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808state 01-17-2003 11:07 PM

Gas Vs. Deisel (are we crazy?)
Hello All. Looking for some experienced judgement here, with an open mind based on experience. My wife and I are moving to SW Florida in September for a new life and work. We currently live in Pittsburgh. BRRRRRR!! Way too cold. We want sailing to be a big part of our new life. We first wanted a boat at least 30'' w'' deisel, and all the accomadations we could acquire. Work and finances are dictating that we may have to scale back our dream boat to more smaller, say 25'', maybe trailerable. Our intended cruising grounds are the Keys, Tortugas, and the Bahamas or beyond (providing we can follow a flotilla across the Gulf Stream, we''re not crazy). We are seeing alot of boats for sale that are great boats, Pearsons, Cape Dorys, etc., in our price range 10,000 and under. The problem is that they either have outboards, or inboard gas. I know the explosion risk associated with inboard gas so I have all but ruled out inboard gas engines. I have been told that a following sea w'' an outboard is a big problem in heavy weather while trying to negotiate inland piloting (prop coming out of the water). We don''t want to give up our intended cruising grounds. I keep thinking of way back in the day when there were no reliable engines and such, and the mariners that made it happen. I''ve even read about a 16'' that circumnavigated with no engine (, a very interesting story by the way. I also realize that weather would play a major factor in when we could leave any port that we are in given the conditions. My question is.. Are we going to bite off more than we can handle by purchasing a 22''-25'' boat with an outboard to use in our intended cruising grounds? I know that we could use the dinghy''s outboard if our main outboard would die. Is there anyone who''s had experience with our intended actions? Thanks for the input. Bob P. P.S. - If anyone needs crew, my wife and I are available for varying lengths, monohulls up to 40''. Good Day all!

Stede 01-18-2003 03:44 AM

Gas Vs. Deisel (are we crazy?)
808, I sailed some of the area that you mentioned of interest last year aboard my 26ft, shoal draft trailerable boat.I''m planning on returning this year and continuing on down to Key West,and out to the Dry Tortugas.It''s a great area to sail in. I put my boat in at Ft.Lauderdale,single-handed as far South as Key Largo,crossed the Gulfstream to N.Bimini,and then returned to Ft.Lauderdale.IMO,smaller shoal draft boats are ideal for the Keys. I was able to sail Hawk Channel or the Bay side very comfortably.My boat has an inboard diesel and it developed a minor problem close to Key Largo.I took the outboard off my dink and used it on the stern bracket that I had installed prior to the trip.The outboard did fine.There were a couple of times that following seas did cause some problems with the prop jumping out of the water though.I noticed this particularly at large harbor entrances.With shoal draft/centerboard type boats,there are several areas to cut between the ocean side to the bay side,and thus avoiding most of the problem.On the issue of gas vs.diesel, I personally wouldn''t take a boat off my "possible" list because it had a inboard gas engine.I think you have to be aware of safe practices for such an engine, and maintain it accordingly.I envy your move to the Gulf coast.A friend of mine keeps a boat at Punta Gorda and tells me the sailing around that area is great.Good luck with your move,and sailing.

Jeff_H 01-18-2003 03:50 AM

Gas Vs. Deisel (are we crazy?)
There''s nothing wrong with inboard gas engines for your intended purposes but if you are buying a 25 footer with "all the accomadations we could acquire" then I would say that an outboard is out of the question for your intended cruising grounds.

To explain, A properly maintained inboard gasoline engine, while slightly more dangerous than a marine diesel,is still a pretty safe and reliable engine. In my lifetime, with one exception, every boat that I have ever heard of that has blown up or burned, has had a diesel, and usually propane. In sailing, people tend to be pretty selective about what they fear. These days people have a deathly fear of gasoline inboards but think nothing of carrying propane, a far more explosive material, in boats that lack the ''explosion proofing'' of a boat with a gas engine. The electrical systems on marine diesels are sealed so that they do not produce sparks and the carberators have backfire supressors so that the risk of a gas engine ingiting itself is fairly minimal. Gasoline boats have bilge blowers that are also sealed units which vacate any fumes in the bilge. Using reasonable precautions, running the bilge blower and sniffing the bilge, the risk of explosion is minimal. You can then probably buy a nice 27 footer with an atomic 4 in your price range and do very well for yourself. (There''s a huge difference between a 25 and 27 footer for what you are proposing)

Outboards are a pain in the neck for the kinds of thing that you are proposing. In the kind of short chop sometimes with no wind that you are dealing with in these venues, they are really exposed to getting dunked and then airborn, eventually leabing you with no wind and no engine. Some people recommend outboards in a well. In my experience these are the worst of all worlds.

