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marty9876 02-02-2009 15:28

Always run don't walk from gasoline inboards....?
Looking at an early 80's Catalina and just love the price of it...until I noticed the Universal 29 HP Gas Engine. Oops....

So, in theory, being this boat is a 1982 vintage, technically being that all the previous owners have managed not to blow up the boat or themselves is gas inboards really that bad?

I know that are.... it's cheap!!! Yea, when time comes I'd be killed on the resale anyways.

Just tell me it's a bad idea please.


Charlie 02-02-2009 15:38

its a bad idea unless you can get it so cheap that you could reower but even then . . .

Pblais 02-02-2009 15:40


So, in theory, being this boat is a 1982 vintage, technically being that all the previous owners have managed not to blow up the boat or themselves is gas inboards really that bad?
They did manage to not blow up. There are special things you do with gasoline power such as venting and exhaust. It's extra work. Any person with a diesel engine will tell you that gasoline is unacceptable. The advantages are quite long including the range you get with the fuel. Diesel has more energy per gallon so gets you more range.

The safety issue is real and you only need to blow up once. For boats that stay inland and don't get too far under power the idea of a gasoline engine is not a big deal but using gasoline is still a serious issue. I wouldn't say you could be sloppy or careless not using gasoline but I wouldn't rip out a diesel engine and put a gasoline engine in. Gasoline is less popular and so the boats are cheaper. They usually are older too. It's not always just the engine.

For the most part re powering these boats is not cost effective unless you have other reasons. The cost to re power might be the same price as a different boat. I would never suggest anyone buy a boat that isn't close to what you really want unless you have a lot of money and are not concerned with budgets or you just like to work on boats more than sail them.

cabo_sailor 02-02-2009 15:53

My neighbor has an older boat with the venerable Atomic 4. He is new to sailing and I'm trying to get him started with a good foundation of basic skills. I make darn sure he ventilates before starting, after all my boat is right next to his. Right now they are going to pull his engine and replace the transmission. Many would say "Why not replace the whole thing with a diesel?" The answer is as Pblais states ...$$$$$. By the time he is done with replacing his tranny he is looking at around $2 - 2.5 K. Were he to replace his engine with a new diesel, even allowing for the fact that he could sell his old Atomic, he'd be looking at around $8K. If he had that kind of coin, he'd be in something a bit different than his 30 footer with hank on headsails.

On the other hand, for a bit of day sailing and the occassional week trip, his boat and engine should run just fine. Many, many others got by just fine. Many, many others still have the engines and I certainly don't hear of marinas going up like torches. For me it's like having propane on board. Sure its more dangerous than alcohol or kerosene and people have been killed but the percentage is low because folks take precautions. So personally, I think the case against the old gas engines has been a bit overstated. Probably by some salesman trying to sell the first of the diesel powered boats to a public that was used to Atomic 4's.:D

DeepFrz 02-02-2009 16:16

Ugh, I just can't get the memory of the sunken hull behind the coast guard station in False Creek, Vancouver, out of my mind. It was gas, it went boom, then it burned to the gunwales.

Tempest245 02-02-2009 16:34

Hi Marty,

What is the Price of the boat? Size? Where, how, will you sail it ?
It can be difficult to give advice on incomplete information.

For the time being, I'll assume that you like this boat and can't afford anything like it with a diesel engine in it. ?
A diesel powered boat that you can afford might be smaller, older?

If it's were the difference between you having a boat...or not having a boat...I'd say buy it....but only you know..all the facts.

I had an Atomic 4 powered boat for 7 years, I loved that engine, because I could do everything on have to be careful.....

1982 boat...2010....28's hasn't blown up yet...but maybe it's tired?

marty9876 02-02-2009 16:46

I did find one re-powered with a diesel, ~ 4k more. Really not a bad price difference, these are pretty "cheap" price wise boats to begin with.

Too dang cold here... I was just kicking tires again online at and these guys keep jumping out for a reason (price!).

I know I need to get a diesel for not other reason than I need something to learn on.

Minggat 02-02-2009 16:54

There is a LOT written in the archives on gas vs diesel. I copy/pasted from one of them. a few years ago and stuck it in my files. It is very well written. I did a quick search and came up with way too much to filter thru. So I'm going to copy/paste here. My apologies to the original author.

The article to which Minggat refers is Copyright © 1997 - 2008 D. H. Pascoe & Co., Inc. All rights reserved.

