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Thread: Living with an inboard...gasoline vs. diesel?

  1. #1
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    Default Living with an inboard...gasoline vs. diesel?

    Many classic (or modern but old-fashioned) designs especially modest cruising sailboats have inboard engines often located under a bridge deck or cockpit just aft of the companionway or otherwise close to or in the accommodations. You are essentially "living with" your engine.

    I grew up with gas outboards, messed around a little with gas inboards, and worked on commercial boats with big diesels many years ago, but I have never been in that situation.

    What are the ups and downs of living with the motor like this and the pros and cons of gasoline vs. diesel when in such close proximity to the cabin?
    *******
    Matthew Long
    Bolger fan (Brick, Yellow Leaf, June Bug, Tortoise and half a Teal)
    Dreaming of a small cruiser from Atkin, Bolger, Buehler or Parker
    www.cluttonfred.info (I also like homebuilt airplanes!)

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Living with an inboard...gasoline vs. diesel?

    Diesel is safer.
    Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Living with an inboard...gasoline vs. diesel?

    This question is largely academic, as the only gasoline engine suitable for modest cruising sailboats still obtainable that I know of is a rebuilt atomic-4.
    Diesel is superior in every regard except two, IMHO

    1. Cost. The difference in cost between an A4 and a diesel will never be recovered within the reasonable life of the boat.
    2. Smell. Diesel smell is insidious. This is manageable, but that management comes at cost and effort.

    Get over the cost, and be extraordinarily diligent with respect to leaks /spills and cleanup. Diesel all the way.
    I'm currently experiencing higher than normal volume of human interaction, and appreciate your tolerance of my intolerance.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Living with an inboard...gasoline vs. diesel?

    I am a fan of small or smallish inboards with straight shaft.

    The reasons being:
    -The propeller can be well protected against rocks
    -The motor can easily be fitted with freshwater cooling
    -The motor can be heavily built and durable as neither weight nor size is as critical as on an outboard. When looking at the environmental situation it is obvious that we need to move away from disposable itemt towards stuff that can be repaired over and over again.
    -All parts that protrude outside the hull can be made from either bronze or stainless steel.
    -If (or when) easily accessible cheap oil starts to run dry and fuel prizes start to rise and other power sources must take over there is a greater chance of converting or replacing a power plant so installed that 200 kilos of weight plus or minus does not make too much of a difference to the balance of the boat.

    Personally I would take a diesel over a petrol or kerosene motor any day. There aren't too many small valve in head petrol inboards and side valve motor burn the fuel very inefficiently. Plus diesel is a lot safer.
    Amateur living on the western coast of Finland

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Living with an inboard...gasoline vs. diesel?

    Another vote for diesel. The new engines are quiet, efficient and easy to maintain. I've had 2 boats with older diesel, (Yanmar and Volvo) and if I decide to repower I'll go with a Beta (marinized Kubota). The older engines are a bit noisy, but the diesel smell has never been noticeable unless I miss some fuel after bleeding or changing filters. I clean up with Simple Green and have never had an issue.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Living with an inboard...gasoline vs. diesel?

    My family had an A4 in our 32' cruising sloop decades ago. One time I was sailing with some friends, the wind died and we had to make a several hour s long passage under power. One friend went below to get out of the sun and came close to passing out due to an exhaust leak into the cabin. He staggered on deck after a while with blue lips. Scared me silly.
    “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of those rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs."

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Living with an inboard...gasoline vs. diesel?

    Gasoline engines are lighter and cheaper
    Diesels are safer, longer lived and generally more reliable in the marine environment.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Living with an inboard...gasoline vs. diesel?

    Quote Originally Posted by rbgarr View Post
    My family had an A4 in our 32' cruising sloop decades ago. One time I was sailing with some friends, the wind died and we had to make a several hour s long passage under power. One friend went below to get out of the sun and came close to passing out due to an exhaust leak into the cabin. He staggered on deck after a while with blue lips. Scared me silly.
    CO alarms are a good thing
    Elect a clown expect a circus

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Living with an inboard...gasoline vs. diesel?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bobcat View Post
    CO alarms are a good thing
    Diesels can also produce fatal levels of CO.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Living with an inboard...gasoline vs. diesel?

    Quote Originally Posted by dan-marques View Post
    Diesels can also produce fatal levels of CO.
    Yup. I have a diesel engine and a number of CO detectors
    Elect a clown expect a circus

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Living with an inboard...gasoline vs. diesel?

    Quote Originally Posted by cluttonfred View Post
    Many classic (or modern but old-fashioned) designs especially modest cruising sailboats have inboard engines often located under a bridge deck or cockpit just aft of the companionway or otherwise close to or in the accommodations. You are essentially "living with" your engine.

    I grew up with gas outboards, messed around a little with gas inboards, and worked on commercial boats with big diesels many years ago, but I have never been in that situation.

