1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Engines! (right proper ones, this time)

With the paperwork SNAFU finally resolved and the Roamer documented in my name, the missus gave me permission to blast full steam ahead on the refit. One thing that had been troubling me since we moved the boat in 2009 from Colton’s Point to Deale, Maryland was my experience on the Chesapeake at 9~10kts. Unlike the 1967 Constellation 52 I owned at the time, which was a rock at hull speed (relatively speaking), this Roamer 46 was really uncomfortable. Granted, the Chesapeake can be a nasty body of water, and it certainly was that day. The Roamer was also extremely light, which would contribute to it bobbing around like a cork. But the sense I got, especially after talking with other Roamer 46 owners, was that these boats get their stability from speed. And speed was something I wasn’t going  to get out of 120hp Lehmans.

In fact, one Roamer 46 owner up in the Great Lakes contacted me to say that he had Lehman 120s in his! He indicated that, when fully loaded, WOT was 8kts and 1800rpm cruise was closer to 6kts! It was pretty clear that the world cruising sailboater’s suggestion in 2008 to repower with Lehmans was miles off. In retrospect, I should have known better than to trust a ragboater’s suggestion when repowering a classic motoryacht with a fast, planing hull. It all worked out in the end, though. 😉

Fortunately, the economics of repowering were increasingly in my favor. There was at least one silver lining to the economy crashing in 2008: the market for marine engines had crashed just like pretty much everything else. I had been watching all of the usual classified ad outlets for years: Boats & Harbors, boatdiesel.com, boat trader, engine trader etc, and got used to seeing the same engines advertised over long periods of time. After considering CAT, Nanni, John Deere, Detroit Diesel and Cummins, I slowly narrowed down the field to Nanni 320hp or Cummins B or C Series. When a set of Nanni 320s showed up on boatdiesel, I immediately contacted the broker. After a few emails back and forth, he discouraged me from the Nannis and said that what I really needed in the Roamer was a set of Cummins 450 Diamonds…and he just happened to have a used pair with only 400 hours on them.

Throughout 2011, while I was still working on resolving the paperwork SNAFU, the broker continued to correspond with me. Because of the cost of the engines, I also continued surfing the classifieds. In early 2012 I sold my 1967 Chris Craft Connie 52, so I had the resources to buy the Cummins engines. When I got the USCG documentation on the Roamer in May 2012, I presented the broker with my best offer for the pair of low-hour Cummins 6CTAs. I also explained the alternatives that were available, which justified my offer. I was certain the seller would decline or counter-offer but — SURPRISE!!! — Ken, the planet’s best marine engine broker, closed the deal!

The Cummins 450 Diamonds, as purchased

The engines were just outside of Manhattan. I flew up, we test ran them, I bought them and flew back to the Mid-Atlantic.

Within a month, the Cummins 6CTAs were in the boatyard in Deale, Maryland

I shrinkwrapped them so I could prepare for the engine swap. I also bought the refrigerator, washer, dryer and jet bath, since it’s best to move all the heavy and big stuff in one go.

August 2012: Cummins 450 Diamonds in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46

I wasn’t able to take pix on crane day while the Lehmans were coming out and heavy stuff was going in. But this “after” pic captures the view in the salon at the end of the day.

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Engine Room with Cummins 450 Diamonds

The engines are sitting on wood blocks in the engine room. We’ll have to cut off the original 427 gas engine mounts (the rectangular boxes welded to the engine stringers) to make room for the big Cummins engines. Chesapeake Marine Engineering* will be doing the engine fitting and installation. The exhaust, shafts and all plumbing will all have to be replaced.

*July 2013 update: I fired Chesapeake Marine Engineering for failure to get the job done in a timely fashion (one year late!) and because the guy’s welds were completely unacceptable. Fortunately, the welds he did were not in critical areas. I was able to get another welder to redo CME’s shabby work.

While it was nice to finally have right proper engines in the Roamer’s engine room, I did feel a bit foolish for having bought and rebuilt the Lehmans. It seemed like a waste of money…until I compared the price I paid for the Cummins engines in the summer of 2012 to what they were advertised for back in 2008. The yacht market might have been cooling off in ’08, but sellers didn’t “get it” until 2010~11 and prices remained artificially high during that time. I actually spent less on the Lehman/Cummins double repower (my labor is free, of course) than if I had bought the Cummins in 2008!

2013 follow-up: The marine repair shop I bought the Cummins 450 Diamonds from was just outside of Manhattan on the south shore of Long Island. When Superstorm Sandy came to Rockaway Beach in November 2012, the shop was inundated and everything inside was destroyed.

I think the Goddess of the Seas loves old Chris Crafts and protects their devotees. 😉  Unfortunate decisions of mine, uncooperative previous owners, global economic woes and a climatological event of historical proportions all contributed to these Cummins 450s sitting safe and sound in the Roamer’s engine room in 2013.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Tent Model IX.


8 comments on “1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Engines! (right proper ones, this time)

  1. Q-
    For crab pots – which you will find in great profusion on the bay — something like these are highly recommended:
    As for other hazards (submerged logs/”deadheads”; furniture; ice boxes) which we enjoy so very much here on the Potomack – here’s my answer:
    Probably should have placed them a bit further back to avoid “bounceback” but shud really help this boating season.

  2. erik says:

    oh great engines what cost they ?
    Erik the swed

  3. Yum-MEE!
    Them diamonds R kickin’ – properly propped (22×23?) and ratio-oed (2:1?) “The Roamer” (aka “Aluminaut”) ought to be pass more than a few C-rays and maybe (just maybe) another certain “other” Roamer known to frequent the waters of the Chesapeake, eh? That would be su-weet, eh? Can’t say enuff how good those powerplants look.

    • 1969roamer46 says:

      Thanks E!
      For a lot of different reasons (to be discussed in a forthcoming blog entry), I stuck with the 1.5:1 Twin Disk gears that came with the Cummins engines. Either way, I agree she should be fairly quick by old motoryacht standards.

      • Hi Q –
        Me too – got stuck with 1.5:1 Velvet drives – which forced me to cut props way back down to 18 x17s – driven by fully capable 454s (350hp+) motors; “speedboat” propellors in order to achieve 4000rpm WOT.
        Not as torquey at low speeds, but ok all around.
        – E

        • 1969roamer46 says:

          The boys over at Weaver Boatworks have used 1.5:1 gears in some of their more powerful boats. They say that with higher ratios, holeshot at idle makes docking in close quarters hazardous. Another fellow from Northern Neck, VA I spoke to said he prefers 1.5:1 because the Chesapeake watershed is shallow, and smaller props bang on the bottom less frequently and hook fewer crab pots. Never really thought about those issues until somebody raised them, but they seem to make sense.

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