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Old 06-16-2017, 08:44 AM   #1
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Gas vs Diesel

Forgive me if this has already been a hot topic, but I didn't see anything when I searched.

My wife and I really want to get a trawler (trawler type) boat, but if we go the route we're looking at, it will be another 5 years before we honestly get one. You know, that whole being responsible and having no debt before buying a boat crap....

Anyhow, the end goal is a nice, twin diesel that will allow us to travel down the coast and even into the Caribbean then on to one that will allow us to do the Great Loop. But while we're waiting for that, are there really any drawbacks of a twin gas cruiser that's 35-40 ft?

They're half the cost of diesel boats, if not more and parts are a dime a dozen. I can easily work on them and parts are cheap. With school, sports and life in general, we're not looking at too many weekend trips per year.

What say you?
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Old 06-16-2017, 08:49 AM   #2
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Why wouldn't you? Diesel power is typically for two reasons, economy and torque on larger boats (over 40'). If you can find an appropriate boat that suits your needs and it happens to be a gasser then so be it. My only caveat is stay under 40 for fuel economy sake.
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Old 06-16-2017, 08:51 AM   #3
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Once you start going above 40 feet, diesels rule, hard to find gassers at all, but if you do, it takes more than a quick look.

Below 40 feet, but that is just typical production boats, and gassers have a place in near or medium cruising. Long distance cruising may require additional thinking.

But if you think 5000 or less miles is typical, especially much less than a one time loop....good gas engines have their place for cruisers.

If you can fix them...run the numbers on gassers...you may find that they are very affordable. The old numbers for gasser longevity and many diesels have been completely blown out of the water. Dollarwise, they have come much closer in the small vessel category in my mind.
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Old 06-16-2017, 09:01 AM   #4
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Mr. 86. Good points thus far. I expect the topic of safety will come up with regards gas engines vs. diesel and the potential explosion hazards. IF one takes appropriate care, gas is no more "dangerous" than diesel IMO. Yes, diesel may be more forgiving as to sloppy maintenance but as I said, IF you're careful, you'll be fine and safe.
So what's holding you back?
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Old 06-16-2017, 09:35 AM   #5
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For limited service gas engines are great and if ever a major problem can be replace rather cheaply (is that a word?). I say its better to get out today on something then wait for the "perfect" boat, time on the water is what it's about!
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Old 06-16-2017, 09:36 AM   #6
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My thought is to quit dreaming and get on the water.

You do not even need a "large" boat to do that.

We upsized to our current boat from a 28' Bayliner model 2859. That boat had a very nice Vee berth, a separate cabin with shutting door big enough for sleeping two, a decent galley, and a head with shower.

All that plus a pilothouse for driving. And it had a single big block gas engine.

We really liked that boat, and for some things (like the ability to get after it) we liked the boat better than the floating home we have now.

As long as you can sleep, eat, potty, and shower, it's big enough to spend as long as you like out on the water in my opinion.

We all go through different stages in life. The trick is to realize what stage in life you are in and make your purchases accordingly.

When we bought or first boat we had kids at home, a mortgage, car payments, etc... No way we could afford a bigger boat. We also didn't have the time it takes to use and maintain a big complicated boat that goes the speed of a rowboat.

Fast foreward two decades and allot of life changes have happened. And along the way we had a heck of a good time in our gas powered cruisers. My wife and I often joke about the adventures we had. We lived life to its fullest, caught a ton of fish, and had a great time.
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Old 06-16-2017, 09:41 AM   #7
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If it wern't for resale and the cost of repower I'd gladly swap my diesel for a gasoline engine. Would burn more fuel but not that much. I would really enjoy the smothness and huge reduction of noise. Sure gas is great but w never failing use of sniffers and blowers it's quite safe too.
Trawlerformers are a very very conservative lot so gas talk will probably fall on deaf ears and baugh humbug posts.
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Old 06-16-2017, 09:57 AM   #8
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A good rule of thumb is that it takes 200 or more hours a year to justify the cost of diesel vs gas based on fuel savings. And I agree with what was said about safety: gassers can be as safe as diesels if proper operation and maintenance is followed.

