Mailport April 1, 2002 Issue

Mailport: 04/01/02

Saga 43
As a PS subscriber since the early '80s who has found the publication to be an indispensable resource, I was excited to see your Feb. 1 review of the Saga 43.  My wife and I own hull #27, a 2000 model, in southern California.

While the evaluation was fair and on target, I think I might be able to add a few points from our 3,000 miles of relatively local cruising that will be of interest to your readers: 

1.  The boat is indeed fast when compared to other cruising boats of similar size. The helm is wonderfully light, which makes things easy on both skipper and autopilot.  But the relatively narrow hull does heel more than anticipated, and the large cockpit does not provide for convenient bracing.  A custom helm seat and sticky cushions help, but a central foot rail would also be a good addition.  At anchor with a removable wheel, the vast lounging space greatly improves overall livability.

2.  The choice of pullman or centerline double owner's berth is a two-sided coin.  I am amused at the conventional wisdom dictating that the former is always far superior at sea. In reality, there is little difference in the sleeper's body position between the two. I find the large double forward to be luxurious at anchor, and not at all unfit for moderate conditions underway.  The two settees are both excellent sea berths when the going gets bumpy, so for the way many cruising boats are used (70% + on the hook) it makes sense to have both options available.

3.  You mention that the genoa must be "manhandled" to tack it through the narrow slot forward of the inner stay.  Realistically, this sail is only used upwind in 10 kts true or less, and then it is much easier to simply furl and unfurl as part of the tacking drill.  The high-aspect jib is well-sized for conditions from 12-30 kts, but is tricky to trim, with a tweaker line out to the rail needed to obtain best shape.  Easing this extra set of lines still allows for self-tacking in close quarters, which is handy.

Overall, we feel the Saga is an excellent value.  As I walk the shows, I still can't find a better combination of performance, comfort and good quality for the money. 

-Roger Neiley
Laguna Beach, CA

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Diesel Exhaust
I was interested in your article, "Diesel Mechanics' Forum," in the February 1 issue, since I have been contemplating replacing my 21-hp Westerbeke with a Yanmar 3GM30.  I was disappointed in how the Yanmar engines rated.  And even though the article provided some interesting details, I was also disappointed in what I consider your lack of depth in covering this information.

You state in the article "...we wonder how much of the mechanics' relatively negative response to these engines [Yanmars] stems from the track record of early models shipped out of Japan... Could Yanmars be in less favor with these mechanics simply because more of them come under mechanics' care than other engines?  We don't know."  Why do you speculate?  Since you had access to the mechanics, why didn't you ask them that question?

"Clearly, boatbuilders feel differently—Yanmars are probably the most-often installed engines in new production boats, and have been for some years."  Come on, guys!  Yanmars are probably installed in most new production boats because they are inexpensive, not necessarily because they are the best!

Another point; since Perkins-Sabre's smallest marine diesel engine now being sold is the 67 hp M65, doesn't this size engine take them out of consideration of anyone with a 40' or less sailboat who is thinking of repowering?  I’m not entirely sure but I would think that would encompass a majority of your readership.

-Philip DiNuovo
Kingston, WA

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I have been a subscriber for many years and PS is the only mag I read cover to cover before laying it down. I also use your tests as basis for many choices in the marine markets, plus often quote PS to my customers.

I wonder what was in the coffee you served these diesel mechs or maybe what they were smoking on break influenced their better judgment. As a professionally trained diesel engine and marine gear technician for over 25 years, I absolutely refuse to service or repair any Volvo marine engine.They are poorly designed, poorly executed, expensive, heavy and parts are ridiculous.

To even place the name on the same page with Perkins, Universal (Kubota), Westerbeke (Mistibushi) and Yanmar is mockery. Rating a "Green Grief" above Yanmar is unbelievable. I am willing to counter and refute anything good said about a Volvo.

Some 25+ years ago when I began Marine Diesel School, I noticed a small sampling of various diesels—1 Detroit, 1 Perkins, 1 Yanmar, etc., thenabout 10 Volvos. When I asked the instructor why so many Volvos, he stated that the West Coast distributor was nearby and these were returned on warranty. He also stated they are the most likely to suffer catastrophic failure and they were good job security for diesel mechanics. During that year of school, we disassembled and reassembled all of these engines and it became apparent why Volvos failed so often and rarely ran well.

Now that I am semi-retired and able to work on boats and engines of my choice, I will not allow a Volvo in my shop or allow my mechs to service or repair one.

