs off about five times trying to get to the bottom of things as these issues were clearly down to fuel. The starboard engine runs okay now (but still no at all how it should) but stupidly, we rushed trying to refit the carb on the port engine after trying to sort it out and snapped the tip off one of the needles so now it doesn't run at all. We gave up with these 25-year-old carbs and ended up purchasing two remanufactured Rochester Quadrajet carbs from the USA. We figured it was time to just eliminate these problems and pay for two new ones. This will also save troubles in the future as they would have only gone wrong time after time.
Messing around with the Rochester Quadrajet carburettor from the Port engine

To focus on some positives, we have had a handful of successful jobs completed in the time that we've had Bandit. The first job to complete was the fitting of an Eberspacher D2 diesel heating unit which was kindly left by the previous owner and stored away in one of the compartments below the seating area. On 'hand-over day', the previous owner was showing us around the boat and we came across the heating unit. He explained that he purchased it second hand with the idea of fitting it to the boat but never got round to it. Our initial intention was to purchase a new unit and fit it but after we discovered that the previous owner would kindly hand us the unit with the boat, we decided to give it a chance and fit it. We didn't want to hold our breath because this unit was made in 2002. We were almost convinced that the unit would not fire up at all but to our surprise, and after 6 attempts at firing up, the unit finally coughed into life and began to circulate air around the cabins. After a couple of minutes, hot air filled the cabin. This 2002 unit that was originally fitted to an old Royal Mail post van actually worked! And worked well! No idea when or if it was ever serviced but even now, in mid-May, it works perfectly; not that you would need hot air in mid-May, that said. It doesn't smoke at all and runs as smooth as our new Eberspacher we fitted to our Mirage not too long ago. In total, we invested money towards the metal trunking, air outlets, a couple of clips and a heat regulating 801 Eberspacher control unit. Instead of being a £2k job, this cost us no more than 150 quid. Can't complain about that...

The next job few successful jobs were only little jobs that we wanted to do:

  • Re-wired the 240v shore power system (as one socket on the boat was live and the others had to all be plugged into one another to work) and fitted some new, nicer looking plug sockets
  • Fitted new battery chargers to the engine batteries and domestic batteries to keep them topped up
  • Fitted some blue LED lighting in the cockpit
  • Fitted a new VHF radio and whip aerial as we had to remove these when we removed the GRP 'wing' that was mounted to the radar arch when we purchased the boat
  • Removed some old brass factory pieces such as lights and fixtures and replaced them with some stainless ones
  • Mended the main door lock so the door will actually lock together now
  • Took care of some leaks coming from the stainless steel stanchions bases on the side of the boat
  • Fitted a new 12v TV and antenna that we can use when we're away from the marina and don't have access to shore power
  • Replaced most of the toilet compartment such as the shower/tap combo which was old and corroded and the old mirror
  • Replaced all the screws on the outside of every single window as each window was held in with at most three screws. We also purchased and replaced all the grey window seals

The next big jobs on our list for the future are to replace the old light blue carpet down below for something that looks a bit cleaner, eventually replace or refurbish the upholstery, refit the galley with new hob, oven, sink, taps, storage space and fridge and eventually fit a Vetus 55kgf bow thruster as we really do miss going from our Mirage with a thruster to a boat without one. It would be completely different at sea as you would rarely use it. On the river, however, the width of some locks are just a fraction wider than the beam of the boat. This makes it extremely hard to navigate through locks, yet some on the river think we're mad for getting another one as we apparently don't need it with twin engines. To be honest I would rather pay for the thruster and know I can avoid expensive and embarrassing accidents while manoeuvring in locks and while mooring up. We never looked back after having one fitted to our Mirage so it's definitely on our list.

All in all, we've had the boat at the marina for a good four months now and we have completed so many jobs which really needed doing. This hopefully sets us up for a good summer with 0 maintenance, after we get the engines sorted out, that is. That kind of brings this blog up to the present time now...

We have still been using Bandit with a single engine - nothing will stop us enjoying the river!


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