The Little Engine That Could

Once upon a time there was a boat named Bosco. She was a sailboat, but she also had a diesel engine. Her engine was a good and faithful friend, who worked very hard for many years. It pushed her thousands of miles through ocean waters. One morning, her engine stopped working. There was a great storm looming in the distance, heading her way. Bosco was stuck in the middle of a channel, with no way to get back to safety.

The little engine that could s/v Bosco“I can’t start, there’s something wrong” said the little engine, to Bosco. In desperation, Bosco tried to help the little engine by bleeding its fuel system, only to putter out a few minutes later. Eventually a tow boat came to rescue Bosco, but the engine was unexplainably impaired.

Bosco couldn’t go anywhere and was saddened by the seeming loss of her friend. For months, experts worked on the engine. Many problems were found: corrosion, debris, bacteria, improper hoses and fittings, clogged and damaged injectors, the list goes on. There was never enough time to fix them all before Bosco had to keep going. So the little engine would come back to life, only to putter out days later. Each day it had to work harder than the day before, repeating, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” Each day it moved Bosco further and further to her goal, but at great sacrifice to itself.

Our little engine has been quite the champ since Bosco entered our lives 4 months ago. We’ve managed to motor almost 50 hours even with ALL of these problems. Its amazing how tough it is. Unfortunately the extent of the damage is much worse than we hoped. If you’ve been following along on this joy ride, you know we’ve been plagued with issues. We are, at the moment, in the process of a complete engine overhaul / rebuild.

Engine Work (So Far)

  • replaced radiator cap
  • replaced electric fuel lift pump
  • reverse the order of the fuel lift pump (old one installed wrong)
  • replaced all fuel lines & hoses
  • replaced fittings at fuel tank
  • diesel tank polished
  • cleaned & fixed tachometer
  • new raw water cooling pump
  • many attempts to fix oil-leaking valve cover (3 gaskets, 1 machine-flattened, no luck)
  • access hatch added

Engine Work In Progress

  • NEW exhaust manifold mounted in proper place (old one mounted wrong)
  • injector pump and injectors serviced / compression test- looks like we’ve got some big issues
  • replace oil lines
  • new mechanical fuel pump (electric pump will be used as a primer)
  • heat exchanger serviced (flush the whole system)
  • new valve cover (remember all the oil leaks? – we’ve determined the valve cover is shot)
  • all new hoses for raw water system (to fix leak)
  • realign bent transmission cable
  • upgrade alternator to work efficiently with the system

Theoretically if we can get all of these issues fixed, our engine will be maintenance free for the next decade! Well other than the regular oil, air, and fuel filter changes; day-to-day stuff. Most boat owners live by the; “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” motto. But since we’re setting sail for open ocean soon, we want to make sure everything works. There aren’t many diesel mechanics out in the middle of nowhere. I’d rather do it now than when I’m in some far off land waiting for weeks (or months) and paying exorbitant amounts of money.


But, at the moment, our little engine is in critical condition. Jake and I are waiting to hear if it will be worthwhile to try to service the injectors or replace the whole thing completely. Obviously we hope for the easiest, quickest and cheapest of the options, but I won’t hold my breath.

Bosco is praying for her little engine.

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4 comments on “The Little Engine That Could

  1. Wow what a great and sad story. So sorry to hear that you are facing a tough spot with your engine. We are praying for a speedy (and inexpensive) recovery!

    • Thanks Jan and Mike – its been a long road to ‘recovery’ and we are still crossing our fingers that we can fix it (since replacement will be so timely and costly).

  2. All my best to both of you. You have already gone through SO MUCH with your engine! I’m sending out good vibes for you and for your engine. Hang in there! Keep us informed!

    • Thank you so much Steve – still no word from “the doc” but we are keeping positivity in our thoughts.

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