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.
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.
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).