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Valiente 09-17-2009 03:56 PM

Seeking opinions on best diesel repower for long-haul voyaging
My mechanic has just informed me that due to the paucity of parts, rebuilding my 22 year old Westerbeke W-52 diesel could cost nearly as much as a new one. I told him I'd send him some rebuild kit links from Australia at a tenth of the price of Westerbeke's, but this has me thinking of the upside of repowering with a new, warranted diesel.

So I will throw it out there to the esteemed readers: If you were to purchase a new diesel in the 50-60 HP range to power a steel 41 foot pilothouse motorsailer (the sailing qualities are strong enough that we will sail more than motor), what would you purchase and why?

Some particular considerations:

1) This hypothetical repower would be going into a long-distance cruiser. We are looking to circumnavigate.

2) This will be turning a 19 x 15 VariProp four-blade feathering prop on a 1.25-inch shaft.

3) The engine will be on soft mounts and attached to an Aquadrive universal coupler/thrust bearing installation.

4) The engine would rarely be used to make power without pushing the boat. Extensive solar and wind generation are the primary amp-makers, not an alternator. The engine, however, once on, would be run at load until fully warmed a "poop pump" run every four or five days a few miles out of an anchorage. At that time, I would be happy to make amps from a 90-100 amp alternator.

5) The engine would probably be run 800-1000 hours per year. Ease of maintenance, ease of acquiring spares and sheer robustness are prime considerations. Weight is not, nor are complications like intercoolers, turbos, etc. If I need to service the thing, I want to have it as simple as possible.

I am leaning toward Beta Marine's Kubota-based engine, but I would love opinions. I am cross-posting this to Cruisers' Forum and Sailnet to gather as wide a response as possible.


JohnRPollard 09-17-2009 04:06 PM


Originally Posted by Valiente (Post 523700)
I am leaning toward Beta Marine's Kubota-based engine

I would lean this way too, but would compare features and "full-up" pricing to the equivalent Yanmar. When I've done this exercise in the smaller 3-cylinder range, the Beta has the edge by my reckoning. But 4-cylinders are a different beast.

jrd22 09-17-2009 05:02 PM

Generally speaking the life span of a diesel is closely related to the maximum rpm the engine will turn. There are engines that turn 4000 rpm to generate 60 hp and there are engines that turn 2800 to do the same. The 2800 rpm engine is going to be built stronger, and probably weighs more, and should have a longer working lifespan all things being equal. In my experience the Kubotas have always been a tough, no nonsense engine but I'm not familiar with the latest models so can't comment on them. I would stay away from a new model that hasn't been around for at least several years. As far as parts availability and service worldwide I would think Yanmar and Volvo probably are number one and two, not sure which is #1. With overnight delivery almost worldwide I'm not sure how important this is though. I would actually look at each engine you are considering and think about where things are located and how accessible they will be in your boat. IMHO a turbo on that small of an engine is not only unnecessary but also a maintenance and reliability problem. A lot of manufacturers are using smaller blocks to save weight and cranking the hp up by use of turbos and intercoolers. If I were going to repower (I have a Volvo MD 31A, 62 hp, 4500 hrs) I would look at something non-turbo, low rpm, without an electric fuel solenoid (cable stop) or electric fuel pump. Let us know what you decide on, OK?

Faster 09-17-2009 05:18 PM

Hey Val

Didn't we do this go-round a year or so ago? I'll repeat for consideration the Pathfinder - still in business, I believe, based on the world-wide ubiquitous VW Rabbit diesel. I'd think that the engine parts would be available as easily as any of the others world wide.. the marinization parts (pumps, manifold, etc ) are mainstream brands like Jabsco, Perkins, etc. Aluminum block for reduced weight and the last time I checked they were pretty favourable on the price point. Turbo versions are now producing over 60 HP I believe and based on the larger 1900cc engine, but I'd probably avoid a turbo for various reasons.

tdw 09-17-2009 06:23 PM

I like Yanmar I must admit and would probably go there if re-powering.

Raven now has a Bukh (Westerbeke in America) and the only complaint I have is that it's a bit noisy. Then again it's also 20 years old and if you listen to Maine Sail's engine (video in his oil changin thread) which also looks like a Bukh/Westerbeke to me it is beautifully quiet. Our noise problem may simply be a combination of old age and out of date dampening. Also had a Volvo for many years and it never let me down.

If Maine's diesle is Kubota not Westerbeke then I'd be giving Kubota a big tick as well.

One thing I'd keep in mind is that once you are out there, you are going to be in Asia/Oceania a lot of the time. Ergo, things that are popular in Asia are going to be easier to service and/or find parts for.

I can't for the life of me understand why anyone would go turbo as an auxiliary for a sailing boat.

negrini 09-17-2009 06:38 PM

If you're circunnavigating, you'll have just few options, as outside US you find just larger diesel manufacturers spreaded on every spot. Familiarize yourself with international diesel market, what is waaaaay smaller in options, than US market. Yanmar is my choice 1- has thousands of representatives and tons of spareparts around south oceans, our homeground. 2- it runs at max 3,000 rpm, a bit lower than competition. 3- improved noise and vibration recently, well, still a lot to go, but getting beter. 4- cheapest world wide class engine. If you do a quick search on southatlantic area, every fishing boat around here does go for Yanmar. And this one is as reliable as others you find in US.

AlanP39Yawl 09-17-2009 09:03 PM

Take a look at the Nanni line. Kubota based also. The 50hp is a low rpm engine if I remember correctly. I went with the 39hp and am thrilled. Very good international support.

blt2ski 09-17-2009 10:29 PM

WHen I buy motors etc for my landscape biz, I not only look at what might be the best, but mostly, what is the availiblitiy of parts and service etc. For this reason alone, I would probably go with a Yanmar, only as my gut says it might have a better parts/service/warrenty options outside NA. I could be wrong on this, but that would be my first choice. As also mentioned, it would be a non turbo motor also. Most folks that I know that are repowering older boats with turbo's are going to non turbo equals. One more thing to go wrong, and more power off the line with a non turbo motor too!

You might also look at bumping the HP up say 5-10 also. This might allow you a bit more go power if the going gets rough, ala currents, wind/waves and a lee shore. If I redid my 16HP Yanmar, I would try to go with a 20 if I could do it in the same 2cy 2gm I have. I would not go to a 3 cyl to succeed personally.


dieselboy 09-18-2009 02:17 AM

Keep in mind the problem you are having now... Parts..
What ever you choose make sure you can get parts anywhere.. Volvo, Yanmar i know are world wide and readily available.. Your going around the globe don't cut your trip short because a lack of parts some where.

Fareast 09-18-2009 05:43 AM

I repowered my 30,000 lb sailboat last year with a Westerbeke 64A, it turns only 2800 RPM, and its performance to date has been excellent.

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