This article is an excerpt from NauticEd’s online Skipper Course, a comprehensive online sailing course for beginner to intermediate sailors to learn how to sail large sailboats 26 ft (8m) and above. Or upgrade to the Skipper Course Bundle to also master maneuvering under power and docking!

You can learn to sail and improve your sailing with NauticEd, the international leader in sailing education.

Sailboat Diesel Engine

Thanks go to Mr. Rudolf Diesel who years ago in Germany cleverly invented an engine that today bears his name (luckily, they chose to use his last name)—the diesel engine. It is the ideal engine for a sailboat because of its high reliability, good torque, relatively inexpensiveness to operate, and low maintenance cost factors. Diesel engines are now standard auxiliary power plants on most larger sailing vessels where the engine is placed inboard.

Diesel engines have mechanical similarities to gasoline engines except for the fuel they burn, called diesel fuel. This fuel requires high compression instead of a spark for ignition. However, this requires fuel injectors and a heavier engine block to handle the higher compression.

Earlier diesel engines were large and heavy. Modern diesels are more compact, and some models are quite small by previous standards. Their output is expressed in traditional horsepower terms and comes in a wide range. A typical 40 ft (12 m) sailboat will have a 40 HP engine.

When using a diesel engine on a sailboat, you do not have to worry about distributors and spark plugs because there are none. Instead, you have highly reliable fuel injectors that seldom require maintenance.

Since diesel fuel is less flammable than gasoline, it is much safer to store it in a closed fuel tank on board.

Reliability and efficiency are the hallmarks of diesel engines. If you keep diesel fuel clean, a diesel engine will run for up to 5,000 hours before any major overhaul is required.

Here is a tour of a diesel engine from various angles and some important parts that you need to know. Click the > arrow button to spin the engine to another viewpoint.

You can learn more in the Skipper Course....

Knowledge and theory for longer distances and overnight sailing in diverse conditions. The Skipper Course is a comprehensive sailing course for beginner to intermediate sailors wanting to learn how to sail larger sailboats 26ft to 56ft. Or upgrade to the Skipper Course Bundle to also master maneuvering under power and docking!

Source: Skipper
Topic: Boat Mechanical Systems
Authors: Grant Headifen, NauticEd Global Director of Education
NauticEd is a fully recognized education and certification platform for sailing students combining online and on-the-water real instruction (and now VR). NauticEd offers +24 online courses, a free sailor's toolkit that includes 2 free courses, and six ranks of certification – all integrated into NauticEd’s proprietary platform. The USCG and NASBLA recognize NauticEd as having met the established American National Standards.