-Tom Vandiver
BSH Marine, Pensacola, FL

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I was interested to read the comment in the diesel article (Scuttlebutt section) that "Pathfinders were roundly criticized."  Let's see... my Pathfinder has been on our '82 Cal 39 since day one, has 2,640 hours on it, was made by Volkswagen, so parts—should you need them (we haven't)—are as near as your VW dealer, it gets us to  hull speed at 2,700 rpm, though the manual says it is happier at over 4,000, and the only thing I have done over the past 20 years is change the air filter, the fuel filter, and the oil and filter once a season.  I don't really see a lot to criticize, and I hope, now that renewal time is approaching, that this offhanded comment in the "Scuttlebutt" section—where it obviously belonged—does not exemplify current editorial standards up there.  As far as we are concerned, it's a great engine!

-John and Dreena Yacovelle
St. Leonard, MD

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I found the sailboat diesel engine article quite informative, as I did a similar article you published several years ago. You stated that the No. 1 rated Perkins engines are no longer available below 65 hp, which are the sizes of most interest to sailboat owners. This is only partially correct in that the Perkins engines are still made, but don't carry the Perkins label anymore.

The marine diesel market was changed drastically in 1998 when Caterpillar purchased Perkins and in 2000 when Cat bought Perkins' two largest customers, F.G.Wilson (gensets) and Sabre (marine engine conversions).  At that time, Perkins stopped selling marine engines directly. The engines of 65 hp and larger are marinized by Sabre and sold by as Perkins-Sabre and Caterpillar  brands.

The base 10-40 hp engine used in the old Perkins Perma M-Series marine engine is still manufactured in England as the Perkins Series 100 and Caterpillar 3000 industrial engine and exclusively marinized by Volvo Penta as the MD2010,2020,2030 and 2040.

My friend's Perkins M-30 is the smoothest running and quietest small diesel I have ever seen. However I don't believe it will last as long as my 20-year-old shaky, noisy, all-bronze and cast-iron heavy freshwater-cooled Volvo MD11D that runs as well  as the day it was first installed. Nor can it be anywhere as easy to maintain or service once you get over the shock of Volvo's parts prices. I found that Fram (PH3614) and Purolator (L10241) offer an oil filter that sells for 25 % of the Volvo filter and is available at any auto parts store.

Neither Westerbeke nor Universal manufacture the diesel engines they currently sell. Westerbeke and Vetus marinize a Mitsubishi industrial engine while Nani, Beta, and Universal marinize a Kubuto tractor engine.

I used to own a Yanmar, and would agree totally with the mechanics' ranking. Maybe the real reason that Yanmar is the predominant engine is that they are the only manufacturer that sells sailboat engines direct instead of using a third-party marinizer.

-Mayo Tabb
Richmond, VA

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This is the first time in 50 years I have ever written to a company. I went skiing for a  month, came back to Long Island, received your back issues, and learned that while I was gone, someone, using your letterhead and logo, wrote a rather deleterious article regarding Yanmar.

I have been a  follower of your publication and have used you folks as a guideline in decisions for quite a while. In conjunction, I was able to access Mike Muessel of Oldport Marine in Newport, RI, about 12-14 months ago. You had mentioned his name in a letter-type response. I was in the process of repowering a Lancer 36. Well, thank you for Mike. Not only did he do the job, he did it on time, at the agreed-upon price, and did quality work. Things of this nature just do not exist here on Long Island.

Prior to making the decision to repower with Yanmar, I questioned numerous friends, fellow sailors, strangers in The Oar House, Block Island etc. I even kept some notes (granted, some were on napkins). All I got back from well over 30 people was that with Yanmar, basically you cannot go wrong.

Gentlemen, I'm in business—I make PC boards for the world  (commercial and military). I make my share of mistakes, but when I do, these boards are remade in a hurry. In your case I think a retraction would not hurt.

Anyway, thanks for finding me Mike Muessel.  Oh, one last question: The two gentlemen pictured in the diner— when was the last time they left their stools?

-Bill Purdy
Smithtown, New York

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Hello! Anybody home? Where is the coverage—even mention—of the world's best sailboat diesel choice, Beta Marine?

Beta Marine has a large and very loyal following in England and Europe, and here. Beta Marine's Kubota-based engines use designs which are a generation ahead of competitors, i.e.lighter, quieter, more horsepower, reliable as Santa. They use Kubota-numbered replacment parts which cost a fraction of what Volvo parts cost.

-Chris Barr
Wayland, MA

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We import the Beta Marine propulsion engines from England. The base engine is the same Kubota diesel that Universal and Nanni Diesel use, but we believe that our marinisation is superior and more user-friendly than theirs. Beta Marine, Nanni Diesel and Westerbeke (with their Universal range) are the three Kubota Japan-approved marinisers of their engines for propulsion use. There are however a few smaller manufacturers who also marinise these diesels and some do a good job (MWM in Australia) and some do a very poorjob but they are cheaper. If you look at our website www.betamarinenc.com you will get a better idea of what we can do. The UK factory site is www.betamarine.co.uk.

