Atomic 4 fume danger? - SailNet Community
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post #1 of Old 01-15-2013 Thread Starter
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Atomic 4 fume danger?

I am considering a 1966 vintage Hinterhoeller H28. Still in nice shape but with serious TLC needs. One question in my mind is the orig atomic 4. I have heard it run and it sounds good with no observable leaks or smoking. Kinda purrs nicely. My question relates to gasoline onboard. Obviously diesel is safer but just how dangerous is an atomic 4 (gas) setup? Current blower/fan works and owner ran it yesterday as he started the engine. Some folks have said they would never have a gas engine on board others say if properly installed and maintained it is not to be worried about. I was curious about opinions here. The price is probably right for me on this boat but would the presence of a gas engine in itself have you looking elsewhere for a first boat?

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Re: Atomic 4 fume danger?

[sarcasm]
The Atomic-4 is a horrible, antiquated piece of equipment. Dozens of sailors are killed each year when these explode, or by carbon monoxide poisoning. The only Atomic-4 boats that have not killed someone, or blown apart, haven't done so merely because the engine is not functioning. The Atomic-4 is known as "The Widow-maker".

The only acceptable auxiliary engine for a sailboat is an inboard Yanmar 2 or 3GM series engine. Accept no substitute.

[/sarcasm off]

Seriously, I don't think there are even any statistics available on Atomic-4 explosions or deaths. Countless powerboats operated with gasoline engines and you rarely hear about explosions or deaths on those either, and when you do, it's usually something stupid like burning an open flame during refueling operations.

If the Atomic-4 was such a dangerous POS, then it wouldn't be enjoying the renaisannce that it is right now. Did you know that you can buy NEW engine blocks and cylinder heads from Moyer Marine right now? That's right. The engine is so popular, that these are now being manufactured again.

My Atomic-4 is 40 years old, has never been rebuilt, and it still has factory-spec compression at over 100psi per cylinder. The engine starts every time, and runs like a swiss clock.

Keep your fuel system sealed, your blowers working properly, and your ignition system maintained, and you'll have reduced the risk to a level comparable to diesel engines.

In fact, you'll only have to carry one type of fuel for your inboard engine and your dinghy outboard engine instead of carrying diesel AND gasoline.

You can visit the Moyer Marine forum to learn more, and find a great support community for these engines: Moyer Marine

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post #3 of Old 01-15-2013
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Re: Atomic 4 fume danger?

Properly vented they are fine reliable engines, Gaoline needs to be handled with the proper respect as the fumes are explosive so running a blower in the engine compartment is SOP.

Many of the naysayers also have propane on their deisel engine boats which is just if not more explosive.

Just exercise care for safetys sake.

dave


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post #4 of Old 01-15-2013
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Re: Atomic 4 fume danger?

I would definetly have a Carbon Monoxide Alarm.
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Re: Atomic 4 fume danger?

It works GREAT and i do keep a Marine Technologies Carbon Monoxide Detector 12 Volt 65-541 on a 24 hour circut on the quarterberth bulkhead right next to the motor

A diesel with a leaky exaust will do just as good a job of killing you

As far as gasoline its REALLY HARD to miss a leak when the fuel system is again 14" from your head

I can assure you a leak of one drop will be noticed

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Re: Atomic 4 fume danger?

Our previous boat has an A4. Sailed it for 7 years. Never a safety problem. Yes, you have to be careful. Yes, make sure your blower works well, and use it properly, but don't be paranoid about gasoline. It is no different than carrying propane.

Why go fast, when you can go slow.
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post #7 of Old 01-15-2013
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Re: Atomic 4 fume danger?

The VAST VAST majority of boats with engines in the USA are gasoline powered. Gasoline is very dangerous when it leaks, so do take care to maintain your fuel system. This is the same care all the hundreds of thousands of I/O powered runabouts need to take, and I am betting very few actually do.

*true story - I had to listen to a "diesel is safer" speech from a guy with a diesel, propane, and a TANK OF GAS FOR THE DINGHY IN THE ENGINE ROOM

I do know of a sailboat that was A4 powered that burned and sank a couple of years ago. It was a sistership to my own and I suspect they had the issue I had. A 90 degree rubber elbow C&C used was not fuel rated, but tolerated gasoline. Ethanol, not so much I found the leak in mine and replaced it and discovered my entire fill hose was coming apart from the inside !

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post #8 of Old 01-15-2013
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Re: Atomic 4 fume danger?

I have a 1966 A 4. Great engine. Safe, reliable. While its true that gasoline is more combustible than diesel, history shows that proper care and ventilation is all that is required.

Btw, many of these people saying they would never have a gas engine because of the incredible danger probably carry gas for their dinghy outboard! Not to mention propane.

Advertising and groupthink killed the A 4 but in production boats but she is alive and thriving!
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Re: Atomic 4 fume danger?

BTW - I always turn off my fuel pump and let the engine run the gas out of the carb when I am done for the day

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Re: Atomic 4 fume danger?

My first boat was a 1966 Pearson Triton with an A4. There are thousands of these engines around running well for many years with no problems. When you're ready to head out, run the blower for a few minutes then sniff for gas fumes, then start the engine. I would not let that the fact that the boat has a gasoline engine be a deal breaker.

Edit: Corrected as noted below.

Last edited by steve77; 01-15-2013 at 11:51 AM.
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