Engine - we replaced the original Perkins 1408 with a Beta 1505 in 2006/7. Perkins was swigging oil and dirty with it! I was confused to read that the 1408 developed 50 hp at 3000 rpm but we could never get more than 2400. The prop diameter/pitch was more than Perkins could handle. So with the aid of Darglow, UK agents for Maxprop and extremely helpful, we sought an engine/prop combination that could give us our theoretical maximum hull speed (7.9 Kts) with an engine at full power. The answer was a engine developing 40 hp at 3000 rpm with a 2:1 gearbox driving a cut down prop with a different pitch angle. Guess what it works! The replacement engine is a Beta 1505, smaller neater and very much cleaner than Perkins - we call her Emily.

In Oct 2014 I called in at Beta’s Gloucester factory to ask the questions that were unanswered elsewhere. These included:

Oil Specification – In the Mediterranean area I find it impossible to find oil that meets the engine handbook specification ie API CC/CD/CE ETC. Beta advised me that most 15-40 SAE diesel mineral or mutligrade oils will do but avoid synthetic oils or those formulated for turbo chargers.

Oil Changes – Our Beta is inclined with the pick up for the engine oil change pump at the forward (uphill) end of the sump. The pump does not pick up the oil that collects in the lower rear end of the sump. Thus 10 to 15% of the old or dirty oil remains to contaminate the replacement oil. The Beta advice is to reduce the oil change interval from the specified 250 hours to say 200 hours.

Gear Box – I was puzzled that my Beta reaches a higher RPM in reverse than ahead. Beta suggested that I check that the reduction ratios for my “Newage PRM 120” are the same in “ahead” as in “reverse”. They are not! Ahead is 2:1, Astern is 2.5:1.

Gear Box Oil - filling the gearbox oil to the “high” mark on the dip stick results in the oil blowing off to the “low” mark. Beta suggest that this is a consequence of the engine and gearbox being mounted at an inclined angle, and should not be a cause for concern. I am not convinced of the logic of this but the gear box runs well without over heating.

Fan Belt Dust – I have a polyvee fan belt driving a 100 amp alternator – the belt has kept its tension for 1750 hours and seems to have little wear despite producing some black dust. To reduce the dust Beta advise reducing the temperature in the engine compartment – typically by fitting a fan and improving the ventilation. I know that some 406 owners have fitted engine fans, but it is neither easy or neat.

Cleaning the Heat exchanger – I have tried to remove the heat exchanger to clean it in accordance with the maintenance schedule but find it impossible to access the front end. The Beta advice is to remove the fitting at the rear end of the heat exchanger and to clean the heat exchanger tubes with a suitable rod/needle. Some cleaning is better than no cleaning.

Injectors – a maintenance engineer offered to clean the injectors; I declined the offer and then wondered if I should have accepted. The Beta advice is to wait until you know that you have an injector problem.

Alternator – a friend suggested that the alternator should be serviced/cleaned every year. The Beta advice is to leave well alone; there is an internal fan that keeps it clean. However the bearings will be a problem eventually - 5000 hrs? – at that stage remove the alternator to service or replace.

Cylinder Glazing – I have read many warnings that idling the engine or running it with a low load will glaze the cylinders and lead to increased oil consumption. The Beta advice is run the engine as you need – the Kubota injectors prevent cylinder glazing – what a relief!

Water Maker Compressor – I wondered if there is an option to fit a water maker compressor to my Beta. The Beta advice is that it can be done if there are the holes/drillings for a Power Take Off (PTO) pulley on the crankshaft pulley and room for a compressor and mounting at the front of the engine. The compressor should be mounted on the engine not the boat. I have the PTO fitting but not, I suspect, room for the compressor.

Engine Hour Read out. The LED engine hour read out on the rpm gauge dims or becomes invisible. I associate this with damp and try to keep it free of moisture with some success. The BETA advice is ..........................( I forgot to ask - DAMN!).

Drive Train

On removing Perkins it became obvious that as well as cutting down the propeller diameter and adjusting the blades, we should also replace the propeller shaft and stern gland. The dripping stern gland had been a constant source of irritation so I was pleased to have a “dry” Propeller Shaft Seal (PSS). The PSS worked well and after 6 years I replaced the “bellows” in accordance with instructions. 18 months later the “disc” slipped up the shaft. See “What happened” in the box! While renewing the PSS I found 4 of the 8 bolts on the connector between the gear box and propeller shaft were loose. I had been hearing “clunks” when the engine came into forward gear - now I knew why! But how long had this been going on for and how come I had not noticed these loose bolts earlier?

Engine and Drive Train

What happened  !!

We motored out from the port of Patmos in our 13 metre sailing yacht with ourselves as a crew of two and with two guests. Our destination was the port of Limani on the Island of Leros – about 15 miles to the south. The wind was light at Force 3 and the sea state slight. After an hour of motoring we were clear of the Patmos wind shadow and so hoisted sail and turned off the engine. My wife went below to make a log entry and reported, with considerable concern, that there was water over the galley floorboards.

I went below and tried to find the water source closing all relevant sea cocks as I worked my way aft. I could not find the source but decided that we should restart the engine, return to Patmos and start pumping with the manual cockpit pump. We had two manual pumps but no electric pump. It was with relief that I noted that the pump was lowering the water level. I then started a second search for the point of water entry.

It was immediately obvious – water was pulsing up from the stern gland seal on the propeller shaft. The seal is a PSS “dry seal”; dry, that is, when correctly fitted. I realized that the stainless steel disc on the shaft had slipped “up shaft” to allow water in. I now needed shallow water to beach the boat while we pushed the disc back down the shaft to close the seal. I intended to find such a place in Patmos harbour.

At this stage we discussed making a PAN call to make the coast guard aware of our problem and of a possible further request for assistance. In the UK I would have made such a call without hesitation. However the Greek coastguard has reputation for over-reaction and bureaucracy. In this case I feared being charged for un-requested assistance and, if we beached the vessel, confiscation of papers and the requirement for a survey. As the problem was contained we kept silent.

Once back in Patmos harbour we came alongside a pontoon to prepare for the beaching and switched off the engine. The inflow of water immediately ceased. Now I realized that it was the lubricating water that the engine pumps to the PSS that had created an over pressure to force the disc up the shaft allowing the seal to leak; without the engine there was no lubricating water and the seal effectively re-seated itself. If we could now push the stainless steel disc back down the shaft and secure it we would not need to beach the boat. This we succeeded in doing, adding four jubilee clips around the shaft as insurance.

What went wrong? I had replaced the PSS seal bellows 18 months earlier as recommended by the manufacturer. I had found it difficult to hold the disc against the pressure of the compressed bellows and suspect that I blunted the securing grub screws as I made a second or third attempt to secure the disc. I recognized the danger of the disc slipping up the shaft but did nothing. I have since seen zinc shaft anodes fitted to prevent the disc slipping.

I have now replaced the second manual bilge pump with a high capacity electric pump, and purchased a high capacity mobile manual pump. I have also replaced the grubscrews securing the disc to the shaft and fitted a purpose built shaft retention collar.