Monday, 25 January 2010

Dashboard - Fitting an extra Volts gauge

The standard boat only had a water temp gauge to keep an eye on the engine temps. Because I had fitted a total loss ignition system (i.e. a system that pulls power directly from the battery, rather than the ignition systems own charging system, as was the case for the original engine) I wanted to fit an extra gauge to measure the voltage of the battery.

The new gauges are manufactured by STACK. The temp gauge came with all the fittings for the sensor to mount to the engine. The quality of the gauges and senders etc was very impressive.

I had originally fitted a SPA digital water/volts dual gauge (both read outs in one gauge) but the EM pulses given off by the ignition system interfered with the digital gauge wiring and stopped it from working. The new mechanical temp gauge has the benefit of not needing a power supply and having a very fast response time. I haven't wired the backlighting into the gauges yet, a job for another day (fiddling around behind the dash is tricky).

Drilling a new hole for the water temp gauge

STACK Battery Volts and Water Temp Gauges in place

Friday, 22 January 2010

Jet Unit - Part 1

I didn't know much about jet units before embarking on this project but i knew enough to realise that it had at some point in its life sucked up a decent size stone which had removed much of the trailing edge of the stator blades between the two impellers. Not an easy fix, especially with no welding gear so i gave the middle section of the pump to a friend, who gave it to an ex Rolls Royce mechanic who was a bit of a dab hand at Ali welding. He did a top job at repairing the missing areas of the blades by welding layer over layer. I then set to with the Dremel drill to profile the blades back to their original shape. This took ages and a lot of patience but got a good result in the end.

Stator section of jet pump after having missing chunks welded up

The rest of the jet pump seemed OK, but the wear rings were quite worn so I had some more made up by Plastic Machining Services of Telford. I later discovered that I had specified WAY too big a tip clearance (approx 2mm total) resulting in poor performance from the jet pump. The wear rings were pressed into the pump housings and the unit was treated to a coat of matt black enamel paint.

UA Jet unit following initial refurb

Upon assembly of the unit and fitment to the boat I discovered that the shaft was slightly bent, so I had this straightened but unfortunately it was not straight enough and I encountered some bad vibration when the impellers hit the wear rings at certain speeds. This, combined with the big tip clearance on the impellers resulted in poor performance from the jet on its first test run.

The intake to the jet unit is fibreglass and is part of the hull moulding (see pic below). My boat didn't come with an intake grate to prevent stones being taken up into the jet but the hull moulding has the slots for an intake grate. I managed to buy another UA jet unit on ebay which came with an intake grate so I will eventually fit that to the boat.

Inlet into jet unit

Wednesday, 20 January 2010


First things first.... Try to start the engine.

This quickly established problem number one, the starter motor slipping out because of worn teeth on the flywheel as well as poor engagement from the starter motor.

So the first few jobs were to fix the starter motor clutch and refurb the starter motor. The flywheel was also set back by adding a shim to get better contact with the starter motor drive. Having sorted the starter motor, and temporarily fixed the flywheel, the next problem was the ignition system.

The engine originally had a CDI magnet ring type ignition. These produce a huge spark and don't require an alternator as they produce their own power. This had obviously broken and was replaced by the previous owner who made up a distributorless points ignition system working on the wasted spark principle (2 sparks per cylinder for every rotation). The home made ignition system produced a weak spark and made starting the engine very difficult. The previous owner had obviously had some major issues getting the engine/boat to work as when I looked at the cam/points cover (see pic) he had stamped the words "ABANDON ALL HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE" onto the inside of the cover. Amusing at the time but if i'd found it earlier, i'd probably have taken this excellent advice!

Hidden advice from the previous owner! Look closely...

