Too soon old, too late smart – the ancient mariner gets a sharp rap with the clue bat

That’s my 1999 22 SeaSport up at the top of the page.  Main power is a Volvo-Penta 5.7 GSi.  Marinized Chevy 350 with throttle-body injection.

On our one halibut outing this year we ran out to the ‘but hole, fished an hour or so, then fired up the big engine to move.  Engine started but I could hear the high-pressure fuel pump screeching.   Shut down, restarted… more screech.  Finally it stopped but when throttling up the engine would surge and shut down.

This happened before a few years ago.  Can be caused by a failing pump (there are two: low pressure and high pressure) or by a fuel obstruction that causes pump cavitation.  They screech when they aren’t full of fuel.  Last time I replaced the HP pump and it was fine for 7 years or so.

Normally I’d spend some time troubleshooting and maybe take the one-thing-at-a-time approach but this happened just before leaving for a family reunion that was already going to wipe out  the first two weeks of king season, and there was no time for a leisurely approach to repair – or to try to find a boatyard that could take it on.

Larry and Richard – service manager and parts dude – at a major shop in Seattle were very generous with their time trying to get me going over the phone.  General consensus was that likely it was a failing pump.  Larry also suggested a clogged anti-siphon valve and since I wasn’t sure I could reach it on top of the fuel tank (and I HATE touching fuel components that I can’t monitor easily) he advised to test with an outboard fuel primer bulb and sure enough plenty of fuel flow.

So… many $$$ later I swapped out both pumps.  Did a sea trial that went fine, but on returning home to do an engine flush I got a little pump screech.   Per the book, it could have been vapor in the system after a hot soak (not a problem if so) but the old pumps never did that, so time to check the ant-siphon valve.

By removing the engine cover I was able to access it fairly easily and once it was off it proved to be completely unobstructed… BUT… when I went to remove the fuel hose from the valve barb – usually wrestling match after 23 years in place… it nearly fell off when I touched it.

Ah *bleep* the problem all along was most likely an air leak around the valve barb, not a pump failure or obstruction.  Could have fixed it on the water in seconds with a screwdriver and skipped the mad dash to repair… not to mention the $$$.  Replaced the valve with one that a more serious set of rings on the barb, and cranked down the hose clamp.  So far so good.  No screech and running fine.  (Knock on teak…)

Like I said, too soon  old and too late smart. And it’s never a good idea to rush these things – if only a measured approach had been an option.

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