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  #1  
Old 1 Week Ago
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Sail Drives?

Hello All,

We have looked at a lot of possible purchases such as, Catalina 27's, Northern 29's and Aloha 28's. I've seen a few Catalina 27's and they all have everything we are looking for. The problem is, most have been aux. powered by OMC sail drives.
From what I've read, these are not the favored choice. Please offer your opinion?

Cheers,
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Re: Sail Drives?

I have never used one.. but I dislike the huge hole you need in the hull to mount them.

Having said that.. a lot of new boats are coming out with saildrives, so I guess they are not all bad
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Re: Sail Drives?

Not a fan, also disclaimer, I've never owned a boat with one and very traditional in taste.

Not just the big hole, but also putting a lot of metal in the water to corrode.

To be fair, I'm told that you use up less room in the engine compartment than the usual slant arrangement with transmission, shaft, stuffing box. Also, I've heard you get less prop wash and more efficiency since the prop is actually pointing in the direction you want to go. One of my favorite builders uses them in the fancy day sailers.
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Re: Sail Drives?

I would personally steer clear of them, especially the older ones. Many/some had issues with the gasketing or "bellows". Either way to repair or replace it requires a haulout and is a tough job for a DIY sailor. Yard rates are high, and experience with drives and their installation short.

The newer ones may be better installed, but still suffer from design issues and some makers have had issue with proper installation, dealers are hesitant to get involved in something that is between the drive manufacturer and the boat builder. That then causes fingerpointing about "who" did it wrong and who pays for it to be repaired, correctly. If it can be repaired, as a couple of issues I read about indicate design/build issues with the grid/support system for the drive system. One issue was there was insufficient ring in the hull to properly seal the bellows, another indicated the wrong angle of installation, another made it impossible to reach service points without removing the entire unit.

YMMV, and BTW the reason the builders are returning is that it is cheaper to use this compact unit and it saves space over conventional engine/reverser/shaft/packing gland/prop.
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Re: Sail Drives?

One of the worst ideas I've heard of to date.
Absolutely silly.

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Re: Sail Drives?

Hey,

As mentioned there are pros and cons of Saildrive.

Pro:
Sailing performance is better - much less drag than long shaft / strut. Especially if fitted with folding / feathering prop
No leaking stuffing box
no prop walk
boat backs straight
Better performance under power because prop is not at downward angle

Cons:
Need to be real careful about electrolysis. Be real vigilant about ANODES
Need to replace bellows on a regular basis (I think it's 7 years)
I have never met a yard manager or service person who like them (but they always seem grumpy no matter what).

My last two boats had traditional engine / prop arrangements with shaft log / stuffing box, strut, cutless bearing, coupler, etc. My current boat has a sail drive. So far (and it's been less than a year) I like the saildrive. My last boat came with an old rotten stuffing box. To fix that required the rudder get dropped, the shaft pulled (which required a new shaft and coupling), and a new cutless bearing. Changing the saildrive gasket will be cheaper than all that.

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Re: Sail Drives?

I have two of 'em, (catamaran) and there are thousands of them installed on catamarans, so they're not particularly uncommon per se, just not common on monohulls.

IMO Barry has nutshelled pretty well. (except the prop walk, I don't know that I agree with that) I watched the tech replace my saildrive gaskets (Volvo) and actually it's not that difficult. I've posted about the process, so if you do a search, you should be able to find my descriptions

IIRC Volvo's gasket replacement sked is nine years. Different makes have different requirements. Bear in mind, though, that Volvo did invent the saildrive.

Googling will find lots and lots of discussions...
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Re: Sail Drives?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mad_machine View Post
I have never used one.. but I dislike the huge hole you need in the hull to mount them.

Having said that.. a lot of new boats are coming out with saildrives, so I guess they are not all bad
Manufacturers like them because installation is easy and labor for alignment is nonexistent. That doesn't mean they are good for owners.
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Re: Sail Drives?

I had a Buhk saildrive on a boat that I owned for 14 years. As a broad generality, I found that the saildrive worked fine in general usage. There was noticably less propwalk which took some getting used to and was missed when trying to spin the boat in tight quarters. But for the most part there were few problems in day to day use.

Speaking of saildrives in general, the downside is that aluminum housings tend to be very vulnerable to electrolysis. I coated mine with epoxy when I bought the boat. Saildrives are extremely dependent on proprietary parts and when a manufacturer decides to price these parts like they are made from 'unaffordium', any small repair part such as a zinc, seal replacement, boot leak alarm, or boot replacement can be wildly expensive. Even worse, when a manufacturer decides not to support an older model, the parts become impossible to get.

Saildrive transmissions are miniaturized to fit within the hub of the drive, and so tend to be less robust, and unlike most normal transmissions you cannot routinely buy a rebuilt saildrive.

Unlike a normal marine transmission, you cannot work on the saildrive while the boat is in the water. That includes routine annual maintenance items like changing the transmission fluid and on some models, changing the zincs. It means that you either use the transmission fluid longer than the manufacturer recommends and risk electrolysis or you haul annually whether the boat needs to be hauled or not.

Often there is only one propeller by one manufacturer that will fit the outdrive shaft. If that is a shortlived, unreliable, and badly mfr. supported propeller like a Gori, you were out of luck since that is all that fit on that shaft. Normal props generally do not fit outdrives.

Now then, speaking specifically about the OMC units, these were light and inexpensive adaptations of an outboard motor. They were used because they were cheap to buy and install. If properly maintained, they were reasonably reliable, but OMC's were seen as being short-lived units whose use-by-date has long since passed. That would not be the end of the world if these were easily rebuilt engines like an Atomic 4, but they are not. But the really big (as in deal breaker) issue with rebuilding one is the near total lack of available replacement parts.

To the best of my understanding, OMC stopped supporting these engines a couple decades ago. There were suppliers who had bought up a bunch of left over parts and supported them for quite a while, but last I heard, those folks are no longer around. (Someone please correct me if some company has become the 'Moyer Marine' of OMC saildrives.) So buying a boat with an OMC Saildrive is buying a boat with a somewhat unreliable engine, near the end of its life, that lacks replacement parts, and which is not a 'plug and play' fit with other repowering options. Most of the Cat 27's that I know of that had these engines have had the engine removed, the hole glassed shut, and an outboard on a bracket installed on the transom.

Jeff
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Last edited by Jeff_H; 6 Days Ago at 10:33 AM. Reason: typos and added clarifying adjectives
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Re: Sail Drives?

Thanks!
As usual great information offered. I suppose when buying a sailboat from the 70's or early 80's you are taking a chance on the condition of the aux. power source. That's why
my search has lasted this long, I just can't make that offer. Oh well, I guess it will eventually happen?

Cheers,
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