Marine Propelling Machinery

All vessels are usually equipped with a motor or motors either gasoline or diesel. An auxiliary sailboat’s movement is designed to be propelled by the wind but on many occasions supplementary propulsion machinery is the standard. It’s always comforting to know than an “iron genny” can be cranked up to get you through a dangerous inlet to safe harbor or off a lee shore. At any rate, most of us love our motors or at least consider them as necessary pieces of equipment that enhance pleasure boating. Some diligent, conscientious, and rare owners maintain their motors on a regular basis and keep them in such a clean condition that you could literally eat off the top of them. Some of these rare few can tell you where and when an engine made so much as a hiccup and why. Basic preventative maintenance by attending the motor on a daily (when in regular use), weekly, semi-annual and annual schedule is the normal course of events like brushing your teeth in the morning. Careful check of engine oil and Filters every 100 to 150 operating hours, changing the fuel filters every 300 operating hours or more if needed. and taking fuel samples to make sure that there is no water or sediment from the base of the fuel tank or biological bloom, checking gear box oil level, fresh water coolant levels, cleaning raw water strainers, checking grease points, checking air filters, and replacing wasted zinc’s is a normal course of operation. On the other hand, others hold their breath and hope that when they turn the ignition switch or push the start button, the sweet noise of the motor will hum as they have no idea of what the engine compartment looks like. Then we have the “middle of the roaders” who try to maintain their motors and follow the manufacturers recommendations for basic preventative maintenance and annually check all coolant hoses for softening. cracking, and bulging, check all hose clamps for tightness and check the raw water injection elbow on the exhaust for signs of corrosion and replace if necessary and maintain viable cooling system Zinc anodes and generally check oil pressure and raw water flow from exhaust upon start up. They too as the diligent engine owner to change filters and change their oil when necessary. In general there is a contrast of boat owners who have a working knowledge of their vessel’s equipment and strive to troubleshoot the broad range of breakdowns that could occur, some are just more persistent than others.

Here in the Low Country at this time of year boaters are digging into their lockers and trying to find their favorite shorts and fishing hat from last year. People are milling around the docks and those who have boats are thinking about their favorite anchoring spot or that trip down or up the coast, or planning a real voyage to another continent. They are thinking and making plans to begin a spring clean campaign. Then again we have those hopefuls walking the docks, scouring through Soundings and spending time at their favorite brokers office wanting to buy a boat. They may have owned a boat previously, sold it, and regret their decision and just have to get back on the water to feel that fresh salt water lick their checks and experience a wonderful sense of freedom that only comes to those who have experienced the awe and adventure of the sea, or maybe they have some spare money they need to bum. A good subject for an essay for another time could be about reasons as to why we go to sea, but that is not the purpose of this selection. As a surveyor being engaged by a client who is in the market to buy a boat, especially those yachts equipped with expensive machinery like Caterpillar, Cummins, Detroit, Man, Volvo to name a few, I suggest a separate Engine Survey to be completed by a qualified marine mechanic who has the ability to not only take oil samples but possesses the gauges necessary to take compression checks for the engine under scrutiny, and has the knowledge of this particular engines scheduled service or recall campaigns. As we all know all boat owners aren’t rich and a lot of us strain our budget to support our boating habits. Buying a boat and then sadly discovering after the fact that the engine will require costly refits or rebuild can quickly pull the shade down on our expectations of this purchase. Questions and queries such as obtaining the Vessel’s Engine Maintenance Log if there happens to be one, and topical inspections of the engine’s hoses, clamps, cosmetics, fuel delivery systems, exhaust components, including mounting stringers and mounts are of utmost concern to the surveyor.

Federally there are listings of many regulations that zero in on a gasoline motor. The Code of Federal Regulations are provided by the Federal Government to boat manufacturers as minimal guidelines to follow in order to build safe boats. Let’s face it, no one wants an explosion or inhale noxious carbon monoxide fumes that can kill us or a boat with potential safety hazards. We want to have fun and quality time with our family and friends and have a safe platform in which to go to sea. We want our trips to be uneventful and free of outlandish sea stories but be rooted in the excitement of boating that record Wahoo rather than drifting in a sea due to an improperly installed failed component. The standards set forth in the Code of Federal Regulations begin with the Electrical System and contains headers such as Ignition Protection, Batteries, Conductors and Over current Protection. It then continues to the all important issue of Fuel Systems and contains standards for tanks, vent systems, fuel pumps and fuel stop valves to name a few. These standards were put together in order to assist us and manufacturers to produce and own safe boats. (Not to bust our chops). One of the reasons that a lot of us own boats is to experience freedom and get away from bureaucracy and to de-regulate our lives. However even though a vessel was built prior to suggested standards, an upgrade to meet “above minimal” current standards should be our goal to improve the safety of our vessel. The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) are less of a requirement than the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) and American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) standards. The latter two are recommended practices and not mandatory but my copy of the CFR is highlighted with notes to refer to these two because in many instances suggestions are simply safer and involve more detail. For instance, if you have had a marine gasoline engine rebuilt you need to ensure that the fuel pump is a Marine and not Automotive type. I have written about this before but the frequency of this one finding should concern all owners who have had engine rebuilds or refits to this component. If you have a failure on an automotive fuel pump you will discharge fuel not safely on the highway but in your bilge where an unwanted spark can cause an explosion. Safe is what we want to be and we want to avoid potential problems and address items that would fall into the Preventative Maintenance category.

ABYC has introduced standards for boats using diesel propulsion. If you are replacing components on your older boat and are replacing say the fuel hose, I suggest that you use the suggested type specified in American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC) H 33.6.1 ” Flexible hose shall comply with the requirements of UL 1114, Marine (USCG Type A) Flexible Fuel-Line Hose, or SAE J 1527, Marine Fuel Hoses. This standard is also suggested in NFPA 302-12 and states that “Flexible nonmetallic fuel hose shall be USCG Type A-1 hose where 2 1/2minutes minimum fire resistance is required.” Diesel fuel hose longevity can be guaranteed for three years by some manufacturers and needs to be maintained with proper hose and not hose suitable for soda fountains. Diesel hose longevity is less because diesel fuel contains sulfur and therefore hoses should be examined frequently as this can be more damaging to hose than gasoline.

It’s true, gasoline powered vessels have more potential trouble shooting areas, but diesel powered vessels Ventilation System, Requirements, Fuel Line supports, Valves, Fuel Filters, Strainers, Water Separators, Fuel hose Connections, Distribution and Return Systems and Fuel System Grounding are of no less significance than the gasoline motor to the diligent yachtsman. If guidelines are available for design and construction to help us boat safer, why not!

If you have a gasoline powered vessel and are concerned about safety issues involving fuel components, let us suggest you purchasing United Sates Coast Guard Fuel System Compliance Guideline. It can be ordered from:

3069 Solomon’s Island Rd.
Edgewater, MD 21037-1416
telephone # (410) 956-1050
Ar S 2010
plus $ 3.00 shipping and handling.

Lets all have a safe and enjoyable boating season, and remember, the Lord loves sailors.

© Neil K. Haynes February 1999

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