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Old 22-06-2018, 04:24   #1
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Cruising in Caribbean with sailboat equipped with an Atomic 4

I am looking for some input on the pros and cons of cruising in the Caribbean in a sailboat equipped with an atomic 4 gas engine. Just did a rebuild on it and would like to head south in a few years, hopefully with this boat which would involve motoring down the ICW. Would love comments from anyone that may have done this with an A4. Thanks, Scott SV Emmi Maria Pearson 323
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Old 22-06-2018, 05:56   #2
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Re: Cruising in Caribbean with sailboat equipped with an Atomic 4

Gasoline is readily available throughout the Caribbean, at practically every dock that also sells diesel. I don't see how having a gasoline auxiliary in your sailboat would make any difference at all.
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Old 22-06-2018, 06:22   #3
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Re: Cruising in Caribbean with sailboat equipped with an Atomic 4

Other than the "percieved safety" issues with having gasoine aboard, I don't see any drawbacks.

Avoid buying petrol in the French islands as its almost double cost of some of the EC islands. Of course that could change by the time you get here.
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Old 22-06-2018, 07:09   #4
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Re: Cruising in Caribbean with sailboat equipped with an Atomic 4

Why not. Gasoline is readily available. Many, many have safely & successfully done it before you. My only suggestion would be to try to minimize the use of ethanol gasoline in the US & when to use treatment when you must purchase it. When offshore, you might want to consider closing the fuel supply valve (assuming it is readily accessible) when engine operation is not anticipated if that is not already your current practice.
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Old 22-06-2018, 07:14   #5
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Re: Cruising in Caribbean with sailboat equipped with an Atomic 4

Iíd use Sta-bil regardless, but then I always put a biocide in my Diesel too.
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Old 22-06-2018, 09:56   #6
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Re: Cruising in Caribbean with sailboat equipped with an Atomic 4

I did it with no problems, but gas fume sniffer is a big plus. Have fun, that's a great engine, simple and reliable. Covert to electronic ignition and external fuel pump is what I did.

Have fun
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Old 22-06-2018, 10:17   #7
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Re: Cruising in Caribbean with sailboat equipped with an Atomic 4

My last boat had an Atomic 4. Never had an issue with it. Started easily, fuel efficient and it was nice and quiet.

The gas freaked me out a bit, and a marina owner/fireman advised me to install a solenoid valve in my fuel line so that fuel could only reach the carb when the ignition was turned on. The thinking was that with this valve in place, fuel wouldn't flow to the carb and evaporate into the cabin while my boat was sitting at his dock.

$39 and easy to install - Multi Purpose Solenoid Shut Off Valve RV, Automotive and Marine

The downside is it's more thing that can break, but mine never did.
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Old 22-06-2018, 10:22   #8
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Re: Cruising in Caribbean with sailboat equipped with an Atomic 4

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Originally Posted by navysurfer View Post
I did it with no problems, but gas fume sniffer is a big plus. Have fun, that's a great engine, simple and reliable. Covert to electronic ignition and external fuel pump is what I did.

Have fun

A gas/propane sniffer is essential, I think. My only concern would be range. On my lightish 33 footer with a freshly rebuilt A4, I used 0.75 Imp. gallons per hour at five knots (1800 RPM or so) in flat seas (of Lake Ontario). In practical terms, with a 10 U.S. gallon tank, that gave me a range of about 65 NM. On trips 75 NM down the lake, I would "stop" (or simply switch off), bob about for a few minutes to let everything cool down, and throw a jerry can of gas into the tank. I would top off AND refill that jerry can if I was returning under power. Of course, this was only if we were motoring; we much preferred to sail, after all. But range is an issue with the A4s, so you may want to consider your fuel consumption and whether a bigger tank is feasible.


A last consideration is freshwater cooling via a heat exchanger. A4s run better at a hotter block temp than is recommended for seawater in raw water cooling, where the limit is about 155F to avoid salts precipitating out of the seawater to clog the block. If you have a heat exchanger, you can run the Dex or antifreeze or whatever at 180F using the "freshwater" Holley thermostat...and preserve your block at the same time. This also avoids the issue of sucking debris into the engine, but it adds a touch of complication to the setup, although it's very, very common on seagoing auxiliary motors. The Moyer Marine forums are your source for more ideas.
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Old 22-06-2018, 11:01   #9
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Re: Cruising in Caribbean with sailboat equipped with an Atomic 4

The A4 is a good, safe engine. And gasoline is readily available. But IMHO the issue is efficiency/consumption rate.

