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Old 06-11-2013, 14:33   #1
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Suitablility of Saildrive for Cruising Boat

In looking at a boat for purchase which has a Volvo Saildrive, my original thinking was no problem, they just need more careful maintenance. But reading Dr. George Oprisko's post on low budget cruising, he suggests a haulout interval of 3 years. Does this mean that, in this context, a saildrive is indeed too high maintenance and an impractical choice for a Cruising Boat?
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Old 06-11-2013, 14:49   #2
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Re: Suitablility of Saildrive for Cruising Boat

Here's something to think about: every time the unit has to be removed from the boat, you will either have a plug made so your boat can be re-launched, or pay for lay-days. In some areas this can be hugely expensive, especially when there are delays in getting parts and scheduling conflicts of workmen.

Among our friends, those with saildrives have more problems requiring haulouts than those with shafts.

Jim wouldn't own a saildrive, nor a Volvo, due to the inconveniences of both and I've heard him tell yacht brokers that they are deal breakers for him.

Someone from Lake Macquarie (New South Wales) Wrote in that he had just spend almost $7,000 and the fault for which he had taken it to the dealership was not yet repaired. Ask yourself if you want to risk this level of frustration.

Of course, your mileage may vary, and I'm sure there are a number of CF members who are happy with their saildrives, in spite of the mechanical losses and difficulties with servicing the legs in the water. Definitely, I'm not unbiased here. We have 27 yrs. cruising with regular diesel engines and shaft driven props, so not without experience.

Ann
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Old 06-11-2013, 14:55   #3
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Re: Suitablility of Saildrive for Cruising Boat

Google "Volvo saildrive corrosion"
&
Google "Yanmar saildrive corrosion"

End of discussion.
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Old 06-11-2013, 15:29   #4
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Re: Suitablility of Saildrive for Cruising Boat

Our two saildrives have been in the boat for over 15 years and have never needed to be removed. I know very few people who have had to remove a saildrive. We have had no problems with ours.

All maintenance on the newer saildrives can be done in the water - oil changes and zincs (which is all the maintenance they need). On the older saildrives, the boat needs to be hauled for this maintenance. We haul every 2-3 years for bottom paint, and the saildrives get serviced then. Most boats need hauling every 2-3 years for routine maintenance.

Corrosion of the aluminum saildrive is almost exclusively from being plugged into hot marinas or owners painting them with copper paint. The aluminum grade used is the same as used for aluminum boats, and the saildrives are primed and epoxied coated. The same issues that effect aluminum saildrives are present for aluminum boats. Why people are not afraid of one, but are of the other in this regard confuses me.

Ann's story of the boat in NSW is disingenuous because that boat reported a problem with the waterpump on their engine, not the saildrive, and with the quality of the service center's work, not the engine itself. They also said they went through 4 Yanmar engines in a single year before going with a Volvo instead - she conveniently left that unstated. Also left out was the fact that there was a fire in the engine room precipitating the damage to the engine.

Her sideways swipe about "mechanical losses" is also disingenuous because it ignores the performance gain in prop placement and lower drag over a typical shaft drive (the mechanical losses due to direction changes of force are on the order of 1-2%).

I won't talk you into or out of saildrives - that decision is yours. There are very many boats with them having no problems at all. Of course, one can always find problems - just like with any engine or transmission. Weigh who you get advice from and pay attention to the amount of experience with saildrives those people have (saying you are biased against them and refusing to have a certain type of engine/drive and then claiming you have a lot of experience is silly).

Maybe talk to some actual owners of the boat you are considering - unless it is a rare boat, there should be lots of information on owner's forums, etc.

Mark
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Old 06-11-2013, 15:41   #5
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Re: Suitablility of Saildrive for Cruising Boat

Chances are the boat will have to come out annually anyway for new antifoul paint and anodes.

If the budget is limited and you have a good tidal range then drying out against a wall, posts or fitting legs is an option.

Some European yachts have another option, twin keels so you can park them on a beach.

