Repowering advice: Remove and tear down

After reading the recent contribution from J and Marci Kolb detailing their engine problems (Six repowering mistakes to avoid Issue 139, July/Aug. 2004), I’d like to make a suggestion for a first step that may keep the law of unintended consequences at bay. I write this in the spirit of a fellow sailor with a 38-year-old ketch (with the original diesel).

As all of us with older boats know, we are as much plumbers, electricians and mechanics as we are sailors. Some of my misspent youth was in garages rebuilding cars and engines, so I do not look upon engines as anything mysterious. I would suggest to all who have an engine heading toward its demise to remove it and take it apart. See exactly what is wrong. You can then make a more informed decision. In the Kolbs’ case they ended up rebuilding a used engine anyway. Once an engine is out, it is not much work to take it apart, and whether you rebuild or replace, the engine has to come out of the boat regardless.

If the head and block are not cracked, you can usually rebuild; perhaps a set of new pistons is required, maybe oversize because the cylinders needed honing, or new valves and seats. Oil and air in the cooling water would point to worn gaskets and seals. This kind of blow-by is usually caused by worn rings and creates a distinct odor from the exhaust. And if you rebuild, you know the old piece of equipment will fit back in the space from which it came. One last suggestion: Any time you do a major project, take lots of pictures before you remove anything.

James R. Pluzynski is in the 25th year of ownership of his Pearson Countess 44. The boat is now finishing up a major refit in south Florida.

By Ocean Navigator