I owned two almost identical boats (not at the same time, obviously) ...a 1972 C&C27 mk2 with an A4 and a 1982 C&C27mk4 with a yanmar 2gmf. The A4 drank about a gallon an hour. The yanmar, running at 1800 rpm, consumed less than 1 litre per hour. Same boat. Same conditions. Okay, the newer boat had a cored hull above the waterline, so it was a bit lighter/faster.

I found that with the A4 I travelled from fuel dock to fuel dock, always on the hunt for fuel. Extra gas cans stashed all over the boat. But with the yanmar, I never worried and barely thought about fuel. Both boats had a 75 litre tank (20 US gallons). The yanmar could run for 75 hours, the A4 for less than 20. To put it in perspective, if you were doing the ICW with 10 hour days, the A4 would need to fuel up every other day. The yanmar would need to fuel up once per week.

Around here, diesel and gasoline cost about the same (per litre). So the cost for fuel for the same trip is much less for the diesel engine. Maintenance for the diesel engine might be higher though, if you had a sudden need for a new high pressure pump or injectors. The A4 is definitely easier/cheaper to maintain.

Yes, you can do it with an A4. It would work best if you mostly sailed and rarely ran the engine.
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Old 22-06-2018, 11:42   #10
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Re: Cruising in Caribbean with sailboat equipped with an Atomic 4

I would definitely consider the fresh water cooling system via the heat exchanger available from Moyer Marine, if you are planning more than a short visit. The salt water will inevitably destroy the cast iron block (may take a few years but it will happen).

And, of course, since it is in a sailboat - we can assume you would sail as much as you can. Right?
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Old 22-06-2018, 11:52   #11
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Re: Cruising in Caribbean with sailboat equipped with an Atomic 4

I also have a 323 but with the diesel. I would suggest running the blower fan all the time while operating the engine. In addition to (hopefully) the standard practice of running it before you start the engine. Run you starboard side vent hose down to the intake area to bring cool air onto the carb. This will help reduce any vapor lock issues or gas boiling in the carb issues.


Using a baja filter will help with water in the fuel which can be a problem some places.
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Old 22-06-2018, 12:05   #12
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Re: Cruising in Caribbean with sailboat equipped with an Atomic 4

No problem mon. Nothing worse than motoring downwind at night with a diesel engine, with exhaust pushed into the cabin. Llike trying to sleep in the Port Authority Bus terminal!
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Old 22-06-2018, 14:43   #13
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Re: Cruising in Caribbean with sailboat equipped with an Atomic 4

I lived on my 1972 Columbia 30 for almost 10 years with the A4. Rebuilt it and trouble free for years. Up and down ICW Keys thru Melbourne Fl. Many times. 15 gallon tank ran easy 150 miles. Easy parts from NAPA and always started/ran great. Later bought a Catalina 27 with A4 and same results, except I didn't have to rebuild it when purchased. 5 years trouble free and was strong when I sold her. All original too. Met several people who hated their upgrade to electronic ingnition. I did use a $12.00 electric fuel pump instead of staying with standard bowl.

Also it was always funny when leaving the Bahamas because I'd get the rag boat stuff but many times the diesel folks had to wait for a new supply of diesel fuel. So I'd just wave....

Cheap to rebuild, own vs diesel and you can even simply exchange with Moyer marine, assuming they're still around, and get rebuilt engine. Un-crate theirs and crate yours to return. Like propane bottle exchange type thing. I also ran charters and never let down. Fair winds....
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Old 22-06-2018, 14:55   #14
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Cruising in Caribbean with sailboat equipped with an Atomic 4

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No problem mon. Nothing worse than motoring downwind at night with a diesel engine, with exhaust pushed into the cabin. Llike trying to sleep in the Port Authority Bus terminal!


Have it add that itís Africa hot with no wind cause you are going windspeed too.
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Old 22-06-2018, 14:58   #15
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Re: Cruising in Caribbean with sailboat equipped with an Atomic 4

Never heard of a gasoline solenoid and I used to run a Sportfisherman with twin 454ís too.
Sniffer is nice though, and I always ran the blower for a couple of minutes prior to starting too. I donít think itís needed once the engine is on, but other than shortening its life, canít hurt.
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