Gas vs. Diesel - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 15 Old 10-18-2013 Thread Starter
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Gas vs. Diesel

I'm planning to purchase a 36-40' boat to live on in one of the marina's in Southern Calif.. I'm new to boating and need help with some basic information. I plan to go on couple excursions per month. One of the local islands is about 165 mile round trip and the other is approx. 50 miles. I know that gas engines are far less expensive and will run far less hours between rebuilds than diesels but what is the number of hours you can run the a gas engine with "average " maintenance? Also, what is the "average" for diesels?

Is there a rule of thumb for the average fuel consumption per mile for gas vs. diesels?

Any help would be appreciated.
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post #2 of 15 Old 10-18-2013
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Re: Gas vs. Diesel

Well, now you've started it.

Conventional wisdom is that diesels are simply safer. Diesel fuel is not volatile. You virtually can't light it with a flame, while gasoline vapors are quite flammable.

I'm not sure I would get too anxious over fuel economy, but getting 10,000 hours out of a properly maintained diesel is not uncommon. I can't quote gas engine durability, but it's a fraction of that.


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post #3 of 15 Old 10-18-2013
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Re: Gas vs. Diesel

Our son's Atomic 4/Ranger 29 ran about 1 gal/hr... my current 4 cyl diesel in a 35 footer uses about half that unless we're pushing it.

Reality is that gas engines are better suited for sailboats (occasional, short term use) than diesels, and they are generally smoother/quieter, but the fuel safety factor and market perceptions seriously devalue boats with gas engines and make them harder to sell in the end.

That said there are tens of thousands gas powered vessels out there, and with proper precautions very few of them actually explode....

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post #4 of 15 Old 10-18-2013
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Re: Gas vs. Diesel

Provided that you can get gasoline in your cruising area, and your insurance premium is not too loaded as a result, I would be more interested in the overall condition of the boat than whether the engine was gas or diesel.
Well maintained gas engines, with proper blowers to ventilate the engine compartment, are OK if you are meticulous about ignition-shielding and don't spill fuel or do silly things with power tools etc. Tens of thousands of power boats run gas and don't blow up.
A gas engine may only have half the life of a diesel, but that is still a lot of hours for most non-commercial users. Easy and cheap to overhaul when the time comes.

Or, at overhaul time, throw it out and re-engine with a diesel.
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post #5 of 15 Old 10-18-2013
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Re: Gas vs. Diesel

Depending on what years you are looking at, I believe that you'll be hard-pressed to find a sailboat built after the mid-80s that has a gas engine. I am sure there are some but not many.

We like the maintenance simplicity of diesel.
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post #6 of 15 Old 10-18-2013
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Re: Gas vs. Diesel

Besides the obvious safety issue, diesel engines are work horses, designed for the constant torque of a boat over many hours. They are either industrial conversions or motors originally used in heavy equipment like tractors or loaders. Most gassers are usually not industrial engines but converted auto designs, never really meant to run under constant load. Diesels have no plugs to foul, wires to get wet, computer modules to fry.

The biggest concern with diesels is keeping the fuel clean.

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post #7 of 15 Old 10-18-2013
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Gas vs. Diesel

We were anxious to find a boat in the size range that you are looking. Real bargains can be had for models with gas engines. However we held out to find a better all around vessel that had been refitted with a diesel engine. Many of the points already mentioned should be considered. Mostly is safety and durability. Be patient and you'll find the size boat you want with the best engine choice.
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post #8 of 15 Old 10-18-2013
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Re: Gas vs. Diesel

I will never understand how people get their panties all up in a wad about gas engines and then have propane stoves on their boats, propane is 10 times more volatile than gas!
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post #9 of 15 Old 10-19-2013
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Re: Gas vs. Diesel

Quote:
Originally Posted by mikekomm View Post
I'm planning to purchase a 36-40' boat to live on in one of the marina's in Southern Calif.. I'm new to boating and need help with some basic information. I plan to go on couple excursions per month. One of the local islands is about 165 mile round trip and the other is approx. 50 miles. I know that gas engines are far less expensive and will run far less hours between rebuilds than diesels but what is the number of hours you can run the a gas engine with "average " maintenance? Also, what is the "average" for diesels?

Is there a rule of thumb for the average fuel consumption per mile for gas vs. diesels?

Any help would be appreciated.
Only ever seen one gasoline engine in a boat in that size range most are in much smaller boats (at least in the Great Lakes). Nothing wrong with gasoline engines but curiously in several hundred surveys of gasoline powered sailboats I have never seen one without significant ignition protection issues and engine/fuel compartment ventilation issues..

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post #10 of 15 Old 10-19-2013
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Re: Gas vs. Diesel

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Originally Posted by DRFerron View Post
Depending on what years you are looking at, I believe that you'll be hard-pressed to find a sailboat built after the mid-80s that has a gas engine. I am sure there are some but not many.

We like the maintenance simplicity of diesel.
Donna hit the nail on the head and especially in the size range you are looking at...gas engines will be few and far between.


It would be nice to hear back from the OP on this.

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Last edited by chuck53; 10-21-2013 at 05:27 PM.
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