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Old 06-16-2017, 10:06 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SaltyDawg86 View Post
My wife and I really want to get a trawler (trawler type) boat, but if we go the route we're looking at, it will be another 5 years before we honestly get one. You know, that whole being responsible and having no debt before buying a boat crap....

Anyhow, the end goal is a nice, twin diesel that will allow us to travel down the coast and even into the Caribbean then on to one that will allow us to do the Great Loop. But while we're waiting for that, are there really any drawbacks of a twin gas cruiser that's 35-40 ft?

First, I'd say "being responsible and having no debt" isn't all it's cracked up to be. One possible outcome is you work 'til you can afford a boat, then you die... with no boating under your belt.

Gas is very viable. Could work for your long-term plans (depending), or could be a stepping stone along the way (also depending).

The biggest mechanical drawback I think is that over a certain weight (often length-related) on planing boats, gas engines just don't have enough HP and torque to do all that well. Somewhere around 20K-lbs, maybe, plus or minus.

But there are lots of semi-displacement gas boats, and then you don't always have to get on plane, anyway, no matter what the hull form. That can lead to some discomfort in some sea states, but then you can usually wait out those sea states in port.

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Old 06-16-2017, 10:09 AM   #10
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The assistance boat I drive has had less maintenance on the 454 gasser than my Lehman 120 in my trawler. Guess which one works harder.

The gasser has been near flawless in 14 years and ar least 5000 hours versus my Lehman on a 2900 hr rebuild. I tinker with the Lehman and baby it compared to the work boat.

Go figure....unusual? Maybe, but both engines earn their keep in terms of doing their job...but to say diesels are safer, more reliable and longer lived is a gross generality.

Plenty of examples to show differently.

I am one of the few tbat might consider a diesel to gasser repower rather than the other way around.
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Old 06-16-2017, 10:45 AM   #11
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I don't buy inti the torque thing. HP is HP as I see it for trawlers.

One dosn't need torque after the engine is up to speed and on a trawler (trawlers don't plane) there is no "hump" to overcome so resistance ramps up so slowly the only place where lots of power is needed is close to full bore and speed. Trawlers don't need acceleration so no torque needed.
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Old 06-16-2017, 10:51 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by RT Firefly View Post
So what's holding you back?
As far as buying a gas boat? Nothing really I guess. There are a hand full of gas 35-45 ft boats for sale near me, but there's a reason ships, tugs and big rigs are diesel haha. I know a gas boat won't be something we take long trips on, but it would get us on the water.

As far as needing a bigger boat.... The admiral has laid down the law haha.
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Old 06-16-2017, 10:55 AM   #13
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Another factor. Consider diesel now for two reasons. The cost of a boat includes the resale. My guess is any premium you pay for an interim boat because it has diesel engines will be recovered when you sell the interim boat.

More importantly cruising requires developing knowledge on how to fix/repair/maintain your boat. Learning how to work on a diesel engine and probably more importantly a diesel fuel system would be valuable when you do start full time cruising. The systems are not identical.
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Old 06-16-2017, 11:08 AM   #14
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I don't buy inti the torque thing. HP is HP as I see it for trawlers.

One dosn't need torque after the engine is up to speed and on a trawler (trawlers don't plane) there is no "hump" to overcome so resistance ramps up so slowly the only place where lots of power is needed is close to full bore and speed. Trawlers don't need acceleration so no torque needed.

Yep, true enough... but then there aren't all that many gas "trawlers" in the 35-45' range... I think?

But there boatloads of gas non-trawlers (motor yachts, CPMYs, sportfish, sedan bridge, etc.) with semi-displacement and planing hulls..and operating those as envisioned by the builder often means torque comes into play. Bazillions of affordable -- more or less -- gas boats that don't carry the "trawler" moniker but offer pretty much the same or more space, the same or more features, the same or more usability...

