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Old 06-19-2015, 04:01 AM   #1
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Default Engine failure story

Hey boys and girls,
My wife, son and I just came back from our third boat trip of the year. We spent three days in Benicia, California, a nice town inland from the SF Bay on the threshold to the Delta.

About a half hour into our return trip, I noticed the engine temp was higher than normal - about 200 deg F instead of 175. It seemed to be stable so even though I knew it was abnormal I hoped we could still make it home. Another 1/2 hour later the temp started to climb, and eventually the alarm went off. I cut the engine and tried to troubleshoot, but decided we were down for the count. I called Vessel Assist and requested a tow.

We were at the west end of San Pablo Bay, heading towards central SF bay. It was a flood tide so the current was pushing us back towards Benicia as was the wind. Vessel Assist said they would call me shortly with an ETA so I let us drift while we waited.

Our drift speed increased to about 2.6 knots and Vessel Assist called and said they couldn't get to us for another hour, so I decided to drop anchor. I never anchor out, as we always stay at marinas with slips, but fortunately I had read enough about anchoring in this forum and boating magazines that I had an idea what to do. I had also checked the anchor and line out when we first got the boat. I lowered the anchor and probably 60 or 70 feet of line when it seemed like it had grabbed, so I tied it off. Had I not anchored, the current would have carried us much further away from the direction Vessel Assist was coming from. And, of course, if we didn't have an anchor, eventually we could have drifted into shallow water or rocks.

Vessel Assist communicated to me via cellphone, but also used VHF once they were heading my way. I had never needed to use the VHF radio before either so that was a first. They asked me my location and I was able to tell them precisely where we were based on our GPS chartplotter.

Vessel Assist did the lion's share of work to get a tow line secured, and my only job was to hoist the anchor. They gave me tips, like as I'm pulling in the line, cleat it off when the bow dips and let the boat pull up on the anchor to free it. With that help I retrieved the anchor without incident.

Vessel Assist towed us for 4-1/2 hours at ~6 knots to get us back to the South Bay marina. Sometimes the ride was easy, others it was rough, which is just how it is in the SF bay. They got us tied up to the dock and were finally home safe, albeit several hours after our plan.

Why do I write all of this? I guess as a learning experience for others, FWIW. My boat is a 2006, fairly new, and the engine only has 176 hours on it. I get it serviced once a year and never thought I'd have an engine failure. Several things turned out to be critical in making this whole experience simply nerve-wracking versus dangerous.

When I bought the boat it had no GPS chartplotter or VHF radio. I installed them and they turned out to be extremely valuable. The boat had an anchor and having spent time at least reading about procedures was valuable, although if I had actually practiced them that would have been better.

Finally, having BoatUS tow insurance turned out to be critical. I had an 800 number to call, and the tow provider got back to me quickly, kept me updated frequently, and were extremely professional and skilled while towing and docking the boat.

I brought the boat to my mechanic yesterday. No diagnosis yet, but I'm sure I have another $$$$$$$$$$$ repair to look forward to!

So there it is ... not a fun situation but it could have been much much worse! Everyone is OK, and the boat will be back on the water soon.
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Old 06-19-2015, 11:26 AM   #2
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Iceman thanks for sharing your story and glad everyone is safe.

Yes knowing how to use the tools on the boat ahead of time is very important.

With you VHF and GPS are they DSC capable? If so did you wiring it up and get a MMSI number, if the boat is sinking you hit the red button and the GC knows where you are.

Last thing with an open cooling system you were boiling the engine, remember water boils at 212 F. You could have saved some of those $$$$$ if you shut down when first noticed the high temp and called for the tow then. I bet you are looking at a engine replacement.

In the end glad all are safe.
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Old 06-20-2015, 01:18 AM   #3
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Mike, yes I do have DSC wired up and a MMSI loaded into the radio. Had I felt we were in danger that would have been an important capability. I was monitoring VHF 16 but didn't call the USCG. Vessel Assist notified the Vessel Tracking Service (VTS) for the bay area so they could in turn notify commercial shipping traffic.

Talked to the mechanic and they believe the thermostat is bad. Luckily the engine is fine, and they even launched it and ran it in the bay. If I learn anything else noteworthy I'll post it here.

-Tom
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Old 06-22-2015, 12:30 PM   #4
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Yes.. when your engine cuts out or you have trouble the first thing you do is set the anchor to stabilize your position.
Glad it worked out and the engine is ok!
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Old 06-22-2015, 04:00 PM   #5
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I hope your mechanic is right but from my experience running an engine for 30 minutes at that temp typically results in failure of at least intake or head gasket, they may be ok now but good chance will fail in the near future.

Not trying to be pessimistic just my experience.
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