Palmer P60 - sink or swim? - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 24 Old 12-08-2016 Thread Starter
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Palmer P60 - sink or swim?

Hi all,
This may be more a request for life advice than technical advice, so bear with me...

I have a 1974 Islander 30 Mark II with an inboard Palmer P60 gas engine and wheel steering. When the engine runs well, I believe it is a great fit for this boat. I have learned to dock and undock using the prop walk to my advantage and its 22HP is plenty of power to push through a decent chop in the San Francisco Bay (which happens occasionally even when there is no wind in certain areas). Before owning this boat, I had only sailed dinghies and small keelboats, so feeling confident with the engine for docking is important for me. Coastal cruising down to Half Moon Bay or beyond is a goal I would like to achieve within the next year, so having a certain amount of safety, reliability and comfort in the engine is preferred.

The problem is the engine has not been reliable over the past year I have owned it and I am tired of messing with it every time I go sailing.

The main symptom is stuck exhaust valves, caused by saltwater getting into the engine. My best guess at this point is this was caused by a poorly thought out exhaust re-design from the previous owner. The old "standpipe" style exhaust had rusted out, so he replaced it with a water lift muffler. The rise before cooling water was injected into the exhaust was only about 2", and I think with pitching of the boat and spray/steam at the injection point, I was getting water back in to the manifold and cylinder (he never sailed it, so it was only tested at the dock). I have re-routed the exhaust to the port storage locker so it can get ~20" inches of rise before cooling water is injected. This has stopped water intrusion as best I can tell, but I am still having problems with sticking valves even after changing the oil many times. I would not totally rule out a cracked block or head, but at least after leakdown testing the head and gasket at 100PSI I don't think the problem is on the top end.

So my options at this point seem to be:
  1. Declare the engine is as good as dead. Tack on an outboard to keep sailing in the short term. Pull the engine from the boat and repower with a new diesel or a rebuilt P60 in the long term. I admit defeat on understanding the engine, but get to keep enjoying the boat. An expensive, but final answer. I don't know if sinking $10K+ into a diesel re-power makes sense for this boat (I paid $5500 originally). Nobody seems to say tacking on a 10HP outboard is a *good* idea, but lots of folks seem to do it and it gets them out on the water.
  2. Be persistent - the engine just needs a deep cleaning to get out all the water and re-build. Pull the engine from the boat, look over everything carefully in my shop, and re-install. What if I don't find an obvious problem? How much time will this take? What do I need to/should replace? An inexpensive, but labor-intensive and potentially unsatisfying answer.
  3. Pay someone else to figure out any or all of this. The least labor-intensive answer on my part, but potentially the most expensive and mysterious. No satisfaction of understanding what's going on or troubleshooting future issues.
  4. Say it's been a good run with this boat and got my money's worth with a year's worth of memories, sell it to someone else, save up a bit and buy something with a better engine. And a whole lot of other unknown issues. I know more or less what needs to be fixed with the rest of this boat and am on top of it, so this seems the least appealing until I pull together $50K+ for a real step up and want to go cruising.

In any case, it looks like I should take the engine out of the boat. Because there is no obvious single problem, I don't think I'm willing to keep trying fixes with the engine in. I measured and think I can get it out through the companionway if the head and manifold are off.

I am getting the standing rigging replaced with the mast off in a couple of weeks and then have the week of Christmas-New Years off work and am reasonably handy with a wrench to do my own work during that time period. If I could make a serious dent in the project during that time (putting on an outboard or rebuilding the current engine-- I don't have money for a repower right now) that would be ideal.

Any advice is appreciated! Be honest; tell me where I'm in denial and what I'm really up against.

Thanks,
Sam
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post #2 of 24 Old 12-08-2016
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Re: Palmer P60 - sink or swim?

Moyer Marine has some standpipe exhaust systems that they sell for the Atomic-4 gasoline engine.
You could browse over there and see if it would work for your boat: Moyer Marine Atomic 4 Engine Rebuilding and Parts

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post #3 of 24 Old 12-08-2016
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Re: Palmer P60 - sink or swim?

Sam,
I can relate to your quandry. It is difficult to see which way to turn at this point.

On the options you presented:

1- outboard. Personally I think this is a terrible idea.

2- dig further into the P60. I happen to think that this is a good path. The folks at the Moyer Marine forum would be happy to help walk you through any overhauling you need to do, plus you would learn a lot by doing so. Have you tried getting some Marvel Mystery oil into the exhaust valves to help clean up any rust?

3- pay someone else to work on your P60. Bad idea. Most mechanics will just tell you to scrap the P60 and get a diesel which is probably all they know how to work on. Good luck finding a mechanic who knows anything about the P60.

4- sell boat. Selling the boat with a "wonky" engine will not be easy. You would be really lucky to get most of your initial buy in price back.

