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Old 10-02-2017, 05:39 AM
aelxon aelxon is offline
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Coolant boils out around spark plugs, low power

I'm looking at a sailboat(in water, to buy) with an A-4 installed for auxiliary power. The engine revs up fine when in neutral, but if the engine is in forward, it won't rev up much above idle, and after a minute or so, a little steam will start coming off the top of the block, and on closer inspection, you can see coolant bubbling out and turning to steam right around 2 of the 4 spark plug sockets.

The engine still makes enough power to push water, and if I buy this boat I'd like to know:

1. How long I can operate the engine in this state without it failing, or becoming irreparably damaged.

2. Are the coolant leak and the low power the same issue, and how much labor/expense would be involved to fix it.

Thanks!
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Old 10-02-2017, 07:18 AM
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Originally Posted by aelxon View Post
I'm looking at a sailboat(in water, to buy) with an A-4 installed for auxiliary power. The engine revs up fine when in neutral, but if the engine is in forward, it won't rev up much above idle, and after a minute or so, a little steam will start coming off the top of the block, and on closer inspection, you can see coolant bubbling out and turning to steam right around 2 of the 4 spark plug sockets.

The engine still makes enough power to push water, and if I buy this boat I'd like to know:

1. How long I can operate the engine in this state without it failing, or becoming irreparably damaged.

2. Are the coolant leak and the low power the same issue, and how much labor/expense would be involved to fix it.

Thanks!
I would budget for a replacement engine and be happy if it can be fixed for less. #1 already happened and I would not take that boat anyplace where you need to count on the engine to keep running.
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Old 10-02-2017, 07:19 AM
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At first blush the symptom suggests a cracked head which if true and the only problem, is easily repaired. Intermediate effects of running this way could differ greatly depending on whether the engine is raw water or fresh water (antifreeze) cooled. I wouldn't delay repair, nothing good can come from continued operation.

I'd recommend a compression test and water jacket pressure test before buying the boat to have a better grasp on the engine's condition. With the proper equipment at hand both tests can be completed in 20 minutes.
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Old 10-02-2017, 08:29 AM
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For a boat you do not own yet, the only logical option IMHO is budget for the engine being worthless and be surprised if it isn't.
I would NOT be doing tests on it before purchase to make it look possibly better than it is and thus worth more.
Sure my car only goes 20 MPH and leaks oil and coolant and freon and a few other things, but you can fix it cheap and have a great car

* a friend of mine got a boat with issues and we did get it going. We talked the price down to FREE and there ended up being $6K of deferred maintenance.
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Old 10-02-2017, 09:36 AM
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Originally Posted by joe_db View Post
For a boat you do not own yet, the only logical option IMHO is budget for the engine being worthless and be surprised if it isn't.
I would NOT be doing tests on it before purchase to make it look possibly better than it is and thus worth more.
Sure my car only goes 20 MPH and leaks oil and coolant and freon and a few other things, but you can fix it cheap and have a great car

* a friend of mine got a boat with issues and we did get it going. We talked the price down to FREE and there ended up being $6K of deferred maintenance.
+1 on this quote. I assume the $6K did not include time involved. What is your mechanical, engine repair ability?

