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

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Starting the Diesel Engine

Prior to starting the diesel engine:

  • Become familiar with how and when a vessel’s transmission gear shift and throttle are engaged and disengaged. Most vessels combine the throttle with the gear shifter. There is usually a small red button to push or pull to disengage the gear shifter so the throttle can used separately. Make sure that the gear is in neutral and the throttle is set to idle.
  • Some diesel engines (most don’t) require that you heat the “glow plugs” prior to starting. This preheats the combustion chamber of the engine so that starting is easier. Heating the glow plugs requires that you push and hold the preheat button (identified if it exists) for probably 20 seconds. Learn about your engine in the owner’s manual.
  • Check for lines in the water.
  • After starting the engine, check to ensure that cooling water is coming out of the exhaust. It is easy to see. It is not a constant flow like a hose pipe but more like spitting with exhaust fumes and water mixed together. This is important. If there is no cooling water flowing, stop the engine since it may overheat and be damaged.

Good Practice

Get in the habit early in your sailing career to always check for lines in the water before starting the engine. You can guarantee that the time you need the engine the most will be the time a line gets wrapped around the prop. If your engine starts but immediately stalls when you engage it into gear, you can be sure a line is wrapped around the prop.


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 online 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 of online courses to also master maneuvering under power and docking!

Source: Skipper
Topic: Maneuvering and Docking Under Power
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.