They want an engine that goes every time and one you can fix if things go wrong.
It should have five or six threads visible – any less it normally means the engine is getting worn.”
Likewise, engine operating temperature can also be controlled so the engine can operate at optimum temperature and oil pressure.
Gardner stories are legion. Dave has talked with a fisherman who ran a crankshaft bearing on his hard-worked 8L3. He knocked the bearing out at sea and wrapped his leather belt around it, then steamed home. I imagine the boat coming alongside the wharf with the skipper using one hand to hold his pants up and the other to operate the controls. But everyone has a Gardner story. The Picton trawler, Amuri, had a 5L3 which was renowned for “nipping up” – that is, temporarily seizing, if too much power was applied before it had warmed up. The only solution was to drop the anchor, wait until it could be turned over, before restarting and taking it easy while the engine warmed.
The New Zealand government’s research trawler, RV James Cook, ran two 8LXB Gardners and another Gardner powered the sail training ship Spirit of New Zealand until recently. Fullers’ recently-retired ferry, Bay Belle, ran from Paihia to Opua for decades with the same Gardner and direct-drive 3UC gearbox.
Many Pacific Island marine departments deployed Gardnerpowered vessels and kept stocks of spare parts which, being Gardner, were never required and today they’re a treasure trove of machinery for rebuilding engines.
“Over the years we’ve learned who’s got what,” says Shaw, “and I can normally give them a ring and negotiate a price. But saying that, Gardner assures me that they will continue making the parts as long as there’s a demand for them.”
He moves to the back of the workshop and whisks away a dust cover like a magician producing a rabbit from a top hat. “It’s a 1L2 I found at the Vanuatu Maritime School. I’m doing it up for myself, they’re quite rare – I’d like to take it home with me but my wife says no.”
He recently sourced an 8LXB from Captain Cook Cruises in Sydney. “They bought it 35 years ago as a back-up for one of their other Gardners – but never used it. The old/new Gardner is destined for a fishing boat in Bluff. “All the new engines are computer-controlled – fishermen don’t want that shit,” he says. “They want an engine that goes every time and one you can fix if things go wrong.”
Another Gardner trait is stingy fuel consumption. When they were tested for compliance to EU pollution requirements, the 6LXB returned 203 grams per kwh – this from a 32- year-old engine design. Modern engines strive for 203 – 204 grams per kwh.
A few months ago, Shaw had a call from San Diego. The customer there had bought a boat with a 6LXB Gardner which hadn’t been started in 30 years. “Being American, he didn’t know what a Gardner was. I told him to give her fresh oil and fuel filters and hook up a battery. She cranked over once and fired up. He was ecstatic – he thought he’d bought a lemon.”
I think my favourite Gardner would be 8L3B – dunno what I’d do with it though. Polish the brass?
Just like Gardner owners the world over.
They typically weigh at least twice as much as a modern engine and produce half the horsepower – but they have character.