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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.