Heart of Gold


Blown Engine. - It happened on 10/29/09.  We had left Pebble Isle Marina (mm96) that morning and were going to Clifton to spend a couple of days on our way to our winter slip at Joe Wheeler State Park.  A few hours into the trip the starboard engine alarm sounded.  Jane was at the helm and we were running around 1600 RPM.  I made a mad dash below to the lower station since we don’t have gauges on the bridge.  I saw that the oil gauge was not registering anything so I hit the kill switch  (Big mistake that I did not throttle back).  I went below while Jane continued on one engine.  I pulled the dipstick and it showed nothing.   I had checked it that morning and it was fine.  I looked around for a bilge full of oil and still saw nothing.  And then I saw it.

Back up 2 years to when I decided to put air filters on my engines.   I went to a good friend of mine and asked him what kind were best for the big trucks he services at the diesel shop that he owns and he said that he converts most trucks to K&N.  He fixed me up with two retro kits for Perkins engines.  I put them on and they had worked great since.  BTW my engines would consume only a quart of oil on this trip every year.   I had had the same filters installed now for two years and prior to departing Lake Michigan, on the week prior to this, I had decided to change the air filters.  I went to the local Car Quest and they did not have the K&N brand but their own cross referenced brand.  I bought those and never gave it a thought. 

Now, back to “then I saw it”…   The STBD air filter was collapsed into itself.  I immediately decided that it had somehow plugged up in two weeks of use and was sucking oil from the crankcase breather in an attempt to make up air.  Funny that I had noticed no smoke, no soot and no power loss prior to this.   Anyway I immediately removed both air cleaners and began to refill the stbd crankcase.  Each engine holds 3.5 gal of oil and I had only 3 gal left on board.  That would be ok as we had only a few hours to Clifton and would slow down.  I was careful to check everything else and after yet another check, decided it was ok to start the engine.  I told my wife on the bridge that I was going to restart the engine.  I went to the lower helm, pulled the stbd throttle back to idle and hit the start button.  That was the end.  What I had done about 10 minutes earlier was hit the  stop button while the engine was at 1600 RPM without pulling back the throttles which, as it spun down continued to pump fuel into the cylinders.  The engine was hot and as soon as I hit the start button all that fuel went off and I had a runaway engine.  It ran up past the 4000RPM mark and that was that.  It didn’t fly apart but it spun the mains and from then on sounded like there were rocks in the crankcase. 

Lesson learned.  Either hold the fuel switch closed while cranking thus allowing it to clear or allow the engine to idle down prior to stopping it.  I will never make that mistake again.