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Old 08-29-2013, 03:20 PM   #1
City: Sugar Land, TX
Join Date: Jun 2013
Posts: 14
Hydraulic Starting Systems

Hi - I posted a while back about being a lake guy, but wanting to swap that lifestyle for that of a trawler owner. Iím still in the process of selling my vacation lakehouse, but that should happen soon (Iíve got it under contract), and I can then begin my search for the right trawler for me. However, a recent battery failure on my 22í inboard / outboard lake boat started me thinking about the impacts of similar failures on a trawler. I was able to fix my problem with a quick call to our local marina, who promptly came out (by pontoon boat) and installed a new battery for me and I was back in business.

I know that Iíll have multiple and separate battery systems on a trawler. So, the risk of battery problems resulting in not being able to start the main engine should be pretty low, right? But, things happen. What would one do if theyíre in some remote location and no battery power to start the main engine?

That got me to thinking about when I was a young man, working on towboats on the inland waterways for a major oil company. We loaded and unloaded liquid cargo barges (refined petroleum products). The barges had diesel engines driving the big pumps that discharged the products from the barges. Those diesels had hydraulic starting systems instead of electric starters to eliminate the possibility of an electric spark which could be very dangerous with all of the petroleum vapors that were always present when discharging operations were underway.

These starting systems had small high pressure pumps that pressured up hydraulic accumulator tanks when the engines were running. That pressure was then stored and used to start the engine the next time the barge was ready to discharge. These systems usually worked quite well to start the engines, but occasionally the engine might not start on the first try and the pressure was depleted. If that happened, there was a hand operated pump that operated by moving a lever back and forth that would re-pressure the accumulator tank. It might take 10 or 15 minutes of pumping, but you could always get enough pressure to get another attempt to start the engine.

My question is whether any trawlers use this type of starting system, either as a primary or backup system? I donít think Iíd want it as my primary system, but it seems to me that as an emergency backup, it might be very useful to get out of a jam. Any thoughts on this?

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Old 08-29-2013, 03:41 PM   #2
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City: Whittier AK
Country: USA
Vessel Name: Apache II
Vessel Model: 1974 Donald Jones
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 3,147
My first thought on this is a great idea but what would the cost of such a system be?

Could be a great idea if such a thing were made to install sort of aftermarket. But with so many different kinds of engines could one size fit all.

Some small sailboat engines have a hand crank. I wouldn't want to even think about trying to hand crank my Cat diesel.


If you can't repair it maybe it shouldn't be on the boat
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Old 08-29-2013, 04:05 PM   #3
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City: Everett Wa
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Vessel Model: Roughwater 58 pilot house
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The old 1920 thru 1950 use that sort a start system to turn over the big main. They were mainly air I think? We had an old direct drive tug moored next to us. He would start a smaller compressor engine to build up the pressure which would start the big main. Usually it took several time before the main started. Have not seen a start like that for 40+ years.

Much simpler to carry two large amp start batteries. We have three 8 Ds, one for main, one for gen, and one shared. Also keep the house and start basttery banks separate. so we have six 8-D battereis.
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Old 08-29-2013, 04:33 PM   #4
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City: Montgomery, TX
Country: USA
Vessel Name: Compromise
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Back in my old Army days it seems we had some Cat dozers that had a small hand cranked gas engine (one cylinder?) that would be used to crank the big diesel. You would crank the diesel with the compression off until oil pressure came up and then release the compression release to start.

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Old 08-29-2013, 08:35 PM   #5
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City: Rodney Bay Lagoon
Country: St. Lucia, West Indies
Vessel Name: "Dragon Lady"
Vessel Model: DeFever 41
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 611
Back in the 70's, diesel powered vibratory rollers (for road building) were often equipped with "clockwork" starter motors - you wound it up with a big key, flicked the lever and Voila! IIRC, the advantages were that a) batteries don't like the vibration produced by compaction equipment and (b) people tended to steal the batteries from construction equipment at night.

Here's a link to a (UK!) company that makes them Startwell
If all else fails, read the instructions
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Old 08-30-2013, 05:55 AM   #6
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Hyd start is most common on many Euro rescue and lifeboats .

.Although not cheap they are OTS for most common engines.

A delight is the hyd system can be hand pumped , so dead electric is no hassle at all.

With mechanical gauges like Murphy Switchgauges not having electric would not even be a minor hassle.

Its expensive , and more realistically a good well designed and installed electrical system WILL keep the sets of batts isolated enough to not have a problem , except perhaps needing to move a battery.

Rec >trawlers< are built to a low price point so NO,, do not include a fail safe start system.
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Old 08-30-2013, 08:21 AM   #7
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City: UMR MM283
Country: US
Vessel Name: Northern Lights II
Vessel Model: Bayliner 3870
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 1,139
International Harvester built a twin engine scraper that used hydraulic start for the engine on the pan. You would start the tractor engine 1st & the pumps on it supplied oil to a manually operated valve to start the 2nd engine. System worked very well & IMHO was much better than having electric start with all the associated parts.
Ron on Northern Lights II
I don't like making plans for the day because the word "premeditated" gets thrown around in the courtroom.
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Old 08-31-2013, 06:03 AM   #8
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If you want an improvement project an SOC meter for the batt bank ,

or pre luber for the engine would be useful.
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Old 08-31-2013, 02:36 PM   #9
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City: PNW
Country: USA
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We had a Gas/Diesel 1956-ish International TD6 crawler that towed speedsprayers through the orchards. You started it on gasoline. Once it warmed up for a couple minutes, you threw a lever and switched it over to diesel. As a young teenager, it was thrilling to run.

Our neighbors, don't remember the make, crawler had a separate gas motor which started the main diesel. They were connected via a group of heavy V-belts to pulleys on each. The gas engine was started and when warm a lever engaged the belts which started turning over the diesel. Once it was rolling over fast enough, you threw another lever which was a compression release and bang she fired off.
Larry B
Careful . . .I Have a Generator and I'm not afraid to use it !
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Old 08-31-2013, 07:24 PM   #10
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City: Biloxi Mississippi
Country: USA
Vessel Name: Patricia Louise II
Vessel Model: 1983 42' Present Sundeck
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,430
I use to hear the old timers at the Cat Dealership talk about these old "Pony" engines. I still love to hear an air starter kick off a big diesel! To the OP- I have a dedicated group 31 battery on my NL 8Kw, and the gen set alternator recharges this battery. Being isolated from the house/ main starting batteries works for me.

Steve Point Cadet/ Biloxi, Mississippi USA
*Present 42 twin 135 Lehmans
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