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Old 06-11-2013, 15:50   #6
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Re: Suitablility of Saildrive for Cruising Boat

Volvo's are stupid for prices, and sail drives/drive legs in general are awful bl**dy things.

Do you think a cast aluminium gearbox permanently submerged in sea water is a good idea???????

Working on boats (marine engineer), living on boats and generally messing about with boats for a long time, I would never buy a boat with a Volvo or a drive leg, however I do like wooden boats, so that may give you an idea of my mental state.
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Old 06-11-2013, 15:58   #7
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Re: Suitablility of Saildrive for Cruising Boat

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Originally Posted by Artif View Post
Volvo's are stupid for prices, and sail drives/drive legs in general are awful bl**dy things.
Perhaps, but they are popular because they are easy to fit by the manufacturer. Incidently Volvo used to supply engines to manufacturers but didn't require payment until the boat was sold which was good for cash flow, hence lots of Volvos.

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Do you think a cast aluminium gearbox permanently submerged in sea water is a good idea???????
Outboards seem to do alright.
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Old 06-11-2013, 16:13   #8
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Re: Suitablility of Saildrive for Cruising Boat

For serious cruising, would never consider a sail drive. Having that huge hole in the boat with only a bit of rubbing keeping the water out doesn't compute. More than one boat has sunk when the sail drive wrapped up a line and was wrenched loose/off when the line came up short. Been a long thread on this site when a Catamaran sank in Thailand, IIRC, because the dinghy painter wrapped up in the sail drive prop.
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Old 06-11-2013, 16:39   #9
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Re: Suitablility of Saildrive for Cruising Boat

OK, saildrives are a really bad idea. More than one shaft drive boat has sunk because a line wrapped around it and pulled the shaft out. So those are a really bad idea too. And Yanmar prices are the same as Volvo's, so it is best to stay away from them. And can you imagine an aluminum hull submerged in salt water? Best to stay away from those.

Yep, the infallible and deep logic in these arguments have convinced me that most boats out there are unsafe for serious cruising.

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Old 06-11-2013, 16:58   #10
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Re: Suitablility of Saildrive for Cruising Boat

Not most, ALL boats are unsafe, if you cant deal with it dont do it.

I've worked on more than a few drive legs, outboards volvos etc etc
If a drive leg goes wrong, it really goes wrong and will cost a fortune to repair.

Volvo prices are insane in the UK because of their "deals" given to boatbuilders. Makes good business sense, drug dealers work on the same principals, give a free hit to get you hooked and charge a fortune once your addicted, the real piss-take is they are often not even their own engines, and you can buy from the OEM for a 1/10 of the price.

And marine grade aluminium is a world away from the cast crap used in drive legs.

Nothing to do with "deep infallible logic" but all to do with real world experience with a lot of boats.
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Old 06-11-2013, 17:03   #11
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Re: Suitablility of Saildrive for Cruising Boat

Crikey, the blind leading the blind! We moved aboard in 1989 - a fair few years now and our four catamarans have all had sail drives. We always carry a set of spare seals but to date have not used them. Perhaps the report of the dinghy painter causing the loss of the cat was miss-written, the dinghy in question was perhaps an aircraft carrier. A dinghy painter, my hat!! Talk about rumours and scare mongering. Anything to justify a fanciful story. Sorry Roverhi but that story belongs in a comic along with the superhero's.
Any cat half built properly has its motors within compartments - usually under the aft cabin bunks or in sealed compartments right aft. If the motor seals failed it would have very little consequence on the cat - if constructed reasonably. All our cats would have floated lower on their marks if they did end up flooded and would not have sunk. The point is that our last three cats are still in the water and none have suffered - we are in touch with their owners (bar one whom we have recently received news of). There is nothing wrong with sail drives- full stop.
As for not using aluminium at sea - how ridiculous and uniformed some folk are. Many warships are made of this, plus many pleasure craft. Your mast is usually mostly ali / alloy too. Try and see how many catamarans are built today that do not use sail drives as well as a large number of 'half-boats'. Are you claiming these are not safe? The numbers speak for themselves. I could also quote stories of shaft seals failing and the whole shaft sliding out leaving a three inch hole in the engine room. These things do happen from time, and may be the result of maintenance failures - but I am not going to speculate or start criticising other's choices. Shafts have their pro's and con's just as do sail drives.
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Old 06-11-2013, 17:41   #12
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Re: Suitablility of Saildrive for Cruising Boat

