OK, so this is a long one, but it felt good to get it all out of my system, and hopefully helps others avoid a painful le$$on. That said, the cliff note version is: If you have not pulled your exhaust elbow
apart and inspected the interior
condition in the last 5 years or so, put it on your list, if it's been longer than that, replace it! Much cheaper than rebuilding your engine
Last Sunday we were finishing up the last leg of our trip from Annapolis
to Westerly, RI - on our new to us boat
- 84' Tradewind 33. One of the big selling points was the major refit
in 2004, to include a new Yanmar
3JH3E. The engine
had just 380 hours on the meter when we bought it. She'd been neglected the past 5 years, so we put a few bucks into prevention; new Racor
filter, drained the diesel
, cleaned the tank, all new engine cooling
hoses as per surveyors recommendation. The exhaust elbow
As we rode
the last of the fair current
down the middle of Long Island
, we tweaked our course to head
in toward the Connecticut shore, our bearing a marker just north and a little east of Niantic Reef. The current
builds to 3+ kts through The Race
so my better half went below to grab the Eldridge to check the current chart one more time. When she got to the foot of the companionway
she said "something doesn't sound right". I should have throttled back immediately, I glanced at the gauges, all in the green, RPM's 2600 steady, instead I yelled over the roar of the engine "What does it sound like?" When I replay the whole ugly scene that's about to happen, this is the moment where I could have maybe done something to avert a catastrophic failure.
"Feels like there's some kind of vibration, something's wrong" she says. We swap places. I'm down there maybe 2 seconds and that vibration is now accompanied by the sound of an engine working harder, did the RPM's just drop off? "Throttle back!" I yell as I rip the companionway
apart - now I can hear hissing. I pop the top panel open - steam mixed with exhaust billows out - somewhere in there a firehose is running. "Kill it! Kill it! Kill it!" All of that takes maybe 5 seconds. As the engine coughs and shudders to a stop I can clearly see that the tailpipe connecting the exhaust manifold to exhaust elbow is completely evered - water
is still bubbling out of the tailpipe, then stops, quietly I call up: "We just lost
So we set sail in a hurry - the course we were on now requires a broad reach - our main is old school
and the 15' boom snuffs the life out of the headsail, AWI shows 5 kts apparent. Did I mention the headsails were brand new? As in installed 2 days ago? Of course there's no freaking wind!!! But there is a Cross Sound ferry
headed south to Orient Point - there's also a northbound ferry
heading for New London - our course will cross theirs. We head
up to a beam reach to get a little better boat
speed, the AWI reads 8, the GPS
says 3.5 SOG. The northbound will pass long before we can cross him, the south bound adjusts course and turns toward directly for us. I hail him on 9 but he's not answering. His radar
no doubt tells him he will cross safely behind us. Eyeballing it takes a little longer to confirm, but yes, we are clear, at least for another 45 minutes or so, until the next pair start to go, as they do every half hour during the summer.
The beam reach was nice, but instead of heading toward Fisher's Island we are headed straight for The Race
, and eventually out to Block Island Sound. There are a lot of boats trying to make it through The Race before the inbound flood begins. We try falling off to a broad reach - I rig the preventer - apparent wind
drops back to 5, we are still managing 3 SOG, but the wakes are taking their toll. It's clear we will not make Fisher's Island Sound on this course. The current is slowly building in - behind us I see whitecaps forming on the small waves standing up against the light breeze.
I make my next bad decision. We jibe over to head in towards shore in a vain attempt to get away from the worst of the current that's coming. It's not the jibe, but the loss of momentum, having to walk the headsail through the slot between the staysail furler
, and the wakes from passing sport fishing
boats are more head on than they were. SOG is 2.5, then 2. I can see that we are losing ground against the shoreline now, but there is a silver lining, no worries about ferries, we will be pushed west of their channel. Still, if I can just work
in a bit closer to that reef marker we can jibe back over and maybe make Fisher's Island Sound, that is if the wind
picks up. It's mid afternoon, thermal updraft usually brings the breeze in around 4 PM - at least in western LI Sound . From the reef marker it's just 5 miles to Big Dumpling - from there I can get to an anchorage - we are in 150' of water
right now, and the current is building. The little whitecaps catch up to us. GPS
is still reading 2 SOG, but I can see we are sliding sideways at an alarming rate. We jibe over, won't make the course we need, but at least we won't be heading directly for The Race. SOG drops to 1.5. Good opportunity to go below and see what there is to see.
The inside of the exhaust elbow has a wet powdery ring of rust with the slightest hint of undulation to it, where threads might have one time been? The tail pipe appeared to be clean as a whistle, except the one jagged edge where the last thread holding it all together failed. I wire brush. I get out the biggest wrenches I have. I will take that tailpipe off and screw it back into the exhaust elbow. Magical thinking!
When it's obvious that's just not going to happen by any stretch of the imagination, I go one better. I will lash the damned thing together with Monel seizing wire, which I do, along with a fair amount of 1/8 dacron for good measure. Next bad decision: "Honey, give it a try". Really? Really, I don't know what I was thinking! Actually, I'm pretty sure I was thinking "I need this engine to work
long enough to get us past those ferries.."
Of course, the cylinders were probably already flooded. She cranked nicely though - well enough for me to casually observe what I had been unable to clearly see when I was thinking: "holy sh!t what the hell is happening down here!!" Sooo, as I watched the raw water
bubble up out of the tailpipe connected to the exhaust manifold, this is what a "catastrophic failure" looks like. http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/...s/facepalm.gif
It was a new experience for me.
Back on deck
- we are heading south - between wakes, flukey wind and a furled headsail, the broad reach is now a close reach and she just won't fall off without the headsail. My better half has been sailing solo for the past half hour or more - who knows really, I was in my own little McGiver fantasy world down there - and now she's feeling bad that we're heading across The Race and more immediately, straight for Little Gull Island. Without the headsail and with the current pushing the bow upwind there was no way to fall off. I apologized profusely - this was no time to be out of touch. It appeared we had actually gained a little ground, but once we got the headsail out and got back on course it was clear we were losing this battle.
We talked it through. We could give up on home port and sail down current, probably make it to Pilot's Point (Brewers) before dark, but the mooring
was paid for the season, and this was not going to be a quick repair, besides we had left our car at the Westerly Amtrak station. Time to call it a day. We have coverage for towing. Hopefully, sufficient justification to warrant a tow to our home port, with its Yanmar
certified repair shop.
It was BoatUS busiest day of the season they said, explaining the 1 hour wait. The wind never showed up. We had a 2 boat relay to cover the 10 mile distance, and even at 7 kts across open water by the time we got up river and on the mooring
, it took 2 full hours, and $1500. Still, we were floating quietly at our mooring, nobody hurt, just in a state of shock - the sudden death of a fairly young engine - that hurts! We were lucky this didn't happen just 20 engine hours sooner, coming up the East River through Hell Gate.
So, the verdict? Three bent rods, full rebuild
. About 3K in parts
, labor is reasonable at $90/hr, good shop, reasonable people. Glad we decided to call Avalon
Boatyard home this season. Hopefully we are back in commision before Labor Day - so many great places to sail to, once we get down the river and back out into the sound.