The Sea Scout Ship 6 Engine Rebuild Project

By Bailey Bellone             

Ship 6 Engine RebuildAlthough sailors call it an “auxiliary” engine, the fact is, there are times when you need it. If the winds are not in our favor, or for those close quarter docking maneuvers, with the turn of the key we may call upon our mechanical crewmember to rise to duty and perform flawlessly. We depend on its reliability and performance. But lately, our confidence in this reliability came into question. The rough starts and plumes of black smoke were signaling us for action. We could hear, see, and smell that something was wrong. After careful evaluation, we decided it was time for a rebuild for the 1987 Yanmar 3GM30F in our Tripp 37 Celebration II.

Samantha Cannella (left) and Roisin Burke scraped and cleaned the water pump and alternator in preparation for painting.   ©

We needed some help and were thankful to enlist the support of Scott Bowden, General Manager of Port Niantic Marina in Niantic, CT. He made quick start on the project and with a raising of the crane and loading to a truck, our engine was soon on its way from our homeport at Norwalk Cove Marina in Norwalk, CT to the shop in Niantic under the power of another mechanical friend. But this would not be a blind sendoff. In the tradition of Ship 6, this would be a project needing all hands on deck. And so we began our apprenticeship, which involved trips to the engine shop to get our hands dirty and fill our minds with knowledge.

Scott Bowden Ship 6Our first trip began with disassembly. Throughout the process Scott guided us, explained each part, and taught us the basics of diesel mechanics and maintenance. Each part was carefully organized, cleaned, and inspected. The process was enlightening and a rare opportunity to have full access to the engine without the acrobatics often required for engine hold access. The Ship 6 crew took great pride in the work and conveyed gratitude for the experience. For crewmate Samantha Cannella 17, the exposure gave new perspective. “I was never really interested

Before disassembly began, Scott Bowden (second from left) explained the operation of a marine diesel engine to Samantha Cannella, Bailey Bellone, Ines Purcell, Roisin Burke and James Houlahan.   ©

in engines,” she said, “but getting up close and working with it was really interesting. I liked it a lot, pretty cool!” James Houlahan, 14, said, “I learned a lot about engines as well as a lot about boats that I didn’t know before.”

Scott’s diagnosis of the problems revealed the severity of the failures and significant work ahead of us. The compression test showed that one of the three cylinders was reading very low and another was not where it should be either. Once the valve cover and pistons were removed, we were surprised to learn that a piston connecting rod was bent. We’re not sure when this happened or whether it was even while we’ve had the boat, but it is very lucky that it didn’t break as that would have caused a lot of damage. In addition, the rings were cracked on one piston and frozen on another. And the firing patterns on the pistons indicated problems with the compression. We also found that the crankshaft pulley had a crack in it, possibly from someone overtightening it at some point. Other items that were to be addressed included the fuel lift pump, heat exchanger cap, exhaust elbow, fuel injectors and head gasket.

After completing the mechanicals, for our second trip we focused on pre-painting preparations and learned how to sandblast. Years of grime were removed as particles of sandblast grit worked their way through all contours. Our efforts would soon be rewarded with fresh coats of paint. For our final trip, we sprayed the coats of grey and watched in awe of the transformation from old to new. As we had put so much effort in, we also replaced related parts such as the exhaust hose and Vetus water lock, the PSS dripless shaft seal, and the engine mounts.

Sea Scout Ship 6 We are grateful for the support from Norwalk Cove Marina and their help with the heavy lifting using the crane for removal and installation. And we are indebted to Scott for welcoming our crew to assist with the project. “It was great to help the Sea Scouts of Ship 6 get their Yanmar 3GM back in shape,” said Scott. “The Scouts deserve most of the credit for their keen interest in the project and their hands-on help during the rebuilding process.”

Sea Scout Ship 6 members (l – r) Samantha Cannella, James Houlahan (behind), Ines Purcell, Bailey Bellone, Roisin Burke on the first day at Port Niantic Marina to learn about and work on the engine. Port Niantic Marina General Manager Scott Bowden is behind at right. ©

The hands-on approach was invaluable. Jon Ricci, Ship 6 Mate, captured all our thoughts: “It was great to see the Scouts getting their hands dirty and doing work on their own engine.” Our Skipper, Kai Horan, was equally thrilled. “There’s a lot to be said for knowing that the engine will start and run well in an emergency,” she said. “The last thing you want at night or in bad weather is to have the engine let you down. This project was important to the operation and safety of the Ship and it was a great learning experience for all.”

Ship 6 Engine RebuildWorking side-by-side with an accomplished marine diesel mechanic and getting hands-on experience with the engine was awesome. I’m so grateful for Scott’s time and attention to work with us on this project. Not only do we have peace of mind that our engine will perform well, but we now have a better understanding of how it works and the knowledge to better maintain and operate it. We have pride knowing that we each laid a hand on returning our “iron wind” to its original glory. No more black smoke. No more hiccupping idle. We now hear the steady rumble with a confidence knowing we will get there, wherever that may be…

Rebuilt, repainted, reinstalled, and (almost) ready to rumble!  ©

Bailey Bellone, 16, is a high school sophomore interested in pursuing a maritime-related education and career.

Ship 6, based in Norwalk, CT since 1957, is a very unique year-round opportunity for area teens interested in the sea and sailing. Ship 6 is very active and ambitious. The Ship has had many adventures and in 2013 completed 50 big boat sailing days covering over 1,000 nautical miles aboard their training vessel Celebration II, a Tripp 37. Members learn to manage all aspects of their program and the boat as if it were their own. To learn more, visit

Rebuilt, repainted, reinstalled, and (almost) ready to rumble! ©

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