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Old 04-17-2014, 10:37 PM   #1
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Engine Room Access - How Important Is It?

Awhile back I posted how a "must have" on our next boat was true and formal engine room access via a separate engine room door. Well the past few weeks have only reconfirmed this decision. Since we had the packing gland adjusted and cut-less bearing replaced on N3522 we have been making afternoon test runs dialing everything in. These runs include Mary driving while I run into the engine room every six minutes to take temperature readings. Having separate access to the engine room provides safe and quiet access while Mary focuses on driving and navigation. I could not imagine having to lift the salon floors only a few feet away from the drivers position to perform this over a two hour period. In addition to this fun I had to replace a fresh water accumulator last night and again found the well thought out engine room with easy access to everything another reason I like formal engine rooms. Despite the N35 engine room being on the smaller side, it works very well. As we continue our search for our next boat we again have formal engine room access and accessibility on the top of our "must have" list and again surprised how many boats this rules out.

Bottom line for anyone looking for a new or used boat it is worth spending some time gaining access and being inside the engine room for awhile. Happy boat hunting.

John T.
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Old 04-17-2014, 11:05 PM   #2
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I guess thats why they make all kinds of boats.

For myself, and I'd bet 90% of the TF members, our engine rooms are beneath the salon floor, and not as tall as we'd like.

Mine is something over waist high and can be accessed by lifting some stairs, or pulling a panel or panels in the salon floor. Either way is disruptive to traffic flow, but such are boat compromises. I have no problem with it, and although I like everyone else would like a larger, taller engine room, its functional enough to perform maintenance, and everything is accessible.

In looking for not only a "small" passagemaker, and one with a great engine room, and brand new, you're certainly narrowing down the available options.

Best of luck in your continued boat search.
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Old 04-17-2014, 11:15 PM   #3
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Greetings,
Mr. N4061. Excellent comment. Large ER is tops on my list when looking at boat porn. Unfortunately, up to a certain length and sometimes beyond, ER space is minimized in order to maximize living space. We looked at a 49 Marine trader PH one time. Nice boat but very awkward to access the mechanical spaces to the best of my memory. On the other hand, most of Art Defevers boats that we have seen have a larger ER space than one would expect. We've got a keeper now. ER=10'x6.5'x14' WITH a dedicated entrance door. All I need now is closed circuit cameras to watch both the machinery AND the Admiral when she does the ER checks.
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Old 04-17-2014, 11:22 PM   #4
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Greetings,
Mr. N4061. Excellent comment. Large ER is tops on my list when looking at boat porn. Unfortunately, up to a certain length and sometimes beyond, ER space is minimized in order to maximize living space. We looked at a 49 Marine trader PH one time. Nice boat but very awkward to access the mechanical spaces to the best of my memory. On the other hand, most of Art Defevers boats that we have seen have a larger ER space than one would expect. We've got a keeper now. ER=10'x6.5'x14' WITH a dedicated entrance door. All I need now is closed circuit cameras to watch both the machinery AND the Admiral when she does the ER checks.
Yes, the Defever 49 has a nice taller engine room. Mr. Defever did a great job with that design.

As you mentioned the problem is one of available space. Make e engine room too tall and you need a deeper hull, with more draft, or you need to raise the salon floor, yet higher above the waterline and or the cockpit.

Make for a separate space without double stacking something on top of the engine room and you have to use up valuable fore-aft space. Double stack you have to move the pilothouse back, making to salon smaller. It's always a trade off in smaller boats.
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Old 04-17-2014, 11:23 PM   #5
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Clear access to the engine room

This is also an important issue for me. I really understand why it is an important issue to you. I seem to end up spending a lot of time in the engine room! On our new boat, an American Tug 485, we insisted that the access not be obstructed by an furniture or cabinets. Like many trawlers, it is a 1/2 height room but I am ok with that trade off. We have paid a lot more attention to the layout. I am not as flexible as I once was and really wanted to be able to get to all the equipment requiring routine inspection and maintenance. So far, I am pretty pleased with the layout. I made one change that would allow me to move a ladder out of the way to access one of the electrical panels.

