Aquamarine Inc: Grade B

Aquamarine had a complete water maker system that is user installable. The unit we purchased is a 20 gph water maker with a 40" membrane, a refrigeration compressor, and a high output alternator. I've heard people say they've installed this with approximately one weeks work but I would guess it took me two weeks full time when you put all the hours together. Dan at Aquamarine has always been helpful when I called and one time he spent almost an hour on the phone walking me through the connections of the panel to the various wires. He's sent me any parts they've discovered needed to be changed or modified for only the cost of shipping. While some may say that should be free; I was well out of warranty.

Added was a safety valve on the engine to avoid overpressure and to bleed off any air in the fresh water cooling, a new engine pan and some misc.. parts of which I don't remember.

Although the unit is to be hand crankable (the newer engines were not) I've not yet been able to hand crank it. That may be mostly a function of how I mounted it (and again after talking to Dan 5 years after I've installed it - I may need to adjust the Decompression Levers). It does have a compression release valve so even with a low battery I figure I could release the compression and get her started.

A couple of things I really wish were options that Aquamarine would offer or at least part out: 1) a control cable for being able to control the engine from outside the engine room and 2) A complete parts list with individual diagrams. I had difficulty knowing which way the valves were normally open or closed without experimenting with them.

Anyway, in the marine world the support alone makes this product stand out from the crowd.

I've moved AquaMarine from an A to a B. Sadly the company is now out of business with the owner having retired. Thus the following comments are rather moot.

1: I think with a product this critical the company ought to offer a repairs kit of various configurations.

2: I would love to be on an email list that when changes are made to the product I'm notified and then can decide if that's for me. Early on I had a real issue with the platform. Mine bent from the weight of the engine, serpentine belt was then tracking bad and broke. Aquamarine was considerate enough to ship me another (improved) if I would pay shipping. I did; but, too replacing the housing the unit is attached to took the better part of two days. After about 600 hours the bearing in the water pump broke down. I spent a great deal of time locating a new seal (not the bearing) only to discover that when I had the unit out the bearing for the shaft was broken. The seal had been leaking for about 100 hours and I had tried to stem the leaking till I could get to a place where it could be repaired. I called Aquamarine and spoke to Dan and he indicated that now they're using an electric pump. Wish I would have known! I've put that in and been much happier since. Too I had to have a new way then to tighten the compression on the top of the engine and he said he had a new plate for the compressor. Yet he didn't say I would need a "new" bracket he designed. I like it much better then the old setup. Also this new plate that sits on top of the engine has the cooling water return out the center of the top. Earlier he had sent me a relief valve that I had to remove the top on, drill and tap and put that in to bleed out any extra air.

3: Instructions need to be much improved. I followed them exactly and have been still fixing things for the last 4 years. The heat exchanger needed to be above the engine; the valves for the water maker Dan said need to be level and below the waterline. (They have since upgraded and changed the boost valve). The drawing shows them as level but nowhere does it indicate that the lawn sprinkler valves must be level in the manual. Nowhere too in the manual is it shown to be below the waterline. I installed the idler assembly too close to the bolt that attaches the starter causing me untold frustrations when I had to remove the starter. One would think that things would line up and look good, however the idler assembly needs to be tilted slightly so the bolt for the starter has much easier access.

4: Gotcha's. There needs to be a list of things either optional or needed beyond the parts supplied by Aquamarine. The items were not part of the "Kit" even though it was sold as complete; a fuel pump, a regulator, a muffler, needed to have the correct size exhaust elbow, a coolant reserve tank, a throttle control cable and I needed a pressure water pump for back flushing. In addition while Dan just said I need a low pressure fuel pump when I spoke with him I discovered years later that I needed one of sufficient capacity to pull the fuel up approx 3' and deliver the correct pressure.

5: After almost 4 years of full time cruising I was behind the panel checking things out. I found the wire for the High Temp light had come apart. On closer inspection I discovered that it was "soldered" together, then covered with electrical tape. A no-no in my book. On my list now is to replace all those connections with high quality crimp on and make sure I have tinned wire.

6: This in the end caused me to purchase a new engine. The temperature switch is on the heat exchanger. If you would be low in coolant or have a vapor lock you can easily overheat the engine and destroy the Aluminium case. I did and by the time we added Certs to the head bolts one still didn't work and there just is not enough Al to make a larger bolt hole.

7: He has changed the base. I've had three cruising friends purchase the unit from him and the base is more open.

8: He uses the smaller Giant HP pump; model 217 as opposed the model 218 recommended by Giant for RO operation.

I like the unit. I quite often love the unit. We've put almost 2k hours on it in almost 4 (2012) years. Those are hours that didn't need to be run on the main engine. But I'm slowly getting it working perfectly. Slowly.

By now this is what I've had to replace: the platform the system is on, the exhaust elbow 2 x's, the clutch for the HP pump, one valve for the RO system, 2 aqua lift mufflers, the Obendorfer (AVOID THIS LIKE THE PLAGUE) raw water pumps, the top plate for the Aquagen (he modified this twice once ensuring a reroute of the fresh water supply, the heat exchanger (Only one place in smallish print does it show a Zinc and I neglected to see it), ultimately the Kubota engine from a poorly placed Temp Switch, the Tiny Tach (mine came without a light and the newer models have a light that I liked).

And finally, if I had to do it all over again, I might still get the setup but I might well get a 1/2 hp motor for the water maker. Having everything on the one engine can get a little scary, should that engine have difficulties then your cruising lifestyle will most definitely change.


Grade B....