Anyway, the chap who sold it to me suggested I strap a magneto ignition system to it, such as the types seen on old Mercury outboards. Not knowing any better, I took his advice. It involved tracking down the magneto off someone in Wales, making a bracket and toothed pulley belt system, and the necessay adjustment holes etc. IT WORKED. It fired up nicely and was running much better however the system was eventually ditched because the bracket holding the magneto to the engine vibrated to the point that you could barely see the magneto as it attempted to destroy itself. So I removed the magneto and the bracket and started again. This time it was back to points, except I used the points as a trigger for a home made electronic ignition system which I soldered up from a Maplin kit. I hoped this would help give a better spark in combination with a new coil. The points system failed to generate a good spark however despite using new plugs (the correct ones this time), new leads, and the electronic box coupled to the new coil. I got the thing to start a couple of times but it really was hard work to start. I then made the mistake of coaxing the thing into life using "Easy Start" which led to one of the piston rings going on holiday via the exhaust pipe. This meant an engine rebuild, so i sourced new pistons and rings, gaskets etc from Andover Norton (Rotax Suppliers) and set to. I also stripped the carb and found that some parts were missing altogether and the main needle very badly worn.

The Rotax engine in its early days with Mk1 ignition system - later ditched due to bad vibration

Engine rebuild in progress - NEVER USE EASY START ON OLD ENGINES!!!

So with the engine rebuilt, it was time to fit an ignition system that actually worked, and sort the carb. I ordered an MSD ignition system designed specifically for small watercraft. The MSD system has modern trigger pickups to trigger the sparks via 2 coils, as well as digital timing control allowing the ignition to be retarded at start up for easy starts, and advanced at higher revs to give more power. It also has a rev limiter to prevent engine damage at high revs. The ignition computer also sends multiple sparks (MSD = Multiple Spark Discharge) to each spark plug below 3000rpm, improving the idle and start. To fit the MSD igntion to this custom application I had to have a mounting plate fabricated to seat the trigger pickups. I also at this point decided to have a new flywheel made up as the old flywheel had worn teeth and was way out of balance, causing the engine to vibrate. I designed a heavier flywheel to aid starting and to give a nice smooth performing engine. The trigger plate and flywheel were fabricated by TTV Racing who did a great job and were very helpful.

New MSD digital programmable ignition system

Old mangled and off balance flywheel

Rebuilt engine with custom made flywheel following "Easy Start" disaster. A magnetic trigger is installed on the rear face of the flywheel to trigger the ignition sparks

Custom made trigger pickup mounting plate and twin trigger pickups. These control the twin coil packs

With new exhaust header and ignition cover (from a Kawasaki)

With the ignition system sorted, it was time to sort the carb. I ordered a full set of replacement parts from a very helpful and top bloke called Ralph Engelbrecht, a specialist from Germany with a good supply of BING carb parts. I also discovered the fuel pump wasn't working properly, and ordered a replacement.

New parts from BING carburettors - They have lots of old spares in stock!

Old carb float being removed

New float being fitted to carb - also fitted new jets, needles, and missing parts!

The engine then went into the boat and all the wiring for the new ignition system was connected up using waterproof Perma Seal connectors and Deutsch connectors. I replaced the fuel lines and fitted new in-line fuel filters. The engine fired up first time and now provides reliable first time starts every time and runs beautifully. Well worth the money and time for the ignition and carb parts.

Everything in place and wiring done

Thursday, 14 January 2010


Welcome to my record of the restoration of my Almarine Meteor Jetboat.

I bought the boat around about 2001 from an enthusiastic friend. The hull and deck were in very good condition, which for me was the main worry over as i'm not a big fan of fibreglass repair. The engine ran but would only start when the sun, moon, and mars were exactly aligned, the problem being an aftermarket points ignition system which had been fitted by the previous owner, and a poorly carburettor. I wonder what happened to the nice original CDI ignition as these were known to produce a good strong spark.

The jet unit (aka waterjet/jet pump) which propels the boat was in a bad way upon inspection. The unit had sucked up a stone which had ground away the trailing edge of the stator vanes used to straighten the flow of water between the two impellers. Nothing that couldn't be repaired though.

Much of the electrical wiring was missing, and the fuel lines, cables, etc were in need of replacement. The trailer was in a bad state, basically rust and welds, so I welded on a new axle bar with the intention of buying a new trailer once the boat had been restored.

Due to only just catching onto the whole blog thing, the majority of the progress on the boat has been unrecorded so i will post up a record of the work to date, before continuing the updates as they happen.