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lift engine on a boat

How We Moved Our Boat’s Engine into the Cabin for Easier Maintenance 🛠️

Hey there, fellow boat enthusiasts! 👋

When we discovered the need to replace the crankshaft seal on our beloved Tatooine (Ovni 435), the challenge was clear: the engine had to come out into the cabin for easier maintenance work. The limited space between the engine and gearbox provided no room to perform such work. Without access to heavy lifting gear and with just the two of us to do the work, we had to get creative. Here’s how we managed this tricky lifting job.  😩

Preparation Steps:

Draining the Cooling System:We started by emptying the engine’s cooling system and detaching all the connected pipes.

Gearbox Removal: The gearbox needed to be completely detached from the prop-shaft, though not entirely removed. Additionally, we had to disconnect the cooling pipes.🔧

remove gearbox

Securing the Fuel System: We closed the fuel tank valves and disconnected the fuel pipes from the engine. To prevent any leaks, we sealed the ends with screws and clamps. ⛽

Disconnecting the Electrical Wiring: All electrical connections to the engine, including the main cable harness and other individual wires, were carefully unplugged. To prevent any potential electrical shorts, we applied insulating tape to all cable endings, paying special attention to the thick wires between the alternator and the batteries. Labeling these connections was essential for a smooth reinstallation.

Unscrewing the Engine Mounts: We marked the positions of the four engine mounts before unscrewing them from the boat’s floor. This marking ensured we could reinstall the engine in the exact same position. 📍

Moving the Engine into the Cabin:

Without a chain pulley tackle available initially (which we later acquired for reinstalling the engine), we improvised with materials on hand:

engine mount

Support Blocks: We used two sturdy woodblocks to support the engine once detached. A special thanks to the harbor personnel who provided these blocks,

Rigging a Lift: The engine should have two attachment points for lifting. In our case, one was broken or missing, so we had to replace it with a rope looped underneath the engine. Great care was taken to avoid damaging the oil pan. 

To facilitate the lift and provide direction, we utilized the two running backstays pulleys, which offered the necessary control and stability during the lifting process.

lift boat engine

This method allowed us to move the engine right into the galley/living cabin, turning it into our makeshift workshop. Now, with much better access, we could actually see what we were doing—no more acrobatics required! Gone were the days of working upside down, or playing ‘hunt the rogue screw’ in the cramped, shadowy corners of the bilge. It was not only a safer space to work but also far easier to keep track of our parts and tools.


install an engine in a sailboat

Reinstalling the engine turned into a game of weather-watching. With the hatch to the main cabin unavoidably open, we had to coordinate our efforts with the whims of the weather gods. Dodging raindrops and gusts of wind became part of the process, as we used a chain pulley tackle to ease the engine back into place. The descent of the engine was smooth. The two ropes on the back winches played their parts too, guiding the engine precisely through the snug opening of the engine compartment. 

rig to lift an engine

Restarting the Engine:

After reassembling everything in reverse order of the initial disassembly, it was time to breathe life back into the engine. Getting the fuel back to the engine proved to be the most time-consuming part of the process. We manually operated the mechanical fuel pump located on the side of the engine, pumping until we felt resistance on the handle indicating that the fuel had reached its destination. Once ready, we activated the starter. It took a few more seconds than usual for the engine to kick into running, to our relief.

The Satisfying Results 🎉

remove engine on a sailing boat

The task of removing and reinstalling the engine turned out to be far less daunting than we initially feared. With the clever use of winches, even I, with my limited strength and smaller stature, could manage the heavy lifting involved. These tools not only made the job feasible but surprisingly manageable.

It’s a testament to the saying, “Work smarter, not harder.”

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