Certainly those boats can be operated like "trawlers" mostly, sorta-kinda. In that style, torque becomes less important, but... then again sea states sometimes move those owners to want (need?) to operate as envisioned, at least for some periods of time (as when running ahead of weather).

And those are the boats where I think gas sometimes doesn't provide enough torque to use like that, weight depending...

I'm mostly only waxing a bit philosophical, though. Just thinking many folks could get into any gas Carver, Formula, Cruisers, Silverton, whatever... and probably some older gas Vikings, Hatteras, Bertram, Tiaras, etc... and actually go boating in a "trawler" style... for relatively short money compared to waiting around to be able to afford a newish diesel installation... just knowing that sometimes HP and torque could become an issue with those.

-Chris
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Old 06-16-2017, 11:23 AM   #15
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Greetings,
Mr. 86. "...but it would get us on the water. " That's what it's all about IMO. As mentioned, you'll probably take some sort of hit if and when you sell OR if you do run long distances but who knows what will happen X years down the road. Do it now and worry about the "rest" later. The "rest" may never happen...
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Old 06-16-2017, 11:33 AM   #16
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I think it comes down to cost weight torque and availability forget the D vs. G thing. One issue to consider is weather you let your fuel sit for long periods of time in the tank bad for G or D. With alcohol laced fuels if that is what you must use in your area that would be a little worse for the gas if I could not keep my fuel fresh.
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Old 06-16-2017, 11:47 AM   #17
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You can buy a gas cruiser and do the trawler lifestyle, nothing wrong with that. But if you intend to cover a bunch of miles, the fuel costs add up FAST. Most of these boats have two engines with enough power to plane, so running them slow means you are at a low power setting and the efficiency there for a gasser really stinks. Diesels at a low power setting retain fairly good efficiency. But none of this matters if you do short cruises.

Also, gas on the fuel docks costs a LOT more than diesel. Often a buck or buck fiddy more.

I second what others posted above: The single diesel boat will cost more, but you will see that differential on the sale, too. So it boils down to more capital being tied up with life cycle cost during ownership possibly being lower.

(notice I snuck in my preference for single engine...)

Beware buying a smaller twin diesel boat. Often the machinery is so cram fit that maintenance is super difficult.

You can usually get a 34-40' trawler with single natural Perkins, Ford/Lehman, Cat or mild turbo Cummins for not too much more than a similar size twin gas cruiser.

And the gas engines with their sea water cooled manifolds can be a real pita to deal with. You may know how to fix them, but it is no fun dealing with an engine full of water. And it is not that cheap either. You can find a 30yr old nat diesel in fine serviceable condition, but pretty rare to find a 30yr old gasser still in service.
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Old 06-16-2017, 11:54 AM   #18
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..but to say diesels are safer, more reliable and longer lived is a gross generality.
A generality....but not a gross generality!
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Old 06-16-2017, 11:57 AM   #19
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I don't buy inti the torque thing. HP is HP as I see it for trawlers.

One dosn't need torque after the engine is up to speed and on a trawler (trawlers don't plane) there is no "hump" to overcome so resistance ramps up so slowly the only place where lots of power is needed is close to full bore and speed. Trawlers don't need acceleration so no torque needed.
At displacement speeds, you would be correct. But for a planing boat, it is certainly a big deal. I have a friend that has a 41 foot gasser. He got on my boat and just a bout flipped out when my boat hopped up on plane basically at the rate I advanced the throttles. He said it takes his boat 10-15 seconds with the gas engines pinging/detonating away struggling to find their power.
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Old 06-16-2017, 12:04 PM   #20
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Sure...sure...

There has been a natural order in boating that has evolved....

Yet, gassers have evolved faster in the small boat range in my opinion...and some might say small diesels have de-evolved due to the EPA.

All I know is smaller vessels with outboards, I/Os, and gasser inboards have a great reliability record if used and maintained as well as their diesel counterparts. Maybe not as good, but great for the price difference.
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