The act of sailing invokes a romantic notion, one of freedom, simplicity, leisure. All you must do is hoist a sail and you can go wherever you like. No muss, no fuss, right? So why the hell have we come home from the boatyard drenched in diesel fuel and motor oil every day of the past week?
Filters and fluids must be changed, fuel lines bled, carburetors serviced and so on. These are dirty jobs that slather you in petrochemicals while you hang upside down trying not to drop the wrench in the bilge, yet again.
But you have to be able to maneuver in the tight quarters of the mooring fields and marinas, and you have to be able to motor quickly to safe harbor should bad weather threaten. So the prudent sailor has auxiliary power in his boat to supplement the sails. The dinghy’s got to be able to get you in and out at high speed as well, so you must have an outboard too. All of a sudden, we begin to feel more like mechanics and less like sailors.
Don’t get us wrong, learning the intricacies of gas and diesel engines is fascinating and an extremely valuable skill that we are thrilled to learn about, but there are days when we question why we bring such complicated, hazardous, expensive and maintenance intensive items aboard our boat. Granted, we’ve yet to have the diesel push us off a lee shore in a blow, or the outboard take us miles down the coastline to a remote fishing spot, so the cost/benefit analysis is heavily skewed at the moment.
The benefits of motorized propulsion are grand and relatively obvious. But being the luddite, daydreaming curmudgeon type that I am, I’ve been compiling (mostly while upside down and getting sprayed with diesel) a list of drawbacks that come with the convenience of auxiliary power:
Inboard Diesel Engine Drawbacks:
Hull Penetrations-two above waterline and two below waterline, holes through your hull=potential trouble
Drag-You can buy an expensive folding prop and have a little drag, or you can buy and expensive traditional prop and have a lot of drag
Propeller-A perfect instrument to catch floating or partially submerged lines
Fuel Tanks/Engine Space-They take up a ton of space that could better be used for water or other provisions
Leaks-Oil and fuel will either constantly leak into the bilge, or they will leak into the bilge in vast quantities during oil/filter changes
Toxicity-Lots of petrochemicals
Weight-Our tiny 10hp inboard weighs in at 353 lbs. We probably haul that much again in fuel, plumbing, prop, shaft, spare parts etc.
Maintenance-Filter changes, oil changes, zincs, impellers, etc. All take time, all cost money, and all require material items that you can’t necessarily buy in a small town in Mexico.
Dependency-You can’t get as far away or stay away as long if you must always get back to a fuel station or a chandlery.
Money-Upfront, maintenance, repairs, fuel
The Shakes-The vibrations of an engine can lead to the fatigue of metals (i.e. standing rigging) over time
Heat Generated by the Engine-Good in Northern climes, very bad in the Sea of Cortez
Noisy-It’s not the sound of waves gently lapping
We probably won’t be removing our engine anytime soon, but it’s fun to daydream. A good set of oars, light air sails, a nice sailing dinghy and a few more years under our belts, and who knows, maybe we’ll join the likes of Lin and Larry and go engineless.
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