TRUE GRIT
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Old 10-02-2017, 09:58 AM
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I'm sorry Joe and John but with the very limited information we have I don't agree with your approach at all. The boat aelxon is considering may be a real creampuff and therefore worthy of a harder look or maybe not. Something certainly attracted his attention and we have no idea exactly what. The approach you're offering is reminiscent of a recent thread with the following advice:
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Originally Posted by rfinstad View Post
I've received some . . . . advice from my local boatyard -- with just one glance they say my 1978 Atomic Four is "too old" to repair and propose replacing with a diesel!
Engine surveys by specialists as a condition of purchase are commonplace and often recommended by surveyors. So aelxon, how interested are you in this boat? Are there any other issues? Have you hired a surveyor? What are his recommendations?
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Old 10-02-2017, 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by ndutton View Post
I'm sorry Joe and John but with the very limited information we have I don't agree with your approach at all. The boat aelxon is considering may be a real creampuff and therefore worthy of a harder look or maybe not. Something certainly attracted his attention and we have no idea exactly what. The approach you're offering is reminiscent of a recent thread with the following advice:
Engine surveys by specialists as a condition of purchase are commonplace and often recommended by surveyors. So aelxon, how interested are you in this boat? Are there any other issues? Have you hired a surveyor? What are his recommendations?
IMHO there is a *vast* difference between a boat you own and a boat you do NOT own yet. I would very much encourage an A4 owner with issues to do the tests to find the most economical repair or suggest a replacement with another A4. Note my boat is on her third A4
If you do NOT own the boat, then the equation is vastly different. First off, used sailboats that are old enough to use an A4 are not easy to sell if they run perfectly. This is not something 20 people are going to be fighting over. Second, if the owner has not fixed this, what else isn't fixed? This is likely the last straw in a string of deferred repairs and the current owner does not want to deal with. I can see no reason at all to do ANYTHING to make the situation look better than it is.
The only approach I would suggest is, pending a good survey, that the offer be the normal going price of the boat minus $6,000 to allow for a new engine to be ordered. The "free" boat we got was hardly worth $6,000 in good shape, so we bargained down to free. The engine actually was saved with some doing, but all told the new owner is $6,000 into this boat now and she might maybe sell for that on a good day.
YMMV and all, but I have seen these "easy" fixes turn into abandoned disasters in the back corner of the yard more than once.
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Old 10-02-2017, 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by joe_db View Post
IMHO there is a *vast* difference between a boat you own and a boat you do NOT own yet.
Pre-purchase surveys are never done on a boat you own, the very reason they exist. Would you recommend doing away with a pre-purchase survey and simply assume the worst when considering purchasing a boat? Of course not so why advise treating the engine any differently?
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Old 10-02-2017, 10:21 AM
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Originally Posted by ndutton View Post
Pre-purchase surveys are never done on a boat you own, the very reason they exist. Would you recommend doing away with a pre-purchase survey and simply assume the worst when considering purchasing a boat? Of course not so why advise treating the engine any differently?
This is basic horse trading 101. A boat with an A4 is a hard sell, a boat with a broken A4 is a VERY hard sell. You are not starting with the assumption the entire boat is worthless unless you are buying something that is currently sunk for salvage. The surveyor uses his expertise to find problems that you cannot obviously see yourself to protect you from buying a disaster, i.e sure that boat looks nice, but she needs a $30,000 core replacement
The engine is very obviously beat. It doesn't take a surveyor to figure that out. You are the buyer - it isn't your job to convince the seller that the engine can be fixed easily and the boat is worth more than he thinks it is! It is your job to convince him it is maybe barely worth the salvage value of the lead minus the time and trouble to cut the rest of the boat up and you MIGHT maybe make him a deal.
Where I live you can call around and find boats like this you can have for back slip rent. No one is fighting over 90% dead old boats. I know someone trying to sell an Alberg 35 with a new-ish diesel and a nice bottom job but rough topsides getting no offers at $20K

Last edited by joe_db; 10-02-2017 at 10:23 AM.
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Old 10-02-2017, 10:24 AM
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I've made my point as you have made yours. Aexlon, it's up to you and I wish you the best of luck.
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Old 10-02-2017, 10:25 AM
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Likewise. If you get the boat, this forum will be a huge help to get her running.
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Old 10-09-2017, 11:00 AM
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Thanks for the replies, ndutton especially for the info about a cracked head potentially being the issue. I ended up passing on this boat(it was a Tartan 34', in poor condition, worth more than free, but no where near the asking price IMO. Still on craigslist near Annapolis), but picked up a 27' with an A-4 that seems to be running better, at a price point that makes giving it away a minimal loss, if things don't work out short term.