Goto David Pascoe’s full article list:

Power Options: Gas Versus Diesel
by David Pascoe

“One of the most frequently asked questions I get concerns the power choice of gas versus diesel. Lately I've received more e-mail on this subject than any other. My difficulty in answering that question has a lot to do with common misunderstandings about the nature of these engines. Most people make choices based on popular beliefs, without any real understanding of the nature of this rather complex subject. In this essay I will attempt to dispel some of the myths, and give a brief discussion of the basis by which one should consider the pros and cons of each choice ...”

Full article & more, goto
Power Options: Gas Versus Diesel
Marine Engines : Power Options - Gas Versus Diesel

And Pascoe’s: Gas -vs- Diesel Part II
Power Options: Gas -vs- Diesel Part II - by David Pascoe, Marine Surveyor on Marine Engines

fastfilm 02-02-2009 17:02

As Tempest says look at how you are going to use the boat. My 1973 era boat still has the original Atomic 4 running strong. Of course, I am a coastal cruiser. Do some research, you wil be hard pressed to find any sailboats that have have fires as result of gasoline auxilliaries. Storage is an issue, both life in the tank and the danger of carrying extra cans of explosive liquid. As for resale- you should be paying less at this point so that is a wash. Is a diesel more desirable? Yes, but with ordinary care and maintenance a gas engine might be a viable alternative.

sailorboy1 02-02-2009 17:22

Think about it another way. For everyone who says the gas engine is just going to blow up, what does you car run on? Yes they can catch on fire (cars or boats), but really now what's the odds. If it takes a gas engine to get out on the water etc., do it!

CarlF 02-02-2009 17:23

Wow. That was some post! I have a diesel but often wonder why since gasoline engines have a lot of advantages if you use the most basic care.

There are quite a few ways that you can kill yourself on a boat. If you're an idiot there are a whole lot more ways. I doubt (but have no statistics to back it up) that gasoline explosions are in the top 100. The biggest reason is almost certainly falling overboard. (the idiot version is falling overboard drunk). I don't know anyone killed by an exploding boat but know several killed by falling overboard (one drunk).

Everything said about diesels being more to own and maintain is true. Diesel fuel is also now more expensive than gasoline and has weird ingredients in the new blends that are gumming up fuel systems everywhere. It's going to get worse.

If you buy the boat with the gas engine, replace all of the fuel hoses (you'd probably do this with a diesel too). Consider replacing the fuel tank (you might do that with the diesel too). Make sure the bilge blower works. And if you're worried, spend $150 to install a gasoline fume detector.

If the boat's been sitting and always after fueling open the engine compartment and sniff. You should never smell any gasoline anymore than you smell gasoline in your car. You need to open the engine compartment with a diesel too - to check that the damn thing still has any oil or coolant.

Finally, a big advantage of gasoline over diesel is that many fewer people get seasick from the exhaust and fumes smell. I bet more people have died from falling over the side while losing their lunch from diesel exhaust than have blown up from gasoline engines.


Wotname 03-02-2009 01:49


Originally Posted by Don Lucas (Post 250572)
Think about it another way. For everyone who says the gas engine is just going to blow up, what does you car run on? Yes they can catch on fire (cars or boats), but really now what's the odds. If it takes a gas engine to get out on the water etc., do it!

Your car doesn't come with a nice vapour proof shell under (and around it) to collect the gas like the hull of the yacht. If they did, I reckon there would be hundreds of cars blowing up every day around the world.

seacap 03-02-2009 03:22 could blow up your boat with bug bombs! A couple of guys did that here in St. Thomas. Loudest damn explosion I ever heard.

Just remember It's carelessness that blows up boats.

dcstrng 03-02-2009 07:26


Originally Posted by marty9876 (Post 250535)
I know that are.... it's cheap...:)

Clearly, careless handling of gasoline can have catastrophic results… rare, but it does happen, and you only have to witness it once to be a believer for life… on the other hand, propane can mimic these calamitous consequences rather handily and almost no-one seems averse to the propane installation… Hmmmmm…

The biggest problem with gasoline is not the fuel, but the absent-minded/careless skipper… good maintenance coupled with a sensitive nose (and/or electronic sniffer) have kept many thousands of gasoline powered boats running just fine… and kept their prices a tad lower as well… nothing wrong with diesel that is for sure, but gasoline works well too…

marty9876 03-02-2009 07:42

I guess the lesson as always is to look at the boat as a whole and don't let any one item talk yourself into the boat (price etc) or out of the boat (fuel type). Determine planned usage and goals with the boat and let that guild you.

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