Over the course of the last dozen years I have owned 4 different boats. 2 of them were ski type lake boats and two of them have been in the small yacht size (40ish feet). Point being I have been boating a lot and have put a lot of time, money, and energy into boating as until now it has been something I have really enjoyed.
My desire to continue boating died last Sunday 12/21/08 on a trip back from Santa Barbara Harbor (where me and my family had spent the night on the boat) to Channel Islands harbor.
We were about 5 miles out of Santa Barbara Harbor, the day was beautiful, the air temp crisp and the ocean swelly but smooth as the wind had not picked up yet. We had only been underway for about 20 minutes and given the calm conditions were cruising along smoothly at about 27mph which for a 40 foot boat is a quick clip (its a Carver Yacht btw). Just as I was sitting back beginning to relax to enjoy the ride home the boat lurched just a bit and then a very loud alarm sounded. I pulled the engines into neutral and quickly began to figure out which alarm was sounding as there are many on a boat.
After just a minute or so my wife and I realized the it was the carbon monoxide detector up in the helm area where we were sitting. I have had these go off before and each time they were a false alarm or a signal of low voltage. I took the cover off of the detector, ran a test, the alarm stopped sounding and I thought we were good to go.
I put the engines back into gear beginning to go again and within just a matter of seconds the carbon monoxide detector went off again so I again pulled the engine into neutral. At that point we also noticed a loud banging sound coming from the engine room. I immediatly turned off both engines and went down to check on the engine room.
When I opened the cover to the engine room (the floor in the salon) I could not believe what I saw. Oil EVERYWHERE. As if someone had taken a fire hose filled with oil and shot it everywhere down in the compartment. The majority of the oil was on the port side which was obviously the engine that had gushed but it was everywhere. It was even covering the bottom of the engine room cover meaning oil had effectively shot straight up. I knew it was bad.
I decided that we should limp back into the harbor on the starboard engine which I turned on and seemed fine. Even though we were only 5 miles out, when on one engine you have to go really slow so as to not overheat it so we went at about 4mph and it took a bit over an hour to get back into Santa Barbara harbor.
On the way we called Vessel Assist (AAA for the water) and asked if we could arrange to have our boat towed back from Santa Barbara to Channel Islands harbor. They told us they could have someone in Santa Barbara within about 3 hours and that it would then take about 6 hours to tow the boat back (about 30 miles at about 5mph).
A few hours later vessel assist arrived and hooked our boat up and off it went, at about 4p, on its way back to our dock. We took a taxi back and before the boat ever arrived at our dock we grabbed our stuff and headed home. I was able to get ahold of our boat technician on the way home and he said that it sounded pretty bad but he couldn't know for sure until he took a look.
Johnnie, the boat technician, called on Monday with the bad news. He said he had never seen anything like it. That basically the hose that connects and feeds the oil to the engine had basically exploded, came disconnected from the engine, shot oil everywhere except in the engine, and as such the engine had died and needed to be replaced. He said the engine itself was about $8k but that was just the engine, he would call on Tuesday with an estimate.
On Tuesday Johnie called and said that apparently when the boat was manufactured by Carver they build the boat around the engines, meaning there really is no way to take the engine out or put a new engine in. As such he said he did some research and it appears that the only way to replace the engine was to literally take a good portion of the top part of the entire boat (including the salon and appliances etc) off, fix the engine, then reassemble the boat, the quote for all of that work...$25k.
We have someone coming out tomorrow to give us another estimate. Johnie is pretty good so I suspect he is right however I am hoping that there is a better way to do this as I cant imagine Carver makes boats where you have to disassemble the boat to replace an engine.
So is this engine failure and the costs associated with it the reason why I see my boating days come to an end. Not entirely. Its more about the numerous situations like this that seem to come with boating. There have been too many times in my boating history when we have gone on a trip and something has happened to some part of the boat that we either needed to turn around and head back early, be towed back in,....
So in the end its not that the engine died that bothers me so much. And yes its going to be ridiculously expensive to fix but thats not the part that bothers me the most either. The really really sad part is that my enthusiasm for boating, the love I have had for it, the joy it used to bring me, has died.
I have not lost site of the fact that it is just a boat and after all, I have been fortunate enough to be able to have these experiences. I just dont want any more of these experiences. The boat is now officially for sale. Of course we will have to fix the engine before anyone would buy it but I will be happy to see it go when it does.
As for me, I still have the waverunners and sea doos and they still bring me great joy and adventure. I will now place all of my ocean energy into them and look forward to years of fun on them.