Good luck with your search.

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Old 04-17-2014, 11:49 PM   #6
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As Kevin suggested it is all compromises..
when we had the gb36 there was no real engine room.. either lift the floors or peek through a small door from the fwd. cabin. but the boat had great above deck access and vision.

On volunteer I could dance around the engine room and have 4 friends down there at the same time.. I had a 12' work bench and spent a lot of time down there.. great place to drink beer except for no head in there.. I had thought about a well placed sink.. every E. R. should have one.

On the Sea Ray a undernourished Somali couldn't of fit anywhere in there but between the 350hp monsters ( when cold )

On the Ocean Alexander I can lift two hinged hatches in the fwd. part of main salon, or I can lift a hinged floor hatch in the rear part of the salon and can crawl around the generator and the main engine with not too much fuss thanks to some nice padded carpet. I have installed one linear actuator on the fwd. hatch and will be installing another soon. I can flip a switch and lift the big hatches and look around the E.R. underway from the comfort of the pilot seat at the helm.

Most of the time when I work below I have the hatches all open so it's not too bad down there

If you can sit and work on the mechanical stuff it seems to be OK.

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Old 04-17-2014, 11:59 PM   #7
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The Lehman Brother's office in our DeFever 48 is opulent. Art did an incredible job designing his engine rooms.
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Old 04-18-2014, 02:30 AM   #8
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It's all relative to size (of boat and person), but I would be overjoyed if I could wriggle anywhere alongside the engine in my 30 footer; and I'm a fairly small guy. All engine work must be done reaching down from above.

I too would place engine access much higher up the priority list on my next purchase. It is by far, the aspect of my boat I dislike the most.
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Old 04-18-2014, 03:46 AM   #9
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Compromises aside, the key would be that the access to the engine room is easy enough that it does not deter you from visiting the engine room as often as you should .
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Old 04-18-2014, 06:04 AM   #10
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the key would be that the access to the engine room is easy enough that it does not deter you from visiting the engine room as often as you should .

How often do you open the hood of your car?

How often does a trucker open the hood?

Today gauges , especially alarm style can keep track of an engine better than a mere eyeball.

How easy access to repair junk like macerator or FW pumps located in the engine space is a different question.

Best ER layout and access I have ever seen was on a 55ft Motor sailor that had the Engine room (with 6-71 and diesel noisemaker ) in the BOW!

With engines 1/3 the weight today this should become more common.
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Old 04-18-2014, 07:16 AM   #11
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Ours has a walk thru door . It's directly under the helm in the vberth . It's narrow but still wide enough . I don't have standup head room in the engine room but bend over room good access to most everything . The generator is under aft deck thru the old fish hold hatch .
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Old 04-18-2014, 07:24 AM   #12
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In a perfect world...the engine room is tall enough that the engineer on watch doesn't have to stoop.

In the world of trawlers under 45-48 feet or so....probably not going to happen so ease of entry and room to work and decent access to all parts/systems is good...obviously.

Lifting an entry sized hatch 6 feet behind my lower steering station allows good visibility of most of the engine and bilge area, allows me to quickly drop in to see the other areas...even when underway in tight spaces like the ICW just for a quick check.

it's where I need to get to check the oil, coolant and belt every morning before startup...I step down easily with one foot on the manifold...and keep going to the one knee position onto the 30 inch or so walkway that runs the length of the engineroom on either side of the main and genset.

My boat is small for a 40 model...only 34 on the waterline and probably less than 13 beam...so you can't have too big or tall of an engine room...but it can be easy to work in.

