As we were heading home one year from British Columbia, we were at cruise speed and the starboard engine slowly lost power, causing the boat to turn to starboard. Having logged thousands of hours cruising north to Alaska and northern B.C., we had, unfortunately, encountered situations similar to this.
As the engine slowed, I first looked to the gauges — no overheating or oil concerns. Next, I slowed the port engine and made sure there were no immediate traffic concerns. My wife, Candy, had been away from the wheel, but she took control of the helm. I went to the engine room, took a quick look and ascertained that everything looked safe. But, why had the starboard engine slowed?
Back at the helm, I tried to accelerate and decelerate port. All seemed fine on port. I tried speeding starboard. Nothing. And then the starboard engine slowed even more, almost to an idle. I checked the linkages at the helm, all good. Back to the engine room.
I tried to see if I could accelerate the starboard engine by manually moving the throttle on the engine. Aha! The ball joint connecting the linkage to the engine had rusted and come apart. Fortunately, the linkage on our Cummins starboard engine was in the middle, not the outside; otherwise, it would have been a bit hot crawling over or around the engine. So, what to do? I didn’t have a replacement ball joint, but if we could get home, I would be able to effect a permanent fix. Out came the 3M duct tape. After a couple of tries wrapping the tape to hold the linkage to the engine throttle, I could “somewhat” control the engine from the bridge. We kept the boat going at cruise speed back to the outside of our marina. Once we were outside the marina, I disconnected the linkage again and taped the throttle to idle. I docked the boat at our slip, and all was good. I just had to replace some parts before our next trip.
From then on, we carried new ball joints. And, we made sure to check linkage during future inspections.