Up to now we have been a very small player in the US market with only  a few hundred units a year but each year has been better than the last for the last six years. We have slowly been establishing a good dealer network and our customers have been better salesmen than we have in many instances.

One of the reasons that we have grown slowly in the US market is that we do not give boatbuilders engines at cost and then wait for the parts business to make our fortune. This would take too much time and if we had many millions I would rather be out cruising on my boat instead of working.

Our parts are reasonably priced and many of our customers have become friends. Maybe this is a strange way to do business but it seems to work for us.

-Stanley Feigenbaum
Beta Marine, North Carolina

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Nicely done issue as always! I just bought a fuel line that runs from the fuel filter to the #4 injector on a Westerbeke 40. It's maybe all of 10" long with a couple bends in it. When I found out the price, I hit the Net. Trans Atlantic Diesels of White Marsh, VA (804/642-9296) offered to make me one for $20 if I could send them the original to copy, which I couldn't do. So I got out the checkbook and watched $80 disappear.

I draw some small satisfaction knowing once I pass through the Pearly Gates I won't be seeing anyone from the marine diesel industry.

-Pat Tilson, Director
Westsail Owners Assoc.


Editor's note: We generally like to help clear things up in this magazine, but it looks as if the main point that will come out of that free-for-all is that the engines bring out emotions like no other piece of gear. There's more feedback for next month.

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Defender Man
It is with pleasure that I can verify John Siegel's remarks in "Website Shopping" (Mailport, January 1).

I also had some puzzles relative to electric windlasses (this is a very complicated  subject, reeking with decisions to make). And if I solved them, there was much equipment to order.

In the past I have used BoatUS, West Marine, and Defender with very satisfactory results.  This time, after doing some homework, I called Defender and received well-founded advice working towards solutions.

So I set up the order and made a comment on how Practical Sailorhad made Jim Wallis an international celebrity with his handling of Defender's clients. Lo and behold, I was informed that I was talking to none other than the famous Jim himself. What a guy! My windlass package arrived in less than 5 days and the project is now on its way to completion.  I hope Defender sees this and gives Jim a raise for "jobs well done."

-Frederick Grieger
Knoxville, TN

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CNG Politics and Sources
As for why CNG did not succeed (PS Advisor, January 1), it is fairly simple: economics. Boat manufacturers went to CNG in the mid to late '80s in a big way for a simple reason:  CNG installations were much cheaper than LP because the ABYC, USCG, and DOT rules were enormously less complicated.

Around 1989 or so, the propane industry began to feel threatened. So they launched a full court press of lobbying all the regulatory agencies to, as they put it, tighten up the CNG rule, and to make them as Byzantine as for LP.  No real safety issues needed to be addressed as there has never been a recorded instance of a fire or explosion attributed to CNG leakage.  They just insisted that there was a considerable danger and the changes were warranted. 

The propane lobby had the money, connections and general clout.  After three years they succeeded and got the rules changed. Suddenly there was no cost advantage to the boat manufacturers to install CNG instead of LP, yet there were still the disadvantages that had previously been outweighed by its inherent safety and lower installation cost.

Make no mistake, boat manufacturers are moved by reduced cost.   So with the cost of installing CNG and LP being for the most part equal, the CNG disadvantages came to the forefront and builders went back to LP.   

Lacking an existing large installed customer base and being no longer assured of a steadily growing installed customer base, retailers saw no incentive to get into the CNG supply business.  So the group of CNG retailers more or less stagnated and has hovered at very near its current level for about the last 10 or so years.

This is the Corp Bros. website, which list CNG exchange and refill locations: www.corpbrothers.com.

-Karen Fay
St. Petersburg, FL

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Thank you for another excellent issue. I put CNG on my boat many years ago and have an easy time getting it in my home port because Brewer's Hardware (Mamaroneck, NY) carries it. I also have two tanks, and with one tank lasting almost a summer I rarely need one filled. However, I remember when I installed it that Corp Bros. said they could UPS tanks to you. I wrote to them to ask if this was still the case. Their return letter is below.

This option might be better than changing over to propane. I have propane on my new used boat and wish I still had the CNG.

-Lenny Lipton
Bethel, CT

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Dear Mr.Lipton:

CNG tanks are still sent via UPS. If a boater has a concern, they can also rent from us extra tanks for the duration of their trip. Most gas utilities run their fleets on natural gas and we sell a fill adaptor that has a fitting that is compatible with their filling lines.Please see our website, www.corpbrothers.com, for fuel dealer locations as well as picture of our filling adaptor.

Thank you for your continued support.

-Avery Seaman, Jr.
Corp Brothers, Inc.

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