"Cross your fingers!" We'd say to each other every time we fired her up. Sometimes it took a little coaxing to bring her to life. It wasn't that we'd experienced problems yet, we simply had no confidence in the way the engine and its systems were set up. Rust ran rampant and suspect hoses seemed to multiply overnight. Recently Larry confided in me that he used to wake up in the middle of the night, in a cold sweat, and secretly check the engine room with a flashlight to see if any of the old systems had failed or sprung a leak while we slept—a condition not especially conducive to a peaceful night's sleep. We knew we couldn't cruise comfortably always expecting our engine to quit at any time.
We studied our options and prices. Finally we agreed to bite the bullet and invest in a new engine and all new systems for the engine room. In all honesty, this was our pre-disposition from the start, and we had budgeted for a new engine with our original decision to buy Serengeti. Also, after cruising about for awhile, we felt she was under- powered.
We measured our engine room and determined that space was not going to be a problem. Today's engines are smaller and lighter than yesterday's brethren. So, what horse power to buy? Our boat had an old Volvo 75 hp, but we knew that our type of boat was built in later years with an 85 hp engine, and felt that was probably close to what we needed. The closest engine to fit our needs that Yanmar offers was a 100 hp model. A little more than we had thought we'd install, but after consulting with some engine mechanics, it was determined that it shouldn't be too much for our 46-foot boat of 33,000 lbs displacement. Surprisingly, the 100 hp was only a few hundred dollars more, and no larger or heavier, than the next model down in size, a 75 hp.
Hauling out at the boat yard and preparing for our new engine was very exciting. As soon as we were propped up with jack stands, I began removing the caulking from around the cockpit floor, while Larry was below disconnecting the steering cables. When it came to the physical act of removing and replacing an engine, we were one of the lucky boats—our entire cockpit floor is removable, and the engine sits directly below. In an hour or so we had a rope around the pedestal, winching the whole cockpit floor up in the air using the main halyard while Larry guided its path. He looked funny holding that beautiful wooden steering wheel way up in the air!
Next our engine mechanic, Charlie, showed up with a wooden template that he had built from the actual new engine. With this in hand, he was able to confirm the fit of the engine to our space, and design engine mounts that could be bolted in the correct spot before the new engine was lowered into place.
While Charlie was fabricating the engine mounts, we had our hands full. First, we removed the old shaft and cutless bearing—actually bearings in our case, as there was a second cutless bearing immediately aft of the stuffing box. Our more powerful engine required a larger diameter water intake and exhaust hose. Larger diameter hoses meant new mufflers and fittings for the exhaust, and a new strainer for the salt water intake. After these, our next priority was to have all engine room systems logically arranged, easy to reach and able to be quickly evaluated. No more engine room spaghetti for us.
Larry installed a new fuel supply and fuel return manifold, reconditioned our primary fuel strainers, and added new fuel lines, which was only appropriate for the two new fuel tanks installed earlier. Next, while he could still easily move about in the engineless room, he laid out our bilge pumps and all associated plumbing. Having found that the small strainers commonly found on bilge pumps clog easily, we replaced the old ones with much larger strainers.
Two-inch thick convoluted foam sound insulation was glued and mechanically fastened to the empty engine compartment, and new engine room lights were installed to allow for easier maintenance and evaluation. Now, ready for the new engine, we gave Charlie the mechanic a call.
After the new engine bed was bolted on the stringers and the new shaft was put in place, we watched the crane lift our shiny new engine high into the air. I hardly had time to get the lens cap off the camera to snap a shot before it settled perfectly into place.
We were amazed to find the engine surprisingly easy to wire. The entire electrical harness consisted of four plugs that connect the control panel to the engine. A black, negative battery cable to the engine block and a red, positive one to the starter completed the entire electrical hook-up.
All we had to do now was hoist that cockpit floor back high up in the air and seal it in place, connect our shift and throttle cables to the new control lever, and hook up the steering. We were ready to go back in the water!
So, how difficult was it to do most of the new engine installation ourselves? Surprisingly, it was not so bad. The whole process took us 14 long, hard days—we're talking 10-12 hours—but as a result, we both know considerably more about diesel engines than we ever thought possible. In fact, we're now familiar with the turn of almost every screw used in the installation and feel much more qualified to maintain the engine and diagnose any problems. In addition to our new knowledge, we estimate we saved in the neighborhood of $4,000 to $5,000 over a turn-key installation. Not bad for two weeks of work!
Cost and Considerations for Choosing a New Engine
Following are questions you will need to answer before you begin the process of re-powering. Some you can figure out for yourself, others may require the assistance of a mechanic.
If you're thinking about re-powering, the following is a summary that may help you. These were our costs (May 2000) in making the switch from an old engine to new. Keep in mind, we replaced virtually everything in the engine room, and all labor was supplied by us, except where noted *. As ours is a 46-foot center-cockpit boat, with the engine located in the middle of the boat, there are longer runs of exhaust hose and shaft to consider than in a typical aft cockpit boat.
Don't let anyone tell you your old engine is not worth anything without further investigation. One mechanic told us ours was basically worth nothing. Nobody wanted to deal with old engines. A few days later we sold it easily, along with the transmission, to another cruiser (who had it checked out by a mechanic before buying it), and got $1,600! In fact, once we let it be known it was for sale, there was a lot of interest.