Just another Moderator
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: New Westminster, BC
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All the above posts have it right - diesel fuel is safer to store, diesel engines have longer range and are less prone to problems that gas engines have with their moisture-sensitive ignition systems (especially since most gas engines in used boats are at the 25+ year old level of technology for fuel delivery, carburation and ignition). Market forces are also a big factor in the popularity of diesel auxillaries.
That said, though, it's a bit of an irony that the way we use our diesel engines is really not a great application for a diesel: short runs at low loads followed by (hopefully) long periods of shut down.
Diesels like to run hard and run long (a generator for a small plant, remote camp or village is an excellent application of a diesel engine - as are tugs, trawlers etc.) However the other safety and market issues pretty much dictate diesel engines in sailboats.
There are a great many decent sailboats on the market with gas engines. Their disadvantage is primarily the safety issue, since most can be fitted with modern ignition systems less prone to moisture problems. What they do provide is plenty of power, reduced noise levels, and smooth operation. (Compare a 28 foot sailboat with a 1 cyl diesel - can you say "vibration"?-to the same model with a Atomic 4). Prices of gas powered sailboats are, of course, much lower.
Since a prevailing theme in the boat buying posts seems to be people looking for the most boat for the least dollar, many on a limited budget will get much more boat if they are able to find (and live with) a gas powered version. Granted extra care must be taken to ensure the engine is in good condition and has been well maintained, and fueling practices and storage need thought and care.
So though without a doubt a diesel powered boat is a better long-term purchase, those on strictly limited budgets might do better (in terms of boat for the bucks) if they considered gas powered alternatives. If you find a really well maintained and equipped gas powered boat - preferably FWC - there's good odds that the owner looked after the engine as well. In addition, support for the venerable A-4s is pretty good again, unlike 10 or 12 years ago.
In short, there are lots of reasons why diesels rule - but for some, there may be a good reason to look at the other side.
Last edited by Faster; 09-17-2006 at 06:39 PM.