Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Very Full Circle Indeed

Careful readers may assume that I'm now back where I started. I bought an old boat with a new outboard and an old inboard. I put all my effort and money into the old engine and sold the new outboard. The old engine ultimately failed. I threw it away and bought a new outboard.

I did have the satisfaction of restoring a moribund old Swedish gasoline engine designed in 1925 and getting another 110 hours of life from it. The two-cylinder flathead Albin with its 50-pound flywheel had its charms -- and vibrations. But our relationship had run its course and I'm not going to miss it.

In its central location just behind the companionway ladder, I can put the boat's batteries where they will be easier to reach and provide the best ballast. And I'll still have room to build a large storage shelf above them.

When I bought the Ericson 30, various people suggested how lucky I was to have a new 4-stroke outboard on the transom and how easily I could lighten up the boat by removing the old inboard. I rejected the idea without ever seriously considering it. I couldn't wait until I could get the inboard running and remove the outboard.

The original Nissan outboard made the same power as my new Tohatsu. It's the same engine except for the label. Except it isn't really the same. The original was a long-shaft (20-inch) model with electric start and manual controls. It was mounted on the port side of the transom because that is where it was possible to reach it by crawling beneath the stern pushpit in a gap between the backstay and a vertical support.

That difficult effort was required when lowering the engine and again when pulling it up out of the water when under sail. In other words, using the outboard was a big hassle. Every time I did it, I looked longingly at the cockpit-mounted ignition switch, gear shift and throttle lever for the inboard engine and hardened my resolve to get the Albin running.

With help, I did. We fixed what was obviously needed, such as new valves, new piston rings, new and improved wet exhaust system, new carburetor and, eventually, new cylinder head when the old one rusted through. We didn't touch the bottom end, nor even separate the transmission from the cylinder block. Both were fine in test bench runs and remained that way for 110 hours back in the boat. But something eventually let go, causing a loud knocking that demanded immediately shutting down the engine. The source of the knock defied my in-the-boat attempts to identify it. I won't ever know what it was now that the engine is gone, left for scrap at the boat yard.

With hindsight, it now is clear that fronting the estimated $10,000-$12,000 cost of installing a new diesel would have been smarter than spending half that in increments as the Albin restoration project crept forward.

But having already spent that, I couldn't see now putting another $10,000-$12,000 into a new diesel. Spending about $4,000 for a new outboard and fancy Garelick hydraulic motor mount made a lot more sense.

However, I have made the new outboard nearly as convenient to use as the inboard by purchasing a remote-control model, and mounting it on a Garelick hydraulic outboard bracket. I can lean over the pushpit, not crawl through it, and let gravity lower the engine by merely opening the hydraulic bleed valve a half turn. Raising it requires only a dozen swings of the hydraulic pump handle.

The electric starter, choke, throttle and gear shift are handled with a robust control unit mounted on the sidewall of the cockpit in easy reach of the tiller. So is the combination tachometer and hourmeter, which is an after-market unit from Teleflex.

The ouitboard feeds from the replacement aluminum gas tank I had built for the boat a year ago, through the same Racor filter/water separator that served the inboard engine. The Tohatsu's fuel pump easily handles the extra length of the heavy Coast Guard-approved fuel line. And I can carry and easily switch to standard outboard fuel tanks to supplement the 22 gallons in the main tank.

Fuel economy is predicted to be about the same as the Albin - about a gallon an hour at max throttle. But exhaust emissions are much, much lower. The Tohatsu is a three-star ultra-low emission engine.

The six amp alternator built into the electric-start Tohatsu is enough for the low electrical loads on my boat. It's about the same output as the oddball starter-generator on the Albin.

The noise level is lower in the cockpit and virtually gone inside the cabin. When we motor back from the Ensenada race next spring, the off-watch crew is going to sleep easily.

Finally, when the Tohatsu needs professional servicing. I can easily lift it off the transom and take it to a dealer. And I'll never again have to spend $1500 for a new prop, prop shaft, cutless bearing and stuffing box.

I will have to spend something eventually to remove the existing shaft and seal up the hole. However, since it exits the hull behind and above the rudder, with no strut, there will be minimal drag if I simply remove the prop for now and secure the shaft outside with a zinc collar against the cutless bearing and inside with a couple of hose clamps ahead of the stuffing box.

So, yes, as a practical matter I am back where I started, having made a substantial contribution to keep the consumer-based economy afloat along the way. It was an interesting journey. I still have a great boat. It is a much better boat than when I bought it. It still needs work.

I suspect there are a lot of old sailboats that could be improved by replacing an unreliable inboard with a quiet new, remote-controlled outboard.


Anonymous said...


I'm looking for an engine for my boat. Where did you get yours?

Dick O'Reilly said...

The Tohatsu was purchased from Min-Mar Marine in Long Beach, which is a factory-authorized Tohatsu/Nissan dealer, and other brands as well. They prepped and tested the engine. I took it from there. However, they provided critical information when I later couldn't figure out how to make the electrical hook-up for my non-Tohatsu tachometer. (Tohatsu does not offer a combination tachometer/hour meter unit.

The Garelick outboard bracket came from Boater's World in Long Beach, which has an unbeatable price in its 2007 catalog.

Anonymous said...

I have gone through virtually the same journey as you, but mine was on a Catalina 30 with a balky Yanmar 8 HP. I am just now installing a new Tohatsu 9.8 motor after using a "temporary" Honda 8 for 3 years. I'm doing pretty much the same installation as you have. although, I hadn't considered using the old (diesel) fuel tank. I may see if that is possible.
I have pulled the prop and shaft and am in the midst of plugging the hole.
Thanks for your comments.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking about putting an outboard onto my '76 Tartan 30. My biggest concern is engine overspeed and subsequent swamping when motoring in any type of sea. What has your experience with this situation been?