Engine Issues

What. A. Week!

Last Sunday we motored over from Rockland and had planned on staying in Five Islands. We noticed a little more smoke than usual from the engine on the way over (okay, so we couldn’t figure out why the smoke alarm kept going off!), and when we arrived in the tiny little harbor the engine died all together.

All panic ensued as we had no power, we were in a tight little harbor with lots of boats close together on moorings. We had little choice but to drop the anchor to try secure the boat. We ended up about 50 feet from the rocks at the edge of the harbor. A little close for comfort, but managed to secure ourselves to a free mooring with some help from the dinghy.

Upon looking in the engine room, there was water absolutely everywhere! Upon sampling some of said water, it was definitely salty. We found the source of the water to be a blown gasket on the exhaust manifold (where the exhaust fumes exit the cylinders). One of the bolts attaching the manifold to the engine had also sheared off.

I wasn’t sure why this would cause the engine to fail but it was all the become clear in the following week!

The next morning we phoned around to try and get a mechanic to come help us fix the engine, but as the harbor was fairly secluded no one would come out. A couple boatyards offered to look at it if we got the boat to their marina. A little difficult with no engine.

And so we ended up having to get SeaTow to tow us all of 2 nautical miles. I am now able to tell you that an annual membership with SeaTow costs $180 and they will tow you for free. If you are not a member, a tow will cost $360/hour. I was really regretting not having taken out that membership!


We got towed over to the Hodgdon Marina and they put us on their fuel dock whilst they worked on the issue. After a first look, they decided all that needed done was to remove the exhaust manifold (which includes the heat exchanger), extract the sheared bolt (technically actually a stud), and replace the gaskets and stud and put the manifold back in.


Didn’t sound too bad, really.

Day 1: the exhaust manifold came out

Day 2: removed the sheared stud, ordered new studs and gaskets.

Day 3: stud and gaskets arrived and manifold was reinstalled.

Engine wouldn’t start due to water coming from the exhaust manifold back into the cylinders…

Day 4: remove manifold again, and check for damage or leaks. No damage, no leaks.

Figured out because of a lack of exhaust gas pressure, water was coming back from the mixing elbow into the exhaust manifold.

Removed all the water from the exhaust pipes and muffler.

Reinstalled exhaust manifold. Opened up all the fuel injectors and ran the starter motor thereby pumping out any remaining water in the cylinders.

Put back fuel injectors and tried to start engine. One of the fuel injectors wasn’t sitting quite right and air was escaping from the cylinder.

Day 5: opened up fuel injector again, cleaned out and retightened. Engine finally started!!

A bit of an ordeal, but we were glad it wasn’t any more serious.


The engine had died in the harbor since when we throttled back to idle there was no longer sufficient exhaust pressure (because of the exhaust gas escaping through the blown gasket) to keep the water pushing out the exhaust pipe, and thus the water came back into the manifold and then the cylinders and thus stopped the engine.

A very educational week, but one which I will be very happy not to repeat again in a hurry!


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