National Fisherman

At Sea Diary

Matt MarinkovichMatt Marinkovich’s weekly At Sea Diary entry is a popular feature of the National Fisherman Web site, and now you can post your own reflections on Matt’s experiences fishing in the Pacific Northwest and North Pacific.

Preseason, Bristol Bay 2007 — This year I almost took my boat out to pasture and shot it. The engine was nearing its last revolution, as there were some major chunks of metal floating around in the oil. I ran it like that through the 2006 season because I discovered the issue at the beginning of the run. But I knew something had to be done before the next season.

I had no intention of running one second longer that I had to, so immediately after the season I started my standard search for a used engine — asking everybody I knew, and even walking around Fish Expo with a sign pinned to my shirt that read "I need a 300-hp engine." My attempts brought nothing that would work for me, so eventually I decided to purchase a remanufactured engine from a guy who ran a shop down in San Diego. I was referred to this guy from a reputable John Deere dealer out of Anacortes, Wash.

It all looked legitimate, so I went ahead and ordered it just after the new year, 2007. That gave him a full three months to assemble the engine before it had to be on the first barge headed up to Naknek at the end of March. I advanced him half the $$$, and said a prayer that it would all come together for me.

The engine I decided on was a 300-hp C-series Cummins diesel engine, a 6CTA, which means it is a six-cylinder engine that is turbocharged and aftercooled. The C-series is a step up from the B-series engine, which would have fit my boat better, were half again lighter, and still would have provided me with 300 hp. But the C-series has better torque in the lower RPM range, which is what I needed because my refrigeration unit draws its needed horsepower from the engine as it works away in the lower RPM range all day long. Everyone I talked to said this engine is just a workhorse, and was a great choice for an engine.

Well, my problems started early, about the time the engine was supposed to be finished. Simply put, it wasn't finished, and since I was preparing to go fishing on the Discovery, I really wanted to see that thing with my own eyes land on the barge heading to Naknek before I embarked on my longline trip.

These guys were having cash flow problems; they were having trouble getting paid for service jobs, and they were also having trouble in the rebuilding side of things, as well. Of course I found all this out after the fact, after they dilly-dallied their way to almost missing the barge altogether. The man in charge and his right-hand-man both worked late into the night to make the deadline in order to get it to the freight company, all the while under constant monitoring by my tenacious wife, Maureen, who really helped get this thing finished while I was up longlining on the Discovery.

They told me they started it up before they shipped it. I suppose if they had actually taken the time to do so that they would have missed the deadline. In fact I'm sure they would have because when I went to start it up in Naknek on May 28, 2007, it had exhaust shooting out the side of the turbo, water squirting out of the front of the engine, and zero oil pressure. This was a few days after I arrived in Naknek to work on the engine installation.

I got on the phone, and remained calm. The guy said all the right things, like he was going to get up there as quickly as he could, which wasn't quick enough for me, but at least he did get up there by June 5.

He brought most of the parts he needed. It turns out his spiteful worker that he had to fire for some reason or another (he blames it on drinking) decided to totally mess with him when he put the guts of that engine together. That would have been the case if he had fired it up in San Diego like he said he would, but since he skipped that important step, his disgruntled worker screwed me out of 10 full days of engine installation time.

The shortcomings of that engine included the turbo gasket being put on sideways (so it leaked), a critical O-ring not being installed in the cooling system so it shot water out the front of the engine, and (and this is the topper) a B-series oil pump installed in the guts of my C-series engine, and for some reason there was an extra wire that didn't have a home for the alternator. It looked suspicious to me, but the guy assured me it was all right. He did something to make that wire go away.

He managed to get the thing running, and I managed to get the thing installed in my boat amidst all the late-comers fighting for shop time, parts, and every other precious commodity that evaporates when the hoard arrives and they all want to get their boat in the water at the same time (I am usually in the water by this time).

I missed most of the free week, and started fishing in competitive fishing with zero confidence in my engine. Not exactly the way I like to start my season, but it was the way it played out to kick off my 2007 Bristol Bay season on the Sunlight III.

TO BE CONTINUED...

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