Since the bulk of replies were regarding worth of a boat with a damaged A-4, let me give a third perspective: Location affects price drastically, at least on the east coast, for the project boats that I'm interested in. Here in the Chesapeake, I wouldn't value a boat so highly if it had a locked up diesel engine...but if the same boat were in Miami, and the sails and rigging were OK, I could close haul right into the trade winds, and over to the Bahamas, and start "living the dream" immediately. Get over to the Dominican Republic, give the engine away. So I might not buy a project T34 in the Chesapeake for $2k, but I might happily pay $3k or more for the same boat in South Florida.
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Old 10-09-2017, 12:18 PM
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Not sure if this is still relevant or not, but I just had to remove my thermostat and noticed a similar situation. I had a little antifreeze that came off of the thermostat housing and settled into two spark plug indents. I thought I had wiped it all up, but a few minutes after starting the motor, I had boiling antifreeze in two of the spark plug holes. I'm wondering if there is a drip in part of your cooling system, that is just depositing water around the spark plugs.
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Old 10-09-2017, 12:28 PM
aelxon aelxon is offline
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It's a different issue, the A-4 I looked at was wide open, nothing overhung it, and you could tell it was dry before the bubbling/steaming started. No steam when in neutral, steam and bubbling around the plugs when in gear, then no steam or bubbling when put back in neutral. Owner didn't deny, seem surprised or concerned when I described it to him
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Old 10-09-2017, 04:48 PM
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This boat?
https://annapolis.craigslist.org/boa...269383130.html
A T-34 in otherwise good condition with a dead or missing engine is worth it at $5,000. In bad shape *with a soft deck*, more like how much will you pay me to haul it away.
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Old 10-09-2017, 06:48 PM
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It is so sad to see how little these boats are worth now. As a Tartan 34 owner it is painful to see such a great boat be worth nothing.

On a FB group someone has been considering a similar boat. It is probably the same one.
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Old 10-09-2017, 07:27 PM
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Originally Posted by romantic comedy View Post
It is so sad to see how little these boats are worth now.
Yeah, sad as an owner but a real opportunity for a prospective buyer.

If the T34 in question didn't have other issues (apparently it did), a head replacement on an Atomic 4 is no big deal in terms of both cost and labor investment. One morning tops, go sailing in the afternoon. If studs break you might have to postpone sailing until the following day.
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Old 10-09-2017, 07:56 PM
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We paid more for my C&C 35 then we paid for our house. No one is going to bring an armored car full of cash over for a 44 year old boat now.
Lots and lots of fiberglass boats that don't just outright sink or dissolve and a declining population of sailors = no real demand for a boat that needs major repairs that will exceed the market value of the boat.

Quote:
Originally Posted by romantic comedy View Post
It is so sad to see how little these boats are worth now. As a Tartan 34 owner it is painful to see such a great boat be worth nothing.

On a FB group someone has been considering a similar boat. It is probably the same one.
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Old 10-09-2017, 09:50 PM
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Something I have noticed is that people are buying these boats for well under 10k and think that now they can go sailing or cruising cheaply. The problem is that they drain their savings to buy the boat and have no money to do the repairs and upgrades.

I was at an end of the line marina for the past 6 months. I saw many cheap boats there that were live aboard. Several boats sank at the dock and only a few went sailing at all.

(next time I will go to a better marina, but I will have to travel)

