Re: WaterLift Muffler for Volvo

Ron Hynes

Just a cautionary tale for those of us that occasionally put off critical items that they know they should Address now but for whatever reason decide to wait.

Several years ago I was traveling north from Florida and while in Charleston, noted some minor cracks in the top surface of my lift muffler. I thought I should keep an eye on that. My next stop in Southport, North Carolina, I noted that the cracks had deepened somewhat so I bought some epoxy and glass cloth to make a repair. I properly cleaned and prepared the surface and the repair cured well overnight and looked substantial, maybe even permanent. 

As luck would have it, the only motoring I did it for the next two days was out the Cape fear River to the ocean. I made a left and continued north to the blight at Cape Lookout where I anchored for 36 hours to wait for favorable winds to pass around Cape Hatteras.  I left at sunrise and experienced great sailing until I just rounded the Cape. The wind died and an updated weather forecast stated that within eight to 10 hours I would be experiencing strong northerly winds. With that in mind I motored at my full cruising speed. During an hourly check of the engine room, I noticed that the lift muffler had now ruptured and was spewing very hot sea water and diesel exhaust. In retrospect I probably should have reversed course and traveled back to Beaufort, probably 10 hours or so astern at this point. But I am somewhat of a hardheaded sailor and never really like to give up distance made.

I filled a large stainless steel salad bowl with wet rags and strapped it down over the rupture in the muffler. It seem to work quite well although there was still some leakage. I still had about 20 hours of motoring before I would reach a refuge in the Chesapeake. During this time, at every hourly engine check the rupture was getting worse.

It is difficult to imagine how much soot was deposited on every surface in the engine room. The sound insulation was soaked. My three beautiful cream colored Racor fuel filters were now almost black.

It was unfortunately July 4 weekend and all the marinas were packed with no room. I even tried to impose a harbor of refuge appeal on two marinas without success. I finally was able to stop in Deltaville Virginia, and placed an order for a replacement lift muffler.  The replacement arrived and was surprisingly easy to install and reconnect the exhaust hoses.

After getting two estimates of more than $2000 from smoke and fire remediation companies, I reluctantly called my insurance company for help. They eventually had a firm visit the boat and spent two days attempting to clean up the mess. Apparently there is no solvent for this soot which is deposited at fairly high temperature due to the exhaust gases and complicated by the fact that it’s in a saltwater spray. I really can’t imagine a worse concoction. After the insurance clean up, I was still embarrassed to show anybody my engine room. I spent hours and hours plus hired two other workers to help and we tried over $150 worth of different solvents. Nothing really dissolves this residue.

If you consult the available charts, my 109 hp Volvo penta requires a minimum exhaust diameter of 2 1/4 inches, exactly what the boat was equipped with. A former owner, however, I had lost two engines to following seas getting into his engine and had installed a ball valve in the exhaust line above the lift muffler. This reduced the effective size of the exhaust by 31%! Probably explains why my new lift muffler is the fourth one that has been on this boat. I have increased the diameter of the exhaust to 3 inches both in hopes of reducing the possibility of another lift muffler failure and in anticipation of re-powering. But to reiterate, just a warning to all to never ignore a potential calamity like happened to me. As my brother said, I think the only worst thing that could happen was if the boat had sunk!

Ron Hynes
S/V Swan Song - Meltem #29

On Oct 13, 2021, at 10:28 AM, Bill Kinney <cruisingconsulting@...> wrote:

There are two "elbows."  One is the rotatable elbow integral to the muffler. That is a 45 degree elbow.  The other is a 3 1/2" diameter, 90 degree elbow made by Trident Rubber that we sourced from Defender (with the water lift itself.)

The angle of the photo gives a bit of a distorted perspective.

I was prepared for quite a bit more of a struggle in getting it located and connected.  Every once in a great while a project turns out to be EASIER than expected.  

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