Thursday, July 21, 2005

Boat Engines

Engines on boats are an anathema for some, whereas for others they are a joy. I fall somewhere in between, but I went through a phase where I was opposed to having an engine on a sailing boat, mainly on the grounds of being eco-friendly, not wanting to pollute the environment by pumping carbon deposits into the atmosphere, or by spilling fuel into the water.

The least polluting readily available boat engines must be of the electric type, either inboard or outboard. Diesel and petroleum based engines, on the other hand, must make the worst impact on nature. There’s also the case against having them on the grounds of sound pollution, especially in places such as Windermere.

My current yacht, ‘Bumper’, has an old Bukh 10 ME diesel engine. It was especially useful to me when I cruised to the Scilly Isles from Burnham-on-Crouch. There were times when the wind was dead on the nose and seas were particularly steep with breaking crests; then the engine, combined with sail power made mincemeat of the situation. This sort of sailing is known as motor-sailing. Perhaps ‘Bumper’ could be considered as an auxiliary cruising yacht, rather than a motor-sailer, but a few owners of similar yachts would consider them to be motor cruisers which happen to have sails – it depends on their emphasis and preferences according to how they use their boats.

I would prefer to sail rather than use the auxiliary engine, but for me today, there is a good case for having an engine, simply to help get the boat to a safe haven for a decent night’s sleep, or to plug a tide that would otherwise prevent me getting home on time. To have confessed that years ago, would have been a form of sacrilege - because I was a purist sailor.

My next project, the building of a ‘Paradox’ micro-cruiser, will soon be underway. She was designed by Matt Layden to be without an engine; in preference the designer incorporates a yuloh. This is a long curved paddle or oar which is deployed over the stern as sculling tool. Experts can generate quite a bit of power over long periods using this oriental gizmo to propel their boats. I’ll give it a go, but a small outboard motor will be most useful, particularly for the East Coast Rivers of England where I do most of my sailing; these tidal rivers have fast flowing currents. (I note that Charles Stock did not use and engine when sailing the same waters in his famous small boat, ‘Shoal Waters’, but I’m not Charles, who has a quality of toughness and cunning as expressed in the Latin word ‘callidus’.)

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