June 17, 2014.
Predictably enough, a tale of 2 engines begins with an engine that won't start. The owner said that he just brought the boat up from Saint Johns where he's lived aboard it for the past 3 years. He told me that somewhere along the line he dumped a few jerry jugs of fuel into the tank and the engine hasn't restarted since. Both engines are plumbed to the same fuel tank and the starboard side still runs fine. So call me a little skeptical. He changed filters, said he found a ton of water and bled the engine to no avail. Since I believed the owner wouldn't mislead me with his event history I also jumped into bleeding the engine.
This catamaran is powered by a pair of tiny 1 cylinder Yanmars sitting atop saildrives. Miniscule single cylinder engines trying to push a 35 foot catamaran across the water seems like a pretty big design shortcoming to me. But whatever...
While the owner turned the key I bled the small Yanmar and was struck by how little compression the engine seemed to have as it spun quickly at the turn of the key. I engaged the compression release and there seemed to be no difference in the quickly spinning engine. Ut-oh.
I pulled the miniature valve cover off and realized that every time the owner started a sentence it should have begun with “Once upon a time....” because this guy was a story teller. The valve cover was full of goo and after wiping a good bit of it away I could see that both of the valve springs were broken. The broken springs explained why the engine wouldn't start but what really surprised me was the amount of sludge that had built up inside the valve cover.
I went and bought new valve springs and retainers and returned to install them. While I was gone the owner left and won't be back as the boat now sits with a local broker. After removing the valve assembly I got down to cleaning everything before reassembly. Thats when I realized just how an accomplished storyteller I had been privileged to meet. What I had taken to be a build up of sludge was actually grease. I guess that when the first spring had broken someone thought it would be a good idea to pack the valve cover with grease to keep those pesky broken parts from making noise.
Did he think I had a magic wrench and the engine was going to miraculously start? Did the guy really think nobody was going to find the broken bits? I just can't believe that he went out of his way to waste both our time. Douchebag.
The second engine of the day was a Perkins 4-108. The owner said he saw some black smoke, hes had the 30 year old boat for 13 years and since hes leaving on a cruise he'd like to get the injectors rebuilt. I headed there picturing a thirty year old rust covered engine with ancient injectors firmly wedged in their ancestral homes.
Imagine my surprise when I got there and found a perfect scenario. The engines location allowed complete and easy access to the injectors. Its nice when the sweat runs down your body rather than up into your hair. The engine was as clean as if it were new. I put my wrench on the first banjo bolt for the return lines and …..it cracked loose easily. Actually, everything I put a wrench on came apart so easily I wouldn't have been surprised to find out that the engine had been assembled only yesterday. In no time I was out of there with the injectors in hand.
So the catamaran with the nefarious owner is listed with a broker for resale. Supposedly the price will reflect the fact that its going to need 2 new engines. Even at a discounted price could a boat formerly “maintained” by this guy ever be worth it? A valve cover packed with grease just makes me wonder about everything else he might have touched. Conversely, the Bristol 45 with the aging Perkins appears to be in magnificent shape. If it ever shows up on the market, well, I don't think you could go wrong. Two different people are going to buy these boats and the new owners are surely going to have different versions of the dream.....