That painter story is real. Lagoon catamarans, of which it was one, place their saildrives AFT of the rudders and right at the back of the sterns. The captain was backing up with his inflatable in the water and tied to a cleat. The line went under the stern and was wound in by the propeller and tore the drive off its mounts. This allowed water entry into the engine compartment, but the owner had cut holes through his watertight bulkheads and the boat flooded.

The OP never said he was looking at a catamaran, so the concern about not having a watertight engine compartment can be real. The concern about a big hole in the boat sinking it is not practically real, although it is as hypothetically real as any other "what it", like a drive shaft falling out.

Unfortunately, I have been through this with this crowd before. They are the ones that jump into any saildrive thread and say the same things. None of them have any direct experience with saildrives, but they all claim that their indirect stories and friend's experiences are equally valid.

Even to the point of telling half a story wrongly to skew it to their beliefs.

Mark
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Old 06-11-2013, 18:01   #13
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Re: Suitablility of Saildrive for Cruising Boat

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Originally Posted by colemj View Post
Corrosion of the aluminum saildrive is almost exclusively from being plugged into hot marinas or owners painting them with copper paint. The aluminum grade used is the same as used for aluminum boats, and the saildrives are primed and epoxied coated. The same issues that effect aluminum saildrives are present for aluminum boats. Why people are not afraid of one, but are of the other in this regard confuses me.


Mark
Mark, without getting into the other aspects of my dislike for saildrives, I'm interested in your statement that the aluminium used in the leg of the saildrive is the same as used in the hulls of alloy yachts.

Hull plating is usually a wrought alloy from the 5000 series... often 5086/87. These have excellent corrosion resistance in salt water environments. I'm sure that the cast alloy used in saildrives is not the same. I wonder if you can name the alloy used ? I agree that many of the corrosion issues are due to external electric fields, but they do happen to folks in the real world, often with really bad results.

I'd also point out that the argument that outboard legs survive well is not really germane to the situation. Most outboard motors are not left submerged 24/7 for years like saildrives are, and that changes the game IMO.

Anyhow, it is clear that you like saildrives and have had good luck with them. I have never owned one, and that seems to invalidate my observations of those who do own them and have difficulties with them... at least for you and some of the other proponents who are posting. That's fine with me... I have long tried to use the observed problems of other folks to avoid having the problems myself. YMMV.

Cheers,

Jim
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Old 06-11-2013, 18:12   #14
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Re: Suitablility of Saildrive for Cruising Boat

Hi Mark, Something just does not sound right regarding the painter tearing out the motor / sail drive etc.
Something just is not right. We have motor sailed into heavy drift fishing nets at night and had serious wrap ups. Agreed that our sail drives are between the keels and the spade rudders but it has still been the sail leg that has tangled with the fishing gear. Our cutters proved useless for this situation.
If the Lagoon really did have this occur then it sounds to me as though there was an issue already created that was looking for a reason to happen. In other words it was not the fault of the sail drive. As we all know the Lagoons are one of the most popular cats on the charter market and these must have many foul ups without such a catastrophe (no pun intended) - if this was a real weakness then they would be sinking regularly and there would be no charter market for them. There is something not being told........
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Old 06-11-2013, 18:26   #15
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Re: Suitablility of Saildrive for Cruising Boat

I have two Volvo Penta D1-30 engines with VP sail drive and have not had any problem with them in the five year I have owned them.

Easy breezy to do oil and fuel filter changes.

Most new boats are being made with them today, because of the benefits of straight line prop thrust and more prop to hull clearance. A straight line prop has less prop walk.

Volvo Penta parts cost the same as Yanmar as I have owned both engines.
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