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Miss Rickie: High Drama on the High Seas

11/6/2014 | Words: Chuck Mahnken | Pictures: Richard Daniels

Detroit Diesel, 2-Cycle-engines

When Richard Daniels purchased the Miss Rickie in 1984, he had no idea it would quite possibly save his life a few years later.

Built in 1947, the 44-foot fishing vessel was powered with a WWII surplus Detroit Diesel 2-Cycle Series 71 engine. With the left hand 6-71 low block providing the grunt work below deck, Miss Rickie chased salmon in the frigid waters of Alaska during the late 50s and 60s. All that time, the engine never needed a rebuild. It had seen a lot of action—and was ready for more.

With Richard and his son Mike at the helm, Miss Rickie hunted for Dungeness crab and king salmon off the rugged North Coast of California. “That engine was used every year for the 20 years my dad owned it,” says Mike. “It ran eight months of the year, sometimes more. The only thing that we ever did to the engine was replace the head gasket.”

The 6-71 was put to the ultimate test one December day in 2002, as Miss Rickie cruised towards Humboldt Bay, a stretch of water near Eureka, California that’s extremely dangerous during the winter. On their way back from a big haul, Mike noticed something on the horizon. A huge wave formed about half a mile behind the boat, and it was gaining fast.

Richard and Mike quickly sprung into action. They pinned all their hopes on the Series 71. “I will never forget the sound of that old engine screaming like a soldier storming a hill,” Mike recalls. “My father pushed the throttle a high as it would go—1650 RPM. With a cloud of smoke and a prayer, we made the mouth of the harbor before the wave caught us. I think I might owe my life to the reliability of that old Detroit.”

In 2004, Richard and Mike decided to retire the  Series 71, even though it was still running. After all those decades of hard labor, it simply refused to die. Mike says, “When we finally replaced the engine you can bet your butt we put a 6-71 Detroit back in. Been running great ever since. That's 57 years, millions of hours, amazing engines. I wouldn't trust anything else.”

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