That brings up another topic. I live in SW Florida in a water front community. There are many canals with boats and yet there are no real marinas. The community does not invest in providing a decent marina. ...but that is a whole different discussion.
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Old 10-09-2017, 11:10 PM
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Originally Posted by romantic comedy View Post
Something I have noticed is that people are buying these boats for well under $10k and think that now they can go sailing or cruising cheaply. The problem is that they drain their savings to buy the boat and have no money to do the repairs and upgrades.
Oh brother, we saw this in the home built boat community, particularly the concrete boats. These guys would blow their whole budget on the biggest hull they could afford (typically 50 footers) without realizing the hull was maybe 10% of the project cost. After the hull was plastered they were scrounging the junk yards for freighter cleats, looking to marinize Volkswagen diesels from the wrecking yards and building fuel tanks out of painted plywood.
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I was at an end of the line marina for the past 6 months. I saw many cheap boats there that were live aboard. Several boats sank at the dock and only a few went sailing at all.
The derelict Easterly 30 in the slip next to mine was sold a couple of weeks ago for $500. I've never seen it out of the slip in over a decade and know for a fact it has a seized Atomic 4 V drive. Upon meeting the new owner (nice guy BTW) who has never sailed but has visions of palm trees and coconut bras his first question to me was, "Do you think this boat can make it to Hawaii?" My response was, Yeah probably after a full refit but don't count on coming back. It's 2500 miles of leisurely downwind sailing there and 5000 miles back home, more than half of that upwind.

I wish him the best of luck and envy his enthusiasm of a dreamer while at the same time I worry about him when the effect of reality sets in - edit: if ever.
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Last edited by ndutton; 10-10-2017 at 08:16 AM.
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Old 10-10-2017, 05:54 AM
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You have to be realistic with these boats. Mine was a "free" boat that I picked up this winter. I'm up to about $5K to get it fit to be in the water, but most of the big expense is out of the way now. I want to see about living on a boat in retirement, but not on this one. This one is a trainer to learn about boat maintenance and how to sail. I don't believe that it would ever leave the Chesapeake, but will be physically capable when I am done. I can't imagine getting into something like this to live aboard or sail to distant, exotic places.
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Old 10-10-2017, 08:06 AM
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Don't get me wrong, I understand the dream. I had it 35 years ago, even built a boat that was capable. One thing at a time with the new neighbor, engine first.
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Old 10-10-2017, 08:16 AM
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Originally Posted by sdemore View Post
You have to be realistic with these boats. Mine was a "free" boat that I picked up this winter. I'm up to about $5K to get it fit to be in the water, but most of the big expense is out of the way now. I want to see about living on a boat in retirement, but not on this one. This one is a trainer to learn about boat maintenance and how to sail. I don't believe that it would ever leave the Chesapeake, but will be physically capable when I am done. I can't imagine getting into something like this to live aboard or sail to distant, exotic places.
FYI - the C&C 30 is very capable of offshore passages. We have one on the C&C list that has done Atlantic crossings in quite nasty weather. You may want more space, but the boat is more than capable.
I have toyed off and on with the idea of trading down to the 30 to do the Jester Challenge - a singlehanded transatlantic race limited to 30 feet LOA - but my wife will kill me if the next boat isn't bigger

EDIT - speaking of marinas, I do not know if this is a plan or just coincidence, but my marina seems to have somehow moved out a bunch of boats. The docks are half to three quarters empty.

Last edited by joe_db; 10-10-2017 at 08:18 AM.
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Old 10-10-2017, 09:10 AM
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"Since the bulk of replies were regarding worth of a boat with a damaged A-4, let me give a third perspective: Location affects price drastically, at least on the east coast, for the project boats that I'm interested in. Here in the Chesapeake, I wouldn't value a boat so highly if it had a locked up diesel engine...but if the same boat were in Miami, and the sails and rigging were OK, I could close haul right into the trade winds, and over to the Bahamas, and start "living the dream" immediately. Get over to the Dominican Republic, give the engine away. So I might not buy a project T34 in the Chesapeake for $2k, but I might happily pay $3k or more for the same boat in South Florida."

I could comment at length on this idea but I have found that my opinion is not always appreciated. So I will simply say. Why not dump the useless diesel immediately and use the space for extra storage of food, water, rum and some good books. They are much more valuable.

Dan S/V Marian Claire

Last edited by Marian Claire; 10-10-2017 at 09:22 AM.
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Old 10-10-2017, 09:17 AM
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The expense of a boat of our vintage is the cost of the pastime, not expected to be a monetary return on investment. The return is the pleasure.
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