Originally Posted by micetic
A follow-up question concerning the motor, would you have any preference of diesel over gasoline, or vice versa? I imagine a diesel would be better suited but I am obviously inexperienced and can use all the advice I can get.
In general, the recommendations given to me were that the inboard diesel was more reliable in rough conditions (can pretty much run submerged, in some cases), uses less fuel, and uses fuel that is less flammable in terms of vapors in the bilge. It's been awhile since sailboats have been sold with gas inboards, so there's also a resale issue in that some buyers will only consider an inboard diesel.
As I understand it, the disadvantage of diesels is that they can run rougher with a lot more vibration (especially the one cylinders), they normally have less horsepower than gas inboards (in boats of the size range you mention), they have more expensive parts to replace (injector pumps, etc.), and some brands are hard/expensive to find parts for (older Farymann models, for example).
With all this advice, I still ended up with an Atomic 4 gas inboard in my first sailboat with an inboard engine (C&C 27). So far, I've had the following advice and experiences.
The surveyor noted that Atomic 4s can be either the best or worst engines, depending on how they've been cared for. If well cared for, they run smooth and strong and reliably, although they can chow down as much as a gallon of gas an hour. It is a 30 hp, which is more than enough for my 27 footer-- in fact, I've yet to go over half throttle. My dockmate is envious of this, given his smaller diesel. He's also envious of the the much more simplistic design and maintenace of the engine.
Couple other advantages-- the initial cost of the boat was lower, I have complete manuals, and parts and online advice for service and repairs are easy to find. I'm confident that this engine will be worth repairing and maintaining for the years I own the boat, even though it is older. One does have to be more aware and careful with the fuel tank and system, and run the blower before starting, but my boat has no gas smell below decks and one shouldn't simply ignore diesel leaks either.
Anyway, I would have liked the challenge of a diesel, and more hours per tank of fuel, but this gas engine is working out fine for a first inboard boat that will see very limited off-shore hops. I also love the simplicity and the extra hp when I need it.
One last warning: the condition of an inboard engine can easily be overlooked during the buying process. Simply having it fire up and run isn't good enough. You normally need to pay more to have any engine fully assessed, often times by someone who is an engine specialist. What first-time buyers don't realize is that repowering a gas or diesel boat with a new or rebuilt inboard engine can be a tremendous cost, equaling or exceeding the purchase price of a smaller boat. And, of course, putting a $10k engine into a boat you paid $10k for does not lead to a boat that is worth $20k.