A second engine would be a mess...especially with the original fuel tanks.
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Old 04-18-2014, 07:29 AM   #13
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I have a path to go through the door.
Step 1: Leave the helm and go outside
Step 2: Dive down the foward hatch to the bunks below
Step 3: Go to the stern with about 5' of headroom and enter the engine room

When I rebuild the floor I will be placing a hatch for direct access.
My theory is when something starts throwing down I want to get in and get in quickly
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Old 04-18-2014, 07:35 AM   #14
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My engine room is a 2.5 X 2.5 space to squat in. Engine sides are accessed by removing floor boards and reaching down to make repairs, no access. It stinks.
But as others have said life and boats are a compromise.

I can do 20 kts, my 35' boat has more living space than many older 40+ footers and the admiral loves our boat. I have the perfect boat as long as you don't have to work on it.
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Old 04-18-2014, 07:41 AM   #15
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My engine room is a 2.5 X 2.5 space to squat in. Engine sides are accessed by removing floor boards and reaching down to make repairs, no access. It stinks.
But as others have said life and boats are a compromise.

I can do 20 kts, my 35' boat has more living space than many older 40+ footers and the admiral loves our boat. I have the perfect boat as long as you don't have to work on it.
And Corporate America has that in mind I bet if you look at today's vehicles both on the water and the road.

Dealers are expected to make the money on parts/repairs, manufacturers on the initial sale.
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Old 04-18-2014, 08:15 AM   #16
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Of course, timjet has met the most important specification of all: "the admiral loves our boat".

The big difference between a car or truck and a boat is where they break down.
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Old 04-18-2014, 08:43 AM   #17
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Of course, timjet has met the most important specification of all: "the admiral loves our boat".

The big difference between a car or truck and a boat is where they break down.
They really don't care...

That's why some manufacture's have partnered with assistance towing companies and give a free trial membership...and they are happy a dealer is going to get some work...even if it's warranty work as it's built into the price....
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Old 04-18-2014, 10:36 AM   #18
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Being a live aboard, I am in the engine room quite a bit, and when out and about like to check the ER every to one hour. The Eagle has an easy access to a stand up walk around stand ER. From the pilot house down 3 steps to the salon and down another 4 steps to main bath room. the ER entrance is to the left of the door. Easy access to both sides of the engine, gen set and stuff. That is where mu wife banishes me to when she is really pissed at me.
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Old 04-18-2014, 10:53 AM   #19
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It would be unrealistic to expect an "engine room" in a small boat. Boats are compromises. By choosing a smaller boat, I can actually own and operate one instead of dreaming about that 50' yacht that I will never own.

FF commented about cars and trucks. A relatively new, well maintained boat is no different. No need to inspect the engine every few hours. We should be able to expect more or we should leave the boat at the dock.

When cruising, I check the oil and coolant level each morning before starting the engine and while doing that I casually look for problems. Other than that I rely on the instruments and warning lights and buzzers and of course, any strange sounds or changes in performance.
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Old 04-18-2014, 11:04 AM   #20
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I think more important than the access method, or even height is the availability of things to work on.

I had a 34' boat with twin 330 Cummins engines that had all of six inches between the engines, and Vee drives to boot. One of the main reasons I sold that boat was because I could not maintain the engines.

On my current boat, the builder in all their wisdom put the holding tank directly outboard of the starboard engine, blocking all access. Thats one of the reasons I put in a treatment system. It not only treats the waste, it opened up the whole outside of the engine making it easy to work on. I promise you this... When I lost the starter on that engine I was sure glad the holding tank was not in the way.

One of the smartest things my builder did with the machinery space was to build a "utility room". Its a room forward of the engine room where the water heater, pump, fuel filters, and a host of other stuff is located. That way its all in one place, and it even has a watertight bulkhead (with door) separating it from the engine space. Its pretty handy to for example be able to switch water tanks without opening up the engine room hatches.

As far as inspection, I'm with Ron on this. I check the oil and coolant overflow bottles every morning, and generally look around for leaks etc... but I do not "go below" during the course of a cruise to inspect the engine room. That said I am installing cameras this season, really just because they are inexpensive and I like technology, not because I think they are necessary to the safe operation of my Coastal Cruiser.
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