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Engine/Yard rant and request for opinions...

Aug 18, 2018
Sabre 28 South Portland
My Sabre 28 has a Westerbeke engine which has been fine for 5 years. This year, on a very long trip the engine started coughing at high RPMs to the point it stalled (but immediately restarted). It sounded as if it was starved of fuel. SO, I asked the yard to check it and replace the fuel filters. On inspection they found the diesel to be cloudy so we agreed to change the filters and pump out the tank/replace the fuel. I also (in a call, no work order signed) asked that he check the pre-heat solenoid as the breaker kept tripping (the plate the solenoid and breaker are on was loose from the engine and I assumed that was the issue, it was). I asked to let me know the cost. When replacing the filters the mechanic found that one of the filter housings was cracked and that it needed replacement. Fine. Part was ordered and I didn't hear a thing for three weeks. I went to the boat one evening and caught the mechanic there by chance and he walked me through what he had done which included bolting that solenoid plate to the engine and replacing all the wiring. I should have inquired at this point but didn't. A week later I called the service manager to ask if they were done as I planned to take her out for the weekend. He explained that after several sea trials the engine was still being starved of fuel and now they suspect its the injectors. OK. I asked where we were at this point in regard to the bill: $4800. My jaw hit the floor. What started as filter replacement and replace fuel. I was never contacted about any of the work they were doing or that it was becoming expensive or ANYTHING. As far as I was told (had I not caught the mechanic after much work had been done) was that they were waiting for a part. This isn't the 1st time I have had an issue either. Apart from an utter lack of communication, once they left the engine anode plug out when winterizing and I nearly sank the boat running the engine. Anyway, we LOVE the marina but cannot work with this service manager any more. The latest is that he billed us $100 to tow the boat to our slip when they launched this spring (never been charged that before and the engine worked so why the tow except to needle me?)
Any advice? Should I just pay the bill and suck it up? Should I rant and rave understanding that they might not offer me a slip next season?
Oct 22, 2014
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
Tough call. It is a pain when the boat yard assumes you have given them permission and you say you haven’t. Is the Marina that busy that they only allow slips to people who pay their high priced, what sounds like, game?

You would not be the first boat owner to decide to learn a bit about their engine so they can do more of it them selves and pocket the, often high, expense of BMW’s (Boat Maintenance Workers).

You issue did sound like the engine was being fuel staved. A vacuum gauge near your fuel filter would give you a clear indication if this was a filter problem. If the filter is clean then perhaps a pickup tube issue. If it is gunk in your fuel, then check the filler cap for a good seal (O-rings wear out). When adding fuel use a fuel bug killer additive. It will clean up the bugs with out throw away good fuel.

But it is convenient to have someone do the work for you. Frees you up to just sail.
Nov 26, 2012
Hunter 34 Berkeley
I hear this story over and over. I have been in the same situation myself. Boatyard culture. My advice to any boat owner is to learn to fix things yourself and get a quote in writing otherwise. Also, I have found that boatyards, in general, are not the best diesel mechanics. That is a different skillset. Best to find a diesel mechanic for that type of work.
Jan 1, 2006
Slickcraft 26 Greenport, NY
With regard to the towage fee that is normally charged around here if you don't have the yard do the engine layup. They will not start your engine for fear they will be blamed for any non-start issue. I agree with them about that. Why it's $100? 2 guys at .5 hrs. each @ $65 or more (Unskilled labor) per hour.


Feb 5, 2004
Tartan 3800 Westport, MA
$100 to tow your boat to a mooring or slip they is not out of line, in my neck of the woods. Our yard would never start and drive the boat without a specific request to do so; and, they simply don't have the time to mess around with figuring out how to start your boat, open/close seacocks, recommission it after winter layup, or risk de-winterizing it if you've already done so.


Jun 3, 2012
Hunter 33 Steamboat Wharf, Hull, MA
One marina I was at decided to charge a flat $300 a season for electricity. At the time I had only a battery charger drawing current and seldom needed at that. Meanwhile my power boat neighbors had air conditioning on 24/7 in their gigantic boats. I never heard of the $100 tow to slip charge but I am sure the marina will discover it sooner or later. It's the damned accountants and their simple math that do this to us. "Lets see, $100 times 300 boats will net the marina, $30,000! Let's do that!"
Jun 15, 2012
Hunter 50 AC St. Petersburg
When I have work done at a yard I get a clear estimate that I must approve in writing, before any work is done. I write on the estimate that only what I have signed for is approved. I also write any additional work must be approved by me in writing. If the yard you want to use cannot work under these simple conditions, you need to find another yard.
As far as the $4800.00 engine repair, I would ask for an itemized bill showing how this sum of money was spent. I think it will be easy to tell what parts were installed and estimate the work time.
Perhaps it makes sense to heed the advice of a boater who only stores his boat for the winter and has work done at the yard where I keep my boat. On purpose he won't have winter store or have work done where he docks his boat for the summer. He figures if he has a problem with the storage or work, it will not affect his summer dockage.
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