There are a lot of good boats that should meet your needs (To name a few):

Albin Vega: You can often find one of these with a diesel for less than your budget.

Beneteau First 28: While Beneteaus take a bit of a hit in this country, the Frers designed 28 was a pretty nicely designed and built little boat.

Bristol 27: Nice boats in a lot of ways. I have spent a lot of time on these. I like the mid-1960''s model better than the later ones.

C&C 27:

Cal 27 or Cal 27-2 (Cal 2-27)

Cal 28:

Ericson 27: You''ll need to try to find a clean one but these can often be found with a small diesel in your price range.

Hunter 27 (Late 1070''s early 1980''s) While Hunters, like Beneteaus, take a lot of verbal abuse in this country, the 27 was a pretty nicely designed and built little boat. That said you need to find one that was maintained pretty well as these boats were sold cheaply and often allowed to go to pot.

Oday 27: While pretty low on this list you can find these very cheaply with inboards.

Oday 28: (try to find one before they went to a sail drive)Good little boats. I like the fin keel versions better than the K/CB.

Pearson 28

Pearson Renegade:

Pearson Triton: (Although the 28 is probably a better boat for what you want to do)

Soverel 28: These were really built for exactly what you want to do. Last time I looked there was one on Yachtworld with a diesel for $9500.

Tartan 27: This would be the Bee''s knees for what you have in mind. Whiel not all that fast, these are really good all around boats.

Yankee 28:

The point here is that you should be able to find a perfectly suitable boat within your price range, some with diesels, some with gas inboards. While smaller, older boats take more skills to sail in the places that you are considering, and certainly these older boats require a lot more maintenance skills and costs, they can be just as satisfying to own adn would be less expensive to own than much the much bigger boats that are the norm.


Mclion71 01-18-2003 04:00 AM

Gas Vs. Deisel (are we crazy?)
I have a Pearson 28 for sale on the Chesapeake Bay, if you''re interested.

jklewissf 01-18-2003 07:42 AM

Gas Vs. Deisel (are we crazy?)
I agree that an inboard gas engine should not be a total deal breaker on an otherwise sound boat.

The explosion hazard is real and you need to maintain the engine correctly, only install electrical equipment that is safe around gas, and install a sniffer for the bilge.

The big disadvantage of gas is the limited range the boat has. A gallon diesel contains a lot more BTUs than a gallon of gas and a gas engine sends a lot of the energy it generates out through the exhaust as heat.

Although some people say they would not have a boat with a gas engine in it many routinely stick the dingy engine gas can in their lazerette and sometimes place the outboard engine there too.

Outboards are a pain in the butt. I sailed florida for years and the outboard I had was always coming out of the water when there was any sort of sea running. Couple that with a very short range and limited (at best) battery charging capability and you have a really strong argument against using an outboard as your auxillary engine.

If you use an outboard try to make it a 4 stroke as the gas milage is much better. Four stroke engines are really heavy, however.

BTW, you dont have to cross the gulf stream to have some wonderful cruising. Any place in the keys where cars can reach is as beautiful as places in the Bahamas.

If you do want to cross the stream you can just wait for the weather (so you will have wind) and start down in the keys so you will have a good shot at making it acrossed the stream before it carries you too far north.


Jeff_H 01-18-2003 03:10 PM

Gas Vs. Deisel (are we crazy?)
I really disagree about the fuel economy of a gas engine vs diesel. Our Atomic 4 used to burn a little over a 1/4 gallon an hour which pretty much matched the fuel consumption of the smaller diesels that I used on similar weight boats. Atomic 4''s often had more horsepower than a small boat can absorb. When I hear of a boat getting noticably worse fuel economy from an Atomic 4 it was usually one in poor condition or a case where the engine is throttled up past hull speed.


jklewissf 01-19-2003 05:40 AM

Gas Vs. Deisel (are we crazy?)

Several years ago I took a diesel mechanics course at orange coast college in southern california. The instructor was a guy named Terry Brown who was a local diesel mechanic. He seemed quite knowledgable. I was impressed enough to remember his name after 12 years.

One of the things he told us was that diesels are much more efficient than gasoline engines for two reasons.

1. the temperature of diesel exhaust is about 2000 degrees cooler than on gas engines so a lot of the energy generated in a gas engine is pushed out in the exhaust.