    What are the ups and downs of living with the motor like this and the pros and cons of gasoline vs. diesel when in such close proximity to the cabin?
    My Atkins' Florence Oakland fits that design description. It had a gas engine, a Dolphin, that was very compact but when I couldn't get parts any longer I replaced it with an old Farymann 7 hp with low hours and couldn't be happier. I burn half a litre of fuel in an hour at 4 or 5 knots (depending on the state of the bottom). No problems with smell, when I stick my head through the hatch I still smell the yellow cedar of the planking. Best of all, I can use my wood stove without constantly worrying about blowing myself up! No contest, diesel wins.

    Buying a new engine, I would choose the smallest Beta, smoother and quieter than the older single cylinders.

    Jamie

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Living with an inboard...gasoline vs. diesel?

    Diesel every time and if you get hold of one with freshwater cooling and a heat exchanger, a calorifier is a very nice thing to have.Living with a supply of hot water on tap really does improve the comfort of living on board.As far as the relative cost is concerned,a call to your insurers might convince you that the price gap needs reconsidering.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Living with an inboard...gasoline vs. diesel?

    So, to summarize, the consensus is diesel? ;-) That's what I had in mind anyway (a small Sabb if I can find a nice one, otherwise something modern) but it's nice to have the affirmation. Now to figure out the rest of the installation...shaft logs and stuffing boxes and cutless bearings, oh my!
    *******
    Matthew Long
    Bolger fan (Brick, Yellow Leaf, June Bug, Tortoise and half a Teal)
    Dreaming of a small cruiser from Atkin, Bolger, Buehler or Parker
    www.cluttonfred.info (I also like homebuilt airplanes!)

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Living with an inboard...gasoline vs. diesel?

    An Atomic Four is quieter than a diesel of similar output.

    Saying that diesel is safer is one thing. Having the experience of being snug in the cabin on a foggy Maine night with a vigorous fire in the cabin heater and smelling gasoline from a stuck float bowl is another. I was not reluctant to repower with diesel shortly thereafter.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Living with an inboard...gasoline vs. diesel?

    Diesel is LESS dangerous.
    That doesn't make gasoline-powered boats dangerous.

    There are 16 million registered boats in the US ( 2019). They are not blowing up frequently, hardly ever, though it's tragic when it does happen, yes. But as a percentage, the chances of it happening to any given boat owner is very small,infinitesimal if one is fastidious about maintenance and procedure.

    ( This is the cue for those who have seen a boat blow up to chime in! Yep, it happens. No, anecdotes aren't bankable data.)

    Here are the primary causes of accidents, with injuries or death, aboard boats for 2019:

    Screen Shot 2021-03-11 at 6.47.07 PM.jpg

    Screen Shot 2021-03-11 at 6.58.16 PM.jpg

    Even if one combines " failure to vent" and " ignition of vapors" ( some of which may not be gas, or even fuel), the stats show ZERO deaths and 60 injuries.

    Kevin

    EDIT: Had to upload the chart a second time.
    K
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Breakaway; 03-11-2021 at 06:57 PM.
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Living with an inboard...gasoline vs. diesel?

    Quote Originally Posted by Breakaway View Post
    ( This is the cue for those who have seen a boat blow up to chime in! Yep, it happens. No, anecdotes aren't bankable data.)


    Kevin

    Ayup. Saw a speedboat blow up on the waterfront in Dartmouth, NS. A couple motored up, tied up, shut off, went to lunch. Came back an hour later, jumped in, wife was untying lines when hubby turned the key - KABLOOIE!!

    Fortunately nobo0dy was killed, but hubby got burned rather badly.
    Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Living with an inboard...gasoline vs. diesel?

    Saw a cabin cruiser blow up when I was a kid. Saw a beautiful old Chris Craft go up in a ball of flame a couple of years ago. That being said I've owned a CC with a gas 283 myself. My sailboat is a diesel inboard & I wouldn't consider anything other than a diesel for her. Not only safer, but far more economical on fuel. As long as one has clean fuel, they're more dependable too.
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Living with an inboard...gasoline vs. diesel?

    One key factor for me is that modern petrol degrades relatively quickly whereas diesel does not - so if the petrol sits in a fuel tank in your boat sitting at the mooring over winter it may not fire up well in springtime. You can buy additives nowadays that I believe slow the degradation but I have not tested this. My collection of cars used to have real issues with old petrol............................old petrol engines are not very tolerant of weaker sparks!
    Regards Neil

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Living with an inboard...gasoline vs. diesel?

    I've had 2 A-4's, a Yanmar and now a Westerbeke. Never really minded the A-4's. Always turned on the blowers before I did anything else and I never blew up a boat.
    I'd opt for diesel any day. Never had an issue with diesel smell on either boat and I do like having hot running water....

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