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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Birchenough

We have a sailboat, who needs an engine

We took an overnight to Marblehead ...

We decided we needed a break from Gloucester and wanted to go away overnight some where, we didn't want to go to far so we decided to go to Marblehead. We love visiting Marblehead in the summer and by boat is the best way to visit. And the best part is we went on a Sunday so we knew it wouldn't be too busy.

As you may or may not know the Captain Birch is one of the Assistant Harbormasters in Gloucester and when we visit neighboring towns it is always nice to visit the Harbormaster office where ever we end up, to swap stories. But this trip we became one of the stories.

It was a beautiful sail from Gloucester to Marblehead (check out the video reel). It was just as we entered the harbor everything changed. I was at the helm and Birch was furling in all the sails, when we heard this very loud high pitch buzzing noice and smelled something like melting plastic. We thought we had a fire in the engine. Our quick emergency plan kicked in and we motored with the last bit of power to a Marblehead town mooring in the outer harbor.

After we were settled on the mooring we could figure out what was going on and what just happened. We checked the engine, but she looked fine, we checked all the through holes and they were fine, we even dove under the boat to make sure we didn't wrap a prop and it was all good. But we had no idea what happened, what we did know is the engine did not start, and even though we have sails we wanted to know what was wrong.

We radioed the Harbormaster to let them know we were on an outer harbor mooring and they offered to bring us to our mooring in the inner harbor. We were all for that. the inner harbor was calmer and flatter, a better place to work on a boat.

We started calling our friends who also have sailboats and try to trouble shoot. After a few conversations we figured it was either the alternator or the starter. Next step was find a Yanmar Engine dealer in the neighborhood. We found Cloutman Marine and they were the most helpful. They were also a half mile walk to their shop. So we set off on foot to talk to them.

At first we thought we had an alternator issue, so our quest was to find one. Turns out the closest on was in Newburyport. We went back to the boat with a bit of knowledge and began taking the engine apart. We were told if it is the alternator, you can take the belt off and by-pass the alternator and the engine would start. We tried that and the engine did not start. This told us the issue was the starter. We called our friends at Cloutman Marine and they said take off the starter and bring it to them and they will test it to see if it is fried. when we took the starter off it smelled like burning plastic. We knew this was the problem.

We took the mile and half walk back to the Marine store and they had a starter we could purchase and replace on the boat. When we were making our purchase they mentioned we needed to paint the part after we installed it. we asked why? "The salt will rust it out." So they also gave us a can of spray paint, on the house.

Now I must say the Captain and I have never taken parts apart on the engine like this before, but we knew if want to someday be cruisers, we had to learn this and of stuff. And after this I know we can fix anything.

It probably took us 2 hours to take the parts off and trouble shoot and probably 45 minutes to put it all back together. I would say that was a job well done for the Captain and I.

The Captain working on the new starter, the alternator we had to take off & the shiny brand new starter before it was installed.

What Yamar engine looks like behind the belt panel

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