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  • Writer's pictureTiago Bertalot

The Trouble Engine!

Updated: Dec 14, 2022

Hello sailor. Has the engine ever stopped working at the wrong time?

On our last sailing of the 2022 season we left a beautiful place called Foça in Turkey bound for Izmir, about 6 hours of sailing if the wind helped, otherwise we would have to motor. As this was the last leg of the 1,600+ miles we'd sailed since we left Italy, we were in "arrival" mode - wanting to stop the boat soon for the winter.

Volvo Penta D2F-55, the Trouble

The wind came and we made a beautiful sail, surpassing 8kts in some stretches, which is very fast because our average this year was 5.1kts but in the end, following the weather forecast, the wind decreased and we had to start the engine, just an hour to finally dock at the winter marina where the boat would be parked for 6 months. As a friend of ours says:


When you arrive at the winter marina, it's a relief!


When we were about 5 miles from the marina, believe it or not, the engine that got us safely all those 1.600 miles and over 300 hours of use only this season, started to give a high temperature* alarm. I then realized that no water was coming out of the exhaust**, an indication that the engine was going to overheat, the only alternative is to turn it off. I pressed the button and heard the long beep, engine stopped. As soon as I got up, I saw that Mari had already raised the sails and Giovanni was helping to trim them!

What a crew of mine!


With that little wind, we took the boat very slowly for those 5 miles. Giovanni and I went to work on the engine, Mari and Manu were in charge of the boat. We checked everything that could have happened, impeller, clogging, dirt on the filter, everything seemed normal, without success we went to help the girls on the deck, after all this is a sailboat, right, the engine is auxiliary.


After almost 2 hours of sailing very slowly, we entered the small sailing marina! We had already done this on small boats, but not on this one that weighs almost eleven tons and is much less agile. The maneuver was perfect and as the engine was already cold after a few hours stopped we turned it on for 2 or 3 minutes just to fit into the space, the Trouble Maker stopped perfectly, the best of our stops this season.


Squeezing entrance at the marina

As I was already too tired to investigate the problem and we had little time to work on the final details of winterizing the boat, we called a mechanic who identified some problems: the water pump was bad, a hose clogged with a plaque of salt and water filter entering air. The boat was overhauled by Volvo Penta for a comprehensive check in Croatia a few months before...


The Volvo representative in Izmir didn't have the parts we needed most urgently like the water pump and the seals (o-rings) to fix the pump that was broken. For the intake salt-water filter we made an adaptation with a common pool filter replacing the one that was leaking air, which is easier to check inside as it is transparent and seems to be made of a much more resistant material than the Volvo original, the water pump was repaired and the unobstructed hoses installed.


Now we have a lot of water coming out of the exhaust and that's great!


At Trouble Maker, we are forewarned, so we already bought another new and original water pump, more seals and the filter, also original just in case. Below are the prices we paid on some items:

Volvo Water Pump

710 EUR

Swimming pool filter

35 EUR

Water pump repair

90 EUR

4h mechanic service

110 EUR

What would you do in such a situation?


We were at ease, even though it was the first time the engine had stopped working since we started sailing ocean boats. In the past we had a 17-foot sailboat, a Tchê 17, which we parked on sails because there was no engine on board and that experience from 12 years ago was kept in our heads, how good!


Sailboat Tchê 17

Every year we review our engine with a Volvo specialist so that - precisely - we don't have breakdowns like this. Our preventive maintenance is like this:


  • Fridays: We do a general checkup of our engine checking oil and coolant levels, bad electrical connections, loose parts, etc.

  • Crossings: we religiously check the engine room every 3 hours, looking for leaks, smell of burning or smoke, loose cables or anything strange.

  • We also took the opportunity to check the voltage that the alternator is supplying to the batteries, around 14V, some friends had serious problems with alternators!

  • We change impeller, oils, filters and belts once a year

  • We also overhaul other parts of the sailboat after strong winds or before longer crossings.


What do you think we could have done better, any tips?

The positives for us were:

  • Attentive crew and knowing how to do the tasks correctly

  • Having read the engine manual to know that we had 10 minutes to act in this situation

  • Knowledge acquired in small boats

  • Knowing how to assess that there would be no possibility of fixing the engine on spot and focusing on getting sailing

  • Detailed briefing of the maneuver inside the marina, each one following its functions

  • Have notified the marina by VHF to be ready to help

Points to improve:

  • Check the engine services even when done by Volvo

  • Have more spare parts on board

  • Include the water pump in the Friday checks

Shall we talk more about this during a No Trouble Onboard Experience? The 2023 season is coming and nothing like planning a totally different experience with us in Europe, click here!

Fair winds and plenty of water cooling the engine,

Tiago


* High temperature: according to Volvo's manual for the D2F-55 engine, this alarm occurs when the temperature is ten degrees Celsius from the maximum temperature, which gives you a few minutes to act and turn off the engine.


**In the boat's diesel engines, cooling takes place by the exchange of heat between the coolant (as in the car) and the sea water, therefore, smoke and water come out together through the exhaust, the lack of water means that the engine it will overheat quickly.

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