T&T: Outboard trawler

Lawrence Zeitlin lrzeitlin at aol.com
Sun Apr 5 14:56:59 EDT 2009

Gas or diesel - who cares. It's the nature of the power train that  
makes the difference. The older I get, and the more I work on old  
diesel engines crammed into a tight motor compartment, the more I  
appreciate the virtues of the outboard. It is time for trawler  
designers to incorporate outboard power into small trawlers, say  
those less than 40' in length. Think of the advantages. The engine  
will be easy to get at. It can be removed as a unit and worked on in  
the spacious area of a garage or workshop. It can be easily replaced  
when worn out. And, judging by the prices at my local boat dealer, it  
will cost a fraction of a comparably powered inboard.

Sure most trawler engines are diesel. And there are advantages in  
fuel safety. But diesels are heavy, smelly, and expensive. An  
outboard, if it leaks fuel, leaks overboard. All it would take for  
current 4 cycle outboards is a new lower unit with a higher gear  
ratio capable of turning a bigger prop. It would be nice if an  
outboard engine manufacturer produced a diesel outboard, but it is  
not essential.

My current boat, a Willard 30 uses a Perkins 4-107 driving a 13' long  
shaft, supported by two bearings, to get a measly 36 HP to the prop.  
My son has a small motorboat driven by a 90 HP Mercury 4 cycle  
engine. The engine is half the weight of the Perkins and puts out  
almost three times the power. The cost of the outboard was one third  
that of the diesel. In fact the diesel drive shaft alone cost more  
than the entire outboard installation.

The price of diesel and gasoline are on a par in my area. You  
probably get better mileage with a diesel but I don't cruise enough  
in one year to make up a tiny fraction of the price difference of the  
power train. I could replace the outboard four times over for the  
price of one diesel replacement. The upper limit of outboard power is  
no barrier either. Big 400 HP Tregurtha "outboards" are used to move  
barges in the oil patch. Dual outboards could overcome most power  
limitations and, of course, offer the reliability of two engines.

Won't one of the brilliant yacht designers who read the T&T design a  
36 ft. outboard powered trawler. It could be my next boat.

Now I feel better.

Larry Z

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