Bert Jabins Yacht Yard, Annapolis, MD
When we bought Matsu we had some concerns about the age and condition of the original Nanni Mercedes engine and after four more years of cruising it has now done 23,000 hours and is 24 years old. In all that time it has never let us down (including motoring us most of the 1,000 miles back to Annapolis this year), but there is a growing list of issues that need to be addressed, corrosion, broken brackets that have been bush repaired, belching white smoke and a lack of power.
We realised we could either wait until it breaks down comprehensively and deal with it then, or be proactive and deal with it on our own terms, maybe earlier than strictly necessary but avoiding the potential problem of a destroyed engine in a remote location.
We decided that this summer would be when we did it on our own terms. The first question was whether to recondition the existing engine or buy a new one. A big part of the cost of either is removing and replacing the engine from the boat, and once we got a feel for the reconditioning costs we decided that the extra cost of a brand new modern engine with readily available spare parts worldwide was the better bet, as Nanni no longer support the old engine.
The Starting Point
Other than buying the engine the vast majority of the cost of repowering is labour (around 70% we estimated) so the even bigger decision was taken that I would draw on all my years of accounting experience and replace it myself – scary!! Again the logic being that at over $100 an hour for a mechanic versus my time for free we could save a lot of cash even if it took me bit longer, plus of course I would 100% understand the engine installation and drive train for future maintenance.
We order a new Yanmar 110hp engine from Bay Shore Marine in Annapolis, they are used to working with DIY installations and provide great support to us throughout. We also decide to do the work at Bert Jabins Yacht Yard, a great reputation, we can do the work with the boat in the water making life aboard much more pleasant, and bay Shore are based on site. So on 25th May we pulled Matsu into a berth at Bert Jabins Boat yard in Annapolis and started work.
One of the first problems I had thought of when we started this was how to get the engine out, a fellow Passport owner told me the great news that he “thought” there was a removable panel in the cockpit floor for the purpose.
Given the alternative was to remove a lot of very nice teak wood work you can imagine our joy at finding out he was right!
While removing the various wires, cables, hoses etc from the engine we get to see more of it and the level of corrosion and decay is revealed, it shows how durable diesel engines are that it was still running.
We also have our first cock up when draining the engine oil when we switch the drain pump from suck to blow and cover ourselves and the engine room in old oil!
By June 1st we are ready for the crane to come and pull out the engine.
It all goes incredibly smoothly, the guys from Jabins and Bay Shore doing great work and within 45 minutes we are engineless and the true state of the old engine is revealed.
The second stage was also now fairly obvious, and we embarked on the huge process of cleaning up and redesigning the engine room. For 24 years owners and mechanics had been adding systems to Matsu and installing them in or around the engine room in cramped spaces so not necessarily doing the job as well as it should have been done. We now had a golden opportunity to set that straight and leave ourselves with good access to the new engine and a clean clutter free engine room.
Without too many boring details we cleaned huge amounts of oily waste from the bilge, removed the old battery boxes, sanded and painted the bilge with 4 coats of Bilgekote paint, replaced and moved the wiring, the engine plumbing, the control cables, the exhaust system, the Racor filters, the bilge pumps, the fresh water plumbing, new sound proofing etc etc etc.
Now time for stage 3: installing the new engine.
By installing an aluminium bar spacer and covering it with aluminium angle the engine would be perfectly aligned and the beds narrowed sufficiently to take the new feet.
This was one area I did leave to the professionals and Nick from Bay Shore did a great job in working with me to get everything bolted down and ready for the new baby.
So on the 23rd June after an enormous amount of work the crane returned and the new engine arrived.
From there it really was all quite straightforward. Nick helped me get the alignment spot on and bolt the engine down. This is critical to the way the engine will perform in the future, and even though we have a flexible drive there is no harm in getting at as close as possible. Nick being a perfectionist meant we probably don’t even need the flexible drive now it is so well done!
After that I have a busy 2-3 days connecting all the things an engine needs to work. Electricity, cooling water, diesel, control cables, and an exhaust system were all joined up and then the big moment: On June 27th almost exactly 1 month later we press the starter and vroom! off she goes purring away and doing all that a diesel engine should.
We head out for a sea trial and she passes all the tests with flying colours, Matsu hits hull speed nice and early in the rev range, the engine hits the target maximum RPM and unbelievably we have done it, installed a new engine!
By way of a PS, if any fellow Passport owners or fellow yachties are thinking of doing a similar thing, feel free to get in touch via email if you have any questions or would like some more detailed information.