Your option 2 is likely the least expensive route. The Moyer Marine forum folks will gladly help you with your rebuild. Fixing the exhaust valves may take as little as soaking them in some Marvel Mystery Oil. Once the engine is running more reliably then consider option #4.

Another thought is to find a working Atomic 4 engine (they are being taken out of old boats all the time) for ~ $1k and install that in your Islander while you work on your P60.

I have owned a now 50 year old Atomic 4 for over 12 years and I have been putting Marvel Mystery oil into the spark plug holes to lubricate the valves. This has been working well for me and my A4. A little smokey for a while but then it burns off.

Good luck.

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Re: Palmer P60 - sink or swim?

Sticky valves or sticky hydraulic lifters ? Marvel Mystery oil is an old remedy for sticky lifters also, might only require a valve job, you don't indicate there are problems with the lower end.

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post #5 of 24 Old 12-11-2016 Thread Starter
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Re: Palmer P60 - sink or swim?

Thanks for the advice all. I think I have talked myself out of the outboard option even though it seemed like the path of least resistance. I am leaning towards pulling the engine and re-building it. I have already done a valve job with the engine in the boat and wouldn't want to do it again-- barely enough space to see what's going on. So out it comes...

Went to Harbor Freight yesterday and found a chain hoist and hydraulic cart on sale: Chain Hoist - Low Sale Prices on this 1 Ton Chain Hoist 500 lb. Capacity Hydraulic Table Cart -- with those two and the boom, I think I can ease the engine out into the salon, up through the companionway, onto the dock, up the ramp (if I wait for high tide!) and into the back of my car. Plan is to take of head and manifold to cut off about 100lbs of weight and bulk. I'll buy an extra set of gaskets for those so I can bench test in the shop before removing the head/manifold again for reinstallation (seems like $45 well spent). Any other tips/advice from those that have done this before?

Thanks,
Sam
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post #6 of 24 Old 12-11-2016
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Re: Palmer P60 - sink or swim?

You can pull the engine out, so there is no reason why you couldn't install a diesel yourself. You can often find low hours diesels for sale on salient or cruisers forum for may 3 to 4 thousand range. No need to spend $10,000 for a repower.
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post #7 of 24 Old 12-12-2016 Thread Starter
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Re: Palmer P60 - sink or swim?

Quote:
Originally Posted by captndave1 View Post
You can pull the engine out, so there is no reason why you couldn't install a diesel yourself. You can often find low hours diesels for sale on salient or cruisers forum for may 3 to 4 thousand range. No need to spend $10,000 for a repower.
I looked through the Beta Marine Atomic 4 re-power guide and there were a couple of things that made me feel like a diesel re-power is a bigger project than I can take on right now-- namely that it would require a larger intake through hull and a larger prop shaft, so the boat would have to come out of the water. That's another couple thousand bucks I don't want to spend if I don't have to. If I have the cash and motivation in a year or so when I'm due for new bottom paint, I might consider the diesel, or at least do the prep work so the boat is ready for it without hauling again. Gives me time to shop around for a good deal on a used diesel, too.
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post #8 of 24 Old 10-01-2017
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Re: Palmer P60 - sink or swim?

I'm looking at a 1972 Islander 30 (Mark II) with a P60 inboard in just about four hours. Before actually seeing it, I have the impression that it could well be the 'right boat' for me.

The one known hitch is that the engine, which was running fine for the owners prior to being 'set aside,' does not start after sitting for about two years. From the owner's account, it sounds almost certain that the issue is with stuck valves, which are mentioned in a number of posts I've found regarding this engine.

My inclination is to run with this presumption if all else about the boat looks good, and deal with a rebuild if/as needed. (The owner has factored the engine issue into the asking price.)

Does the hive mind have any insights to share?

Thanks-

Bob
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post #9 of 24 Old 10-01-2017
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Re: Palmer P60 - sink or swim?

I'm looking at a 1972 Islander 30 (Mark II) with a P60 inboard in just about four hours. Before actually seeing it, I have the impression that it could well be the 'right boat' for me.

The one known hitch is that the engine, which was running fine for the owners prior to being 'set aside,' does not start after sitting for about two years. From the owner's account, it sounds almost certain that the issue is with stuck valves, which are mentioned in a number of posts I've found regarding this engine.

My inclination is to run with this presumption if all else about the boat looks good, and deal with a rebuild if/as needed. (The owner has factored the engine issue into the asking price.)

Does the hive mind have any insights to share?

Thanks-

aenlic
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post #10 of 24 Old 10-01-2017
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Re: Palmer P60 - sink or swim?

Stuck valves means sending the head out for service or, at worst, a new head. No big deal. A head gasket and a torque wench and you're back in business.
If everything else on the engine is OK this might hold you until you sell the boat, or find a super deal on another engine. However, if you haven't solved the water in the head issue for certain, it won't matter what engine is in there, you will always have trouble, as I'm sure you realize. I'd call in a professional to look over the exhaust system before I did anything else. A hundred or so up front could save you thousands down the road.

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