Our engine blues..

The first two months of our journey, we haven’t had any issues with our engine at all. We read that after one season or 150 hours you should do some maintenance: change the oil and oil filter, change the diesel filters and check (maybe change) the impeller. We calculated that 150 hours is when we filled up the diesel tank twice, so after two months we planned on doing the motor maintenance. Thomas worked at a car mechanic during high school so he knows a thing or two about engines and planned on doing the maintenance himself.

When we were in Porto Conte in Sardinia Thomas decided to get ahead and start on the motor maintenance: he replaced the oil and oil filter. From here on, the farther we travelled south, the more things started appearing, so Thomas did more maintenance on the motor, which spiralled into more problems. One weird problem at a time, we lost faith in the motor which made Thomas worried. I have got more faith in our sailing skills without motor, we can also anchor by wind and by hand and there is always a solution when a problem appears.


Reaching our southernmost destination for this part of the journey, Sicily, the engine trouble got way out of hand. We couldn’t rely on it starting and just as Liesa and Lukas got on board we had a big motor emergency with seawater pouring out of the cylinders. We were lucky enough to be able to pull into a marina. We thought that a wrongly installed impeller was the problem this time. But as that was fixed, there immediately was a new problem (of course). There was air in the diesel system and water in the oil (probably a side affect of water in the cylinders), which was causing the engine to start very difficult. We made it into the next safe anchorage in Trapani and started looking for the how and why of this new problem… By now, these engine problems were really taking over our journey (and Liesa’s and Lukas’ hard earned holiday!).


Thomas and me gave all the engine problems some more attention in the calm anchorage in Trapani, but we just couldn’t find the problem. After some heated discussions and another stressful and diesel drenched day we decided to hire a professional. The first mechanic spoke reasonably good French, and so does Thomas, so this was a nice cooperation. He reinsured us that a Bukh motor is very reliable and easy to fix. He ended up costing us a lot of money and didn’t fix the problem. Next day, there was water in the cylinders, again.

We were fed up with the engine at this point, and would have given a kidney to fix it again. So we pulled into an expensive boat yard, hired a legit mechanic and crossed our fingers the motor wouldn’t have to be replaced. The marina hired a ‘Bukh specialist’ (he was without a doubt also Trapani’s ‘Volvo specialist’ and ‘Yanmar specialist’ but we weren’t complaining). He only spoke Sicilian and was way too restless to hear Thomas out about the problems. He replaced the impeller, the oil, some hoses, the oil filter, the diesel filter and checked our new prefilter. Thomas was on the verge of a breakdown as he was way too careless, breaking tools and delicate motor screws. They got into a fight and Thomas was forbidden to intervene until the mechanic was done.. He seemed to have done a good job though, the air in the fuel system was gone. But there was still water coming out of the airfilter! The curious thing was that the motor was running without any issues, multiple times a day, and the water would only be in the motor on the next day. It had to do something with cooling down the motor.

A day after our sea trial we found seawater in the air filter again. We had to go back to the boat yard, hired the Bukh specialist again and went over the different scenarios. This time the mechanic was way more patient, corresponding via Google Translate with Thomas. They were even joking and laughing this time. They agreed that it was most likely to be a failing anti siphon valve. This valve ‘prevents raw water from siphoning back into the exhaust manifold and filling up the cilinders’ (as described in Don Casey’s Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual’). Sounds just about right for our problem! The problem with this siphon is that its a tiny plastic valve which costs 100 euros and it wasn’t on stock in Sicily. So we had to wait..



Now with the new pre filter, hoses, filters, oil and anti siphon valve, Scehawk seems to be back in business *touch wood*! The damage was a couple of hundred euros and three weeks of stress. Now we are gaining confidence in her again and trying to catch up for some lost time!

Edit: Scehawk is partly back in business, but the water issue isn’t fixed yet. Thomas prevents water from coming into the cylinders by detaching the water hose from the exhaust every time we turn the motor off. We found the water cooled manifold in pieces in the exhaust so that might be the evil-doer. We ordered a new one to Cartagena. Hope that fixes everything!

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