Saturday, March 15, 2008

Saga of the temperature sender

None would guess that getting the proper temperature sender for my boat would prove to be so difficult. Alas. So often on boats, and in life, success goes to those who are willing to suffer absurd setbacks and try, try again. I've always liked that supposedly Buddhist expression to "Fall down six times, stand up seven".

On a Gulf 32, all the engine controls are down by the electrical panel in the pilothouse. All that is, except for an utterly useless engine start button which I have never been able to see the reason for. So from the wheel in the cockpit, you cannot see engine RPM, or most importantly, engine temperature.

On a challenging day heading out of Deception Pass against 40 knot winds, we had to motor at nearly full throttle to make a pathetic 2 knots SOG amongst the steep 8 foot wind waves, and this with a nice 3 blade prop. Clearly, engine overheating was a serious concern, in fact, a mortal concern. The intake was getting popped out of the water at the top of every big wave we were getting bounced over. And because there were no gauges in the cockpit, I had to ask my stalwart crew member Adam to let loose his death grip on the cockpit and open the companionway doors and look below to see that our engine was steady at something below 180 degrees. Every 10 minutes. Even this felt like too long to wait.

So, with this experience, I set about to install a dual station in the cockpit beside the wheel. I've mounted a teak winch pad and on it a Tiny Tach diesel tachometer and a second Teleflex temperature gauge. Fine, I do all the wiring and fiberglass cutting and all is well. A fun job. But when everything is wired up, the gauges do not come up to normal operating temperatures. I had purchased what I thought was the proper dual station Teleflex sender from Cook Engine in Portland, an engine shop that specializes in all things marine diesel.

Believing the sender was fine, I tested every other possible reason for the gauges not working. I called Teleflex to make sure the two gauges were compatible. They were. I checked wires. Fine. I prayed to Neptune. He laughed.

So then I did what I spend all my time doing these days, and that is a massive internet search to figure out the damn problem. After endless queries and false starts, I discovered that Teleflex does not imprint their own part numbers on their senders. Repeat, there is no identification on their own senders that will tell you which one it is in their catalog. Unbelievable. I eventually called Teleflex and spoke with one of their tech gurus and was told that in fact Teleflex doesn't even make a dual station 1/4" thread sender anymore!!!!! Now only Sierra Marine makes them, an offshoot of Teleflex, and oh no, they do not share part numbers.

Apoplectic, as six months had elapsed, I called Cook Engine, they agreed to take it back, and send me the correct Sierra sender. It arrives, I install it, and the temperature gauges do not come up to temperature...!!!...!!!...!!!

I connected each gauge by itself to this Sierra sender, and they worked fine. No problem with the gauges or wiring.

I yank it out, go home, check the paperwork, and discover that the model I was sent was part number 26650 on the box, when what Cook Engine had on their invoice was 26651. With another several hours of internet searching, and I'm good, I finally find that General Automotive Specialty Company Incorporated makes the sender for Sierra who is a part of Teleflex and the box I was sent was a sender that hasn't been made in so long that it doesn't exist on anyone's lists of current senders.

However, Sierra sender 26651 is indeed supposed to be the proper dual station 1/4" sender. So I called Cook Engine again and said, you won't believe this, but...And they said they would get back to me on Monday as it was Friday afternoon.

All I have ever wanted was the proper temperature sender. I intensely hope that Cook Engine will promptly send me Sierra sender 26651 right away and we can all laugh about this in 2023.

I tell this lengthy story just as testament to the sort of determination it takes to get so much of anything done in this world, especially on a sailboat. Delayed gratification, they say, is the single most important ingredient to happiness. Ironic, but true.

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