Marine diesel engines are generally reliable old things.
With assistance from a plethora of “Handy hints for Diesels” publications and on line forums, together with sage advice from bearded gentlemen adorned with caps and wooden legs, the casual Strawbridge Pointer sailing club member is able to maintain his vessel’s heartbeat without much drama.
On a windless and sunny winter day, two boats and half a dozen Pointers put to sea on the stunning waters off Kangaroo Island, with barbecue plans and to “give the diesel a run”.
Any “Handy Hints for Diesels” pamphlet worth its salt lists regular maintenance as the first step to happy motoring.
“Regular” may often be construed to mean every February 30 or when the boat is anti-fouled. Of course these fixed or pre-arranged intervals may vary, often falling on the blue moon.
Experts also recommend that boat operators “listen carefully to the engine” . This point is generally moot amongst Pointers as hearing loss, together with not wearing prescribed aids at sea is commonplace.
Checking cranky, sorry, cranking voltage is also on the “to do” list. This pre-supposes that the correct meters, gauges and dashboard displays are actually present and functioning. Ah! Yes, best proceed to Step 4.
Taking a fuel sample to check that any water and impurities are not present. Obviously this procedure is reliant upon some fuel being in the tank.
Examining fuel quality aboard “Destiny” proved difficult just prior to lunch. It must be remembered that any fuel is a good defence against diesel failure and subsequent embarrassment when the coastguard or Lesley Becks “Winterwind” hauls alongside to take a towline. A back-up jerrycan may assist.
Rudolf Diesel, who invented the remarkably reliable and resilient diesel engine, enjoyed a chequered career and was almost killed when experimenting with ammonia vapour as fuel, before settling on peanut oil.
This fate was almost mirrored by Tim Williams as he investigated Destiny’s antediluvian barbecue to get the emergency sausages underway.
Diesel himself suffered a mysterious death, disappearing off a German vessel in the North Sea in 1913.
It’s been suggested he was murdered, his body found 10 days later near Norway and then again off Holland five days later.
Bob Imeson was miraculously spared a similar destiny when alert crew member Andy Wood casually dis-armed Bob’s wife Di as she lunged for the skipper with a fuel filter wrench.
Diesel fuels flash point is 175 degrees higher than petrol, while Di’s is understandably much lower.
The smoke from her ears was also not the prescribed colour desirable from a diesel exhaust. – Hal Yard