Live Free 2 Sail Fast

Rebuilding Our Aging Sailboat Engine- Gotta Start Somewhere-

The 120HP Ford-Lehman workhorse of an engine in our 1977 Aleutian 51 Ketch seized just off Catalina Island, Ca several weeks ago, unable to be restarted and requiring in a very long tow back to San Diego.  As a result, we were hoping to have the mechanics from VB Engineering find something relatively minor wrong when they started diagnosis, but it wasn’t to be.  After initial diagnosis, the hard fact of the matter was that the engine would have to come out for the mechanics to truly tell us the problem and start the fix.  This was easier said than done, as our engine is a V-Drive, set deep into a Taiwan built engine room with more than four feet of bilge underneath the engine and a solid cockpit + fiberglass doghouse above.  There was NO easy way to get this engine out.  However….the guys from VB Engineering have a strong reputation for problem solving hard cases just like this…and they did.  Here’s where we started:

Engine still in the engine room. But, as many pieces were taken off at our slip as possible and nothing was cut open yet.
Here’s our ladderwell and wall, before demo.

In order to cut the woodwork open perfectly and then have the ability to put it all back together, I could think of no other company I wanted except the Yacht Docktor.  The skilled craftmen at the Yacht Docktor do yacht interiors and fine woodwork….and they’re the best.  With a shop in Point Loma near most boatyards and GREAT customer service…we’ve used them on multiple projects and I was glad to spend the money to get the best.  Funny, once they heard we needed help getting a piece of bulkhead cut to get our engine out since we wanted to make it to Baja Ha-Ha 2019….the wood was cut within two days and we were off and running on getting our engine out.  Here’s Rudy with the Yacht Docktor cutting our bulkhead open:

Cutting open the bulkhead/wall
Inside of the wall inside the engine room.
Rudy pulling the wall off.
Look, a big hole in our engine room!
Engine Room, looking in from where the steps used to be, with the engine still in there.

Then, it was time for the crew to come in and move the engine into our salon, while we were still in the slip:

Look Ma, we have a new coffee table with drink holders.

Then once the engine was in the salon, Tulum was towed to the boatyard to wait on her turn for the crane to pluck the engine out of the boat.

Tulum waiting on crane time.
While waiting, the VB crew prepped the cockpit and ladder well area, doing a great job. After all was done, there was nearly NO damage to the cockpit.

Once it came time for crane time, things picked up speed.  First, we were towed around a very large catamaran (Profligate) to be put in place for the crane to reach us.  Once there, we made sure nothing else would be broken against the high haul out dock and VB mechanics crew used the crane scaffolding to pull the engine out of the boat….in less than 2 hours.

Even as the crane was moving, we knew our new antenna arch was going to be too close, so the crew had to attach another line to maneuver Tulum into a slightly different position to protect the arch. If you’re in this situation, remember its YOUR boat and your responsibility to say something as needed.
The crane eased this piece of scaffolding/metal frame into the cockpit and the VB Crew used it to get the engine out of the boat.

Engine coming out attached to the crane end.
Our engine, finally out of the boat.
Our engine, ready for rebuild and the clock running (4-weeks?).

VB Engineering is one of the best mechanical firms in San Diego and we have every confidence in the rebuild of our engine, on time and on budget.  The owner gave us a timeframe of approx 4 weeks for the rebuild (engine out of the boat).  This should put us toward late September to get it rebuilt and then a week or so to get the engine back in the boat.  Once in the boat, we’ll need to make sure everything has gone back together correctly and give the boat several quality sea trials before we leave the San Diego area.  If this takes us past our Baja Ha-Ha dates…we’ll accept that for the sake of safety, but we’d much prefer to leave with Baja Ha-Ha 2019.  

We have no sponsor or outside financial support except anything we might get from Patreon.  We have one sponsor who allows us to test products for them and we really, really appreciate their support, but we’d LOVE your support as well.  Check out our Patreon site to feed Quincy or buy me a beer as we go through this engine rebuild.  No, we didn’t expect all this to happen…but we’re moving through it as best we can with all the things we have going on.  Please keep following us and check out our Pinterest, Patreon and small YouTube sites- 

Here’s the link to the story and pictures of the trip which we seized our engine on: Will We Make the Ha-Ha?






Sporadic posts but life continues-

Gotta apologize, as the posts have been a bit sporadic these last couple weeks as life has been busy but we keep going.  Hotwife had a hip operation so it’s been a week of having the kids on the boat with her elsewhere; then when she as able to get back on the boat on crutches I needed to take her to appointments for most of the next week.  So I missed my usual writing schedule and missed some of the work I needed to do around the boat as well.  With hotwife back on the boat, things have settled down a bit.  Take a look at Quincy, she won’t even move now when crutches go over her:  But it’s been a productive couple of weeks regardless.  Hotwife and Pirate Kate attended the Women’s Sailing Convention last weekend, I was able to determine the cause of my broken bilge pump and I’m getting it changed out with a new one, I finished my Small Boat Diesel Engine Course and we’ve set solid dates in March to haul Tulum 5 out of the water for a bunch of repairs and upgrades.

We’re looking to do the following while T-5 is hauled out:  three coats of bottom paint, drop and inspect the rudder and it’s bearings, have a dripless seal installed on our shaft, have a freshwater foot pump installed in our front head, have a saltwater foot pump installed in the galley, have the gray water flow changed from our 50-gallon (below the water line) tank to direct overboard and possibly remove the tank, unfreeze all the throughhull handles and fiberglass over throughhulls we don’t use and clean and paint the main bilge.  But this also gives me strict deadlines to get the washer/dryer taken out and if I’m going to put in a composting head…I’d like to get it done before the haul out.

So we have a bit to do.

We’re a family who got a good deal on a great boat and now have to dedicate the time to fix systems and give her the TLC needed to prep her for cruising.  We’re doing just that.  We’ll start our YouTube Channel in June and post every one of our complete free video travel logs on this blog.  We’ll also continue to post with mongo lots of pictures as we go along. If you want to read it all and share in the action, please think about following us and continue to follow us as we go.

Tulum Crew 2018 Letter

A friend texted me to say he had seen stories about Quincy the Boat Dog, but not much about the family;  so I decided to write that update as a blog post vice a mail-out letter with our Christmas Cards.  We’re not trying to be secretive or force the blog, we just didn’t get to doing a mail-out letter this year with the Christmas cards.  So…here goes:  (more…)

Republished- Digital Hunter Sailboat Owners Manual

I’m republishing the Digital Hunter 460 Owners Manual I managed to get from Marlow-Hunter.   After I found this electronic copy and worked through publishing the link in 2016,  never in my imagination did I think we’d still be writing and publishing this tiny blog…with a second larger sailboat.  I’m also republishing this digital owners manual because I found the entire set of designer drawings for my 1977 Aleutian Ketch and convinced a friend to help me photograph and digitize the entire set of plans.  I just put them on my computer, edited them to make them more readable and will POST them as a photo essay early next week.  It’s my intent to collect as much information about the (11) different Aleutians that were built and have that info on this website- these digitized plans are a big start to that project.  We think we’ve found approx (6) of the Aleutians; and we’ve had actual email or blog contact with (3) of the owners or former owners of those boats.  Have you ever checked out Cruisers AA by Jackie Parry or any of her other books?  She and her husband owned an Aleutian for several years.  I digress.  The link to the plans is in the post, you have to access it digitally.


Constant Improvements on Tulum 5

It’s Veterans Day Weekend and perfect San Diego weather,  but we’ve chosen to stay on the dock to keep up our project momentum and give us a chance to take a deep breath.  (more…)