Redneck Repairs in Eleuthera

It was bound to happen someday … a serious mechanical breakdown, but did it really need to happen in the Bahamas? For a day or two prior, we thought we smelled an exhaust smell underway, but not unusual when the wind blows from behind us. I checked the engines several times with nothing seeming amiss.

Obviously, I didn’t look closely enough! It’s hard to tell how long it had been this way, but this gap opened up, allowing exhaust gases to leak out.  Not too serious … unless you know how a marine exhaust system with a lift muffler works.  Unlike a car’s exhaust, seawater gets mixed with the exhaust once it leaves the engine to keep the exhaust hoses cool.  That causes a multitude of complications, but a modern answer for most boats is the lift muffler.  Without going into extreme detail, the seawater travels downward into the muffler & is then “lifted” up & out overboard with & powered by the exhaust gases.  See where I’m going? With reduced exhaust gases, the lift muffler can’t expel the water & it backs up into the engine.  Bad?  Yes, potentially $30,00 bad.

On the left is what’s left of the old machine screws & gasket. On the right making gaskets & making flathead machine screws.

The first order of business was to eliminate the saltwater sitting in the engine cylinders & get the engine running.  Saltwater (for even a day or two) could cause severe damage.  The process is fairly straightforward – remove the fuel injectors & turn over the engine to expel the water. Wow! Expel it did!  While only a few ounces, the water shot out everywhere, even up to the ceiling.  Clean up, re-assemble, then drain the water from the lift muffler, leaving the plug out so it will drain into the bilge & not backup into the engine.  Start ‘her up – yeahh!! – she ran fine!

We can’t let the exhaust water drain into the bilge for more than a few minutes & we still have almost 300 miles before we reach the U.S.  Do we limp back on one engine?  Temporarily fixing the exhaust leak could be simple … but … no.

Success! 3 long days later, I was finally able to extract the 2 broken & 1 mangled screws from the end of the turbocharger with just 7″ of working room, only visible with a mirror.  Replacement metric screws … in the Bahamas?  Got close, but not flat head, so I turned them into flat heads with a Dremel.  No replacement gaskets? I luckily found some high temp gasket material at a gas station.
A Spanish Wells fishing boat leaving the harbor with it’s “ducklings” – they tow these small boats over a hundred miles to their lobstering grounds where they split up each day to cover a larger fishing area.

On day 5 we were finally able to depart Spanish Wells, Eleuthera, fuel up & begin our trek back to Florida.  We had originally planned on heading west to The Berrys, then crossing back, but south winds & waves made it prudent to head north to the Abacos, then across. The engine operates fine, but it looks like we’ll have a week or more delay in the Abacos for lots of windy weather on the way (again).

6 thoughts on “Redneck Repairs in Eleuthera

  1. Wow. You are like the MacGyver of the Bahamas. That whole story just scares the crap out of me. Will definitely need to inspect\replace mine. Thanks for sharing and scaring!!!


  2. Good grief . . how the heck did you ever manage to get those broken screw ends out of the engine block?? You actually had the salt water back up into the cylinders . . wow, that was impressive for you to catch that problem before more damage occurred ! It’s nice (& very unusual) to see a sailor with such a happy expression while down in the engine room. Congratulations on some excellent mechanic work!

    Liked by 1 person

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