2. the energy content of diesel fuel is higher than for gasoline. The following paragraph is pulled from the web site "How things work"

Diesel fuel has a higher energy density than gasoline. On average, 1 gallon (3.8 L) of diesel fuel contains approximately 155x106 joules (147,000 BTU), while 1 gallon of gasoline contains 132x106 joules (125,000 BTU). This, combined with the improved efficiency of diesel engines, explains why diesel engines get better mileage than equivalent gasoline engines.

My experience with the atomic 4 has been different from yours. While the 2gmf diesel on my NorSea 27 gave me a cruising range of about 400 miles on 20 gallons, a friend of mine had somewhere between half and 2/3 of that on his ericson with an atomic 4. His boat was much lighter than mine and he was not pushing it when we cruised together. I was always the one playing catchup under power.

The engine on my norsea used less than 1/4 of a gallon an hour unless I really pushed it.

Diesel cars and trucks also get a lot more miles per gallon than similar sized gas powered vehicles.

Jeff_H 01-19-2003 06:15 AM

Gas Vs. Deisel (are we crazy?)
Thank you for your thoughtful answer. I knew about the relative difference in the specific heat output of Diesel fuel vs gasoline and that gasoline produces less heat, but I had also understood that diesel engines do not combust the fuel as completely as gasoline engines and that the relatively large unburned hydrocarbons typically found in a diesel engine''s exhaust, meant that not as much energy was extracted from the fuel bringing the two fuels into parity in terms of energy extracted.

Beyond that, while heat is one measure of a fuel''s output, when you talk about reciprocating engines, the expansion and speed of expansion of the combusted fuel has more significance. It has been my understanding that gasoline actually imparts a greater amount of expansive force much more quickly than diesel during combustion for a given weight allowing it to produce more shaft horsepower.

Now some of this may be quite out of date. Most of my knowledge on this subject was self-taught during a period in the 1970''s when I was racing, and helping design and build racing motorcycles, including their engines. In those days I was scouring primary source research material on engine design. During that era, Volkswagen was developing small automotive diesels and thier research was available in SAE papers. Since they also owned NSU, (who was heavily involved with 2 stroke engine design in those days and racing engines were two stroke) I had gotten and read through almost all of Volkswagen''s available research papers. In actual practice, Volkswagen was not able to get better fuel economy out of thier small diesels compared to equal output gas engines.

Diesels are employed in trucks because they produce enormous amounts of torque in relationship to the horsepower that is being produce. Trucks need huge amounts of torque to move their heavy loads without having even more gears required. It is not a matter of fuel economy.

As to our comparative fuel economy figures, I apologize for starting that line of discussion because my example (or perhaps our combined examples)probably represents too small a ''scientific sample'' to really be meaningful.

In any event, any difference in fuel consumption for someone going over to the Bahamas is probably insignificant in the big picture. Obviously if fuel consumption is a concern then outboards should be elimated because dispite their apparent efficiency due to prop orientation, generally do not achieve the same fuel economy of a similar horsepower output inboard.


thomasstone 01-19-2003 07:35 AM

Gas Vs. Deisel (are we crazy?)
The main problem with the gas motor is the ignition system. The points constantly need to be re-placed. When I bought my boat it had a 35 year old gray marine . It ran great when I could get it started and of course it had a mind of its own. When I decided to re-power the cost of retro-fitting a diesel was out of the question. I found somebody who re-manufactured the gray and I was a little sketchy about putting in another gas motor. You always meet some one who knows somebody who blew up. Anyway for the price of a new motor $2500 it was my only option. I also started to think this origanal gray still ran and if it has lasted this long I guess it is an okay motor. I have since had this motor in my boat for three years with electronic ignition and it has been brilliant. It is very quiet does not smell plenty of power and so far very reliable.I never mention now I have a gas motor because I am tired of hearing about everybody blowing up.-thomas

SailorMitch 01-19-2003 08:33 AM

Gas Vs. Deisel (are we crazy?)

Agreed that an inboard diesel is preferable, but your trip is possible with an outboard. Check this link for a fellow who traveled from NY to the Keys and the Bahamas on his O''Day 25 with an outboard. He had his troubles, but he made it. In fact, I just went sailing with him one afternoon in Key West earlier this month. I think the bottom line is how well YOU are up to dealing with an outboard for such a voyage. It''s doable, but not without some risks over and above using an inboard engine, whether it be gas or diesel.

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